American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/21/78: Crystal Gayle, “Talking In Your Sleep”

Despite the almost 20 months’ difference in our ages, my sister was just one year behind me in school. When she got to 7th grade, she started participating in our high school’s programs in cross-country, basketball, and track. She’d always been blazingly fast, but it turned out that distance running also suited her well. I hadn’t considered cross-country (or track) to that point, even though I’d more than held my own in races as a kid. I had been a benchwarmer in basketball the previous year, possibly making the team only because I was one of the tallest in my class (I kept at it through my freshman year, when I finally got the message about my abilities–the coach asked me mid-year to start keeping stats for the team).

So, big brother played tag-along and tried out for cross-country that fall of 77. I remember how hard it was to run a mile non-stop at first, and then to try to have to do it again ten minutes later! Before too long, I was able to go 5K, though not with any great speed. I ran in meets but invariably finished toward the back end of the field. When the coach talked up a summer running program the following spring as a means to improve, I was definitely game.

I didn’t start in earnest until mid-June, after we’d returned from a vacation to DC and Williamsburg. Ever the over-protected and under-rebellious child, I ran laps around my yard, since my folks were uneasy about me running all around town by myself. We wound up claiming that 6 times around made a mile, though that was likely a generous estimate. Still, every single day through the rest of the summer, I was out there, putting in at least 18 and sometimes upwards of 36 laps. The routine changed once school started and practice resumed, but I still ran at least 3 miles daily until around Thanksgiving, when a bad chest cold laid me too low to keep on. That freshman year was by far my best season in cross-country, and I have to think those summer jaunts played a big part. I didn’t run nearly so much the following summers, and my performance regressed so much that I abandoned cross-country my senior year.

My strongest recollection from that one decent fall was a Saturday race, the Harrison County Invitational, held on a golf course outside Cynthiana, KY. It was a bright and sunny morning, but also COLD, particularly in the moments right before the race after I’d shed my sweats. I imagine I turned in an okay time, but it’s more the return trip on the bus that sticks in my mind. Nothing particularly notable happened; there was just a 14-year-old going back and forth between jawing with his friends and holding a transistor radio to his ear, trying to catch some tunes in advance of that evening’s AT40 show. (Looking at the Lexington’s weather history online, this meet and accompanying memory probably occurred the weekend following the countdown featured here.) Two songs invariably play inside my head when I think back on that mid-fall early afternoon as we were on our way back to Walton: “It’s A Laugh” by Hall and Oates, and this week’s track (#21, soon to peak at #18). Hearing Crystal sing about her insecurities makes me think not of my own at the time (whatever they were), but of the slant of the October sun, of windy back roads in Harrison and Grant Counties, and of learning the joys of jogging several miles. Despite the fact that I wasn’t very quick about it, I continued semi-regularly until a knee injury took me off the road for good, at age 42.

I owe every pleasure I derived from running over all those years to Amy–I never would have done it without you, Sis!

SotD: Fifth Dimension, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In”

This song has been in my head since I mentioned it earlier this week. Because it was a mega-hit eight months before the 70s started, I rarely hear it, given the radio stations I regularly tune in.  This is such a magnificent work (I’d think that even if I weren’t an Aquarian!) that I wouldn’t object if it were given honorary 70s status.

Sixty Minute Tape, Song 4: U2, “The Fly”

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.

Achtung Baby was the last essential U2 album IMO; they did a fabulous job of merging their own sound with what was up-and-coming in 91. Somewhat hard to pick a favorite from it–there are several contenders.  This, the first single, is one of them. The revelation that we’ve been listening to a long distance call over a payphone remains a great moment for me, even if it’s anachronistic now.

American Top 40 PastBlast Redux, 5/31/75: Grand Funk, “Bad Time”

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.

There are quite a few disks from 95 that I still enjoy to this day: chief among them are Relish by Joan Osborne, 100% Fun by Matthew Sweet, self-titled debuts from Elastica and Ben Folds Five, and the jumping-off point for this note, Tomorrow the Green Grass by the Jayhawks. Released on Valentine’s Day, TtGG found its way into my hands sometime that spring after hearing/seeing “Blue” on VH-1. I had met my wife-to-be a few months earlier, and I think my first listens came in Martha’s apartment; it was fantastic from first track to last. One of the most enjoyable concerts I’ve ever seen was the Wilco/Jayhawks show I caught at the Kentucky Theater that summer.

Track 7 is “Bad Time,” a cover of Grand Funk’s last Top 40 hit, which reached #4 (#6 here). I’ve been quite familiar with GF’s big hits “We’re an American Band,” “The Loco-Motion,” and “Some Kind of Wonderful” since I was 10 or 11, but “Bad Time” didn’t ring the slightest bell as I listened to the Jayhawks over and over that spring and summer. I’ve since gotten to know the original, but probably still prefer the cover. What I can say for sure is that, contra Mark Farner, GF’s leader and the songwriter here, when I first encountered this song I must have picked a good, great, fantastic time to be in love.

From The Archives: Stanford Christian Church

Between September 68 and June 72, I lived in Stanford, KY. It’s one of the oldest towns in the state, with its origins dating back to the time of the Revolutionary War.  When I was there, it was a typical, somewhat sleepy South-Central Kentucky town of about 2500, the seat of Lincoln County. We moved there just before my sister’s 3rd birthday, when my father was called as the minister of the Stanford Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). My first vivid memories occurred there: learning to ride a bicycle and then cutting my ear on our mailbox after losing my balance; my sister and I languishing on the couch after getting the mumps; learning to read (my mom told me I loved to study the phone book and TV Guide); being the 2nd grade representative in an elementary school-wide spelling bee and getting eliminated early when I didn’t capitalize the personal pronoun ‘I;’ having a prominent role in my kindergarten play; Dad breaking his ankle sliding into a base playing softball; Mom doing an extended tour of duty as a substitute for a teacher who was ill; playing the 45s of “Spirit in the Sky,” “Sweet Caroline” (my mother’s middle name, and the one she went by), and “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” on the hi-fi.

I’ve gone back only sporadically over the years, at best once a decade as of late. This past Sunday was one of those times. To a reasonable extent, things look unchanged downtown, though I’d say there’s been a recent effort to spiffy it up. They’ve gained about 1000 residents since my time, and there’s now plenty of Walmart-type retail and fast food available on the US 27 bypass. The elementary school where I attended 1st and 2nd grades has been torn down; still on the site is the pre-consolidation city high school–that’s become the Board of Education building. We drove by my old house (just like the one in Florence they would buy 11 years later, it’s a one-story ranch with a walkout combination basement/garage and driveway sloping down the left side and behind). Somewhere along the line, someone built a deck on the left side, outside the door to the kitchen, and put a chain-link fence around the back yard. The apple tree my grandfather had given me is no longer to the right of the house.

The family and I attended church, too. It was the first time I’d been inside since August 84, when Dad was invited back to preach as part of their sesquicentennial. The sanctuary felt familiar. I told a man who greeted us about my connection to the church’s past when we entered, and my presence was announced during the service. Afterward, several people who remembered me, my sister, or my father came up and spoke. One of the long-term members turned out be both an uncle to a math major I taught over a decade ago and an in-law of one of my wife’s college math professors. The interim minister, his wife, and three sons all were graduates of my employer. I had an enjoyable time.

There was one noticeable difference from almost fifty years ago. No children were in attendance (my almost 17-year-old may have been the youngest one present), so they skipped over that moment in the service created specially for them. There may have been some little ones in the nursery.  But here’s a picture of 3-5 year olds at SCC from 69.

StanfordCCEaster69

Granted, this was taken on Easter Sunday, but it’s an indicator of what’s been happening in mainline Protestant denominations over the last several decades.

With my parents’ deaths, I’ve discovered that I want to revisit some of the places of my past, not only to try to shake loose some memories but also perhaps to re-form a tiny thread of connection. I’d found among their effects a print of the church (pictured in the header above), apparently given to them when we visited in 84. On Sunday, I returned it, hoping that a current attendee might enjoy having it.

It’s hard to know when I’ll go back again, though I’d guess it’ll be in less than ten years. Those days are gone forever, over a long time ago, oh yeah, I know!–but there are fragments of them yet residing in my brain.  Whether it’s names of the neighborhood kids, things that happened in my back yard, or events at school, I still want to retain them and perhaps extract even more.

Sixty Minute Tape, Song 3: Lloyd Cole, “She’s a Girl and I’m a Man”

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 know I saw a video for this song on MTV back in the winter of 91-92. While I don’t recall its specifics, I found something last year in the British MTV archive that matched the color/lighting/mood of what I think I watched. I’m not linking to it here, instead going the YouTube album cover route. Seemed to me like there was plenty in the visuals of the vid, though, to make a decent argument against the idea that artist and narrator necessarily share a point of view.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/18/80: Larsen/Feiten Band, “Who’ll Be the Fool Tonight”

Between April 80 and December 82 I maintained lists of my personal Top 50 in an attempt to rank how I felt about the pop songs of the day. About the only rule I had was that all 40 songs Casey had played that week were to be included.  This became plenty awkward from time to time, when big hits that I didn’t like all that much (say, “Lady,” “Endless Love,” or “Eye of the Tiger”) hung around FOREVER. However, the extra 10 slots allowed me to keep songs I really dug around much longer than their AT40 life would otherwise have dictated. For instance, Donnie Iris’s “Ah! Leah!” hit my top spot for three weeks in March/April 81, just after it fell off the real countdown; it stayed on my survey until the end of May.

Here’s another tune that got an extended ride on my charts. This is its last week on AT40 (peaking at #29), but it took the #1 spot for a single week on the 11/8 “Harris Top 50” and didn’t fall off until the end of the year. It’s a smooth, jazzy piece that I still like. Buzz Feiten gained his reputation as a highly-regarded session musician in the late 60s, and this was the only time his name was featured prominently on a hit record.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/16/71: Dells, “The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)”

My first exposure to K-Tel was 20 Power Hits, Volume 2, which my dad must have purchased in 72 shortly after its release. Within a few years it wound up in the stack of records to which my sister and I had regular access. I put the disk on a turntable any number of times in the late 70s, but oddly, almost exclusively to listen to Side 1. I completely adore all ten of its songs to this day–yes, even “Stay Awhile.” You’d have thought that would make me interested to continue over to the flip, but nope–looking at the titles now, I draw a number of blank reactions (of course I know “Green Eyed Lady,” “Candida,” and “Oh Happy Day;” I’ve also become familiar with “I Love You For All Seasons” through AT40 rebroadcasts in the last few years).

Right in the middle of that first side are three phenomenal numbers by soul groups: “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” by the Delfonics, the Stephen Stills-penned “Love the One You’re With” by the Isleys, and this week’s featured track, at its peak of #30. The Dells didn’t have many all that many big pop chart hits but were R&B stalwarts for decades. This is just gorgeous.

K-Tel slid more and more towards disposable–though often fun–schlock as the 70s wore on (I acknowledge that’s a little in evidence even on this disk), but they absolutely had moments of great taste as well.

SotD: Buffalo Tom, “Taillights Fade”

Twenty-five years ago I was in the middle of my first semester as a college math professor. That fall my employer provided me and other recent hires with a professional development opportunity: the Lilly Conference on College Teaching, held at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. It’s a lovely campus in a beautiful part of the state; I’ve taken students to undergraduate math conferences there several times over the years.

Back in the 90s Oxford was also home to my favorite radio station, WOXY (97X, The Future of Rock and Roll). My parents lived just on the periphery of its range, so I listened to it when I was home. And of course it’s where the car radio was tuned for the first (or last) 90 minutes of travel between Florence, KY and Urbana, IL. 97X played college/alternative rock–the direction my musical tastes were trending then–and I didn’t know of other stations around me featuring that in those days (WPGU in Champaign wouldn’t go full-on alternative until after I left).

Going to the Lilly Conference was a two-fer, then–during the day I went to interesting talks about good and innovative teaching practices, and I carved out time for 97X in the evenings (time I would no longer be semi-regularly getting, since I didn’t have a reason to be driving inside their radius of service anymore). For whatever reason, I feel certain that I heard “Taillights Fade” at least once in my hotel room during that conference. The album Let Me Come Over had been released that spring, and this was its first single; I can easily imagine it was still getting decent airplay on the station.

What I really like about the song is how the band is able to capture and convey the mood of the piece. Sure, it’s a picture of bleak desolation, but they do it so well! While I don’t get the sense that heading out will make anything better for our narrator, it’s cool that he name-checks Cappy Dick (even if that was one part of the Sunday comics I didn’t read much).

SotD: Lone Justice, “Ways To Be Wicked”

I’ve been listening to a decent amount of Petty over the last 10 days. It’s fair to say I’ve had a stronger reaction to his death than I might have expected. Today we get one he co-wrote with fellow Heartbreaker Mike Campbell for someone else.

I first heard of Lone Justice when they got a coveted opening slot on the North American leg of U2’s Unforgettable Fire tour. Their self-titled debut disk came out around that time, and this song–its first single–got airplay on the album rock station in Lexington that summer of 85 and reached #71 on the pop charts. It was maybe three years before I got hold of the CD; while the production is probably a little too slick, their country-rock mix and Maria McKee’s vocals are just my style. The other single, “Sweet, Sweet Baby (I’m Falling),” is a complete stunner.

Despite the buzz and rave reviews, the album wasn’t that big a success. This led to a substantial turnover in personnel and accompanying change of musical direction for the second–and final–album.   A world in which the first iteration of LJ became a mega-success is one in which I’d want to reside.