American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/30/79: Van Halen, “Dance the Night Away”

This is a notable countdown: it represented the first—and only, I think—time that the top five slots on the Hot 100 were all occupied by female acts: Rickie Lee Jones, Sister Sledge, Anita Ward, and two from Donna Summer. Casey also notes that Summer is just the fourth act—and first woman—to hold two of the top three spots on the chart (see My Favorite Decade’s commemoration here).

The top of that chart is pretty disco-heavy, clearly, and there are several other dance tunes to be heard on this show, including “Boogie Wonderland,” “Makin’ It,” “Does Your Mother Know,” and “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground).” The next week, AT40 would present a special countdown, The Top 40 Songs of the Disco Era.

Casey’s staff put that show together just in time, as the backlash was ready to strike. I imagine we’ll be reading stuff in a couple of weeks noting the 40th anniversary of Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in Chicago. In six months, disco fever will have fully broken, at least in terms of presence on the pop charts.

Toward the other end of the pop/rock music spectrum, we’ve got “Dance the Night Away,” the second Top 40 hit from Van Halen, sitting at #18; it would very soon peak three spots higher. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a VH album from start to finish, though I’ve become acquainted with plenty of their stuff from listening to AOR radio over the years. Not that this makes me qualified to offer an opinion, I will nonetheless: David Lee Roth > Sammy Hagar as a front man, and it’s not especially close. The DLR material is simply more fun to listen to. After beginning to articulate this in my head, I did a quick rundown of Steven Thomas Erlewine’s reviews of VH albums at AllMusic—I found that even without me knowing their full catalog, I was hitting on a lot of the same things Erlewine noticed (not that I think I’m advancing a novel or controversial position). But I’ll also opine that Roth without Eddie, Alex, and Michael was far worse than VH with Hagar leading.

Anyway, if I were to try to list my ten favorite Van Halen songs, the only clear entry from the Hagar years would be “Right Now.” I’ve never been ashamed to laud “Jump,” but “Dance the Night Away” would be up near the top, too. Even if it’s not any particular showcase for Eddie’s unique talents, it comes across as almost effortless pop-metal. I spent several sunny Saturday evenings in May and June of 79 sitting in our kitchen with AT40 running; this song is one of several that puts me right back there.

Drowning in the Tide

At the beginning of the year, I sketched an outline of the events and songs from thirty years ago that I thought I might feature in the Destination 89 series. Now essentially at the halfway point of the year, I took a look this morning to see how closely I’ve kept to it. The verdict: very well through mid-April, less so since. I hadn’t gone into this planning on doing periodic reviews of Billboard‘s Modern Rock Tracks chart, though that’s been a good deal of fun.

But I’ve slipped on getting to a few songs I’d planned on writing up in June–no time like the present to take care of it. Let’s see what I had in mind:

k. d. lang, “Trail of Broken Hearts”
lang got a good amount of play on VH-1 in the middle of 89 with this single from Absolute Torch and Twang. I wound up buying the disk more or less in real time; her voice is a gift. I always loved watching the big sky scenes in this clip.


Fetchin Bones, “Deep Blue”
Greg introduced me to Monster, the fifth album from North Carolina band Fetchin Bones, about a year after it was released. The raucous “Love Crushing” would appear on the Modern Rock Charts in August and September of 89, but this much softer number (apparently not representative of their overall work) appealed to me much more, enough to include on a mix tape I made in 91. Since there’s a video, maybe it was the second single?


Syd Straw, “Think Too Hard”
Last October I wrote about the Golden Palominos’ 85 song “(Kind of) True,” and how much Syd Straw’s vocal performance had drawn me to it. By 89, Straw had gotten a contract, releasing her debut solo disk Surprise at the beginning of June. “Future 40s (String of Pearls),” with Michael Stipe on backup vocals, was the first featured track (it too would make the Modern Rock chart in August), but “Think Too Hard” was the one that really got my attention.


Stan Ridgway, “A Mission in Life”
Mosquitos had been released a little before the albums from lang, Fetchin Bones, and Straw–they all came out in June. It would still be a few months after this before I borrowed it from my friend Jon. “Goin’ Southbound” was on the Modern Rock charts earlier in June, and I could have featured it in my writeup then. But I really wanted to play “A Mission in Life,” the last track on the disk, instead. For whatever reason, it didn’t make an impression thirty years ago; it’s only been the last eighteen months that I’ve really paid close attention to and fallen in love with it.

One of the YouTube commenters writes: “This song sums up the stupidity and mundanity, but ultimately, the affirmation of life for me really. It has everything covered, boredom, the futility of life, loneliness, cheating on your partner etc. And yet, it makes me want to be nothing else but alive and part of the problem. Genius!!”

Can’t disagree too much with that. It’s a masterful, moving piece.


I’m closer to back on track now. July and August were busy months for me thirty years ago, with a fair amount of travel mixed in. More on that soon.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/21/86: The Bangles, “If She Knew What She Wants”

There were a few times in the middle of the summer of 84 I saw on MTV a video from a new (to me, anyway) all-female band from LA. I was impressed by “Hero Takes a Fall,” but after it didn’t get any chart traction, it quietly disappeared from the rotation and my brain.  When “Manic Monday” began making noise during my last spring at Transy, I did recognize it was by the same band whose song I’d enjoyed eighteen or so months earlier, though.

It’d take about another year beyond that before I would plunk down $ for The Bangles’ All Over the Place, that 84 release featuring “Hero Takes a Fall,” and I don’t regret the purchase for one moment. This might be heretical, but after listening to Beauty and the Beat several weeks ago, I think I’m ready to say that All Over the Place has held up better over three-plus decades. It’s just an amazing pop record—enough stylistic variation so as not to lull one into complacency, and very solid songwriting, mostly courtesy of Vicki Peterson, with important contributions from Susanna Hoffs. The two covers are outstanding, too. Just don’t ask me to rank this album’s tracks—my favorite changes virtually daily (today it’s either “Dover Beach” or “Tell Me”).

Eventually I also got a used CD copy of their commercial breakthrough, Different Light. I think it’s very good, but it doesn’t feel as fresh right now as AOtP. “Walk Like an Egyptian” is tons o’ fun, but the best tracks on Different Light are the middle two, the album cut “Return Post” and the second single—this week’s #34 song—the Jules Shear-penned “If She Knew What She Wants.” I simply do not get how this topped out only at #29 (especially after “Walking Down Your Street” later reached #11 as the fourth single). More evidence, as if I needed it, that my tastes regularly don’t align with those of the public-at-large…

I was a big fan of the subsequent cover of “Hazy Shade of Winter,” but after that my interest in The Bangles’ music began to wane. I wasn’t alone—the group split not long after the release of the next album, Everything. Somewhat akin to the path blazed by The Go-Go’s, The Bangles have periodically re-formed over the years, also releasing new material occasionally.

(I really haven’t tried here to give either of these albums the attention they deserve. If you want to read more about why these albums are worthy of your time, here’s The Old Grey Cat on both All Over the Place and Different Light.)

Restoration Blues

From 1995-2010, I taught a mathematics unit as part of a summer science/math camp for high schoolers offered by my college. It ran twelve days—most years the students arrived on Father’s Day (the camp still runs—it’s going on right now). On the first Friday of the camp, we traditionally took a day-long trip to the Cincinnati Zoo, a landfill, and a guided nature program.

The timing of the camp meant that I was invariably involved with duties of some sort on my dad’s birthday (today would have been his 88th—this morning, I’ll be at the cemetery delivering flowers). My parents lived just off the interstate on the way from the zoo to the location of the nature program, and many times I arranged to break away for a brief birthday-related visit.

The music Twitter-verse went all abuzz two weeks ago when Jody Rosen published “The Day the Music Burned” in the New York Times Magazine. It’s a completely deflating account of the June 2008 blaze that destroyed countless master recordings by hundreds of artists whose work was controlled by Universal Music Group, as well as UMG’s subsequent cynical efforts both to disguise the severity of the loss and recoup damages via lawsuit. The next day my attention was directed to an article, written five years earlier, by music historian Andy Zax. Zax had not only understood then the magnitude of UMG’s losses but went on to outline, in depressing fashion, four issues surrounding the preservation of old masters: 1) existence of the tapes; 2) ability to access the tapes—storage is a big deal; 3) ability to use the tapes; 4) dealing with the corporate overlords, the big three companies that own the masters of almost all major-label recordings. Even though there’s overlap between the two articles, both are worth your time if you haven’t already read them.

It was Zax’s third point—dealing with the potential for obsolescence of the recording medium, in the sense that functioning machines needed for playback may not be sufficiently prevalent—that reminded me a segment I heard twenty years ago today on NPR’s All Things Considered. It was part of a series called Lost and Found Sound, a feature they were running on Fridays throughout 99 as everyone prepared to bid adieu to the CE years that started with a 1. (It looks like the series actually continued with some regularity through the end of 2005.)

That year we stayed at the zoo later than usual. I’d driven separately so I could swing through Florence to help Dad celebrate #68 but quickly got caught in a bad Friday afternoon traffic jam on the Ohio side of the river. Something—an accident? construction?—kept me crawling at a snail’s pace for a long time. When 4:00 rolled around, I switched the radio over to ATC; I’d guess Lost and Found Sound came on toward the end of the first half-hour. The title of the segment was “Restoration,” and I quickly learned that over the previous few months a number of listeners had sent in decades-old media they no longer could play, in the hopes that the L&FS team might help. L&FS in turn reached out to Steve Smolian, who was well-versed in extracting sounds from such objects (and who apparently is still in business today). Before the piece ended, two folks who had mailed in material were rewarded: one heard a beloved grandparent speak, and another got to listen to the voice of a sibling who’d died at a very young age. I’m not saying I got choked up at that point but I’m not saying I didn’t, either. All I’ll note is that it was a good thing I was going less than five miles an hour.

Out of all the things I’ve ever heard on NPR, that story is the one that made the deepest impression. Maybe eight years later, I did some digging around on their website, found an archived copy, and listened to it again. Yep, still a moving piece.

About ten days ago, after digesting the Rosen and Zax pieces, I went searching for it again. I easily located a summary (that’s how I re-discovered the story had originally run on Dad’s birthday). Then the irony began to set in. In the upper left corner of the page was a play button one can ordinarily click for listening. But it was grayed out; below I saw, “Only Available in Archive Formats” and a clickable “REAL MEDIA.” I clicked and I got a .ram file. When I tried to open it, there was a note from QuickTime letting me know it doesn’t play files with that extension.

And now, a brief summary of the past week:

“Well, it’s been a while, but I’ve used Real Player before, so I’ll just download it to my work laptop and…oh, there hasn’t been a Mac version supported since 2012? I’ll ask Ben to put it on his PC so I can play it…what? It says that it’s not backwards-compatible with the format of the audio file? Hmmm…maybe I’ve got an older copy of Real Player on my ten-year-old personal laptop? Or the almost as old desktop sitting in the basement? Nope, and nope.”

It could be I’m overlooking something obvious (I don’t think I’m especially savvy in this sphere), but it also could be that I and/or NPR could use a bit of Steve Smolian’s assistance. It appears that all of the Lost and Found Sound stories are in this archived format; I presume that’s true for every NPR story up to some date in the not entirely distant past.

The problem Zax identified might not be limited to recorded music.

Closing out with a song that seems vaguely appropriate for the matter at hand, released a few months after I first heard “Restoration.” “Millennium Blues” is the leadoff track of Matthew Sweet’s In Reverse. “You’ll never get the chance to recover/They say it’s not you anymore.”

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/26/71: Various, Music from Jesus Christ Superstar

Jesus Christ Superstar—the album—preceded Jesus Christ Superstar—the Broadway show—by a year or so. Somewhere in the bins of goodies from my youth stashed away in the basement there’s a program from a traveling production we saw in Cincinnati in the early 70s—I’m thinking that was 73 or thereabouts. But my main recollection of exposure to the music of JCS came in junior high.

Mr. Gayle was my English teacher in both 7th and 8th grades (he was also the homeroom teacher who would discuss the pop hits of the day with me). He must have been mighty good, since I can recall so many of the assignments he gave us: a ten-entry journal where we were required to employ a variety of writing styles, penning a play to be performed on stage in front of the class, reading Watership Down and then creating a story featuring its characters. (I’m realizing as I write this how much creative writing we were asked to do—that’s pretty cool. Maybe it’s why have fond memories?) A number of us were also involved in putting together a periodically published junior high “newspaper” he helped supervise called Echo.

In 7th grade (76-77) we spent a week or two listening to Jesus Christ Superstar on a portable turntable Mr. Gayle had brought to the classroom. Given what I wrote above, it’s a little surprising I don’t really remember exactly why that happened, but I think we were concentrating on lyrical analysis—we got ditto sheets of typed lyrics to follow along and take notes as we listened to several of its songs. While I wonder if doing a unit on JCS could possibly pass muster now in public school, I didn’t sense there was any proselytizing going on (while there was very little in the way of religious diversity in my school, JCS wasn’t exactly regarded as orthodoxy). I enjoyed a number of the pieces, particularly “Everything’s Alright,” “Blood Money,” “Hosanna,” and “Superstar.”

Three songs on this week’s show were from Jesus Christ Superstar, all from newcomers who one day would return to the charts: competing versions of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” from Yvonne Elliman (Mary Magdalene) and a cover by Helen Reddy, and “Superstar,” by Murray Head (Judas) and the Trinidad Singers. While it’d still be several months until JCS opened on Broadway, its presence on the singles chart was very near an end. Elliman (#35, falling from a peak of #28) and Head (#22, reached #14) are in their last weeks on; Reddy (#23, down from a #13 high) lasted one more show.



Songs Casey Never Played, 6/18/83

Back today with songs from the 6/18/83 chart that couldn’t crack the Top 40. I’m finding 83 to be a total treasure trove of minor hits, maybe the single best year for this sort of post–I could have picked several others today. Saving them for another day!

#104: Roxy Music, “More Than This”
We kick things off with two simply amazing songs that somehow couldn’t escape the Bubbling Under section of the chart. I first wrote a little on “More Than This” almost three years ago, as part of my original FB series about a couple of mix tapes I’d recorded in 85. I’m willing to believe Ferry and company never did anything more fine than this. It’s in its final week on, having reached #102 on the previous chart.

#103: Marshall Crenshaw, “Whenever You’re on My Mind”
Probably my favorite of Crenshaw’s outside of “Someday, Someway” and maybe “Cynical Girl.” I saw this video on MTV a few times way back when; while Marshall is not displaying acting chops at all here, I still find the clip charming.  Field Day is a good album, though I’d rate it below Downtown, and well below Marshall Crenshaw.

It almost defies belief that this was the only week “Whenever You’re on My Mind” received pop chart love; somewhere I’d gotten it in my head that it had at least crawled into the 70s. I can’t find five songs out of the 110 listed here better than it, and there are a lot of really good tunes hanging around.

#83: Goanna, “Solid Rock”
I first heard “Solid Rock” about a decade ago when I bought Cool World, an awesome double-CD collection of Australian singles released between 76 and 86. It’s wicked good; I’d like to think I’d have been a big fan had I heard it in 83. It’s a precursor of sorts to Midnight Oil’s “Beds Are Burning,” examining the arrival of the British from the perspective of the Aboriginal people. Reached #71.

#81: Thomas Dolby, “Europa and the Pirate Twins”
“She Blinded Me with Science” was a big, big favorite of mine in the spring of 83. I wasn’t alone in my dorm–there was a guy down the hall who blasted the extended version from his room well more than once. Dolby’s follow-up from The Golden Age of Wireless debuts on the Hot 100 this week, but the magic wasn’t there a second time, as it climbed only to #67. It’s a fine track, but I honestly don’t hear a big hit single.

#74: Sheriff, “When I’m with You”
Psych! Maybe I should have called this post “Songs Casey Never Played On AT40?” “When I’m with You” was on the front wave of singles that got re-released in the late 80s, and was among the first #1 songs of 89. By that time, Casey’s Top 40 had launched. Back in 83, though, this was already coming off its peak of #61. I don’t think I heard it then, but it’s not really my cup of tea, anyway.

Sheriff was long a thing of the past when this re-charted; Freddy Curci, the vocalist, and another former Sheriff soon were part of Alias, who scored a #2 hit in late 90 with “More Than Words Can Say”–I’m pleased to report I don’t remember that one at all.

#68: Thompson Twins, “Love on Your Side”
This got on the automated playlist of WLAP-FM for a couple of cycles right at the end of the school year. I don’t think it’s as good as “Lies,” so it’s not surprising to me it had already topped out at #45. Much bigger things were about to happen to Tom Bailey, Alannah Currie, and Joe Leeway.

#49: Sparks and Jane Wiedlin, “Cool Places”
The Mael Brothers had already been recording together for fifteen years at this point (and they still seem to be active, now both over 70). They had some commercial success after moving to Britain early on, but couldn’t do better than critical acclaim stateside (pretty sure I read about them from time to time in Stereo Review in the late 70s). The closest they got to tasting the Top 40 was this collaboration with Wiedlin. This is as high as it got.

#43: George Benson, “Inside Love (So Personal)”
Another one that got played for just a while on WLAP-FM; I sure recall that distinctive opening vocal/flute combo. Not sure I’d heard it since, I’m ashamed to say. I didn’t expect this to pull up short–it stalled here–I just assumed new Benson was still an automatic big hit. It was in some ways the beginning of the end, though: “Lady Love Me,” the second release from In Your Eyes, was his last time in the Top 40. (This is the second time Benson has been featured in SCNP this year.)

Songs Casey Never Played, 6/17/78

Over the next couple of days we’re checking in on some tunes that ultimately fell short of making American Top 40 on the charts at the times of this past weekend’s countdowns. First up, let’s take a deeper dive on 6/17/78.

#101: Linda Clifford, “Runaway Love”
A couple of the songs featured aren’t ones that I knew much about before getting ready to assemble this post. Bubbling Under at #101 for the third week in a row is one of them, a sweet, silky jam from R&B singer Linda Clifford. She was more than a bit unlucky, as the two biggest of her four Hot 100 hits both peaked at #41 (one was a disco-fied version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water”). “Runaway Love” eventually made it to #76. However, Clifford did get played on AT40 once: her #54 cover of “If My Friends Could See Me Now” was a Long Distance Dedication on the 9/22/79 show. She turned 71 just last week.

#97: Samantha Sang, “You Keep Me Dancing”
Samantha’s U.S. chart magic ran dry as soon as Barry Gibb walked out of the studio. This follow-up to “Emotion” is in its last week on the chart, down from a #56 peak. I definitely heard it on the radio in 78; the 70s on 7 would do well to swap it in 10% of the time they want to play her big hit.  It’s not bad at all.

#89: REO Speedwagon, “Roll with the Changes”
You gotta wonder what kind of chart noise this and “Time for Me to Fly” would have made had they been originally released after Hi Infidelity. Might be the most rockin’ thing REO ever did, and certainly a certified member of the Great-AOR-Songs-of-the-Late 70s/Early 80s Club. Absolutely one of my fave pieces of theirs, it had topped out at #58 the week before.

#86: Andrew Gold, “Never Let Her Slip Away”
The follow-up to “Thank You for Being a Friend” is debuting this week. Reached only #67. I don’t know that I was previously familiar with this one, but it’s a real charmer. Rumor has it that J. D. Souther and Timothy B. Schmitt are doing backup.

#85: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “I Need to Know”
This one’s also in its first week on the chart. “Breakdown” had noodled its way to a one-week stop at #40 back in February; “I Need to Know” peaked one spot shy of that in the first week of August. Deserved a much better fate.

#74: Kansas, “Portrait (He Knew)”
Yet another follow-up to a hit single from a couple of months earlier. This prog tune received a little airplay in Cincinnati; only climbed ten spots higher than what we see here. TIL it was written about Einstein.

#47: Plastic Bertrand, “Ça plane pour moi”
Plastic Bertrand was the stage name for Roger Jouret, who hailed from Belgium. Wikipedia tells me, however, that Jouret is not actually the vocalist on “Ça plane pour moi” –instead, we’re hearing another Belgian, Lou Deprijck, the writer of this flatly-delivered marvel with a dash of “Fun, Fun, Fun” tossed in. Regardless, it’s another one of those songs I’d have loved to have announced by Casey, even for just one week (certainly I’d pick it over K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s tepid cover of “It’s the Same Old Song”). Alas, this was as high as it climbed.

Come back tomorrow if you so desire for some additional low-peaking fun from 83.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/18/83: A Flock of Seagulls, “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)”

Martha and I spent Thursday through Sunday this past week at a choral workshop at a retreat center near Asheville, NC. It’s a drop-dead gorgeous area of the country, and the weather was absolutely stunning for this time of year: sunny, a bit cool at night, and low humidity. Outside of one subpar dining experience in Black Mountain, it was a good trip. This was the first time we’d left our son to his own devices for so long, and overall he was pretty responsible.

We spent the ride home listening to this past weekend’s Premiere AT40 78 and 83 rebroadcasts; the 83 show started just about the time we crossed back in to KY. Some notes about what we heard on that one:

–There’s a very strong set of five debut tunes here: top 5 hits from Eurythmics, Stevie Nicks, Donna Summer, and Duran Duran, plus “1999,” which somehow only made it to #12. With “Every Breath You Take” and “Electric Avenue” already steaming up the chart, much of the entire soundtrack for the heart of Summer 83 was now on the show.

–Crazy story about Bryan Adams’s 79 disco hit “Let Me Take You Dancing,” where a producer sped up a demo tape a 19-year-old Adams had submitted and released it without his knowledge. I’d not heard anything about this before (and it appears that Adams is trying to keep people from learning about it even today—that link, to a purported extended remix, may well be dead before too long).

–Casey notes sixteen British acts on the show, (then?) an all-time high. The Second British Invasion was upon us.

–Irene Cara is at #1 for the fourth of six weeks with “Flashdance…What a Feeling.” The song wound up with an odd (pun intended) distinction as far as chart runs go—it spent twenty weeks in the Top 40, and its position for all but the first (#38) and last (#22) of those was an odd number, mostly #1 or #3.  (I’m not the one who noticed this; I believe I first saw it in a thread on the AT40 Fun and Games site.) Naturally, it wound up as #2 for the year.

Sitting at #30 is a song from one of those many British acts, A Flock of Seagulls. “Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You),” the first release from their second LP, was the third and final U.S. Top 40 hit for them; despite a strong 40-30 move this week, it reached only #26.

The Seagulls’ first and biggest hit, “I Ran,” came on the Top 40 the weekend I moved to college the previous September. My first roommate had bought their eponymous debut album right before he and I started at Transy. That’s how I first heard “Space Age Love Song,” months before it was a hit; I’ve never been able to shake the phrase “receiving messages” (from “Messages,” the last song on side one) out of my head, either.

My roommate had supplied the stereo system for our room, and I would use it occasionally to play a 45 or one of the twelve or so albums I owned at the time. But I wasn’t entirely responsible—I made the mistake of leaving it running a couple of times when I left the room. The first was the more egregious, as I’m pretty sure I left the dorm with it on; in the second, I’d gone down the hall to brush my teeth, and roomie happened to come back (and turn it off and leave again) while I was in the bathroom.

I was aware I hadn’t been respectful of his property—and knew he was aware of it, too—but we didn’t discuss the matter. A week or two after that second incident, my roommate went home for the weekend. When I put on a record to play that Friday night, his stereo wouldn’t turn on. I looked behind the unit, to check on the power cord. Not only was it unplugged, but I also found that the speakers had been disconnected, with an index card taped over where you’d plug them in. In all caps, the card had a pretty straightforward message, something like  “DON”T F*** WITH MY STEREO, A**HOLE” (actually, it was exactly that, without the asterisks of course). I elected to honor the request.

My recollection is that when he got back, we did have a brief conversation about things. I imagine I apologized—not sure whether I addressed the passive-aggressive nature of how he’d handled the issue, though (to be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me if a friend of his with whom I didn’t especially get along had the idea for/wrote the note). This wasn’t the only point of conflict between us (I wasn’t blameless on other fronts, I can see looking back); we never really argued—perhaps an important issue is that we didn’t communicate enough!— and eventually he began making noises about moving elsewhere in the dorm. When an opening next door with James arose as Thanksgiving approached (James and I had at least two classes together that first fall), it wasn’t hard to elect to make the move.

Anyway, back to A Flock of Seagulls. It seems somehow entirely fitting that vocalist/keyboard player Mike Score was a hairdresser in a previous life. I liked “Wishing” quite a bit back in the day—and still do—but the video performance strikes me now as listless. It’d been a busy year, though, so I can imagine they might have been running on fumes.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/17/78: Rod Stewart, “I Was Only Joking”

Let’s talk about the music first.

I’m no expert on Rod Stewart’s career, but I think I know his singles well enough. In the earlier years, he had some great ones. “Maggie May” is a clear Hall of Fame song, his cover of “The First Cut Is the Deepest” is excellent, and don’t you overlook those third releases from both A Night on the Town and Foot Loose and Fancy Free: I didn’t really hear “The Killing of Georgie” enough back in 77 to comprehend its subject matter or appreciate it fully, but I like to think I saw “I Was Only Joking” (#28, soon to peak at #22) as a reflective, honest, and rueful piece in real time.

Things really went south after that, though (and I say that as someone who actually likes “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” and “Infatuation”). The hits kept coming, but was there anything between “I Was Only Joking” and, say, “Forever Young,” that you’d call good? Interesting?  I answer no, and I’ll be glad to explain to you how you’re wrong if you disagree. My main gripe about Rod circa 79-88 is that he wasted his talent on clearly un-serious material.

While we usually didn’t take out-of-state vacations two years in a row during my youth, we did follow up our 77 Western foray with a trip to DC and various spots in Virginia the following summer. This one was fairly early in the summer—we may have started out as early as June 10. In Washington, we did pretty typical stuff: the White House and Capitol, an evening bus tour to monuments etc., parts of the Smithsonian, a day trip to Mt. Vernon. Seems like we stayed somewhere outside the city and drove in each day, but hey, I’ve been wrong before. Afterward, we headed south to Monticello and a few days in Williamsburg. Definitely a history-oriented vacation. Overall, it was very good.

One evening during the DC phase of the trip, the fam was discussing how to best utilize its finite amount of time in the area. There was one day trip suggestion the folks wound up nixing; maybe it was just a little too far away. The fourteen-year-old boy in the room had real trouble going to sleep that night over this decision, but not because he had really wanted to do it—he was worried that his parents would never get another chance to go. Whether it was hormones or a lack of perspective due to youth, he can’t say now, but something about it all made him profoundly sad. And yes, the current hit from Rod Stewart was playing in that kid’s head all the while he laid in bed, engaging in a ridiculous mourning of lost opportunity (his parents were just in their late 40s then).

That wasn’t the last time Mom and Dad were in the DC area, but I don’t know if they ever took that day trip. To date, I haven’t.

The Things A Father Keeps

When Ben was younger, he would occasionally do craft-y things and bestow the results of his efforts on me. Attached to my backpack via a small carabiner is a tassel-like thing he made out of plastic lacing cord. On/in my bedroom dresser there’s an “I LOVE YOU” created from perler beads and a figure of a boy or man Creeper figure from Minecraft (Martha reminds me of what it really was) constructed of rubber bands that he put together on a loom. There are art projects from his very early years that still have a home in my office at school. And I have kept the various birthday and Father’s Day cards he’s given me across the years, This last item turns out to be history repeating itself.

Sometime in the last year or so of my father’s life, I was looking for some paperwork in the drawers of a cabinet in his basement office and discovered where he had stored cards, particularly those he’d received from Amy and me. When I was clearing out my parents’ townhouse in the summer of 2015, I made sure to pack them in a box to bring back to Georgetown. A little over a year ago I took the time to do some looking and sorting. The cards weren’t usually dated, but simply counting them seemed to indicate he’d retained complete sets, going back to the year I was born (both for birthdays and Father’s Days—the two events were always within a couple of weeks of each other). I laid the cards out in several groups and took pictures. Here’s one of Father’s Day cards.


As far as I know, this sort of hoarding isn’t that unusual (my mother had also kept quite a few of her cards, though not all), but it was still touching and sweet to find, not to mention a lesson in the history of greeting cards (he also held on to birthday and anniversary cards from my mother).

I got another dose of what my father held dear this past week.  On Monday, I went golfing with a couple of biology colleagues. Maybe until the beginning of this decade, I used clubs that I’d gotten in the late 70s. The woods were persimmon, the irons blades, both fairly outdated after three-plus decades. About twenty years ago, Dad had purchased a new set of clubs (metal woods, cavity-backed irons) for himself along with a new bag and a pull cart. Sometime after he had gotten too old to play anymore, I wound up assuming ownership of all of it.

The three of us decided to walk since we were just playing nine. Alas, I had left the pull cart at home, so I started rummaging through the compartments of the bag, looking for a shoulder strap. There wasn’t one; I wound up carrying the bag in my hand, which got just a little tiring somewhere around the seventh hole. But in my search I had noticed something in a couple of pockets that I knew I would have to examine more closely later.

I’d come across at least a couple dozen score cards of Dad’s. A sizable majority came from rounds in 1999 and 2000 at World of Golf, a short 18-hole course about a mile away from my parents’ home. These were from the times he’d been out after buying the new clubs—he just hadn’t discarded them after he stopped playing (the round when he shot his hole-in-one wasn’t there—I’ll have to look elsewhere for it, should it still exist). But the rest were from treasured outings of the distant past, transferred over from the previous bag. One was a round shot with two college and/or ministerial friends at a course in Louisville, maybe from the mid-60s when we lived in LaGrange. Another was his best round ever, shot at Devou Park in Covington (he told me from time to time how he regretted never breaking 80). It’s undated, but it has to be from either the late 50s or early 60s. I wish I knew who EFD was.

And he held on to a few cards from outings with his teenage children. In the late 70s, World of Golf had been just a nine-hole course—they expanded it in the 80s by carving holes out of the surrounding woods. The picture at the top of the post shows what it looked like when we began playing it.

My sister’s name is on two of the cards; I appear more frequently. This is probably representative of how a round with him went back then.

Fifteen or so years later, the tide had turned. I have no idea now why we didn’t finish this game, but darkness would be a reasonable guess.

At a base level, it doesn’t really surprise me that Dad held on to these (I still have the scorecards from my own best 18 and an outing or two with Ben). But I really had thought that by this point I’d uncovered any remaining gifts he had to offer. Maybe this is finally it, but then again, I suppose there’s the possibility I’ll be proven wrong again someday.

Happy Father’s Day.