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.