American Top 40 PastBlast, 4/26/86: Mike + the Mechanics, “All I Need Is a Miracle”

On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons during my last spring term at Transy, I made two treks through downtown Lexington over to the University of Kentucky. The reason: to pick up (and afterward take back) a friend for TU’s Wind Ensemble practices.

She’d been a student at Transy the previous year, playing a decently mean clarinet with our group as a freshman. A transfer to UK had happened over the summer of 85, but she and I had remained in touch. In the meantime, TU hired a new Ensemble director for the beginning of my senior year; it became clear immediately that he was going to aggressively build up the program. I don’t remember how it all came together now, but I wound up serving as the go-between in arranging for my friend to re-join the Ensemble, beginning in January. She didn’t have a car, so I volunteered to play shuttle driver.

By this time, you’re probably wondering, so I’ll go ahead and say it: yes, I was interested in dating my friend, and had been since not too long after we’d met. In brief, I never even got the chance to be turned down. During her year at TU, she had an on-again, off-again, on-again relationship with her high school boyfriend, who was at UK; by the time I was picking her up for Ensemble practices, she was beginning to see the man she’d eventually marry. Anyway, in early 86 I knew I was going to be leaving the state in August to go to grad school, so at that point it wasn’t worth getting all angsty or anything.

Late in the term, “All I Need Is a Miracle” came on the radio one time while I was on my way back to campus, following my second trip of the afternoon across town. Even though I was cool with things as they were, I’d be lying if I said that the song title didn’t made me think just a little about the situation (though the lyrics as a whole didn’t really apply). Easily my favorite from Mike + the Mechanics, it was at #25 at this moment in time, headed toward #5.

My friend found other means of transport and kept playing with the Transy group after I graduated. We kept in touch decently over the next decade or so; eventually her husband got promoted and they moved to the west coast. Over the last roughly twenty years, we’ve had only very sporadic communication.

 

(And now, a completely different thought regarding this song. After my parents moved in the fall of 83, they began going to a dentist named John Miracle. His office wasn’t far from their new home, and I used him myself throughout the last half of the 80s. It occurred to me more than once that had he ever wanted to start a media campaign, he could consider using the tag line, “All You Need Is John Miracle,” set to the tune of the M+tM song. I never managed to bring it up with his office staff, though…)

American Top 40 PastBlast, 4/28/73: Anne Murray, “Danny’s Song”

One day in 79, perhaps/likely during the second quarter of the year (maybe even forty years ago today!), I was checking out Musicland in the Florence Mall and found something on offer that practically started me salivating: Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 Yearbook. It was available for a mere $4.95; I can’t know now whether I purchased a copy immediately, but it couldn’t have been long before I was taking one home. For a good description of the contents and highlights, here’s My Favorite Decade’s take from almost five years ago. Something has changed about supply and demand since then: MFD noted at the time that one could purchase a used copy on Amazon for under $10, but in looking around last night, the best price I found was $900. That’s pretty shocking.

I liked reading the bios of each artist who’d made the chart between 11/77 and 10/78, but the most enjoyable thing for me was taking in the list of Top 40 appearances (including peak position of each song) at the end of each entry. I was pretty knowledgeable at that point about hits from the spring of 76 onward, but this was a big opportunity for me to learn about the past chart history of many of the bigger artists of the 70s, stuff I wouldn’t have had much chance to know until I received my first Joel Whitburn book more than a decade later (and in some cases, wouldn’t hear until the last seven years or so).

One such artist was Anne Murray. She was in the Yearbook because “You Needed Me” had started up the countdown toward #1 in August 78. I knew about “Snowbird,” but her three other songs that had made the Forty previously were either unfamiliar to me or just hadn’t made any impression. Yet they’d all done reasonably well, hitting in 73 and 74 and peaking between #7 and #12.

Okay, “unfamiliar” is maybe a stretch in one case. When WSAI played the snot out of Kenny Loggins’s new stuff in 77 upon the release of his solo debut album Celebrate Me Home, they also reached back and dug out a cut from his 71 album with Jim Messina, Sittin’ In. Can’t say I cared all that much for “Danny’s Song” upon first listen (I was pretty anti-Kenny back then), but I’ve come far along enough now to say it’s actually rather sweet.

Anyway, I imagine it was sometime in early 81 that my sister bought Anne Murray’s Greatest Hits, which had been released a few months earlier. It was a straightforward compilation, just Murray’s by-then ten Top 40 hits arranged in chronological order. By this time, we were both regularly using Dad’s stereo in the basement, and I quickly got caught up on “Love Song,” the cover of “You Won’t See Me,” and her version of “Danny’s Song” while hanging out and doing homework down there. The steel guitar, string section, gently rollicking beat, and slicker production offer a bit of contrast to the acoustic guitar/piano/fiddle of Loggins and Messina’s work. I can see how Murray had a #7 hit with it (it’s on the way down, stopping off at #18 on this show).

Songs Casey Never Played, 4/17/82

What wasn’t Casey playing six-plus weeks out from my HS graduation? Here are a half-dozen songs on the 4/17/82 Hot 100 that fell short of AT40 glory:

#87. Shooting Star, “Hollywood”
One of the central songs on my soundtrack from the summer of 81 is the Kansas City band Shooting Star’s “Last Chance.” I was listening to WEBN, the AOR station in Cincy, a-plenty then, and it seems like they played it at quarter-past the hour every four hours throughout July and August. It’s somewhat ostentatious, but I still love it; it was one of my earlier purchases on iTunes.

For some reason I heard the title song of their followup album Hang on to Your Life more than the single “Hollywood” the following year, but “Hollywood” is much better, close to as good as “Last Chance.” It’s on its way down after peaking at #70. Props to the UnCola for playing it on his show about a month ago. It reminded me how much I like it.

 

#80. Police, “Secret Journey”
The secondary tracks from Ghost in the Machine were making their appearances on the radio by this time. WEBN was featuring the mighty fine “Invisible Sun,” while “Secret Journey” was released as a US single and made WLAP-FM’s automated playlist. I can see why “Secret Journey” didn’t climb higher than #46, but it’s got quite the striking intro.

 

#63. Gordon Lightfoot, “Baby Step Back”
Here’s Lightfoot’s last trip to the Hot 100. It’d been four years since he’d hit #33 with the awesome “The Circle Is Small,” but he still had one more go at the pop charts in him. Alas, “Baby Step Back” would fall ten spots shy of getting on AT40. It has a decent amount of another favorite, “Sundown,” in it. You know, it’s never the wrong day to play some Gordon.

 

#62. O’Bryan, “The Gigolo”
I strongly suspect “The Gigolo” got played at my senior prom. I do know for certain that, at the time, some of the folks at my high school were digging on this funky thing by 20-year-old O’Bryan Burnette II. He wound up with several hits, including a couple of Top 10s, on the R&B chart (one of which was “The Gigolo”), but he never cracked the crossover code to the pop scene. This got to #57 and was the only time he made the Hot 100.

 

#53. Sugar Hill Gang, “Apache”
In terms of funk & rap, “Apache” was much more my scene in 82 than “The Gigolo.” This second-most well-known song from the Sugar Hill Gang is all kinds of problematic in a variety of ways, yet hearing it still brings back fond memories of hanging out with a couple of high school friends.  During my first year in college, there was a guy somewhere in the dorm who liked to blast it on the weekends, too. This was its peak position.

 

#50. Glass Moon, “On a Carousel”
Another one that’s as high as it got, and another I learned about from WLAP-FM. This Hollies cover is now one of the few songs to be featured twice here on the blog (it was Song of the Day on the occasion of the August 2017 solar eclipse) but I only recently discovered an actual video for “On a Carousel.” Glass Moon was from Raleigh, NC, and one of the commenters on this clip seems to indicate that some of the footage was shot at a park there (and that the carousel still exists). The production screams early 80s, with obvious superimposition of images (including a scene where the lead singer is made to appear going round-and-round when he’s really just sitting on a jungle gym). Nonetheless, the fashion, the hair style, the people–the feel of the piece–all conjure up for me the sensation of being 18 again, about to strike out and change my world. So I’m sticking it here another time and letting those moments seep back in for a bit.

3/24/79, 4/16/77, and 4/17/82 Charts

Time to shake off the dust from my chart binders and see what’s in there that’s been rebroadcast over the last month.  First up, something grease-stained from 79:

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This is the chart from which I lifted a pic of the Streisand extra back in January–the first time I can recall hearing “Stoney End.”

In Artists’ Names Follies: A Continuing Series, I get too cute with Chuck Brown’s band, can’t figure out Giorgio’s surname, treat the singers of “He’s the Greatest Dancer” as if they were named like the Brothers Johnson, and haven’t yet sussed there was a second ‘s’ in Nigel’s last name. Writing “Colby” at this point in time is ridiculous; and Susie?

 

Next is 77:

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I was known to try to imitate the Kiss logo from time to time.

Spring 77 was one of the periods with a series of songs never made available digitally, thwarting my efforts to have a complete e-collection of the Top 40 hits from June 76-May 86. The biggest offender was “Disco Lucy,” which was on AT40 for 7 weeks; it overlapped with Ambrosia’s “Magical Mystery Tour” earlier in April and Stallion’s “Old Fashioned Boy (You’re the One),” which debuted on the following show.

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Meaningless trivia alert! This one is an oddity among my spring 77 charts: it’s the only one from April or May on white paper. All the others are green or yellow.

Before we get to 82, here’s what I found intriguing then:

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Huey and Co. are in their fourth week of five at the top. I meant it when I said that LeRoux was a favorite at the time! That ranking for Rod is a tad embarrassing. Vangelis (!), Rick, and Tommy have future #1 songs. “We Got the Beat” only reached #11–it’s turned out to be one of my less favorite songs on Beauty and the Beat. I’ve got Prism and the Cars making noise they didn’t IRL (“Since You’re Gone” reached #7). Biggest regret now is having “Find Another Fool” never cracking my top 25 (fer gawdsakes, putting “Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk” ahead of it is borderline-criminal).

As for the real thing, it’s pretty basic:

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Spring 82 was another stretch with a few vinyl-only (or almost impossible to get digitally at a reasonable price) tunes. The biggest hoser was “The Beatles Movie Medley,” but I couldn’t track that Meco thing down, either. (I mentioned on Twitter recently: what is up with the clap-beat in “Pop Goes to the Movies?” Hard to fathom him going down the Stars On/Hooked On route.)

One interesting tidbit I saw noted on the AT40 Fun and Games message board within the last couple of weeks: Both these 77 and 82 shows feature a debuting medley that includes Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright).”

 

 

 

American Top 40 PastBlast, 4/23/88: Brenda Russell featuring Joe Esposito, “Piano in the Dark”

It’s a holiday, and 88 is among the harder years from the Classic Casey AT40 era for me to find music/stuff to write about. So, let’s just roll out the most tasteful song on this week’s show. “Piano in the Dark” was at #29, and made it to #6.

Brenda Russell had a #30 hit, “So Good So Right,” toward the end of 79 (it’s also a wonderful number). You likely know the voice of Joe Esposito—he was a member of Brooklyn Dreams and sang with Donna Summer on “Heaven Knows.” We heard some about this earlier in the year, on the 2/17/79 rebroadcast. Casey had misidentified Summer’s singing partner as then-boyfriend/future husband Bruce Sudano; Esposito’s parents wrote into the show to correct the record!

Don’t let the brevity of the post fool you: this is a great tune.

 

 

American Top 40 PastBlast, 4/20/74: Maria Muldaur, “Midnight at the Oasis”

During the throes of my deep obsession with AT40 in the late 70s, I could spout (useless) trivia about songs, artists, peak positions, chart runs, etc. etc. to the point of boring and annoying those around me. Much/most of it came via Casey himself, but I imagine I was responsible for noticing an odd fact or two as well.  Perhaps in that spirit, here are a few mostly pointless pieces of information about stuff on the 4/20/74 show.

Song with longest Top 40 run: “Come and Get Your Love,” Redbone, 18 weeks

Song with shortest Top 40 run: “Star Baby,” Guess Who, 1 week

Artist with greatest # of Top 40 hits as of chart date: James Brown, “The Payback (Part 1).” This was his 41st.

Artist with greatest # of Top 40 hits over whole career: Elton John, “Bennie and the Jets.” Depending on how you count duets, he had around 60 appearances. (Adding: I’m counting McCartney’s Wings/solo work as separate from that with the Beatles.)

One hit-wonders:
Marvin Hamlisch, “The Entertainer”
Mocedades, “Eres Tu”
Sami Jo, “Tell Me a Lie”
Mike Oldfield, “Tubular Bells”
Terry Jacks, “Seasons in the Sun”
Sister Janet Mead, “The Lord’s Prayer”
MFSB w/ The Three Degrees, “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)”

Artists who hit the Top 40 exactly twice:
Billy Paul, “Thanks for Saving My Life”^
Bloodstone, “Outside Woman”^
Albert Hammond, “I’m a Train”^
Maria Muldaur, “Midnight at the Oasis”
Marvin Gaye/Diana Ross, “My Mistake (Was to Love You)”^*
Carly Simon/James Taylor, “Mockingbird”*
Redbone, “Come and Get Your Love”^
Blue Swede, “Hooked on a Feeling”

^ This was the second of their two.
* I guess?

 

Two things I’ve started giving a little attention in recent years of chart study are acts’ first and final weeks of appearing on AT40. The former is known in real time, of course, but the latter becomes apparent only in retrospect. This isn’t especially compelling info when it comes to one-hit wonders, but that’s all we’ve got this time.

Artist spending their first week ever on the show: Marvin Hamlisch

Artist spending their last week ever on the show: None, but Mocedades had just one more week to go.

Artist with more than two hits making their last trip to the Top 40: Bobby Womack, on for the fourth and final time, with “Lookin’ for a Love”

 

Songs at their peak position:
“Star Baby”  (#39)
“Touch a Hand Make a Friend,” Staple Singers (#23)
“Come and Get Your Love” (#5)
“TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) (#1)

 

And in the more boutique (read: arbitrary) realm:

Artists enjoying their sixth Top 40 hit:
Helen Reddy, “Keep on Singing”
Charlie Rich, “A Very Special Love Song”
Grand Funk, “The Loco-Motion”

I suppose you could make a case that acts with more than five hits made the big time, though in Rich’s case, his first two had occurred in 60 and 65.

Songs that spent exactly eleven weeks on the show:
“Oh Very Young,” Cat Stevens
“Help Me,” Joni Mitchell
“Eres Tu”
“Lookin’ for a Love”
“I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song,” Jim Croce
“The Lord’s Prayer”
“Oh My My,” Ringo Starr

My unresearched intuition is that eleven weeks is a decent proxy for whether or not a song had a good shot to make the year-end Top 100 countdown.  This show has quite a number of songs on it with staying power: nineteen others hung around longer than these seven did.

 

Out of all this, I’m plucking “Midnight at the Oasis,” the #28 song, for playing today. I was just 10, but I’m sure I spotted it as one long extended metaphor (even if I didn’t know what a metaphor was at the time). I’ll file this eventual #6 hit away as a guilty pleasure, both then and now.

 

Chart information courtesy of two of Joel Whitburn’s books: The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 4thedition, and Top Pop Singles 1955-2002.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 4/18/82: LeRoux, “Nobody Said It Was Easy”

This past Saturday evening my son went to his senior prom.

Five days prior, you could have knocked me over with a feather if you’d told me that would wind up happening. He didn’t go last year, isn’t doing anything remotely resembling dating anyone right now, and had showed zero inclination toward making plans to attend this go-round.

But on Tuesday morning a week ago, Martha had this text exchange with Ben:

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After a couple days’ consideration (and learning that upward of twenty people had voted for him), Ben decided to take the plunge and buy his ticket. Ballots for prom court at his high school are essentially write-in; sounds like a fair number of folks usually vote for themselves, leading to a many-way tie at the bottom with a single tally. To have a shot of success, one needs to organize a campaign, and Ben’s classmates somehow settled on him as a rallying cry for the geekier males (it was not a prank).

Time was obviously too short to rent a tux, so Ben made do with khakis, sport jacket and tie (to be honest, he wouldn’t have wanted a tux anyway). He met up with six friends late Saturday afternoon at the Japanese gardens just outside the city limits for pictures (Martha serving as semi-official photographer). Next was dinner at one of the brass-and-fern places in town, and then on to the party. Afterward, he spent the night at a friend’s with a few fellow seniors—I think he even got a little sleep.

I’ve generally avoided posting current pictures of the boy on here thus far. Maybe as he gets older, I’ll relax a little on that front (he’s no longer a minor, after all), but for now I’ve decided to err on the side of overprotectiveness. So, instead of pix from Ben’s big night out, you’re getting a somewhat fuzzy Polaroid photo from my senior prom, which probably happened a couple of weeks or so before this past weekend’s 82 countdown rebroadcast.

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Several of the guys in my close circle of friends (including yours truly, of course) were unattached as prom approached. One day at lunch maybe three weeks before, all of a sudden most of us found dates. I went with Melanie, a sophomore. On the far right is Tony, who took my neighbor Rebecca. Dwayne lived on the next road over from mine; he and Karen were dating. We were all in the band (which is why we would have been together in the school cafeteria—band was always during lunch hour).

The picture was taken in my front yard, likely by my mother. My folks were chaperones that year (my sister, a junior, was also going). The theme was Make the Magic Last, a nod toward the Quincy Jones/James Ingram hit “Just Once” from the previous fall.

That’s a navy tux I’m sporting, by the way—maybe someday I’ll show you the powder blue number I’d rented the year before.

I don’t associate LeRoux’s one Top 40 hit, “Nobody Said It Was Easy,” with my prom, but it was very much a favorite at the time. It’s at its peak of #18 on this show. That spring the local AOR station was playing another one of theirs, “Addicted,” pretty frequently. The two songs sound nothing alike; I’m only now realizing that the hit wasn’t sung by their usual lead vocalist.

Oh, I guess you’re wondering about the outcome of the voting? Ben didn’t get enough support to come out on top, but he was one of four male attendees to the Prince and King. I’m pleased enough for him—nothing like this happened to either of his parents (though Martha was her sorority’s nominee for Homecoming Queen her senior year in college).  That’s not what really matters to me, though—I’m just happy his friends found a way to get him to go.