–This song is so close to perfect, it’s truly surprising that the group never had anything else remotely close to a hit single. It’s #25 here, falling from its peak of #9 the previous week. I recall liking it then, but my appreciation for it has grown immensely over the decades since. Tightly played, well-written and -sung–it’s the whole package.
–About a month ago, a mutual music blogging friend led me to HERC’s Hideaway. That joint’s proprietor was in the midst of counting down his personal Top 100 of 1977. HERC is just a little younger than I am, and he sure seems like a kindred spirit–I immensely enjoyed all the personal remembrances and stories associated with the songs in his countdown. While my own rankings of many of the hits from 77 would certainly be different from his, we very much agree on where to place “Smoke From A Distant Fire.” If you sorta like what I do, you’ll very much enjoy this series of posts.
–This is the countdown whose beginning I caught the night of my grandparents’ 50th anniversary reception. It was almost certainly the first time I heard the songs “I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You” and “Help Is On Its Way,” both of which debuted this week–I suppose I was generally listening to stations that were more reactive, as opposed to interested in breaking songs.
–It’s a repeat re-broadcast; I heard it when it was played three years ago. Casey tells a hilarious and somewhat hard-to-believe story about Sanford and Townsend in this show. It concerns a way that S and T scrounged for $ as struggling, starving artists in LA. At one point they stumbled across a crate of bottles returnable for deposit in an alley behind a grocery store and came up with the genius plan of duping the owners by taking the crate around to the front of the store and claiming the deposit. It worked–over and over again, as employees kept placing the bottles back in the alley, without ever catching on! At the end of the tale, Casey claims that AT40 sent a staff member to check on its veracity and reports back that they did indeed see that crate, still in the alley.
This song speaks to me about and makes me long just a little for the street where I grew up, particularly during my elementary and early junior-high years. I think about the outdoor adventures I had with my neighborhood friends in the summer and on afternoons after school. Amy and I lived at 33 Bedinger Avenue; the kids nearby included Terak, Jeff, Billy, Rebecca, Ann, Ramona, Les, Julie, Bubby, Ricky, and Keith, among others. They ranged from a couple years younger to a couple years older than I. We rode bikes, played ball and board games, flipped and traded baseball cards, swam, talked about writing books, and acted out skits. Over time, we did grow up and grow apart, though I don’t know how much “all across the USA” we are now–most are still in Kentucky, generally not too far from Cincinnati.
I was fortunate to see Mr. Case perform at Lynagh’s in Lexington in 2000. I love many of his songs, but “Black Dirt & Clay,” from the very fine disk Flying Saucer Blues, is awfully close to being my favorite. It’s certainly the one to which I have the greatest emotional response.
My maternal grandparents were married 90 years ago today. Gran had graduated from high school just a few months earlier; Papaw was probably in medical school at the time. I’ve found among their effects a dance card from one of Gran’s high school social functions, and he’s among those who were on the card. Their first names were Wilbur and Lucille, but they called each other Jack and Sally. Here’s a photo taken during their courting days.
This past summer, I came across a picture taken on their 25th anniversary.
On the weekend before their 50th, they held a big celebration at Erlanger Christian Church. First came a reception on Saturday evening. Lots of family and friends attended. I was 13, the eighth of ten grandchildren. The first two great-grandchildren out of a total of thirteen–my son was the final one–had arrived on the scene within the previous twelve months. Shocking to report, I know, but one of my primary memories from that night is going outside to the parking lot at 8pm, transistor radio in hand, to catch the start of AT40–the week’s debuts were the first four songs played and included “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”
The following afternoon, we all returned to the church as they renewed their vows in the sanctuary. My father conducted the service. I think my cousin Liz played the organ/piano. My mom kept a copy of a picture taken that afternoon on display in the den for the rest of her days.
Fifty years is a long time! I’m just over 40% of the way there myself. I think about the stories I’ve heard about their years together and the times I shared with them. It was a rich marriage full of love, laughter, tears, care, attention, health, sickness, and life, glorious life.
Their final anniversary together came six years later, less than two weeks before my grandfather died.
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. This entry has been edited slightly from the original.
One of the groups I most consistently enjoyed during my middle and high school years was Australia’s Little River Band. I didn’t buy any of their albums until they released a GH disk in 82, but I don’t recall being meh on any of their singles–many were big favorites. Their fortunes started changing during my freshman year of college after lead singer Glenn Shorrock left to try a solo career. John Farnham, the replacement, sounded good (he had a huge international hit on his own a few years later with “You’re the Voice”), but apparently they were coming to the end of their rainbow. I very much like this tale of love slipping away, from their first post-Shorrock album (here it’s #24, heading to #22), but it’s the last song of theirs I really dug.
Legal issues regarding who owns the rights to the name Little River Band have prevented the folks who comprised much of the group in its heyday from using it on the reunion tour circuit. I find that a bit of a shame.
This past Friday I got to the local HS football game quite a while before kickoff (my son is in the band, not on the team). Unsurprisingly, they play music over the PA system prior to the game, mostly hip-hop, rap, and classic rock. At one point they went old school and played “It Takes Two,” by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock. I don’t remember it all that much from when it was popular in the late 80s, but I find it pretty groovy. Since I was just kinda killing time in the stands (Martha was off helping other band booster volunteers and taking pictures), I did some research on the phone about “It Takes Two” and learned how this oft-sampled, James Brown-penned jam provided its “Yeah! Woo!” and female vocals. As fate would have it, Ms. Collins’ hit was on the Hot 100 from which this past weekend’s 9/23/72 AT40 rebroadcast was pulled, in the middle of a seven-week run where it peaked at #66.
Late in 2016, I posted on Facebook about the contents of a mix tape I put together sometime in early 92. It’s the only sixty-minute tape of its kind in my collection. I’ll be re-upping modified versions of those sixteen posts over the coming weeks.
I first encountered Nanci Griffith through “It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go” on VH-1 and soon thereafter checked out her 89 disk Storms. My favorite of hers is 93’s set of covers Other Voices Other Rooms. This is the title song of her 91 release.
In taking a quick look over posts from recent weeks, I’ve noticed that I make mention of my father and his musical tastes with some frequency. Even though it’s starting to approach four years since his death, his presence still reverberates; I’m not expecting that to change.
This manifests itself when I hear Dad’s favorite songs from my youth. For instance, I think of him every time Heart’s “Barracuda” comes on (he would playfully mispronounce the title as “Baccaruda”). Another tune with this power is Wings’ live recording of “Maybe I’m Amazed.” When that one came on in the car back in 77, Dad would crank up the volume every single time Paul banged the piano after belting out, “Maybe I’m a lonely man who’s in the middle of something that he doesn’t really understand.” I’ve been known to do the same in recent years.
A perusal of the playlist of IRH’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Revue, Part I reveals two of Dad’s favorites from that era that at first feel out of place with the 50s and 60s sounds he loved so much. One is Elton’s “Philadelphia Freedom.” I knew he liked it but I’m not sure I realized he thought that much of it–I would have deemed “Crocodile Rock” more likely to be here (and it did appear on Part III). I was well aware, though, of his acute fondness for the other one, apparently at #21 on his all-time list. Jeff Lynne clearly loved the rock of yesteryear as much as Dad did, so it really isn’t a surprise that a driving number from ELO would catch my father’s fancy. It’s one spot away from its peak of #10 in this show. Rock on, and hold on tight, Dad.
Even though Leon Russell didn’t have a ton of commercial success as a performer, he was highly regarded among his peers both as musician and songwriter. This is one of this two Top 40 hits (#34 here, although Casey mistakenly plays it at #39; headed toward a peak of #11). It’s fair to say that his voice is an acquired taste, but I’m there.
Connections with recent posts abound. His other big hit, “Lady Blue” was on last week’s 75 countdown and is yet another song I first heard as an oldie on WLAP in 82. He wrote my favorite Carpenters song, “Superstar.” (That one is a cinch to be played the next time they run a 71 show, perhaps as soon as next week.) He also penned “This Masquerade,” done so well by George Benson.
My favorite discovery in putting this together: Russell played piano on Badfinger’s incredible “Day After Day.” He died somewhat unexpectedly last November at age 74.
The Rave-Ups, from LA via Pittsburgh, caught a bit of fortune in 86 due to leader Jimmer Podrasky’s relationship with Molly Ringwald’s sister: an appearance in the movie Sixteen Candles and, subsequently, recording contracts. I first realized I was hearing them in 90 via the song “Respectfully King of Rain,” off their third disk Chance. My friends Toby and Greg were familiar with them and helped further spur my interest. Unfortunately, soon after the band was dropped by their label, leaving me to scavenge cutout bins and pre-eBay/Amazon listservs to score their out-of-print first and second albums.
My favorite, by quite a bit, is their 88 release The Book of Your Regrets, the provenance of this one. The lyrics could use polish in places throughout the album, but there’s quite a bit to like: hooks galore, memorable characters, and striking images. I listened to it tons between 92 and 95 and put four of its tracks on tapes; it’s a definite recommend. It’s disappointing to see that only a relative few of their songs are available on YouTube.
Podrasky and another former Rave-Up have occasionally gotten together in recent years for shows. In the end, I guess they’re one more band that coulda been with just one more right break at the right time. I’m grateful for having encountered their stuff.
I got a comment on Sunday’s post that led me to learn more about the automation at WLAP-FM in the first half of the 80s. jb was a DJ at various points in the Midwest back in the day (he works part-time now at WMGN in Madison, Wisconsin), and based on his experiences suggested that the vendor for WLAP could have been TM Stereo Rock. A bit of Googling and YouTubing makes me pretty certain that this is indeed the case. Here’s a demo of theirs I found.
This, from early 75, is amusing to me in a particular way. One of the featured hits you hear, Sugarloaf’s “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You,” is a song I missed when popular; however, it was one of the oldies I heard with regularity on WLAP in 82 (another such song will get mention in this coming Saturday’s post).
TM Stereo Rock was run by John Borders, aka Johnny Dark. Originally from Dallas, he was a DJ in a number of cities in the 60s and 70s before settling at KLIF in his hometown and then eventually starting this service. It’s Johnny Dark’s voice you hear on the demo, and he sounds an awful lot like what I remember from WLAP. I recall Ralph Hacker telling me that their vendor was from Texas, additional evidence for TM Stereo Rock being the provider. (A correction on my earlier post: I was wrong about when “the voice” announced the current hits–usually it was after the second song, as on the demo, though occasionally it would come between.) Mr. Borders passed away in March 2016.
It was incredibly satisfying to receive additional education about this distant part of my radio listening past. Thanks much for the tip, jb!