American Top 40 PastBlast Redux, 2/19/77: Jackson Browne, “Here Come Those Tears Again”

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.

Tough to pick one song out from this excellent countdown! Debuting at #38 is Jackson Browne’s second AT40 hit.  It comes from his LP The Pretender, and it’s probably less well known now than the title track, which got to #58 later in the year.  Tragedy struck while JB was recording the album: his wife, Phyllis Major, committed suicide.  Unrelated but at least a little interesting is the fact that Ms. Major’s mother shares writing credit on this tune.  It peaked at #23.

5/26/79 and 6/14/80 Charts

Here’s what I wrote up in late May of 79. I suppose the most notable thing is my hangup about writing out the word “Bitch” in the title of Rod Stewart’s hit (which lasted throughout its run). That’s just how I rolled back then.


Let’s see what I thought about the songs in mid-June of 80:

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Pretty pleased that Gary Numan reached the top; he’s in his second and final week there.  The only former #1 song comes from the Pretenders (four-week stay). The Clash would ascend for one week–they were already out of the real 40–and then “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” would be at the pinnacle for five weeks (I think I must have heard it too much along the way, as I don’t like it nearly so much anymore).  You can see that I had overlooked Boz at first. He’d been at #4 the previous week, and I couldn’t have him fall too far too fast!  I’m a little surprised that “Funky Town” got no higher than #9; Sir Paul got only to #6.

Finally, the real thing from 80. Since this was the departure date of our vacation, I’d gotten the chart information ahead of time; guess there was no time for prediction. The “picks” all came from #41 through #49. All hit, but only the Genesis tune got higher than #38. The #1 songs of the 70s recap wrapped up the following week. I suppose I wondered what would happen next–I was soon to find out it was the analogous thing for the 60s.

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American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/14/80: Spider, “New Romance (It’s a Mystery)”

1) When I was 16, our family took a two-week vacation to Hawaii. We went with a tour group of maybe around 30 people; Amy and I were the youngest by a fair margin. It was my first time on an airplane. On the way out, we had stops in Chicago and San Francisco, and the layover at the latter was long enough to take a quick bus tour of the city. On one of the legs—I can’t recall now if it was ORD -> SFO or SFO -> HNL—we got bumped up to first-class, still my only experience of that kind.

We visited Oahu, the Big Island, and Maui.  Some of the moments I can recall include visiting Pearl Harbor, going out on a boat for a few hours’ cruise off the Kona coast (I spent much of it listening to the 6/21/80 AT40 on the radio I’d thought to bring with me, even as Amy and I jumped into the ocean to swim next to the boat for a while), seeing Jim Nabors in concert, and valiantly attempting—but overall failing—to converse en español con una niña about my age I had met on Ka’anapali Beach (I had recently finished my second year of studying Spanish).

2) This show, if you add enough qualifiers, is notable in some sense. It’s the final Casey-hosted, non-special, non-year-end 80s show to be rebroadcast on terrestrial radio as a part of the Premiere Networks series (which started in April 2007). According to this site, there were 51 times during the 80s when a guest host filled in for CK; to date only one of those shows, that hosted by the late Gary Owens in September 81, has been offered up to stations. The 7/5/80 special (AT40 Book of Records) hasn’t seen the light of day yet, nor has the first half (#100-#51) of the 86 year-end countdown; I’d bet on the latter to crop up in December.

For the record, I count 26 regular Casey-hosted shows yet to be aired in the 70s series, plus all of the 72 and part of the 78 year-enders. They could work it out so that all were rebroadcast by the end of 2019, but I kinda expect it will bleed into 2020.

3) The penultimate show to appear for the first time was 5/16/87, which I noted last month wasn’t so much my cup of tea. The chart for 6/14/80 (the day my family departed for the 50th state) is in some ways the opposite; it’s much harder to narrow it down to a single song to feature. I’m sorely tempted to go with that clever ode to technology, “Answering Machine,” by Rupert Holmes, which debuts at #35. Instead, I chose one that unjustly peaked at only #39, here in its second and final week on the countdown.

Spider, a South African/American band with Amanda Blue on vocals, hung around for two albums but had only this one foray onto the Top 40. They had two members with notable post-Spider careers: drummer Anton Fig later joined the World’s Most Dangerous Band, and on keyboards there was Hall of Fame Songwriter Holly Knight. While there are a few crimes against humanity in and amongst her oeuvre, several of her tunes (some which she only co-wrote) land on my guilty-pleasure-to-very-very-good spectrum, including “Never,” “The Warrior,” “Love Is a Battlefield,” “Change,” and “Better Be Good to Me.” The latter two appear on Spider’s second LP.  John Waite made some changes (pun intended, I guess?) for the better IMO when he covered “Change.” I love Tina’s version of “BBGtM,” but it’s striking how very similar her arrangement is to the original.

“New Romance (It’s a Mystery)” sounds so good that it’s a mystery to me why it didn’t break out more. Maybe about a year later, I called in to a fairly new Top 40 station in Cincinnati (anyone remember WYYS—Yes 95?) to request it. The DJ expressed sympathy for my plea—she said she’d played it at her previous job in Atlanta during its run—but told me there wasn’t anything she could do to put it on the air in that spring of 81. Sigh; while I’d like to think not responding to requests is what led to a switch in formats to soft rock just a few months later, I know in reality they were simply getting eaten alive in the ratings by WKRQ.

Golfing With Dad

This post originally appeared on Facebook on Father’s Day 2017. I’ve modified it just a bit. Yes, thematically it’s at least a little similar to yesterday’s post.

My father loved to play golf.  In his 20s and 30s he got out on the links as often as he could–he frequently reminded me about the time he played 54 holes in one day at Devou Park!  Dad very much wanted to share his passion with me; I remember getting a small set of clubs when I was six or seven, and being taken out occasionally to play holes #1, 2, and 9 at Dix River Country Club just outside of Stanford.  My game slowly advanced as I grew, and while I never got quite as good as Dad was in his prime, I’ve long enjoyed it.  It’s something I’ve shared with Ben, though not nearly as often.

One of my favorite memories of golfing with Dad came in late June 90.  He’d had a mild heart attack about fourteen months earlier and was still taking it a bit easy.  I made a quick home-and-back-in-one-day trip from Illinois for his birthday.  We had lunch on the ­Mike Fink, a riverboat restaurant on the Ohio. Later, he, Amy, and I got nine holes in at World of Golf in Florence.  It was a gorgeous, rare, cool and low-humidity day for that time of year; it was simply so good to be out there with him.

A couple of years later I moved back to Kentucky.  Dad more or less regained his previous strength and resumed somewhat regular play; the two of us got out two or three times a year.  I now usually nipped him by a few strokes. As the years passed by, I have to confess that I would sometimes wonder while we were on the course if that would be the last round we shared.  I actually don’t recall anything about whenever that final game together was. Eventually his shoulder just hurt too much to play anymore.

Somewhat toward the end of his playing days Dad did manage to have a hole-in-one.  He was out by himself at World of Golf.  Hole #6 isn’t very long, a little less than 100 yards.  The green is slightly elevated from the tee box and when the pin is on the left side you can’t see the hole.  There’s a sloped bank to the left of the green–if you pull your first shot into it, there’s a decent chance the ball will carom onto the putting surface.  Well, Dad’s drive did go left, and because of the pin placement he couldn’t see what happened next.  But when he walked up to find out, sure enough he found the ball in the cup.  You can tell, no doubt, that he made sure to share all the details with me!

While cleaning out my parents’ townhouse after they both passed away, I found a golf ball with a receipt wrapped around it in a drawer of his dresser.   It didn’t take much brainwork to figure out what it was.  I keep it on top of my dresser now.

Love you always, Dad.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/21/75: Mike Post, “The Rockford Files”

Dad watched a lot of television in his later years. Much of it was sports, especially University of Kentucky men’s basketball and the Cincinnati Reds. But he also loved crime dramas, and reruns of shows spanning the decades from Perry Mason to Law and Order filled his hours on many days. One from between those temporal extremes, The Rockford Files, was among his very favorites.

Somewhere toward the end of my high school years I stopped paying too much attention to network television, but I believe I spent a decent number of Friday evenings in the mid-to-late 70s tuned into NBC alongside my father to watch Jim, Rocky, Angel, Sgt. Becker, and Beth Davenport do their thing. It’s probably one show I wouldn’t mind binge-watching at some point.

In the 90s and 00s Dad videotaped lots of movies and TV shows, so that he could run his own personal on-demand service. There were several boxes of such tapes to go through after he and Mom were gone. I kept a very few as mementos, including one with a couple of old westerns (he also enjoyed those immensely), and another with Perry Mason episodes. I may well have run across some with Rockford shows on them—I don’t recall now. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

Mike Post, that master of the TV theme tune, is debuting this week at #39 with “The Rockford Files.” It would reach #10.

 

Oh, and just for kicks, here’s a collection of the answering machine messages that played during the intros of the show’s second season.

SotD: Y Kant Tori Read, “The Big Picture”

I think I was home on spring break in 92 when I bought a promotional copy of Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos. I assume I didn’t pick it out quite at random, that I must have caught at least a little buzz, but mid-March wasn’t long after its late February release date, either. I was blown away; if I ever do one of those ten influential albums things on Facebook, it would almost certainly make the cut. I won’t be doing it justice in this post, but it occurs to me that it’d be a good disk for which to rank its songs. Maybe that’ll happen here in the coming weeks.

When I got back to Illinois at the end of the break to tell Greg about my incredible find, he went over to his wall of CDs, pulled out something and tossed it my way. “I think that’s Tori Amos on the cover.” I looked back and forth between Little Earthquakes and Y Kant Tori Read.  I wasn’t so sure. Greg played the first song on his disc for me; I thought there was no way. I took out the booklets for closer study. It was only when I saw that both albums’ songs were attributed to Sword and Stone Publishing that I gave in.

This came to mind as I was browsing through the 6/11/88 copy of Billboard magazine online yesterday and stumbled across their take on Amos’s first effort on page 80. It’s now thirty years since this blurb appeared among their album reviews:

“Classically trained pianist pounds the ivories on
her pop-rock debut, belting out self-written material
with a forceful, appealing voice. Unfortunately,
provocative packaging sends the (inaccurate) message
that this is just so much more bimbo music.”

That’s mighty prescient!

Y Kant Tori Read became one of the hottest bootleg items around in the years after Amos found her voice and her audience. Greg could have gotten hundreds of dollars for his copy had he wanted. Last year, the powers that be finally re-issued it. I took a listen yesterday; some of it is definitely late-80s hyper-synthed schlock, but there are strong signs of her talent and promise throughout, particularly “Fayth” and “Etienne.” However, it’s “The Big Picture,” the song Greg played for me that night, the single that bombed, on offer here today. It’s not all that great, I know, but I think it offers a little insight into pre-stardom Tori.

I also solved something of a mystery. Over the last few months I’ve written about two songs on which Amos sang backup: Al Stewart’s “Red Toupee” and Stan Ridgway’s “The Last Honest Man.” I’ve been wondering how she came to appear on these somewhat disparate pieces. It hadn’t occurred to me that Last Days of the Century, Mosquitos, and Y Kant Tori Read were all recorded around the same time; some quick research uncovered that Joe Chiccarelli was the producer for all three (co-producer in Ridgway’s case). I assume he was impressed with her voice enough to suggest her to Stewart and Ridgway.

Through the 90s and early 00s I purchased several of Tori’s other releases. There are a number of very good songs, but nothing came close to matching Little Earthquakes. That’s okay, since she’s not in business to cater to my tastes. I sure am grateful for that one magical album, though (Billboard took notice, too–check out page 50 of the 2/29/92 issue).

Happy Birthday, Martha and Ruth!

Best birthday wishes to my wife and sister-in-law! They get to celebrate a good chunk of their day together this year; at the time of posting, Martha is en route to Black Mountain, NC, where she and Ruth will spend the next few days at a choral workshop.

The above pictures were taken at sixteen months; for those of you who know them, can you tell which is which? Over the last couple of decades, I’ve gotten the chance to play that game on a few dozen photos from their pre-school years–not bragging, but I believe I get it right over 90% of the time (yes, there’s usually a tell). Occasionally I get the question if I have trouble with identifying them now.

Here’s another one, taken at Christmastime 40+ years later. This time, I’ll clue you in: Martha’s on the left, with Ruth on the right.

M&RDec2008

Hope you both have a wonderful day!