Cornerstone Cassette, Part 2: The Music

The William T. Young Student Center opened on Saturday, December 3, 1983. It was almost the midpoint of my sophomore year; construction had been ongoing since right around the time I started at Transy. Mr. Young was Chair of the Board of Curators and a significant philanthropist for higher education in Lexington (his name is also on full-tuition scholarships at TU and the main library at the University of Kentucky). It’s not an accident that his leadership coincided with major growth in enrollment at Transy over the last two-thirds of the 80s.

The Young Center housed a lounge with a large projection-screen TV, game room, pool, conference room, and racquetball and basketball courts.  I spent quite a bit of time there throughout the rest of my time at TU: I was part of a group of friends (usually including James and Warren) who monopolized the lounge watching MTV, while Mark and I could make a single game of Robotron: 2084 last close to an hour (if I could purchase any arcade game for my basement, that’d be the one).

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I didn’t attend the opening ceremony but I managed to have a tiny role nonetheless, recording a cassette of current or recent hits from singles on hand in the WTLX studios to place in the cornerstone time capsule. Here’s what Lana (who’s now Mark’s wife) said about it at the dedication (the transcriber didn’t understand what call letters she used); note President Shearer’s prescient response!



Dr. Shearer’s remark reminds me: my understanding at the time was that they’d open the capsule after 25 years. Clearly, minds changed somewhere along the way. And sorry for the askew text—I wasn’t being especially careful when taking pictures of the transcript.

Fortunately, I had the foresight to take notes on the 23 songs I included. There’s nothing terribly obscure on it—most had been Top 10 hits, and all reached at least #18—but let’s take a stroll through that past, anyway. The numbers indicate Hot 100 position on the 12/3/83 chart (NR means the song had already fallen off).

Side A:

Police, “Synchronicity II.”  (#19)  The third single and one of two title songs from their mega-smash album. The Police had played Rupp Arena a month earlier but I didn’t go. Certainly not the one you first think of from this album, but it was my favorite. It would soon peak at #16.

Lionel Richie, “All Night Long.” (#1) In its fourth and final week at the top. Richie would be still be cranking out hits from Can’t Slow Down a year later.

Prince, “Delirious.” (#54) The Purple One had broken out in the spring with “Little Red Corvette,” and Purple Rain would make him go supernova the following summer. I find this one pretty annoying overall; it’s falling after reaching #8.

Bonnie Tyler, “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” (#21) This had been #1 for four weeks in October. It’s typical melodrama from the mind of Jim Steinman (he’d penned the songs on Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell five years earlier): “Been livin’ in a powder keg and givin’ off sparks,” etc., etc. I’ve always rather liked it, though.

Rick Springfield, “Human Touch.” (NR) A bit of an odd choice, at least based on the timing. This was the second single from his most recent release Living in Oz, and had reached #18 back in September. The third single, “Souls,” was actually peaking at #23 on this chart. That said, I chose the better song (and the one that’s better remembered today).

Stevie Nicks, “If Anyone Falls.” (#72)  Congrats to Ms. Nicks for making the Rock ‘n’ Roll HOF as a solo artist. I’m of mixed feelings about this, though—I thought much of her work after The Wild Heart wasn’t nearly as good as what had come before. This was one of my favorites from her outside of the Mac; it’s on its way down after peaking at #14 a few weeks earlier.

Men at Work, “It’s a Mistake.” (NR) Reached #6 in late August. I’m glad this is here rather than the next single, “Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive,” which had just fallen off the Hot 100. Even better would have been to reach back to the spring for “Overkill.”

Jackson Browne, “Lawyers in Love.” (NR) I’m beginning to detect a theme here: a half-dozen times I went with an earlier hit I rather fancied over a current release (which was generally a less popular tune, too). The follow-up single, “Tender Is the Night,” is sitting at #32. This had made #13 in September.

Pat Benatar, “Love Is a Battlefield.” (#6) Back in the day I called the big dance scene in this video the “shimmy of death.” Too bad Pat let the guy get away with only a drink to the face. It got one spot higher than this.

Paul McCartney/Michael Jackson, “Say Say Say.” (#2) This ascended to the top on the following chart, spent six weeks there, and was the #1 song on AT40’s 1984 year-ender. It’s never been one I’d go out of my way to hear, however.

Culture Club, “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya.” (NR) Here I go again, forcing my personal preferences on the unsuspecting public of 2033.  “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” had peaked at #9 in September, while “Church of the Poison Mind” (which I now admit is a much better song than I thought at the time) is sitting pretty at #10.

Side B:

Quiet Riot, “Cum On Feel the Noize.” (#7) There are several songs from that fall that I cannot hear without imagining a scratchy sound at the beginning. That’s due to poor cuing skills on the parts of various inexperienced TLX DJs (including yours truly). This is one of them, along with the Benatar above and the Air Supply and Big Country below. If there’s a functioning cassette player whenever the capsule is opened, whoever plays the tape will wonder what happened.

The best thing I can say about this #5 hit is that it directly led to stateside interest in longtime UK glam rockers Slade (they wrote it), who had two modest hits the next year: “Run Runaway” and “My Oh My.”

Billy Joel, “Uptown Girl.” (#3) I give Joel plenty of credit for creativity and personally taking chances in his videos, especially those from The Nylon Curtain and An Innocent Man. Here, he’s being an awfully good sport about trying  to act and dance his way into Christie Brinkley’s heart. This is as high as it got.

John Cougar Mellencamp, “Crumblin’ Down.” (#9) The first single on which he got to use his given surname. This is where it peaked; “Pink Houses” would hit the chart the following week.

Sheena Easton, “Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair).” (#31) I’d call this one a transitional single, taking Easton from the not-entirely-innocent ingenue of “Modern Girl” and “For Your Eyes Only” toward the more adult figure on “Strut” and “U Got the Look.” It’s on the way down after making #9.

Air Supply, “Making Love Out of Nothing At All.” (#37) Our second Steinman extravaganza. It’s not one of my favorites from the Australian duo, but it had reached #2 in October.

Yes, “Owner of a Lonely Heart.” (#14)  One of the newest releases on the tape (along with the Police song), having been on the chart only five weeks to this point. Looking back, it would seem like I knew something, since Yes turned out to dominate the turntable in our dorm room over the next twelve months (mostly but not exclusively due to James). It’d hit #1 in January.

Huey Lewis and the News, “Heart and Soul.” (#8) Sports was another album still churning out hits a year later. I bought it sometime in 1984 and listened to it pretty often then. Major points for daring to cover “Honky Tonk Blues,” but come on—Huey sure is no Hank.

Michael Jackson, “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing).” (#12) Not one of my faves off of Thriller, but it’s a decent dance track. It’s starting to fall from its #10 peak.

David Bowie, “Modern Love.” (#58) Fun third single from Let’s Dance. Like Stevie’s track, this one is falling after reaching #14.

Asia, “Don’t Cry.” (NR) Say it with me: this peaked in September (at #10) while their follow-up, “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes,” is stalling at #34.

Stray Cats, “(She’s) Sexy + 17.” (NR) Oh, a change of pace—this had reached #5 in early October; the next single, “I Won’t Stand in Your Way,” is clocking in at #39.

Big Country, “In a Big Country.” (#17) At the time I thought this was on its way to being a big, big hit. I was more than a little surprised/disappointed it didn’t get higher than this spot—maybe the bagpipe-sounding guitar turned out to be too much as a novelty. The Crossing is a mighty fine album, though, and this song is a good closer for the tape.


What were the current Top 10 songs (in addition to the one from Culture Club) I omitted? Former #1 song “Islands in the Stream” from Kenny and Dolly, and future #2 hit “Say It Isn’t So,” by Hall and Oates, at #5 and #6, respectively. Other songs you could reasonably have expected to be here include the Fixx’s “One Thing Leads to Another,” “True,” from Spandau Ballet, and “Suddenly Last Summer,” by the Motels.

Here’s a copy of what I wrote down in 1983:

I’ll close up with a Spotify playlist. Listen if you wish, and just imagine those scratches in the right places.

3 thoughts on “Cornerstone Cassette, Part 2: The Music”

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