American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/17/86: Phil Collins, “Take Me Home”

Saturday’s attendees, as we appeared in Transy’s first-year student lookbook in 1982. We weren’t arranged this way on my version of the Zoom call.

This is my year for a college reunion (the 35th, if you must know), but, like essentially every other event these days, scheduling something formal has been a challenge. Once the vaccine rollout began gaining steam, my alma mater elected to move Alumni Weekend away from its traditional spring spot on the calendar (Transy doesn’t have a football team), pushing it this year near the end of October. I’m hoping to go.

Back in January, before any such planning had taken place, I’d floated the idea to a few of my classmates over email about holding a virtual mini-reunion in the spring. I brought it back up with one of them in mid-March, and she and I began working on an invitee list and thinking about possible dates. This past Saturday evening, nine folks from the Class of ’86 climbed into our little boxes on Zoom to catch up and share memories (a tenth was unable to make it).

I had a lot of fun over those two-plus hours, even if it wasn’t quite as lively as maybe I’d hoped it would be (given the format and the lofty percentage of introverts among us, that can’t be much of a surprise, though). We shared college-era photos and scans of artifacts, talked about kids and pets, reminisced about classes we’d taken together, profs we’d had, and so on, and so on. The nostalgia was there, but I don’t think any of us were letting it define who we were that night. For me, our 30th gathering five years ago was an inflection point of sorts in renewing some friendships, and my hope is that this event will further that along. We lived in close proximity during a formative period; while we still share that—or at least, what we now remember of it—advancing years and the ever-growing awareness of the finitude of my days make me want to circle back to these old friends and better see what we’ve become (currently three academics, an accountant at a university, a psychiatrist, a home-schooling mom, a retired state employee, an environmental lawyer, and an IT specialist; the one who couldn’t attend is a general practitioner), how we got there, and maybe what we can still learn about ourselves and each other.

(Much of the above may sound anodyne but believe you me, I’m happy that folks want to keep in touch. It was a great time in my life, but I think plenty about mistakes I made then, both social and academic, about how immature I was in various respects. I want to believe I’ve grown—including learning to cut myself some slack—but I’m not the best one to judge that.)

Quite a few of us had been involved with WTLX, so I don’t stand out as the Top 40 music geek with this crowd in quite the same way I do with my high school friends. I did share a picture of one of our posters, and Kevin, the station manager for three years, reminded us about the Top 57 countdown of favorites—as voted on by the student body—we ran our sophomore year (WTLX’s frequency was 570 AM; he promised me he’d forward me that list, which I’m a little surprised I don’t already have).

When I sent out a reminder email last Wednesday, I remarked upon the coincidence that the weekend’s AT40 rebroadcast would be 5/17/86, just a week before our graduation (perhaps unsurprisingly, I also included a list of the week’s Top 10). As it happens, one of the photos shared on Saturday night, with eight of the nine of us in it, had been taken that very day: all too aware of our impending scattering, we’d driven down, along with a couple of friends a year behind us, to my roommate James’s house for a cookout/picnic.

Most of us plus a few others four years later, on 5/17/86. Picture taken by James’s mother, courtesy of Angela Ray.

There may have been a volleyball game or two; I do know that later on, we drove to the nearby road sign that marks the original site of our institution.

“Take Me Home,” the fourth single from No Jacket Required, was sitting at its peak of #7 then, the second of its three weeks there. Phil wasn’t singing about reliving the glories of college, and I can’t even tell what he doesn’t remember. But Transy was home, and felt like home, for the better part of four years. By 5/17/86, I was ready to move on to the next phase. As far as letting my thoughts drift back there now and again these days, though—well, I don’t mind.

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