The AT40 rite I held on to the longest was checking out and writing down Casey’s countdown of the Top 100 of the year just ended, something I did between 1976 and 1985 (almost three years after I’d stopped listening to the show on any kind of regular basis). I’ve been posting my charts for those surveys over the past five years, as Premiere cycles through them. This year they’re replaying 1980, one of just two from that ten-year span they’ve not spun since 2017. (The other is 1982, and I actually have only a fragmentary record for that one–so this may be the final entry in the series?)
About the notation: the three numbers to the left of each entry are 1) weeks on AT40 during what I thought was the chart year, 11/3/79-10/25/80; 2) peak position; 3) predicted position on the year-end survey. As was ever the case, the biggest forecasting errors came from misunderstanding the chart year, on both sides. The staff clearly reached back further into October of ’79 (e.g., “Pop Muzik” and “Still”) and later into November of ’80 (e.g., “Woman in Love” and “He’s So Shy”) than I expected. It’s hard to draw those lines, and I think over time AT40 did better in adding flexibility, allowing them to give some big hits that happened to chart at “the wrong time” a more just ranking.
I apparently have not held on to the records of my points computations, though I have an idea of the outline of the system I used. There is this oddly-ordered list of my predicted Top 100–it looks like it’s arranged chronologically by peak position?
I plan to be back tomorrow with another list, one that I could have tallied forty years ago but didn’t until this past week.
This chart went up about two months before I learned about Casey Kasem, so one could make the case it’s too early in time for me to be playing this game. There’s never a bad era from which to learn something about pop music, is what I say in response. Here are half-a-dozen tracks from the nether regions of the Hot 100 of 47 years ago; this time out, it’s rock and pop from all-male acts, some much more well-known than others.
97. Justin Hayward & John Lodge, “Blue Guitar” The Moodies were on a self-imposed break through much of the mid-70s. Hayward & Lodge continued working together, though, and this single had followed the release of an LP earlier in the year. “Blue Guitar” is new to me today but lovely; my crack research team tells me that Godley, Creme, and Stewart of 10cc backed Hayward in the recording, with Lodge’s bass part added later. It would top out at only #94.
87. 10cc, “Art for Art’s Sake” Speak of the devil… Godley & Creme were just about to decamp for what they hoped were greener pastures, but not before recording How Dare You! I had not realized what monsters 10cc were on the British charts: eleven top 10 hits over a six-year period, which sounds like a signal I should be checking some things out. On the other hand…I am just not hearing what made “Art for Art’s Sake” a #5 smash in the U.K. (and I say this as someone who loves their two big U.S. hits as much as anyone). It would make only #83 on this side of the pond.
76. Head East, “Never Been Any Reason” One of those presumably now-extinct creatures, the band with a regional following that could never break nationally. They’re credited as a “midwest” act, but I guess that Cincinnati and Louisville were close enough to that for them to receive airplay. I’ve loved this song for a long time and bought Flat As a Pancake sometime while I was in college. Deserved better than the #68 peak it had enjoyed the week prior to this chart.
70. Batdorf & Rodney, “Somewhere in the Night” Helen Reddy’s version hit the Hot 100 one week before this did–Reddy is at #45 and already streaking toward a #19 peak. (Note: this is not the only song that appears twice on this chart–of all things, David Geddes has “Last Game of the Season (Blind Man in the Bleachers)” at #18, while Kenny Starr uses just the parenthetical for the title of his take, at #61.) This would climb one spot higher the following week and then drop off.
John Batdorf soon moved on to form Silver, who hit with “Wham-Bam” in the late summer of 1976.
57. The Hudson Brothers, “Lonely School Year” I remember watching a decent amount of the Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show the year it was broadcast on Saturday mornings. (“No thanks, we’re trying to cut down” became a part of my lexicon for years afterward.) I didn’t know until the last decade that they’d actually had two Top 40 hits–the pitch-perfect Beatles pastiche “So You Are a Star” and the Beach Boys homage (co-penned by Bruce Johnston, even) “Rendevous.” The former made #21 soon after their show debuted in the fall of 1974, and the latter reached #26 just about the time it was taken off the air, less than a year later. “Lonely School Year,” which is at its peak, sounds to these ears like a Tiger Beat version of the Raspberries; alas, it’s too slight lyrically to have had much hit potential.
51. America, “Woman Tonight” This is one of those songs that I have a devil of a time finding the beat during the verses–I’m attempting to train myself through repeated listening right now. It was the follow-up to “Daisy Jane,” the third single off Hearts, and soon to peak at #44.
On Tuesday, I traveled to Warsaw to deliver a Christmas wreath to my parents’ graves. I’ve mentioned before that I go the cemetery there three times a year, continuing in some ways what my father did for his direct forebears. December is the month Dad passed away, but in recent years my focus in traveling there has shifted a bit, into honoring and remembering both of them at the holidays. Visiting where they lay buried always makes for a melancholy day, but for some reason I was feeling it all the more this time.
Warsaw is a one-stop-light town right on the Ohio River, in one of the smallest counties in Kentucky. They do have a very nice locally-owned restaurant, though–Jewell’s on Main, on the corner at that light, across from the county courthouse. Lately I’ve taken to calling in a lunch order as I leave the cemetery and then walking the two blocks to a park on the river to eat; it’s a peaceful, contemplative spot. Tuesday was no exception. It was cool enough, but the sun was out and there was little breeze. I was able to find a sunny spot in one of the picnic shelters to tuck into a grilled chicken sandwich and side salad.
There’s always time to walk around town while they prepare my order. I usually take the same route from the cemetery, starting by crossing Main Street at First and going one block toward the river to turn left onto High Street. At the corner of High and Second stands an office building with a cornerstone indicating it was built in 2005. It’s the plot on which my Great-Aunt Birdie’s house stood.
Dad sold the property a few years after Aunt Birdie died in 1997. At the time it was well over a century old but in pretty bad shape from years of benign neglect. I don’t blame the new owner much for tearing it down, even if I miss it. (The last time I was in the house, demolition was already underway. Somehow I was able to go inside and wander around–it was so strange to go walk up the stairs and into the bedroom where we’d sleep on visits and look directly up to the sky.)
The office building sits where the detached garage was, while the land where the house stood is bare. I veered from the sidewalk, over to where the living room had been. Today there’s a clear view of the river that would’ve been obscured by overgrowth in the 70s and 80s.
So, yeah, I might have been thinking about people I’d been with on Christmases past, maybe even wishing I could revisit–just for a few minutes–one of those magical seasons.
I don’t believe there’s a picture of Mom and Dad together on any Christmas Day. That makes sense–one or the other of them would be behind the camera to capture the moments. (Are there any of just Martha and me from when Ben was growing up? I doubt it.) The photo above probably comes from 1980 or 1981, and definitely was taken during the holidays–notice the mistletoe? Either Amy or I is with camera in the living room of our house in Walton, while Mom and Dad are standing in the junction of our bedroom hallway, living room, dining room, and kitchen (the dining room, which we rarely used, is behind them). Is it day or night? Where are we about to go? What would I say to my parents if I could jump back in the scene?
There’s a walking path around the perimeter of the riverfront park in Warsaw. I’ve noticed before that the city has installed enclosed displays periodically along the path, and the local public library uses many of them to show the pages of a children’s story book–you can read it as you walk the path counter-clockwise. After I finished my lunch, I strolled over to the first one, not far from the shelter where I’ve eaten. This month’s installation is a picture book called Christmas Is Joy, by Emma Dodd, published just a couple of years ago. The drawings are mostly of an adult and child deer walking around a snowy wonderland, and the text recounts all the good things that come from being together at Christmas (note that it’s a secular book). As I continued my stroll, I recognized that had the book been around twenty years ago, Martha and I might well have been spending the days leading up to Christmas 2002 reading it to a two-year-old boy in our laps.
As I walked up the hill back toward my car, I understood that it’s not just Christmases from my youth that I might want to relive.
Wishing you and yours the most wonderful of holidays.
It’s another issue that brings back some memories, in this case the reviews of the Eagles and Talking Heads albums. A few years later, Fear of Music would play a vital role in shaping my musical tastes; I’m planning an in-depth look at it in the coming year. In the meantime, though, I’m here to learn some about what I didn’t catch the first time through.
Article Noel Coppage Interviews Ry Cooder Cooder talks about his career-to-date, recognizing that each album has been a little different (“I’m just trying to find a good band sound, a good format for me“) and musicianship (“Technique is something that people are aware of now and weren’t before…speed guitar has got to be the one hook that has lasted and paid off…but having technique doesn’t mean you can play something good”), among any number of other things.
This month’s reviewers are Chris Albertson, Edward Buxbaum, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.
Best of the Month –Ensemble for Early Music, Christesmas in Anglia: Early English Music for Christmastide (PK) “…a program of largely unfamiliar but totally captivating airs drawn from the Coventry mystery plays, from Scottish and Irish as well as English sources, the whole sung partly in old English, partly in Latin.” –Gary Burton/Chick Corea, Duet (CA) “…it is in the longer pieces that the two players get the opportunity to demonstrate a really wonderful compatibility, building up breathtaking patterns and interacting in a way Corea and Herbie Hancock never could.” —Bread & Roses (NC) A two-disk live set from a fundraising concert held in the fall of 1977. Performers include Dave Van Ronk, Hoyt Axton, Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, Buffy Saint-Marie, Joan Baez, and Jackson Browne/David Lindley. “…it is one of the best recordings of the subtleties of acoustic music in a festival setting you could hope to hear.”
Featured Reviews –Chuck Berry, Rockit (JV) “…epitomizes (his) past glories, demonstrates the healthy current state of his talent, and points out his possible future direction.” –John Denver & the Muppets, A Christmas Together (William Anderson) “Overall, the touch is refreshingly light (Miss Piggy’s Carmen Miranda reading of ‘Christmas Is Coming’ would guarantee that all by itself, but ‘Little St. Nick,’ by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, further ensures that any long faces in the crowd get shorter fast).” –Aretha Franklin, La Diva (PG) “But one mark of a true diva is the ability to bounce back from a slack period with a stunning performance that confirms her high status, and that’s just what Franklin has done…” —Giants of Jazz: Bix Beiderbecke (James Goodfriend) A three-disc overview courtesy of Time-Life. “Listeners coming to Beiderbecke’s music for the first time should be aware that, in general, they will be listening for snatches and fragments. Frankly, none of the bands Bix played with were all that good; the records are classics because of him.” –Nancy Harrow, Anything Goes (PR) “…I actually get angry when I think of all those people who could appreciate (this album) but will never even get to see a copy in their local stores because the racks are too crowded with the latest instantly salable junk.” –Van Morrison, Into the Music (NC) “This new album, being more even and listenable than most, is a good example of how, ideally, songwriting and singing merge in Morrison’s world. When he’s successful, his lyrics—once he’s sung them—convey, at most, that what he’s trying to express is beyond words.” —The Muppet Movie (PR) “The score that Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher have devised has the same charmingly goofy inventiveness and sunny disposition as the Muppet odd squad itself.’ –Anne Murray, I’ll Always Love You (William Anderson) “What has changed is pop music itself, which (disco aside) now seems to be ricocheting within a triangle bounded by folk, country, and rock. And who is the canny young woman occupying the catbird seat right in the middle of that triangle?” —Pennies from Heaven (PK) Several LPs full of classics from the Depression years. Most of the songs had been featured in a BBC series (which was not a re-do of the Bing Crosby film). “The beautifully cleaned-up mono sound on all these discs makes the exercise in nostalgia they encourage all but painless.” –The Who, Quadrophenia (SS) “I’d rate the original album, divorced from the film, as more impressive because it’s more cohesive, but this soundtrack works as an album and as a vindication of Townshend’s faith in the universality of his story and the music he concocted for it.”
Recordings of Special Merit –Cameo, Secret Omen (PG) “Certainly, there is nothing convoluted or intellectual about it, but if the music makes you feel good, that can be enough.” –Johnny Cash, Silver (NC) “It comes off as an expression of Johnny Cash as he is today, responsible, Christian, an American institution, even—but it also reminds you of the old wildness.” –Rosanne Cash, Right or Wrong (NC) “But I’m not yet prepared to say that she’s a great singer; what I’m prepared to say is that she and her husband, Rodney Crowell, who produced this and wrote most of it, sure know how to make albums.” –Marshall Chapman, Marshall (NC) “…seems pretty close to the kind of album (she) has been trying to make; it is a hard rocker and at times it is hilarious and always it reflects an unsinkable spirit.” –Chic, Risqué (EB) “It’s slow, first of all, and it tends to have unexpected rhythms that get in the way on the dance floor. Worse, the typical Chic song is weak on melody, putting romantically lush arrangements and hypnotic repetition where the song should be.” –Ellen Foley, Nightout (JV) “One often seems to be hearing—all at once—a Phil Spector ‘wall of sound’ from the Fifties, some of the more charming studio gimcrackery of the Sixties, and the obsessively clinical engineering of the Seventies. Foley shines throughout, and I heartily recommend that you hear and cheer her.” –Mighty Pope, Sway (EB) “This is hypnotically trancy music that seems to grow rather than build. It’s sexy and great for both heavy dancing and just listening.” –Genya Ravan, And I Mean It! (CA) “…it tops everything (she) has done previously, and that includes her work with Ten Wheel Drive, which originally established her on the American pop map.” –Steve Ross, S/T (William Livingstone) “…an excellent example of the kind of work that keeps Ross’ devoted following of theater-goers and performers coming back for more…American theater songs which he has chosen with taste and performs with skill, reinterpreting them in cabaret style.” –Talking Heads, Fear of Music (SS) “…it’s now quite obvious that Sixties funk of the Memphis variety, rather than SoHo minimalism, is the real root of what they’re doing…a sound album in the best sense, full of textural surprises, rhythmic quirks, and striking instrumental work…”
Other Disks Reviewed –Blondie, Eat to the Beat (Lester Bangs) “The band…is growing with (Debbie Harry), though there’s still nothing really outstanding about their playing, and the songs are mostly pretty serious stuff…but, for my taste, pop groups were never supposed to be this heavy and grim.” –Carlene Carter, Two Sides to Every Woman (NC) “She’s a major talent…her voice is full of warm tones; if the writing and production could simply follow the way she sings decent stuff…the album would seem more unified and, for me at least, more alive.” –Eagles, The Long Run (SS) “Yes, against all expectations (for this they labored three years?), here is still more monied Angst, lame social comment, and overproduction from the Eagles, who apparently believe that what the world needs now is a tuneless, turtle-tempo essay on the human condition as seen from the perspective of five very rich, very bored Angelenos.” –Garland Jeffreys, American Boy & Girl (PG) “I do not like his music, and his singing style leaves me unmoved. But he’s a talented lyricist, a brilliant urban troubadour, and I do like what he’s saying.” –Steve Martin, Comedy Is Not Pretty (JV) “Martin can be quite funny, though, in a haphazard way. He appears to be incapable of a sustained routine, but he has some lovely flashes—giddy plots with a series of punch lines that jab like a Golden Gloves boxing champ.” –Carolyne Mas, S/T (NC) “In some ways this is a crackerjack of a bubblegum album, but it leaves you feeling (she) has the intelligence—and knowing she has the voice—to aim higher.” –Giorgio Moroder, E=MC2 (EB) “The unbroken medley on side one…is a dancer’s delight. Too few disco producers provide this kind of instant party, obvious though the idea seems. Yes, there is a sameness of tone and tempo in the three perky songs…and yes, they don’t hold up for mere listening, but they do build beautifully for dancing.” –The Alan Parsons Project, Eve (EB) “It’s not the most profound concept, the conflict of the animal urgings of sex and the human need for love, and it’s not carried through and developed in a literary or operatic way, like Evita or Tommy.” –Pink Lady, S/T (PR) “…a disco album that sounds so much like every other disco album you’ve ever heard that you’ll have to keep checking the label to make sure you have slipped some older record onto the turntable by mistake.” –Kenny Rogers, Kenny (NC) “But this album, like most of his recent ones, has a predigested, market-researched air about it and an amorphous non-style…That would be all right…except that the songs and instrumentation are so formula-struck.” –Rachel Sweet, Fool Around (JV) “In musical and historical terms she can be compared with Brenda Lee and Lesley Gore, but with one important difference…Today a rapid loss of innocence is assumed, and a teenager can handle material that is womanly rather than girlish…what I guess we will have to call nymphet-rock.” –Frank Zappa, Joe’s Garage, Act I (Eric Salzman) “…a slightly surrealistic sound drama about garage bands, groupie sex, and all-American sleaze…(Zappa’s) zestful, zany adolescent Singspiel and muddled madcap music may be amusing, but it hardly has the urgency his work used to have.”
I’m in the middle of finals week right now, hoping to have grades submitted by Wednesday or Thursday. I wouldn’t call this my favorite semester ever–prep has been more of a slog than usual, for one thing–but I’m hopeful of better things in the spring.
Thirty years ago I was about to go through my first round of final exams as a real-life professor. I’m sure I’d learned a lot over the course of the previous four months, though there can be no doubt multiple missteps were made along the way. I’d be teaching the lower-level courses–college algebra and elementary stats–over and over in the coming years, so one hopes I scaled the learning curves for those classes quickly. The upper-level ones, though–introduction to mathematical proof and calculus-based probability–wouldn’t come my way again for a long time (roughly twenty years for the former, maybe ten for the latter).
Modern rock was still more elusive on the radio in my world at this point than I wanted, so a few of the songs below are (unfortunately) brand new.
30. Sunscreem, “Love U More” I do remember hearing this one at the time, but don’t think I ever knew the name of the band. Hard not to get in a better mood listening to it, that’s for sure. Was this a groundbreaking track in a way, helping tear down the boundary between techno and alterntive?
29. Mudhoney, “Suck You Dry” Not the first time this song has been mentioned here. (Go ahead, click the link–it’s a good post, about the University of Kentucky’s true college radio station.) Influential as they were on the grunge scene, they’ve not grown on me over the years.
27. Shawn Colvin, “Round of Blues” Another veteran track on the blog, appearing at least twice before. Can’t pass up another opportunity to hype my fave Colvin song, though.
24. Blind Melon, “Tones of Home” How did I not know that “No Rain” wasn’t the first song featured from Blind Melon? I’m hearing a little Perry Ferrell in Shannon Hoon’s vocals here, which isn’t a compliment.
17. Thomas Dolby, “Eastern Bloc” Dolby references “Europa and the Pirate Twins” throughout, and the beat is straight from “I Want Candy.” I hope that sounds appealing, because the execution of the concept is flawless.
16. Supreme Love Gods, “Souled Out” Band out of Fresno that broke up after their one and only album. Ironic, then, that the standout line on “Souled Out” is “We are all together.” Based on the one song, I wouldn’t have minded hearing more from them.
15. Paul Weller, “Uh Huh Oh Yeh” Weller will turn 65 next year, still cranking out albums to this day. This soulful opening cut from his self-titled solo debut does feel a bit like a declaration of independence, kicking out the style yet not bringing back the jam.
10. Lemonheads, “Mrs. Robinson” The original is an inner-circle Hall of Fame song, of course. Evan Dando and company play it pretty straight and still come up with a cover that isn’t pointless in the slightest.
8. Dada, “Dizz Knee Land” This was moderately clever the first few times I heard it; eventually it wore out its welcome with me.
7. R.E.M. “Ignoreland” “I know that this is vitriol/No solution, spleen-venting/But I feel better for having screamed/Don’t you?” The angriest, most overtly political song they ever did?
6. Neneh Cherry, “Trout” Two in a row with Stipe hanging around at the mic–he helped with the lyrics, as well. Interesting as this is, it was impossible to re-capture the magic of “Buffalo Stance.”
4. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, “Not Sleeping Around” The big moment in the States for NAD, as they’re steaming toward #1 on this chart. Like it, but I’m hearing a lot of the waning Madchester influence. I do know I’ll have this song in mind the next time I’m in an outdoor aviary at the zoo.
3. Peter Gabriel, “Steam” I don’t know–this sure seems to be not much more than a hybrid of “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time”–and not as fresh as either.
2. The Sundays, “Love” I didn’t get into Blind the way I did Reading, Writing,and Arithmetic, but that’s not because Harriet Wheeler’s voice is any less appealing. We’ll have my favorite cut from this second album next time.
1. Soul Asylum, “Somebody to Shove” Sometimes it all comes together, even on a band’s sixth album. I like “Black Gold” and “Runaway Train” a lot, but they’re no match for the ferocity and intensity of “Somebody to Shove.” It hasn’t been often that the best song on the chart is sitting at #1–that’s the case this time, though.