In the Classic Casey era between July 1970 and August 1988, there were only five (as best as I can tell) occasions when there was a single new entry on the show. Casey notes at the beginning of the 8/28/76 show that he can’t recall a time where this had occurred before, and with good reason: it hadn’t while he’d been hosting. Here are the five, along with some miscellanea. With one exception, these were not heavy chart hitters.
8/28/76 Song: Red Sovine, “Teddy Bear” Debut Position: #40 Peak: #40 Number of weeks on AT40: 1 Replaced: Queen, “You’re My Best Friend”
5/20/78 Song: Linda Ronstadt, “Tumbling Dice” Debut Position: #37 Peak: #32 Number of weeks on AT40: 3 Replaced: Parliament, “Flash Light”
9/20/80 Song: Elton John, “(Sartorial Eloquence) Don’t Ya Wanna Play This Game No More?” Debut Position: #40 Peak: #39 Number of weeks on AT40: 2 Replaced: Robert John, “Hey There Lonely Girl”
10/19/85 Song: Mr. Mister, “Broken Wings” Debut Position: #35 Peak: #1 Number of weeks on AT40: 15 (including the frozen chart of 1/5/86) Replaced: Huey Lewis and the News, “The Power of Love”
1/9/88 Song: The Cure, “Just Like Heaven” Debut Position: #40 Peak: #40 Number of weeks on AT40: 1 Replaced: The Kane Gang, “Motortown”
The sample is way too small to draw any meaningful conclusion, but I do find it curious that four of the five had little-to-no traction after making the show. Maybe a slow Hot 100 week made it more likely that such a song was already losing momentum?
“Teddy Bear,” in addition to being maudlin, isn’t decent poetry–too frequently meter is wrecked in order to cram in a rhyme. That said, Casey does have a genuinely sad story to share as he leads off the show: Norma Sovine, Red’s wife, died suddenly the day after Red recorded “Teddy Bear.”
My friend Warren spent his early years in Nashville. His parents are now buried there, and, as it happens, their plot is only about 150 yards from that of Woodrow Wilson “Red” and Norma Sovine. Warren and I occasionally have extended messaging sessions over Facebook, a mix of catching up and chatting about music. Sovine’s work has come up a couple of times, and he’s done me the favor (?) of pointing out other classics such as “Billy’s Christmas Wish” and “Little Joe.” (Let me be clear: he didn’t share them because he thought they were good.) I know that many folks appreciate spoken-word pieces of this ilk, but I confess I find these just a little over the top.
I was about to begin my senior year of college, but I know I took time on my occasional trips home to check out the latest issue of SR. The Prince review is the one I distinctly remember reading; however, I’ll bet I made note of Simels’s Best of the Month feature, too–that one became a favorite two or so years later.
Articles Alanna Nash interviews Reba McEntire McEntire’s career was still in its ascendancy at this point. The previous year, My Kind of Country had her finding her “true country” voice, and she was beginning to win CMA awards. Nash met with McEntire in Nashville right around the time the follow-up, Have I Got a Deal for You, was being released, and much of the interview centers on Reba being Reba: “All I can say is I’ll sure be goin’ more traditional, and it’s not because I’m the next Waylon Jennings, or that I’m trying to be a renegade or anything, really other than the fact it’s what I feel the best with.”
Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, Peter Reilly, and Steve Simels.
Best of the Month –Lone Justice, S/T (SS) “There’s more than a suggestion here that McKee may turn out to be a major songwriter as well as the possessor of truly spectacular pipes.” –Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Highwayman (AN) “…a rare treat in country music—four consummate country voices blending in friendship and harmony over dignified, quality material, stamping their marks of individuality on even the most familiar songs.”
There was only one “featured” album in the Popular section this month (the Braxton); I elected to merge it with the rest.
Selected Other LPs Reviewed Rock/Pop/Country/Soul: –Merle Haggard, Kern River (AN) “The Man from Bakersfield has certainly done better albums…but Kern River has an undeniably moody charm about it…” –Whitney Houston, S/T (PG) “Seldom has a young artist been so well equipped for the success that is bound to come her way.” –Howard Jones, Dream Into Action (MP) “Dream Into Action may fail as often as it succeeds, but even Jones’s failures are more challenging and interesting that most pop musicians’ successes.” Peel had been all about Human’s Lib the year before. –Katrina and the Waves, S/T (MP) “…prototypical garage-band pop, an affectionate medley of styles from Motown to Mersey to Tex-Mex.” –Edith Piaf, Live at Carnegie Hall—January 13, 1957 (PR) “At the time of this concert she was already a legend. Almost thirty years later it’s easy to hear why.” –The Power Station, 33 1/3 (MP) “The supergroup to end all supergroups? One can only hope.” –Prince and the Revolution, Around the World in a Day (SS) “Overall, you have to give the Kid credit for trying something a little different, even if it doesn’t quite come off.” –David Sanborn, Straight to the Heart (AN) “Still, it is a better-than-average pop-jazz effort, and maybe next time Sanborn will even blow a little heavier on the blues end of the horn.”
Jazz: –Anthony Braxton, Seven Standards 1985, Volume 1 (CA) “That Braxton is capable of reaching back so eloquently should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed his career, listened to his music, and read his liner notes.” –Claude Bolling, Live at the Méridien, Paris (CA) “…has a sound that reflects big bands past…I certainly prefer this Bolling to the pastry chef two turns out all those suites.” –Dave Grusin, One of a Kind (CA) “’Playera’ is a miniature masterpiece that by itself justifies the reissue of this album.”
I know I’ve said it before, but the single most enjoyable aspect of listening to these old shows has been learning about all the early 70s hits I somehow missed growing up, particularly songs from the R&B side of the spectrum. I’m hoping one day to compile a list of the great soul tunes I now know, but for today, we’ll settle for presenting a prime example, this show’s #27 tune. I don’t know that I’ve yet heard “Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms)” outside of the rebroadcasts from those few weeks it was striving toward a #24 peak. But boy, is it a sweet cut.
Casey names the three Emeralds as he introduces the song this week: brothers Ivory and Abrim Tilmon, along with James Mitchell. In putting this together I learned that Mitchell has a co-writing credit on “Float On,” the Floaters’ big #2 hit from 1977, and that “Leo, and my name is Paul” is Mitchell’s brother.
With the playing of 8/19/72 this weekend, there are now only two Casey-hosted regular AT40s from the 70s that have not be rebroadcast by Premiere, and oddly, they’re back-to-back shows: 11/24 and 12/1/79. I’m not quite sure how they managed that, but it looks like it’ll be late 2021 before the series finally gets completed.
As I write this, I’ve got one class and a department meeting to go before the second week of the semester is done. It’s fair to say that I’m worn down (and not exactly pumped for that weekly 4pm meeting). Some of it’s normal–being “on” in the classroom takes its toll on an introvert–but I imagine a good bit of it is the stress of being in a room with folks for 75 minutes at a time, one or more of whom might be an asymptomatic COVID carrier. I might feel a little more at ease if a few students wore their masks just a little more carefully.
Four days a week, my routine has often been something like this: 1) arrive and do final prep for first class; 2) teach first class; 3) close myself up in the office for three hours (eat the lunch I’ve brought, final prep for second class, grade/advance prep, look at Twitter feed a bit); 4) teach second class; 5) Zoom with a couple of students, a little more prep; 6) go home, maybe grade/prep some more after dinner. Due to the alternative schedule we’ve implemented, Wednesday gets to be a bit of a catch-up day for me. But I’m missing that ability to go down the hall to talk with a colleague, help a student out in the lobby, actually see people.
I do understand I’ve got it better than so many, and there are plenty of people who’d be happy to do what I’m doing. Still, I’m likely not functioning at full capacity. If I feel this tired now, after just two weeks, I’m wondering how it’ll be after six.
A couple of nights ago I was in need of a musical pick-me-up, a happy song from happier times. Scanning my CD shelves, I landed on a disk with a minor AOR hit from my second year in grad school. A little research revealed that the song ascended to a #23 peak on Billboard‘s Album Rock Tracks chart dated 11/21/87. Before we get to it, though, there was enough interesting stuff in that chart’s top 10 to stop along the way and note most of them…
#1: Bruce Springsteen, “Tunnel of Love” #2: John Cougar Mellencamp, “Cherry Bomb” #3: Robbie Robertson, “Showdown at Big Sky” #4: George Harrison, “Got My Mind Set on You” The Mellencamp was a song that played a role one time I was an on-air contestant, written up here. There are three more songs from Cloud Nine and two others from the Boss on this chart, too.
#6: Yes, “Rhythm of Love” #9: Yes, “Love Will Find a Way” A third song from Big Generator is farther down the list. This album was overall a Big Disappointment after the delightful 90125. While I’ve always liked the sound of “Love Will Find a Way” in spite of its dopey lyrics (“I eat at chez nous” is terrible grammar, besides), “Rhythm of Love” just never did anything for me.
#7: Rush, “Time Stand Still” I’d definitely read an article telling the story of how Aimee Mann got to join in on this.
#10. Bourgeois Tagg, “I Don’t Mind at All” Completely underrated Beatles-flavored tune. Made it to just #38 on the Hot 100.
The other songs in the Top 10 are tracks from Floyd and Tull that I don’t remember. There are multiple cuts from Document, Kick, …Nothing Like the Sun, and Permanent Vacation to be found on the chart, too.
But back to the reason for the post. The Radiators were a New Orleans bar/club band that worked their way up to a major-label deal in the late 80s. None of their three albums for Epic exactly broke through, but back in that fall of 1987, WPGU played “Like Dreamers Do,” from Law of the Fish, often enough for me to realize it was quite the mood-brightener. After hearing it again this week for the first time in a good while, I’ll be sure to add “mad molecule” to my repertoire of offbeat terms of endearment.
Like everyone else, I’m ready to be out and about, doing some honest, face-to-face interaction with folks. With extended family, friends from high school, college, grad school, work, church, and fellow bloggers I’ve never met in real life. A big party, somewhere out on a vast plain.
I was too young in 1968–four years old–to be aware of the King and Kennedy assassinations, the Chicago Democratic National Convention, Nixon’s election, the unrest over the Vietnam War, or any of the other events from that tumultuous year. (I suspect my parents did what they could to shield my young ears from the news on the television.) The major thing that happened in my own life was our family’s move from La Grange to Stanford, as Dad had found a new pastorate there; September 4, a Wednesday, is the date that stuck in my head long ago for when that occurred.
Even if I haven’t taken many deep dives into the music of 1968, my impression of its pop scene is pretty positive. A few of the singles my father bought back then are amazing, while there’s one that doesn’t exactly strike me as one of the year’s best. I wish I could talk with him now to argue over (erm, I mean discuss) that selection.
It’s funny. I’ve known the line, “It don’t rain in Indianapolis in the summertime,” for seemingly forever, but there isn’t a recording of this song that I recognize as being something I heard growing up. Miller’s version, in which he manages to sound both sleepy and lecherous, made the charts first, with a run that included three weeks at #40 and then three weeks at #39. O.C. Smith would reach #2 six months later. Martha says the take by the guy with the next song in this post is the one familiar to her. Bobby Russell won a Song of the Year Grammy for it.
But what’s up with that second verse? Guy begs for a lunch date with his wife, “knowin’ she’s busy,” and then makes her wait for him? Big power play there, but I guess maybe small potatoes compared to what Russell came up with in…
Goldsboro had a syndicated television variety show for a couple of years starting in 1973. It was on for a while in the Cincinnati market–I believe it ran on the NBC affiliate between 7 and 8pm one night a week–and that may well be how I first encountered him. These years I think about him only when a rebroadcast is playing either “Watching Scotty Grow” (I confess that one can make me tear up a little) or “Summer (The First Time)” (ugh).
According to Wikipedia, “Honey” was the top-selling single worldwide in 1968; looks like the Harris household contributed to that ignominious result. I know mores and norms change, but there’s WAY too much laughing at, ignoring of, and crying by Honey–am I the only one who’s thinking she must have committed suicide?
Russell’s other big songwriting success was the highly illogical “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” (he was married to Vicki Lawrence at the time it was a hit). He died in late 1992, in Nicholasville, KY, which is about as far south of Lexington as Georgetown is north.
This was Sledge’s second biggest hit on the pop charts, though it’s not familiar to me at all. Our narrator’s mother and even the minister at the wedding could see trouble coming, but he didn’t suss it out until it was too late. Another one that doesn’t quite match what I thought was my father’s style, but I’m learning…
Jim Bartlett has written before (I’m paraphrasing) about songs that have just always been there in your life. “Harper Valley P.T.A.” is one of those for me (we may meet a few others along the way in future installments). This could well be because of Dad playing this 45 multiple times on our console hi-fi, but whatever the reason, hearing it still transports me to times and sensations of long, long ago. I 100% adore it: Riley’s twang and righteous anger, the details behind each board member’s waywardness, the multiple modulations. Phrases like “little nip of gin” and “the day my mama socked it to…” have never not been a part of my consciousness.
I won’t be able to keep up semi-themed posts in this series forever, but I think I have still got a few more to go before we get to the hodgepodge entries.
I spent Friday afternoon working on Canvas, the “learning management system” we use at my institution. An LMS functions as a clearinghouse of sorts for courses–one can post the syllabus, link to video presentations and slide shows, make assignments (which allows students to upload their work and profs to grade it without printing it),etc. I, and many of my colleagues, will be making greater use of Canvas this semester than previously (I’ve also been given pointers on good LMS practices from those on campus who are more tech-savvy–I can only hope I’m implementing their ideas reasonably). My musical companion for those four hours was the 8/6/83 show, broadcast by an AM station out of Black River Falls, WI.
I go back to the classroom tomorrow, in-person for the first time since March 6. My school is going to attempt face-to-face instruction for the most part (folks with good reason to do so are opting to teach online). The powers that be have taken about as thoughtful an approach as possible given the choice to bring students back. We’re starting a week earlier than originally planned and have eliminated breaks, so that fall classes will be done before Thanksgiving. They divided the semester into two seven-week-plus terms (I’ll have two classes each term). There’s been a lot of work done on improving ventilation, air flow and air quality, as well as re-thinking traffic flow, in a number of buildings. They’ve created a number of outdoor meeting spaces for classes, though I’m not likely to be able to leverage those much. Everyone is required to wear a face covering in public spaces, including classes of course, and there’s what seems to be a good plan for contact tracing. Due to distancing requirements, I’m splitting most of my classes into two groups, meeting with each every other class period (which means I’m creating and posting lots of videos filled with course content that students ostensibly watch ahead of time). Even with all this, I can’t say I’m particularly optimistic about success. I’m plenty nervous and figure that the realities on the ground are eventually going to drive us back to fully online instruction. I suppose one can wish for the moment that there will be some good arising from being together for a while. I know I’ll be as cautious as I can.
My son’s college is going to be trying out what sounds like a similar plan, with some added bells and whistles like periodic random testing. He won’t be leaving until the end of the month and will be sharing a suite with three good friends. If they can just all stay clean… Once we drop him off, we don’t expect to see him again until Thanksgiving, assuming all goes well.
Ben is about to start his sophomore year. That’s where I was when the show I heard on Friday was originally broadcast. It was the middle of a summer full of self-inflicted angst, a precursor to a fairly unsettled fall semester. For entirely different reasons, I worry that my son’s second college autumn will also be sub-optimal.
Sitting at #40 is the one song by the British band Charlie that ever made the show. While it rose to #38 the following week before falling off, “It’s Inevitable” didn’t get played on that Keri Tombazian guest-hosted 8/13 show, due to a bizarre charting accident. Thus, 8/6 was the only time AT40 listeners got to hear it.
I was already a little familiar with the band. WKRQ had played the #54-peaking “She Loves To Be in Love” quite a bit five years earlier (we’ll see evidence of that in my next Charts post). As best as I can read Charlie’s Wiki page, there’d been a decent amount of turnover in personnel after 1978, even a new lead singer. Their earlier sound was certainly poppier; “It’s Inevitable” feels more like a cross between Def Leppard and the Sherbs (the vocalist reminds me of Daryl Braithwaite, for certain).
Can’t imagine Joe Elliott and the boys going for the slapstick thing, though.
I’d spent much of the 1989-90 academic year reading papers co-authored by my advisor Bruce Reznick. It wasn’t until the summer of 1990 that I began work on what would become my dissertation. I’ve seemingly kept a copy of every draft I passed onto Bruce for review–they’re stored in the bottom drawer of a file cabinet in my office. The earliest one I can find is dated July 3; the next seems to be from the 27th (written up after I’d returned from my mini-vacation/bridge trip to Boston, but right before my roommate’s wedding). Here’s where I was in the first week of August (it’s four pages long):
Those are Bruce’s comments in red. I know that it’s not remotely meaningful to virtually everyone reading this, but there’s already a germ or two of some results that made it into the final product.
By the end of August, I had worked up eleven pages’ worth. Come October, I’d be learning in earnest about the mathematical typesetting program LaTeX; the handwritten drafts would quickly disappear.
But there was music playing all around me then, too. The Modern Rock Tracks chart dated 8/4/90 includes several songs I was digging on heavily at the time, though a number of those listed below weren’t known to me then.
28. Michael Penn, “Brave New World” This was a big favorite from March, and my choice for a third single, too. Didn’t make any chart noise, but that can’t stop me from giving it a spin and cranking it today.
26. The Candy Flip, “Strawberry Fields Forever” When you’re from the UK and your band’s name is a reference to a drug cocktail, your next move might well be to make a dreamy cover of one of the Fab Four’s psychedelic classics.
25. John Hiatt, “Child of the Wild Blue Yonder” Hiatt was coming off two critically-acclaimed (and completely excellent) albums, so it’s not terribly surprising that Stolen Moments isn’t quite as good. Still, JH performing at 80% peak capacity outdistances many others.
19. Something Happens, “Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello (Petrol)” Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like there was a big spike in music coming over from Ireland following the mega-success of The Joshua Tree. Can’t say this band out of Dublin has a great name, but “Hello…” is a pretty sweet track. Caught the tail end of it a couple of weeks ago on U2’s SiriusXM channel.
17. The Katydids, “Heavy Weather Traffic” Back at the beginning of the year another song from this British band’s debut album was featured in one of my mixtape posts. Part folky/jangly, part tasteful pop–they’re one of many bands out of the UK that just didn’t get their due. If you’re still into buying CDs, it appears you can get a used copy of this disk for a very reasonable price.
15. Happy Mondays, “Step On” Madchester’s surge in the U.S. started several months earlier with the Stone Roses. At this point it was beginning to pick up steam; just wait until we get to October. Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches was the Mondays’ chance to shine, and they didn’t miss, particularly with “Step On.”
14. World Party, “Put the Message in the Box“ My favorite this go-round (in spite of it utilizing the trite arms/charms rhyme), a simply brilliant synthesis of all things late 60s. Play it until you get heard.
12. Hothouse Flowers, “Give It Up” One of 1988’s “It” bands (legitimately so) came out with their second album Home earlier in the summer. This is a good, energetic piece, though it bears at least a passing resemblance to their earlier hit “Don’t Go.”
10. Boom Crash Opera, “Onion Skin” So much good stuff at this time was coming from across various ponds, mostly UK/Ireland, but you can’t ignore Australia. Midnight Oil is up at #4 with “King of the Mountain,” and here’s a band with perhaps more of an INXS big sound. If I heard this much, I don’t remember it, but I’m listening to it now.
7. Sonic Youth, “Kool Thing” Goo was the first of their albums to chart. The Youth aren’t exactly my style, but I can see how they would appeal.
6. The Railway Children, “Every Beat of the Heart” I really liked this song from the first time I heard it, even eventually snagged the CD Native Place from a cutout bin. Not quite sure why that feeling faded so quickly; maybe I should dig it back out.
5. Aztec Camera, “The Crying Scene“ One of the big downsides about not having a full-blown college/alternative radio station in Champaign-Urbana was that, as my tastes kept turning in that direction, I wound up missing out on some very interesting tunes. 120 Minutes could only go so far, and I wasn’t quite yet at the point of regular listening to WOXY out of Oxford, OH, on my trips back home. So, I’ve been using these posts as one means of learning about what I missed.
This is the best song to date I’ve found from those explorations. Strong melody, worthwhile lyrics (“We were two in a million,” “Life’s a one-take movie”), catchy chorus, sweet guitar solo. Video’s got a number of images that stick, too, including a battle of sorts between protesters and police in the rain, complete with reporter on the sideline. I discovered this clip a couple of months ago, just as the protests following the killing of George Floyd began; I haven’t stopped watching it, or thinking about it, yet. I knew “Oblivious” from watching MTV in college, but Scotsman Roddy Frame has something entirely else going on here. It’s time for a deeper dive into his music.
3. David J, “I’ll Be Your Chauffeur” Another one that slipped by me at the time. I was aware of fellow Love and Rockets member Daniel Ash’s solo work from seeing it at Record Service, but I guess this one was less obviously placed? Nice tune, even it’s no “No New Tale To Tell.”
1. Concrete Blonde, “Joey” Not my favorite song of theirs, but I’m glad Johnette and company got to enjoy some commercial success. I’ve found that, once I stopped looking at the Hot 100 religiously in the late 80s, I regularly overestimate how well any number of songs I really like did in terms of peak position. Stuff I figured should easily have gone Top 5, or even #1, fall fairly short. “Joey” is a case in point: later in the fall, it would peak at #19. Not bad, but as much as I heard it, as good as it sounds, that seems…a little disappointing. But we can celebrate it topping MRT thirty years ago today.