1980: My Top 100 (At The Time)

Regular readers are well aware that I kept a list of my own Top 50 for the better part of three years (from 3/29/80 to 12/25/82, to be precise). My primary rule was pretty simple: all songs on AT40 for the week prior had to be included (I usually made my chart very early in the week and relied on the show just broadcast for my baseline). That of course invariably led to a small lag. I pretty much modeled chart action on what I’d seen Billboard do all those years I’d been listening to Casey to that point: songs didn’t usually debut all that high, they’d climb fairly steadily, and would, with precious few exceptions, start to fall only after staying in the same spot for two (or more) weeks or maybe after rising just one position.

As 1980 drew to a close, it was natural to want to put together a Top 100 for the year based on my weekly rankings. The biggest issue was the incomplete data, a lack of information about almost a quarter of the year. What to do?

In the end, I wasn’t very scientific in constructing the year-end list. The Top 20 or so probably do reflect how I felt about the songs at the time; after that, it’s more impressionistic, crudely approximating where I thought things would shake out, informally incorporating peak position, length of chart run, and what I supposed January, February and March charts might have looked like. I think I was a little careful about discounting theoretical chart points for performance in 1979 by songs like “Escape,” “Better Love Next Time,” and “Cruisin’,” but that may be revisionist thinking on my part.

Anyway, without any further ado:

No doubt I’d make numerous changes to this forty years on, but many favorites then are still must-listens today. Oftentimes you like what you like, right?

I was much more rigorous in putting my 1981 Top 100 together; I’m planning on taking a look underneath the hood of that effort this time next year.

AT40’s Top 100 of 1984, Part 1

My chart for the 1984 year-ender follows the same straightforward format as that of the year before: three yellow legal sheets with rank, song, artist, and peak position. I’m pretty certain it was the only time I listened to Casey the entire year.

That doesn’t mean I wasn’t paying attention to the ebb and flow of the charts. I went to record stores to check out their posted Hot 100 lists throughout my college years; that helped me with peak positions when Casey didn’t remind us. However, my memory was faulty several times by a spot or two: #97 only reached 14, #94 got to 12, #83 peaked at 10, #82 topped out at 9, #77 hit only 8, #72 reached 8, #66 finished at 7, #60 hit 4, #59 and #57 both had stopped at 5, and #55 made just #6.

The other half next weekend; hoping the number of mistakes will be smaller.

Christmas/Holiday Cheer: Nilsson, “Remember (Christmas)”

Long ago…far away…

Probably 1968; my parents weren’t the best about putting dates on pictures.

Remember, is a place from long ago...

My earliest Christmas memories are from when I’m five or six. In the first, I’m at my maternal grandparents’ house. There’s a pretty big crowd, so I imagine my mother’s sisters are there with their families. I’m carrying around a Kenner SSP Racer, complete with rip cord; I imagine it’s a present I received there, either from Gran and Papaw or one of my aunts’ families.

Remember, filled with everything you know...

The second one is likely from a year later. This time my grandparents are at our house, along with Aunt Nancy and her family, who are down from Ohio. My gift from the latter is Battleship, and I get to play a game with my grandfather.

Remember, life is never as it seems...

I had those hideous bangs in my 6th grade photo, so that pegs this as 1975. Maybe that’s the tree Dad and I chopped down ourselves…

We always had live trees growing up, even though I can’t say now how often Amy and I were taken along to help pick them out. One year–it’s either 1975 or 1976–Dad and I trek out to the farm his parents had owned (they were both gone by this point; Dad would sell it in 1983) to find and cut down our tree. I’m wearing a Cincinnati Reds sweatshirt under my coat on a cold and cloudy December Saturday morning. We tromp around quite a bit before identifying the one we deem most suitable. My role in all this is uncertain, as Dad’s not interested in a pre-teen wielding an axe. After some struggle, the cedar is taken down and we manage to get it home. (In the trunk? We don’t have a truck.) My suspicion is that my father doesn’t enjoy the experience much, as we never do this again.

Clues abound that this is 1978. That robe is way small on me now! Can you identify the LP on the floor by my sister (perhaps it’s playing on the stereo in the background as this was taken)? And what music magazine am I perusing?

Remember, when you’re sad and feeling down...

My only Christmas as an only child.
Mom, styling in the very early 70s (I’m guessing 1971). Those are Amy’s and my stockings on the ends of the mantle; mine is still used as a decoration here in our house.

Remember, turn around…

I’m frequently up before dawn these days, checking in on our restless senior dog. Looking out the window over the kitchen sink and across the way, between the bare branches of our maple tree, I can see through the French doors on the rear of the house behind us. They’re keeping their Christmas tree lit all the time, and I make note as the lights quickly go yellow-to-green-to-blue-to purple-to-red-to-yellow… (they must all sleep with their bedroom doors closed). I consider the kids in that house, wondering if they’ll carry anything from this Christmas around in their heads for decades. And then my mind goes to the parents…

Remember, think of all that life can be...

Throughout the second half of the Aughts, we host Christmas for our families: Martha’s sister and mother, and my parents (my sister is living in Florida by this point). Ruth and my mother-in-law stay in our third bedroom, while my folks take over the master. Martha and I blow up an air mattress and “sleep” on the floor in our amped-up boy’s room. One of the last things Ben does before heading up to bed is to strew the contents of a bag of “reindeer food” across our front yard.

Life was clear…close your eyes…

Stereo Review In Review: December 1977

This makes twelve months of rifling through old Stereo Review magazines–I’m so grateful to worldradiohistory.com for collecting them. It’s been fab re-discovering turns of phrase from Simels, Peel, Coppage, Nash, et. al., but also learning about acts and songs that I missed way back when. It doesn’t seem to be my most popular feature, but right now I’m interested enough to carry on for at least another year or two.

This issue goes back closer to the beginning of my love affair with SR than anything I’ve examined so far (I can tell I read at least some 1976 issues). I’m pretty sure I noticed the Mendes review mentioned below, if only because of the name of the band and not the savagery within.

Roots of Jazz, by Chris Albertson
Albertson interviews and tells the fascinating stories of singer Alberta Hunter and bandleader Sam Wooding, two jazz artists who got their starts in the early 1920s and were still performing over fifty years later.

Our reviewers this month are Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance, along with a few special guests. Garland was pretty new to this gig, having first gotten her name on the masthead in October.

Best of the Month
–Cleo Laine, Return to Carnegie (PR) “…just an extraordinarily gifted actress-singer radiating first-class musicianship, enormous intelligence, and wit.”
–George Jones, I Wanta Sing (NC) “Jones comes about as close as any singer I’ve heard to actually bleeding for his art.”
–B. J. Thomas, S/T (JV) “…with the recent loss of Elvis Presley, it is probable that Thomas can be ranked as the most artistically important pop baritone in this country.”

Recordings of Special Merit
–Norton Buffalo, Lovin’ in the Valley of the Moon (NC) “Technically he is the best harmonica player to come along in years…(t)his album has him sounding like a diverse assortment of harp notables, from Stevie Wonder to Charlie McCoy to James Cotton to the Harmonicats.”
–The Chieftains, LIVE! (PK) “This listener…has never heard a reel or a Kerry slide piped out with greater skill or energy. I tell you, these lads get to you.” The last concert Martha and I attended in the pre-COVID era was the Chieftains, toward the end of February. They aren’t ‘lads’ any more, but this review described pretty well what I saw forty-plus years after it was written.
–Ry Cooder, Show Time (JV) “Cooder…is an expert at filling the holes with exquisite ideas…and dramatic inchings toward the resolution of a solo idea—in other words, the man thinks as he plays…”
–Chick Corea/David Holland/Barry Altschul, ARC (CA) “This, then is Corea without the cheap frills, without the buttons and switches that often turn artistry into gimmickry.”
–Nick Drake, Bryter Layter (Lester Bangs) “Three years after his death…Nick Drake’s reality is more compelling than ever.”
–The Emotions, Rejoice (PG) “…demonstrates what can be done within the limits of popular style when talent and imagination are applied.”
–Danny Kirwan, S/T (SS) “Since his departure from (Fleetwood Mac), he’s become something of a cult figure, and justifiably so; he’s an impeccable craftsman both as a guitarist and as a writer…at the risk of committing critical heresy I’d venture to say he’s probably got more talent than the estimable Buckingham/Nicks team that replaced him.” The album was titled Midnight in San Juan in the UK.
–Steve Lacy, Trickles (CA) “The musicianship is of the highest caliber, the material is uniformly interesting, and the quartet’s members are very compatible.”
–Johnny Winter, Nothin’ but the Blues (JV) “This is a surprising and uplifting Winter album, doubtless the best he has ever made.”

Featured Reviews
–Michael Bloomfield, Analine (JV) “(Bloomfield) seems to have approached this album as a kind of recorded spiritual retreat.”
–Judy Collins, So Early in the Spring, the First 15 Years (NC) “This album…is a class product from a class person, extremely pretty to listen to, and an emotion-charged recapitulation of some of the most interesting times anybody ever lived through.”
–Millie Jackson, Feelin’ Bitchy (PG) “Of all the popular soul artists on the scene, Millie Jackson most closely approaches the fundamental earthiness of the classic blues singers…”
–Andy Pratt, Shiver in the Night (Rick Mitz) “…so stunning, so positive, so—all right, I’ll say it—so uplifting that it makes me shiver in the night (and day) to listen to it.”
–Linda Ronstadt, Simple Dreams (William Anderson) “She no longer sounds like Mary Travers but like herself, a finished musician who has polished her abundant natural gifts…”
–Dick Wellstood, Some Hefty Cats! and This Is the One (CA) “One thing I’ve always liked about him is his wide-ranging taste, and he is obviously a man who listens with his mind as open as his ears.”

Other Album Reviews
–Eric Carmen, Boats Against the Current (SS) “Once upon a time, Eric Carmen was a modest young man who had a knack for crafting catchy little hommages to Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, and the Brill Building staffers of the Sixties…but now he is suffering from Neil Diamonditis, a particularly nasty syndrome that transforms talented purveyors of pop fluff into artistes.”
–Donovan, S/T (PR) “In the context of the late Seventies, however, (these songs) seem only naïve, artless, and—worst of all—pointless.”
–Meco, Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk (Ed Buxbaum) “…most of the important themes are…imaginatively turned into very danceable disco that is also fun to listen to whether or not you’ve seen the movie.”
–Sergio Mendes, The New Brasil ’77 (PR) “..oh man, has custom staled and age withered his style! It has now calcified into something like a stale bialy…”
–Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, Rock ‘n Roll with the Modern Lovers (Lester Bangs) “Somebody ought to put this record in a time capsule as proof of just how desperate culture consumers, music fans in particular, got in the Seventies…(Richman) exhibits the mental prowess of a four-year-old.”

Some interesting tunes to post this time…hope you enjoy.

Christmas/Holiday Cheer: Pop Diva Originals

Between SiriusXM’s Holly and my modern Christmas hits Pandora playlist, I can’t help but learn about what the kids of the last two decades (or more) have been serving up for holiday music. I’ll go on the record to say it’s a good thing that these efforts almost always include at least one new song–I’d much rather have that than yet another version of “Holly Jolly Christmas.”

So I’m gonna step out of my lane today and rank a few of these original tunes, focusing on big female pop stars. It’s subjective in multiple dimensions, I’ll admit, but for the most part, I’m not here to gripe and snipe. (As fine a voice as Christina Aguilera has, I’m glad I can’t think of what original Christmas tune she’s done, as I’d have to dock her for her unwillingness to stay on any one pitch for more than a hemidemisemiquaver in her take on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” I find that one unlistenable.)

Here are the six under consideration today:

6. Katy Perry, “Cozy Little Christmas”
She’s been huge for well over a decade, but I still can’t say, “Oh, that’s Katy Perry” when one of her songs comes on whenever I’m at Culver’s–I guess her voice just isn’t that distinctive to me. That goes for this piece, too.

5. Taylor Swift, “Christmas Tree Farm”
As formidable a talent as TSwift is, I find this effort pretty unremarkable–it could use a much stronger melody.

4. Ariana Grande, “Santa Tell Me”
Now we’re starting to get somewhere. The theme is similar to that of “Last Christmas” (which I’m on record as not really liking), but I can get more behind Grande’s upbeat, pro-active approach to avoiding pain.

3. Mariah Carey, “All I Want for Christmas Is You”
Maybe should be higher–it’s become a go-to song for other artists to cover already–but I’d be alright with about 33% less airplay. Carey came on the scene just as I was turning away from pop, so I’ve never attempted to fully appreciate her talent. She gets full marks for this one, though.

2. Leona Lewis, “One More Sleep”
It’s the peppier music being favored as we move forward. But I’m also noticing a progression in relationship status as we go through the top four:
Grande: Do I trust you?
Carey: Sure hope you show up!
Lewis: You’ll be here soon!

Based on “One More Sleep” and “Winter Wonderland,” I need to put Lewis’s Christmas, With Love near the top of my wish list. She sounds so buoyant, so happy.

1. Kelly Clarkson, “Underneath the Tree”
Clarkson: You’re here to stay…

I live too much in the past to know a lot of Clarkson’s body of work, but I do really like what I’ve heard. And I hope “Underneath the Tree” makes the Christmas canon someday; the energy, that sax solo, the chimes…it all works. Programmers could maybe take 10% of Carey’s spins and donate them here?

Forgotten Albums: Kirsty MacColl, Kite

On December 18, 2000, a 41-year-old mother of two boys was killed after being struck by a speeding motorboat as she pushed her older son out of the way of the oncoming craft. The boat shouldn’t have been there, and certainly not at that speed; the family was participating in a recreational diving expedition off the shores of Cozumel, Mexico. It turned out that the boat was owned by the founder of a large Mexican supermarket chain. Ultimately a boathand confessed to being at the helm when the accident occurred, though it’s not clear that was actually the case.

It took about ten days for news of Kirsty MacColl’s tragic death to reach a 36-year-old new father in Kentucky. He put disk after disk into the CD player on top of the refrigerator; more than once that day he rocked his eight-week-old son in the kitchen, in an attempt to console (for entirely different reasons) both the boy and himself.

MacColl is best-known for her collaboration with Shane MacGowan and the Pogues on “Fairytale of New York,” one of the UK’s most popular holiday tunes (it makes an annual pilgrimage to the British pop charts these days, and is currently sitting at #4). It’s a great song, though I sure wish it didn’t include a certain word they rhyme with “maggot.” ‘Tis the season for playing it, I suppose, but that’s not what’s on my mind today.

I’d proclaimed MacColl’s Kite in real time as my favorite album of 1990–it was almost certainly the disk I’d listened to most that year. Though it’d been released in the UK in May of 1989, it would take over a year for it to land in my hands, a purchase likely spurred by a positive Rolling Stone review.

Today, on the twentieth anniversary of her passing, I’ll attempt to honor MacColl’s life and work by playing some of Kite‘s top tracks.

I’ll bet I played “Innocence,” the first song on Kite, at least ten times the day I first slipped the CD into my player. The single mix we hear in the video is different from what I’m used to hearing, but I suppose it’s close enough.

“Free World” was the lead single and reached #43 on the British charts. (Note that they dub in “wag” for “shag” in the clip below.) It’s also the name of the fan site kirstymaccoll.com.

Steve Lillywhite, MacColl’s husband at the time, produced Kite. “Days,” a Kinks cover and the biggest hit in Britain from Kite, shows off Lillywhite’s skill in multi-tracking her voice.

“Don’t Come the Cowboy with Me, Sonny Jim!” is a plaintive cry from a woman too often on the bad end of romantic encounters to a man she sees as a little different from the rest. We’ve now hit on all four UK singles from Kite.

While there are multiple tracks on Kite I love to belt out alongside Kirsty, my fave for doing that (and fave song overall) is the driving “Tread Lightly.” Best line: “I curse the day I met you but I won’t forget you/Not in my lifetime.”

MacColl had done background vocals on the Smiths’ “Ask” in the mid 80s. She maintained contact with Johnny Marr, and the two co-wrote a couple of songs for Kite. “The End of a Perfect Day” might be the best Smiths tune that Morrisey didn’t sing. (A cover of “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby” is one of three bonus tracks on the CD).

Another bonus is a rousing cover of Anna and Kate McGarrigle’s “Complaint Pour Ste Catherine.” Her French sounds pretty good to me (it’s one of two songs she sings en français).

I lapped up MacColl’s next two albums, though I didn’t find them nearly as magical. Her last disk, Tropical Brainstorm, was released just a few months before her death.

Rest in peace, Kirsty–you’re certainly not forgotten.

About a year after buying Kite, I found this on the Usenet newsgroup rec.music.reviews:

I don’t remember now if I noted at the time the reviewer was a mathematician, but several years after this, I found myself in his home. I was attending a conference in Atlanta; it turns out that Mulcahy’s wife, who teaches at Emory, is an occasional collaborator with my dissertation advisor, and I’d scored an invite to a reception they were hosting. I may or may not have chatted with Mulcahy, who’s Irish, about Kirsty that evening…

I know that MacColl will appear in this space at least a couple of times in 2021; look for another cut from Kite in February.

Christmas/Holiday Cheer: Jean Redpath, “Gift o’ Gowd”

While Martha and I were putting lights on our tree Sunday morning, I pulled out a couple of CDs to play. One was Still the Night, by the late Scottish folksinger Jean Redpath. My wife was a fan prior to meeting me, probably discovering her via appearances on A Prairie Home Companion*. Still the Night came out in 1999, at the very end of Redpath’s career. It was released on her own label, and it’s apparently so obscure that Wikipedia** doesn’t even list it in her discography.

Martha ripped the CD long ago and added it to the Christmas playlist on the iPod she keeps in her car. In normal years, we’d be out and about much more right now and would be hearing Redpath’s clear, lilting voice now and again as the tunes shuffled on. In particular, it seems like every year I would hear opening track “2000 Years Ago,” written by fellow Scot Alan Bell. I had planned on sharing that one with you today; however, this disk is apparently so obscure that essentially none of it appears on YouTube, either.

One of Redpath’s primary contributions over her lengthy career was a seven-disk set of recordings of songs written/collected by the great Scottish poet Robert Burns. You get a sense of how she might have approached that project by listening to the one track from Still the Night I can find out there, “Gift o’ Gowd” (gowd being Gaelic for gold–it’s a song about the Magi).

*Redpath comes across as quite earnest in her approach to the craft, but check out this duet with Garrison Keillor from one of her Prairie Home appearances.

**My favorite line in Redpath’s Wikipedia entry is, “She was awarded the MBE in 1977 as well as being named a Kentucky colonel by the governor of Kentucky.” If you’re wondering what it means to be named a Kentucky Colonel, well, you can check that out here. One group of grad school friends gave me grief over and again after I told them I had been made a Colonel twice before I turned twenty.

Dad’s 45s, Part 7: Early 60s Minor Hits

It wasn’t just big sellers in my father’s 45 collection (though there are still more of those to come). Here are a few songs that only made the lower reaches of the Top 40 in the first half of the 1960s. We’ll start with the most famous one.

Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, “The Twist” (#28, September 1960)
Last month we saw two of Chubby Checker’s other hits in this space. It’s at least somewhat curious to me that Dad bought the original rather than the cover (which peaked at #1 the very week this reached its high spot). I don’t know about you, but I might like this take better. Ballard’s “Finger Poppin’ Time” was on the chart at the same time.

Bobby Freeman, “(I Do the) Shimmy Shimmy” (#37, October 1960)
Sandwiched between Freeman’s two #5 hits, “Do You Wanna Dance” and “C’mon and Swim.” I was today years old when I learned about the role that Cincinnati’s King Records played in promoting country and R&B records in the 50s and 60s, including getting James Brown’s career off the ground.

Wanda Jackson, “Let’s Have a Party” (#37, October 1960)
That’s not a typo–Freeman and Jackson occupied #37 on consecutive weeks. This was the first of three trips that the Queen of Rockabilly would make to the Top 40. Wikipedia says she’s still around, and was performing up until last year. Her voice is going to have to grow on me, though.

Stan Kenton, “Mama Sang a Song” (#32, December 1962)
Yes, my father was a minister for quite a few years, but I don’t recall country-flavored gospel (or is it gospel-flavored country?) being among his musical loves. Though I could see him digging on Kenton’s jazz, I’m wondering if one of his parishioners from Bromley gave this 45 to him. It was nominated for Best Documentary or Spoken Word Recording the following spring.

Millie Small, “Sweet William” (#40, September 1964)
The arrival of a certain bundle of joy seven months earlier is no doubt the reason for this record’s presence in the collection. This was Jamaica native Small’s second and final U.S. hit, a follow-up to the #2 “My Boy Lollipop.” She passed away in Britain just this past May, at age 72.

More September/October Charts

Between grappling with this hectic fall semester and deciding to play another Strat-o-Matic tourney these last three weeks, I’ve let putting up another Charts post slide down the priority list. It’s become time for me to get it together.

Another case where I missed the tail end of the show and used the Florence Mall Recordland as a backup. That third Archive song was “To Sir, with Love”–this, after Casey giving a career retrospective of Lulu in hour 2 before playing her current hit. It’s embarrassing I whiffed on both of Bobbie Gentry’s names.

Hello/Goodbye: Nobody bows in, but it’s never again for Point Blank, Robbie Patton, and John Schneider.

As for my rankings:

While 1981 has a (justified) soft rock/country-dominated reputation, I’ll defend my top 15 choices of the time, Oak Ridge Boys excepted. The song at #25 is one I’ve noted before, from Union, another Randy Bachman joint–it didn’t chart nationally.

This is during the six-week period that WSAI took Casey off the air. I woke up early on a few Sunday mornings to listen to WAKY out of Louisville (but not 6:00am early, apparently). I didn’t write down the Top 10, since I could get that out of the newspaper.

Hello/Goodbye: Didn’t know it at the time, but this week was the beginning for Firefall.

Continue reading “More September/October Charts”

American Top 40 PastBlast, 12/1/79: Daryl Hall and John Oates, “Wait for Me”

8/12/79: It’s Sunday morning, and I’m hearing voices. More accurately, the voices of folks around me in the hotel restaurant and the swimming pool area sound just like those of people I know, which makes no sense. I keep looking up in surprise—why are they here?—but of course it turns out I’m imagining things. It’s more than a little alarming that it keeps happening as the day progresses.

I chalk up the hallucinations mostly to the very tiny amount of sleep I’ve had the last three days.  On Thursday, I’d gone on an overnight hiking/camping trip to a state park in southern Ohio, maybe a couple of hours east of Cincinnati. There were five of us: my church’s minister, the female half of our youth group leadership, Meg (who’s my age), Dean (a couple years older), and me. (Those aren’t their actual names.)  I enjoyed backpacking through the woods, and I suppose cooking dinner over a fire was fine. But I’d laid my sleeping bag over some roots and rocks and had a miserable night trying in vain to get comfortable. I closed my eyes for 10-15 minutes a couple of times on the ride home, and it helped a little, I guess. Regardless, I wasn’t going to be kept from going to Friday night’s youth lock-in at the church. My fellow campers are there, along with maybe a dozen others, including my sister (I don’t remember why she bailed on the hiking trip). A lot of fun was had, but sleep was naturally not high on the agenda. After Amy and I got home late Saturday morning, we packed a suitcase and headed south to Lexington for a couple of nights. We didn’t have a family vacation in 1979; this would be the closest we’d come that summer. I imagine we visited with one of Mom’s oldest and dearest friends on our way to the Campbell House, but I was so wiped out, who knows.

So, throughout Sunday, I keep thinking that folks with whom I’d spent so much of Thursday and Friday were at the next table over or just out of sight, around a corner. As the hours pass, there is something else: a strange and funny feeling surfacing in both head and stomach. Meg. The Big Crush of my high school years has just happened. (Did I know then that this was her birthday? Maybe; maybe not.) I’m positively moony for several days as I adjust to my new reality.

12/1/79: It’s hard to say how cool I’ve played it at youth group throughout the fall—less well than I think, I bet. Talking to girls is definitely one of my many kryptonites, but so is acting normal around someone I “like.” One thing I’ve learned about Meg is that she’s in the flag corps at her school, and that turns out to mean she’s here tonight in my high school gym. I’m keeping stats for the boys’ basketball team as our respective schools do battle. As the buzzer for halftime sounds, I leave the bench and dash to the corner where the pep band takes up residence to pick up my trombone and blast a few tunes, foregoing the opportunity to listen to any berating from the coach in the locker room.

It also allows me to watch Meg take part in the corps’ routine. I’m surprised to hear the song to which they perform: “So Fine,” the opener on side two of ELO’s A New World Record. After they’re done, do I seek Meg out to talk? Doubtful. What about at church the next day? More likely, but I can’t say now one way or the other.

Sometime after New Year’s, I summon up the courage to give Meg a call. I slink downstairs to our partially finished basement; there’s a wall phone in the unfinished part, almost under the stairs and next to the washer/dryer. (It’s also the room where our dog Frisky spends most of her time.) Her father answers, and somehow I manage to identify myself and ask to speak with her. We talk for a moderate amount of time. Either it goes well enough or I’m oblivious to the opposite, because I find myself calling back regularly, maybe weekly, for a few months. Meg is certainly some combination of patient and kind in these conversations. There’s youth group, too, but when we’re both there neither gives any sign of additional contact. In the middle of all this, I get my driver’s license, but I guess I’m too nervous to ask her out.

Several months into 1980, it dawns on me that there’s been no particular sign of reciprocity, and I start calling less frequently. I’m surprised when she rings me up one day toward the end of the summer—the first time that’s happened—to ask if I’d like to go bowling. We have a nice enough time, but it’s obvious that we’ll stay “just friends.” By this point, I’m okay with that. Meg will agree to be my junior prom date the following April, our second and last time out together. Throughout this period, and for many years after, Meg’s mom is super nice to me when I see her at church on my infrequent visits home (to be honest, I’ve always wondered if the bowling get-together was her suggestion).

I missed the start of AT40 on that early December Saturday night just over 41 years ago now. My dad, forever indulgent of his son’s chart addiction, was pressed into service to listen to the beginning of the show and do some record-keeping. (This wasn’t the first time, as you may see someday in a Charts post.) At the top of the list Dad handed me when I got home was “Wait for Me,” a debut from Daryl Hall and John Oates; it would reach #18 at the end of January.

It’s one of those weird quirks of memory that I’ve come to associate a song I didn’t hear on 12/1/79 with the events of that day. Indeed, in this YouTube age, you’ll find me on December 1 more often than not—it happened again this past Tuesday—seeking out both “So Fine” and “Wait for Me” for a listen.