SotD: Toni Childs, “Zimbabwe”

“Can there be some peace on Earth? Can there be a love? Greater than the world we see, greater than us all…no more crime in your lifetime, Zimbabwe.”

This song, now almost 30 years old, has been in my head the last couple of weeks as events have unfolded in Harare.  While I don’t pay particularly close attention to African politics, I certainly was aware that Mr. Mugabe had ruled his country with an iron fist for a long time. I can’t know if or how much things will improve under Mr. Mnangagwa’s leadership, but I can echo Ms. Childs’ words and wish peace upon this land.


American Top 40 PastBlast Redux, 7/8/72: Mouth and MacNeal, “How Do You Do”

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 a little from the original.

I remember singing along to the chorus of this one with my sister back when it was popular, though it’s safe to say that at ages 8 and 6 we had no idea what they meant by “na-na, na-na.”

Flash forward over 30 years: my family spent the 2004-05 academic year in Ithaca, NY—I was at Cornell University on a half-time teaching appointment while on sabbatical from my small liberal arts school. In April, Martha and Ben flew to KY for a week; on the way back from dropping them off at the Syracuse airport, I happened across an AM station playing early 70s stuff (perhaps it had never stopped doing so?). I was in the beginning days of my renewed interest in the music of my youth/adolescence and the quest for it that would result. Whatever song was playing when I first tuned in must have sufficiently caught my fancy and I stuck with the station for the duration of the trip. About the time I got back to Ithaca, the Dutch duo Mouth and MacNeal came on. I don’t think I quite realized what it was until they got to that chorus, but when that happened, it was instant transportation back in time. Had I heard it in since the mid 70s? I doubt it.

My recollection is that I listened to that Syracuse station for a few more days before my attention strayed elsewhere. Even though the 70-72 period is to some extent “a little before my time,” there’s an awful lot of catchy pop from then that’s mighty fun to hear, even now—examples that come to mind include “Tighter, Tighter” by Alive and Kicking, “Don’t Pull Your Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds, “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes” by Edison Lighthouse, “Sooner or Later” by the Grass Roots, and “Sweet Mary” by Wadsworth Mansion.

“How Do You Do” is at #13 here, and got to #8.

SotD: XTC, “Mayor of Simpleton”

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to visit for a few hours with my college friend Warren, aka Professor Mondo.  We met in Greenville, SC–did lunch at a very nice Middle Eastern restaurant, checked out a great used book/music place, and finished up with mocha Frappucinos at you-know-where.  Along the way, we caught up on each other’s lives, talked about our worldviews and national affairs, and of course, discussed music!  It was a fab time, and I hope we’re afforded the chance to meet again before too long.

At one point in the conversation we both expressed our admiration for the British band XTC.  I’m a big fan of their albums Skylarking and Oranges and Lemons; an especial favorite of mine is the lead single from Oranges. It’s pure pop heaven, Andy Partridge’s disrespect for mathematics notwithstanding.

Sixty Minute Tape, Song 10: Reivers, “In Your Eyes”

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 traveled between Urbana, IL and Florence, KY a number of times each year while in graduate school.  As I’ve mentioned previously, sometime in the very late 80s I started tuning in to the amazing WOXY (97X, The Future of Rock and Roll), a modern rock station located in Oxford, OH, for the stretch between Florence and Greensburg, IN.  I learned a lot about what turned into the alternative music scene over those 90-or-so minute periods.  I wish the station still existed.

During one of those trips in late summer of 91, on State Road 1 in SE Indiana, I heard “Breathin’ Easy” by the Reivers, an Austin band unfamiliar to me.  Intrigued, I told my roommate Greg about it.  Not surprisingly, he knew about them, as he had a couple of their LPs.  After listening to those albums, they quickly became my “it” band for that last year in Illinois (and for a couple of years beyond, too).  I bought the new CD (Pop Beloved, their fourth release) and soon began what became an obsessive hunt for the CD versions of Saturday and End of the Day, their second and third albums (even though they were only 4 and 2 years old, respectively, they’d already gone out of print).  For months, EVERY time I went to a record store, I’d head straight to the R’s, then to the used CDs (remember, this was pre-Internet).  Finally, in the summer of 92, just a few weeks before I moved back to KY, I found them used while visiting friends in St. Louis.

I know the Reivers aren’t the greatest band of all time, but I enjoy their music thoroughly to this day.  The voices of Kim Longacre and John Croslin blend so well (though you don’t get to hear much evidence of that today), and the melodies are just plain appealing.  As it turns out, they broke up soon after I first learned of them, though they’ve periodically reunited for shows in Austin, and even released a new album in 2013.

This is one of my favorites –a charming rocker about being in love.  Contrary to the annotation below, it’s from 1987.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/30/85: Kate Bush, “Running Up That Hill”

This was my introduction to Kate Bush (excluding Pat Benatar’s rendition of “Wuthering Heights”).  It was an instant favorite from the first time I heard it. A little over a year later, I bought her GH collection The Whole Story; I loved just about everything on it, and still do.  In spring 87 I tried listening to some of her previous albums by checking them out from the Champaign Public Library, but didn’t have an easy time getting into them.  For me at least, it really was a case where they’d picked the best songs for the compilation album (I had a similar reaction in subsequent years, as I wasn’t overly jazzed by The Sensual World or The Red Shoes).  I’m thinking I really should go back through her catalog and give things another shot, though.

Today’s feature is at its peak of #30 here—it was the only time KB came anywhere close to hitting the Top 40.  In last week’s Marshall Crenshaw post, I made mention of the song that followed “Little Wild One (No. 5)” on a now-broken mix tape I recorded in the winter of 86—“Running Up That Hill” was the song that preceded MC (and while we’re at it, Heart’s “If Looks Could Kill” was right before Kate).

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/26/77: Babys, “Isn’t It Time”

I don’t have ‘charts’ from the last two months of 77 that match what I’d been keeping prior to that time—instead I simply have lists crammed together, almost all on the fronts of just two sheets of paper.  They’re artifacts of the broken left wrist I suffered at the beginning of November.  Since I’m right-handed, you’d think I could have taken the time to do them up right, but I must have gotten in a “woe is me” pattern while I had the cast on, one that wound up continuing through the end of the year.  Plus, maybe it was boring having “You Light Up My Life” at the top every week?

During that period of recovery I bought the 45 for this excellent tune.  It’s halfway up the chart here (as Casey was wont to say about the song at #20) and on its way to a peak of #13.  Something I’ve discovered in going through the music of the 70s over and over again in recent years is that a number of lyrics I didn’t quite catch or mis-heard back then have become clear to me now. For instance, I’ve just realized that the lead-in to the chorus here is not “Ba-by!” like I’ve thought for forty years, but “Hey babe!”

Listening to “Isn’t It Time” afresh, what really emerges is how all-out they went and how well everything hangs together: the piano and organ, the horns, the strings, the amazing back-up singing, the bass line.  Extremely hard to top this, and I don’t think the Babys ever did.

SotD: Sun 60, “Mary Xmess”

A word of warning: just because we’re now post-Thanksgiving, I am NOT switching over to full-time Christmas programming (though I’ll almost certainly judiciously slide in a few holiday tunes). As you might guess from the title, this is not actually a seasonal song; it’s just a jamming track from the summer of 93 to which someone saw fit to attach Yuletide images.

In Memoriam: David Cassidy

Like any number of kids around my age, I watched The Partridge Family on TV for some period of time in the early 70s (and likely caught reruns in syndication later). While the eight-year-old in me thinks the most memorable characters were Rueben Kincaid and Danny Partridge, the show was a star-maker for the guy who played Keith Partridge.

I certainly didn’t idolize David Cassidy in his heyday, nor did I particularly follow his fits and starts over the ensuing decades. In reading about him last night and today, I see the chafing over the image created for him and the short- and long-term toll that substance abuse took.  He wanted his own musical (rock?) career, but it seems odd to me that the path he chose toward that included covers of easy-listening hits like “Cherish” and “How Can I Be Sure” (great as the originals are).  I remember “Lyin’ To Myself” from 90; even though I only heard it a few times, it’s a pretty solid number.  But I wonder if that mini-comeback came about in large part because of Donny Osmond’s success the previous year with “Soldier of Love.”

I concede that the Partridge Family was mostly a vehicle for great session musicians to do their thing behind David’s vocals (while not a strong voice, it’s a lot better than that of other 70s teen idols, including his half-brother Shaun, Leif Garrett, and—shudder—John Travolta).  But there is some great bubblegum stuff here.  “I Think I Love You” is legit awesome, totally deserving to be a #1 hit.  I like “I Woke Up in Love This Morning” quite a bit; my favorite, though, is “Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted,” perhaps due to its presence on side 1 of a certain K-Tel album.

When Martha and I were cleaning out the basement of her parents’ house five years ago, we came across a few PF albums—she and her sister had been among Cassidy’s legion of fans.  One of the LPs was At Home with Their Greatest Hits, which was also in my house back in the day (making it one of the very few points of intersection in Martha’s and my respective album collections).  My suspicion is that Dad bought it because Amy and I regularly watched the show.  I know I played it some in the first years we had it, but there aren’t many songs outside of their four biggest hits whose titles stir any memories.  The exception is “Echo Valley 2-6809”—I guess I was a numbers guy even back then?  It’s the outro that I really remember—a repeated recitation of the song title followed by, “I shoulda called that number”—although it sounds different when I listen to it today from what I thought I heard forty-plus years ago. (Edited to add: I meant to mention that in looking things up today that I discovered Rupert Holmes co-wrote “Echo Valley.”)

I’m certainly sorry for the demons that he couldn’t conquer.  I hope that ultimately he was able to appreciate his contributions to some really enjoyable tunes.  RIP, Mr. Cassidy.

I know I won’t be the only one to post about him in the next few days; I’ll include links to others as I come across them.

–Here’s jb.

–Here’s Len from 45 Ruminations Per Megabyte.

American Top 40 PastBlast Redux, 2/9/80: Steve Forbert, “Romeo’s Tune”

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.

This was my favorite song over the first three months of 1980, and maybe for the whole year.  It’s a genius piece of songcraft: the lyrics are pure poetry, the chorus is instantly memorable, and, as a bonus, it’s such a happy piece.  Steve Forbert hailed from Mississippi and seems to still be recording every now and again.  This was his only notable hit (#16 here, on its way to #11), though he did catch some attention in the late 80s with the very nice Streets of This Town.