American Top 40 PastBlast, 9/28/85: Bruce Springsteen, “I’m Goin’ Down”

September and October 85 were the opening months of my last year at Transy. I’d spent a big chunk of the summer doing what you might call a paid internship at IBM; after it ended, I went to Boston for a week in August in Boston to visit my cousins. By Labor Day, it was time to get back to business, though. As per usual, I was taking most of my classes in Brown Science Center. The two most frequent offerings (at least by me) on the turntable in 402 Clay Hall would have been Little Creatures and Songs from the Big Chair (I’m listening to them again as I write this).  By somewhere around the end of September I would be spending a few weeks trying to figure out how I felt about a certain first-year student.

When I look back on that two-month period, many of my memories center around things that happened on the weekends. None of them are momentous, but having and being with wonderful friends was plenty good enough. Here’s a list of some moments I have in my head from then:

MTV Music Awards. For whatever reason, this was a big deal to me and others in my crowd. That year they were broadcast on Friday, Sept 13. Several of us drove up to my parents’ house in Florence to sprawl in the den and watch. I tried to think back to what won Video of the Year but gave up too quickly and looked it up. I’ll let you mull it over and give the answer at the bottom.  Two other notes, though: 1) I’m psyched to re-discover that ‘til Tuesday won Best New Artist in a Video for “Voices Carry;” 2) I love, love, love all the nominees in the Best Experimental Video category (Art of Noise’s “Close (to the Edit)” was the winner, but there were also  Lindsey Buckingham’s “Go Insane” and “Slow Dancing,” Chris Isaak’s “Dancin’,” and Lone Justice’s “Ways to Be Wicked” up for the award).

Hiking trip to Berea.  While I was in high school, my church youth group had gone a few times on fall Sunday afternoons to Berea, a small town in the Appalachian foothills about 35 miles south of Lexington. We’d go hiking on a trail called the Pinnacles. I continued going there while at Transy, taking college friends with me at least a couple of times prior to 85.  I spent the weekend of September 20-22 of 85 back there for a sort of “youth group reunion.” Several of the old gang and one of the leaders spent two nights at the Boone Tavern Inn (despite the name, Berea was a dry town then).  We spent the weekend reliving the glory days of 78-82, with the big hike on Saturday. The weather was cool, clear, and absolutely gorgeous. I had a marvelous time being with folks I hadn’t seen much over the previous three years. Even if I hadn’t been especially close with any of them, I was at ease with these longtime friends and must have been wittier than normal, as I remember people laughing at my jokes pretty much the whole weekend. It was a magnificent final hurrah for that chapter of my life.

(That may not have been my only trip to the Pinnacles that semester—I have photographic evidence of a group of Transy friends being in the parking lot near the trailhead. That particular set of people being together makes most sense in fall 85.)

GRE Exams.  But it was already time to be looking to the future, too. By this time, I’d decided to pursue graduate studies in math instead of computer science. One Saturday in October (likely the 12th or 19th), I drove over to UK to sit for the general test in the morning and the math subject test in the afternoon.

Marshall Crenshaw/Howard Jones concert.  I wrote about this show last year. A little online sleuthing tells me this took place on October 18.

High school football with James. Walton-Verona was too small to field a team back then, so I saw very little high school football growing up. James had been the videographer for his school’s team; I believe he continued in that role his first year or two of college.  I don’t remember if he’d been called in for emergency camera duty that night, but a number of us trundled down to Danville one crisp Friday evening in October to watch Boyle County do battle. My main recollection from that trip is riding down two-lane highways in James’s land yacht, singing along with whatever came on the radio.

One of which was this week’s #20 song. “I’m Goin’ Down” is one of my two or three favorites off of Born in the U.S.A. I won’t disagree with Len O’Kelly’s take from last week that it “sound(s) like it was written in ten minutes,” but I think it’s a completely fun romp, perfect for windows-down, crank-up-the-radio driving (to be fair, I may have been the only one in the car to have felt that way that night). It was the sixth of seven Top 10 hits from Springsteen’s mega-album, reaching #9.

Yes, there was homework to do and tests to take during the opening months of that school year, but obviously that’s not going to be what stands out thirty-plus years later.

Oh, and I really should have sussed out that “The Boys of Summer” had won Best Video. My MTV-watching buddies thought it was WAY too pretentious. Yes, Henley and the director were probably trying too hard, but I can see the merit of the selection.


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