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.

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