Dan Fogelberg’s ‘Musical Joke’: Same Old Lang Syne

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Dan Fogelberg enjoyed tremendous success as a recording artist and performer from the early 1970s into the ’90s, with eight albums certified Platinum or Gold in the U.S. His second album, the 1974 Joe Walsh-produced Souvenirs, reached #17 and established Fogelberg as one of the era’s leading singer-songwriters, thanks to his first chart hit, “Part of the Plan.”

Fogelberg enjoyed three straight Top 10 albums: a 1978 pairing with jazz flautist Tim Weisberg, Twin Sons From Different Mothers, 1979’s Phoenix and 1981’s The Innocent Age.

His best-known songs include the #2 “Longer,” a ballad that has become a wedding ceremony standard; “Hard to Say” (#7), “Leader of the Band” (#9), a tribute to his bandleader father, Lawrence Fogelberg; “Run For the Roses” (#18), the unofficial theme of the Kentucky Derby ; and 1980’s “Same Old Lang Syne” (#9).

Fogelberg died of prostate cancer in 2007. A tribute album featuring his songs and performed by such classic rock stars as the Eagles, Richie Furay and Boz Scaggs, is being released on Nov. 17 via BMG. A Tribute to Dan Fogelberg is produced by Fogelberg’s widow, Jean Fogelberg, Norbert Putnam, his longtime manager, Irving Azoff, and Chuck Morris.

Dennis Elsas

Dennis Elsas is, as many Best Classic Bands readers know, one of the most respected album rock air personalities in the nation. From a quarter-century-plus stint as a DJ and music director at WNEW-FM to his endeavors today as afternoon drive host at the esteemed WFUV and as host of his weekly Beatles talk and “call-in” show, “Fab Fourum,” heard exclusively on the new Beatles Sirius/XM Channel (18) plus weekend shifts on Sirius/XM’s Classic Vinyl Channel (26), he has earned the regard of listeners and artists alike. Dennis occasionally presents his Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Forgets live multimedia show, a real treat that greater New York metro area rock fans should not miss.

Best Classic Bands is pleased to be publishing excerpts of many of his interviews with classic rock legends as a regular feature: The Dennis Elsas Conversation, including ones with Robert PlantJohn FogertyGregg Allman and Bill Wyman.

In this interview, Fogelberg was in New York on September 29, 1987 to play Radio City Music Hall for the first time.

Dennis Elsas: The show is mostly familiar tunes or stuff from the new album? How does it work?

Dan Fogelberg: It’s a little of both. I’m with this new band performing some of the rocking material that I haven’t performed in concert like “The Power of Gold,” “Missing You”… I never really had the band to do it. I’ve gone back and resurrected some of these songs that I’ve always wanted to perform.

DE: There are very few people in the 1970s and 1980s that can say they’ve written and recorded a song that will always be associated with the holiday season. In the old days, people made Christmas songs. But you’ve got this song in your repertoire—you must be tired of this—but it’s the best-known Dan Fogelberg song that you hear New Year’s time all the time, this great story song. How did you come to write “Same Old Lang Syne”?

DF: It was actually a musical joke. I was sitting around messing with [Tchaikovsky’s] 1812 Overture and I put a six minor chord into it and I thought it was a very funny musical joke and I was just gonna keep it around for my musician friends because I thought they’d appreciate the humor to it. And I started writing lyrics to it that I never really expected to be public. It was about this chance encounter I had with a high school girlfriend at a 7-11 store in Peoria, Illinois [where Fogelberg was born and raised].

DE: True story?

DF: Absolutely true. And I was just having fun as an exercise, as a lyricist, trying to put a story to this thing. And then somewhere along the line, I said “this isn’t bad.” So I kinda went with it. I didn’t tell the whole story and I’m not about to. But it was all true.

Fogelberg was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in August of this year. The event’s performances and vídeo tributes–Walsh was also inducted with his band, Barnstorm–were captured by the PBS series Soundstage for airing at a later date.

Listen to Elsas’ entire conversation with Fogelberg here.

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Dennis Elsas

Dennis Elsas

Dennis Elsas grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens with a transistor radio under his pillow, listening to the great New York AM rock ‘n’ roll stations. As FM began to emerge, so did his broadcast career with the founding of campus radio station WQMC at Queens College in the mid '60s. His first paid on-air job was at WVOX, a suburban radio station in New Rochelle, NY, where he created a free-form progressive rock show called Something Else Again. And, then – just after midnight on July 11, 1971 – he launched what would be a 25 plus-year career at WNEW- FM (102.7) in New York City.

Dennis was hired at WNEW-FM by the station’s program director, Scott Muni, one of the legendary DJs he had grown up listening to. He quickly ascended to the position of Music Director, and received the rock ‘n’ roll music industry education of a lifetime. The station was emerging as one of the premiere rock radio stations and Dennis was integral to creating its sound. He was also meeting and interviewing a stream of rock ‘n’ roll heroes, including Elton John, Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney and John Lennon.

Lennon was his in-studio guest on Saturday afternoon, September 28, 1974. They had met previously at the Record Plant Recording Studio as Lennon was finishing his latest album Walls and Bridges. During the conversation, Elsas casually invited him to visit WNEW-FM. When Lennon actually showed up, Dennis was more than a little surprised. What began as a discussion of the new album quickly turned into two hours of rare Beatles memories, speculation on a reunion, and candor about his immigration fight. Lennon even took over as DJ, playing some favorite, obscure 45s he’d brought with him, reading live commercials, and giving the weather reports.

Years later, excerpts of that historic afternoon were used in the Beatles Anthology, numerous books, and various documentaries. The entire show has become part of the permanent collection of the Paley Center For Media (formally the Museum of Television and Radio). It is also a pivotal part of the recent award winning PBS American Masters film “LENNONNYC”.

The interview also inspired Elsas to produce, co-write and host the radio documentary, It Was Forty Years Ago Today: The Beatles Invade America which won a number of prestigious awards (e.g. New York State Broadcasters Association Best Documentary, New York Festivals World Medal.) It aired on WFUV in February, 2004. Revised for the fiftieth anniversary in 2014, it is now featured in the Grammy Museum’s traveling exhibit Ladies and Gentleman…The Beatles!

In May 1976, Dennis took over the prime 6-10 PM slot on WNEW-FM, bringing his creative programming of the station’s vast rock ‘n’ roll record library to the nighttime audience. Rock ‘n’ roll history was being made at 102.7, and whether he was in the studio with Meatloaf, backstage with Bob Seger or onstage with John Mellencamp, Dennis was sharing the experience with his listeners. In the 1980’s he created the popular Beach Party program. The station became known as the place “Where Rock Lives” and Elsas remained there through 1998.

While still at WNEW-FM, Dennis expanded his broadcasting activities to include two years as the music correspondent for television’s PM Magazine, and to host such syndicated radio shows as Rock Today, Rock ‘n Roll Never Forgets and Billboard Entertainment News.

Dennis’ voiceover career also grew with numerous projects for HBO, Cinemax, Showtime and The Movie Channel. Corporate and commercial clients included American Express, Time, Lancôme, Procter and Gamble, and Kraft Foods. He is now featured as the “Voice of Rock History” at the Museum at Bethel Woods – the story of the Sixties and Woodstock – and has been the announcer for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame broadcasts and VH1’s Concert of the Century at the White House. Dennis was the narrator of Discovery Magazine on the Discover Network and the “voice” of the Smithsonian Channel.

But his abiding passion is to be on the air, programming music that blends old favorites with new discoveries, interviewing artists and interacting with his listeners. Today he’s happily doing that seven days a week.

Since the summer of 2000 he’s been hosting weekday afternoons (2-6 PM) on New York’s WFUV (90.7 FM, and streaming at WFUV.org). With an eclectic mix of rock, folk, jazz and blues and, guests in the studio that have included Elvis Costello, Ben Folds, Patti Smith, Edie Brickell and Ringo Starr, Dennis continues the tradition of progressive radio he helped to create.

In May 2004 he joined Sirius/XM’s Classic Vinyl (26) and can be heard every Saturday and Sunday sharing his Classic Rock knowledge and memories with a worldwide audience.

In 2010 Dennis created Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Forgets – a live multimedia show featuring highlights from his history making interviews with John Lennon, Elton John, Jerry Garcia and more. As one of the pioneers of the progressive FM radio revolution at WNEW-FM and continuing today with new opportunities at WFUV and Sirius/XM, Dennis shares his favorite stories and unique perspective on rock and radio in person with enthusiastic audiences.
Dennis Elsas
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