September 4, 1982 dawned clear and cool–one of the first cold fronts of the incipient autumn had just passed through Kentucky. A gorgeous day, the first day of my college life. I had elected to attend Transylvania University, in Lexington. It was my father’s alma mater, and a very dear place to him; he had pitched me on going there for years. I’d enjoyed my visits as a high school senior, and they had a nice program going in my areas of interest, computer science and mathematics. I liked that it was a pretty small place and thought it could be a good spot for me.
I’m sure I woke up early that morning. My parents and sister helped me pack up two cars, and off we went, south on I-75. As I got used to the drive back and forth to home over the years, I’d take the Newtown Pike exit to get to Transy, but that morning, we got off the interstate two miles farther south, at Broadway (why do I remember this? don’t ask me). We pulled into the parking circle off of Fourth Street, in front of my dorm, where a collection of returning students (Student Orientation Leaders and members of Omicron Delta Kappa, a leadership honorary) helped us quickly unload into 218 Clay Hall, my new base of operations. My RA was Spike, a senior–our fathers were best friends (they’d gone to Transy together in the early 50s).
Before long, I met my roommate. We’d exchanged a few letters over the summer and made arrangements about what we were bringing so as not to duplicate efforts too much. He was from a town to the east of Lexington and planned to be a physician.
I’m blanking now on the exact order of events that long day, but I know there were various activities designed to acclimate us. At some point, parents were “invited” to depart and leave their kids to begin fumbling their way toward responsible adulthood (if all went well enough) in the Transy cauldron. I’ve long thought that my folks were, well, not hurt, but a little disappointed at how easily I transitioned away from them. I know they knew I had to strike out on my own (just as I know my son will do in a couple of years), but I think they would have been okay with a few tears or a mild case of homesickness on my part.
That beautiful weather lasted through the rest of orientation. After Labor Day, the rest of the upperclassfolks returned and classes revved up (I started with computer science, calculus, chemistry, and composition). There was a lot of change and adventure ahead of me that fall. I would make quite a few friends, mostly fellow new students. One weekend night I encountered someone doing a line of cocaine in the communal bathroom on our floor. My roommate and I turned out not to be an altogether great fit (I’m pretty certain I bear the lion’s share of responsibility for that), and right after Thanksgiving, I moved in next door with James, my roomie for the rest of our time at TU. I’d been writing down AT40 charts for six-and-a-quarter years at the time of my move-in day; the practice lasted only four more weeks. Coincidentally or not–I didn’t connect the two events in time until just recently–that happened to be when I started my first serious dating relationship. Even if I was no longer keeping a record, I still paid plenty of attention to where songs peaked throughout those college years, mostly by frequenting a record store in town that posted a copy of the Hot 100.
I was too busy that weekend to catch Casey’s show, but when I began assembling playlists of AT40s for my iPod more than a decade ago, this countdown was among the first five or so I put together. It’s one of the more special to me now, particularly because of the memories many of the songs in positions 40 through 25 hold.
This was that milestone weekend’s highest debuting song, at #34. Semi-novelty that it was, it didn’t last much longer on the chart, peaking only two spots higher. I don’t particularly associate it with the date. I’d been hearing it for several weeks by this point, plenty amused by all the new vocabulary I was acquiring from Moon: “grody to the max,” “gag me with a spoon,” and “tubular,” among others. In the end, though, it turned out to be quite the inadvertent cultural touchstone–the movie of the same name from the following spring (and its awesome though unofficial soundtrack) couldn’t have existed without it (and what about Nicolas Cage’s career?).
I’m totally not the person to ask about Zappa–my friend Warren is able to tell you much more than I could. I can say that it was FZ’s only appearance in the 40.
I’ll feature my favorite from this countdown as a Song of the Day tomorrow.
Speaking of Warren, I want to publicly tip my hat in his direction for helping me navigate some initial issues I had in setting up this blog. His experiences as a WordPress trailblazer for me were quite useful! He’s in my blogroll (Professor Mondo); among other things, he touches on music regularly, particularly from a garage/psychedelic perspective.