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.

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