American Top 40 PastBlast, 4/30/83: OXO, “Whirly Girl”

I spent a chunk of Saturday morning listening to the Premiere rebroadcast of the 4/30/83 AT40. What did I learn? In no special order:

–Both songs requested as Long Distance Dedications have a Jefferson Airplane/Starship connection: in hour two we hear “Be My Lady” from the Starship proper, while the final hour gives us original Airplaner Marty Balin’s “Hearts.”

–Casey plays a snippet of Falco’s original version of “Der Kommissar” leading into After the Fire’s remake, sitting at its peak of #5. Three years hence in late April 1986, Falco would be in the top 10 himself, coming off a trio of weeks at the top with “Rock Me Amadeus.”

–We hear about the time the Doobie Brothers came under severe scrutiny for the multiple unlabeled bags of vitamins discovered on their private jet right before Patrick Simmons sings “So Wrong” (#32).

–I didn’t know that Boy George had spent a bit of time in Bow Wow Wow prior to forming Culture Club. That tidbit allows Casey to talk about provocateur extraordinaire Malcolm McLaren prior to spinning “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” (#18).

–Toto wanted “Waiting for Your Love” to be the fourth single from Toto IV; Columbia ignored them and went with “I Won’t Hold You Back” (#11) instead. Score one for the suits–when “Waiting for Your Love” (which reminds me a bit of their 1988 hit “Pamela”) was released subsequently in the summer, it only climbed to #73.

–Bob Seger’s “Even Now” (#13) is the only song in the same position as the previous week (thanks for tipping us off about a brand new #1, Case). This was quite the novelty, given how constipated the charts had been for more than a year. A quick check of AT40 lists for the previous sixteen weeks (going back to the beginning of the year) yields an average of just over ten songs staying put each week (if I’m counting right, the low was five, on 3/19, and the high was twenty, on 4/2). I’m not saying this sudden shift was related to a new chart director coming on board with the 4/30 issue of Billboard, but I’m not saying it wasn’t related, either.

–My favorite story came just before OXO’s “Whirly Girl” (#36, down from a #28 peak), spilling the beans as to why OXO leader Ish Ledezma broke up his old band Foxy. The claim is that Ish became disturbed hearing kids on a playground singing the “off color” title phrase of Foxy’s late 1978 hit “Get Off,” and he decided he no longer wanted to take part in being such a bad influence. I’d give this a little more credence if “Whirly Girl” didn’t include the line, “She’s sitting in the latest styles with open legs and mysterious smiles.”

I’m Gonna Bite Down and Swallow Hard

If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you’ll recall that I loved making mix tapes for about a decade, roughly 1985-95. Many I kept for myself, but pretty early on I began regularly showering them upon James. We called them “stuff tapes,” since I’d simply written “Stuff” on the label of the inaugural edition. At first he’d receive a couple a year; by the 90s the practice had evolved into an annual year-end summary of faves from the previous calendar year. For years afterward, “Will songs” would crop up as a topic of conversation in emails or Facebook messages every so often. I hadn’t been smart enough to write down playlists before I mailed them off, so occasionally I’d suggest getting together at his place to listen to them one more time, to jog my memory about what I’d elected to share.

James was game, but of course, we never found a time to make it happen.

Judy spent quite a bit of time last summer helping go through things at James’s house. I joined her once, in early August; my charge was to browse the stacks and stacks of vinyl in the basement. I’d already mentioned the tapes to Judy and she had some to show me when I arrived. Others popped up over the course of the afternoon, mostly on his workbench. (It’s oddly comforting to know there was a time when he’d throw one of them in a player while puttering around down there.) It felt a little weird to take them home with me, but as Judy pointed out, they mean more to me at this point than anyone else.

We didn’t find them all–Stuff and Son of Stuff were missing, as was the tape with highlights of 1993. I’m sure there are others. That’s quite okay. Maybe my grief is assuaged a little by knowing again what was filling the air from time to time at his office, in his home, while driving his car.

For reasons that will become clear, the 1994 tape has been rattling around my head for much of the time since. You can see the whole playlist below, but I’ll highlight a few songs from each side.

US3, “Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)”
Kicking things off with a Top 10 rap-jazz hit from the beginning of the year. Sampling never sounded so good.

Eve’s Plum, “I Want It All”
The lead singer’s name is Colleen Fitzpatrick, not Jan Brady. I couldn’t tell you now how “I Want It All” came to my attention, as I don’t think it was a big alternative radio hit. I do love the ferocity of the guitar and grit of the vocals.

Tori Amos, “Past the Mission”
The official title of the tape was “1994: A Pretty Good Year,” a nod to the opening track of Under the Pink. While it’s not as even or as thoroughly good as Little Earthquakes, highlights from Pink such as “Past the Mission” are welcome any time.

I saw Tori Amos in concert for the first time last May, in Cincinnati. Greg flew in from VA just for the show, arriving early enough for me to take him on a tour of my old haunts, including my high school and the house where I’d lived in Walton. The show was very good, but since it took place on the day of the Uvalde school shooting, a pall of sorts formed and lingered, particularly in the days following as more and more ugly details emerged (Amos acknowledged the tragedy early on and in my view semi-dedicated one of the songs to affected folks).

Magnapop, “Texas”
Obscure band out of Atlanta that seems to be still chugging along in some form today. The embed below, from the album Hot Boxing, is a different version from that on the CD-single I had picked up on spec somewhere along the way. I prefer that one, but alas, it’s not available on YouTube. Still a rockin’ tune in this form.

Smashing Pumpkins, “Disarm”
I’m not too big of a Pumpkins fan, but “Disarm” is off-the-charts excellent, and I’ll crank it every time.

Jimmie Dale Gilmore, “Where You Going”
Gilmore is a country artist popular in some circles, plenty unknown in many others. Maybe his best-known composition is “Dallas”–Natalie Merchant sang a duet version with David Byrne in 10,000 Maniacs’ MTV Unplugged concert.

There are many fine songs on Spinning Around the Sun. “Where You Going” is track #1 and one of its best.

Lush, “Hypocrite”
One of Lush’s very finest. Should’ve been a worldwide smash.

Frente!, “Accidently Kelly Street”
Yes, that’s really how the first word of the title is spelled. THE highlight on Marvin the Album, even above their re-invention of “Bizarre Love Triangle.” It went Top 5 in the band’s native Australia, and while the video is a bit goofy, the tune absolutely pegs the charm-o-meter.

Iris DeMent, “No Time to Cry”
After listening to DeMent’s My Life disk a few times, I’d decided that two of its songs stood out above the others. The title track had gone on a tape I’d made for myself back in the spring. When it came time to dub songs for James, I elected as I often did not to repeat myself–he received “No Time to Cry,” a meditative piece about shouldering the responsibilities of adulthood and grappling with the cruelties of an often capricious world. I slotted it in the penultimate position on the tape.

You can’t predict when, or how, an innocuous decision such as that might echo through the years.

James’s wife Amy had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in the summer of 2018 and had succumbed the following January, a senseless loss. I offered occasional advice on dealing with paperwork and probate in the ensuing months given my relatively recent experiences following my parents’ deaths. Most of our communication was over Facebook Messenger. By early December, I believe things had mostly been sorted out, and I received a question of a different nature.

(His response is a college-era inside joke, a reference to our friend Warren’s experiences on the high school academic team.)

I didn’t want to make any assumptions about or probe his state of mind, but I did wonder and worry about life weighing too heavily on him, that the phrase under inquiry reflected too closely how he was feeling. I should have gently investigated.

I thought back to that exchange after learning of James’s death, one year ago today. Once I realized I had to dedicate one of my radio shows to my friend, I knew that “No Time to Cry” would be on the playlist.

And so it was, a little more than ninety minutes in. I scripted everything carefully, but ten minutes before I’d be reciting what I wrote about Amy’s death and the Messenger exchange, I knew I would be breaking down when it came time to read it. The irony of crying over an introduction to a song called “No Time to Cry” wasn’t lost on me. But you know, I really did have all the time I needed for tears.

No song has weighed on my mind more over the last year.

What could follow that to close things out?

Nirvana, “All Apologies”
The choice at the time, in light of Cobain’s suicide in early April, was obvious. These two songs form a devastating ending combination, one that suits my mood all too well right now.

I and so many others miss you, James.

Modern Rock Tracks, 4/3/93

The second weekend of March 1993 was notable on a couple of levels. Up and down the east coast, it’s remembered for the late winter Storm of the Century/”bomb cyclone,” a massive low pressure system that formed over Florida and spent a couple of days wreaking havoc as it headed north. Lexington was relatively spared, though travel east and south were well nigh impossible due to snow and high winds.

More locally, I had a blind date that Friday evening, arranged by a friend from college. We met at a record store in the mall, drove to a nearby restaurant for dinner, and wound up renting a movie and watching it back at my apartment (Sister Act, I believe). On Saturday, I was able to drive north on I-75 amid the flying flakes to attend the afternoon wedding of a(nother) college friend.

The date went well enough; she and I wound up seeing each other with varying frequency for a little more than a year. She was certainly nice, but in retrospect it should have been–and maybe was–clear pretty early on (to both of us) there was insufficient long-term compatibility. For whatever reason, it took more time than it should have (at least for me) to fully acknowledge that. I think we more or less made a successful transition to “just friends” before completely losing touch.

Anyway, on to the MRT chart from earlier this month:

29. Dada, “Dim”
I like this driving track much better than “Dizz Knee Land.” Gotta love a line like “Can’t this car go ’cause I can still see where I am.”

28. Ween, “Push Th’ Little Daisies”
I’m on record as being a fan of Pure Guava‘s “The Stallion Pt . 3.” A little of these guys does go plenty far in my world, though.

27. The Candyskins, “Wembley”
Another British troupe that came and went so quickly I didn’t quite notice. Fun little number, I will say.

22. The Tragically Hip, “Courage”
You know, it’s a blot of my record that I know essentially nothing about the Hip. That’ll be changing soon.

18. World Party, “Is It Like Today?”
Right or wrong, I didn’t get into Bang! the way I had the excellent Goodbye Jumbo. I probably like “Give It All Away,” which won’t be discussed in a future installment, better than “Is It Like Today?”

17. David Bowie, “Jump They Say”
Black Tie White Noise was Bowie’s first solo release in six years, a reunion collaboration with Nile Rodgers. At the least it wasn’t nearly the commercial success they’d enjoyed a decade earlier with Let’s Dance.

14. Hothouse Flowers, “Thing of Beauty”
If I heard this thirty years ago I don’t remember, and that’s a shame. “Thing of Beauty” describes the song itself, an uplifting, joyous romp. Hothouse Flowers didn’t come close to getting the Stateside attention they should have.

12. Tasmin Archer, “Sleeping Satellite”
I bought only three of the albums represented in this post–those from World Party, Belly, and Tasmin Archer. That feels a little low for this series?

I think my friends Greg and Katie were the ones to put me on to “Sleeping Satellite.” Really nice tune, and it even went Top 40, reaching #32 in early June.

10. Lenny Kravitz, “Are You Gonna Go My Way”
One of the more memorable opening riffs from this period, and maybe the song among those mentioned here (it’s either this or #4 below) that’s best remembered today?

6. Living Colour, “Leave It Alone”
Vernon Reid and compatriots were back for a third time with Stain, which would turn out to be their last album for a decade. “Leave It Alone” is a more-than-worthy entry in their canon.

4. Sting, “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You”
Don’t know why but it felt to me like it’d been only about a year since The Soul Cages, instead of two. Here’s another sign that my sense of what makes a Top 10 hit was out of kilter, as I would have pegged this as reaching higher than #17 on the Hot 100.

2. Belly, “Feed the Tree”
Easily my favorite song in this post. Tanya Donelly showed, at least for a few shining moments, why she deserved attention outside of her work with Throwing Muses.

1. Depeche Mode, “I Feel You”
Speaking as someone who only knows DM singles (so take what I say with an appropriate amount of salt), “I Feel You” didn’t impress nearly as much as the stuff on Violator. My sense is that Songs of Faith and Devotion was their first post-peak release; you’re welcome to tell me how wrong I am.

Stereo Review In Review: March 1989

In the summer of 1987 I converted to Rolling Stone for album reviews—I was living out of state, Dad probably stopped his Stereo Review subscription around then as a result, etc. Soon after he and I had become roommates, John suggested we go in on a subscription to RS, which I probably kept for most of the rest of the time I was in Illinois. It’s interesting (to me, anyway) to look at a Stereo Review issue from the period when I was all about RS and note that SR was highlighting some of the same records (both Best of the Month selections and two others given featured treatment below have long been in my collection).

The New Jazz by Chris Albertson
Albertson takes us on a whirlwind history of the twists and turns jazz had undergone over the previous thirty years, from free jazz through fusion to new age (failing to write approvingly of much of it). He sees hope, though in a new wave (so to speak) of practitioners, including Branford and Wynton Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr., Terence Blanchard, and Donald Harrison.

This month’s reviewers are Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Ron Givens, Roy Hemming, Alanna Nash, Parke Puterbaugh, and Steve Simels. Mark Peel, a stalwart for much of the decade, had departed the scene; Puterbaugh had come over recently from, wouldn’t you know, Rolling Stone.

Best of the Month
–Michelle Shocked, Short Sharp Shocked (AN) “…a writer and performer of sizzling personality and power…(t)he instrumental framework shimmers with ingenuity and intrigue, mirroring the lyrics, and Shocked’s somewhat subversive view of life, in superb little unexpected turns and trills…” It’s indeed a fabulous and fascinating record—I’m just sorry there aren’t any clips available on YouTube to share.
–Lucinda Williams, S/T (SS) “She has the kind of voice that suggests the rise and fall of empires as witnessed through the bottom of a shot glass. It’s an instrument worthy of the Bonnie Raitt comparisons it most often draws, but there’s an edge to Williams’s singing, a raw, wounded, and utterly soulful quality, that also suggests a male honky-tonker like Gram Parsons.”

Featured Reviews
–Anita Baker, Giving You the Best That I Got (PG) “Anita Baker’s much anticipated new album…has everything—superbly lustrous and passionate singing, polished arrangements that include occasional flashes of fine jazz piano, and a high-quality production—everything, that is, except songs that immediately knock you off your feet.”
–Gary Burton, Times Like These (RG) “Gary Burton is a smart man, and he’s made a smart record, but he can burn a little, too, when he wants to.”
–Fairground Attraction, The First of a Million Kisses (RG) “An utterly contemporary throwback, the quartet plays a glorious fusion of swing jazz and heartthrob pop. Their new album sounds as fresh today as it would have thirty years ago.” I adore this record and it’s now become next in the queue for the Forgotten Albums series.
–They Might Be Giants, Lincoln (SS) “…repeated listening…reveals a clever, quirky, often brilliantly arranged and produced piece of postmodern art (yes, art) that just might be the Pet Sounds of the Eighties.”

Other Disks Reviewed
–Steve Earle, Copperhead Road (AN) “But as ambitious as this project is, the album comes off more like a country singer’s Led Zeppelin fantasy than a legitimate rock effort.”
–Sheena Easton, The Lover in Me (RG) “The treatment may have achieved the desired result, dance hits, but (this album) has all the individuality and flavor of processed cheese.”
–Nanci Griffith, One Fair Summer Evening (AN) “While Griffith here presents much of her best-loved material, she diminishes its beauty and impact by rushing through most of the performances in a manner surprisingly devoid of feeling.”
–The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Radio One (SS) “These are performances (they) did for British radio in 1967, fairly early in the band’s career, when they were still young and hungry and relatively unscathed by drug abuse…(w)onderful stuff, and not just for Hendrix completists, either.”
–Etta James, Seven Year Itch (PG) “(This album) offers anyone too young to have been around…when Etta James was one of the ruling queens of rhythm-and-blues, a new opportunity to savor the gritty reality, strutting spirit, and downright infectiousness of her music.”
–James P. Johnson, Carolina Shout (CA) “…Johnson was the first black artist to cut piano rolls of his own compositions. Starting in 1916, before the first jazz phonograph recording was made (he) cut one or two rolls a month…some of which have been assembled by the Biograph label for (this disc)…”
–Cleo Laine, Cleo Sings Sondheim (RH) “And if there’s anything that will destroy a Sondheim song, it’s not sticking to his lyrics and his music as written. But this time Laine sings all sixteen songs as straight as she’s ever sung anything, but with passion, bite, compelling dramatic insights, and (where appropriate) a wonderful sense of fun.”
–Pet Shop Boys, Introspective (PP) “(They) make danceable pop that is not without charm, but between the lines their real gift is for intimating the void in the life of the modern urban ‘party animal.’”
–Pink Floyd, Delicate Sound of Thunder (PP) “Why would anyone who has the superior studio versions need this?”
–Pretty Poison, Catch Me I’m Falling (RG) “Dancers may like what they hear, but more stationary folks needn’t bother.”
–Lee Ritenour, Festival (PG) “He hasn’t done a Brazilian album in ten years, so perhaps that’s why he sounds so fresh here…(t)his is a musical travelogue bound to lift late-winter spirits.”
–Luther Vandross, Any Love (PG) “The songs seem catchier and more imaginatively shaped than earlier efforts…(s)weet, soulful singing doesn’t get any better than this.”