Songs Casey Never Played, 10/30/82

Lots of nice options here, part of a long stretch of tunage that wound up falling short of getting featured on AT40. Here are six that were in various stages of failure at the end of October 82.

#100. The Motels, “Take the L”
In which we get a spelling lesson from Martha Davis. Was vaguely aware of it at the time; while not as good as other singles of theirs, it’s more than worthy of a listen. In its last week on the Hot 100, down from a peak of #52.

#77. Talk Talk, “Talk Talk”
One of two songs featured today I’m kicking myself over having failed to discover in real time. IMO it crushes about 90% of the songs on this chart. I featured this back in the first six weeks of blogging, but happy to wheel it out again.

Talk Talk couldn’t match Yellow Balloon’s #25 peak with a self-titled song; this got only two spots higher.

#76. Charlene and Stevie Wonder, “Used to Be”
In general, I try to avoid taking the time to write about dreck–life is just too short. I’m making an exception this time, however–this has to be the worst song I’ve blogged in my two-plus years. I’m simply grateful that I managed to avoid it until now.

“I’ve Never Been to Me” is way overdramatic and pretty bad, but I can at least understand it resonating somewhat with the public, even if not as much as it did. Its surprising re-emergence in the spring of 82 after stiffing four-plus years earlier got Charlene a new contract and a duet with Mr. Wonder. It’s terrible. The first stanza goes, “Superman was killed in Dallas/There’s no love left in the palace/Someone took the Beatles’ lead guitar.” These are Kennedy and Lennon assassination references, I guess. It only goes downhill from there. Trust me. Or not. Stunningly, it reached #46.

#69. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, “The Message”
I’ve got to cleanse the palate after that, so we’ll finish with three very fine cuts. First, how about a classic old-school track? “The Message” went Top 10 in several countries, but apparently the folks in the US weren’t ready to hear it yet–it would reach only #62.

#57. Missing Persons, “Destination Unknown”
I don’t know how it took almost ten years for me to really catch on to this most excellent cut–I’d been well aware of “Words” back in the summer when it was receiving attention. Like “Words,” this topped out at #42. I think it’s the song that least deserves to be in this post.

#53. Paul McCartney, “Tug of War”
This was the first Macca single to miss the Top 40, not counting “Seaside Woman,” a #59-peaker in the summer of 77 by Suzy and the Red Stripes–aka Linda McCartney and Wings. It’s stalling out here; fantastic piece, though.

“In a time to come we will be dancing to the beat played on a different drum.” If only.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/30/82: Toni Basil, “Mickey”

Last month I wrote a bit about some stuff that happened in the falls of my junior and senior years of college. This week, it’s a bit about my first autumn at Transy.

As a future math/CS double major, it was clear to sign up for calculus and the intro programming course (which used FORTRAN). I loved science, too, so chemistry wound up on my dance card. Filling things out was the composition class that TU wouldn’t deign to call a composition class—it was “Freshman Studies,” and the theme was Images of Man. Except for the chemistry lab on Tuesday afternoons, it was an all-MWF schedule.

The chemistry class was the largest I had at Transy by far, with an enrollment of maybe 80, and was held in Brown Science Center’s one auditorium—then as now, a high percentage of incoming students were shooting for medical school. It was an exam-heavy course—seven during the semester, every other Friday, plus the final. Maybe it was a weed-out course? The professor, a nice guy once you got to know him, didn’t suffer what he considered foolish questions during class time. I sat about halfway up the room and watched others take the fire.

Calculus wound up my favorite that semester; Dr. Shannon became my mentor, even if he wasn’t my official advisor. It was very hard to score 90% on one of his exams. I am still in awe of a question that stumped me on the first test—tractable if you looked at it the right way, but perfectly foreshadowing upcoming material. I’m not sure I’ve ever been able to accomplish that on anything I’ve given.

Outside of these, it was plenty of writing that fall: code for the CS class, essays on Huxley’s Brave New World, Plato’s Republic, Shaw’s Major Barbara, among others in Images of Man, and a few articles for the campus newspaper, The Rambler. My first by-line appeared in the 10/11/82 issue:

I still have the notes from an interview conducted the previous week with a professor who had presented in the series. (Trivia alert: Liz Smith, the student quoted, is the daughter of the best man at my parents’ wedding.) There are at least two other Rambler articles from that fall with my name attached; I continued to write for it well into my junior year.

My section of Images of Man met at 11:30, so many of us in the class would dodge traffic crossing North Broadway afterward to eat together in the cafeteria—that’s where I formed some of my first solid college-era friendships. James, then my next-door neighbor but soon to be my roomie, was among those; he was wickedly funny, often holding court from the start.

The lunch table was, of course, one of the places where we would opine on the hits of the day. Topics included Billy Joel’s then brand-spanking-new The Nylon Curtain, the lyrics to the Who’s “Athena,” and a song that was almost universally lacking in support, “Mickey,” by choreographer/actress Toni Basil. An unlikely #1 song to begin with—Basil was twenty years older than my fellow freshfolk and I, and this was her first hit—I think we were generally put off by the cheerleader-y cold intro. I didn’t know for years, maybe decades, that it was a Chinnichap tune, nor that the title had undergone a shift in gender (originally “Kitty,” by UK new-wavers Racey—thanks, Music in the Key of E). My opinion on it has softened as time has passed, mostly due to the new-wave influences that I more clearly hear and appreciate now. 

“Mickey” was #30 on this show. Its first five weeks on AT40 went 39-38-34-30-27, hardly portentous. On 11/13, though, it jumped fourteen spots, and its race to the top was on.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/25/75: Jigsaw, “Sky High”

Last October I attempted to determine periods of both high and low turnover on AT40 by looking at four-week rolling averages of # of debut songs from June 76 to August 88 (because I could get the data for those years reasonably easily). It took a little time and some patience, but I finally got back on the case and am ready to report on the first part of the 70s.

I used the Ultimate Music Database for my research, which like Billboard includes the previous week’s Hot 100 position next to each song’s current spot. I just counted the number of songs that were below #40 each the previous week on each page. 100% accuracy isn’t guaranteed (hey, I’m doing this for free—I’ll go back and be extra careful if someone offers a little $), but at the least it’s darn close. And I elected to go the extra mile and cover from 1/3/70, six months before Casey hosted his first show, so we could see the whole of the 70s. That’s the ten-year graph at the top of this post.

(One note: I counted songs that re-entered the show after falling off, like “Ecstasy” by Ohio Players and “Why Me” by Kris Kristofferson from 73, as a debut each time.)

The average number of new songs each week over the decade was 4.66; the standard deviation was 1.33. Even while entering numbers in my spreadsheet, I thought I could identify some of these semi-interesting things:
–Every week between 8/8/70 and 11/21/70 had either 4 or 5 new songs.
–The wilder oscillations in 70 and 71 gave way to a more even up-and-down flow from 72 through much of 74.
–There was incredible activity in October and November of 74. Over those nine weekends, here are the number of new songs: 8-8-4-7-6-6-5-7-5. It’s easy to locate this period, the highest on the graph. I knew about the back-to-back weeks of eight debuts in July 78—glad to learn of this other one. While I’d become aware of songs flying up and down the chart that fall in recent years, I hadn’t fully considered the implications for chart turnover. See this post of Jim Bartlett’s from 2012 for additional details.
–Above average turnover continued well into 75, up until close to the time of this show. There were 32 instances of seven debuts throughout the 70s, and a quarter of them occurred in 75, though two were in the overall slower last two months of the year. (Yet more from JB here.)
–Outside of a couple of brief bursts in the second quarters of 76 and (to a lesser extent) 77, we can now see that November 75 through June 78 was easily the slowest period of the decade. The last eighteen months look more like the 72-74 era.

Two weeks prior to this show, AT40 saw the single highest number of debuts during its classic Casey 6/70-8/88 era: nine.  Here’s a table that gives counts for how many times each number of debuts occurred in the 70s, assuming no mistakes:

# of Debuts# of Times
12
221
376
4138
5148
692
732
87
92

Asides: 1) The other nine-debut week was on 2/7/70—I’d like to research this more, but I have the distinct sense that this kind of single-week turnover was more frequent in the 60s; 2) It feels rather strange that out of seven eight-debut weeks across an entire decade, four of them form two back-to-back pairs.

I wonder if the 10/11/75 show isn’t as remarked upon as it could be in the rebroadcast era because it was guest-hosted, and thus isn’t on Premiere’s or SiriusXM’s radar. Wink Martindale was the host that week; based on what happened in recent years after Dick Clark and Gary Owens passed away, it’s possible that Premiere will provide the show as an extra offering at some later date.

You can go here to see what songs were in that oversized 10/11 cohort. The 10/25 show is the last one all nine were still around. Notes about some of them:

Personal favorite: Abba, “S.O.S.” Still magic to these ears.
Most unusual chart ride: Olivia Newton-John, “Something Better to Do.” It had the highest debut of the bunch, all the way up at #19, but climbed no higher than #13. I think it and the Eagles’ “Please Come Home for Christmas” are the only two 70s songs to debut inside the Top 20 yet fail to go Top 10.
Most well-known today: Bruce Springsteen, “Born to Run.” Sometime in the very late 70s or very early 80s, I decided that the two most underappreciated 70s singles, in terms of chart peak relative to their importance, were “Piano Man” and “Born to Run” (they peaked at #25 and #23, respectively). I could go a long time now before I heard “Piano Man” again, but I’ll still crank “Born to Run.”
Most successful at the time: Jigsaw, “Sky High.” These Brits had been slogging away at the music thing for several years when they caught lightning in a bottle with “Sky High.” It went Top 10 in the UK and reached #3 here (we’re hearing it at #25); some minor hits on both sides of the pond followed, including a second Top 40 hit that isn’t nearly as good, “Love Fire.” Jigsaw split up before the decade was over. 

“Sky High” is one of those songs that transports me back in time. No specific moments, but I must have heard it several times that fall of 75 on cold and cloudy days, because that’s the image/feeling/mood it invariably conjures.

Forgotten Albums: The Reivers, End of the Day

The Reivers have received mention a couple of times already in this space, due to appearances on a couple of mix tapes I’ve reviewed. The first detailed how I came to learn about them and the subsequent quest for their back catalog on CD; the second featured one of the songs on today’s Forgotten Album, their 89 release, End of the Day.

The band came out of the Austin music scene of the mid-80s. Their first album, 85’s Translate Slowly, was released under their original moniker, Zeitgeist. Threat of legal action by another music group with that name led them to re-christen themselves as the Reivers. Translate Slowly impressed enough for them to get a major-label deal from Capitol, and the label put Don Dixon behind the board on 87’s Saturday. It’s a fantastic album; I’ll probably write about it someday.

Unfortunately, Saturday didn’t sell all that much. While I suspect there some pressure to produce some hits on the followup, lead guitarist and chief songwriter John Croslin was allowed to serve as co-producer. End of the Day is every bit as good as Saturday, but it stiffed in stores, too. They got dropped by Capitol and the albums went out of print quickly. The Reivers landed at DB Records, in Atlanta, and recorded one more album, Pop Beloved, in 91. It’s another awesome record–more on it another day, too–but the Reivers called it quits not long after it came out.

Today, it’s a quick tour of five of End of the Day‘s tracks. Not all of the twelve are available on YouTube, and several of those that can be found come from a video shot at one of their shows, probably shortly after Pop Beloved came out. I’m limiting myself to linking to just one of them. We start with a not especially high-fidelity capture of the album’s opener, “It’s About Time,” but it’s what I’ve got to offer.

Next, track 2, the ultra-charming “Star Telegram,” which was on the tape I wrote up back in May.

Here’s a surprise. “Lazy Afternoon” originally appeared in the 1954 Broadway musical The Golden Apple. It’s been sung by, among others, Kaye Ballard, Shirley Horn, Helen Merrill, Regina Belle, and–perhaps most notably–Barbra Streisand. The band, featuring guitarist Kim Longacre on vocals, gives it anything but the typically languid treatment, and it totally works. Crank it.

“Almost Home” was covered by Hootie and the Blowfish on their 2000 release Scattered, Smothered, and Covered. (The album also features a cut from Translate Slowly.) I can definitely envision Darius Rucker and company taking this one on.

The album’s final track is one of its best, the title song. “End of the Day” made an appearance on another of my mid-90s mix tapes. If you watch the video, you’ll see the picture below change to one of the band taken when they reunited briefly six years ago.

Lots of bands wind up not being viable commercially, but Croslin, Longacre, bassist/violinist Cindy Toth, and drummer Garrett Williams sure recorded a lot of tunes I really appreciate.

From The Archives: Gran

Lucille Barton Haskell Houston was born on this date 110 years ago in Erlanger, KY, the eighth and final child of Frederick B. and Elizabeth L. Haskell. She had four sisters and three brothers. In 1927, she was valedictorian of a graduating class of size six, from Erlanger High School. A few months later, she married Wilbur Houston, a medical student in Cincinnati. Over the next six years, they had three daughters; my mother was the middle child.

When my grandfather joined the Army to serve as a physician during WWII, Gran kept the household running (at first it didn’t look like Papaw would be sent overseas, so the family relocated briefly to Texas, where he was stationed—they headed right back to Kentucky after he received his orders to go to the Pacific Theater), including arranging the purchase of their first house. She was heavily involved in the fabric of life in Erlanger and surrounding communities for decades: a lifelong member of Erlanger Christian Church, a frequent officer in the Erlanger Women’s Club, and extensive work with a physicians’ wives’ auxiliary.

I was the eighth of her ten grandchildren, so she was well-practiced in the art by the time I was old enough to notice. My sister and I were fortunate that they lived close to us throughout our youth—our years in Stanford overlapped with those my grandfather served as the Director of Medical Services at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, and they returned to their farmhouse in Union soon after we had moved to Walton. (Many of my older cousins were similarly blessed—they love to reminisce about their experiences with Gran and Papaw in the mid-50s to mid-60s.) Among the fondest memories I have growing up are holiday afternoons spent with my grandparents and extended family.

They moved back to Erlanger in 83, to a house adjacent to and owned by the church, just before my grandfather became ill and passed away. Gran lived there about a decade; afterward, she managed to spend all but her last couple of months in an assisted living facility. She died in March 2001 at age 91, not long after her thirteenth great-grandchild, my son, arrived on the scene.

A couple of quick stories from my adult years:
–My grandmother never learned to drive; after my grandfather developed macular degeneration, she became reliant on daughters, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and friends for rides. The most memorable time I had out with her probably occurred in the late 80s. She’d always wanted to visit the observation deck at the top of Carew Tower (completed in the early 30s), then the tallest building in Cincinnati. I was the lucky one to take her when she achieved that dream.
–One of Gran’s greatest abilities while in her presence was to make you feel like you were the center of her universe. Every gift she received at birthdays or Christmas was “exactly what I wanted.” While I was job-hunting in 92, she needed to undergo a pretty serious heart surgery, and was still recovering in the hospital when my offer from Georgetown came through. I wanted her to be among the very first to know. When I leaned over her bed to tell her about it in a semi-conspiratorial fashion, she whispered back, “I knew this was going to happen for you.”

I know my many cousins, first- and second-, once- or twice removed, could fill hours with tales based on their time spent with my grandmother (and she was a great storyteller herself).

Gran’s persistently upbeat outlook on life, even in the face of more than occasional adversity, reminds me that I have much for which I should be grateful. I was incredibly fortunate to have her in my life for 37 years.

This photo, taken in her final year, sits on top a bookcase in a room on the main floor of our house.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/18/86: Janet Jackson, “When I Think of You”

Shortly after I moved to Champaign-Urbana in August of 86, I bought a point-and-shoot camera with some of my graduation gift money. While I’ve never been the shutterbug my wife is, I have managed to record the occasional moment, notable or otherwise. That fall, it looks like I mostly kept an eye out for sights that friends back in Kentucky might appreciate, often as inside references. For instance, this was for my friend Kathy Jo, who often went by KJ:

To call someone on-campus at Transy, you just had to dial the last four digits, which always began with an 8. The number on this seemingly random sign in a dorm window was the same as my friend Suzanne’s extension during my senior year. I likely discovered it on my way to the dining hall where I took my meals that fall (no, I didn’t recall whose number this was, though Suzanne would have been my first guess—I looked it up in the 85-86 campus directory I still have):

And here’s an iconic campus scene I hadn’t had the opportunity to witness firsthand at my tiny college:

It hasn’t been all that long since I browsed through these photos. As I was thinking yesterday about possibly including some in this post, one image came to mind, and in it, I thought I visualized an irritating detail. The picture is the one you see at the top, of the desk and shelf space in my cubby of a dorm room, apparently taken on 10/1/86. You are indeed looking at almost the entire length of the room—the door was at one corner, and that’s the bottom of the window, above the cooling/heating unit, on the right edge. And yes, what I feared was true. Long-time readers may notice it—it’s that decorative plate on the shelf, the plate I claimed back in February was something I’d gotten on my 25th birthday, well over two years in the future. 

Irritating, because now I have to deal with not remembering who gave me the plate (which I clearly treasure), and when, and why. Irritating, because I have to wonder what, if anything, I chose instead on 2/13/89. Irritating, because I’ve conflated two very separate events. Irritating, because I don’t want to be faced with the evidence of self-mythologizing—what else have I gotten wrong from misplaced confidence in my ability to recall the events of the long-gone past? Occasionally, in going through the items I still have, I discover tidbits that would have allowed me greater accuracy in some of my earlier posts—this time, though, the error was egregious.

From time to time I get asked, “How do you remember all this junk?” A partial answer is that apparently sometimes I don’t. Which leads to this: when I think of someone, or something that I believe happened, how can I be sure I’m getting the broad outline, much less any details, right? I’m going to try not to sweat it too much, but I clearly need to be appropriately humble.

Miss Jackson is in her second week at the top with the first of her ten #1s. She made a lot of very good music, but I’m inclined to say “When I Think of You” is my favorite (I’ll admit I’m by far most familiar with the singles from her first two albums). It’s another of those songs where I hear and feel the joy, getting swept along on a very pleasant four-and-a-half minute ride.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/12/85: The Hooters, “And We Danced”

Leading into this countdown’s #28 song, Casey relays a factoid about rock-era songs whose title begins with the word “And:” only one, “And When I Die” from Blood Sweat and Tears, had ever gone Top 10. My curiosity was piqued enough to investigate how many hit song titles have started with this word, so I turned to my trusty Joel Whitburn book, which encompasses Hot 100 hits through 2002. Counting covers, there have been thirty “And” tunes, with just a cool dozen (well, almost, as we’ll see) having made the Top 40. Here are those (other than the BS&T) that hit prior to 85:

“And Get Away,” The Esquires
“And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” Jennifer Holliday
“And I Love Her,” The Beatles
“And I Love You So,” Perry Como
“And Roses and Roses,” Andy Williams
“And That Reminds Me,” Della Reese
“And the Beat Goes On,” The Whispers

Sure enough, none of these made the Top 10—Della Reese (on the Disc Jockey chart in the fall of 57) and the Beatles had come closest, both reaching #12. And neither did “And So It Goes” by Billy Joel or “And Our Feelings” from Babyface, the only two from the post-85 period covered in my Whitburn.

But I’m eliding here. For a while today, I thought Casey’s staff had made a mistake. That’s because while Reese was on the chart, a competing version by Kay Starr was also heading up Disc Jockey, and would reach #9. 

So why doesn’t this count? It turns out that Starr retitled the song to “My Heart Reminds Me,” and Whitburn lumped all versions under one title in his index (if you look for “My Heart Reminds Me,” you’re directed to “And That Reminds Me”).

Goodness knows that Casey made many errors over the course of the eighteen years of classic AT40 shows, but this wasn’t one of them.

The inspiration for Kasem sharing this nugget was, of course, the presence of the #21-peaking “And We Danced.” While I enjoyed “All You Zombies” pretty well back in the summer (I confess I like the “calf/half” couplet more than I probably should), it was this follow-up that really caught my ear—“the room is spinning as she whispers my name” gets me every time, even if the wrong syllable of ‘whispers’ is emphasized. I’m honestly surprised it wasn’t a Top 10 record, and incredulous that Nervous Night‘s third single “Day By Day” went higher, to #18.

Hooters leaders Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman had been toiling on the Philly scene for a number of years before getting this measured measure of success. Each has co-writing credit on a huge hit: Hyman for “Time After Time” (they both had a major role playing on Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual), and Bazilian for Joan Osborne’s “One of Us.”