American Top 40 PastBlast, 3/8/86: Starship, “Sara”

There was this thing in the mid-80s in Kentucky called the Governor’s Sweet 16, a series of academic competitions broadly patterned after the state boys’ and girls’ basketball championships.* They were held in a variety of subjects, one of which was computer programming. Dr. Miller, my advisor, wound up as one of the primary organizers. In early 86, he recruited the computer science majors at Transy, including me, to help with both the regional and final competitions.

These sorts of events began being held after I’d already graduated from HS, so I’m not totally clear on how they were set up. I’m pretty sure, though, that there were four regionals held around the state, with the top four finishers advancing to the finals. I helped with two, maybe three, of them that winter. Generally we were up before dawn on Saturday morning, loading up vans with bulky PCs and the other necessary equipment. Once on site, we had to set them up and test them before competing teams arrived. During the competition itself, we were mainly gofers, and afterward, it was up to us to do everything in reverse. One of the regionals I attended—maybe at Western Kentucky University, in Bowling Green—required an overnight stay.

The finals were held at Transy, in mid-March, toward the end of spring break. Dr. Miller twisted enough of our arms to give up part of our week to come back and help (he had a way of making it hard to say no). I have this vague memory of somewhat serious glitches arising during the competition, but I assume in the end a victor was crowned. After it was over, James, Suzanne, Michelle, and I (CS majors all, three of us seniors), headed south to hike around Cumberland Falls State Park. I’m pretty sure it was on that trip that I first heard Miss Jackson sing “What Have You Done for Me Lately.”

But that’s not in the show this week. Up near the top (at #2—it’d be #1 on the following countdown), though, is a song I see myself hearing (if that makes any sense) on that foray to WKU. Seems like several of us were staying in a suite of some sort on campus. Don’t know now if it was on radio or MTV in that place, but “Sara” is in my head when I think back to it.

I’ll be somewhat contrarian here and claim I find “We Built This City” and “Sara” are both enjoyable listens (maybe guilty pleasures is more accurate). I won’t say that for much else of Starship’s output—“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” their other #1, I know find particularly soulless. Mickey Thomas sure moved far away from singing songs like “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” and “Jane.”

*We don’t really do classifications in hoops in our commonwealth—at the end of the season all the schools in the state compete for a single trophy. One school emerges from each of sixteen Regions to play in “The Sweet 16,” which takes place over five days. Some while back, they did create a statewide, mid-season tournament for smaller schools, “The All A Classic,” to give them a greater chance at glory.

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