Dad’s 45s, Postscript: The Ones That Got Away

I’ve said a few times before that as the 70s progressed toward their end, some of the singles that Dad bought earlier wound up in the hands of me and my sister. Thus, to give a full accounting of his 45 collection, I must paw through my stacks of 7″ vinyl in the basement (and as it turns out, the catacombs of my memory). Some of these were mentioned along the way in this series, but hey, let’s assemble them all in one place, by artist in alpha order. Unsurprisingly, I can’t resist commenting, occasionally noting the quality of the single’s flip side. An asterisk (*) means I didn’t find the record a couple of days ago; maybe I let them get away from me, into my sister’s hands?

Badfinger, “Come and Get It” No doubt Dad loved this one for its Beatlesque sound. The B-side, “Rock of All Ages,” is truly epic.
*The Beach Boys, “Surfin’ U.S.A.”/”Shut Down” Yeah, I said last month that I liked “Surfin’ Safari” more, so I can’t explain why only this one migrated over. If Dad ever expressed bemusement when one of the very first 45s I bought, in the summer of 1976, was the Boys’ “Rock and Roll Music,” I don’t recall it.
Jim Croce, “Bad Bad Leroy Brown”/”One Less Set of Footsteps” I’m thinking that this one, as well as the Helen Reddy below, may have been purchased in part because Amy and I loved to sing along with them on the car radio.
*John Denver, “Annie’s Song” and “Back Home Again” Dad would have bought both of these for my mother, I’m pretty sure.
*Neil Diamond, “Sweet Caroline” Mom went by Caroline, her middle name, so this one was an automatic purchase. It took me years to realize it was “touchin’ me, touchin’ you,” not “touch in me, touch in you.” Of course I could make no sense of that, but it’s hard to unscramble a first impression, especially if it comes at the age of five.
*The 5th Dimension, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine in” An inner-circle Hall of Fame song.
Norman Greenbaum, “Spirit in the Sky” Also an all-time classic. However, the B-side, “Milk Cow,” is pretty dumb.
*Elton John, “Crocodile Rock” I would have expected this to be Dad’s top tune from Reg, but he ranked “Philadelphia Freedom” higher on his list of all-time favorite rock songs. The B-side, “Elderberry Wine,” is very good.
Helen Reddy, “Delta Dawn” I grew up thinking that the song takes place at the visitation of the title character after she’d died, and that the man she had been looking for was Jesus (taking her as his bride being only metaphorical, of course). I imagine the gospel-y nature of the arrangement only reinforced that thought.
*Billy Swan, “I Can Help” I imagine this one attracted his favor with its retro sound. The B-side, “Ways of a Woman in Love,” is just okay.

And that’s a wrap. In case you missed one or more of the previous installments, here are links to all of them:

Part 1: Early #1s
Part 2: 50s Greats
Part 3: 1968
Part 4: The Fab Four
Part 5: The EPs
Part 6: Double-Dips
Part 7: Early 60s Minor Hits
Part 8: 1970-71
Part 9: Obscurities
Part 10: Local Legends
Part 11: 60s Miscellanea
Part 12: Back Where We Started

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/19/76: ‘Fin Lizzie’, “The Boys Are Back in Town”

The third weekend of June 1976 was the second time I wrote down the songs being played on AT40. As well-documented here many a time previously, my first chart is from the 6/5/76 show; the next week, I missed the first seven songs due to attendance at a Cincinnati Reds doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals. For some reason I elected not to make a formal record of that week’s top 33 (or if I did, it got lost along the way). In many ways, then, it’s really the 6/19 show that began the solidifying of the ritual/practice/obsession I’d carry with me for six-plus more years.

Rather than wait another couple of weeks to show you in a Charts post what I recorded on that Sunday evening from WSAI, here it is in all its battered, tattered glory:

The notation of circles for debuts, asterisks for risers, underscores for fallers, overscores for the songs staying put, and predictions for the following week had begun with the 6/5 chart–I guess I was ready for stats-keeping from the get-go, even if most of that disappeared by October. Note also that I’d fully internalized ‘notches’ already, as well.

What stands out to me now, though, are the errors wrought by a twelve-year-old listening to a possibly crackly AM signal.
–Well, the signal wasn’t responsible for getting the year wrong;
–Casey didn’t give the title for #40 before playing it. Apparently I made my best guess while Mike Love crooned and did my best to correct things on the outro;
–I believe the same thing happened with #37;
–This would have been the first time I heard “Turn the Beat Around.” Could not discern ‘Vicki Sue’ that day; you can see I ultimately settled on ‘Casey.’ I figured it out by the following week’s show;
–I considered myself a very good speller back in the day, but apparently ‘rhythm’ was befuddling;
–Apparently I hadn’t fully grasped the titles of the Eric Carmen and Doobie Brothers pieces, making the former into a semi-remake of the Bacharach/David classic and the latter sound even more like a call to action. ‘It’ got added on the 6/26 chart, while ‘Gonna’ had to wait until 7/10;
–And then there was the name of the band singing “The Boys Are Back in Town.” I’d gotten fooled by Casey’s pronunciation of ‘Thin’ two weeks earlier, and it’d be another month before it got corrected. Phil Lynott and company would climb as high as #12 before the end of July. It’s now one of my very favorites from those first months I was keeping close tabs on the ebb and flow of the chart performances of pop 45s, an almost perfect summer song. Who wants to head down with me to Dino’s?

(I covered some of this three years ago, when I posted pictures of my 6/26/76 chart.)

Stereo Review In Review: June 1977

Back in January I was mapping out which Stereo Review issues I wanted to write up this year, skimming through the archives at worldradiohistory.com.  For June, a trip back to 1977 looked pretty appealing, except for one thing: something had gone wrong in the scanning process, and pages 110-123—smack in the middle of the Popular Music Reviews section—were missing. Was I to be deterred by this? Of course not—a couple of months later, I purchased a copy (along with another issue that will be featured later this year) from a fellow in British Columbia on eBay.

Flipping through these has sent me back in time—the memories keep flooding in. The original owner had taken wonderful care of them, including not removing the postcard inserts encouraging one to subscribe to SR, Psychology Today or Car and Driver. (You can bet I’d take them up on their offer of three years for $11.97 now if I could.)

It’s one thing to see the text and advertisements of yesteryear in online scans, quite another to hold it in your hands again. I’d forgotten all about the red stripe on the spine—when you arranged six months’ worth of issues together (volumes ran Jan-Jun and Jul-Dec), the stripes aligned on a downward slant—that’s one way to keep your collection in order.

As for the contents, it’s another solid mix of hit albums of the day along with interesting now-obscurities…

Article
Rick Mitz Interviews Bette Midler
Midler touches on her youth in Hawaii, her work ethic, and what it’s like now that she’s a big star. Throughout she reveals vulnerability via rapid shifts between introspection and brash confidence. At the end, there’s a very positive review of Midler’s recently released double-album Live at Last, by Peter Reilly (“It is roses all the way, and all on an energy level—high and unrelenting—that should leave no one feeling short-changed.”).

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance. Phyl Garland wouldn’t come on board until the October issue.

Best of the Month
–Natalie Cole, Unpredictable (PR) “…a dazzler, proof that the potential she showed in her two earlier albums has been realized, that the daughter of Nat ‘King’ Cole has come securely into her own as a performer of quality.”
–Gary Lawrence and His Sizzling Syncopators, S/T (JV) “…a delightfully jovial yet deadly serious collection of period tunes all done up in Twenties and Thirties stylings…”
–Joel Shulman, Nowhere But Here (CA) “…a series of candid aural snapshots of pianist Joel Shulman and musician friends who regularly drop in at the Garden Party, a combination plant shop/restaurant operated by Shulman and his wife in a Toronto basement.”

Recordings of Special Merit
–Jimmy Buffett, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes (NC) “I guess the point to make here is that Buffett in transition is still more satisfying than most people snuggled in on a comfortable plateau.”
–Johnny Cash, The Last Gunfighter Ballad (NC) “…he’s written some wryly comical liner notes, and the songs he wrote and chose include something for just about every facet of his audience. It’s surprising to me how many facets I seem to fit into.”
–Marshall Chapman, Me, I’m Feelin’ Free (NC) “My favorite blues singer who was born rich is still Bonnie Raitt, by a long shot. But Chapman writes (usually with someone else) good tunes and better than average words, and there’s a quality of toughness in both her songs and singing.”
–Paulhino da Costa, Agora (CA) “…it is the last track, ‘Ritmo Number One,’…that really makes this an outstanding album…an eight-and-a-half minute impression of the rhythms that fill the streets and alleys of Rio de Janeiro at carnival time…”
–Mel Lewis, Mel Lewis and Friends (CA) “…forty-five minutes of excellent, free-wheeling, and totally acoustic jazz.”
–Mary MacGregor, Torn Between Two Lovers (PR) “Although none of the others have the quiet power of the title song, they all reflect a natural and observant sensibility of a high order.”
A Poke in the Eye (PK) “Imagine a benefit performance featuring the best comedic talent alive in England (including several from Monty Python’s Flying Circus—WRH)…here is just such a recording, made at an extraordinary benefit put at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London for Amnesty International.”
–Buddy Spicher, American Sampler (PK) “…a Nashville violinist who has a taste for all kinds of music and the nerve to bring off almost anything to which he applies his skillful bow.”

Featured Reviews
–Janis Ian, Miracle Row (PR) “…she has seized for herself the title of Girl Most Likely to Get Pop off Its Moribund Ass in the Late Seventies.”
–Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Dancer with Bruised Knees (Rick Mitz) “…not a follow-up to their spectacular debut album—it’s a follow-through…an equal, not a sequel.” I picked up a copy of this LP seven or eight years later, in college—I’d carried some small semblance of a memory of this review, or at least the name of the record, around all that time.
–The Ramones, Ramones Leave Home (Lester Bangs) “So, if you don’t like the Ramones, don’t come crying to me about the watered-down quality of today’s rock. There is an alternative.”
Phil Spector’s Greatest Hits (SS) Plus six British reissues of works produced by Spector, on the Phil Spector International label. “…if you’re unfamiliar with what the man has accomplished over the years, this is clearly the place to start educating yourself.”
–Richard Thompson, Richard Thompson Live! (More or Less) (SS) “If you buy no other album this year, this is the one you should invest in; it’s as close to a masterpiece as anything you’ll ever have in your collection.”

Other Disks Reviewed
–The Band, Islands (SS) “…exactly what you’d expect from them, given that everyone is obviously more interested in getting his individual career launched and consequently is saving his good material for forthcoming solo LPs.”
–George Benson, In Concert—Carnegie Hall and In Flight (CA) Regarding the latter: “I have to admit that I’d rather hear him play the straight jazz he plays so well, but I’m glad he’s making it, and I’d rather listen to his way of making it than to, say, Herbie Hancock’s.”
–Glen Campbell, Southern Nights (PK) “…he’s surrounded here by gigantic orchestral arrangements that unfold like the petals of great plastic orchids in the climaxes singers these days seem to think they have to achieve to impress upon us that they’re in excellent form, thank you…”
–Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (SS) “The only really successful track here is Buckingham’s hit ‘Go Your Own Way,’ as catchy and energetically performed a rock single as we are likely to hear in the immediate future…(t)he rest is all solidly crafted and certainly pleasant, but it seems rather pointless to shell out $7.98 for what is essentially a one-song album.”
–Dean Friedman, S/T (NC) “There’s a good line here and there, though, and some promise. Make a note to look him over again in his junior year.”
–Genesis, Wind & Wuthering (NC) “From the sound of it, Genesis continues to write with its thumbs and then sits up all night stretching melodic lines all out of shape to fit this stream of self-consciousness.”
–John Miles, Stranger in the City (NC) “I suspect the real Miles is more interesting than the one he projects. May that suspicion someday visit him too.”
–Pablo Cruise, A Place in the Sun (Lester Bangs) “It’s not that there anything so terrible about this group; it’s just that there is nothing particular about them at all…Every track is smoothly inoffensive and instantly forgettable…”
–Piper, S/T (Lester Bangs) “(Billy) Squier’s vocals are ragged and sprawling, with a sort of squashed-Jagger effect…(t)here should be nothing to stop these boys from stepping into Aerosmith’s boots in a couple of years. On the other hand, there’s no evidence here that they aspire to any greater distinction.”
–Jean Redpath, The Songs of Robert Burns (PR) “…beautifully researched and explained by Serge Hovey (who also produced it) and sung in what is presumably authentic (late 1790s) style…I must admit that it has a certain otherworldly charm.”
–Smokey Robinson, Deep in My Soul (JV) “…this collection of slick, highly professional soul-pop is an impressive demonstration of how a performer works an audience so that the audience works for him.”
–Rufus, Ask Rufus (JV) “The orchestral arrangements always stop just this side of being too lush or preposterous, and Chaka Khan’s singing, despite elements of night-club gospel, displays a kind of sassy craftsmanship.”

On to sampling some tunes. “Party Lights” reached #79 on the Hot 100 in August.

Here’s a live version of a song that appears on the Sizzling Syncopators album.

Simels notes that one disk of the Thompson release is actually Richard and Linda’s 1974 album I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight.

One of the French-language selections from Anna and Kate.

Wrapping up with the da Costa track mentioned above.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/7/75: Michael Murphey, “Wildfire”

It’s June 10, 2012, a notable day in my son’s life—the day of his baptism. Throughout the spring, he and three other boys have been preparing via a membership class led by our pastor. It’s traditional in our congregation for each person in the class to have an adult sponsor, for conversation and guidance. Ben chose one of my religion colleagues at the college for his sponsor—Ben is good friends with my colleague’s older son. The service goes smoothly, and afterward there are four happy families. Martha’s sister and my mother are also present, and the five of us have a nice lunch out.

It turns out to be a notable day for me as well, the day that parts of my past resurface in the present and go on to shape my future.

My eighty-year-old father isn’t feeling well at all. Two weeks prior, he bailed on flying to Florida with Mom and me to witness my nephew’s high school graduation; he just ate the cost of the ticket. Dad has talked up coming down to Georgetown for the baptism, but as Sunday approaches, he realizes that he wouldn’t be able to endure several hours away from home. In order to minimize my mother’s time away from him, I agree to meet her in Dry Ridge, about midway between us, and ferry her to Georgetown and back.

One of my favorite stations to listen to in the car is WWRW, Rewind 105.5 (“70s and 80s Hits”). I’m aware that old American Top 40 shows from the 70s are being rebroadcast on Sunday mornings, but up until now, I haven’t taken the time to tune in intentionally. Today, though, an opportunity has arisen. I’m at the main intersection of town, heading north, when I flip on the radio. I don’t recognize the song, and I try to guess which pre-1976 year this might be. Casey tells me on the outro that Eddie Kendricks is at #30, with “Shoeshine Boy.” Up next is a cover of “The Way We Were,” by Gladys Knight and the Pips, so that limits the show to either 1974 or 1975. When the Ozark Mountain Daredevils close out the first hour with “Jackie Blue,” all is revealed: I’m listening to 6/7/75.

I meet Mom just as #20 (“Magic,” by Pilot) is playing, and drop her off at the door to the church as Major Harris croons “Love Won’t Let Me Wait.” I learn that Jessi Colter’s “I’m Not Lisa” is #8 as I park the car. Sometime that evening, I root around the internet and find that John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” was the final song Casey spun.

That was the start of what’s now been a nine-year re-connection with AT40, closing in on 50% longer than the span I listened to it growing up. It’s become a weekend ritual once again, and I’ve noted before how much it’s taught me about the music of the early 70s. It’s not clear at all this blog would exist had I not stepped back into that world. I’m amused that it was a show from the first weekend of June, exactly 52 weeks before I started keeping my charts, that kicked things off again. It took a few years to realize there was irony involved, as well.

I listened to 6/7/75 in its entirety yesterday (unlike in 2012). When “Shoeshine Boy” came on, I began reliving the trip to pick up my mother; I knew exactly where I was along the way up when unfamiliar songs from Carly Simon, the Temptations, Tavares, Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes, Seals and Crofts, and Paul Anka all played in a row. The Carpenters, Alice Cooper, Joe Simon, and Average White Band were part of the soundtrack of the return leg. Knowing now how little time my parents had left in 2012, remembering my father’s increasing fragility, thinking about life in the mid-1970s—listening to the middle 90 minutes of the show again was an emotional experience.

Michael Murphey’s “Wildfire” was also a part of that morning nine years ago, sitting at #17. In two weeks, it would jump from #12 to #3, where it would be stymied from further progress by the Captain and Tennille and Linda Ronstadt.

It’s a weekday afternoon, mid-to-late June 1975. Mom and Dad are off attending to things that need to be attended to, and Amy and I are at a farm a few miles outside of Walton, spending time with friends. It belongs to the family of our dentist; their youngest is a boy my age, though he and I don’t go to the same school. One of his sisters, maybe three years older than I, is around, too. Years later, the two of them will jointly take over their father’s practice.

I think we four kids are in a car, likely with their mother, when “Wildfire” comes on the radio. The girl declares it’s one of her current favorites—is it possible that she’s into horses? I like it pretty well, too. The association of the song with the moment will last a lifetime.

These days, the melancholia in “Wildfire” seems to be a foreshadowing of the sheen of sadness I hear and feel when listening to the songs on 1975 shows from later that summer and fall. It’s a sense I didn’t quite realize was present at the time.

Modern Rock Tracks, 6/1/91

It was around this time that I started a subscription to Hoot, a bi-weekly comics newspaper out of Columbus, OH. I’d learned about it on a May visit to a college friend who was doing the med school thing at the Ohio State University. Not all of it was to my taste, but it did serve as an introduction to Zippy the Pinhead and Bizarro. Not sure now whether I kept getting it after I moved back to KY; I do wish I’d held on to at least one copy. It’s long been defunct, but I’ll bet I could find issues in the archives at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at tOSU.

Anyway. Moving on to our next survey of the alternative scene of 30 years ago…

30. Jesus Jones, “International Bright Young Thing”
JJ is tied for having the oldest song on the countdown, as Casey liked to say: 11 weeks, same as “See the Lights” from Simple Minds, to which we tipped our cap back in April.

28. Peter Himmelman, “Woman with the Strength of 10,000 Men”
This one is new to me. It’s based on an encounter the artist had with Susan, who was dying of ALS yet persevered in communicating with others after she lost use of everything except her left eyebrow. Himmelman, originally from the Twin Cities, wrote at length about the experience three years ago here. It’s an affecting, earnest song about an important lesson learned.

26. The Popinjays, “Vote Elvis”
This Brit-pop group had one album that went nowhere under their belt by this point. “Vote Elvis” (I’m unsure which one they’re lobbying for) was a subsequent single that ultimately appeared on 1992’s Flying Down to Mono Valley. Fun track, but “Monster Mouth,” which I’ll play here someday, is that album’s best song.

24. Dream Warriors, “My Definition of a Boombastic Jazz Style”
I wasn’t much of one to seek out rap/hip hop back in the day, though there were acts (De La Soul, Beastie Boys, Arrested Development, Us3) that held appeal. Dream Warriors would have been another had I ever encountered them.

The cute thing here (which I confess I wouldn’t have known without consulting Wikipedia) is that the song being sampled–Quincy Jones’s “Soul Bossa Nova”–was the theme for the long-running, 70s and 80s Canadian game show Definition.

20. Too Much Joy, “Crush Story”
Is “Crush Story” my favorite song on this chart? It sure is in the running.

The guys from Scarsdale got back together recently and just released Mistakes Were Made, on Bandcamp, in March.

17. Hoodoo Gurus, “Miss Freelove ’69”
A little less Australian music this time than we sometimes get in these MRT forays. This psychedelic track, from the perhaps appropriately named Kinky, commemorated a real-life bacchanalia involving head Guru Dave Faulkner.

15. Material Issue, “Diane”
Somewhere around the spring of 1992, I created a mix tape consisting of songs with women’s names in their titles. I had my choice from among the first three tracks on International Pop Overthrow–“Diane” won the day. What an intro this song has.

14. Fishbone, “Sunless Saturday”
These fellows from SoCal have been a thing of sorts for over forty years, first getting together while in junior high (a couple of them, vocalist Angelo Moore and bassist John Fisher, have been there the whole time–three other original members are back with the band after taking leave at various times). I don’t think I’ve heard much of their music, but man, “Sunless Saturday” sure is a ferocious, unrelenting piece.

13. Dave Wakeling, “I Want More”
From No Warning, his one solo album. Wakeling and Ranking Roger fronted competing 21st century re-formations of the (English) Beat on the two sides of the Atlantic.

7. The Farm, “All Together Now”
The things one didn’t catch in real time, part 28,517: a song about a soccer match on Christmas Day, 1914 between the warring sides on the Western Front of WWI. And yes, there’s good reason for you to think about Pachelbel’s Canon during the chorus.

6. Electronic, “Get the Message”
A year after “Getting Away with It” had charted on this side of the pond, Sumner/Marr/Tennant finally released their debut self-titled disk. “Get the Message” would hit #1 on this chart in three weeks; it’s long been a fave.

5. Violent Femmes, “American Music”
Why Do Birds Sing? was the Femmes’ fifth album. I didn’t think much of “American Music” when I first heard it that spring–too repetitive, too far removed from their epic debut. I’m hearing some of its joy now.

3. The La’s, “There She Goes”
Amazing to me that the La’s just seemed to vanish after this big breakthrough. The Sixpence None the Richer cover is fine, but I’ll take the original every time.

Am I alone in thinking that vocalist Lee Mavers was kinda doing a Frankie Valli thing when he sings, “And I just can’t contain…”?

1. Elvis Costello, “The Other Side of Summer”
Lead track from Mighty Like a Rose. In many ways this sounds like vintage EC, but the string is just about played out: he’d chart with only one more single in the U.S. after this (1994’s “13 Steps Lead Down”).

Not what Costello was on about, but: here we are, on one side of summer 2021; what will we learn by the time we reach the other?

I Hardly Know What To Say

Buddy, just a couple of months after we took him in.

There have been a few times these last few months when I’ve wanted to write but just haven’t found the necessary motivation. Now that the school year is over, I’m hopeful that my muse will return, at least partially. In an attempt to clear the decks, here are abbreviated versions of three posts that have been tossing around my head for a while. The month and title I intended for each are included; only on the third one had I made some meaningful progress earlier. You might detect a recurring theme.

February: I’ll Be Your Sister If You’ll Be My Brother

For my 27th birthday in 1991, Greg and Katie gave me a guinea pig. I’d been hanging out in their apartment regularly for about a year by this point (unrelated but almost interesting fact: their landlord was Alison Krauss’s father), and Pig—their guinea pig—had caught my attention from the get-go. This was the year I had an apartment to myself, so I guess they figured I could stand the company.

She was adorable, with a cute crest of white fur on the top of her head spraying out in all directions. As I hustled her and her carrier into the back seat of my car, I looked down and told her, “It’s just you and me now.” That was approximately the title of a song from Kirsty MacColl’s Kite, and so my new, nervous companion was immediately christened Kirsty.

Taken in my apartment in Lexington, so most likely 1993.

Guinea pigs frequently don’t live all that long; I had Kirsty for just over four years, a little more than half of which was after I’d moved back to KY. On a Friday in March of 1995, I came home from work to find her lying awkwardly toward the front of her cage. She was still alive, but something catastrophic—likely a stroke—had clearly happened. Alarmed, I opened the door, she (as was typical) tried to scramble away from me, I picked her up, and then held her as she died. (Guinea pigs aren’t loving pets, but I’ve always wondered if she’d somehow purposely held on until I returned.) I’d been dating Martha for only a few weeks at this point; I don’t think we’d made plans to get together that night, but I soon called her, and she offered what comfort she could over the phone. I wrapped Kirsty up, placed her in a shoebox, and buried her at the end of my driveway (there was no garage at that house). I wasn’t without a pet for long, though, as a stray cat and her kittens entered my life that summer.

March: There’ll Be (More Than) One Child Born

Chris Leverenz, a retired colleague, passed away at the end of February. While we didn’t socialize together outside of work, over the years we became good friends and confidants. She was my department chair from 1999-2010; many was the time I’d wander down to her office toward the end of the day to seek advice on how to handle some issue that’d arisen in one of my classes. We traveled together to several national conferences, usually when our department was hiring—driving to New Orleans in 2006 and DC in 2009, flying to San Francisco in 2010 and Boston in 2012. Some of our best conversations occurred on those trips. I miss her terribly.

Chris retired in 2017, not long after she discovered that the breast cancer she’d suffered more than a decade earlier (and thought she’d beaten) had returned and gone metastatic. We held a reception for her one Friday afternoon that April; I coordinated with the Alumni Office to get invitations out to alums, particularly those who’d majored in math, computer science, or elementary education, the main points of contact with students over her 35 years of service. It was a glorious event, one of the very best, most memorable occasions in my time at Georgetown.

The day Chris died, I learned that a good friend from church had become a grandmother again just the day before. Not long after, that line from Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die” popped into my head. The theology in the song didn’t match Chris’s remotely, but the thought of others carrying on one’s work has long been a powerful one for me. Touching, heartfelt tributes were many on Georgetown’s Alumni Facebook page after the news broke. It was abundantly clear from them (as it was in the appreciative notes I’d gotten via email four years earlier from alums who weren’t able to attend the retirement reception) that Chris had left a rich legacy, especially in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms scattered across Kentucky.

But there’s one other thing. Earlier in the day of her passing (a Thursday), a tenure-track offer went out to the first-choice candidate for a math position in our department—Chris’s position, one that we’d largely bridged in the intervening four years with a visitor. That offer was accepted on Friday afternoon.

April: American Top 40 PastBlast, 4/24/76: Henry Gross, “Shannon”

Our dog Buddy has really slowed down over the last year. His hind legs have gotten steadily weaker, so much so that negotiating stairs has become almost impossible. Falls are increasingly frequent, and he can’t always get himself up after he’s been lying down for a while. In recent months, walks around our neighborhood have gotten shorter and shorter; he’s now pretty much limited to our yard. There are signs of doggie dementia or some neurological disorder—he’ll sometimes wander around in a restless, almost manic state, unable to settle, and when he’s not sacked out from exhaustion, he doesn’t seem to know what to do with himself. His appetite is still strong, though he occasionally changes his mind abruptly about what he’s willing to eat.

When I was 8 or 9, my sister and I begged for a dog. Frisky came into our lives one summer (Amy thinks it was 1973, but I still wonder if it was ’74).

The date on the back says June 1978.
No date, but I’d guess 1974 or 1975; note the milk box on the porch.

She was a beagle mix, about a year old. At first, we kept her outside, chained overnight to a tree with a doghouse to shelter her as needed. (She was often loose during the day, which occasionally led to trouble, including once digging up a portion of our next-door neighbor’s garden.) Eventually, she moved indoors, but Dad wasn’t about to let her have the run of the house. So, she lived in our basement, confined to the larger, unfinished half. Without the opportunity to run up and down the street as in her younger days, Frisky gained a lot of weight. I’m saddened and rather ashamed looking back now at how little attention I gave her through my high school years—she plays virtually no role in my memories from that time. My mother wound up being the one who mostly took care of her.

When my parents moved to Florence in September of 1983, Frisky was relegated to the garage. I was living my best life as a sophomore in college then, and my sister had just left the nest herself. It may be a mercy that Frisky soon developed kidney issues serious enough to warrant putting her down. I was certainly sad when Mom and Dad told me about her demise, but it took time to realize how much I’d ignored her, how miserable I suspect she was.

The #18 song on 4/24/76 was “Shannon,” a song Henry Gross wrote about Carl Wilson’s then-recently deceased Irish Setter; it’d been killed after being hit by a car (that story had been relayed by Casey on the previous week’s show—by coincidence, Gross also had an Irish Setter named Shannon). The song climbed as high as #6, which is where it was the week I began my charting odyssey. It’s one of many tunes that transports me back to the spring I fell in love with AT40.

On the 9/14/85 show, Walt in Cincinnati wrote in with a Long Distance Dedication request for his two daughters, who were struggling over the recent loss of their dog Snuggles. Of course, Walt asked Casey to play “Shannon.” It would be a couple of years before news (as well as audio evidence) leaked about the profanity-laced tirade Kasem went on the first time he tried to read Walt’s letter—he was most unhappy having to transition to it from the bouncy Pointer Sisters’ song “Dare Me.” Casey makes it sound like this wasn’t the first time his staff had scripted the show in such a fashion. It’s out there on YouTube for the curious.

We don’t know how old Buddy is. Come August, we’ll have had him for eight years, and he was at least five or six when he arrived on our scene. There are lots of things he used to do that I miss: rolling over on his back for tummy rubs, playing ‘sock’ in the basement or backyard (he’d chase and semi-retrieve it for a treat), howling when sirens rang out while he was laying on the deck (his hearing is fairly shot now). He’s never been one to cuddle, but after a few years with us, we gained enough trust from him that he would climb the stairs in the middle of the night to lay on the floor in our bedroom—that happens no more, either.

We know the day is coming when he won’t be able to support himself well enough to get up, even with help, or walk around on his own. Until then, he’s getting special add-ins with his meals, extra treats on occasion, and lots of patience and love.

Forgotten Albums: Brazil Classics 3: Forró Etc./Music of the Brazilian Northeast

If the 1980s were in part about bringing African music and rhythms to greater attention in the Western world (Remain in Light and Graceland, of course, but don’t sleep on Johnny Clegg’s work with Juluka and Savuka, or The Indestructible Beat of Soweto), then the early 90s brought Brazil’s turn to the spotlight. Once again, Paul Simon and David Byrne were among those facilitating the effort. Recently I listened to The Rhythm of the Saints for the first time in a good while; I’d forgotten how deeply those songs had seeped into my bones thirty years ago. It took a little longer for the some of the disks in the Byrne-curated Brazil Classics series to find spots in my collection. Two of them–the first (Beleza Tropical) and the third (Forró Etc.: Music of the Brazilian Northeast) in the series–found particular favor with me, the latter especially. The back cover of Forró Etc. notes, “This is party music…from people who’ve been through hard times…” My recent experiences are not remotely comparable, but I’m still in the mood to celebrate the end of a trying academic year, so let’s fire up the accordion and get moving.

Luiz Gonzaga was most responsible for popularizing Northeast Brazilian music to much of his fellow countryfolk. His career began in the early 1940s; he passed away at age 76 in 1989. Gonzaga has three solo credits and a duet among Forró Etc.‘s eighteen tracks. The disk’s opener is the groovy “O Fole Roncou” (“The Bellows Roared”), recorded in 1973.

Gal Costa’s “Festa do Interior” (I think you can translate this yourself, at least approximately) was a big hit in Brazil in the early 1980s, and understandably so.

Jose Domingos, better known as Dominguinhos, was (according to Wikipedia) a protegé of Gonzaga as a teenager, and in many ways was Gonzaga’s successor as the leader of the forró movement. He appears three times on the album (one of those as a duet). You might have already sussed out that “Querubim” means “Cherub.”

Dominguinhos died in the summer of 2013.

“O Sucesso da Zefinha” (“Little Zefa’s Success”), written and performed by Anastácia, is another excellent example of how this music makes you want to jump up and dance.

“Asa Branca” (“White Wing”) was co-written by Gonzaga in 1947 and is recorded here by his son Luiz Jr., under the name Gonzaguinha. The subject matter–extreme heat and drought, according to the translation in the liner notes–doesn’t synch up at all with the joy of the performance. I’ve long held this is my favorite song on the album.

Gonzaguinha was tragically killed in an auto accident at age 45 in 1991, just about the time this compilation was released.

Jackson do Pandeiro was another leading light of the Northeastern movement. “Chiclete com Banana” dates back to 1960; he had also already passed on (July 1982) by the time Byrne was putting together this compilation.

Not much out there about João do Vale, but his song “Estrela Miúda” (“Little Star”) seems to be moderately well-known.

Eleven more delights await if you find you want to seek Brazil Classics 3 out–it’s great stuff, and I certainly enjoy circling back to it with some frequency.

Stereo Review In Review: May 1978

At fourteen, I was evidently too young to appreciate, to virtually any extent, music outside of what I heard on Top 40 radio. Forty-three years later, the education continues…

Articles
Loft Jazz, by Chris Albertson
Albertson chronicles the developing jazz scene in NYC as it migrated from 52nd Street to lofts in the SoHo district near Greenwich Village, and surveys a five-LP recent release called Wildflowers: The New York Loft Jazz Sessions.

How to Read a Record Jacket, by Steve Simels
Dripping with sarcasm, Simels attempts to decode the significance of all the terminology in liner notes, as their length had exploded over the past decade. Here are two snippets that give you a taste. 1) Producer: “All in all, however, be he hack, artiste, skilled technician, or visionary, his basic function is to sit in the control room and nod knowingly after the musicians have finished a take.” 2) Background Vocals: “This particularly odious form of cronyism was originally pioneered by Stephen Stills, who once not only recorded a chorus consisting of David Crosby, Graham Nash, Joni Mitchell, John Sebastian, and Mama Cass Elliot, but somehow managed to get all to sound like clones of himself.”

This month’s reviewers are Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance. There’s lots to cover, so let’s get to it.

Best of the Month
–Art Garfunkel, Watermark (PR) “Garfunkel has exactly the right spare, intelligent vocal style for (Jimmy) Webb’s intense, deeply felt lyrics and the nonchalant but enormously secure musicianship the elusive music demands.”
–Gordon Lightfoot, Endless Wire (NC) “…his rockingest album yet…(h)is songwriting is everywhere crafty and in spots exceptionally bright.”
–Jay McShann, The Last of the Blue Devils (CA) “…certainly among the last of a vanishing breed of musicians whose performances are designed to stir the soul and make the feet stomp…”

Recordings of Special Merit
Pop/Rock/Soul/Country:
–Blossom Dearie, Winchester in Apple Blossom Time (PR) “Like a new book by Jean Rhys or a new sculpture by Louise Nevelson, a new album from Blossom is a welcome reminder that there is still civilized, urbane life on this planet…” Maybe like me, you know Dearie best as the singer of “Figure Eight” or “Unpack Your Adjectives”—seems it’s high time I diversify that portfolio. (Schoolhouse Rock asides: I have it in my head that “Figure Eight” was the first of those shorts I ever saw—it was almost certainly my introduction to the infinity symbol. And it’s interesting enough that a little calculus knowledge is used in “Unpack Your Adjectives” as a sign of being brainy.)

–Al Green, The Belle Album (PG) “Admittedly, some of his recent albums have bogged down in banality, but he has broken out of that slump with this one, which should rank among his finest…ironically, the most danceable tracks are the more religious ones.”
–Anne Murray, Let’s Keep It That Way (NC) “Thematically, the album is not focused at all, but sonically (producer Jim Ed) Norman has pointed everything toward the clear and beautiful tones Anne Murray makes.”
–Roomful of Blues, S/T (JV) “…like most rhythm-and-blues combos of the era they re-create, Roomful of Blues combines barrel-house slugging power with a concern for jazz.”

Jazz:
–Double Image, S/T (CA) “…a cross between Balinese music and that of the late Modern Jazz Quartet.”
–Bill Evans, Alone (Again) (CA) “Evans doesn’t just play a tune; he caresses it, embellishes it, and turns it into a new and very personal experience.”
–Charlie Haden, The Golden Number (CA) Four duets, with Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Archie Shepp, and Hampton Hawes.
–Charles Mingus, Three or Four Shades of Blues (CA) “Mingus has never moved with commercial trends…which is one reason his music endures.”

Featured Reviews
–Roberta Flack, Blue Lights in the Basement (PG) “There are some jewel-like moments on it, precious and shimmering, but involvement and depth of feeling seem to be missing almost throughout.”
–Tom T. Hall, New Train—Same Rider and Waylon Jennings/Willie Nelson, Waylon & Willie (NC) “Taken together, these albums suggest that country music’s relationship to the world beyond its strongholds is much less predictable now than it was a few years ago…both appeal more to people who don’t know the artists than to people who do.”
The King and I (PK) “…the record so adroitly blends dialogue, ballads, and spectacular choruses that one gets the feeling of attending a real performance rather than of listening to a series of spliced-together excerpts from it.”
Saturday Night Fever (PG) “The music here has an unflagging thrust, yet it is sufficiently varied in style, mood, and instrumentation to transcend the trite strictures commonly associated with disco.”
The Smithsonian Collection (PK) An overview of the first three musical comedy selections in the series: Ziegfeld Follies of 1919, the Gershwins’ Lady, Be Good! (featuring Fred and Adele Astaire), and Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.
–Muddy Waters, I’m Ready (JV) “Waters proves that whatever the artfulness of the blues—and it is considerable—it derives not from ‘artistic’ pretensions but from professional entertainers’ need to please their audiences.”
–Warren Zevon, Excitable Boy (SS) “…gives you the guitar raunch of the Rolling Stones, the wit and verbal facility of Randy Newman…and some fantasies that make Elvis Costello’s seem as mundane as Barry Manilow’s.”

Other Disks Reviewed
–Baby Grand, S/T (JV) “Once in a while it sounds as though a song and a performance are going to amount to something, but…alas, alas, ‘almost’ is a sad and final word.”
–Chet Baker, You Can’t Go Home Again (CA) “Except for one selection, this album is a disappointing, formula-ridden echo of the CTI sound that buried the artistry of so many fine jazz soloists over the past few years.”
–Eric Clapton, Slowhand (NC) “Clapton’s vocals have gotten even craggier and mellower, and I think I wish they were mixed a little louder here…maybe what I really want is for Clapton…to sing out, as in away from one’s own chest, which is where he seems to aim some of this.”
–Randy Crawford, Miss Randy Crawford (JV) “…early Aretha in style and bubbly all the way.”
–Doonesbury’s Jimmy Thudpucker, Greatest Hits (JV) “The album is a satire not only on the superstar figure, eager and kid-pompous song-writing, and the studio world but on the pop music audience itself…but the satire is so accurate that it occasionally becomes what it is intended to ridicule.”
–The Emotions, Sunshine (PG) “This material was apparently pressed by Stax years ago, probably between 1971 and 1974…but (it) sounds amazingly fresh.”
–Judy Garland, The Wit and Wonder of Judy Garland (PK) “It all makes one miss Judy Garland even more, for in her untranquilized moments she was not only a clever woman but a very funny one.”
–Leif Garrett, S/T (PR) “As is usual in most such cases, voice and technique are almost nonexistent, but the production by Mike Lloyd is as artful and cosmetic as a pimple pencil.”
–Andrew Gold, All This and Heaven Too (SS) “…indefensible, a totally tuneless exercise that seems to exist for no other reason than to allow him to demonstrate a bit of a Beatles fetish.”
–Emmylou Harris, Quarter Moon in a Ten-Cent Town (NC) “The slant I have on (this album) is that too many of (the songs) she chose for it suit her image rather than challenging her to grow as a singer. But she is growing anyway. And she is already one of the best.”
–Rupert Holmes, Pursuit of Happiness (NC) “Altogether—and the melodies, arrangements, and soft-spoken vocals do this more than the lyrics—Pursuit of Happiness seems much too accepting of the Way It Is to be coming from the kind of intellect Holmes apparently has.”
–The Jam, This Is the Modern World (SS) “There are, after all, plenty of windy bores on the side of the angels. The Jam isn’t quite that bad, but, with two albums down, it’s beginning to look like they will be.”
–Taj Mahal, Evolution (The Most Recent) (JV) “At times in his various recordings, Mahal has seemed alienated from his listeners and resentful of having to perform for them…In Evolution he’s an entertainer.”
–Meco, Encounters of Every Kind (Edward Buxbaum) “It’s like dancing through a space-time travelogue, for these are very ‘visual’ cuts, with the various settings evoked by appropriate music and sound effects.”

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/17/86: Phil Collins, “Take Me Home”

Saturday’s attendees, as we appeared in Transy’s first-year student lookbook in 1982. We weren’t arranged this way on my version of the Zoom call.

This is my year for a college reunion (the 35th, if you must know), but, like essentially every other event these days, scheduling something formal has been a challenge. Once the vaccine rollout began gaining steam, my alma mater elected to move Alumni Weekend away from its traditional spring spot on the calendar (Transy doesn’t have a football team), pushing it this year near the end of October. I’m hoping to go.

Back in January, before any such planning had taken place, I’d floated the idea to a few of my classmates over email about holding a virtual mini-reunion in the spring. I brought it back up with one of them in mid-March, and she and I began working on an invitee list and thinking about possible dates. This past Saturday evening, nine folks from the Class of ’86 climbed into our little boxes on Zoom to catch up and share memories (a tenth was unable to make it).

I had a lot of fun over those two-plus hours, even if it wasn’t quite as lively as maybe I’d hoped it would be (given the format and the lofty percentage of introverts among us, that can’t be much of a surprise, though). We shared college-era photos and scans of artifacts, talked about kids and pets, reminisced about classes we’d taken together, profs we’d had, and so on, and so on. The nostalgia was there, but I don’t think any of us were letting it define who we were that night. For me, our 30th gathering five years ago was an inflection point of sorts in renewing some friendships, and my hope is that this event will further that along. We lived in close proximity during a formative period; while we still share that—or at least, what we now remember of it—advancing years and the ever-growing awareness of the finitude of my days make me want to circle back to these old friends and better see what we’ve become (currently three academics, an accountant at a university, a psychiatrist, a home-schooling mom, a retired state employee, an environmental lawyer, and an IT specialist; the one who couldn’t attend is a general practitioner), how we got there, and maybe what we can still learn about ourselves and each other.

(Much of the above may sound anodyne but believe you me, I’m happy that folks want to keep in touch. It was a great time in my life, but I think plenty about mistakes I made then, both social and academic, about how immature I was in various respects. I want to believe I’ve grown—including learning to cut myself some slack—but I’m not the best one to judge that.)

Quite a few of us had been involved with WTLX, so I don’t stand out as the Top 40 music geek with this crowd in quite the same way I do with my high school friends. I did share a picture of one of our posters, and Kevin, the station manager for three years, reminded us about the Top 57 countdown of favorites—as voted on by the student body—we ran our sophomore year (WTLX’s frequency was 570 AM; he promised me he’d forward me that list, which I’m a little surprised I don’t already have).

When I sent out a reminder email last Wednesday, I remarked upon the coincidence that the weekend’s AT40 rebroadcast would be 5/17/86, just a week before our graduation (perhaps unsurprisingly, I also included a list of the week’s Top 10). As it happens, one of the photos shared on Saturday night, with eight of the nine of us in it, had been taken that very day: all too aware of our impending scattering, we’d driven down, along with a couple of friends a year behind us, to my roommate James’s house for a cookout/picnic.

Most of us plus a few others four years later, on 5/17/86. Picture taken by James’s mother, courtesy of Angela Ray.

There may have been a volleyball game or two; I do know that later on, we drove to the nearby road sign that marks the original site of our institution.

“Take Me Home,” the fourth single from No Jacket Required, was sitting at its peak of #7 then, the second of its three weeks there. Phil wasn’t singing about reliving the glories of college, and I can’t even tell what he doesn’t remember. But Transy was home, and felt like home, for the better part of four years. By 5/17/86, I was ready to move on to the next phase. As far as letting my thoughts drift back there now and again these days, though—well, I don’t mind.

Dad’s 45s, Part 12: Back Where We Started

We’ve reached the bottom of the stack of singles I found among my father’s effects. It’s been a fun ride, and I’ve learned some things about decades-old songs, popular artists of long ago, and maybe Dad, too. I started eleven months ago with a few big hits from what I tend to think of as the golden era (late 50s/early 60s) of IRH-approved tunes; as the end neared, it felt right to have the final installment feature some rockin’ songs from that same period. In chronological order:

Gary U.S. Bonds, “New Orleans” (#6, November 1960)

Two of the artists today were also featured in Part 1. “New Orleans” was the first hit for Gary U.S. Bonds. Boy, is it a smokin’ hot track.

Dion, “The Wanderer” (#2, February 1962)

Is there a more brazen case in rock music of the double standard applied to the behavior of men and women than Dion’s back-to-back hits of “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer”? (Dad paid no mind, ranking the former at #23 on his list of all-time favorites, the latter at #36.) Maybe it’s not such a shock that they were written by the same man (co-written with DiMucci in the case of “Sue”); as you can see above, it was…

Ernie Maresca, “Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out)” (#6, May 1962)

Maresca wrote a few other hits, but this was the only time he charted as a performer (and he actually sings precious little on it, leaving a lot to the backups). If this had been written ten, even five, years later, would one have still yelled “loud and swell”?

Chris Montez, “Let’s Dance” (#4, October 1962)

Montez had five Top 40 hits, four of them middle-of-the-road numbers in 1966. The other was the biggest, the decidedly more uptempo “Let’s Dance.” The organ really makes this one go. (And now you know the address of the house we lived in when I was born.)

The Beach Boys, “Surfin’ Safari” (#14, October 1962)

Growing up, I favored this one over “Surfin’ U.S.A.” Dad did, too: he had “Safari” at #14 on his hit parade, while “U.S.A.” clocked in at #37.

Joey Dee and the Starliters, “Hot Pastrami and Mashed Potatoes (Part 1)” (#36, June 1963)

We wrap up Part 12, as we did Part 1, with a jaunty little number from Joey Dee. This sleeve is fascinating, with class from Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan, Murray the K pitching ‘golden gassers’ of (in some cases) just five years previous, and How to Strip for Your Husband: Music to Make Your Marriage Merrier. I must say I didn’t expect the last history lesson on this journey to be focused on Ann Corio, a burlesque performer of the 20s, 30s and 40s.

I hope everyone has enjoyed the series. I guess, though, this isn’t quite the final installment; next month, a postscript.