American Top 40 PastBlast Redux, 3/8/80 and 5/31/80

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. These two entries have been edited a bit from the originals.

3/8/80: Kicking off the countdown is this fine tune by J. Geils and crew; it climbed to #32.  It’s another song for which it’s tough to find a decent video.  Apologies for it being a little out-of-focus, but we can still see Peter Wolf go through his whole repertoire of moves!  It’s pretty well overshadowed now by the follow-up, “Love Stinks,” which made #38 about three months later.

The man who gave his name to the band died about a month after I posted this originally.

 

5/31/80: When I posted this last year, the day before had been Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn’s 72nd birthday–he’s almost back around for another one now.  This was his sole US Top 40 song (#25 here, soon to reach #21), though he got a decent amount of airplay a few years later for “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.”

Enjoy the pix of numerous kings and queens of the jungle.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/15/82: Aldo Nova, “Fantasy”

When Canadian rocker Aldo Nova came stateside in the spring of 82 with “Fantasy,” for some reason I figured he might have staying power. I suppose I thought it was a pretty hot tune and was therefore a tiny bit surprised when it stalled out at #23 (it’s three spots short of that this week). The eponymous debut album was one my first roommate at Transy owned and played a couple of times during our time together. I have to say, though, that none of the other tracks made any particular impression; that should have been a clue that Nova’s time in the sun would be short (I might have had help in reasoning that out if I’d seen Aldo in the leopard-print get-up in this video, too). I don’t believe I ever heard anything more of him.

In my world, May is always a time of transition (we like to call it “commencement”), and so it was, even back when “Fantasy” was on this chart. I was two-and-a-half weeks away from my high school graduation ceremony, to take place June 1. Eight days earlier, on May 7, I’d attended a dinner with some of my future classmates—we were all awardees of a new scholarship program at Transy. That evening, I met several folks–Mark, Angela, Pat, Cathy, Michelle, and Michaela–who wound up playing sizable roles in my life, particularly over the next four years.

PS. This is post #300 on this thing. They sure accumulate quickly…

Three Pix of Mom and Her Kids

In honor of my mother on this Mother’s Day, three pictures from years ago of her with Amy and me.

Looks like this is from right around my second birthday. If it was taken and not just developed in February, then Amy would be four months old. We’re in our house in La Grange. I appear to be a little squirmy!

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The second one seems to be Easter, very likely 69. We’re facing our house in Stanford. The Holtzclaws’ house is on the left, and I think that’s the Murphys’ on the right.

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My sister’s hair was this short in a school photo with a note on the back indicating she’s 10. That makes me say this one is from the summer of 75, a little before she turned a decade old. Additionally, I look more like my sixth grade picture, taken fall of 75, than the one from seventh grade. This is our front yard in Walton. I-75 is way in the background; all that open space behind us is well-developed now. 75 was a great year to be a Reds fan…

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I’m definitely thinking about you today.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/13/72: Neil Diamond, “Song Sung Blue”

This countdown comes six weeks before we moved from Stanford to Walton. It wouldn’t be long before I finished second grade with Mrs. Brown (Amy was in Mrs. Winn’s class—she’d also been my first-grade teacher). I’d guess that by mid-May we would have been told about the upcoming change of venue, but I don’t really know—we never had to have such a conversation with Ben, so I can’t imagine what might be reasonable.

Neil Diamond will always have a special place with me because of “Sweet Caroline,” one of the 45s I remember hearing played on Dad’s hi-fi when I was five or six. His 12 Greatest Hits was the first cassette our family owned; we must have gotten it soon after Amy and I got the tape player for Christmas in 75. The temporal dividing line for me with regard to Diamond’s singles is “If You Know What I Mean,” from 76. After that, I find his work much more hit-or-miss, or at least less interesting.

“Song Sung Blue” is debuting here, at #35. There’s a fragment of a memory where I’m riding in the back seat of Dad’s black 71 LTD, hearing this song on the radio in what I now recognize must be May or June of 72. It’s night, and we’re on US 150, getting close to our home on the way back from Danville. I distinctly recall the willow/pillow rhyme capturing my attention during its run of popularity.

On June 24, the day we moved, “Blue” was #2. It reached the top the following week, but since Casey did a special AT40 for the holiday weekend and it was down to #3 by July 8, no one ever heard it as the final song on the show.

SotD: Billy Joel, “The Longest Time”

Today is a milestone birthday for Becky, a longtime and dear friend.

I spent a little time yesterday thinking back on the almost 34 years we’ve known one another. We’ve never lived in the same city; haven’t really even lived in the same state since 86. We see each other maybe once every three years on average these days. Nonetheless, she’s one of those people with whom your next conversation seems to pick up right where the previous one ended, no matter how long it’s been between.

Becky and I met in June 84 at Transy. She was there for a two-week computer programming camp for high schoolers, and I was one of the counselors. It was a really enjoyable bunch of students; they bonded (and behaved) well. I still remember several names of the campers from that group, but Becky struck me as one of the brighter students and was probably the one with whom I wound up interacting most. Later that summer we struck up a pen-pal friendship (I’d guess I initiated it) which we kept up for close to two decades (transitioning over to email toward the end).

For the first few years after we met, I’d make a point to visit Becky when I was in Louisville. (The first time, in May 85, Mark and I surprised her by showing up at the restaurant where she was a waitress.)  I went off to Illinois just as she was starting college in her hometown. It wasn’t long after I returned to Kentucky that she went off to Texas for a master’s degree. There she met her really cool husband-to-be, Jeff.

Becky and Jeff came to KY when Martha and I got married in 96, and we returned the favor fourteen months later, traveling to Florida, where they were living (Jeff’s family is from there).  It happened to be the weekend of Princess Diana’s funeral; I recall Martha and I watching some of it at our hotel room that Saturday morning.  We had a great time, and the reception was one of the most fun I’ve attended.

After kids came along, the seven of us would get together as time allowed–mostly as a part of their visits to Becky’s family–but we also had a couple of fun days at the beach on a vacation to Florida in 04.  Not long after that, they began an intentional search for a place in the north to raise their family and settled in Wisconsin. We’ve been lucky enough to stop by their place a few times since, the last time in 15. Their daughter is now in college in Ohio, their son a year behind Ben in high school.  Becky’s long been committed to social causes; recently she took on the role of Executive Director at Worker Justice WI, in Madison. It’s inspiring to know and count as a good friend someone who does such meaningful and important work.

Where does Billy Joel come in? Back at that camp at Transy, some of the down time was spent in the lobby of the dorm. Someone, maybe Mark, regularly brought a radio or a boombox there and would have it tuned to WLAP-FM. “The Longest Time” had been a recent hit, and I was well aware of its high school reunion-themed video.  One time in the lobby it came on, and I went into strut mode, snapping my fingers and making some lame attempt at crooning along with Billy.  Becky was amused and told me so. It may have become a bit of a joke for the remainder of the camp.

So, happy birthday, Becky! I treasure our friendship. Hope your day is fab!

American Top 40 PastBlast Redux, 3/18/78: Andrew Gold, “Thank You for Being a Friend”

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.

In some ways it’s a little difficult to believe “Thank You for Being a Friend” reached only #25 (it’s on its way up, at #34 in this countdown).  It was certainly hard to avoid hearing starting in Fall 85, when (a different version) was used as the theme for the TV series The Golden Girls.  Long-time AT40 listeners also know that for many years it was the most played/requested Long Distance Dedication.  I’m a sucker for sentiments like those expressed here; the line that tends to get me most is, “Have no fear, even though it’s hard to hear, I will stand real close and say…”

Andrew Gold got his first break singing backup for Linda Ronstadt, after she started working with Peter Asher in the mid-70s.  Later on he released a few solo disks but had Casey play only two of his songs (while I really liked the top 10 hit “Lonely Boy” back in 77, I now find its storyline of angst brought on by the birth of a younger sibling, well, let’s call it immature).  In the 80s he formed the duo Wax with Graham Gouldman of 10cc.  They had a few hits in the UK but only reached #41 with one song on this side of the Atlantic.  He died in 2011, age 59, of a heart attack.

4/22/78 and 5/9/81 Charts

One of the highlights of track season during my high school years was the Bellevue Invitational, an all-day affair, with qualifying on Saturday afternoon and the finals at night. Bellevue is a small town on the Ohio River; I think their high school was somewhat bigger than W-V, but it was still pretty small. Their effervescent coach, Pep Stidham, ran a great meet. 78 was the first one I attended. As an eighth-grader, it’s no surprise that I didn’t qualify (I’m not even sure I ran in anything that year), but I imagine Amy did. Regardless, I remember walking around that night with transistor radio to my ear, straining to listen to AT40 on WLAP-AM. I’m wanting to believe that this was the show I was tuning in: my brain says I heard the Kiss, Tavares, Styx, and ELO songs that night, so it was either this or the week previous (my money’s on this one, though).

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The song at the top of this Harris Top 50 wound up being the longest-running #1 in its 2.75 year history. This is the first of seven consecutive weeks the Climax Blues Band held the top spot. REO had #2 for the first three weeks, and Franke and the Knockouts were runner-up the last four. “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” is the only former #1 listed; “Rapture” had stalled out at #2. “Bette Davis Eyes” did claim the top for one week after “I Love You” abdicated.  “Hold on Loosely” peaked at #3. “Ain’t Even Done with the Night” is pretty much the only Mellencamp song I think I actively liked prior to Scarecrow.

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My predictions on the chart below for the following week’s top 10 were pretty good; I nailed eight of them. The only misses were #1 and #5. I had no clue that “Bette Davis Eyes” was going to be such a ginormous hit.

The following week began a period with a number of long-running #1 songs. Over the next 68 countdowns, 54 of them had one of seven songs appearing at the top: “Bette Davis Eyes” (9), “Endless Love” (9), “Physical” (10), “Centerfold” (6), “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” (7), “Ebony and Ivory” (7), and “Eye of the Tiger” (6). The remaining 14 weeks were split among seven others.

I lasted one more week writing out all the songs in the Stars on 45 track.

 

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/9/81: .38 Special, “Hold on Loosely”

Very early on Saturday, April 4, 1981, I boarded a school bus with a number of my fellow W-V students to head off to Harrison County HS for our regional Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) competition. I’d been tapped to take a shot at the Business Math exam. I was barely awake as we started out that rainy morning; my junior prom had been the evening before (this being the early 80s, I’d rented a powder blue tux, a picture of which may or may not appear here someday), and my date and I had joined a bunch of my friends for a late movie at the now-razed Showcase Cinemas in Erlanger. (For the curious, the movie was Hardly Working, an attempted comeback by Jerry Lewis. It was the day of its US release. You’d have thought–it’s Jerry Lewis, it has to be funny, right?–but you’d be mistaken.)

To be eligible to participate in an FBLA event, one had to be enrolled in a business-related course. The half-year personal typing class I was taking that spring qualified me (honestly, it was one of the most useful HS classes I had). I don’t recall now how it was that I came to be asked to participate, but it’s quite possible that Ms. Wilson (now Ms. Shupe), a new teacher and one of our school’s chapter advisors, had visited my typing class to talk it up.

I was used to finishing math tests pretty quickly, so I was fairly discouraged that I came nowhere close to answering all the questions that morning. The top three places qualified for the state conference, so I figured there was no way I’d made it. It was a pleasant surprise when I was awarded second; my guess is they purposely made the test too long as a way of preventing ties. I was State-bound, along with the six or so others from my school who had qualified in other events.

Three Sundays later, we met up with our counterparts from Boone County HS to ride together down to a Holiday Inn on the southern edge of Louisville. I roomed with Roger, a junior who was competing in Extemporaneous Speaking, and two fellows from Boone Co. (one of them, Lance, later transferred to W-V). It was a fun, fun three days, full of campaigns for state office, a convocation with a motivational speaker who was very good at his job, and a dance on the second evening. I copped fourth place in my event (despite leaving many answers blank again) and returned home committed to greater involvement in FBLA my senior year. Before school let out at the end of May, new officers were elected: I was to be V-P, with Roger the President. An eventful year lay ahead; likely there’ll be more about it at some future date!

If I’d taken the time to think things through, I would have realized I wasn’t fully committed to all the tenets of free enterprise. But participation in FBLA was one of the real highlights of my last year-plus in high school; the students in it were cool, and I wound up making a few friends from around the state, too. I’m quite grateful to Ms. Shupe and Ms. Duvall for the opportunity, as well as their help and encouragement.

The song I most associate with that trip to the 81 state conference is “Hold on Loosely,” the #28 song on this countdown (one position short of its peak). I see myself strolling down hallways, moving between sessions, with it playing in my head. I’d been a fan of  “Rockin’ into the Night” the year before, but I liked this one even more. .38 Special’s biggest hits were still ahead of them, but it sure seems like they got more slick and sellout-ish as time passed.

Even though it’s not the literal meaning of the song’s title, I’ve long thought that just maybe it should be taken as a note to self not to get too wrapped up in the past. I don’t know how well I’m succeeding…

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/8/71: Ocean, “Put Your Hand in the Hand”

The early 70s were prime time for what I (and perhaps many others) call “God Rock.” In 70 there’s “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum (a long-time favorite) and “Are You Ready?” by Pacific Gas & Electric. In this show, there are two tunes from Jesus Christ Superstar debuting: “Superstar” by Murray Head and the Trinidad Singers, and Helen Reddy’s version of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” (Yvonne Elliman’s take from the official soundtrack would enter the countdown two weeks after this). A year later, “Day By Day” from Godspell would be a fairly big hit. I’m pretty sure we saw live productions of both JCS and Godspell in Cincinnati around 72 or 73 (I imagine I enjoyed them both, but there are just some things you do when you’re a PK). Another big one, in spring of 74, was “The Lord’s Prayer,” by Sister Janet Mead. I was too young then to intuit what it was about that period (and pretty much only that period) that made it conducive for overtly Christian music to reach the pop charts.

Finally, there’s this week’s #3 song, down from its #2 peak. I’ve always liked it; as a 7-year old, it was certainly easy to sing along with its chorus. A couple of guys at our church have performed a nice arrangement occasionally in recent years, albeit with somewhat different lyrics in the second verse from what Ocean did.

Let’s go with a live performance, as opposed to a studio version, this time.

When Tomorrow Comes

Sometime in the middle of last week Martha let me know via text that she wanted to spend a portion of our weekend going to see our high school’s annual musical production. This year, their choice of show was Les Misérables. Ben opted not to go, saying it’d be “weird” to see friends and classmates on stage (his D&D group was also wrapping up a fierce campaign on Sunday afternoon, when we went). He missed a whale of a show.

I’d seen Les Miz one other time, when I was in grad school—a touring company had come to Champaign to play at the Assembly Hall. Sometime soon after I picked up the soundtrack, but it’s been years since I’d listened to it.

Contra Ben’s opinion, what made this special was seeing “kids” we knew. Éponine was the older sister of a boy who takes lessons from the piano teacher that Ben had. We’ve known Cosette since pre-school. The Bishop and Thérnadier are in the band with Ben. And Jean Valjean was, well, he was someone I remember well from ten years ago.

I did a little volunteering when Ben started his elementary years, going in one Friday a month to read to his class. It was a combined first- and second-grade primary; “Jean” was a year ahead of Ben, but the two of them got along very well. They’re in my mind’s eye right now, sitting together, looking up at me as I plow through McBroom and the Big Wind, by Sid Fleischman, a Weekly Reader book I’ve had since I was 9 or so (I didn’t remember the story when I cracked it open again in 2007, but the names of McBroom’s 11 children came rushing back immediately when the title character called out to them to seek shelter from the storm: “Willjillhesterchesterpeterpollytimtommarylarryandlittleclarinda!”). Those Friday mornings were so very fun.

Jean killed it on Sunday.  So did Éponine, Fantine, Cosette, Marius, Javert, the Thérnadiers, and so many others.

Before the show began, Ms. Marshall, the director, came to the stage to tell a little of how she came to choose such an ambitious production; it boiled down to believing the students she’d have on hand were up to it. But in the course of her remarks, one thing she said stood out: “I had to teach these students how to feel things they’ve never experienced.” Did she ever succeed—afterward I was emotionally drained, and remained so well into Monday. (Some of the same feelings are returning as I’ve been writing this.) There were plenty of points in the show where I was fighting back tears. “On My Own” was certainly one of them, but Fantine’s “I Dreamed a Dream” and her subsequent death scene with Valjean were probably the most affecting moments for me. Fantine’s despair and resignation, Jean’s tender care and resolve at her death bed—heavy stuff for 17- and 18-year olds, but they made me feel it all. I wonder if it being the final performance made it more emotional for the performers.

While the weight of the story hung over me for hours afterward, there was something else at least equally as important. At the end of the day, I was indeed another day older, but I was also inspired. Inspired by the dedication of everyone—director, actors, parents, teachers—to the success of the production. This was no doomed cause; Ms. Marshall had a vision, got the buy-in, and gave those students a fabulous learning experience as well as a treasure chest of memories.

I have heard the people sing, and it was magnificent. Those tomorrows keep on coming, and with them opportunities for making a difference in my students’ lives. Even though the school year is ending—finals start, as it turns out, tomorrow—I plan to be on the lookout.