Here is my 2/25/78 AT40 chart. My 78 charts were written on sheets from a spiral notebook, two to a page (2/18 is on the front). In spite of my impression that I was in Cincinnati at night that weekend, I must have listened to the show, since I note both extras. My prediction success percentage for 3/4/78 was pretty lousy; I count about 5 correct, although my “picks” were #40 and #39 the following week. At the beginning of the year, I’d thought I was really going to trick out these charts, with stuff like “Song of the Week” and a “guess the mystery song” feature (that was supposed to go immediately below the top 10). I’m not sure I made it out of January with those items still running.
Here’s my personal Top 25 for 2/27/82:
A few notes:
–“Under Pressure,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” and “My Girl” were all former #1 songs. “Shake It Up” was in its third and final week at the top. Other than “Touch and Go,” I had loved all of the Cars’ singles. Those first two LPs of theirs are so, so good.
–“Sweet Dreams” is the only future #1 listed here. “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” topped out at #3 for three weeks. “Do You Believe in Love” was down at #35 here, but would spring to #11 the next week and pretty soon thereafter ascend to the top for a five-week run.
–“Centerfold” had made #2 but I burned out on it even before its run was over. Still largely feel that way.
–I don’t know what “Open Arms” is doing here. It climbed to #2; there’s no way I’d have it go that high now.
–Kinda the same story, though to a lesser degree, with “Through the Years,” which got to #6. It’s not that bad; I like it much more than I do “Lady” and “I Don’t Need You,” but I definitely thought more highly of it then than I do today. It would have been a better song if they’d cut out that return to the chorus at the very end.
–On the other hand, I’m a bit surprised to see that “You Could Have Been with Me” made my top 10. Kudos to me!
–I like lots of Hall and Oates songs, but “I Can’t Go for That” didn’t crack my top 10 (it reached #13).
Finally, here is my 2/27/82 AT40 chart:
I kept this design through my final chart in October, with only the top 15 on the front. I put #1 at the top in 78, 79, 80, and 82, while #40 had that honor in 76 and 81. The 77 charts had both variations, mostly the former.
I must have listened to only the first half of this show, as the Sam Cooke extra from Hour #3 and the Irene Cara LDD from Hour #4 are missing. Making predictions had always been a somewhat hit-or-miss thing, but I was much less faithful about it toward the end of my chart-keeping days.
This quickly became my one my two favorite songs in the spring of my senior year in high school (“867-5309/Jenny” was the other). I’ve said it ranks among my very top 80s tunes, and I’ll still stand by that. I guess I usually like uptempo songs about falling in love; the energy and the harmonies really lift this one above, though.
I didn’t know at the time that Picture This was their second album and this single was perhaps a make-or-break for their career. (Honestly, that first record isn’t very good.) I liked the other singles released from Picture This, and some of the album cuts, too; “The Only One” is a mess lyrically, but sounds pretty darn good.
I do have to say that The News looks a little unsure of themselves in this video. Confidence came quickly, though—just eighteen months later, Sports began conquering the States, fairly deservedly so.
“Do You Believe in Love” reached #7—it’s in its second week on AT40, at #33 on this show.
There are plenty of countdowns between 76 and 82 when I’m fairly certain I remember something I did on that day. This is one of them.
The Cincinnati Convention Center (now the Duke Energy Center) hosts a boat and RV event every winter. In 78, my cousin Carol, 9+ years my senior, offered to take Amy and me, along with her brother Alan, 2 years my junior, to the show. Carol had recently gotten married and lived in a small house just a stone’s throw from the place on US 42 in Florence where she grew up. I had just turned 14, so I assume that Mom and Dad dropped us off and picked us up there. I don’t think Carol’s husband went with us.
Even though we lived only 10 miles apart, we didn’t get together with Alan overly often—being in different school districts probably had a role. He was always fine company, though, and I’m sure we had a good time together that evening. We weren’t, and still aren’t, boat or RV people, but I don’t doubt it was fun enough to see what was on offer for the upcoming summer. It wouldn’t surprise me if we played a game or two at Carol’s place upon our return. I have no idea now what my folks might have been doing that evening; at that point it was still a bit unusual not to be with one or both of them.
Carol’s marriage was apparently ill-fated from the start; they separated not too many months afterward. We had her over to our house in Walton for dinner a couple of times that summer. She soon decided to move west, to Owensboro, for a fresh start to pursue her career as a social worker. She met Bob in her work, married him, and they had a son, Naren. They eventually relocated to Ohio County. Carol did important, meaningful work with the mentally disabled for decades. She was a kind and caring person. She’s been greatly missed for over three-and-a-half years.
“If I Can’t Have You” was debuting at #40 on that cool February evening and would climb to #1 the second weekend of May. Despite all the Saturday Night Fever madness going on at that moment, this may well have been the first time I heard Yvonne Elliman’s biggest hit.
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 somewhat from the original.
Toward the end of my first semester at the University of Illinois, I saw a video from a new band out of Australia/New Zealand. “Now We’re Getting Somewhere” didn’t really damage the charts, but in January I began hearing a second track from them. It really caught my ear; I remember writing to my friend Suzanne back in Lexington, telling her about this fantastic song. Ultimately it went to #2 (it’s #7 here) and as I’ve mentioned before, it’s one of my very favorite 80s songs.
It took me a long time to notice, but one of the remarkable things about the song (and really, about much of the album it’s on) is how little Neil Finn seems to care about rhyme. Yes, there’s roof/proof in one verse and in/win in the chorus, but take a look–he’s not even trying to match sounds overall, yet it stands up well not only as poetry but as lyrics.
There were sixty-seven folks in the Dixie Heights HS Class of 49. One of them was my father, who was valedictorian. He had classmates named Virginia Wolf and Jim Morrison—in the 80s Mr. Morrison appeared in local TV ads as president of a leading Cincinnati-area HVAC company. The Dixie 49er you’d probably say was most successful, though, was Mary Frances Penick, known to the world as country music star Skeeter Davis.
Dad mentioned his famous classmate occasionally over the years, but it’s not clear to me just how well he knew her. Ms. Davis arrived at Dixie Heights at the beginning of their junior year, so they didn’t have too long to interact. I remember my family attending Dad’s 25th HS reunion in 74 at a nearby state park, and I’m pretty sure if she’d been there I’d have known about it. I also recall her name being mentioned by Billy, one of my neighborhood friends, around that same time—was his family friends or relations of Skeeter’s? Were they just fans of her music? I need to ask him.
When I was going over things at my parents’ house three years ago, I found The Essential Skeeter Davis in the box of CDs That Everyone Should Own. Then, last year, I ran across this composite of his high school class while rummaging through a box of photos and keepsakes. (I thought I also had his senior HS yearbook, but I’m not finding it at the moment.)
He and Ms. Davis both appear about halfway down, though practically on opposite ends of the picture (also notice that her middle name is misspelled).
It’s a solid read. I knew a rough outline of her life story from an internet search: grows up poor as the oldest of seven children, finds success with Betty Jack Davis, is injured in the accident that kills BJ, and eventually emerges as a solo star in Nashville. But the book has a lot of fascinating detail about Depression-era northern Kentucky, growing up in a home with alcoholic parents, her friendship with BJ, her uncanny ability to sing high harmony, obsessive fans, unhappy marriage, and Nashville personalities. I don’t plan to do an in-depth review, but there are a few things I want to highlight.
–I enjoyed the first half more than the second. I’m sure a decent part of that is related to her growing up not far from where I and my parents did. I learned that I drive past where she was born every time I go between Georgetown and Warsaw, where my parents are buried. Even though she’s a first-time author and there’s no ghost-writing credit, she’s a fine storyteller, particularly about her family in her early years. (She wrote a number of songs, though, so perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised.) Her voice definitely strikes me as authentic. She plays armchair psychologist on herself more than once, confessing that she struggled for years with feeling unloved by her parents and that perhaps she sought the spotlight in reaction to that.
–I felt like I got to know Betty Jack Davis reasonably well. She was a few months younger than Skeeter and a year behind her at Dixie, but it appears they met and began singing together almost immediately upon Skeeter’s arrival. As they begin to get known in the area, Skeeter takes on her friend’s surname for performance purposes. I hadn’t quite realized that the accident that killed Betty Jack happened so close to home (they had driven all night, returning from an appearance in West Virginia), or that it came just as their record “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know” was breaking nationally. The grief and remorse over BJ’s death are palpable.
–Skeeter has great stories about meeting Bob Dylan in a club in New York and touring with Elvis just as he was becoming a national sensation. She makes it sound as if the King might have had a thing for her. At another point in the book, June Carter shows up as a confidant.
–Surprisingly little attention is given to her biggest solo hit, “The End of the World” (though that phrase is incorporated into a chapter title). My copy of Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles claims it’s the biggest cross-over hit in chart history, hitting #1 AC, #2 pop and country, and #4 R&B. Fifty-five years ago this week it was #21 on the Hot 100, peaking one month later. It was blocked from #1 on the on 3/23/63 chart by Ruby and the Romantics’ “Our Day Will Come;” both of those songs were swamped the following week by the Chiffons singing “He’s So Fine.”
–She was a devout Christian but also seemed to be a bit of a mystic, with several tales involving (largely correct) premonitions of bad things about to happen. The chapter about her mother’s death is certainly out of the ordinary.
–The last few chapters definitely feel different from the rest. You learn that completion of the book was delayed for a few years after Skeeter was diagnosed with breast cancer and dealt with subsequent reconstruction surgery; my suspicion is that she was just in a different place in life when she was able to resume, perhaps because she was also grieving the loss of her parents and a sibling.
Ultimately her breast cancer returned and she died in September 2004. I don’t have a recollection of Dad mentioning her passing to me; it happened during my year in New York, so perhaps he and I just didn’t talk on the phone at the right time for it to come up.
It seems appropriate to play a few of her hits. We start with her big song with BJ.
This is one of her first big solo country hits. She was a recording pioneer in multi-tracking/singing harmony with herself.
This was her first pop Top 40 appearance, reaching #39 in September 60.
Her biggest song certainly deserved its success. I love to hear her talk. Her twang makes me think of plenty of people from the area I grew up (her native Grant County is just 30 or so miles from Cincinnati, but even today it’s not all that suburban).
This was another Top 10 pop smash, reaching #7 later in 63, written by King/Goffin. I think it’s a great pop record (though, listening to it in the 21st century, it’s hard not to hear rumblings of emotional abuse–one could certainly view “you got me where you want me” at the end in such a light).
Skeeter received four Grammy nominations for Best Country Female Vocal Performance, though she never won. This, the one that garnered her final nomination, is here for my friend Warren. She’s appearing on The Midnight Special, in April 73.
Even if Ira Richard and Mary Frances weren’t friends of any sort, I still think it’s kind of cool that Dad had a classmate that became so well-known. Definitely wish I’d talked with him more about it.
There’s a certain synth vibe that was prevalent in late 83/early 84. It cropped up on various pop hits—“Here Comes the Rain Again” and “Come Back and Stay” immediately come to mind—but I’d bet if an unfamiliar song from that period came on the radio I could say it came from then.
This is another one with what I think of as that sound, at its peak of #29. Real Life, from Australia, re-recorded/re-mixed/re-released it five years later and reached #26 then (I distinctly prefer the original).
As if in confirmation of my point of a sonic connection, when I summoned the video below on YouTube to include here, the above-mentioned Eurythmics song was queued to be next.
One of the things that was great about talking music with Kevin, the station manager at WTLX our sophomore through senior years, was that we could just about go toe-to-toe on 70s pop trivia. When we were discussing June 76 and later it was mighty hard to stump me, but the farther back in time we went, the more able he was to name songs that I didn’t know much about. Part of this could be that we grew up in different radio markets (Cincinnati for me, Huntington, WV for him), but my long-time hypothesis has been that he was the beneficiary of having two older siblings listening to the radio regularly in his presence in those earlier years (I’m the first-born in my family).
Here’s one of those songs I specifically remember Kevin mentioning that meant nothing to me in our mid-80s conversations. It’s a track that could only have emerged in the excess of the disco years: a hairdresser to the stars, Joseph Montanez, Jr., rebranding himself as Sir Monti Rock III and playing the part of a nightclub DJ on two hit records. The first, “Get Dancin’” (#14 this week, fresh off its peak of #10) was co-written by Kenny Nolan, who was red-hot at this time with his songs “My Eyes Adored You” and “Lady Marmalade” also on the countdown. Nolan is even singing in the background here.
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 somewhat from the original.
Leslie Charles was born in Trinidad and moved to England when he was ten. He took the stage name Billy Ocean and, after years of hard work, became an international sensation in 84 following the release of “Caribbean Queen.” His US stardom lasted four or so years and included three #1 hits.
However, eight-plus years earlier, he had a solitary, modest success on this side of the pond with “Love Really Hurts Without You.” I definitely remember hearing it during those early months of my AT40 listening. It was one of the first songs I ever downloaded from iTunes, in 2005, when I was assembling a playlist of the 6/5/76 show (the first chart I’d written down). Even though I kinda could hum the chorus if pressed, I’d forgotten how groovy it is! Its great R&B/pop vibe sits much better with me than any of his 80s output. Here it was #25; it would get three positions higher.
I’ve mentioned before that I kept rankings of my favorite pop songs between April 80 and December 82; the only catch was that I had to include the current Top 40 among them. I’m going to start posting (at least occasionally) snippets of my charts when a show from that period is rebroadcast. First up is this past weekend’s 2/7/81 show; here’s my top 25 from that week.
A few notes:
–I made my charts at the beginning of the week, so this was based on the songs on the 1/31 countdown.
–“Suddenly” was a former #1. Songs from the Xanadu soundtrack had featured prominently on the Harris Top 50 (TM pending) since June, the biggest of all being “Magic.”
–“Keep On Loving You” and “A Little in Love” were future #1s. I liked Cliff Richard just fine but this was by far his peak period with me.
–I was a pretty big Alan Parsons Project fan from start to end of their charting years. “Games People Play” would spend 4 weeks at #3.
–Some songs are as high as they are only because of their relative longevity on AT40. Big hits I didn’t dig all that much often wound up peaking between #11 and #20. Here, those include “Celebration” (#12 peak), “Passion” (#17), “Guilty (#13), and “9 to 5” (#14).
As a bonus, here’s my AT40 chart for that week.
The three numbers in the column on the edge are, in order: number of weeks on the Top 40 to date, position the previous week, and predicted position for the following week. I wasn’t listening every week at this point, but the LDDs and Archive #1s indicate I heard this show in real time. For the record, my predictions for 2/14 weren’t shabby at all, at least in the top half. I got the top 9 correct, had #10-11 switched, #12-14 permuted, and #15-17 as well as #20 correct. Much better than I normally did!
So, yeah, today is the anniversary of my birth, the 54th. Thinking back, I certainly don’t recall all the February 13ths of my life, but a few do stand out. One of the more special was in 1980, when I turned 16.
This one was a Wednesday, so it started off with school. It was a sunny day. Weather Underground tells me there was a bit of snow on the ground (which sounds right) and that the high was in the upper 30s. When I got home, I heard on the radio that David Janssen of Fugitive fame had died of a heart attack—it’s hard for me now to believe he was only 48 years old.
My father, as was his wont, had plans for me that afternoon. The two of us drove to Covington, to Schulz and Sons Jewelers, on Madison Avenue. Dad had known the proprietors for years. I was to pick out the wristwatch of my choice (within reason). The timepieces I had to that point had all been pretty cheap; this would definitely be a step up for me. It didn’t take long to gravitate toward a battery-operated Pulsar. I liked its white face, the lack of numbers on the dial, the glow-in-the-dark elements on the hands, the fact that you choose Spanish or English for the day of the week (I was taking Spanish II that year), and most of all, the two-tone wristband. Several links in the band had to be removed because of my fine-boned, thin wrist, but Mr. Schulz got it to fit. Schulz and Sons is still in business, but they’ve moved out of Covington, up the hill and away from the river to Ft. Mitchell. There’s a picture of their Madison Ave. storefront at the link above.
I adored my watch. It suffered lots of wear and tear over the years, but it stayed with me through college, grad school, and beyond. I finally replaced it somewhere around early 96, not too long before Martha and I married. At that point, I’d worn it for half my life. The new one, another Pulsar but with a blue face, didn’t last quite as long, maybe a dozen years.
I think Dad drove us back home at this point (I didn’t test for my permit until a few weeks later), picking up Mom and Amy to drive back north, to Mr. Gatti’s in Crescent Springs. We feasted on pizza; I can’t recall if they were doing a buffet back then or not. By the time we finished, it had to be later than normal for the end of dinner, given the late afternoon shopping foray. I put my coat on to go and stepped outside into the brisk air. I looked up on that clear night, and there it was.
1980 was the year I gained familiarity with the night sky. It began when Ron, one of the husband-and-wife team who served as our youth leaders at Erlanger Christian Church, asked if he could drive down to Walton on clear, moonless nights to go stargazing in our backyard—we had far less light pollution than points north closer to Cincinnati did. Ron had been an amateur astronomer for quite a while; he’d even built his own telescope (I’d guess the mirror was about six inches). He had come out a time or two already that winter. I joined him and got reasonably interested pretty quickly. He taught me about double stars and Messier objects. I quickly picked up the names of most first-magnitude stars. He shared notes he’d taken when he was a boy and inspired me to begin cataloging my own discoveries. As the year progressed, it was great fun to read about things astronomical and follow the changes in what shone overhead: to see the Milky Way in the summer, to learn that the autumn night sky is comparatively dull, to know that two-thirds of the Summer Triangle will still be visible in December, to find out Vega will be the pole star in 11000 years due to precession of the axes.
But on this night, I had just started out and didn’t know much of that yet. I’d already been blown away by Orion, though, and it quickly became (and still is) my favorite constellation. In mid-February, it’s just south of overhead at the time of sorta-early evening we emerged from Mr. Gatti’s, its seven first- and second-magnitude stars more than bright enough to cut through the suburban Cincinnati sky. I-75 actually runs east-west for a few miles where we were, so I was definitely facing south as I looked out over the interstate from the parking lot. I’m certain that moment, that memory from a cold winter’s night when I was a newly-minted sixteen-year-old, plays a big role in my affection for Orion. (I’m glad that Vega isn’t the pole star now—when it is, Orion will pretty much be a Southern Hemisphere-only constellation.) These days I try to make a point of looking for it on my birthday. The weather forecast for tonight makes me think my prospects are at best iffy for this year, though.
A cool watch and a magnificent collection of stars shining down on me. It was a great day.
A postscript: my son turned 16 a little over a year ago. It was my goal to buy him a watch that day. We did go shopping, but nothing they had in stock caught his eye sufficiently. It took close to a year for us to fulfill my mission; sorry, Ben, that it didn’t happen sooner.
It’s also Leslie Feist’s birthday; she’s twelve years my junior. I’ll celebrate our shared day with one of my favorites of hers, named after a small town in her native Nova Scotia. While you can tell from the start that this video’s going to be off-beat, what happens at the 1:00 mark really caught me by surprise the first time I saw it.
Image of Orion by sl1990, courtesy of pixabay.com. Permission granted under CC0 Creative Commons license.