SotD: Bettie Serveert, “Tom Boy”

This is from a Dutch band; their debut disk Palomine came out during my final months in Champaign-Urbana.  It has several standout tracks, but they never made a dent on the radio.  When REM released Monster two years later, I was momentarily confused the first few times I heard “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” since its opening notes reminded me an awful lot of those on this excellent song.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 4, Song 10

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

Yes, there’s the memorable, sample-able bass line, but what is it that makes this song so great? On one hand it has the combination of two amazing and iconic voices, but on the other there’s nothing much in the way of melody. For me, its greatness lies in the passionate deliveries of the climax, starting with Freddie’s “Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?” and running through David’s “This is ourselves…” Made #29 in early 82.

From The Archives: 1987 Selfie

Twenty-plus years before it really became a thing, I gave taking a picture of myself a go. Five of my Transy friends had driven up from Lexington to meet me at my folks’ house and go see the Reds play. Afterward, it was back to Florence to have dinner on the deck in back. I took half-a-dozen pix of the festivities; I came across them recently while looking through a bin of photos I inherited from my parents.  Since Mom had a camera similar to this, it wouldn’t surprise me if that were the one I used. For one of the shots, I held the camera out with my left hand and tried to get my face, along with James and Michaela, in the frame. I’m not sure I’d ever tried anything like that before. I couldn’t know how successful I was until the film was developed, but I was pretty pleased with the result!


I’m not sure about the date–it’s decently likely that the game was this one, as it’s the only Saturday day game the Reds played at home in July or August of 87. It’s certainly plausible, as I might have come home from Illinois for a quick visit around then before final preparations for qualifying exams later that month. If this is correct, it also would have been two weeks before the gathering of these same friends (and others) I wrote about in my “Bad Attitude” FB post back in May.

From The Archives: Memories Can’t Wait

This is a slight revision of a Facebook post from May 2017.

The prep for my music posts regularly includes some Internet research, part of which is looking for videos on YouTube. While digging for Honeymoon Suite goodies for the previous post, I saw in the list of suggested videos another of their songs, “Bad Attitude.” The title sounded familiar but nothing played in my head in reaction. I clicked on the link and soon realized that I did indeed know it. It has to be close to 30 years since I’d heard it, but there I was, singing along with the chorus after the first verse: I belted out “Twisted views, (bad, bad attitude)” and “No one likes to lose” right on time! I can’t place which stretch of 86 I heard it enough to internalize some of its lyrics, but this was an unexpected, joyful (re-)discovery, and while maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised, it did take me aback a bit to have lyrics to a song I’d long forgotten right on the tip of my tongue.

This brought to mind recent experiences I’ve had with memory, forgetting, and what can resurface suddenly; here’s one. Just over a year ago I had my 30th college reunion, which allowed me to reconnect with some old friends. A few weeks later, I came across photos that featured many of these friends (but not me). I scanned and circulated them; the recipients went scurrying for their photo albums and diaries, but in the ensuing lively conversation and sharing of other pix, NO ONE could remember the occasion, date(s), etc. One, a picture of my friends on a boat on the Kentucky River, was particularly vexing. Was it from 85, while we were in college, 86, right after we graduated, or 87, later still?


In January, I went down to the dark recesses of our basement and dove into my bin of correspondence from the 80s (I was once a big letter writer. Email has fairly killed off the need for that, but I really miss it sometimes.). Talk about bringing back things you’d forgotten! The prize of this excursion, though, was a letter that pinpointed the gathering from which all the pictures came. It described who attended and group’s activities, which included a trip on the Kentucky. August 87. I didn’t remember anything about it because I didn’t attend–I was in IL, prepping for some exams that would allow me to move on toward my degree. Of course, I’d forgotten that my friend had sent me the pictures in that letter!

Sometimes I feel like I spend entirely too much time living in the past, including listening to the music of my younger days. But then something like a 30-year-old picture or “Bad Attitude” comes along, bringing me unforeseen pleasures from way back when and likely ensuring that I won’t stop these trips particularly soon.

American Top 40 PastBlast Redux: 5/10/86

Before I started this blog, I posted about songs from old AT40s on Facebook, January-July 2017.  I’ll be moving them here over time.

I first encountered the Canadian band Honeymoon Suite via the song “New Girl Now” in the fall of 84, probably more through the radio than MTV; I liked it pretty well. However, I absolutely loved this single from their second release, The Big Prize. By this point in time I wasn’t buying all that many 45s, but I have this one. It was side 1, song 1 of a mix tape that’s now broken. It topped out at #34, which is where it is here.

This countdown comes just two weeks before I graduated from Transy. I was in the middle of my last class, an archaeology course which included participating in a dig organized by a grad student at UK. A big transition time was on the horizon. While I really was ready to move on, my friends and I were cognizant of the upcoming upheaval and were intentional about making those final memories. I can see myself listening to this song (as well as the Call’s “I Still Believe”) sometime in the middle of those waning days, in my dorm room on James’s stereo.

SotD: Talk Talk, “Talk Talk”

I’ve been re-posting on my blog the mix tape series I did this time last year, without sharing again on FB.  I’m almost to the end–today’s track is Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life.”  That’s put me in the mood to hear another one from them.  This made #75 in the fall of my freshman year of college, though I don’t remember hearing it until a year or two later.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 4, Song 8

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

I often say to myself that this (#31, Spring 84) is among my 10 favorite singles from the 80s, but until recently I hadn’t bothered to think much about what the other 9 might be. This is how I’d fill it out today; might be different if I did it some other time. In chronological order:

Ah! Leah!–Donnie Iris
Do You Believe in Love–Huey Lewis and the News
867-5309/Jenny–Tommy Tutone
Someday, Someway–Marshall Crenshaw
Back on the Chain Gang–Pretenders
I Melt With You–Modern English
It’s My Life–Talk Talk
Coming Up Close–‘Til Tuesday
Don’t Dream It’s Over–Crowded House
Luka–Suzanne Vega

I’m happy enough that No Doubt scored success with its cover, but seriously, it can’t compare to the original.

From The Archives: Willie

William Thomas Goebel Harris, my father’s father, was born 120 years ago today. He’s the one grandparent I never knew, dying about 27 months before I was born. My dad idolized him, which is probably why I received his first name.

My grandmother called him Willie; my assumption is that many other folks did the same. However, his stationery and signature always read “Wm. Harris.” As a tribute, sometime in my mid-20s I started somewhat regularly signing my name that way. A few of my grad school friends noticed and began calling me WM (pronouncing both letters–I didn’t mind at all).

He attended Transylvania from 1916-18. It would be several years before he would go back to school to finish his Bachelor’s degree and even more before he got a Master’s (in math and physics), both from UK. He married Mary Elizabeth Brown in 1920; they waited 11 years for their only child to come along. He was a lifelong educator and farmer and an accomplished surveyor. In the mid 1930s, he served as superintendent of Gallatin County Schools, being one of the leading forces of its consolidation.   In 1938, he moved to the Kenton County system, where he was at various times elementary school principal and high school teacher. Dad taught math alongside him at Dixie Heights High School during the 1957-58 academic year. Immediately afterward, he returned to Gallatin County for another turn as superintendent, where he stayed until his death at the age of 64.

Willie (I mean no disrespect, but I never had a grandparental moniker for him–I’m guessing it would have been Grandpa) was a hard worker, probably too hard. He wasn’t very tall–maybe 5’ 6’’–but he had a wiry strength. He was diabetic, though, and didn’t watch his diet. I’ve been told he’d eat whatever he wanted and then take a double dose of insulin in an attempt to make up for it. My father and his mother were on a trip out west in late summer 61 when he suffered a heart attack. It wasn’t initially fatal; they raced back to be with him at the hospital. Mom and Dad had recently started dating.   I imagine they both knew their relationship was pretty serious by this point, but Mom hadn’t yet been introduced to my grandfather. Such a meeting was not to be. He didn’t want to first see her as he was attempting to recover, and he passed away on November 10.

It’s certainly possible I inherited my aptitude for math from him–my dad told me many times as I was going through school how proud my grandfather would have been of me. And I think of him often today, since my own son demonstrates talent and real interest in both math and physics. It certainly makes me wish all the more that my grandfather and I could have had some years together.


WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 4, Song 7

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

I really dug ELO in the late 70s; their 76 release A New World Record was another of the few albums I owned in high school, and it’s a classic. This was the second 45 from it, reaching #24 in Spring 77. It originally scored as a single by The Move, Jeff Lynne’s previous band (#93, late 72).