Weekend in C-U

Last Friday I drove to my old stomping grounds in east-central Illinois for a bridge tournament. The locals in Champaign-Urbana have been hosting a Regional event since shortly after I left town. Last year, I went up for five days; this time, only three. The highlight was facing off against two of the top 40 (that’s appropriate, I suppose) all-time leading US masterpoint winners in the semifinals of a knockout event. My team was given a 19.5 point head start in the match due to our relative inexperience (so they had to beat us at least 20), but unfortunately we lost by 25. We gave it a good shot, and I’m cool with that. It was awesome to see all the folks–Karen, Debbie, Martha, Ned, my teammate Mike, among others–again.

On Saturday, I was able to have dinner at an excellent Chinese restaurant with Bruce, my dissertation advisor, and Robin, his wife. We didn’t play in morning events on Saturday or Sunday; Saturday, my partner and I went to the Farmer’s Market in Urbana for breakfast and a walk down the tree-lined brick streets, while on Sunday, I met Bruce for coffee on campus. I have to say these were much better uses of time than being hunched over the table.

I have fond memories of my time in C-U, and I miss living there. I honestly wouldn’t mind going back for an extended period should I get another sabbatical leave. It’s got a fantastic city park system, decent public transportation, and, while clearly growing, it’s not humongous. We’ll see.

What would a trip report be without photos?

The alma mater statue, pictured above, is in front of the gorgeous math building, Altgeld Hall.


One semester when I was a teaching assistant for calculus 2, I had a high school student in my class who was somehow on the weekly schedule to play the bells in the carillon of Altgeld. One time she invited me to watch her play–very interesting.  We kept in touch just a little bit over the years; she’s now a professor of linguistics at UCLA.

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American Top 40 PastBlast Redux, 2/25/84: Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, “Runner”

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.

When I published this on FB last year, the previous week’s 70s rebroadcast had been the 77 countdown that featured “Blinded by the Light” at #1.  Seven years later, Manfred Mann’s last go-round on AT40 popped up.  It’s at #36, heading to #22.  One wonders how they were allowed to incorporate the Olympic flag (and what I assume is actual footage) into this video.  The timing for it was pretty odd, too:  the Sarajevo Winter Games had just ended, and the LA Games, with actual track events, weren’t happening until late July.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/24/86: Simple Minds, “All the Things She Said”

There was a fair amount going on this weekend in 86: a nationwide charity fund- and awareness raiser, a visit to Lexington by QEII, and I suppose most important to me, my college graduation.

Hands Across America was the next step from the organizers of USA for Africa, best known for putting together the 85 world-wide smash “We Are the World,” which raised over $50 million for humanitarian purposes in Africa. HAA was an attempt to draw attention and money to the cause of hunger and homelessness in the US, with an initial goal of $100 million. The idea was to get folks to contribute $10 to secure a spot in line somewhere between NYC and Long Beach, CA, where at 3:00pm on Sunday, May 25, everyone would join hands for 15 minutes in what was hoped to be a continuous line from coast to coast. It was a partial success; there were plenty of gaps in the human chain, especially in the desert West. About $17 million went to the intended causes (and about as much went to cover overhead).  There was a song written for the occasion as well, appropriately entitled “Hands Across America.” It reached only #65 on the charts (somewhat strangely, it had already peaked by the time of the event, sitting at #95 on this week’s list). The route got as close as Cincinnati, but my friends and I were otherwise engaged and unable to participate.

My recollection of that Sunday afternoon was that it was plenty warm and sticky. The ceremony was held indoors. My graduating class was pretty small, at least relative to those that followed; Transy’s enrollment was decidedly on the upswing throughout my time there. I was able to secure tickets for five family members: Mom, Dad, Amy, my grandmother Lucille Houston, and my great-aunt Birdie Brown. There are no great pictures from the ceremony itself, but I’m including a few not-very-high-quality shots from the day.

The picture at the top is with Aunt Birdie and Gran; here, I’m posing with my parents.


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American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/26/79: England Dan and John Ford Coley, “Love Is the Answer”

One of the possible hazards of playing disk jockey when I was growing up in the 70s or at WTLX in the 80s was that I might accidentally follow up a song from an LP with a single (or vice versa) without remembering to change speeds. I suspect that it didn’t happen all that often (I don’t have any specific memories), but it sure is something that doesn’t take more than a second to realize when it occurs.

This week’s show features a report about a “discovery” arising from playing an album at 45 RPM. A little internet sleuthing leads me to think that sometime in late 78 or early 79, a jock slapped side 2 of Champagne Jam by the Atlanta Rhythm Section on the studio turntable and inadvertently let it rip at the higher speed.  Apparently, when played faster, lead singer Ronnie Hammond’s voice on “Imaginary Lover” bears a strong resemblance to that of Stevie Nicks. Word of this curiosity reached Casey, who shows and tells us all about it during the final hour. As I write this, I haven’t listened to this report (again?—it’s more than possible I heard it 39 years ago), though I hope I have by the time you read it. Running “when ordinary lovers don’t feel like you feel” through my head right now, it’s believable…

The tease for that tale comes right after CK plays the sixth and last top 40 hit for England Dan and John Ford Coley, which is at its peak position of #10. “Love Is the Answer” is definitely my favorite of their singles (I’d say “Nights Are Forever Without You” and “Gone Too Far” are second and third). It’s a cover of a Todd Rundgren/Utopia tune and it definitely sounds like it. It’s not explicitly religious and I’ve never heard the song performed during a church service, but  I could easily imagine it being done.

I knew that Dan Seals had decent success as a solo country artist in the 80s after he split from Coley, but somehow I’d missed until this week that he’d died back in the spring of 2009. He had a nice voice, overall well-suited for his material.

Life During May Term

On Saturday morning my alma mater will be holding their commencement exercises, which means that Transy has just wrapped up its four-week May Term. When I was there, they tended to use it mainly to offer non-standard or special topics courses (and they may still): in my four years, I took classes covering short stories, compiler construction, environmental philosophy, and field work in archaeology. I enjoyed them all.

Though it wasn’t my experience, May Term generally had a reputation as a chance to kick back, take it easy, and party; its unofficial name was “Play Term.” That, and my growing appreciation for the Talking Heads, led me to compose a parody of “Life During Wartime.”

I don’t remember now when I wrote it—almost certainly either the spring of 84 or 85. It’s hardly perfect—for one thing, like many efforts of this type, it doesn’t attempt to wrestle with the entire song—but I think overall I did okay in terms of matching meter.  Just in case you can’t make out my scribbling above, here are the lyrics, with full apologies to David Byrne (note: Transy classes always started at half-past the hour). Feel free to sing along!

Heard of a month at Transylvania
It’s at the end of the year
A chance to relax and get together
I think that May Term is here!

The sound of music off in the distance
I’m getting used to it now
There’s a good time right down the hall here
The R.A.’s not going to frown

It’s time to party, it’s time to disco
It’s time for foolin’ around
Got time for dancing, and lovey-dovey
Got lots of time for that now

The days are warmer, the nights are shorter
But I guess that’s okay with me
Got only one class, it’s at 10:30
Two hours there then I’m free

When the teacher gives us some homework
I give an audible groan
I sleep in the daytime, live it up at nighttime
I might not want to go home

Heard about bunnies? Heard about hoppers?
Heard about classes to take?
You ought to know not to get an 8:30
You might not get too awake


American Top 40 PastBlast Redux, 6/19/71: Paul Humphrey and His Cool Aid Chemists, “Cool Aid”

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 bit from the original.

Here’s another song I didn’t know until I started listening to AT40 rebroadcasts a few years ago:  a sweet Northern Soul jam.   Paul Humphrey was a pretty well-known R&B session drummer in the 60s and 70s.  He even served as Lawrence Welk’s drummer as that weekly show wound down.  On this show it’s at #39, off its peak of #29.

5/15/82 and 5/21/77 Charts

As 82 proceeded, signs that my chart-keeping days might end before long abounded. I made predictions far less frequently, and I wasn’t listening enough to get all the extras and LDDs, either. On the plus side, my printing was as neat as it ever was!

This was in the middle of the period Billboard‘s chartmeister was imposing conditions that made it difficult for songs to begin falling, regularly leading to clogged charts and unusual runs. Still, it’s strange to see “Heat of the Moment” and “Don’t You Want Me” temporarily stalling out here. And note that I completely screwed up the name of “Let It Whip.”

Over to the Harris charts. It’s a little jarring to me now to see this Rick Springfield song at the top. Huey and Vangelis are the former #1’s; Tommy Tutone is the only future chart-topper listed (it had a four-week run). I’ll highlight the songs I had at #s 7, 8, and 9. The Greg Guidry and LeRoux songs had reached #17 and #18 respectively in real life, but clearly I saw things differently. “Since You’re Gone” was the third (!) Cars song to peak at #41 on the Hot 100–the other two were “Good Times Roll” and “It’s All I Can Do.” All three could be in the conversation for best near-misses of all-time. It’s a little embarrassing to see the Dr. Hook song do so well, but I give myself full marks for having the Tom Tom Club make the top 25.


Finally, there’s this past weekend’s 5/21/77 chart. Two weeks earlier was the point at which I’d started putting #1 at the top of the front page, rather than #40. This was the last of a three-week run where I used light green notebook paper.  I have a few earlier charts on purple, orange, pink, or a blue-green. The following week, it was yellow, but thereafter it was forever and always white.

Check out the attempted use of the Kiss logo!