American Top 40 PastBlast, 9/17/77: Meco, “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band”

September means fall festival season has come to many of the small towns and cities in Kentucky. The Lexington Herald-Leader carried an article recently about the various options folks within a couple hours’ drive have over the next couple of months.  For instance, you could visit the Kentucky Bourbon Festival (Bardstown) or Cow Days (Greensburg) this weekend; later in the month come the Spoonbread Festival (Berea), Hatfield-McCoy Heritage Days (Pikeville), and the World Chicken Festival (London). The one here in Georgetown is called the Festival of the Horse—it happened last weekend, and it endured its usual crummy weather. My first experience with this sort of event came back in my pre-teen years, in Walton: Old Fashion Day.

The inaugural Old Fashion Day, according to Walton’s Wikipedia page, was held in 73, just a year-plus after my family moved there. It’s a one-day affair, always held the Saturday after Labor Day. There’s a morning parade (the W-V band marches) and afterward, Main Street is shut down for vendors and general hobnobbing. I haven’t been in well over 30 years, but I figure that one of these days before long I’ll go back—I get the sense that I’d still run into a decent number of friends and acquaintances from high school.

It was less than a mile from our house to the heart of downtown, and as I got to be a teenager, I’d walk down there by myself and spend a huge chunk of my day at Old Fashion Day. In those early years it was liberating to be able to stroll down the middle of the street, up and back, back and up. I suspect that got to be less of a big deal after I had my license and was moving closer to graduation.

But moments from Old Fashion Day in 77 still flicker in my memory. It was a clear, beautiful day; the upper atmosphere must have been very still, because I noticed over and again how well the jet contrails held together, often long enough to stretch across the entire sky. There I am, bounding out the kitchen door, ready to head down Bedinger Avenue toward the festivities, songs of the day in my head. This also has a very decent chance of being the year I surprised Mom by bringing a goldfish home in a bag in the early part of the afternoon. I named him (fifty-fifty chance, right?) Sparky. We dug around for a glass bowl as a temporary home. Of course, I had no long-term plan and knew zero about caring for such a creature, but surely changing his water couldn’t be a bad thing, no? Yes—I didn’t think about temperature and must have made things a bit too chilly for old Spark. By the end of the day, I was burying him in the back yard.

And as for the music? Two songs immediately stand out from that day (which would have been a week prior to this countdown). One is “Cold as Ice,” but going with Meco instead allows me to segue into discussing Star Wars just a little. It took quite a while to get around to seeing A New Hope, maybe even into early 78. Afterward, though, I had the fever enough to see Episodes V and VI pretty soon after their opening dates. Maybe five years ago, I re-watched them with Ben. My takes now probably don’t differ all that much from the consensus. A New Hope: somewhat surprising in retrospect it was such an enormous hit. Mark Hamill—what a whiner! Harrison Ford—very easy to see how he became the star he did.  The Empire Strikes Back: By far the best movie of the three, even if I do like A New Hope almost as much. Very tight thematically.  Return of the Jedi: You really want me to believe the Ewoks could take out Stormtroopers like they did? Far too silly in spots.

I couldn’t know what was coming for that mega-franchise when I was 13, however. I was just hanging with friends on a carefree Saturday, thinking about a quirky instrumental that would soon be #1 for two weeks (it was lucky #13 on this show). “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” snuck in at the top amongst probably the three biggest pop hits of the calendar year: right after the nine weeks that “I Just Want to Be Your Everything” and “Best of My Love” traded blows, and immediately before the ten-week run of “You Light Up My Life” (which happens to debut on this show).

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