Songs Casey Never Played, 8/1/81

August 1, 1981 is likely now best known as the birth date of one Music Television. It’s almost a certainty that no one reading this blog watched MTV on that day, as it started out only on a few cable systems in New Jersey. I wouldn’t learn of its existence until late 1982, but like many people my age became hooked on it as soon as I gained regular access.

While by the early 80s music videos had been filmed for a good while, they still weren’t being recorded for every single released–without an outlet like MTV, they couldn’t serve as a potential driver of sales. Below might be six cases in point–at the least, there aren’t videos available today on YouTube for any of them. Another thing they all have in common is they’re by acts whose Top 40 days were unfortunately in the rear view mirror.

94. Spider, “It Didn’t Take Long”
Their one foray into Caseyland was the #39 “New Romance (It’s a Mystery),” one of my faves from late spring 1980. This ballad-y thing was a near miss, having topped out at #43 two weeks earlier. Members of Spider included drummer Anton Fig and future star songwriter Holly Knight (Between the Lines, from which “It Didn’t Take Long” came, also includes the original version of “Better Be Good to Me”).

93. The Brothers Johnson, “The Real Thing”
George and Louis had also last appeared in the Top 40 in the spring of 1980, with “Stomp.” I remember seeing 1981’s Winners in record stores at the time, but I don’t recall ever hearing “The Real Thing.” It’s a jam, well worthy of more than its #67 peak. This was their final week ever on the pop chart.

77. Pure Prairie League, “You’re Mine Tonight”
Their last Top 40 appearance, “Still Right Here in My Heart,” had been just two months earlier. This one’s a slow burner about a guy finally scoring with the woman of his dreams (who of course is seeing/married to someone else). It was soon to reach its #68 peak, and it wouldn’t be long before Vince Gill was moving on to his brighter future as a country superstar and eventually Mr. Amy Grant.

64. Randy VanWarmer, “Suzi”
I liked “Just When I Needed You Most” fairly well when it was a spring 1979 #4 hit, though I don’t really need to hear it any more these days. “Suzi” is quite a departure from that hit, cool and menacing; I’m sorry to be learning about it only now. Already falling from its #55 peak.

47. Blackfoot, “Fly Away”
This Southern rock band out of Jacksonville had two minor hits in the second half of 1979, “Highway Song” and “Train, Train.” They couldn’t quite get back to the Top 40 with nimble rocker “Fly Away,” falling two spots short of glory. Marauder is another album whose cover takes me back to those early 80s weekly visits to Recordland.

45. Gino Vanelli, “Nightwalker”
It’s a little surprising to me to realize that Vanelli never got back to the 40 after “Living Inside Myself” had bowed out a few weeks earlier. It sure wasn’t for a lack of effort throughout the rest of the 80s.

This is the second time in a row that Gino appears in a SCNP post–last time out we featured the #42 hit “Black Cars.” This time he’s experiencing an even narrower miss–next week he’ll ascend to the most heartbreaking position on the chart and stay there for two weeks. “Nightwalker” may have deserved a better fate–it’s plenty smooth and plenty enjoyable.

Modern Rock Tracks, 8/1/92

July and August 1992 were busy months. I was trying to cram in some final good times with IL buds before I rode off into the sunset while also making preparations for that upcoming new life as an assistant prof in KY. In mid-July a bunch of us traveled to Bettendorf, IA for a couple of days of bridge; a little more than a week later, I took off with my friend Jay for Toronto to the summer nationals and another crack at the non-Life Master Grand National Teams event. This time, I was playing with Mark L, since his old partner Milind had graduated; at the other table, Jay would be with Chris, my partner in Las Vegas the year before. Unlike the previous two years, we would advance out of the first round, but that’s as far as we made it.

After saying our farewells to Mark and Chris, Jay and I headed north and east, camping out a couple of nights and taking a quick survey of Montreal. By Wednesday, 7/29, we were back in Toronto for a day of bridge and an evening of baseball.

It was a pretty good pitching matchup, Dave Stieb vs. Kevin Appier. The soon-to-be World Champions lost to the woeful Royals that evening, 5-2. It was the only time I got to see George Brett, who was in his next-to-last season, play; alas, he went 0-4 with an IBB.

From there, it was a whirlwind of travel: Thursday it was back to Champaign-Urbana, and on Friday I drove to my parents’. That was because Saturday, August 1, was my 10th year HS reunion, to be held not far from the high school at a park that hadn’t existed in the early 80s. It was a beautiful day (this was the summer that was significantly cooler than normal, likely due to the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines), and the location was perfect for those who already had small children in tow. One of my classmates who attended was then working for the public radio station at nearby Northern Kentucky University. She had a couple of tickets that she couldn’t use for Sunday night’s Mary Chapin Carpenter concert in Cincinnati–guess who snagged one of them?

The following week, it was another two trips between IL and KY. The first was to load everything for moving and then cart it to an apartment on the southeast side of Lexington; the second was to take my office-mate Paul back to Champaign–I’d needed to rent a small U-Haul and he had graciously offered to drive it. With my UIUC days literally in the rear-view mirror, I had around two weeks to tackle prepping a new set of classes and commence adjusting to the post-student life.

With all those miles being logged in SE Indiana in my ’86 Camry over those weeks, there was plenty of opportunity to listen to my then-favorite station, WOXY (97X), out of Oxford, OH. What might I have heard then? I imagine the 8/1/92 Modern Rock Tracks chart can offer some ideas.

27. PJ Harvey, “Sheela-Na-Gig”
Polly Jean was just 22 years old when her music began crashing on these shores. I’m sure I heard “Sheela-Na-Gig” at the time, though I have stronger memories from a couple years later of watching Beavis and Butt-Head comment on “50 Ft. Queenie.”

26. Toad the Wet Sprocket, “All I Want”
While I do have a fondness for some of the edgier stuff that emerged in Modern Rock world, I’m definitely a sucker for melodic, guitar-driven alterna-pop from the likes of Toad the Wet Sprocket. This would go to #15 on the Hot 100 in September.

22. Beastie Boys, “So What’cha Want”
I’ve said it before, but the Beasties’ growth into a respected act, given their juvenile initial splash, was a genuine surprise to me. You can bank on “Sabotage” getting featured in this series a couple of years from now.

21. The Levellers, “One Way”
I get an amped-up Waterboys feel from the Levellers, I guess because Mark Chadwick sounds plenty like Mike Scott to me on this tune. I purchased a promotional CD single for “One Way” at some point in the first half of the 90s; it’s a good one.

19. XTC, “Dear Madam Barnum”
I don’t think Nonsuch has as many highlights as Oranges and Lemons or (especially) Skylarking. “Dear Madam Barnum” is without a doubt one of them, both catchy and funny.

17. Paul Westerberg, “Dyslexic Heart”
16. Electronic, “Disappointed”
7. Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Face to Face”

Multiple movie soundtracks at the time were centered on or featured alternative music. “Dyslexic Heart,” my favorite of these, comes from Singles. “Disappointed” is one of three songs on the chart appearing in Cool World (the others are David Bowie’s “Real Cool World” at #25 and the resurgent “Sex on Wheelz,” from My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, at #20). “Face to Face” surfaced in Batman Returns, the only flick of the three I saw back then.

14. Catherine Wheel, “Black Metallic”
The video doesn’t look familiar, so this must be one I learned of via 97X. I’m still a fan.

13. Temple of the Dog, “Hunger Strike”
Grunge was never much my scene, but I can recognize “Hunger Strike” as a remarkable musical moment, with the iconic voices of Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder coming together before either was well-known.

12. Del Amitri, “Always the Last to Know”
While I never bought any of this Scottish group’s albums, I rather liked all three of their songs that scored U.S. airplay and chart action (of which this is the second). It would peak on the Hot 100 at #30 in October.

6. U2, “Even Better Than the Real Thing”
Bono and the boys were still pumping out the singles from Achtung Baby. Seems like they could have come up with a better line than “gonna blow right through you like a breeze,” though.

5. The Lemonheads, “It’s a Shame About Ray”
From that brief moment when Juliana Hatfield joined forces with Evan Dando. I’ve got the re-issue with the added cover of “Mrs. Robinson.” Both the title track and “Rudderless” found their way to mix tapes.

2. Faith No More, “Midlife Crisis”
It’d been a long time since I heard this one; I remember it mostly for the “bleed enough for two” line. Again, what groups like FNM were selling wasn’t what I was inclined to buy–though maybe in their case I was still appalled at the flopping fish scene from the end of the video for “Epic.”

1. B-52s, “Good Stuff”
Down to a threesome at this point after Cindy Wilson took leave. Not that this is bad, but in retrospect it feels like Cosmic Thing was not only cathartic but depleting.

Time To Play B-Sides: Bob Welch, “Hot Love, Cold World”

Over the last decade of listening to AT40s from the 70s, I’ve learned (or re-learned) how a few hit songs originally started off as the B-side of a single release. In 1971, Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” quickly overtook “Reason to Believe” on radio stations; nearly eight years later, it was NYC discos that helped launch “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor over original A-side “Substitute.” In between those hits, there was Carl Douglas, whose story has one striking similarity to that of Gaynor’s–both supposedly had little time to record a second tune to go with the putative A-side. That time, though, it was a record exec who did the flipping, as once he heard “Kung Fu Fighting,” he pronounced it would be the featured song. (The links are to Wikipedia articles–they align, at least in broad strokes, with what I think I remember Casey saying about all three.)

Black Water” took a more circuitous route from one-time B-side to hit for the Doobie Brothers. It originally appeared on the flip of “Another Park, Another Sunday,” the first single from What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. “Another Park” peaked at #32 in June of 1974 and quickly disappeared from the chart. (Like the recently-mentioned “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” it spent only two weeks in the Top 40. Must get on that research…) Three months later, a station in Virginia began spinning “Black Water,” and the suits at Warner Bros. quickly realized they might have something hot; a different song from Vices was used as its B.

I got to thinking about these letter changes after hearing “Hot Love, Cold World” by Bob Welch on the recently rebroadcast 7/15/78 show, because it had also started life as a B-side. My sister had bought the 45 for “Sentimental Lady” in the waning months of 1977, a period when I was still actively flipping our singles over on my semi-portable turntable. “Hot Love, Cold World” was one of the standouts, meriting repeated play. I am unable to find any details now as to how this jam graduated to A-side status, but I wouldn’t be surprised if play on AOR stations gave someone at Capitol an idea. Unlike the four songs discussed above, “HL,CW” didn’t shoot to #1, topping out only at #31 in a three-week run on the show.

The lyric that’s stuck with me most comes right at the end of the first verse: “We both can’t be wrong–I must be right.” You should have taken a logic class, Bob!

I’d be glad to learn about other 70s hits that went the B-to-A route–comments are always welcome.

Forever Kept, A Memory Made

Five years ago this morning, this blog went live with a few brief pieces. You’re reading post #841 right now, which means that in the intervening time I’ve blathered on and on and on. As I’ve noted previously, this site sprung from a conversation over lunch at a Mexican restaurant and then ice cream at Dairy Queen with my college friend Judy. What to call the endeavor came quickly to mind, though perhaps I’ve sometimes focused too much on the “my life” side of things as opposed to “the music” portion. Part of that is to get some things in writing for (ultimately) Ben’s benefit; part of it is to get things down for my benefit. The funny thing about the latter is that there’s a decent chance that what’s now canon about various events I’ve written up isn’t always how I remembered things before trying to describe them in words (and who’s to say the memories were correct to begin with?).

Writing hasn’t exactly become less fun the last couple of years, but it has proven more difficult. Maybe a good chunk of the lower-hanging fruit has been picked; maybe I’ve gotten more self-conscious and feel like I need to publish stuff worth someone else’s time; maybe I’m mildly depressed from the pandemic and other national/world events. Regardless, I do still have the fire to continue, ideas for future posts, etc. I’m not going away quite yet.

Part of the impetus for The Music of My Life was a desire for an outlet to help process the deaths of my parents (Dad in December 2013, Mom in March 2015). Loss and regret are recurrent themes here. In some ways I waited too long to start this project, as I’ve got plenty of questions I’d love to ask my folks. And of course, loss hasn’t stopped: a retired departmental colleague and friend, my college roommate and his wife, a beloved pet. You hope that in response you fight through the pain, you remember, you try to do better with friends and loved ones, you work on living your best life—for yourself and for others.

Discovery and gratitude also appear over and again. In recent years, I’ve learned so much about early 70s R&B from listening to old AT40s, about “songs Casey never played” from the later 70s to later 80s, about early 90s modern rock tracks that slipped below my radar at the time. I’m thrilled almost beyond words to have gotten a slot at my campus’s radio station this past year—the show is probably informed from time to time by what I’ve done here. But the best part of the experience has been interacting with fellow travelers on the music blogging highway. Apologies to anyone I’m overlooking, but it’s been a pleasure to “meet” Jeff Ash, Kurt Blumenau, Jeff Gemmill, HERC, Charlie Ricci, and Jeffrey Thames. My long-time friend Warren “ProfMondo” Moore has been both an inspiration and a guide plenty of times. Special thanks go to Erik Mattox and Mark Seaman, both of whom have individually met with me on Zoom several times over the past eighteen months to chat about songs we adore (or don’t). Except for Warren, I believe these connections all arose directly or indirectly from Jim Bartlett plugging my site on his blog back when I was getting started; it (waves hands all around) is much appreciated, Jim.

Since I’m being reflective, here are a few of my favorite “Music” posts from the past five years:

Pretending to be a disk jockey when I was in seventh grade;
Analyzing four-week moving averages of # of debuts on AT40 over a twelve-year period;
Ranking the songs on Silk Degrees;
Memories sparked while eating a chicken finger salad at Zaxby’s;
Remembering albums that a record store donated to our college radio station.

And from the “My Life” side of things:

My paternal grandparents’ years as itinerant teachers in 1920s Kentucky;
The man who helped introduce me to my wife;
Christmas memories across the years, centered around the lyrics of a Nilsson song.

In late December 2017, a former student offered up a series of posts on Facebook highlighting some of his favorite songs from the year about to end. His tastes run mostly in the indie vein, and not surprisingly many of his choices were by artists new to me. One song that stood out was “June,” by Scranton band Tigers Jaw. It’d been released in the spring, with a video bowing in early June, mere weeks before this enterprise began. I loved the clip, shot at the shuttered Penn Hills Resort in the Poconos. There’s something oddly touching in comparing what Penn Hills had been, as seen in the interspersed scenes from old TV ads, with its then-current state. I’m sure the place was plenty kitschy in its day (heart-shaped bathtubs and all), but it was also the center of a number of peoples’ lives. Not that I need another reminder that time marches on…

As it turns out, Penn Hills was located about 30 miles south of the timeshare resort (which I think still exists) where Martha and I spent part of our honeymoon.

(I know it would have been more appropriate to find a song called “July”…)

Thanks to friends (both long-time and more recent) for regularly dropping by to read what I have to say, to the other folks who’ve chosen to follow this blog over the years, and to everyone who’s stumbled across one or more of my posts from doing a web search. I’m grateful for your support and interest. My family is heading out this morning on our first real getaway vacation in, as fate would have it, five years; maybe there’ll be a short post pop up while we’re gone, maybe not. Either way, see you again soon.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 7/15/78: Pablo Cruise, “Love Will Find a Way”

When Casey wrapped up recording the 6/24/78 AT40, he was nearing his eighth anniversary as its host. The following week, he presented a special show, “The Top 40 Acts of the 1970s (So Far),” while the 7/8 installment was guest-hosted by Mark Elliott (the cue sheet says that Kasem was off “filming a theatrical feature”). As Casey got back in the seat for a regular show for the first time in three weeks, he remarked rather matter-of-factly at the top that almost half of the songs he’d spun at the end of June were nowhere to be found: eight debuts on each of 7/1 and 7/8, with three more coming aboard on 7/15. By this time I’d been a faithful listener for more than two years, and it was my first experience with so many debut songs in one week, and to have it occur two weeks in a row…my guess is that I was somewhat amazed by it. Makes me curious: how much was hosting the show just a job for Casey at this point, and how much of a sense of wonder remained for unusual occurrences such as this?

Here are some of the deets of this fast-and-furious action.

–This wasn’t the first time in the 70s for consecutive charts with eight new songs; it’d also happened the first two weeks of October 1974.

-Six newcomers also on 6/24 and 7/22 made July 1978 the second and final period in the 70s to average more than six debuts over four-week stretches, the other (naturally) being in that fall of ’74.

–Casey didn’t play nineteen new songs, however. Tuxedo Junction’s disco cover of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” spent 7/1 and 7/8 at #32 and was one of this week’s three songs to depart. (That suggests two possible research projects to me: 1) Is #32 the highest peak for a song that spent only two weeks in the forty during Kasem’s 1970-1988 run as AT40 host? 2) How many other Top 40 songs from that era were never played by Casey due to special shows, guest hosting, etc? Maybe I’ll/we’ll learn about these things someday…)

–Both “I Was Only Joking” and “Follow You, Follow Me” had climbed a healthy six positions on 6/24/78, but both stalled the following week and then fell off the show. This sort of thing makes me think that it was a soft period for sales, with songs like these two getting sucked up in a vacuum caused by spring hits finally losing popularity.

–Barry Manilow was in the Top 20 and climbing on both 6/24 and 7/15, but with different songs. “Even Now” went 28-22-19 the last three weeks of June, but had its legs cut out from under it by the release of “Copacabana.” The former spent 7/1 again at #19, then was replaced by the latter at #22 on 7/8. Don’t blame me–I had bought the “Even Now” 45 at the time. (Okay, I also bought “Copacabana.”)

–Casey missed out on the last week Seals & Crofts ever spent on the show; their “You’re the Love” dropped from #18 on 6/24 to #40 on 7/8.

–Despite all the turmoil in the nether regions, seven of the Top 10 from 6/24 were still there on 7/15. It would turn out that only five of the nineteen debuting over those three weeks would reach the Top 10 and just two would go Top 5 (the #1 “Three Times a Lady” and #3 “Hot Blooded”).

–Neither “Shadow Dancing” nor “Baker Street” had budged from #1 and #2, respectively. There’s a story circulating out there, though (what I’ve read comes from an AT40 insider), about shenanigans at Billboard that prevented Gerry Rafferty from overtaking Andy Gibb one week in July. Perhaps it was 7/15? Before he plays “Baker Street,” Casey tells us that Scotland has produced more #1 artists per capita than any foreign country–sounds like something they might have saved for the (hoped-for) occasion when Rafferty joined the ranks.

The new song that had advanced the farthest by the time Kasem returned from his break was sitting at #14, closing out the second hour. I think of Frisco-based Pablo Cruise as faceless, but maybe that’s because they lost their place in the sun right around the time the video age dawned. “Love Will Find a Way” would be their second song to reach #6 (truth be told, I’m much more of a “Whatcha Gonna Do?” guy).

American Top 40 PastBlast, 7/12/80: Ali Thomson, “Take a Little Rhythm”

Evidence I listened to this show 42 years ago.

How about a helping or two of trivia related to songs and acts on the 80s countdown that both Premiere and SiriusXM are featuring this weekend?

–There are five covers of songs that first hit the Top 40 in the 60s. Mickey Gilley is taking on “Stand By Me,” the Blues Brothers are updating “Gimme Some Lovin’,” Kim Carnes gives us “More Love,” Carole King re-does her own composition, “One Fine Day,” and the Spinners include “Cupid” in a medley. Only Carnes and the Spinners made the Top 10, both also peaking higher than the Miracles and Cooke originals, respectively.

(A couple of side notes here: 1) Spyder Turner’s version of “Stand By Me,” which hit #12 in early 1967, is more than interesting, due to his imitations of various R&B singers; 2) there were two songs in 2007 with ‘Cupid’ in the title that charted, but I know the #66-peaking “Cupid Shufflemuch better than the #4 hit “Cupid’s Chokehold.” While my son was in HS, the former would play over the PA at home football games during halftime, usually immediately after the band had performed, and many band members–surprisingly, my son was one of them–would sprint to the sidelines to line dance when it came on.)

–Meanwhile, as best as I can tell, only “Funky Town” would chart as a remake, although there were different songs that hit later in the 80s with the titles “Call Me,” “All Night Long” (be a stickler if you want over Lionel Richie’s parenthetical), “I’m Alive,” and “Magic.”

–Movie songs were all the rage. I count eight, from American Gigolo, Urban Cowboy (three), The Blues Brothers, Xanadu (two), and The Rose. Additionally, Meco was doing his thing with music from The Empire Strikes Back. And soundtrack fever wasn’t soon to abate: not only were more hits from the mechanical bronc-busting and roller disco films soon to chart, but tunes from Fame, Caddyshack, and Roadie were also on the way.

–“Call Me” had already outlasted Blondie’s next single–“Atomic,” from Eat to the Beat, fell off after topping out at #39 the previous week.

–Kenny Rogers and Kim Carnes appear on the countdown both individually and in a duet with each other. I have no clue how common that sort of feat was back then, but I will point out it happened again just a few weeks later with Olivia Newton-John and ELO.

–The first six songs are also those that debut this week; none would reach the Top 10. This was one of two times in the 80s (at least through 8/6/88, Casey’s last show at the helm of AT40) when six or more songs came on the show without any getting higher than #11 (the other set being the seven that debuted on 9/11/82). I know of three times in the latter half of the 70s–6/26/76, 5/27/78, and 6/24/78–when this also occurred.

The highest of the new songs, at #35, is Ali Thomson’s only Top 40 hit, “Take a Little Rhythm.” I’m sure at some point during the song’s run Casey noted that Ali is the younger brother of Supertramp bassist Dougie Thomson, though he didn’t on this show (Mark Goodman did mention it). “Take a Little Rhythm” would climb to #15, the same position that his brother’s band would take their live version of “Dreamer” in the fall. On my own Top 50 chart, Ali spent the last two weeks of August at #5.

Diamond Anniversary Day

It was a sleepy, warm Saturday night in the Kentucky counties immediately south of Cincinnati. Friends and family from across the area gathered at the church on the southern corner (yes, the roads run SW-NE and NW-SE right there) of Graves Ave. and Home St. in Erlanger to bear witness to a third-grade teacher living in Fairborn, OH, and the minister at Bromley Christian Church (situated just a few miles north of the evening’s festivities) becoming united in holy matrimony.

The two had met a little over a year earlier, when her father, the minister’s physician, decided to visit the church in Bromley one Sunday morning with his wife and middle daughter. They took the minister out to lunch afterward, and sufficient sparks flew between the two younger folks that they soon arranged a date. Things became serious quickly enough, and before you knew it, Caroline Houston and Richard Harris, who were to become my parents, were making plans for a wedding, one which occurred sixty years ago tonight.

Someone–though I doubt it, maybe my grandmother Harris?–added watercolor to one of the invitations and gave it to Mom and Dad. I remember this sitting on an end table during my youth. The service started plenty late in the day, 7:30pm.

I fortuitously stumbled across my parents’ wedding album this past weekend. If you’re willing to stick around, I’ll share a few moments from the event. The picture at the top is obviously from after the ceremony; Martha and I have a photo analogous to it in our album.

Mom’s two sisters were already married. That’s younger sister Nancy next to her, serving as matron of honor. The two flower girls are my cousins Carol (on the right) and Diane, the third and fourth daughters of older sister Sue. In between is Mom’s best friend from high school and college (and fellow elementary school teacher), Betty Jane Webb.

The sanctuary in the original Erlanger Christian Church was unsurprisingly not air-conditioned (it was demolished in 1976, the replacement building erected adjacent to it). I’m digging the white tux jackets. My grandfather was four weeks away from turning sixty.

The happy couple, now husband and wife.

My paternal grandfather had passed away the previous November–my mother never got to meet him. You can tell that it’s already (mostly, at least) night in these outdoor photos. Initial research indicates that Kentucky may not have been observing Daylight Savings in 1962, in which case sunset would occur a little after 8:00.

The reception was held at my maternal grandparents’ house in Union, several miles to the south and west of Erlanger. It was a grand old stone house, well over a century old even then. My cousins and I have so many happy childhood memories being out at “the farm.”

That’s a pretty impish look on Dad’s face, but it’s looking like he suppressed any impulse to misbehave with the cake.

View of the front of the house (not the side we usually entered–the driveway wound around from U.S. 42 on the back). Mom is visiting with guests, while Dad seems to be chatting with two of the groomsmen.

I love the kinetic energy in this one, an artifact of photographic technology of the time; you sure can sense their happiness as they jog toward the car. The honeymoon took them to Niagara Falls (my wife and I found two commemorative painted plates of the falls among their belongings when sorting through things after they both had passed).

Mom and Dad made it to anniversary #51. I imagine both would acknowledge it wasn’t the happiest marriage ever. As the years passed, though, each came to depend on the other, to be grateful for the other, in their own way.

The last good photo of my parents together was taken in 2009, when the Erlanger Christian Church member directory was undergoing one of its periodic updates. I’m sure I received a framed copy that Christmas. It resides on a shelf in our basement.

Stereo Review In Review: July 1977

Last year I received in the mail a package from friend Mark over at My Favorite Decade. Inside were a couple of vintage music magazines; he figured I might be interested, and of course he was most correct: I had become the happy possessor of the October 1981 issue of Musician and July 1977 issue of Stereo Review. The latter is particularly cool to have, as it goes nicely on the shelf next to the June ’77 issue I had earlier picked up on eBay (and subsequently examined). Now that we’ve reached July once again, it’s the perfect time to stroll through its pages to see what delights await–and delights there are.

Articles
One Hundred Years of Recording, by Ivan Berger
It’s the centennial of the first recorded sound, and Berger takes us on a tour of the visionaries who led the way to where we were three-quarters of the way through the 20th century: Thomas Edison, Charles Cros, and Emile Berliner. (Also in the issue, a selection of the best recordings of the past century–classical only, natch–by David Hall.)
The Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin Big Band, by Chris Albertson
Albertson tells the story of how pianist Akiyoshi rose in jazz circles, first in post-WWII Japan and then in Boston (after getting a scholarship to Berklee) and New York, where she met tenor saxophonist Tabackin in the late 1960s. After they married and relocated in LA, they formed their Big Band. By 1977, they were big in Japan and finally gaining a bit of traction in the States. A review of their live album Road Trip comes at the end of the article: “This group has everything you ever wanted to hear from a big band: the heat and bounce of Basie at his best, imaginative Gil Evans-esque voicings, and as fine a battery of soloists as your ears are likely to encounter. Akiyoshi, who composed and arranged all but one selection, paints her orchestral pictures with strokes that are modern, yet unmistakably rooted in the past.”

This month’s reviewers are Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Paul Kresh, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance.

Best of the Month
–Miles Davis, Water Babies (CA) Material recorded prior to Bitches Brew sees the day at last. “For wine this is, and a fine vintage too. Hearing Miles’ clear, sharp tones again without that damn wah-wah device is a joy…”
–Diana Ross, An Evening with Diana Ross (PR) “It isn’t precisely what you’d call easy-chair listening. With this lady, you’d better be sitting bolt upright in one of those thousand-dollar leather-and-chrome Mies van der Rohe jobs, preferably in dinner clothes and ready to go-go-GO!”

Recordings of Special Merit
–Jorge Ben, Tropical (PR) “The arrangements are as extravagantly thick and heavy as the scent of sandalwood in an overheated room, but they fit Ben’s work perfectly.”
–The Dave Brubeck Quartet, 25th Anniversary Reunion (CA) “It is excellent throughout, a wonderful reminder of what jazz was before musicians became electronic engineers.”
–Bing Crosby, A Legendary Performer (JV) “How can anyone sound so casual and be such an uncanny craftsman at the same time?”
–Jonathan Edwards, Sailboat (NC) “Edwards seems to have great confidence in his voice these days and doesn’t hesitate to give it some tough assignments.”
–Michael Franks, Sleeping Gypsy (JV) “But the more I listened to this album, the more I grew accustomed to his voice and his tonal flapdoodles–and the more I liked his songs.”
–Andy Fairweather Low, Be Bop ‘n Holla (JV) “Low gleefully glides through several styles–Latin, jazz, reggae, rock, country–with accompanying lyrics that are alternately zany and straightforward…If you put this charming and infectiously satisfying album on your turntable you will probably not be able to take it off.”
–The Marshall Tucker Band, Carolina Dreams (NC) “It must have been well planned, but it sounds spontaneous, and how it sounds is what counts.”

Featured Reviews
–Dexter Gordon, Homecoming (CA) “Highlights? The album itself is a highlight, and I hope it sells as well as the music merits. Maybe a decent sales record for this one would encourage not only Columbia but the rest of the sleeping giants to reactivate their jazz catalogs.”
–Nils Lofgren, I Came to Dance (SS) “His best songs are melodically charming, neatly constructed, and imbued with a teen romanticism that never rings false. Bruce Springsteen excepted, he may be the last real innocent in rock.”
–Loretta Lynn, I Remember Patsy (NC) “Still, this is an interesting thing to have around; it does satisfy a sort of what-if peckishness one might have about singers identified with certain styles. Lynn proves she can do the other person’s kind of song, and her way never wavers from true-blue Loretta Lynn.”
–Helen Schneider, So Close (PR) “She’s what pop music has grown up to as the Seventies draw to a close: a performer who uses ‘rock’ as an action verb in her musical sentences; one who can actually sing and thus doesn’t have to fake it and try to cloak that fakery with ‘meaningfulness’; and most of all, a performer who wants to get close to her audiences, not dazzle or berate them.”
–Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes, This Time It’s for Real (SS) “…they are now resolutely making a unique and personal kind of music that owes a debt to the past but is stamped with an instantly identifiable character of its own…The Asbury Jukes are the first white band since the Rolling Stones to manage that kind of quantum leap.”

Other Disks Reviewed
–America, Harbor (NC) “You can’t sue yourself for plagiarism, which may come in handy for America with parts of this album.”
–Bad Company, Burnin’ Sky (SS) “Paul Rodgers remains, technically, a great vocalist, but I haven’t believed a word he’s sung since he left Free, and the rest of the group might as well be Kiss, Aerosmith, or any other of the undistinguished loud noises currently being enshrined in vinyl.”
–Dee Dee Bridgewater, S/T (PR) “Bridgewater ought to leave the heavy breathing to others who do it a lot better and concentrate on her comic gift.”
–Don Harrison Band, Red Hot (JV) “What the Harrison band ought to do–what hundreds of bands ought to do–is give up the false notion that self-penned material is essential to its glory and start drawing on the catalog of solid, proven tunes that are both fun to play and can reveal the band’s talents.”
–Roger McGuinn, Thunderbyrd (SS) “This album should once and for all put an end to the Roger McGuinn-as-auteur theories of certain rock critics.”
–Split Enz, Mental Notes (JV) Vance misidentifies the band’s country of origin. “It is difficult to tell when this group–or any English Gothic group–is kidding or when the emotional imbalance described in the music does in fact reflect the state of mind of the musicians.”

Forgotten Albums: Anne Richmond Boston, The Big House of Time

My wife’s sister lives in the suburban Atlanta area. Despite our regular visits there over the years, I’ve yet to set foot in Wax ‘n Facts, a semi-famous record store that’s been in the Little Five Points district for over 40 years. Expect this oversight to be corrected on our next visit to see Ruth.

The co-founder of Wax ‘n Facts is Danny Beard, who subsequently stumbled into becoming a record producer and the proprietor of DB Records, a small label that punched above its weight during a twenty-year existence. DB’s biggest moment was probably its first, when it released the original version of the B-52’s “Rock Lobster.” The label became a launching pad for other groups (mostly originating in Georgia) that graduated to major-label status, including Fetchin Bones, Guadalcanal Diary, the Swimming Pool Q’s, and the Reivers. The last of these became a favorite of mine in the early 90s.

The lead singer for the Swimming Pool Q’s, Anne Richmond Boston, left the group after their 1986 album Blue Tomorrow flopped and they lost their deal with A&M. (If you want to know what the Q’s sounded like, check out “The Bells Ring.”) She resurfaced four years later on, yep, DB Records, with a delightful album titled The Big House of Time. Of course it didn’t sell well, and soon found itself relegated to cutout bins across the country. I scooped it up in Lexington for $2.99 not long before I moved back to Kentucky in the fall of 1992 (a sticker with the price is still on the jewel case). It’s perhaps the most obscure album I’ve written up in this series–I can find clips for just four of its eleven songs. Fortunately, they’re all among the disk’s best tracks.

The opening song is the cheery “Dreaming,” one that Boston wrote with her husband Rob Gal.

A majority of the tunes on The Big House of Time are covers. One is John Hiatt’s “Learning How to Love You,” from his breakthrough Bring the Family. Boston brings an enthusiasm that’s a welcome contrast to the somber, acoustic treatment in the original.

The other two songs I’m able to embed can be found on mixtapes I made for myself around thirty years ago. The closing track on one them (I wrote it up here) is her take on the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Darling Be Home Soon.”

Finally, Boston offers a driving version of Neil Young’s “When You Dance I Can Really Love.” While a faithful cover in terms of arrangement, it’s (dare I say it?) an improvement on the original.

I wish I could offer up other cuts now (maybe I’ll add some should they ever appear). Should you ever come across a copy of TBHoT, it might be worth a small investment (used copies start at $11 on Amazon these days).

DB Records lasted until 1997. The only other DB releases in my collection are the first and fourth Reivers albums, Translate Slowly and Pop Beloved. Given how much I enjoy what I have, I imagine I’d do well to jump on other DB disks should I ever see them.

This weekend included the memorial service for my college roommate James. I’m not going to attempt any sort of summary, at least just now–I’m still processing it all, I suppose. If you’re interested, my friend Warren did a fine job of expressing his experience of the event here.

Songs Casey Never Played, 6/8/85

Assembled the songs for this a week ago, but just couldn’t get in the mood to finish it off. Summertime blues, maybe?

Regardless, here are six tunes from the 6/8/85 Hot 100 that couldn’t cross the Rubicon into Casey-land. I was definitely aware of all of them at the time, either via Lexington’s AOR station or album purchase. Let’s rock it out some.

89. Kim Mitchell, “Go for Soda”
Starting off today with a Canadian rocker who’s less than a month away from his 70th birthday. “Patio Lanterns” was the bigger hit in his native land, but south of the border we were much more into this song encouraging us to lay off the beer for a night. It almost made top 10 on the rock chart, but had stalled out at #86 here a week earlier.

85. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “Make It Better (Forget About Me)”
At the time, new material from Petty qualified as must-buy, and I picked up Southern Accents not long after it was released in late March. “Don’t Come Around Here No More” was plenty good, and I liked “It Ain’t Nothin’ to Me” (even if it was an undisciplined mess). On the whole, though, I was disappointed, and I struggled to hear a second hit single on it. Turns out I was right: this follow-up, even with some swell horn action, limped only to #54, and a few months later “Rebels” (maybe the better song) peaked at #71.

71. Foreigner, “Reaction to Action”
Agent Provocateur had been in my collection since Christmas break, and it was another LP that wound up receiving limited play. The “Check-one-one-one” opening on what became its third single definitely caught my attention when I first heard it, but man, are the lyrics to “Reaction to Action” dumb. I guess they were trying to mine the “Hot Blooded” vein again, but clearly that had been tapped out in 1978. This also reached #54.

69. The Hooters, “All You Zombies”
I don’t care what you say–I like this song. While the biblical references are admittedly strained, Hyman, Bazilian, et. al. wind up making their point. It’s no “And We Danced,” but it’s always a welcome play in my house. Made it to #58.

53. John Fogerty, “Centerfield”
Maybe folks today are surprised that the title track from Fogerty’s comeback-of-the-year album didn’t crack the 40–it fell four slots short of Casey putting it into play.. Thirty-seven years on, it’s certainly the most well-known song of the six in this post; I’m guessing that album sales cut into the potential for a third big hit.

52. Gino Vannelli, “Black Cars”
I have the 45 for this, though I’m thinking I didn’t buy it in ’85. I was glad to hear Vannelli rock it out a little after the much more languid “Living Inside Myself” from four years earlier, even if I’m in the distinct minority based on chart peak (the engine died at #42 for “Black Cars”). It’s always fun to watch for dead technology in videos–look at all those Polaroid cameras…