Christmas/Holiday Cheer: Cocteau Twins, “Frosty the Snowman”

The teaching part of my job is over for a while, as just a bit ago I submitted grades for the fall term. This past semester was both a sprint and a marathon, as we upended our calendar to finish classes prior to Thanksgiving. (I described the plan here.) My prediction that the college would have to transition to fully remote learning at some point was entirely incorrect–we were able to stay in-person the whole time. I’m still in need of decompression, but I’d like to write up some of the highs and lows of the fall at some point–perhaps reflection will help me avoid some traps next time. We’re delaying the start of the spring term to late January; now we wait and see if conditions on the ground will allow us to feasibly return then.

It’s not going to be a vacation for eight weeks, though. In addition to planning spring classes (including the possibility of having to deliver them online), there’s a lot of departmental work to do, including dealing with parts of our every-five-year self-study and getting started on a search for a new colleague. Nonetheless, I’m hoping that December and January will be months with somewhat more frequent posting here than the last four have been…

Toward that end, here’s a song of the season from Cocteau Twins, a band we’ve seen fit to mention a couple of times already this year. This is one-half of their 1993 two-song EP Snow, released shortly after the disappointing Four-Calendar Café. It’s impressive how they’re able to remain true to both the song and their sound.

Modern Rock Tracks, 12/1/90

Whenever December 1 is a Saturday, that means Thanksgiving is as early as it can be, on November 22. On the morning of the 23rd, 1990, I hit the road, heading west. This was the second consecutive year I attended a wedding the Saturday after Turkey Day, both times for college friends. The festivities thirty years ago were in suburban St. Louis: my dear friends Mark H and Lana were tying the knot, more than eight years after they’d met. I served as best man; my toast centered on a plausible-yet-fictitious rendering of their first encounter, on the day Mark (and I) moved in at Transy–it is true that Lana, a returning student, was helping coordinate traffic in the back circle by the dorms that day…

Anyway, it’s time for the final Modern Rock Tracks installment of the year, from the weekend following those nuptials. What delights await?

#30. Concrete Blonde, “Caroline”
I keep getting reeled in by Johnette Napolitano’s earthy vocals. The band’s outfits in the clip are pretty all-world.

#27. Inspiral Carpets, “Commercial Rain”
More goodies from the UK in the Manchester mold. Catchy as all get out but the lyrics are, well, not that deep (“Mary’s crying for her baby, for her baby doll–ahhhhhhhhhh, commercial rain”). It would wind up on a mix tape I made in the summer of 1992, so I’m saving the vid for whenever I write that up.

#24. The Posies, “Golden Blunders”
Another mix tape treat–this time from 1994–but it’s so good, I won’t mind repeating myself should I wind up featuring it again. I’m willing to call this the best song on the chart. The Posies were a Seattle-area band, strictly power pop and not grungy in the least. The title feels like an obvious Beatles reference; Ringo covered it a couple of years later.

#23. Hindu Love Gods, “Raspberry Beret”
Warren Zevon + non-Stipe members of REM + late night recording session after much drinking = respectable Prince cover.

#19. Redd Kross, “Annie’s Gone”
The next three embedded videos today are from quality songs that somehow slipped under my radar in real time. First up, a California band led by a pair of brothers unafraid to make a fashion statement or three.

#17. Edie Brickell and New Bohemians, “Mama Help Me”
I get how folks can be turned off by Brickell’s overly precious writing. I do. This lead track from Ghost of a Dog had no chance of changing anyone’s mind about it, either. Like that album plenty, but “Mama Help Me” is among its lower tier of tracks.

#14. The Trash Can Sinatras, “Only Tongue Can Tell”
These guys from Scotland are still together thirty years on. I’m definitely picking up a Smiths vibe.

#12. INXS, “Disappear”
Much better than “Suicide Blonde.” This would be their seventh and last Top 10 hit on the U.S. pop charts; each peaked at a different position (they didn’t have a #4, #6, or #10 hit).

#10. The Connells, “Stone Cold Yesterday”
Greg had tipped me off earlier in the year to “Something to Say” from 1989’s Fun and Games. I don’t know how this gem got past me; give it a crank.

#7. Iggy Pop, “Candy”
For your consideration: Kate Pierson’s uncredited accompanying vocals, while not as pervasive, are the early 90s analogue of Stevie Nicks’ work in the late 70s.

#5. U2, “Night and Day”
In retrospect, this track can be seen as a second inflection point in the direction of their music. It’s definitely one of the highlights on Red Hot + Blue, the collection of Cole Porter covers that raised money for the fight against AIDS. (I’ll confess I’m also a big sucker for Iggy and Debbie Harry stumbling through “Well, Did You Evah!”)

#4. An Emotional Fish, “Celebrate”
Another Irish band that got some traction trying to sound a little like the boys at #5. What are the odds that Bono could have come up with a line like, “Well, I guess beauty does what beauty does best–it’s beautiful”? I’d lay 3-2 on it. This also was on one of my mix tapes and will likely receive mention in this space again someday.

#3. Sisters of Mercy, “More”
British Goth doesn’t do all that much for me, but I had to toss this one in when I learned that Jim Steinman co-wrote and co-produced it. I’m trying to imagine the conversation between Mr. Over-the-Top and lead Sister Andrew Eldritch that resulted in the collaboration. Eldritch: “Jim, I just loved what you did for Bonnie Tyler on ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart,’ especially the line about the powder keg. Listen–can you help me? I’ve got this lyric stuck in my head: ‘You keep me comin’ back for more.’ Any ideas on how to flesh it out?” Steinman: “Hmmm. We should be able to fit ‘like a kid in a candy store’ in somehow. That’s much more pedestrian that my ‘mountain of rocks/Crackerjack Box’ rhyme for Meat Loaf, but I bet we can make it work. My fee, you ask? All I request is to have a go at the control board.”

(You now know why I flamed out as a fiction writer.)

#1. Jane’s Addiction, “Been Caught Stealing”
Can’t say I’m much of a Perry Ferrell fan, yet here we are, with the big hit from Ritual de lo habitual at the top. On the other hand, when I was watching videos from this chart via YouTube a couple of nights ago, this was the song that brought my son over from his computer to listen more closely. Maybe it was the dog barking at the intro…

Stereo Review In Review: November 1987

I don’t recall paying all that much attention back in the day to the interviews with/articles on performers that appeared occasionally in the pages of SR. One thing that’s stood out to me thumbing through these old issues this year is how often they featured country artists, first by Noel Coppage and then Alanna Nash; there’s another one this month. We also get a second article, all about my favorite act from 1987 (I doubt I read it at the time, though).

Articles
Elizabeth Costello Interviews Suzanne Vega
Vega talks about being surprised by the success of “Luka,” her singing style (“I’ve always disliked a lot of vibrato”), and the evolution her songwriting (“I think it is becoming more streamlined, more abstract, and more condensed. And I think it’s becoming more melodic.”)

Alanna Nash Interviews Patty Loveless
Nash recounts how native Kentuckian Loveless, whose star was just beginning to rise, reached this moment. Nashville kept calling—at age fourteen she and her brother met Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, who became a friend, and at age eighteen she briefly fronted for the Wilburn Brothers. Marrying that band’s drummer took her to western North Carolina for several years, where she mostly sang rockers in bars and incurred bad habits with drugs and alcohol. After cleaning up, she took one last shot at country stardom and it sure panned out.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, and Steve Simels. Unfortunately, the scan at worldradiohistory.com is missing a couple of pages, including the beginning of the pop reviews, so we might be missing out on a gem or two.

Best of the Month
–Rosanne Cash, King’s Record Shop (AN) “…Cash again offers a stunning mix of traditional and progressive country, ballad, and biting rock. Far more sober than her previous album, King’s Record Shop rips into vital veins and arteries of emotion…” This one’s been in my collection for a long time.
–Cruzados, After Dark (MP) “Cruzados combine the country music of parched cinderblock and sweating beer bottles with the hard rock of a fist fight waiting to happen.”

Other Disks Reviewed (* = featured review)
–*Three sets of unreleased recordings of Count Basie (CA) “Eventually (remaining Basie tapes) will all be released—the great, the good, and the simply fair. These three albums cover all three bases.”
–Natalie Cole, Everlasting (PG) “She presents it all with grace, ease, and taste. And she’s in good voice, with energy to spare.”
–Duane Eddy, S/T (SS) “…as nuttily entertaining an album as I’ve heard all year.”
–Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine, Let It Loose (PG) “Their cohesive music and sound prove that there are still new horizons to be explored in popular music.”
–A Flock of Seagulls, The Best of… (SS) “Call it disposable, call it New Wave nostalgia, but there’s something oddly touching about the innocence of this music, just as there’s something oddly touching about the innocence of a Buddy Holly song.”
–The Grateful Dead, In the Dark (SS) “Whatever you think of these guys, this is clearly the most surprising album of the year: the first Grateful Dead record you don’t have to be a Deadhead to enjoy.”
–Highway 101, S/T (AN) “…this is commercial country music, retro honky-tonk…(t)he real news, however, is Paulette Carlson. Sounding at once like early Dolly Parton, earlier Brenda Lee…(she) throws a one-two punch as a vocalist and songwriter.”
–*La Bamba (SS) “…the most exciting evocation of Fifties rock anybody has ever recorded.”
–Richard Lloyd, Real Time (SS) “In retrospect, Television…was never as radical as people assumed at the time, and it now seems clear that was because Lloyd played Paul McCartney to (Tom) Verlaine’s John Lennon.”
–Split Enz, History Never Repeats—The Best of Split Enz (MP) “The selections display the group’s facile songwriting, clever word play, and the determinedly lighthearted approach that probably doomed it.”
Who’s That Girl (AN) “Alas, there is nothing gutsy about Madonna’s performance on the sound the soundtrack of Who’s That Girl, a movie in which the singer goes to great lengths to prove she is not an actress…”
–X, See How We Are (MP) “…there’s an unfinished quality to the rough harmonies and rambling tunes, a roughness that allows X to communicate directly and forcefully in live performance but seems hollow and self-conscious on record…”

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/19/77: Dave Mason, “We Just Disagree”

I began buying 45s in the middle of 1976, right around the same time I started keeping my AT40 charts; my sister jumped in on the fun not long after. By the end of 1977, a high percentage of our allowance money was being shoved at Sears and Recordland in the Florence Mall, so much so that while listening to this weekend’s show it felt like close to half of the songs would have been in our hands by Christmas that year. I rifled through my collection of singles last night in an attempt to verify my memories. Several tunes I expected to find didn’t pop up, but they were mostly the ones I remember to be Amy’s–I guess they wound up in her hands in the end. A visit to my trusty Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles 1955-2002, which lists B-sides, helped me confirm those I don’t appear to have anymore.

With that, let’s take a peek at what was being spun on the turntable chez Harris 43 years ago. An asterisk * means the single must have been my sister’s.

#40. The Bay City Rollers, “The Way I Feel Tonight”
You are not going to shame me on this one (Amy and/or I also bought “I Only Wanna Be with You” and “You Made Me Believe in Magic”). It’d never really registered with me until this weekend that they modulate going into the chorus two different times. Whitburn notes this single was released with two different B-sides.

#39. Foreigner, “Cold As Ice”
Did this one have a single mix? In my head I always hear the strings more prominently.

#35. Meco, “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band”
There are two copies in my collection–pretty sure at least one of them came courtesy of a neighbor who lived up the street.

#32. *Bob Welch, “Sentimental Lady”
Was disappointed not to find this one. That winter I grabbed onto the flip side “Hot Love, Cold World,” which also wound up being the third single from French Kiss, hitting #31 in July 1978. How often was that sort of thing happening in the late 70s?

#23. Barry Manilow, “Daybreak”
This one wasn’t on 45–your humble blogger had broken out the big bucks several weeks earlier for Barry Manilow Live.

#22. The Babys, “Isn’t It Time”
With apologies to “I Feel Love” and “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” I’ll stick my neck out and claim this is the best record on the show. I wrote an homage to it three years ago in my first year of blogging; as a pop record, it’s just got it all.

#17. Dave Mason, “We Just Disagree”
A minor gem. My recollection is it didn’t take too many times hearing this on the radio before I went out and got it. Compact storytelling, mature lyrics, sweet harmonies. Still dig it.

#14. The Little River Band, “Help Is on Its Way”
Probably my favorite song at the time of this show. I imagine I’ve noted before that LRB was right up there with ELO as my favorite band in the late 70s.

#10. Carly Simon, “Nobody Does It Better”
It’s no “You’re So Vain,” but except for that one, I’m not sure I like anything of hers more. Not sure how it took me over forty years to understand the word toward the end between “Baby, baby” and “You’re the best” is an over-emoted and growled “Darling.”

#8. *Rita Coolidge, “We’re All Alone”
Between my “Lido Shuffle” 45 and subsequent purchase of Silk Degrees, I knew the song well by the time Coolidge released her version. I see how her take was a hit, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s better than Boz’s.

#7. Paul Nicholas, “Heaven on the 7th Floor”
If only this hadn’t climbed one more notch… A song designed to appeal to teenagers.

#6. *The Bee Gees, “How Deep Is Your Love”
The only single from Saturday Night Fever either one of us bought (no LP, either), though I liked “Night Fever” and “If I Can’t Have You” plenty. I guess we didn’t lack for hearing those songs on the radio practically any time we wanted.

#5. *Chicago, “Baby, What a Big Surprise”
Their last hit prior to Terry Kath’s death. Was always kind of meh on it.

#1. *Debby Boone, “You Light Up My Life”
Not my doing, as you can tell, though I’ll tip my hat to the key change at the end of “And fill my nights with song.”

Okay, so it turned out to be ‘only’ fourteen of this countdown’s songs (though some years later I would pick up “I Go Crazy” and “Send in the Clowns”). I’d keep buying 45s at a steady clip over the next 4 or so years–the rate probably began tailing off once I got to college.

As for a feature, let’s land on Mason, who would climb to #12 with “We Just Disagree.” He was almost a one-timer on AT40, touching #39 with a remake of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” seven months after this one peaked.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/11/72: Nilsson, “Spaceman”

A good while back I mentioned in passing that one of my good friends from high school introduced me to Harry Nilsson’s 1972 album Son of Schmilsson. He’d learned about it when we were seventh-graders, as a member of the golf team–one of the seniors played the cassette (or would it have been an 8-track?) in his car on the way to practice and matches. It would be the summer of 1979 before my friend shared his find with me. The main attraction was the utter naughtiness of some of its lyrics, chiefly Nilsson telling us how hard he sang to impress a female studio visitor in “Take 54” and giving the finger over and over to his soon-to-be-ex-wife in “You’re Breakin’ My Heart.” I mean, they’re tuneful pieces with fine studio playing, but that was plainly secondary to the opportunity to giggle over what Harry was getting away with singing. (I clearly wasn’t all that mature at 15 and 16.)

Forty years on, I hear Nilsson beginning to spiral a little out of control. He is not in particularly good voice, devolving into semi-screaming too often. There are some interesting songs: I guess I was too young to recognize “Ambush” as anti-Vietnam War or “I’d Rather Be Dead” as pro-assisted suicide (watch the video) when I first heard them. On the other hand, there’s “Joy,” which Casey noted on the 8/19/72 show was released as a country single under the pseudonym Buck Earl. (That Nilsson thought this was a reasonable idea is additional evidence that his judgment was already in decline, never mind the fact I laughed hard over this song many a time.)

What feels somewhat odd is that I don’t have memories from the late 70s of hearing the song on Son of Schmilsson that actually made the Top 40: “Spaceman” is at its peak of #23 on this show. It’s another tune of its time, touching on the same theme of feeling alienation while circling above the earth in a tin can we hear in “Rocket Man” and “Space Oddity” (“Spaceman” made AT40 in between those two, though of course Bowie’s piece was over three years old by the time it hit).

I still have the LP–I must have picked it up sometime while in college. But that wasn’t the only vinyl copy of Son of Schmillson I ever bought; my friend reminded me when I saw him a little over a year ago that I had given one to him as a gift in January 1985, just before he moved away from KY to start on his career as an air traffic controller (a job from which he retired this past July; my-oh-my, how the years do fly).

Dad’s 45s, Part 6: Double-Dips

A few artists (in addition to the Beatles) have multiple representatives in my father’s 45 collection. We won’t see a couple of them in this post (I showed you records from Gary U.S. Bonds and Joey Dee and the Starliters early on; a second from each will crop up some other time). Here are the other four acts whose work Dad dug twice.

Chubby Checker, “The Fly” and “Let’s Twist Again”

You might be as surprised as I am that CC’s biggest hit isn’t here–it was my father’s #15 song of all time. Instead, we get two Top 10 hits from the summer and fall of 1961, right around the time that my parents met. Pretty sweet sleeves.

Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Down on the Corner” and “Run Through the Jungle”

Two double-sided hits–“Fortunate Son” and “Up Around the Bend” are on the flip sides here.

Johnny Rivers, “Rockin’ Pneumonia-Boogie Woogie Flu” and “Sea Cruise”

I’m not sure how much of a fan Dad was overall of Rivers’s 60s hits (though I’m pretty sure he liked “Secret Agent Man”), but he definitely jumped on board in the 70s when Johnny started doing covers of early rock-era hits. It wouldn’t have been a shock to come across “Help Me Rhonda” in his stash. This is not a PastBlast post, but I’ll note that “Rockin’ Pneumonia-Boogie Woogie Flu” is debuting at #38 on this weekend’s 11/11/72 rebroadcast.

Nilsson, “Everybody’s Talkin'”and “Without You”

Eight-year-old me loved “Without You,” but somehow it escaped me for eons that Dad had bought the single back then. These are both quality picks.

Nilsson is also on the 11/11/72 show, and I’m hoping to put together a little something about that in the next few days.

Forgotten Albums: Victoria Williams, Swing The Statue!

One night early this week I was grading exams, listening to a mix tape from 1995, one good enough to write up someday. One song came from Victoria Williams’s 1994 LP Loose, and she and her music have been on my mind all week. To the extent that Williams is actively recalled today, it’s probably as much due to health matters as her albums: after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the early 90s and no health insurance, a number of her friends in the biz got together and recorded Sweet Relief, a tribute disk to raise money to help her address her condition.

Before MS set her back, Williams had released two records: Happy Come Home on Geffen in 1988, and (after that bombed) Swing the Statue! on Rough Trade two years later. It’s lost on me now how I became aware of her work–forced to guess, I’d say I took a flyer on Swing the Statue! from a cutout bin late in my time at Illinois. Eventually I learned that Williams had been married to Peter Case in the mid-80s, appearing on his mighty fine first solo LP.

Williams has a keen eye and is a good storyteller. Her voice might be a bit of an acquired taste–at its most endearing, it’s childlike, full of wonder about the world. I could see how some folks might not exactly dig it, though. As for me, well…I’m writing about her, yes? Here are some of the highlights from Statue, a very solid record.

The album starts off with the whimsical “Why Look at the Moon.” The clip below is from an appearance on The Tonight Show (short interview with Carson at the end). I think we get a good sense of what she’s about from it.

Did I know that Swing the Statue is a children’s game? It plays a role in “Tarbelly and Featherfoot.” Lou Reed performed this on Sweet Relief.

Williams was definitely influenced by the Christianity of her youth, as “Holy Spirit” attests.

On the other hand, ”Summer of Drugs” gives us a tour of a completely different world. Soul Asylum led off Sweet Relief with their version.

Somehow I know “I Can’t Cry Hard Enough” better than any of the songs on this album. A version by The Williams Brothers (no relation–they’re nephews of easy listening legend Andy Williams) hit #42 in 1992; maybe that’s what I’m thinking of. You’ll notice below that David (who co-wrote it) and Andrew are both contributing here.

Victoria Williams made a cameo appearance at one of the most enjoyable concerts I ever attended, but I guess that’s a tale I’ll save for whenever I write up that mix tape.

You’ve Got To Pick Up Every Stitch

It’s Halloween, so here’s a vaguely appropriate song. No story, just a scene.

I’d guess it’s February 1985, plus or minus a month. James and Stacey have been seeing each other for a little while now, and the three of us are hanging out in 402 Clay Hall one weekday evening, ostensibly paying attention to classwork but who really knows. There’s music playing, of course–maybe one of James’s recent purchases, like the Kinks’ Word of Mouth. That choice could easily have led to the turn of conversation, in which Stacey winds up mentioning (okay, railing against) a couple of her least favorite songs from the 60s. Being much more a student of singles rather than album cuts, I’m not familiar with either of them. One is the Beatles’ cover of “Mr. Moonlight” (I can say now this is not an unjustified take). The other is by Donovan, and Stacey doesn’t hold back, over-singing “season of the WI-I-ITCH” in an overly nasal voice, maybe even tossing in one of her most Stacey-like gestures, arms waving in front of her.

The things you remember.

It would be many, many years before I actually heard “Season of the Witch” in its entirety. I won’t disagree that it’s got some pretty silly lyrics, but it sure feels like there was a whole lot of zeitgeist being captured in the studio. I imagine I’ll be belting out that title phrase, thinking of Stacey, throughout the day.

There’ll be more from Mr. Leitch sometime in the next few months.

Stereo Review In Review: October 1983

After three months examining issues from the mid- or late-80s, we’re back to when SR was still doing Recordings of Special Merit. Seems like they had more reviews in these earlier days, too. This one rings no bells–my parents moved from Walton to Florence in September, so perhaps it got buried in the resultant chaos–but there are plenty of notable LPs to check out nonetheless.

Articles
–Jargon!, by Bruce Bartlett. Described as “an examination of the most commonly used descriptive audio terms.”
–In the classical section, they talk up the first compact disk releases on Telarc.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

Best of the Month
–Deniece Williams, I’m So Proud (PG) “Each precisely enunciated word or syllable of a lyric is the cutting edge of an emotion that is bursting to be expressed.”

–Mitch Ryder, Never Kick a Sleeping Dog (JV) “Given a chance to return to the mainstream, Ryder has responded with the relief of an outcast welcomed back into the fold, but he has not compromised either his talent or his experience.” Don’t remember this one at all; John Mellencamp produced it, in what feels like an attempt to duplicate what Springsteen did for Gary U.S. Bonds (JCM did name-check Mitch a couple of years later in “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A”).

Casey did a “Whatever Happened To…?” piece on Ryder on the 8/18/79 show. A quick tour of Mitch’s page at allmusic.com shows he began recording again in the very late 70s, not long before the AT40 story. You remember how frequently VH-1’s Behind the Music episodes featured acts attempting to make a comeback? I’ve come to realize in re-listening to shows from the latter half of the 70s how often Casey was doing something similar with those segments, trying to lift up hit-makers from his earlier days in radio as they made another go at the spotlight.

Recordings of Special Merit
Pop/Rock/Soul/Country:
–John Denver and the Muppets, Rocky Mountain Holiday (AN) “You’d have to be an ogre not to like this encore pairing of America’s favorite nonhumans and the original far-out flower child.”
–Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (MP) “…a seductive disco beat, arm’s-length sensuality, cool waves of synthesizer sound, and arrangements (crisp horns and stinging guitar) that are as tight as a clenched, gloved hand.”
–Maze, We Are One (PG) “Maze modestly never promises more than it can deliver, which is soothing soul music that never lets you down.”

Jazz:
–John Coltrane, Bahia (CA) “This session has not been available for a long time, and I strongly recommend that you add it to your collection before it disappears from the catalog again.”
–George Kawaguchi and Art Blakey, Killer Joe (CA) “The last thing Blakey needs, of course, is another drummer, but Kawaguchi blends in smoothly with this talented group.”
Bill Evans—A Tribute (PR) “Fourteen of the very best of today’s jazz pianists have contributed one performance each, and the result is a splendid entertainment.”
Jazz at the Opera House (CA) This was a benefit concert to raise money to cover medical bills for SF jazz writer Conrad Silvert.

Featured Reviews
–Delia Bell, S/T (AN) “…one of the most impressive old-style country-and-bluegrass albums of the decade.”
–Bob Marley and the Wailers, Confrontation (MP) “Cult deity or not, as a prophet of hope and liberation Marley lives on through his music.”
–James Newton, S/T (CA) “..a wonderful exercise in restraint and timing…There is a classical air about this album, but it also has firm roots in jazz.”
–Thin Lizzy, Thunder and Lightning (MP) “…does what all great heavy-metal does—it lets you raise a little hell vicariously.”
–Richard Thompson, Hand of Kindness (SS) “…the new songs here are among Thompson’s best: they’re tuneful, they’re lyrically economical, and they leave just enough room for the composer to burn on guitar without being overbearing about it.”

Other Disks Reviewed
–Adam and the Ants, Dirk Wears White Sox (MP)  “The disc sounds exactly like what this group turned out to be: a dead end.”
–The Fixx, Reach the Beach (MP) “The keyboards are consigned to electronic window dressing, the drumming barely keeps the time—it seems to chime every hour on the hour—and (Cy) Curnin is left to drift, deeply, soberly intoning some ludicrously opaque lyrics.”
–Goanna, Spirit of Place (MP) “…if this were an American band you’d find it shelved in country rock…it certainly compares favorably with what Poco and Pure Prairie League used to keep America enthralled with.”
–The Hollies, What goes around… (SS). “It is as useless a vinyl product as has crossed my desk in years, and I say that as a Hollies partisan from way back…the only exception is a brilliant revamping of the Supremes’ “Stop in the Name of Love”…
–Billy Joel, An Innocent Man (MP) “There’s just no way around it: Billy Joel is a consummate pop stylist, even when he’s doing doo-wop.”
–The Kinks, State of Confusion (SS) “This is hardly a great album…But after twenty years, even a less than epochal album from these guys sounds like a letter from home.”
–Stevie Nicks, The Wild Heart (AN) “Nicks either wrote or co-wrote all but one of the songs here, but it is just about impossible to tell what she is trying to say…The lyrics are all pretty and enigmatic but fleshless as a stray dog.”
–Robert Plant, The Principle of Moments (SS) “The songs here generally sound like rhythm tracks with lyrics written and recorded later, almost as afterthoughts.” I had a friend in college who called its first hit “Big Bore” and tweaked the opening line of the second single to, “I’m in the mood for monotony.”
–Donna Summer, She Works Hard for the Money (CA) “…the voice has not changed, but the quality of her material has.”
–Talking Heads, Speaking in Tongues (SS) “To these cynical ears, it’s mostly tepid art-school funk.”

Some tunes:

Ryder had charted in July with a song from his new album. Music In The Key Of E has the deets here.

Bell’s champion was Emmylou Harris; Chet Atkins also appears on the album.

Thunder and Lightning was Thin Lizzy’s swan song. Phil Lynott had planned to continue on with a solo career, but drug/alcohol issues overwhelmed him just a little over two years after this issue was published.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/23/82: Sylvia, “Nobody”

I’ve never been much of one for organizers and planners. When I was younger, I managed to do pretty well just storing things in my head. Now that I’ve reached the second half of my 50s, the old brain cells don’t quite function like they used to, and I’m starting to see the wisdom of entering appointments etc. on my phone.

When Mom and I went shopping for college supplies in the summer of 1982, one of the items we wound up with was a large pad for my dorm room desk, essentially a combination blotter/daily planner. I actually used it for the latter purpose most of my freshman year–for years after, alas, it served only in the former capacity. Yes, I still have the sheets for September 82-February 83–why do you ask, and why are you surprised? Here’s October:

This is one of the more fully filled-out months, even if it’s mostly due dates for assignments and birthdays. Somehow, I still have artifacts that verify a number of these notes, too. Let’s take a quick tour of a few:

October 6:

“S. O. L.” stands for Student Orientation Leader–maybe this was one final meeting with the group I’d gone through orientation with?

The interview was for my first newspaper article assignment; I posted a picture of that article this time last year, but I still have my notes from that interview, along with a second, with a faculty member, the following morning!

October 11:

We’d been reading parts of Plato’s Republic in Images of Man (our frosh comp-equivalent), and this was the day my three-pager on it was due. The comments from the professor mostly focus on how the paper would have been strengthened with some well-chosen quotes and support from Socrates, but I was given an A- in spite of that.

I typed that paper on my high school graduation gift:

The typewriter used cartridges for both film and correcting tape. When I popped the film cartridge out last night, I could identify the final characters I ever typed on it: Farmville, VA 23901. If I had to guess, I’d venture that was related to a job application to Longwood College (now University) in the spring of 1992.

October 15:

Two exams in one day. We had one in chemistry every other Friday (eight in all); this was the third. All were scored out of 90 points.

I’d be willing to bet the calculus test is in a drawer in my office, but I’ll just leave it there for now.

October 17:

Three years ago, I came across the first letter I sent home, dated 10/9. It referenced this upcoming event, in which I treated my new college friends to sights that formed a key part of my church youth group experience. (I wrote up my most recent trip to the Pinnacles here.)

Birthdays toward the end of the month included those of my maternal grandmother and my Great-Aunt Birdie (the latter’s birth occurred 119 years ago today–look for a write-up about her next year). The young woman I’d started dating earlier in the month shared her day with Aunt Birdie.

That fall, the local Top 40 station’s playlist included “Nobody,” country singer Sylvia’s one pop hit, stopping off at #25 on this show and heading toward a #15 peak. Not sure I ever hear the chorus without thinking just maybe I’m catching her singing along, perhaps like what might have happened while we were doing chemistry homework.