#872: “Tattoo”

GETTING MORE TALE #872: “Tattoo”

On January 10, 2012, Van Halen released their first new single with David Lee Roth on vocals since 1996:  “Tattoo”, from the forthcoming album A Different Kind of Truth.  An exciting day to be sure.

I had not yet started this site, but if I had, on that day nine years ago I would have written this story.

In 2012, radio station 107.5 Dave FM (now Dave Rocks) was still running the contest that put me on the map locally speaking:  The Four O’Clock Four-Play.  Afternoon host Craig Fee would play four songs in a row, and listeners had to guess what the common thread between the four songs was.  I won more often than anyone else and became a local celebrity named “LeBrain”, and that’s why you’re reading this today.  But on January 10, Craig stumped me.

The Four-Play that day was, of course, Van Halen’s “Tattoo”, played four times in a row!  Craig, who has since left the radio business, was a massive Van Halen fan.  He was the kind of guy who would see “Love Walks In” on that day’s play list, and remove it in favour of “Hear About It Later”.  He was unafraid and that combined with a diehard love of Roth-era Van Halen must have been all it took to play “Tattoo” four times in a row on the Four-Play.

Truly it was a glorious time to be listening to the radio.  You never knew what Craig was going to play on any given show.  He had a penchant for “Rainbow in the Dark” by Dio, and of course Roth-era Van Halen deeper cuts.  He played half of Fair Warning on his show once.  I don’t know what the real-world consequences were for these musical shenanigans, but Craig’s bravado was inspiring.  After the Four-Play contest was discontinued in April of that year, the show’s format became more of a listener call-in program, and the glory days came to an end.

But what was the “common thread” for the purposes of the contest that day?  “Tattoo” played four times?  Arbitrarily, it was the Elvis tattoo in the lyrics.  “I got Elvis, on my elbow…”  Of course it could have been anything, but Craig just needed an excuse to play the song over and over and over again and still give away that day’s prize.

This post is dedicated to Craig, who I hope is doing well out there in his post-radio life.  I feel very fortunate to have had his show to listen to at work, playing all this stuff that no other radio station would have dared.  We Van Halen fans were in our glory that day, getting our fill of the new tune and enjoying every moment.  Of course, people who hated the song were in agony for that show.  Oh well!  So sad, too bad.

Hard to believe David Lee Roth was back and an album was really coming — and now we had the proof in our ears!  Almost as hard to believe Craig got away with playing “Tattoo” four times in the space of a 30-minute contest.

A story for the rock n’ roll history books; a memory for the ages.


  1. I think I heard that. Fun times.

    As for the Dio, I emailed Craig before he started playing Dio and made a deal with him. He had to play Dio any time Borelinda would call in more than once. If we had to listen to her, at least we could hear some Dio to cleanse our ears I said. I was assuming if it worked he would play an assortment, but he mostly just played Rainbow In The Dark. Unfortunately the powers that be in radio clamped down on the radio personalities ( as Craig liked to be called) and basically stopped any playing of Dio for a long while. There is no way they should play music that people ask for. Radio execs know better than us. We need Trooper, Bryan Adams and Loverboy 5 times a day. Not Dio.

    I miss Craig too. Believe it or not, I even kind of miss Borelinda. But I really miss Dio.


  2. I remember the times listening to your favorite radio personalities and what cool music they played. Those were the times. And all the radio competitions. Was there actually prizes like cds or tickets?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. To think there was a time when all radio DJs programmed their shows. All management cared about was they go listeners. Now, most stations in all of Ontario are programmed by a computer in Toronto. I remember flipping between the Sudbury and North Bay rock stations and hearing the same songs played in the same order.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately now FM96 London andn107.9 Hamilton are like that.

      When I am on the road I switch stations and those 2 have the same song, roughly 1 minute apart.
      They are only 1 hour from each other.
      This might be ok.if the stations were 3-4 hours away but not in the same signal zone.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yep, it is the same for Sudbury/North Bay. They are an hour drive between the two. It has been that way since the late ’90s. The setlist is usually off by 5 minutes. So sad. But no one wants to pay a DJ anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I used to love the different personalities. The different playlists.
          FM96 was often newer, more alternative, mixed with rock.
          107.9 was often a little more basic rock.
          97.7 was harder rock.
          Even Q107 and Chum Fm were good back in the day.

          I went to a local movie theatre a few years back and there was a limited showing of a movie about the glory days of radio dj’s. Based mostly in the 70’s. I.recognized a bunch of our.local dj’s in the crowd.
          They miss it just as much as we do, but their hands are tied.

          My argument to the powers that be would be that I get they need to play Canadian content.
          But it does not have to be the same 300 Canadian over and over. Play new talent. Play b sides.
          I think it is a combination of arrogance from execs and laziness of program directors that led us here.

          Those days are long gone.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Yep, Neil Young has more than 5 songs. But they just stick to the same ones over and over for some reason. I love WKRP and the station manager was always trying to get Dr. Johnny Fever to play a disco song. He refused. No DJ has that power these days.

          Liked by 2 people

        3. I like when they thought they made the contest to win the cash so hard that no one would win.

          The 1st caller was only off by one song

          Hahaha. Do not underestimate the (Le) brain power of radio listeners.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s one reason why I love listening to Rob Daniels’ show. Sure it’s soundtracks, but he plays what HE wants to play. And I think when we did Spaceballs, he might have played Van Halen from that soundtrack.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Van Halen seems to inspire radio misbehaviour – I’ve said before about a DJ on 89X out of Detroit playing all of Diver Down one night, commercial free, so he could go out for a smoke or two…

    I wouldn’t choose to listen to the radio anymore, but ADKOT is A-OK by me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ADKOT is, hopefully, going to be appreciated like the other Van Halens over the course of time. The guitar work on it is incredible! At least VH went out on a high note.


Rock a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s