After we moved close to Cincinnati in the summer of 1972, our cars’ AM radios, when they weren’t tuned to WLW (700) for Reds’ games, were set to WSAI (1360), through and through a Top 40 station. I was around ten when the music I was hearing began making a stronger impression. I discovered AT40 in the late winter of 1976; by then a transistor radio was an almost constant companion, and WSAI was almost always in my ear. I still recall several of the jocks’ names: most notably Jim Scott, but also John R. W. Whalen, Casey Piotrowski (who put out an album locally in 1975 that captured some of the humor on his shows), Ted McAllister (here’s a 1971 air check of McAllister’s). By early 1978, I had discovered FM radio and Top 40 powerhouse WKRQ. I wasn’t alone in transitioning away from the AM dial. That summer, WSAI began teasing a format change, to begin at 6:00 am on a Monday morning in August. I woke up early to tune in and discover: they were going country. Right or wrong, that was that for me. Top 40 radio on the AM side in Cincy went extinct, at least for the time being, that morning. Except for the Reds and listening to AT40 on WLAP out of Lexington, I pretty much became an FM-only listener.
But I guess I never quite stopped fidgeting with the dial on my portable radio. In the summer of 1982, weeks before I left for college, I found WCLU at 1320, which had at some point become a rock station with maybe a tilt toward breaking hits, especially if they had a New Wave flavor. It’s probably from them that I acquired my love for “Kids in America,” “Words,” and maybe even “Someday, Someway.” They were in on “Who Can It Be Now?” early, and were weeks ahead of the pack on “Rock This Town.” I have to believe WCLU would have been a regular listen for me going forward (even if they were daytime only) had I not moved away in September.
I don’t remember now if I tuned into them much the following summer, but they were still at it–I picked up three of their Top 60 playlists from record stores, one each in May, July, and August 1983. The first is dated thirty-seven years ago today.
There’s a much greater infusion of R&B music here than what I recall from listening in 1982, but I’d listen to this station now in a heartbeat. I imagine I’ll share the other two someday.
How long this format lasted for WCLU, I can’t tell you. The station changed its call letters to WCVG a few years later and made waves in 1988 by becoming the first station in the nation to adopt an all-Elvis format (which lasted a little more than a year). They are now known as The Voice and play a gospel format.
Both WCVG and WSAI have Wikipedia pages that attempt to capture some of their histories, if you’re interested. The station at 1360 once again has call letters WSAI (there’s a long, complicated story there that the Wiki article summarizes decently), but these days they go simply by Fox Sports 1360.
With classes now over, I’m better able to get to our next installment of SRIR before the last day of the month. We’re back to some early 80s action this time.
Article Noel Coppage Interviews Rosanne Cash It’s actually a combination chat/review of Seven Year Ache. We get an overview of the moments that led to her fledgling career (Seven Year Ache is her second LP): singing backup for Dad for three years, college (an English/drama double major at Vanderbilt), meeting first husband Randy Crowell, a failed attempt at recording an album in Germany. Coppage calls Ache a concept album, in spite of Cash writing only two of its songs (one of which is that awesome title track); he also doesn’t think it’s maybe quite as good as her first record.
During this period SR often ran a section entitled Popular Music Briefs. Our issue at hand includes this contrast in styles.
Yes, that’s Carl Wilson with Wendy O. Williams. It does make for an interesting picture, though the caption writer takes a gratuitous shot at Williams’s appearance and grandmaternal prospects.
On to the reviews. This month we have Chris Albertson, Irv Cohn, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance. Cohn appears to have replaced Edward Buxbaum, but I don’t believe he was around too long.
Best of the Month –Tantra, The Double Album (IC) “…music persuasively—even fiendishly—designed with no other purpose than getting you up on your feet and dancing…” –Toots and the Maytals, Live at Hammersmith Palais (PG) “To listen to Toots is to hear unmistakably, despite the pronounced Caribbean lilt, strong and uncannily accurate echoes of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke.” –Fleetwood Mac, Live (NC) “…they never forget the aesthetic value of contrast, seldom let a thing run on too long, and always let you hear through the instrumentals when you need to in order to get the point.”
Recordings of Special Merit Rock/Pop/Country/Soul: –Gail Davies, I’ll Be There (NC) –The Gap Band, III (IC) “These guys really know what they’re doing. And their music is fun to listen to.” –The Searchers, Love’s Melodies (SS) “Anyone looking for melodic pop-rock that doesn’t insult your intelligence need look no further.” –Phil Seymour, S/T (JV) “I haven’t heard such a commanding, seasoned, and tasteful mainstream rock singer in many a day.”
Jazz: –Dexter Gordon, Gotham City (CA) –Gerry Mulligan and His Orchestra, Walk on the Water (CA) –Gil Scott-Heron, Real Eyes (PG) “(His) lyrics are so far above the mindless stuff of most of today’s popular music that I would like to see him turn again to his typewriter in pursuit of longer forms. Until he does, though, this album will do.”
Featured Rock/Pop Reviews –The Clash, Sandanista! (SS) “There’s enough obviously first-rate music here to demonstrate that the Clash continues to evolve in ways that even their initial boosters couldn’t have foreseen, and that they will likely do so for as long as they want.” –The Two Tons, Backatcha (PG) Formerly Two Tons o’ Fun, soon to be the Weather Girls. –Christopher Cross, S/T (SS) Apparently SR ignored Cross’s debut when it was released and felt obliged to pan it after its commanding performance at the Grammy Awards earlier in the year: “Bantamweight a talent though Cross may be, his is decently accomplished at what he does, which is to make brainless, catchy, quintessentially Californian pop records—no more, no less.” –Weslia, Lady Love (PK) Weslia Whitfield (she eventually shortened her first name to Wesla) was a paraplegic for the last four decades of her life. The standards singer passed away a little over two years ago. –T. S. Monk, House of Music (IC) Two kids of the jazz legend strike out on their own.
Selected Other LPs Reviewed –The Blues Brothers, Made in America (NC) “The main attraction, as it has been all along, is the band behind them…and the tail can go on wagging the dog just so long.” –Ry Cooder, Borderline (NC) “It’s better than most albums, just not better than most Cooder albums.” –Lani Hall, Blush (PR) “The songs are fairly bad, the production obviously expensive, and the singer’s talents largely wasted…” –Earl Klugh, Late Night Guitar (JV) –Loverboy, S/T (NC) –Randy Meisner, One More Song (NC) “One wonders why Randy Meisner bothered to get out of the Eagles, since he could have gone on doing more or less the same stuff in the Eagles.” –Yes, Yesshows (JV) “Without detailing the wretched excesses of each cut, I would merely suggest that a suitable revenge upon the Iranian hostage-takers would be 444 days of compulsory listening to a medley of ‘Ritual’ and ‘The Gates of Delirium.’”
A family of four wends their way a couple of hours north to Cincinnati for a treat: the two young children, a boy and a girl, are going to their first Major League Baseball game. The parents—the father, in particular—are longtime Reds fans and are engaging in the time-honored tradition of passing ardor on to the next generation. Their seats are down the right field line; they’ve got a decent view of the towering scoreboard in left-center. Things don’t go well for the home nine that evening, who are facing decent opposition. On the bright side, one of the Reds’ stars goes deep—a moment that just might have turned him into the girl’s (she’s just four years old) favorite player.
I do remember bits and pieces of my sole visit to Crosley Field, the Reds’ home from 1912 to 1970: it was 1) a lopsided loss 2) to the Cubs in which 3) Johnny Bench, Amy’s fave, hit a HR. However, several years ago I realized I didn’t know the date of the game—my father hadn’t kept the ticket stubs (which doesn’t sound entirely like him). I hit up retrosheet.org, a site whose goal is to collect box scores and record play-by-play info for as many MLB games as possible, for some detective work. I was certain the game had to have occurred either in 1969 or 1970. The Reds’ move to Riverfront Stadium on June 30, 1970, restricted options further. Just one home game against the Cubbies fit all the criteria: a 12-5 loss on Monday, 5/18/70, fifty years ago today. I was about to wrap up kindergarten—before the month was over I’d take my star turn as the Tin Woodman in our epic production of The Wizard of Oz. My first cousin Liz, sixteen years older than I, would get married in less than three weeks.
The timing makes sense to a good degree, as I can imagine Dad wanting to have his children experience a game in the park where he’d had so many enjoyable times across the years before it closed. The Reds were off to a fantastic start, 27-10, after sweeping a double-header against the Braves on Sunday; under the leadership of their new manager, the 36-year-old George “Sparky” Anderson, they were rapidly becoming The Big Red Machine.
The Cubs were doing okay as well going into this tilt, tied for first with the team that had broken their hearts the previous season, the Mets. Who wouldn’t want to see these teams do battle?
I won’t do a blow-by-blow recap (here’s the boxscore/play-by-play), but I am including pix of some of the key players from my collection of 1971 Topps cards. The Cubs started Bill Hands, while the Reds countered with off-season acquisition Ray Washburn. There’s no 71 Washburn card, but I’ve got a George Culver, whom the Reds traded to St. Louis for Washburn (the Cards dealt Culver to the Astros mid-season).
That Washburn-for-Culver swap was a challenge trade of sorts: two pitchers who’d done pretty well two seasons earlier (they’d both thrown no-hitters in 1968) but had slipped a bit during the following campaign. Washburn turned out to be a disaster for the Reds. They kept him the whole season, but his ERA wound up just a shade under 7. The May 18 game was one of just three starts he received during the season, perhaps necessitated by the previous day’s twinbill. He got yanked in the second inning, after six runs crossed the plate for the Cubbies (just two earned).
These guys knocked in eight of the game’s seventeen runs. (The under-appreciated Ron Santo had four RBI.)
I also have the NL RBI leaders card, featuring the same three players (Perez and Williams switching places). While Amy rooted for Bench, early on I locked onto Perez as my favorite.
Two other stars for the Cubs that evening were 2B Glenn Beckert (4-6, 2R, 1RBI) and CF Jim Hickman (2-3, 2BB, 3R).
For the era, it was a long game, 3:08—I kinda doubt we stayed for the whole thing. Official attendance was a little more than a third of capacity, 10774.
I’ve come to realize that my memory is far from 100% reliable, so it’s possible that I’ve made some sort of error in recall, and this wasn’t the game I attended. But there’s an additional piece of evidence from Retrosheet that makes me believe this really was it. At the bottom of each page that recaps a day’s results and end-of-day standings, Retrosheet includes (if there are any), the names of any players who made either their first or final MLB appearance on that date. Here’s what I saw when I looked at 5/18/70:
I do not have any recollection of witnessing Belinsky enter the game in relief of Washburn with two outs in the bottom of the second inning. It turned out to be a pretty pedestrian performance: ten outs, four hits, two walks, three runs, all earned. He batted once, getting a hit.
But that alliterative name stirs something deep inside. It possesses a familiarity it wouldn’t have unless I’d heard it announced over the PA that night, embedding itself into a six-year-old’s subconscious, to be liberated only upon seeing it again in association with that game.
Even if I had recalled his appearance, I wouldn’t have known anything about the backstory that had led him to that moment. There’s a thorough and interesting article about Belinsky at SABR worth the time for students of the history of the game. The overarching theme is of a man who couldn’t be bothered to cultivate his talent, focusing instead on nightlife and seemingly bedding as many women as possible. A few stretches of brilliance punctuated the exasperation he incurred for GMs in Baltimore (in whose system he developed), Los Angeles (Angels—his celebrity exploded after tossing a no-no in his fourth career MLB start, in early May 1962), and Philadelphia. Very early in the morning of the day my wife was born, there was an incident that led to a lawsuit (eventually dismissed) brought by a woman who claimed Belinsky had assaulted her. He got into a scrum with a reporter. Alcohol and drugs took over his life. A passable late-season stretch of pitching for the Pirates in 1969 somehow convinced the Reds to trade for Belinsky during Spring Training in 1970 (it’s perhaps telling that Dennis Ribant, the journeyman pitcher the Reds gave up, never appeared again in the majors). May 18 was only Belinsky’s third appearance in 38 games; while he hadn’t been bad, I wouldn’t be shocked if off-the-field behavior made it easier to send him back down to AAA. He didn’t last the season in the Reds’ system. A few years later, Belinsky managed a largely successful trip through rehab and became a born-again Christian. All the abuse to which he’d subjected himself, along with some other health issues, took their toll, though—he died of a heart attack in late 2001, a couple of weeks shy of his 65th birthday.
There was no 1971 Belinsky Topps, but I do have cards of a couple of folks with some tie to him. Dean Chance was a good friend during Belinsky’s years with the Angels, both on and off the field. Chance won the 1964 AL Cy Young Award, but was also at the end of his career by the early 70s.
Rudy May was part of the return the Angels got when they traded Belinsky to the Phillies after the 64 season.
Despite the dreary outcome, the four pitchers the Reds used that night all had notable baseball accomplishments. Washburn and Belinsky had their no-hitters, Tony Cloninger had slugged two grand slams in one game, and Clay Carroll later held the NL single-season record for saves. Throw in all the eventual Hall-of-Famers on the field, and I realize now how lucky I was to be there.
Going to see the Reds during the best stretch in their history became a big part of my youth, especially after we moved to Walton, just twenty miles south of Riverfront Stadium. While I wish I had been just a little older so that I could have absorbed the ambience and fully appreciated the opportunity to be at Crosley Field, I’m grateful that I recall anything at all about it.
Here’s a one-hit wonder, a song I enjoyed plenty that spring I was 17. The 45 for “Love You Like I Never Loved Before” is in my collection, though I’m pretty certain I didn’t get it until the late 80s. It’s also on a Time-Life CD compilation of 1981 hits I picked up after I was asked to put together some disks of high school-era hits for my 20th high school reunion in 2002 (the classmates organizing it knew who to turn to for that).
But I got to wondering this morning about the guy who made the record, which is sitting at its peak of #24. The only thing I could recall about John O’Banion from his seven-week run on the show was that he was a native of the Hoosier State (Kokomo, specifically); Joel Whitburn doesn’t say more than that, and Pete Battistini’s book about 80s shows indicates that Casey never told any extended stories about O’Banion. Surely there was something out there on the interwebs about him? Why yes–here are a few nuggets I’ve picked up today:
–O’Banion was already 34 when he had his hit. He’d been out in LA throughout the 70s; his first break was catching on as vocalist for a band put together by Doc Severinsen. –This ultimately led to a few appearances on the shows hosted by Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas, and Merv Griffin. –For a while in the 80s, O’Banion was big in Japan. In 1982, he took the Grand Prix at the Tokyo Music Festival, for “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love.” A couple of years later, the song was a #2 country hit for Crystal Gayle. It’s incredibly drippy and full of self-pity; that said, had I heard Gayle’s version when it was released in late winter of 1984, the lyrics quite possibly would have resonated with me. –He also made a few B-movie appearances in the mid-to-late 80s. –At some point O’Banion was involved in an accident in New Orleans that resulted in serious head trauma. I haven’t been able to pin down a date for it, but complications from the incident led to a premature death several years later, on Valentine’s Day in 2007, just two days before his 60th birthday.
Much of the above came from his Wiki page and an article that appeared in a Kokomo newspaper a few months after O’Banion died.
It’s largely gone down the memory hole now, but “Love You Like I Never Loved Before” was one of the perkier, cheerier songs on this show. No official vid to be had, alas.
Last week I saw that we’d reached the twentieth anniversary of the release of one of my all-time favorite albums, Aimee Mann’s Bachelor No. 2. Martha was close to the four-months-point of her pregnancy with Ben when I picked it up; I know I had it already on play in the car when we went to a shower thrown by her soon-to-be former colleagues at Midway early that summer. Songs such as “Red Vines,” “Satellite,” “Ghost World,” and (especially) “Calling It Quits” are all brilliant–I recommend going out and finding it if it’s not familiar.
But that’s not my agenda today. Instead, I’m taking a closer look at Mann’s first solo record, Whatever. It came out in May of 1993, twenty-seven years ago this week, and more than four years after ‘Til Tuesday’s third and final album, Everything’s Different Now. Whatever is very close to Bachelor‘s equal, and signaled that the growth and potential Aimee showed in songs like “Coming Up Close” and “Rip in Heaven” (from ‘TT’s second and third albums, respectively) had fully matured/been realized. Even without much commercial success, Mann was here to stay. Here are a half-dozen cuts from it.
The opening track and lead single, “I Should Have Known,” had a more muscular sound than anything Mann had done before, and could be considered an announcement of her arrival. Somehow I’d never seen this video before.
The fourth track, “Could’ve Been Anyone,” is a strong contender for my Mann Top 10. I can’t say now if I put the line from the bridge, “It isn’t description so much as disguise” on the label for one of the tapes I made for James, but it’s perhaps the standout lyric on the whole album.
Mann is a master of the rhyming triple. She’d already begun the practice while still in ‘Til Tuesday, but it flourished over the course of her solo career. This song, about what the narrator believes is a premature end to a promising relationship, treats us to “departed/outsmarted/started” in the chorus.
I swear I didn’t choose to write this album up because Mann included a song called “Mr. Harris.” However, I’ve always found this tune, about the desire for a June-October relationship, deeply moving. The oboe/brass interplay in the musical interlude doesn’t hurt, either.
Another highlight is “I’ve Had It,” a poignant exploration of the frustrations and inevitable disappointments of being in the music biz.
The album wraps up with the rollicking “Way Back When,” another song I know I put on a tape somewhere along the way. I love to sing along. Also: many more triples!
I’ve skipped over several good ones: “Fifty Years After the Fair,” “Fourth of July,” and “I Could Hurt You Now,” among others. It’s a delight from start to finish. As I said in one of my earliest posts, I would have been surprised if you’d told me in 1985 (as much as I liked “Voices Carry”) that Mann would be the one artist from the 80s whose work I tracked consistently over the following thirty years. Without Whatever, that might not have happened.
A few things have slipped by me in recent weeks; one was pulling charts of recently-played Premiere rebroadcasts. Making amends now–March and April were busy months for late 70s and early 80s shows, so a warning: this will be long.
There were two shows from 1979 played in this period. First up is 3/3/79:
This was the second show where Casey recapped the Top 3 from the previous week. Gotta say that these days I don’t feel too bad tuning into shows from this period ten minutes late, just to avoid hearing songs twice in four hours. Looks like I initially, accidentally pluralized Herb Fame’s name? Makes me wonder now if any restaurants put “peaches and herbs” on their menu that summer…
Hello/Goodbye: Frank Mills and Eddie Rabbitt take their first turn, while it’s the end of the line for Ian (now Iain) Matthews.
We also had a 1981 show from early March:
I didn’t appreciate “Precious to Me” nearly enough back then; now I’d say that the songs at #30 and #29 are in contention for the best back-to-back pair on a show over the course of the whole year.
Hello/Goodbye: Both Juice and Grover make their first-ever appearance (this is one of the greatest–certainly best-performing– two-debut weeks of the decade). I’d have guessed at first this was it for AC/DC, but they hit again with “Moneytalks” in early 1991. We won’t see the Outlaws again, though.
If it’s early 80s, you know I’ve got my own list, too:
I said much about the music in the spring of 1981 last year, when they played the show after this one, so I won’t repeat myself (except to remind you again that “Ah! Leah!” is fantastic).
Much more on the flip, including goodies from the Cincinnati scene…
Submitted the last of my grades on Friday night. Doing so in any semester always feels like a burden being lifted, but the relief is greater than normal this go-round. It’s Saturday evening as I start this, and I’m totally beat. I commented earlier to Martha and Ben that it’s almost like a mild case of whiplash. Again, I know the stress for many of my students has been higher, but I am glad this most unusual semester is now in the rear-view mirror. I’d like to think I adapted reasonably well at least some of the time. I’ll debrief myself at some point; right now, though, I need some time off from thinking about the college professor life.
A part of that will be (I hope) paying more attention to this venture. There have been a few thoughts that seem partially related to one another chasing around my head over the last couple of weeks; let’s see if I shape something semi-coherent out of them.
My alma mater traditionally hosts its Alumni Weekend at the end of April (one casualty of not fielding a football team is being able to hold a Homecoming celebration in the fall). Unsurprisingly, this year’s model wound up being a virtual event. Prior to the cancellation of in-person festivities, the class of ’85 had invited the graduates from ’84 and ’86 (my year) to join in on their 35th reunion reception. Even if there aren’t (m)any folks from the class ahead of me with whom I’ve maintained contact, I would have given some consideration to attending. I’m sorry they missed their every-half-decade shot at a reunion; at this point, though, I’m wondering about the likelihood of my 35th being online, too.
There are a few artifacts from the spring of 1985 in my bin of college goodies. That May Term (Transy has a short, four-week term at the end of the year) I took Environmental Philosophy, from a faculty member in his first year. Our text was a collection of essays on environmental ethics; while I don’t seem to have the book any more, I do have the booklet from an essay exam (though not the questions) and a five-page paper I submitted on The Necessity of Establishing an Environmental Ethic. Hardly original thoughts being expressed, but I feel like maybe I had synthesized something decently in the first paragraph.
Comments by the instructor were few, but for what it’s worth, I got an A on it.
I enjoyed the class and the professor. There was a kerfuffle a couple of years later when he was denied tenure (he’d come to Transy with credit for previous service). I was in grad school by then, but was still in touch with plenty of folks still there who weren’t pleased. My understanding is that he eventually landed on his feet at a school in the Northeast.
I guess I was also on the production staff that spring for The Transylvanian, “the oldest university literary journal west of the Allegheny Mountains.” I don’t have any recollection of doing the slightest bit of work for it; I have a feeling it might be connected to having taken creative writing the previous fall. But hey, my name is there on page one for anyone who still has a copy to see.
The contents are mostly student work: poems, very short stories, sketches, etc. There are a few pieces by faculty as well. One poem was by George Ella Lyon; an adjunct at Transy at the time, she’s had several books and collections of poetry published in the decades since, and served as Poet Laureate of Kentucky five years ago. “How It Is” in part expresses the frustrations of teaching students who don’t have the same appreciation for the subject matter as the instructor. I can relate.
I also hope that Editor isn’t right in that second stanza.
I spent the last day of April 2016 at my 30th college reunion. It was an all-day affair, including a couple of afternoon receptions, a group photo (though only fifteen members of my class were there for it), and a class dinner at a downtown Italian restaurant. The weather didn’t cooperate much; it rained much of the day. Nonetheless, I had a grand time, re-establishing connections with some folks I hadn’t seen in quite a while.
The most enjoyable part of the day was getting to be with a smaller group in the morning and early afternoon. We began with a breakfast that was in part a gathering of alums from across the years who’d been recipients of a generous scholarship offered by the school. I had been in the first cohort, a group of ten. The program quickly turned into a public relations windfall for the college, expanding in subsequent years and becoming a significant factor in the growth of Transy’s enrollment throughout the latter half of the 80s. Back in the fall of 1982, though, the scholarship program was a novelty; no one quite knew what to make of it. Several of us became good friends from the start, though over time our social circles and interests diverged in various ways. By the time we graduated, fortunately it felt like we stood out less than we had at the beginning.
Five folks from that first group, now in our early fifties, were among those who sat together at the breakfast. Conversation was plenty lively. Some of it was catching up, and some of it proceeded as if the intervening years had never happened. Afterward, we wandered around campus some, celebrating our youths and reliving old glories, eventually winding up at a deli a few blocks away for lunch with James, my roomie.
Before I left the house that morning for those reunion festivities, I heard most of the opening hour of that weekend’s 80s AT40 rebroadcast; I doubt you’re surprised to learn it was 5/4/85, which got played again a week ago. Even though a show from 1983 would have been more appropriate given who I was going to be seeing, 1985 turned out to be a very good choice for setting the mood for the day. For a while, I could see the older man looking at the younger man he’d been, the college junior who apparently was involved in putting together a journal, and who was thinking about how to think about the environment.
Thirty-five years on, it’s clear that enough, or maybe the right, people weren’t/couldn’t be convinced of the deficiencies in our approach to the environment. Eventually a price will be exacted. Some days I conclude that’s just how it is.
(Rick Springfield’s star was beginning to wane by this time. I’ve always liked this song, but it stalled out at #26 a couple weeks later. It was #32 on this show.)