American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/12/83: Peter Schilling, “Major Tom (Coming Home)”

Things weren’t changing…
The classes I took the fall of my sophomore year of college bore on the surface a strong resemblance to those of the previous year: calculus, programming (I wrote about my experience with punch cards last year), science (physics instead of chemistry), and something in the humanities building to satisfy a distribution requirement—cultural anthropology. 

I enjoyed those last two classes. Dr. Moulder, the physics prof, wasn’t a newly-minted PhD, but he was in his first year at Transy. I found him to be both effective and entertaining in his approach to the material (“the particle”—pause—“has no free will!”).  His exams really helped me hone my real-time problem-solving skills. One distinctive thing was that he would list the day’s topics on the board before we began—I tried adopting this approach for myself when I began life as a teaching assistant at Illinois, but it wound up not fitting on me like it did him. 

The anthropology course was a contrast in many ways. Dr. Richards was a veteran TU faculty member who centered her class around discussion of readings. We were required to study an indigenous culture on our own and write a lengthy paper about them; I chose the Maori of New Zealand. (This past summer I went through artifacts from college days, culling a decent percentage of what I’d held on to—no real reason to keep those old spiral notebooks any more, right?  I did take enough time to browse through my notebooks before pitching and discovered far fewer notes for anthropology than any other class—some days it was just a sentence or two. One wonders how I prepared for tests.)

Things were changing…
I’m sure I was still writing for the Rambler, but apparently I didn’t keep any issues from the fall of 83. I do recall a bit of turmoil surrounding the paper and its editor around then—82/83 Ramblers were Volume LXX, but the 83/84 edition was reset back to Volume 1. Don’t ask me why.

My friend Kevin was appointed manager of WTLX beginning that fall, and he asked me to be program director—as I’ve said before, all that really meant is I set the schedule and let folks play whatever they wanted. There was a big incoming class of new students, and a number of them were interested in getting a slot, so our hours of operation were much longer than the previous spring.

Finishing touches were being made on Transy’s new campus center—the dedication was mere weeks away.

Things had changed…
Right after Amy graduated in May, my parents began readying our house in Walton for sale. In the meantime, they found a new place ten miles north, in Florence. Those transactions were finalized in the teens of September. I don’t recall helping to pack up my stuff, but surely I wasn’t so wrapped up in my own world…? The room that became mine initially had black-and-white shag carpet—I’m grateful replacing that was one of their first projects. 

Trips home that fall gave me by first extended exposures to MTV. The folks stayed at the new place just shy of twenty years, when they downsized to a townhouse.

My grandfather’s health had slowly declined during my freshman year. Things got worse over the summer—I accompanied him on one of his treatments for bladder cancer—and by the time I returned to college, he was really laboring and showing signs of confusion. He went to the hospital in early October, and passed away on the 11th. His funeral early the following week was well-attended. It was fitting that the procession to the cemetery travelled from Erlanger to Florence on Houston Road, named after his cousin, with whom he shared a last name.

Things were about to change
I’d been in a dating relationship for over a year. It would end soon after we returned in January.

Maybe one of the videos I saw at our new house was Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom (Coming Home).” It’s debuting here at #32, and would rocket up to #14 during a nine-week run.  I bought the 45, and must admit I figured it was a sure-fire top 10 hit (I also thought the same of “In a Big Country,” another new song on this countdown). Another confession: I probably liked it better than “Space Oddity” at the time, a position I eventually recanted.

One thought on “American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/12/83: Peter Schilling, “Major Tom (Coming Home)””

  1. I actually _do_ use Jerry’s habit of putting the agenda on the board before class. Part of that is because I typically teach without notes, so it reminds me of where I should be at any given point in my lecture. As it happens, a former student of mine (now a high school teacher) picked up the habit from me, so the Moulder Agenda technique is now in its third generation!


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