SotD: Shriekback, “Nemesis”

This one seems suitable enough for Halloween.

I first learned of the British band Shriekback when I saw their 88 release Go Bang! at Record Service in Champaign. Doubt I heard anything from it at the time (it does contain a remake of “Get Down Tonight,” for the interested), but the album’s cover was one to catch the eye in the store.

“Nemesis” is the song I really know from them; it comes from their 85 release Oil and Gold. I heard it multiple times in the early 90s on WOXY on trips back and forth between Urbana and home.  They get big bonus points for using the word “parthenogenesis” more or less appropriately in a dance tune, but give some of them back for the silly, low-tech masks and such in the vid.

Songs Casey Never Played, 10/27/79

I really enjoyed this past weekend’s 79 show–there were so many songs among the first two dozen played I still absolutely love. When I took a look at the rest of the 10/27/79 Hot 100, though, I noted several gems that didn’t quite gain enough momentum to make AT40.  Why don’t we take a look at six of them?

#80: Neil Young and Crazy Horse, “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)”

Not to be confused with “My My, Hey Hey (Into the Blue),” which I seem to hear much more on the radio these days. Casey didn’t play Young again after “Old Man” hit in the late spring of 72. This is in the middle of a five-week run on the charts and would climb just one position higher.


#62: Cars, “It’s All I Can Do”

One of three, count ’em, three songs by the Cars to stall out at #41–there’s just no justice sometimes. All are great (the others are “Good Times Roll” and “Since You’re Gone”), but this one is the best of them. Earlier this year, jb went back and ranked the tracks on Candy-O.  “It’s All I Can Do” came in at #2, which is where I’d put it, too (I’m definitely on board with his top 3).


#60: Steve Dahl, “Do You Think I’m Disco”

Okay, this is not a gem; in fact, I’d never heard it until I started researching this post. I know about Dahl and some of his antics from my grad school roommate John, who grew up listening to Steve and Garry on WLUP in Chicago. Dahl gained broad notoriety when he organized Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Field in July 79. I’m assuming that exposure led to “Do You Think I’m Disco” hitting the national charts for seven weeks in the fall. I’m already on the record that the song being lampooned is a guilty pleasure of mine, but I confess that I’m finding this parody pretty funny.  It no doubt helps that I’m pretty much the right age to appreciate it fully. It had peaked at #58 the previous week.

Oh, and is it just me, or did Dahl nail Valspeak three years ahead of its time?


#56: Records, “Starry Eyes”

Power pop classic from Britain. Greg turned me on to this one when we roomed together my last year at Illinois. I missed out on so much great stuff coming out of the UK back then; I guess/hope I’ve caught up a little bit.  “Starry Eyes” is at its peak position.

I learned through the comments in this video that John Wicks, the leader/singer of the Records, died at age 65 earlier this month.


#54: Sports, “Who Listens to the Radio”

Another amazing power pop tune, this time from Australia. More than a little Elvis Costello and Van Morrison influence going on here. This video takes film from a pretty cool demo version of “Who Listens to the Radio” (found here) and lays the final studio take over the visuals. It reached #45; if only it’d gotten five slots higher, just for one week…


#46: Who, “5:15”

Quadrophenia was originally released in 73, but a film of the same name, based on Townshend’s work, came out in 79, leading to a renewed interest in the album. “5:15” would also get to #45. It’s one of many classic tracks on the double LP; I’d probably pick “Love, Reign O’er Me” as my favorite.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/27/80: Al Stewart, “Midnight Rocks”

My son’s high school changed this year from offering seven class periods to six. This caused him a little consternation, as suddenly he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to take all the classes he wanted, AP Chemistry in particular, but it all worked out in the end (they also run an optional “early morning” time block before 1sthour, and that’s where the chemistry course landed).

His experience has been a rather different scene from the early 80s, at least compared to what Walton-Verona had on offer. They had six periods, full stop, and since it was a really small school (55 or so in my graduating class), options weren’t all that numerous, either.  Five of the classes I took my junior year (80-81) were almost automatically determined for me: English, Algebra II, American History, Chemistry, and Band. (Digression: my English class was actually somewhat non-standard and fun, two one-semester offerings for that juniors and seniors could take. The first half was Advanced English, where we did a ton of writing—I didn’t mind that at all. The second half was Early English Literature, which was also really fun. One of the most useless things that I still carry around with me is the ability to recite the first eighteen lines of the Prologue to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, in Middle English.) It wasn’t obvious what to do at first for the sixth class, but I landed on another set of one-semester classes that were much more disparate.

Even though I’d had my driver’s license for four months by the time school started, I took Driver’s Education in the fall of 80. Several of my good friends were in there, too—I suppose our insurance bills got reduced for taking it? Mr. Tillery mostly taught PE/Health; he’d been my basketball coach and Health teacher in 7thgrade. It was pretty much what you’d expect: film watching, test taking, and practical experience. There was a big expanse of asphalt just down the hill from the high school, literally called the “driving range,” where we practiced parallel parking and instilling various safety habits. (The driving range was also where we held our track practices, since we had no football team and hence no field with a track encircling it. Today, it’s a parking lot for busses.) We also hit the road a time or two, in groups of three with Mr. Tillery—I guess those left behind got a study hall.  I can’t say that taking the class changed my life, but it could have made some people I knew a little saner behind the wheel, a big contribution to the common good.

My spring course was something they’d never offered before: a half-year class in Personal Typing, taught, as it happened, by Mrs. Tillery. I hadn’t any place in my schedule for their regular full-year typing offerings, since I planned to load up on math and science electives. But as a complement to the driver’s ed?  Perfect.  It took me several weeks for my brain and muscles to sync up on where to move my fingers to construct words I wanted to create, but I am SO glad I was trained to do it.  For the next year or so after I first learned my way around the keyboard, I’d often have the experience of thinking about a word and then creating a mental image of typing it out (sometimes my hands would play along). I’m hardly speedy, and I still make mistakes all the time, but honestly it’s one of the most valuable things I took with me from high school—I sure use it all the time (it definitely made it much easier to gen up 800-plus words this morning). I’d totally lucked out on the timing, too—Personal Typing turned out to be a one-time offering at W-V.  There was one other benefit; it counted as the business class I needed to participate in FBLA competitions that spring, which sent my last year of high school in an unexpected direction.

Thinking about that Driver’s Education class always puts me in the mind of the music of October 80. I was initially inclined to go with “Drivin’ My Life Away” as the featured track today, for perhaps obvious reasons, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to pick the song whose title shares a word with yesterday’s feature (and whose artist has the same last name). Contra what I said about Stevie, I confess to being an Al Stewart fan boy back then, beginning with “Year of the Cat;” the album of the same name was one of my first LP purchases. When “Midnight Rocks” debuted at #31 about a month prior to this show, I figured Al had a third top 10 song on his hands. I was disappointed when it stalled out at #24, its position here. Nonetheless, it was big with me, hitting the summit of the Harris Top 50 for a couple of weeks in November.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/27/79: John Stewart, “Midnight Wind”

Those almost three years between Rumours and Tusk comprised a marvelous period where members of Fleetwood Mac would pop up on other people’s records. I can quickly think of four top 10 songs from late 77 to mid 79 where some subset of Christine, Lindsay, and Stevie appeared: “Sentimental Lady,” “Magnet and Steel,” “Whenever I Call You ‘Friend’,” and “Gold.” I like all of these (I wrote about one of them just two weeks ago), and I imagine that the outside help had something to do with it.

My favorite song of this tiny sub-genre, though, has to be the second single from John Stewart’s Bombs Away Dream Babies, which is at its peak of #28 on this show. I learned from Casey about Stewart’s notable place in the music scene: being part of the second wave of success for the Kingston Trio, writing “Daydream Believer.” One time when my pals and I were rummaging through WTLX’s album closet in the fall of 83, I came across Dream Babies Go Hollywood, the follow-up to his hit record. Perhaps chagrined at not finding the LP with the hit singles (the stash we inherited contained precious few albums you’d call essential for the operation of a radio station–I fear it’d been raided by past generations of jocks or their friends), I regret to say I never gave it a spin.

Back at the beginning of September I wrote about how often it’s nighttime when I think back to the fall of 79. “Midnight Wind” is so much a part of that sense. It evokes the dark thoroughly, from the title, to Stewart’s beckoning lyrics and distant vocals, winding on through to Buckingham’s searing guitar work at the end. But it’s Nicks that ends up stealing the show, wailing like a ghost for Miranda to join the party. It sounds like an offer impossible to refuse, even if one is likely to regret the consequences. I just want to crank this one, put it on repeat, and let it roll.

I didn’t think of myself as a Stevie Nicks fan boy at all back in the day, but she’s received mention several times here at the old blog already. Upon reflection, I do dig a very high percentage of the stuff she wrote/sang between “Rhiannon” and “If Anyone Falls” (perhaps oddly, “Dreams” has never done all that much for me); maybe I’m just now connecting some dots that have always been there.

10/3/81 and 10/14/78 Charts

October has been chock full of shows for which I can supply charts; another one of these types of posts will appear soon.

This is a show I didn’t hear back in 81, as evidenced by the lack of LDDs (for the record, they were “Watching the Wheels” and “Just the Way You Are”) and 60s Archive songs (“Mrs. Robinson,” “This Guy’s in Love with You,” and “Grazing in the Grass”). This countdown did become one of my iPod playlists a decade ago, though. I wonder how long it took me to realize I’d reversed the Little River Band and Moody Blues songs when writing this up…

Speaking of those two acts:


People like to give 81’s music lots of grief these days, but that’s an awfully strong Top 10 in my book–the only one I’m cooler on now is the Chris Cross track.  This was the second and last week “The Voice” was at the top; “The Night Owls” was about to take over for five weeks. Foreigner and Benatar are the former #1s here, while Cross and Hall/Oates would eventually reach the summit. Note that BÖC is already at #10, despite being in its first week on AT40 (I wasn’t kidding back in August that it was on my radar–it debuted for me on 8/22). It’d reach #4 for 4 weeks. I clearly also kept the Tubes hanging around in my head much longer than the average bear.

The 78 show was the second four-hour countdown, so there was lots of padding with extras.


A big contrast between trying to be neat with the songs on the countdown and just cramming all in the extras in one row on the bottom! A few notes from listening eleven days ago:

–Interesting story that I’d long forgotten related to the Scaggs extra: RSO had approached Columbia about putting “Low Down” on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. They turned down the offer to put it on the one for…Looking for Mr. Goodbar.

–Funny tale about the recently deceased Keith Moon, suddenly remembering (while in Paris) a concert that night in London. He charters a 707 (!) for one passenger, only to realize upon his arrival that the show had been cancelled weeks earlier.

–For some reason I didn’t include the LDD from the second hour, which was “Knowing Me, Knowing You.” This was the very early days of Dedications, when the letters submitted often focused on lost chances/past loves. This was one of the former: a girl had moved away without forwarding information, leaving the Abba single behind for the boy as a reminder. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought it was a pretty sweet story.

–On the other hand, the fourth hour LDD was from a woman thinking of a former flame. She requested their song, “Afternoon Delight,” for the old times. Yikes–I didn’t need to know that. I must have not listened to the final hour, as I didn’t write the other extra (“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”) down, either.

–This was the last week that Aerosmith would be on a countdown until “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” showed up on 11/14/87.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/16/82: Rush, “New World Man”

I enjoy seeing rock shows, but I’d hardly call myself a frequent concert-goer. I kinda wonder if that might change a bit as I get older, especially after Martha and I become empty-nesters. I’m not particularly into the whole geezer band circuit (for instance, I have no interest in watching the husks of REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Journey, Styx, and the like perform), but I enjoyed Dylan immensely two years ago, and I’m looking forward to seeing McCartney next year.  I suspect there are a decent number of current performers that would be good to catch should they come to our area; guess we’ll see.

The acts I’ve seen more than once are pretty few and far between, and it feels a little incongruous with my overall musical tastes to say that the one I’ve seen most often is Rush. Make no mistake—I loved both “The Spirit of Radio” and “Tom Sawyer” back in high school, and I kept track of their radio hits throughout the 80s. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t rank them among my favorite bands of all time. So how did I come to see them four times?

10/21/84: Grace Under Pressure tour. According to (I’m linking to their lists for all four concerts), this is the final time Rush performed in Lexington (they had also been at Rupp Arena exactly two weeks after this weekend’s featured 82 show).  I went with Sarah, a first-year student at Transy I’d met through Wind Ensemble, and her high school boyfriend, who was at UK (Sarah is the friend I mentioned a few months ago who had a son on my 28th birthday). It’s one of the very few Sunday evening concerts I’ve attended. Yes, that show occurred 34 years ago today; it also happened to be the day my maternal grandmother turned 75.

3/29/86: Power Windows tour. This was in Cincinnati, at what’s now known as US Bank Arena—back then it was called Riverfront Coliseum.  I saw this one with Warren. Our families both lived in the area; it was easy for me to dart home for the show (it was on a Saturday). Like in Lexington, I wasn’t on the floor, but in the first level of seats left of the stage. Favorite memory is seeing Warren getting stoked when he recognized 2112 firing up at the beginning of the encore.

7/2/13: Clockwork Angels tour. Brennen, the boy who grew up next door, listened to a lot of classic rock in his teen years, and Rush is one of the bands he really liked. I’ve noted before that my son, who’s four years younger, looked up to Brennen, so it’s no surprise Ben adopted some of his musical tastes (though I’ll take a little credit on Rush—it could have started when I pointed out the “All the world’s a stage” inscription on a statue of Shakespeare we encountered near the Philadelphia Museum of Art on a vacation back in 2010). Brennen, then 16, saw that Geddy, Alex, and Neil were going to play an outdoor show in early July 2013 at Riverbend, just to the east of Cincy. Trevor, Brennen’s dad, and I went in on four lawn tickets. We decided to surprise Ben. When the day of the show arrived, fathers and sons loaded into my car. Obviously, Ben was curious about the destination—the big reveal came when I stuck a CD in the slot and “Subdivisions” started playing.

It was an excellent evening. I was somewhat surprised to enjoy Rush’s recent output as much as I did. I bought Ben a T-shirt, and the weather was awesome for being on the lawn. On the car ride home, I heard on the radio that, just down the river, Homer Bailey had pitched his second no-hitter for the Reds, this one against the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants.

6/8/15: R-40 tour. After the Riverbend show, Brennen kept on the lookout for news of Rush’s next time on the road. (In the meantime, Ben received the poster at the top of this post and a replica Hemispheres tour T-shirt as Christmas/birthday gifts from our neighbors.) The closest their 40th anniversary (and as it turns out, final) tour came was Nationwide Arena in Columbus. Now 18, Brennen initially made plans to drive up with Ben and a couple other friends and spend the night with a cousin who lived nearby. We were a little reluctant about that plan, so I had no problem jumping into the mix when one of the friends bailed. Eventually, it morphed into another father-and-son event. We had a fab dinner at a Buca di Beppo near the arena. Our seats were nice: in the back, just a few rows up from the floor. This time, they played songs from the entirety of their career, though in reverse chronological order— they ended with “Working Man.”  It was a long night (didn’t get back home until around 2am), but well worth it.  Seeing Rush twice with Ben will always be a treasured memory.

“New World Man” got played only at the two 80s concerts I saw. While it doesn’t quite rank up there for me with the best of Permanent Waves or Moving Pictures, or even “Subdivisions,” it’s probably around the bottom of my personal Rush top 10. It sure doesn’t seem like it should be their sole AT40 hit, though. It rocketed up to #21 in its fourth week on the show (it’s #27 on this countdown). There were a couple of weeks in early November 82 when I expected to see it pop up in the top 20 upon opening my Sunday Lexington paper; I was sorely disappointed.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/21/72: Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “From the Beginning”

My experience with Emerson, Lake & Palmer growing up was largely limited to “Lucky Man.” Well, let me put that another way—“Lucky Man” was the only one of their songs I heard that I knew as being by ELP. I suppose this is no particular surprise—certainly it’s the first/only song of theirs that would come to mind for many folks today. I was too young to hear it on the radio when it was a current single (it was actually released twice, hitting #48 in April 71, and #51 in February 73), but nonetheless it’s a part of my 70s soundtrack, going back before I started listening to AOR in earnest late in high school. I did hear Lake’s solo single “Let Me Love You Once” frequently my senior year, and his “I Believe in Father Christmas” is now one of my favorite seasonal tunes.

My college friend Warren was an ELP fan; he made sure I learned about “Fanfare For the Common Man” and “Karn Eval 9,” among others. (Though no keyboard player—he’s a drummer—Warren enjoyed mimicking Emerson shaking his long locks back while pretending to play one of KE’s lengthy solos.)  He also promoted “Touch and Go” (with Cozy Powell on drums) to me when Emerson & Lake reunited in 86.

This week’s #40 song is one of those that I heard every once in a while years ago without paying attention to who the artist was (not only was I a little too young for peak prog rock, I didn’t have any slightly older friends to clue me in). I grant you that the synth solo at the end should have tipped me off, but what can I say?  It was the ELP song that got played by Casey, and they spent just one week more on the show, at #39. The second release of “Lucky Man” immediately followed the chart run of “From the Beginning;” methinks the label was trying to revive it in reaction to this sort-of breakthrough.

I’ve been listening to the Billy Joel Channel on SiriusXM in the car a lot this month. On my way to work Friday morning, Joel was discussing his favorite keyboardists, with a song played from the artist after each monologue. Sandwiched between discourses on Elton John and 50s jazz legend Art Tatum was a bit about Keith Emerson. Billy specifically mentioned a song, “Little Arabella,” from Emerson’s days in the 60s band the Nice.  I started thinking, “Great—I get to hear this piano line that Joel is talking up. Maybe I’ll be able to understand a little about where it fits in with his stuff.” Uh, no—they played “Lucky Man” instead.

A Shining Path, A Clouded Mind

Elliott Smith was already gone for close to four years before I paid much mind to his music. Like any number of other ‘discoveries’ in the late 2000s, he came to my attention through my “Aimee Mann Radio” Pandora channel. First it was “Son of Sam,” then “Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud” and “Baby Britain.” Soon thereafter I picked up Figure 8, which includes the first two of those songs; it’s absolutely one of my favorite albums from this century.

It wasn’t that I was unaware of Smith prior to then. I’d seen Good Will Hunting, I’d caught his name mentioned on public radio, I even remember hearing about his death in real time. My impression was that I might like his stuff, but the period from around 2000 to 2007 was one of very little delving into the current music scene.

I visited Greg in early 2010 while attending a math conference in DC. After mentioning how hooked I’d become on Figure 8, he trotted out the excellent “Waltz #2” from XO for me. (One thing I dig about Smith is his frequent use of 3/4 and 6/8 time—also check out “Stupidity Tries” or “Easy Way Out” on Figure 8.)

I seem to prefer Smith’s later, fuller, more Beatlesque material, which I don’t doubt puts me at odds with many Elliott-philes. In addition to the songs I’ve already mentioned, big faves from Figure 8 include “Junk Bond Trader,” “In the Lost and Found (Honky Bach),” and “Can’t Make a Sound.”

This Sunday will mark the 15th anniversary of Smith’s suicide, at the far-too-early age of 34. I wrote a short note about him on Facebook at this time two years ago, which included this sentence: “He was both an amazing talent and one more cautionary tale about the perils of addiction and depression.” I don’t wish to boil down his life to a single line—I can’t know his trials and his demons, though, so I don’t want to say too much more. I’m just very sorry he (along with so many others) wasn’t able to hold it together, to make things work.





The Pinnacles

On Saturday, Martha, Ben, and his friend Matt trucked 50 miles south to Berea with me so that I could revisit a favorite hiking spot from my high school and college days. The Pinnacles trail is on land owned by Berea College, a liberal arts school of about 1600 where all students work in lieu of paying tuition.  I first went to this magical place, right where the western foothills of the Appalachian Mountains begin, in the late 70s with my church youth group. Ron and Dottie, our leaders, had been going since their college days at Transy earlier in the decade. It became an annual custom for our group. I went there at least three times with them; we’d ship out right after church on an autumn Sunday. In my mind, the weather was always fantastic—sunny and mid 60s. It was a two-hour trip, and given our relative late start, we’d have only four hours or so on the trails. But we always had time to ascend the West Pinnacle to take in its magnificent view, snacking/lunching on top, and hitting the Indian Fort Lookout before heading back to our cars. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Ron and about a half-dozen former youth gathered again in September 85 for a most enjoyable reunion.

I went back there several other times while in college. Last year, I came across the letter I’d sent home after about a month at Transy, in which I shared plans to take several of my new friends to the Pinnacles the following Saturday (thirty-six years ago today). Two years later, I went there with several folks in the group of transfer students I’d helped during Orientation, along with their faculty advisor. And here’s a picture from the parking lot just off the trailhead, from what has to be October 85. This is James, Cathy, Mark, Stacey, and yours truly; wondering who took the picture now.


James, Suzanne, and I went one time after we’d graduated, very likely October 87.


And that was my final time there until three days ago; I’ve been wanting Ben to experience it before he left home, in the fall, like I always had.

The weather was acceptable—cloudy and low 50s (to be honest, a welcome break from the mid 80s we’ve been having). It’d rained overnight, but there was mud only in a few spots. We packed more than enough sandwiches, snacks, and water to sustain us. We arrived to a mostly full parking lot; an arts fair was being held in the wooded area around the base of the trail. This brought back memories from almost forty years ago—it seemed like our youth group visits aligned with this festival more than once.

Here’s our map; we hit three of the labeled points.


As was the custom, we struck out for the West Pinnacle first. At the summit are two huge pillars of rock that stand about four feet apart, one them reaching a few feet higher and affording a much better view if you can scale it. Aye, there’s the rub—you have to shimmy up through a narrow gap to get there. That was no problem for me back in the day, but it was much more of a challenge over thirty years later.  I’m still a little sore through my chest and back from pulling myself up!

As you approach the West Pinnacle, the rock formations get pretty interesting.



To get to the top, you have to work your way up through this. Ben, Matt, and I all succeeded.



Here’s perhaps a better view, taken from the top of the shorter pillar; yes, that crevice in the center of the photo is the only way up. As you can see, we weren’t alone up there! Back in the day, I’d jump across to the lower pillar to get down. Ben and Matt did that on Saturday, but I used more discretion and retreated through the gap.



Finally, the view from on top. This is looking mostly west and a little north; Berea is to the left, while Richmond, home of Eastern Kentucky University, is off-camera, far away to the right. You can tell we’re at the edge of the hills!


Continue reading “The Pinnacles”

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/8/83: Taco, “Puttin’ On the Ritz”

In my edition of Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles (the one that stops in 2002), the first entry in the ‘T’ section belongs to a Dutch one-hit wonder. Taco (last name Ockerse) stormed charts around the world with his version of Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ On the Ritz,” going Top 10 in nine countries, including #1 in Sweden and New Zealand (and in the U.S. on the Cash Box charts). It reached just #4 in Billboard; it’s on the way down here, stopping off at #18. While it’s plenty novelty-ish (that probably goes a long way to explaining why he didn’t hit again), I’ve always liked it. It appears that, like so many artists from way back when, Taco has kept active as a performer through the years.

Someone paying close attention to my musings over the last year or so might notice I’ve written very little substantive about stuff that happened during 1983. I don’t think it’s an accident. In particular, that fall is not a favorite season. My first dating relationship was right at the one-year point on the weekend of this countdown, but things weren’t going especially well; looking back, it’s not hard to tell that was on me. I was also in the process of botching a situation with a very good friend. At 19, I clearly had a long way to go.