American Top 40 PastBlast, 8/6/83: Charlie, “It’s Inevitable”

I spent Friday afternoon working on Canvas, the “learning management system” we use at my institution. An LMS functions as a clearinghouse of sorts for courses–one can post the syllabus, link to video presentations and slide shows, make assignments (which allows students to upload their work and profs to grade it without printing it),etc. I, and many of my colleagues, will be making greater use of Canvas this semester than previously (I’ve also been given pointers on good LMS practices from those on campus who are more tech-savvy–I can only hope I’m implementing their ideas reasonably). My musical companion for those four hours was the 8/6/83 show, broadcast by an AM station out of Black River Falls, WI.

I go back to the classroom tomorrow, in-person for the first time since March 6. My school is going to attempt face-to-face instruction for the most part (folks with good reason to do so are opting to teach online). The powers that be have taken about as thoughtful an approach as possible given the choice to bring students back. We’re starting a week earlier than originally planned and have eliminated breaks, so that fall classes will be done before Thanksgiving. They divided the semester into two seven-week-plus terms (I’ll have two classes each term). There’s been a lot of work done on improving ventilation, air flow and air quality, as well as re-thinking traffic flow, in a number of buildings. They’ve created a number of outdoor meeting spaces for classes, though I’m not likely to be able to leverage those much. Everyone is required to wear a face covering in public spaces, including classes of course, and there’s what seems to be a good plan for contact tracing. Due to distancing requirements, I’m splitting most of my classes into two groups, meeting with each every other class period (which means I’m creating and posting lots of videos filled with course content that students ostensibly watch ahead of time). Even with all this, I can’t say I’m particularly optimistic about success. I’m plenty nervous and figure that the realities on the ground are eventually going to drive us back to fully online instruction. I suppose one can wish for the moment that there will be some good arising from being together for a while. I know I’ll be as cautious as I can.

I’ll be in this classroom at 2:00 four days per week through the end of September. Martha made the mask for me out of a beloved shirt that had worn out.

My son’s college is going to be trying out what sounds like a similar plan, with some added bells and whistles like periodic random testing. He won’t be leaving until the end of the month and will be sharing a suite with three good friends. If they can just all stay clean… Once we drop him off, we don’t expect to see him again until Thanksgiving, assuming all goes well.

Ben is about to start his sophomore year. That’s where I was when the show I heard on Friday was originally broadcast. It was the middle of a summer full of self-inflicted angst, a precursor to a fairly unsettled fall semester. For entirely different reasons, I worry that my son’s second college autumn will also be sub-optimal.

Sitting at #40 is the one song by the British band Charlie that ever made the show. While it rose to #38 the following week before falling off, “It’s Inevitable” didn’t get played on that Keri Tombazian guest-hosted 8/13 show, due to a bizarre charting accident. Thus, 8/6 was the only time AT40 listeners got to hear it.

I was already a little familiar with the band. WKRQ had played the #54-peaking “She Loves To Be in Love” quite a bit five years earlier (we’ll see evidence of that in my next Charts post). As best as I can read Charlie’s Wiki page, there’d been a decent amount of turnover in personnel after 1978, even a new lead singer. Their earlier sound was certainly poppier; “It’s Inevitable” feels more like a cross between Def Leppard and the Sherbs (the vocalist reminds me of Daryl Braithwaite, for certain).

Can’t imagine Joe Elliott and the boys going for the slapstick thing, though.

Modern Rock Tracks, 8/4/90

I’d spent much of the 1989-90 academic year reading papers co-authored by my advisor Bruce Reznick. It wasn’t until the summer of 1990 that I began work on what would become my dissertation. I’ve seemingly kept a copy of every draft I passed onto Bruce for review–they’re stored in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet in my office. The earliest one I can find is dated July 3; the next seems to be from the 27th (written up after I’d returned from my mini-vacation/bridge trip to Boston, but right before my roommate’s wedding). Here’s where I was in the first week of August (it’s four pages long):

Those are Bruce’s comments in red. I know that it’s not remotely meaningful to virtually everyone reading this, but there’s already a germ or two of some results that made it into the final product.

By the end of August, I had worked up eleven pages’ worth. Come October, I’d be learning in earnest about the mathematical typesetting program LaTeX; the handwritten drafts would quickly disappear.

But there was music playing all around me then, too. The Modern Rock Tracks chart dated 8/4/90 includes several songs I was digging on heavily at the time, though a number of those listed below weren’t known to me then.

28. Michael Penn, “Brave New World”
This was a big favorite from March, and my choice for a third single, too. Didn’t make any chart noise, but that can’t stop me from giving it a spin and cranking it today.

26. The Candy Flip, “Strawberry Fields Forever”
When you’re from the UK and your band’s name is a reference to a drug cocktail, your next move might well be to make a dreamy cover of one of the Fab Four’s psychedelic classics.

25. John Hiatt, “Child of the Wild Blue Yonder”
Hiatt was coming off two critically-acclaimed (and completely excellent) albums, so it’s not terribly surprising that Stolen Moments isn’t quite as good. Still, JH performing at 80% peak capacity outdistances many others.

19. Something Happens, “Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello (Petrol)”
Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like there was a big spike in music coming over from Ireland following the mega-success of The Joshua Tree. Can’t say this band out of Dublin has a great name, but “Hello…” is a pretty sweet track. Caught the tail end of it a couple of weeks ago on U2’s SiriusXM channel.

17. The Katydids, “Heavy Weather Traffic”
Back at the beginning of the year another song from this British band’s debut album was featured in one of my mixtape posts. Part folky/jangly, part tasteful pop–they’re one of many bands out of the UK that just didn’t get their due. If you’re still into buying CDs, it appears you can get a used copy of this disk for a very reasonable price.

15. Happy Mondays, “Step On”
Madchester’s surge in the U.S. started several months earlier with the Stone Roses. At this point it was beginning to pick up steam; just wait until we get to October. Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches was the Mondays’ chance to shine, and they didn’t miss, particularly with “Step On.”

14. World Party, “Put the Message in the Box
My favorite this go-round (in spite of it utilizing the trite arms/charms rhyme), a simply brilliant synthesis of all things late 60s. Play it until you get heard.

12. Hothouse Flowers, “Give It Up”
One of 1988’s “It” bands (legitimately so) came out with their second album Home earlier in the summer. This is a good, energetic piece, though it bears at least a passing resemblance to their earlier hit “Don’t Go.”

10. Boom Crash Opera, “Onion Skin”
So much good stuff at this time was coming from across various ponds, mostly UK/Ireland, but you can’t ignore Australia. Midnight Oil is up at #4 with “King of the Mountain,” and here’s a band with perhaps more of an INXS big sound. If I heard this much, I don’t remember it, but I’m listening to it now.

7. Sonic Youth, “Kool Thing”
Goo was the first of their albums to chart. The Youth aren’t exactly my style, but I can see how they would appeal.

6. The Railway Children, “Every Beat of the Heart”
I really liked this song from the first time I heard it, even eventually snagged the CD Native Place from a cutout bin. Not quite sure why that feeling faded so quickly; maybe I should dig it back out.

5. Aztec Camera, “The Crying Scene
One of the big downsides about not having a full-blown college/alternative radio station in Champaign-Urbana was that, as my tastes kept turning in that direction, I wound up missing out on some very interesting tunes. 120 Minutes could only go so far, and I wasn’t quite yet at the point of regular listening to WOXY out of Oxford, OH, on my trips back home. So, I’ve been using these posts as one means of learning about what I missed.

This is the best song to date I’ve found from those explorations. Strong melody, worthwhile lyrics (“We were two in a million,” “Life’s a one-take movie”), catchy chorus, sweet guitar solo. Video’s got a number of images that stick, too, including a battle of sorts between protesters and police in the rain, complete with reporter on the sideline. I discovered this clip a couple of months ago, just as the protests following the killing of George Floyd began; I haven’t stopped watching it, or thinking about it, yet. I knew “Oblivious” from watching MTV in college, but Scotsman Roddy Frame has something entirely else going on here. It’s time for a deeper dive into his music.

3. David J, “I’ll Be Your Chauffeur”
Another one that slipped by me at the time. I was aware of fellow Love and Rockets member Daniel Ash’s solo work from seeing it at Record Service, but I guess this one was less obviously placed? Nice tune, even it’s no “No New Tale To Tell.”

1. Concrete Blonde, “Joey”
Not my favorite song of theirs, but I’m glad Johnette and company got to enjoy some commercial success. I’ve found that, once I stopped looking at the Hot 100 religiously in the late 80s, I regularly overestimate how well any number of songs I really like did in terms of peak position. Stuff I figured should easily have gone Top 5, or even #1, fall fairly short. “Joey” is a case in point: later in the fall, it would peak at #19. Not bad, but as much as I heard it, as good as it sounds, that seems…a little disappointing. But we can celebrate it topping MRT thirty years ago today.

Stereo Review In Review: July 1986

This issue is likely one of the last ones I read at my parents’ house (though nothing in it possesses any familiarity)—I would have been just a few weeks away from embarking on my graduate studies in the Land of Lincoln. I have no idea when Dad let the subscription lapse, but it probably didn’t continue too much longer.

The format had changed somewhat while I was in college: Recordings of Special Merit were no more after March 1984, and there are seemingly fewer featured reviews overall. It’s still a pleasure for me to take a trip back in time, though.

Articles
On the equipment side, there’s a lengthy “special report” on Japanese audio technology, as well as something on “How to Buy a Receiver.” The centennial of Franz Liszt’s death was 7/31/86, and SR raises a glass in tribute by identifying some of their favorite recordings of Liszt’s work.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, Peter Reilly, and Steve Simels. Joel Vance had left the building by this point, and I didn’t find anything with Reilly’s name on it in this issue,either.

Best of the Month
–Reba McEntire, Whoever’s in New England (AN) “…(I)t’s certain that McEntire…has not only revived the woman-to-woman genre, but that she has also confirmed her place alongside Wynette and Wells as one of the formost woman singers in the history of country music.”
–Stan Ridgway, The Big Heat (MP) “A bizarre collision of styles, but it works…(o)ne of the real finds of 1986.” Songs from Ridgway’s follow-up LP Mosquitos have gotten play here a couple of times, but I’ve not taken time for The Big Heat; that’s about to change.

Featured Reviews
–The Cult, Love (MP) “Everything else recedes before the awesome display of heavy-metal firepower by guitarist William Duffy.”
–The Rolling Stones, Dirty Work (Louis Meredith). “…sounds more like temp work.”
–James Williams, Progress Report (CA) “This is not just another jazz album. We will remember this one long after the fusioneers have synthesized their last notes…”

Selected Other LPs Reviewed
Rock/Popl/Country/Soul:
–Hüsker Dü, Candy Apple Grey (SS) “The counterpoint between Mould’s anthems of confusion…and Hart’s pop tunes…make for one of the neatest sweet-and-sour experiences since Lennon and McCartney.”
–Jermaine Jackson, Precious Moments (PG) “(Michael’s) brother Jermaine not only possesses more substantial musical gifts but is a better singer.”
–Judas Priest, Turbo (MP)
–The Moody Blues, The Other Side of Life (MP) “There ought to be a warning about the mushbrain lyrics, but it’s fun.”
–The Rave-Ups, Town and Country (AN) “If you can imagine the kind of music a band made up of Pete Townshend, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Brian Wilson, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins might make, then you have an idea of what to expect from the Rave-Ups.” The band plays “Positively Lost Me,” the lead track on Town and Country, in a scene in the movie Pretty in Pink (lead Rave-Up Jimmer Podrasky was seeing Molly Ringwald’s sister at the time; they eventually had a kid whose name graced the band’s third and final album). You have to go looking for this album, but it’s good.
–The Swimming Pool Q’s, Blue Tomorrow (MP) “(Their) savvy feel for Eighties pop rhythms…combined with an old-fashioned acoustic sensibility and applied to material that evokes bands like the Byrds, the old Jefferson Airplane, and even Peter, Paul and Mary, make the Swimming Pool Q’s one of the most original bands in pop.” I was thinking their previous album (self-titled and their major-label debut) had been a Best of the Month, but I’m not finding any evidence of that right now.
–The Violent Femmes, The Naked Leading the Blind (SS)
–Dwight Yoakam, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. (AN) “But Yoakam…may also have been too cool for Nashville in the late Seventies, so now he’s come through the same door that Emmylou Harris did a decade ago—winning the hip, pop California audience with a music of intense, hardscrabble purity.”

Jazz:
–Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham, Midnight Mama (CA) “All in all, this album is a joy from beginning to end, a wonderful reminder of a time when groups like Louis Jordan’s Tympany Five….stirred a whole lot of fun into a rhythmic jazz blend.”
–Paula Hatcher, Rise and Shine! (CA)
–Kazumi Watanabe, Mobo Splash (CA) “Watanabe himself is both adept and creative, but there is still something cold and metallic about it all.”

Just Exactly Where We’re Going I Cannot Say

Today is my blog’s third birthday. The last couple of years, I’ve listed the most-viewed posts from the previous twelve months, along with a few other favorites. I’m not going to really do that this go-round, mostly for two reasons.

1) The average number of views any single post gets has gone down overall—I’m guessing that, like I do with other blogs, plenty of folks have the home page bookmarked;

2) There are a few posts from the past that draw an oddly large amount of attention. Right now, there are about four that get 2 or 4 page views every few days (and it’s always an even number of views). This happened last fall, as well; it eventually quit, but started up again a few weeks ago. Theories as to why this happens are welcome—I’m assuming it’s some sort of bot behavior. (The post that’s gotten picked on the most, by far, is a brief feature I wrote up in the spring of 2019 on World Party’s “Ship of Fools.”)

Anyhoo, excluding all these oddities, the three most-viewed posts of the past year included the two most personal pieces I’ve put up here: about the man who helped me meet my wife, and the events surrounding my mother’s final months. I’m most appreciative of the kind words and thoughts I received in response. I’ve said before that being an author was the first thing I can remember wanting to do when I grew up; that won’t really ever become a reality, but I don’t deny deriving satisfaction from having folks dropping by to read what I write. Thanks to all of you who do that.

(The other is one people find by accident, about a former church choir director written right after he passed away more than two years ago. I’ve discovered this year there’s a YouTube personality/music critic also named John Heaton, who I believe lives in the UK. Many of his fans stumble across my tribute in search engine results and click through, which only raises its profile…)

Both shows that Premiere featured this past weekend were dated 7/20, the only two Casey AT40s possessing that chart date. I have just a few scattered thoughts about those years.

1974: When I was young, we frequently took summer vacations to state parks in Kentucky. In 1974, we went to Pennyrile Forest State Park, out in the western end of the state; I’m sure Amy and I played a slew of miniature golf and shuffleboard that week.

On site at Pennyrile. It’s next to a man-made lake; that’s maybe a dam behind us in the right picture?

While hardly luxurious, the appointments at these parks bring back fond memories: the wood paneling everywhere, the dining rooms that often have a wall of windows affording some gorgeous view, the gift shops containing all things Kentucky that are arty-and-crafty. The quality was uniformly good across the system, too (at least based on my experiences, which have continued occasionally over the years). It feels like I could use a few days at one of them right about now.

Here’s that week’s #37 song, a future #9. This one hangs on me much more heavily than it used to. One of my mother’s central tenets was, “You can’t rely on anyone except yourself.”

1985: My summer at IBM. This may have been the weekend that Mark H and I drove down to Chattanooga to visit my friend Kristine. She was already on her own in an apartment, only one year through college. She had a summer job at the local zoo (she was pre-vet); Mark and I spent a decent part of that Sunday morning getting a behind-the-scenes view, chatting with Kristine while she worked in her lab/office space and around the grounds. (The radio in the non-air-conditioned office was playing late 60s rock—whenever I hear “Going Up the Country” now, I’m always taken back there.)

Speaking of the late 60s, here’s what was at #15—its peak—this week 35 years ago.

My parents died fifteen months apart. After my mother’s funeral in March 2015 and some of the initial aftermath, Martha asked where I wanted to go on vacation.  I immediately knew: “The mountains.” That July, we rented a small house for a week just outside of Estes Park, Colorado, near Rocky Mountain National Park. I was hoping to find some peace there, to just be for a few days. That didn’t exactly happen—it was too easy to get caught up in the moment planning out the days or losing my patience at little things gone awry. The highlight of the trip was a great hike in the park, on a trail that hits three small, charming lakes. The second one we encountered was Dream Lake; we stopped there for lunch. After eating, I wandered off to be alone and wound up sitting on a boulder abutting the lake. I was in search of a few minutes to reflect on loss, to mourn, to meditate, to commemorate the lives of my parents. I think it turned out to be a somewhat successful endeavor. When I’d done as much as I was going to do, I took out my phone and snapped a picture, in perhaps a vain attempt to retain the moment.

I see that photo, taken a little more than five years ago, just about every day, and my Twitter peeps might recognize it, too.

The third lake—and terminal point—of the hike is called Emerald Lake and lies about a mile straight ahead, tucked neatly in front of that peak.

I expect posting to be lighter for a while—I’m behind where I should be in planning for the upcoming fall semester, one which promises to be a challenge.

Oh, here again is the song I apparently must embed every July 20.

TP: Gaetti-Newman-Hrbek (2)

Thirty years ago today, a Tuesday, I was in Boston.

Later in the week, I’d meet up with Mark L, Milind, and Mike, the same three guys I’d traveled with to Fort Worth back in March. Then, we’d vied for the North American Collegiate Bridge Championship (we were eliminated in the semifinals). Now, we were representing District 11 in the non-Life Master division of the Grand National Teams, one of twenty-five teams spanning the U.S. and Canada left competing for the title. In the spring, we had spent a weekend in Peoria, slogging our way through a field of foursomes from across Illinois, northwest Indiana, and St. Louis, hoping to emerge the winner of a trip to the 1990 Summer Nationals. Mike had continued to coach me up across the months, and some of it was actually taking hold. While I was still easily the weak link on the team, I held my cards well enough so that we prevailed without too much worry. The District generously covered our airfare and a couple nights of lodging at the host hotel. I arranged to leave a few days ahead of the others to visit my mother’s cousin and her family, who lived in Wellesley.

Thirty years ago tonight, I was at Fenway Park.

I’ve been fortunate to visit several of baseball’s storied parks over the years. By this point, I’d seen games in Crosley, Wrigley, and Candlestick. I would attend the fourth game ever played at Camden Yards in 1992. In 2005, I’d make a pilgrimage to the first Yankee Stadium. I wouldn’t mind taking road trips someday whose main goal was to expand the list of stadia in which I’ve watched a game. On this trip to Beantown, I must have made a request of my relatives to go see the Sox. Luckily, they were in town, playing host to the Twins. My cousin Sandi and I took the T down to the park, along with a female exchange student from Europe (I don’t recall which country) who was living with some neighbors. Our seats were out in the center-field bleachers–I don’t have a ticket stub, but if I had to guess, I’d say we were either in Section 36 or 37. The pitching match-up was soft-tossing lefty Tom Bolton for the Sox vs. soft-tossing rookie right-hander Scott Erickson for the Twins. I’ve got a soft spot for Erickson–he, along with an up-and-comer named Tom Glavine, anchored the rotation for my third-place 1991 fantasy baseball team.

Thirty years ago, in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Twinkies turned a triple play.

The game was still scoreless when it went walk-double-walk to Wade Boggs, Jody Reed, and Carlos Quintana, bringing former Twin Tom Brunansky to the plate with the sacks jammed. Brunansky grounded sharply to Gary Gaetti at third, who was close enough to the bag to step on it and fire the ball to Al Newman at second, who in turn pivoted quickly enough to Kent Hrbek to nail Brunansky in a bang-bang play at first. I always go to the park hoping to see something unusual; witnessing my first triple play certainly qualified.

Thirty years ago, in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Twinkies turned a triple play.

Cincinnati native shortstop Tim Naehring had singled in an unearned run off of Erickson for Boston in the fifth, and the home nine was still up 1-0 as they came up to bat for what they hoped was the last time. Naehring led the frame off with a double against John Candelaria (who amazingly still had three seasons left in his career after this one), and Boggs followed with a walk. Skipper Joe Morgan sent the runners as Jody Reed scorched one down the third base line…straight to Gaetti, who had moved over to cover the bag. Around the horn it went again, much more easily this time. I was agog.

As the Twins came up to face closer Jeff Reardon (who indeed would get the save), the PA announcer informed the crowd that this was the first time in MLB history two triple plays had occurred in the same game. While I don’t know whether I expected that to be the case, it was hardly surprising. In this SABR article about the game, they cite a computation by a mathematics professor who claims the odds of such a feat happening as about 370,000-1. In other words, I shouldn’t expect it to occur again in my (or even my son’s) lifetime.

Other than seeing my son start a game-ending 1-4 triple play in coach-pitch Little League ball, this is (and likely will always be) the coolest baseball feat I’ve witnessed in person.

As for the bridge…alas, we were eliminated in our first match. Mike had graduated in May and would be off to Chicago for law school in another month or so. If we were to try to continue our relative success, we needed to find a new fourth. Fortunately, I’d be forming a fruitful partnership with Chris, an accounting grad student, in the fall.

Both Sides, Together At Last

One of the things we’ve done for family time over the last four months is working on jigsaw puzzles, preferably of the 1000+ piece variety. We have a couple of tables set up in the basement; the smaller of the two often winds up being a base for one of us to work on a specific section of the puzzle after collecting pieces likely to comprise it. You might be able to guess who’s been (self-)appointed to assemble the playlist each time we gather.

Earlier this week I pulled out Kirsty MacColl’s 1991 album Electric Landlady (yes, I know). Kite, her previous release, was my favorite album of 1990 (I still have plans to write about it someday), so any follow-up was bound to be somewhat of a letdown. Consequently, I probably haven’t given Electric Landlady the attention over the years it merits.

Landlady‘s best-known song (deservedly so) is the opening “Walking Down Madison,” but it wasn’t long after I brought the disk home that my attention wandered to the writing credit for the disk’s second track, “All I Ever Wanted.”

Here it is; the single mix is somewhat different from that on the album.

I’ve wondered off and on over the years how Kirsty and Marshall got together to trade thoughts about a tune. Years ago, I found an interview online with Crenshaw that mentioned the collaboration, and yesterday I went looking again. I couldn’t relocate what I’d seen before, but I did come across something from 2008, one of those articles that papers do when an artist is soon to make a local appearance, usually including bits from a phone interview (this one was in The Morning Call, a Lehigh Valley affair). The thrust of the piece concerns Crenshaw’s recent success writing the title song for the movie Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (it nabbed a Golden Globe nomination). But Marshall goes on about a missed opportunity:

Crenshaw’s diligence was motivated partly by the regret he still feels at not trying harder when asked to contribute a song to the winsome 1996 Tom Hanks-directed cult fave “That Thing You Do!”

“I pulled something I had written with Kirsty MacColl off the shelf and sent it in…(t)he song, ‘All I Ever Wanted,’ was a single in England [in 1991]. I wrote the music, she wrote the lyrics. Later, when the film [about an Erie band that scores a hit in 1964] came out and I saw how good it was, I thought, “I could have gotten a song in this movie.”‘

Len Righi (& Marshall Crenshaw), The Morning Call, 1/17/08

I was not surprised at all to learn that Crenshaw’s contribution to “All I Ever Wanted” was the music, but the notion that he hadn’t tried to use the tune himself until That Thing You Do! didn’t sound right to me.

“(We’re Gonna) Shake Up Their Minds” is track 7 on Downtown, Crenshaw’s stellar 1985 album. I’ve been holding back on you, as I’ve actually long been hoping to unearth confirmation for a connection between it and “All I Ever Wanted,” something I sensed almost immediately way back in the summer of 1991.

Hear me out: Steve Lillywhite was married to Kirsty for about a decade beginning in 1984, and he produced Crenshaw’s 1983 album Field Day. It’s not a huge stretch to imagine MacColl hanging around during the Field Day sessions. (I also ran into a message board post yesterday claiming Lillywhite had introduced the two.) KM and MC talk shop some nights, maybe after he’s finished laying down tracks for “Monday Morning Rock” or “All I Know Right Now,” they work on a song together…a couple years later, he fashions some new lyrics for that tune as he sorts out material for his third album.

It’s not that implausible, right? Can you hear what I do?

Portable Music

Yesterday was our anniversary (#24), and we elected to celebrate by getting takeout from our favorite Indian restaurant in Lexington. As I headed out to get it, I tuned the car stereo to 1st Wave on SiriusXM; much of the trip passed listening to Richard Blade’s Monday 6pm Eastern feature, The Magnificent Seven, in which he features seven New Wave songs that were charting in Britain on the current date in one year from the 80s. This week’s trip back in time was to 7/13/81, and Blade played tunes by (in order) Kraftwerk, Visage, Ultravox, Depeche Mode, Spandau Ballet, the Tom Tom Club, and the Specials. The only one of these I really knew was “Wordy Rappinghood,” from the sixth of those bands–I was chiming in with, “What are words worth?” from the opening clicks of the typewriter. Hearing it again for the first time in a while got me thinking about the projects the various members of Talking Heads pursued in the two-plus year break between Remain in Light and Speaking in Tongues. Which in turn reminded me of a cassette James toted around with him during our last year of college.

While Chris and Tina were doing their dance/funk/rap thing with the Tom Tom Club, Jerry released a solo album, The Red and the Black, and David scored Twyla Tharp’s The Catherine Wheel. In addition, a two-disk live album, The Name of This Band is Talking Heads, came out (as well as the fascinating Byrne/Brian Eno collaboration My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, though it had mostly been recorded prior to Remain in Light). By the spring of 1986, James and I had been snarfing up the Heads’ albums for about two years, but at the time none of those 1981/82 releases had yet wound up in our hands. That’s when James came across a sampler cassette: Portable Music (Eight Songs from the Latest Albums by David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club). One thing that was cool about it was that both sides of the tape included all eight cuts–no need to get up and flip it over after twenty minutes. I never picked up a copy for myself, but that doesn’t stop me today from checking out some of what it had to offer.

Last month’s Stereo Review in Review post noted that SR was not impressed by The Catherine Wheel, but there are several songs on it I enjoy (my Illinois office-mate Will ripped a cassette with The Catherine Wheel and My Life in the Bush of Ghosts for me in 1987). One of those is “My Big Hands (Fall Through the Cracks).”

The cassette version (but not the LP) of Tom Tom Club had a cover of “Under the Boardwalk” that may go on just a little long.

From The Name of This Band… came this tight live version of Remain in Light‘s “Houses in Motion.”

The most fun discovery for us was “Slink,” off The Red and the Black. We may have been known to occasionally bust out, “Have you ever been in a traffic jam? Have you ever needed a gram? Well, I have. But I got over it. Uh-huh, I got over it.” Harrison’s almost maniacal laughter as he ‘sings’ these lines won me over more than it should have.

No Byrne/Eno made it onto Portable Music, alas. I’m thinking I may need to fish out that tape from Will, though, and give it another listen this afternoon.

Dad’s 45s, Part 2: 50s Greats

Last month, I took a first dive into the singles my father had purchased over the years that Amy and I hadn’t confiscated. I’d found them in a cabinet drawer at my parents’ townhouse as I began to clear it out five years ago. While I’m not currently planning on going in rough chronological order, this time we are seeing the remaining 45s in the set that hit the charts before the calendar turned over to 1960. Peak positions, unless otherwise noted, are from the Hot 100.

Boyd Bennett and His Rockets, “Seventeen” (#5 Best Sellers, August 1955)

The oldest hit I found, and even though the sleeve is close to falling apart, I can’t pin down exactly when my father bought it. Don’t know that Dad ever referenced this song in my presence, but it’s a rockin’ little tune.

Bennett seems to be have been based around Louisville in the early 50s. He wasn’t quite a one-hit wonder; the very similar “My Boy Flat Top” reached #39 a few months later. Covers of “Seventeen” by the Fontane Sisters and Rusty Draper charted simultaneously, peaking at #6 and #18, respectively. It was the last Top 10 hit for the Fontanes.

Bill Haley and His Comets, “See You Later, Alligator” (#6 Best Sellers, February 1956)

Maybe I should be a little surprised that “Rock Around the Clock,” Dad’s #1 song of all time, wasn’t in his collection, while this one is (it was his #18 song). Pretty sure I came across a Haley LP, though.

Chuck Berry and His Combo, “Roll Over Beethoven” (#29 Top 100, June 1956)

Answer to a trivia question Casey once answered about one-week wonders: amazingly, this classic debuted on the chart at #29, yet fell all the way to #87 the following week. It waddled around in that neighborhood for three more weeks before falling off. Dad ranked this one at #34.

Jack Scott, “My True Love” (#3, August 1958)

Scott was a native of Windsor, Ontario, and had three other songs go Top 10 over the next couple of years. I confess that the ballad-y style doesn’t really square with what I considered Dad’s musical tastes to be, yet here it is.

This was a double-sided hit; the flip is “Honey,” which reached #11 on the Best Sellers chart. Scott passed away this past December.

Freddy Cannon, “Tallahassee Lassie” (#6, June 1959)

I know 1962’s “Palisades Park” much better (that’s Dad’s #24), but this was the song that got Cannon’s career going. He turned 83 late last year.

To be continued next month…

Forgotten Albums: Jane Siberry, No Borders Here

Over the past four weeks I participated in a class called Course Design Institute, offered via Spalding University and under the auspices of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities (AIKCU, for short). Roughly forty colleagues from across the state, including ten or so from my institution, learned alongside me about best practices in setting up online courses, you know, just in case. It was very much a worthwhile endeavor; our instructor shared many valuable insights and resources, and I’m already putting a good bit of it into practice as I prepare for the coming school year. Even though current plans call for as much face-to-face interaction as possible, I’m expecting to be doing plenty of classroom-flipping in most of my courses.

Our instructor’s first name–which I’ll reveal down the way–isn’t all that common, and is one that always makes me think of a song on a fine but obscure album from 1984, Jane Siberry’s No Borders Here. I’ve written some about Siberry before, featuring tracks from her 1988 disk The Walking a couple of years ago. No Borders Here was her second album, the one that began to get her noticed in her native Canada. It’s plenty arty–there’s a reason why she was promoted as being in the vein of Kate Bush–with lots of word play and abundant shifts in time signature, tempo, and rhythm. The production is competent but not as lavish as she would receive on future recordings. One of my bridge-playing friends at Illinois put me on to No Borders Here; since I already knew about The Walking, that wasn’t a hard sell, and it quickly became the album of Siberry’s I most consistently enjoy. Here are a few of the choicest cuts (though one of my faves isn’t available on its own on YouTube).

The album kicks off with “The Waitress.” You get a good idea of what you’re in for from the get-go. Most memorable line: “I’d probably be famous now if I wasn’t such a good waitress.”

Next is “I Muse Aloud,” whose narrator takes the odd position that she “fill(s) (her boyfriend) up with so much love” that he has no option but to fall for the girls he meets while out and about.

After treats like “Dancing Class” (about a woman who takes lessons for many years) and “Extra Executives” (in which a salesman’s behavior gets compared to that of a grouper fish), we get “Symmetry (The Way Things Have To Be).” Just remember: “You can’t chop down the symmetry.” The poster of the video on YouTube indicates these scenes come from Dames, a 1934 flick choreographed by Busby Berkeley.

And our last feature is my favorite, a track that reached #68 on the Canadian charts. “Mimi on the Beach” is also the song that’s been on my mind this past month as I’ve gone through my class. Great lines: “I stand and scan on this strand of sand;” “She’s checking out her arms and legs/In case her casing’s getting burned.”

Many thanks to Prof. O’Malley for her feedback and help–I hope I can translate the experience into good things for my students.

You can find a link to the entire album here. Twenty-seven minutes in is “Follow Me,” a real charmer that I wish I could have more easily shared.

AT40’s Book of Records Special

The only 80s American Top 40 that Casey hosted that hasn’t been rebroadcast to date by Premiere was the 7/5/80 Book of Records special (it features plenty of songs from the 50s and 60s). Yesterday, WTOJ, Magic 103.1 in Watertown, NY, played the show as part of its 50th birthday celebration. WTOJ’s programming director Ken Martin has helped engineer the mono-to-stereo conversion of many of the early shows in recent years; he’s also worked on some of the more obscure special shows and gets to play them on his station. As far as I know, this was the first time the 7/5/80 show has been aired again.

It’s also one of the few special shows between 1976 and 1982 I followed closely enough to track what Casey was laying down. The cue sheets at charismusicgroup.com indicate the songs on the show, but if you’re interested in the descriptions of the records they held, well, look no further, though it doesn’t appear I noted all of the drop pieces.

After writing this (but before publication), I stumbled upon My Favorite Decade’s four-part retrospective of the Book of Records show, written up just over three years ago. MFD catches all the drop pieces I missed.