Life Has A Funny Way Of Helping You Out

Saturday, July 13, 1996, was not overly hot in north-central Kentucky—the high temp was in the lower 80s—but it was somewhat cloudy and plenty humid. My recollection is that the morning sped by and before I knew it, it was time to tux up and drive the two miles south on U.S. 25 to First Christian Church here in Georgetown. I was to be one of two centers of attention, beginning at 2:30.

Eighteen months earlier there was no indication whatsoever I could be in such a position. But then Martha Kay Lutz entered my life, and nothing would ever be the same. We went ice skating on our second date, and I think it might have been then, holding hands in the midst of the chaos around us as we made our way carefully but not tentatively around the rink, that I thought this could really be right.

We didn’t have a huge wedding party—three attendants each, plus two ushers. The best man, groomsmen, and I whiled away the end of my bachelorhood in the church library playing a few hands of bridge. Right before we walked into the sanctuary, Greg offered me some advice: just look at her and smile.

The ceremony was pretty straightforward and not all that long. Each of us had a cousin sing (Martha’s sang “The Lord’s Prayer,” mine Stölzel’s/Bach’s “Bist du bei mir”). Maybe the most memorable thing for attendees was how long it took most of them to leave—we hadn’t planned it this way, but we wound up greeting and talking with guests in the vestibule as they exited. I don’t regret that at all—it was one way to make sure we saw everyone—but it did put us well behind schedule. There were still pictures to take, so we were rather late to the reception.

Our honeymoon started in the Poconos—part of our wedding gift from Martha’s parents was a week’s worth at any place in their timeshare network. From there, it was on to Niagara Falls (my folks had gone there as well for their honeymoon) and Toronto. Upon our return we got Martha and her things moved in to my—now our—house. And we’ve lived happily ever after.

Yesterday Martha and I spent some time looking through photos of the various events related to the event, from showers to reception. We were fortunate to have so many family and friends celebrate with us. It was sad, though, noting who isn’t here anymore. As folks my age or thereabouts know, twenty-five years goes so fast, yet with so many changes. I’m very lucky to have had Martha by my side for all the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows of the last twenty-five years, and for all those yet to come.

I guess it wouldn’t be a post here if I didn’t do something with music. For the occasion, I’m taking a look at the Hot 100 from our wedding day; that’s an okay idea, dontcha think?

Billboard had implemented a huge change in methodology for compiling its pop chart in late 1991, incorporating Nielsen’s SoundScan and Broadcast Data Systems technology for tracking cassingle sales and airplay, respectively. For chart geeks of the 70s and 80s such as I, it was a shock to the system. Among other major changes, many fewer songs made it to #1, and long-standing records of endurance at the top were shattered.

By 7/13/96, I suppose folks had adjusted to the new chart reality, though. Here’s a decent sampling of what was happening then.

#99. Brooks and Dunn, “My Maria”
#98. Weird Al Yankovic, “Amish Paradise”

One’s a remake of a 70s Top 10 hit, the other’s a parody of a #1 smash from the previous fall. Neither made the Top 40 (peaking at #79 and #53, respectively), and both are in their final week on the chart.

#95. Los Del Mar, “Macarena”
#67. Los Del Rio, “Macarena”
#5. Los Del Rio, “Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix)”

The song you could not escape over the last half of the year. In three weeks, the Bayside Boys Mix would climb to the top and stay there for 14 weeks. Yes, at one point I could do some semblance of the Macarena; no, no one did it at our reception—we had a string quartet, not a DJ.

#93. Lionel Richie, “Don’t Wanna Lose You”
#63. Sting, You Still Touch Me
#49. Whitney Houston and Cece Winans, “Count on Me”
#44. Michael Jackson, “They Don’t Care About Us”
#19. George Michael, “Fastlove”

Several big names of the 80s weren’t finding the going as great by 1996. These are the last Hot 100 appearances for both Richie and Michael (while George was alive, anyway). Sting still had “Desert Rose” to come, and while Houston and Jackson also had some gas in the tank, their #1-making days were at this point behind them.

#91. Garbage, “Only Happy When It Rains”
#79. Spacehog, “In the Meantime”
#65. Beck, “Where It’s At”
#31. Dishwalla, “Counting Blue Cars”

By now, I was mostly listening to the alternative radio station in Lexington, hearing these songs lots that spring and/or summer and liking all of them pretty well, particularly those first two.

As the 90s progressed, many big radio hits weren’t getting released as a single, which could lead to great puzzlement when scanning the Hot 100 (Billboard relented and began including radio-only songs toward the end of 1998). This week, notable non-singles from the top half of the Airplay Chart include “Killing Me Softly” by the Fugees, “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hands” from the Primitive Radio Gods, “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis, and No Doubt’s “Spiderwebs.”

#69. Bush, “Machinehead”
There was a thing on Twitter several weeks ago that went something like, “You’re on a first date. You ask what the person’s favorite (fill in the blank) is. You get up and leave upon hearing the answer. What was it?” Someone I follow filled the blank with “90s alternative band.” My immediate reaction was Bush; based on the reactions to that tweet, I wasn’t alone in feeling that way.

#55. The BoDeans, “Closer to Free”
I’d been hearing about these guys from Wisconsin since shortly after I moved to Champaign for grad school. Their career was pretty much on the wane until the makers of Party of Five used this song as the show’s theme. After the series won a Golden Globe, “Closer to Free” got released as a single and became the BoDeans’ only hit record. It had gotten to #16.

#43. Natalie Merchant, “Wonder”
#32. Natalie Merchant, “Jealousy”

Merchant scored three Top 40 hits off her debut solo LP Tigerlily, two more than she had with 10K Maniacs. “Wonder,” my favorite of the three, is slowly falling from a #20 peak, in its 32nd week on the chart.

#42. Donna Lewis, “I Love You Always Forever”
#16. Jann Arden, “Insensitive”

I wasn’t ignoring Top 40/CHR radio completely during this period. Both of these big hits were perfectly fine. Lewis, from Wales, would reach #2, while Arden, a Canadian, had already peaked at #12. Neither would hit the U.S. Top 40 again.

#40. Smashing Pumpkins, “Tonight, Tonight”
I think this is the best song on the chart and is one of my favorites for the whole year. The video, an homage to Georges Méliès’ Le Voyage dans la Lune, is breathtaking.

#38. Everything But the Girl, “Missing”
#36. Hootie and the Blowfish, “Old Man and Me (When I Get to Heaven)”

Everything But the Girl had been around for the better part of a decade when they broke through with the #2 smash “Missing.” They could have asked Darius Rucker and his bandmates at that moment about how fleeting fame could be.

(More 90s chart fun: “Missing” spent 55 weeks on the Hot 100, astounding those of us who remember when Paul Davis first broke the 40-week barrier in the spring of 1978 with “I Go Crazy.” There are 10 songs on this chart that spent at least 40 consecutive weeks on it.)

#27. The Gin Blossoms, “Follow You Down/’Til I Hear It from You”
I’d really enjoyed New Miserable Experience, so I was glad these guys from Arizona scored a big hit. But I’m probably happier for Marshall Crenshaw and the royalties I hope he’s still getting for co-writing “’Til I Hear It from You.”

#15. Adam Clayton/Larry Mullen Jr., “Theme from ‘Mission Impossible’”
U2’s rhythm section breaks away from the Pop recording sessions to update Lalo Schifrin’s iconic piece.

#13. Jewel, “Who Will Save Your Soul”
The internet is telling me that Portugal. The Man. is the biggest rock act evah from Alaska, but I’m a little surprised it isn’t Jewel Kilcher. It was impossible to avoid the big hits from Pieces of You for quite a while. This is a good one.

#11. Alanis Morrisette, “Ironic”
What’s a word I could use to describe the fact that one of the most memorable phrases from a 90s song did not occur to me on the day of my own nuptials?

Nope, no irony here.

#7. Mariah Carey, “Always Be My Baby”
#6. Celine Dion, “Because You Loved Me”
#2. Toni Braxton, “You’re Makin’ Me High”

Braxton’s peak didn’t last as long as that of Carey or Dion, but all three were riding very high 25 years ago. I don’t mind “Always Be My Baby” at all, and I definitely remember seeing the video for “You’re Makin’ Me High” at the time, with Toni and three other women sitting outside an elevator, using oversized playing cards to rate the men who appeared when its doors opened.

#4. Tracy Chapman, “Give Me One Reason”
There were only ten songs that topped the Hot 100 during 1996, and six of them, whose runs at the top spanned 3/23 through 11/2, are in this week’s top seven. Chapman’s song is the only one among this week’s stratosphere that wouldn’t reach #1. It was her second and final Top 10 hit, coming a bit out of nowhere eight years after “Fast Car.”

#3. Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony, “Tha Crossroads”
#1. 2Pac featuring KC and JoJo, “How Do U Want It”

Two West Coast hip-hop icons here at the top. “Tha Crossroads” memorializes Easy-E, who’d died of complications from AIDS the previous year. Tupac ascended to #1 this week, two months to the day before he passed on after being shot in Vegas.

When Martha and I got married, we were pretty close to the same age that my parents were when they tied the knot. They made it to their 50th; I look forward to getting there myself with Martha.

Taken two days ago.

Happy 25th anniversary, my dear.

One thought on “Life Has A Funny Way Of Helping You Out”

  1. It was a lovely and joyful service, I mostly didn’t cry when Martha came down the aisle. Having married into a Catholic family (and attended lots of weddings), it was nice being in a southern baptist building. Your taste in music is much better than mine, but my favorite song from that list is “Give Me One Reason”. Happy Silver Anniversary! John

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