American Top 40 PastBlast, Waylon and Willie, “Good Hearted Woman”

Last week I brought up a couple of country songs that didn’t make the Top 40 in the spring of 83. Sometime in the next few weeks, I’ll have another piece up with that genre as one of its centers. In spite of that, with plenty of exceptions I’m honestly not too much of a fan. Waylon Jennings is one of those I like pretty well, though.

In high school and the years immediately after, I had several friends with pretty cool cars. Chris had a maroon Nova, Dwayne had a mighty nice late 60s Chevelle, also maroon, and Tony had a sweet black Trans Am (I started out driving the family’s navy Citation). When we went out cruising in these beasts, Waylon’s Greatest Hits was often in the tape deck. Ultimately, I succumbed and bought a copy of it for my own. I still dig “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” “Honky Tonk Heroes,” and especially “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love).” We were hardly (and never would be) the love-’em-and-leave-’em type, but “I’m a Ramblin’ Man” got adopted as a semi-theme song.

Tony, Bill, and I saw Waylon in concert in the summer of 84, at Riverbend just outside of Cincinnati. I don’t recall specifics now but I know we all had a great time. Sometime not long after that, I suppose I stopped paying much attention to him and his music. He died on my 38th birthday at age 64 of complications from diabetes.

Another of the classics from Greatest Hits and one of his numerous collaborations with Willie Nelson, “Good Hearted Woman,” is peaking at #25 on this show. Thanks much for the memories, Waylon; you made a lot of fine music in those extra 43 years.

SotD: First Aid Kit, “The Lion’s Roar”

About three years ago I discovered Sweden’s First Aid Kit, when “My Silver Lining,” from their first major-label release Stay Gold was getting airplay. I dug a little and came across “Emmylou,” a song in part about one of the more well-known Harrises. A few months ago, Ruins came out; “It’s a Shame,” one of the lead tracks, has a video that makes one think about how the world reacts to and interacts with perceived physical beauty. It’s a keeper.

I love the harmonies that sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg spin together. I don’t know the source of their country-music vibe, but it’s striking and distinctive. Their talent is immense and I look forward to hearing more from them.  “Emmylou” came from the 2012 album The Lion’s Roar; here’s that disk’s title song.


Elizabeth and Willie: The Early Years

My paternal grandparents Mary Elizabeth Brown Harris and William Thomas Goebel Harris grew up in Warsaw, in Gallatin County. He was almost thirteen months older than she. After they got married in 1920, they spent much of the next decade as itinerant teachers at various small, country schools around Kentucky. I’m fortunate that they documented their travels and am able to put together a portfolio of a number of their stops.

I don’t know if I was ever told the story of how they first met (or how young they were), but they were apparently dating by around the time they finished high school. The picture above is from 1917, about the time Willie turned 20. Below is one from their wedding day, June 15, 1920.


Because my grandmother was careful about writing on some pictures, I know about five of the places where they taught.

Continue reading “Elizabeth and Willie: The Early Years”

American Top 40 PastBlast Redux, 5/23/81: Franke and the Knockouts, “Sweetheart”

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.

They had a name–Franke and the Knockouts–that made you think they might be an early 60s doo-wop group.  Their sound, though, was very much contemporary pop.  They charted two other times but their time in the sun went by pretty quickly, and they don’t get much airplay on 80s stations.  I don’t think I realized until I was writing this that leader Franke Previte co-wrote the Oscar-winning song “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing (as well as “Hungry Eyes”).

I look back on April and May of 81 with great fondness and I imagine I’ll write about that period at greater length someday.  Two particular memories that stand out are attending the state FBLA conference in Louisville and having some success in the 4 x 200 relay at track meets with teammates Daryl, Danny, and Chris.  There are plenty of songs I associate with those fun and happy weeks; this was among my very favorites.  “Sweetheart,” the #12 tune in this countdown, peaked at #10 soon afterward.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 3/26/83: ABC, “Poison Arrow”

I think my first exposure to MTV came in the fall of 82, not long after I started college. My parents came to Lexington on a Saturday for Parents’ Weekend and stayed overnight in a hotel by the interstate. When I went over to see them that evening, the television was on, as per usual. In flipping channels, I came across a station playing one music video after another. While I’d seen the occasional vid between movies on ONTV while in high school, this was something entirely different.

The folks didn’t get cable until they moved to Florence from Walton in September 83, after which I could get an MTV fix whenever I went home.  We had no access on campus until a few months later, when the student center at Transy opened (I’ve written before how my friends and I wasted hours and hours watching videos there). While there are many gaps in my mid-80s video knowledge (yeah, I missed out on the ten-part series of “Leave It” shorts that Godley and Creme did for Yes), I’m certain it’s still too vast.

Whether I’m correct or not, I claim this is the first song I ever saw on MTV, back in that hotel room my parents occupied in October 82–I suppose it’s fitting that I remember the images, particularly the mythological figures, more than the music.  While that would have been a little before it was released as a single in the US, it was well after it hit in the UK. “Poison Arrow” is at its peak of #25 this week. I’m not too much of a fan of ABC outside of The Lexicon of Love, but they really knocked it out of the park on that one disk. I see that Lisa Vanderpump of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills fame has the female lead here.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 3/27/71: George Harrison, “What Is Life”

A little over three years ago, George Harrison’s estate commissioned a contest to create an “official video” for “What Is Life.” This was the winning entry; it features two dancers, Emma Rubinowitz and Esteban Hernandez, of the San Francisco Ballet. It’s a joyous piece, fitting for such an exuberant song.

I must confess I’ve not done a lot of deep listening to Harrison over the years. Pretty sure my Beatle-phile friend Warren is shaking his finger in my general direction right now.  I know, I know–All Things Must Pass definitely deserves attention. I do love this song, though; my favorite George solo track by far. It’s peaking at #10 this week.

While I was just seven at this point, I see lots of songs I recognize and love on this countdown, including four from my beloved side one of K-Tel’s 20 Power Hits, Volume 2 (“Doesn’t Somebody Want to Be Wanted,” “Sweet Mary,” “Put Your Hand in the Hand,” and “Stay Awhile”). There’s also “Mr. Bojangles,” “Joy to the World,” “What’s Going On,” and a certain “modern spiritual.” Hope it’s as much your scene as it is mine.

Songs Casey Never Played, 3/26/83

On Monday, I wrote about five songs knocking on the door of the Billboard’s Hot 100 on 3/26/83.  Today, it’s some brief notes about a dozen tunes on that chart, none of which managed to make AT40 and many of which haven’t been entirely relegated to the dustbin of history.

#86: Weather Girls, “It’s Raining Men”

This is in its 17th and next-to-last week on the chart, down from a peak of #46. It was a top 10 hit in the UK, Ireland, and Norway; a cover by the former Ginger Spice was a mega-international sensation almost two decades later.

#84: Wall of Voodoo, “Mexican Radio”

I’ve already blogged about this one, as well as one of Stan Ridgway’s solo songs. He’s a master. This would climb to #59.

#76: Oak Ridge Boys, “American Made”

The early-80s wave of country songs that also became AT40 pop hits was coming to a close. Ronnie Milsap’s last appearance, “Stranger in My House,” is debuting on the Hot 100, ascending toward a #25 peak. Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle had both just fallen ETA: were just about to fall off for the last time, with their duet “You and I.” Anne Murray unsuccessfully tried to score with “A Little Good News” later in 83. Kenny Rogers was about a year away from being done with the pop portion of his career.

That fate had already befallen the Oak Ridge Boys. They’d had their day in the sun with “Elvira” and “Bobbie Sue,” their only AT40 hits.  “American Made” was their 8th (and final, naturally) appearance on the pop charts overall, topping out four spots higher than this.

#70: Missing Persons, “Walking in L.A.”

I strongly associate “Words” with a vacation my family and I took to Myrtle Beach in August 82, just before I packed off to college; it popped up on the radio a lot on that trip.  Dale Bozzio’s squeak sure made it stand out. It wasn’t until the spring of 92, though, that I got turned on to the other primary cuts from Spring Session M, particularly “Destination Unknown,” but also this one. Love all of it–it’s somewhat of a surprise that they never struck Top 40 gold. This is the peak position for “Walking in L.A.”

#66: Adam Ant, “Desperate But Not Serious”

The follow-up to “Goody Two Shoes,” it’s fun but not quite as good as his big hit. This one didn’t get any higher, either.

#62: Berlin, “Sex (I’m a…)”

I remember a piece of this being included on “Weird Al” Yankovic’s first polka medley, “Polkas on 45” (the Clash song below is also on it). Thirty-five years ago, it was reasonably provocative stuff. I don’t believe I ever caught it on MTV, but I did see “The Metro,” a considerably better song, occasionally. Another one at its peak.

#61: Billy Joel, “Goodnight Saigon”

While The Nylon Curtain wasn’t quite the hit-making machine the other peak-era Joel albums were, it’s got a high proportion of memorable tunes on it–several of them have a prominent place on the soundtrack of my freshman year in college. Dan Seeger at Coffee for Two wrote a really nice tribute to TNC this past weekend.

Not sure “Goodnight Saigon” really should have been a single, but I’ll listen to it anytime it comes on.  It got as high as #56.

#57: John Anderson, “Swingin’”

Speaking of country music… Anderson has a voice that’s memorable for all the wrong reasons. The song’s catchy but I find it awfully annoying. I almost wish we’d gotten to hear Casey introduce it once, though, to perhaps get a read on what he thought. It topped out at #43.

#53: Psychedelic Furs, “Love My Way”

I like “The Ghost in You” better, but this is mighty fine. Deserved better than a #44 peak. My favorite Richard Butler vocal, though, is on Love Spit Love’s “Am I Wrong,” from 94.

#52: Mac McAnally, “Minimum Love”

File this under I-really-should-know-better-than-to-like-it. McAnally had a #37 hit, “It’s a Crazy World,” in August 77, and this was the only other time he got close. It made WLAP’s automated playlist for a few weeks in spring 83, and James and I would rake it over the coals for its insipid view about relationships. Still, I’ve grown kinda fond of it because it does take me back to a fun period in my life. Peaked at #41.

#50: Clash, “Should I Stay or Should I Go”

They tried twice with this one, both before and after “Rock the Casbah.” It just wasn’t meant to be: it made #45 the first time and #50 the second.

#47: Ric Ocasek, “Something to Grab For”

Ocasek released a solo album, Beatitude, between Shake It Up and Heartbeat City. This song sounds like a cross between “You Might Think” and maybe something from Candy-O. The title phrase is just plain awkward to sing in rhythm/tempo; I wonder if that held it back. Yet another at its high point.

I’ll pay closer attention to other charts as the weeks and months pass, to see how often there were this many notable songs that didn’t cross the Rubicon into Casey-land.

American Top 40 PastBlast Redux, 4/22/72: Don McLean, “Vincent”

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.

A Van Gogh slideshow to brighten your day!  The song is also an incredibly beautiful work of art; I confess it regularly makes me cry these days.  On its way to #12, stopping at #16 in this countdown.

“They would not listen, they’re not listening still.  Perhaps they never will.”  Indeed.

Bubbling Under, 3/26/83

There was a lot of fabulous stuff hitting the pop scene in the spring of 83 that never made the Top 40.  Today and Friday, I’ll highlight some of those tracks from 3/26/83, which is this coming weekend’s featured 80s rebroadcast.  Many are pretty well-known and still in rotation on various stations today; others, maybe not so much.

The Bubbling Under section on Billboard’s Pop Singles chart is comprised of the songs that would be in slots #101-110 were such tunes officially listed. One of those ten from this week, Champaign’s “Try Again,” at #103, went on to make AT40, reaching #23. But five others that fell short of being played by Casey were very good-to-amazing and are still in my head after thirty-five years. I haven’t paid strict attention to all that many of these just-outside-the-Hot 100 lists, but this strikes me as a high percentage of high quality stuff for that range. Let’s get to it!

#109: U2, “New Year’s Day”

It would be almost a year before I purchased War in perhaps the single-most important music-buying trip of my life. I know I was hearing this song on WKQQ (then at 98.1 on the dial) during the spring of 83, though. It’s gotta be in my U2 Top 5. Peaked at #53.

#107: George Clinton, “Atomic Dog”

WLAP-FM 94.5 was the Top 40 station in Lexington at the time, but there was also a station in nearby Winchester at 100.1 on the dial (I forget its call letters) that had a more expansive playlist, including a bit of a focus on R&B/soul/funk/rap. That’s how I came across “Atomic Dog” by funkmeister George Clinton. Bow wow wow yippy yo yippy yay! Peaked at #101.

ETA: Talk about dumb luck. After I posted this, I happened to catch the 3/17/84 show, where Casey welcomes WFMI in Winchester, KY to the AT40 family. That was the station at 100.1.

#105: Fixx, “Red Skies”

I’m thinking I learned about this one via MTV, as it got plenty of play there after the Fixx broke through later in 83. I don’t know much about their stuff outside the singles, which overall I like but still find hit or miss. “Red Skies” is one of the better ones, but not quite up there with “Stand or Fall,” “The Sign of Fire,” or “Secret Separation.” Also peaked at #101.

#104: Scandal, “Love’s Got a Line on You”

I know that Q102 in Cincinnati supported Scandal heavily in 83, playing “Love’s Got a Line on You” after I was home for the summer; I imagine they’d featured the first single, “Goodbye to You,” as well. Both are pop classics in my view and should have been big hits. This one’s almost been forgotten, though, while “Goodbye,” admittedly the catchier tune, still gets played pretty often (YouTube views: 350K for “Love’s,” over 7M for “Goodbye”). Peaked at #59, six spots higher than “Goodbye to You.”

#102: Modern English, “I Melt with You”

One of my 10 favorite 80s songs. I absolutely was hearing it and loving it that spring, certainly on 100.1 and maybe on WKQQ, too. Never saw the movie Valley Girl but I was aware this was on the soundtrack. It’s another one whose video I saw on MTV a bunch.

One of the albums that WTLX got as a freebie in the fall of 83 from Disc Jockey Records was Wire Train’s …In a Chamber. I gave it a spin or two down at the station, and was struck by how similar “I Forget It All (When I See You)” is to “I Melt With You.” There’s no way someone isn’t ripping someone else off here.

Peaked at #78 (sadly).

On Friday, several tunes in the Hot 100 on 3/26/83 that never cracked the Top 40.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 3/19/88: Debbie Gibson, “Out of the Blue”

In the great teen singer wars of 87-89 pitting Tiffany Darwish against Debbie Gibson, I was very much on Team Debbie. It’s not that I didn’t hear the appeal of “I Think We’re Alone Now” or “Could’ve Been,” but they both came pretty close to pegging the kitsch-o-meter.  There was just charm in Gibson’s hit songs though; I’m pretty sure I was aware that she was writing her own material, which likely boosted her cred with me. I enjoyed all of the first four releases from Out of the Blue, and figured she was on her way to a decade-plus-long career. It was more than a little surprising when her pop career stalled out following her second album. She has done plenty of recording, theater, and some B-grade movie acting in the time since (even co-starring in something called Mega Python vs. Gatoroid with Tiffany).

Those two are locking horns on this week’s rebroadcast, both with their third hits. The title track from Gibson’s album is at #7, headed toward #3, while Darwish has the fairly awful “I Saw Him Standing There” at #28 that would get to #7 (the original was one of my father’s very favorite songs, and I can’t cut her any slack for taking it on).

They both wound up with two #1 songs, but Debbie won the battle of Top 10 singles, 5-4 and Top 40 hits, 9-5.

On a completely unrelated note, it was right around this time in March 88 that I bought a CD player for my own (I’d been taking advantage of Jim’s since the summer). The race to build my collection started very soon thereafter. Somewhat foolishly, a number of my early purchases were albums I already had on vinyl: the first two, bought at the store the night I got the player, were Foreigner’s 4 and Al Stewart’s Time Passages. I don’t regret the latter, but I was definitely less interested in the AOR of my earlier days by this time, and getting even less so.