American Top 40 PastBlast: 8/9/80

George Benson charted between 76 and 83, generally shifting over the years from jazz to smooth R&B. His first hit, “This Masquerade,” is a great example of the jazzier side, as is the instrumental “Breezin’.” I like his live version of “On Broadway” now more than I did back in the day, and I probably prefer his take on “Greatest Love of All” to Whitney’s. This one, though, is almost certainly my favorite. I don’t know if it’s the presence of the word “night” in the title, but it’s a fabulous track to listen to in the wee hours. Got to #4, his highest peaking single on the pop chart; it’s near the beginning of its AT40 climb here, at #33.

(Chart geek aside: This countdown featured the highest debuting record during all the years I listened to AT40: Diana Ross comes in at #10 with “Upside Down.”)

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 2, Song 7

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

I gave Stevie Nicks a bit of a hard time (well, not to her face) for some of her 80s output, but this is a lovely song (#12, Fall 1982). The accompanying video has some truly stylish and well-staged moments, but it also contains an enormous gaffe at around 2:48.

American Top 40 PastBlast: 8/7/71

I remember hearing this a lot in the first half of the 70s. Some of the older kids I knew at the time must have had it as a piano lesson piece, because I can see them in my mind playing it. I’ve always liked it quite a bit.  It’s part of a double-sided hit–another of my Chicago faves, “Beginnings,” was the A-side. They’re sitting at #8 here, one slot below their peak. I’ve learned from the various AT40 sites I visit that, although Casey would often feature the B-side occasionally during a double-sided hit’s run, he never actually played this side of the single on the show.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 2, Song 6

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

The second half of Side 2 is much more ballad-y/soft, so if you’re looking for the rock, you may want to come back in about a week or so.

Folks who know me from way back in the day are aware I was a faithful (obsessive?) follower of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 for a number of years. Even though I’d trended toward album rock as I got closer to college-age, I still paid pretty close attention to the pop charts, even in to 1987. About a decade ago I began assembling playlists from selected weeks of the top 40 between June 1976 and May 1986. One of the compilations I like most from this project is that of April 21, 1984. Three songs from that countdown are on these tapes; here’s the second of them to come up so far. It was very much a favorite that spring/summer, and got to #5.

From The Archives: Papaw

Today is the 115th anniversary of the birth of my mother’s father, Wilbur Russell Houston (funny how I share his initials but none of his names). He grew up in Grant County, attended my place of employment for one year, and in the late 20s graduated from the Eclectic Medical School in Cincinnati. (The term “eclectic medicine” was first used by Transylvania professor Constantine Rafinesque.) In September 1927 he married Lucille Barton Haskell; they had three daughters, my mother being the middle child. He became a family physician and volunteered for the U.S. Army during WWII, spending about a year toward the end of the war at a medical camp in the Phillipines. He returned to family practice afterward until 1966, when he moved to Eastern Kentucky University to serve as the head of their medical services. Upon retirement in 1973, he moved back to the iconic “old stone house” on US 42 just north of downtown Union, KY (they’d purchased it in the mid 50s). He loved to tend to his gardens and fruit trees there. Toward the end of his life he suffered from macular degeneration. Even though his sight had dimmed, it seemed like he never met a stranger.

On a personal level, one could say I owe him my life–he was the one who introduced my parents to each other! My dad was one of his patients, and one Sunday in 1961, he elected to take my grandmother and mother to Bromley Christian Church, where Dad was pastoring. They took Dad out to lunch after the service; a first date soon ensued, and the rest is history. I have many fond memories from my youth of being at “the farm,” as we called it–holiday family gatherings, picking blackberries, learning to drive his Cub Cadet tractor. He is certainly at the center of many of those! Happy birthday, Papaw.

PapawArmy

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 2, Song 5

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

In the mid-80s I opined that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers might one day be on the short list for the best rock bands evah. I’m pretty sure that didn’t come to pass, but they had lots of quality stuff. Long After Dark doesn’t have my all-time favorite TP&tH songs on it, but it’s plenty solid and it wound up with two other songs on my mix tapes (“Straight Into Darkness” and “Deliver Me”). Here it’s its second single, which got to #21 in early 83.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 2, Song 4

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

If you asked me to fill in the blank for the statement, “The band you most associate with your college years is _____________,” I’d be pretty tempted to say Talking Heads. For my 20th birthday, just a few days after getting on the U2 and Marshall Crenshaw trains, I received Fear of Music from my roommate James (thanks, mon!). From there, it was on: I’m fairly sure that within a year I had their first five albums. I’d been thinking lately that the first two disks haven’t held up all that well over time, but I’m reconsidering this view after hearing “New Feeling” from Talking Heads: 77 just last week in Kroger (!!). Fear of Music and Remain in Light definitely still feel like brilliant achievements.

Their concert movie “Stop Making Sense” was released in late 1984. Seeing it multiple times at the midnight showing at the Kentucky those last two years at Transy is a favorite memory. Their take on this song in the movie is a fun one, but it’s the studio version from Speaking in Tongues that got on the tape.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 2, Song 3

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

It’s really, really hard to beat the catchy, edgy pop of the Cars’ first two albums in the late 70s. Pretty much every track is great (“Don’t Cha Stop” and “Shoo Be Doo” might be exceptions); some are amazing. I don’t think they ever reached those heights again, though I enjoyed a lot of their subsequent material, including much of Heartbeat City.

Ric Ocasek’s elliptic lyrics were fun to listen to; in this song, “Geranium lover, I’m live on your wire” and “They want to crack your crossword smile” are the standouts for me.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 2, Song 2

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

This one’s still a fave. I wondered for a number of years what the backups were singing here–I finally decided it was “Ego, envy, lust.” Googling today tells me it’s “Ego and you lost,” which does make more sense. It reached #22 in early spring 1984. Apparently there are two “official” videos; I’m linking to the one I remember seeing back in the day, even though it’s cut off just a smidge on both the front and back ends.

ETA: The vid I had here originally has been removed from YouTube; this replacement is much better!

SotD: Ben Folds Five, “Best Imitation of Myself”

In fall 95 I spent a weekend in Ft. Wayne, IN, playing at a regional bridge tournament with my friend Mark.  On the way home that Sunday night, I caught a show on the radio featuring Ben Folds Five, a mix of interview and in-studio playing.  I still remember three of the songs they played: “Underground,” “Philosophy,” and “Song for the Dumped.”  The first two of those were featured on their debut disk; the third was recorded later for the follow-up.  I was impressed enough to go out and get the disk, and it’s become one of my all-time favorites.

I remember back in college my friend Warren claiming that Making Movies by Dire Straits might be the greatest album of all-time by a trio; I’d think about making the case that Ben Folds Five (featuring only piano, bass, and drums) deserves to be in the conversation.  It’s got melody and hooks galore (“Philosophy” includes an homage to “Rhapsody in Blue”), interesting off-beat topics (an interview between Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali, the mosh pit scene at clubs), and maybe most of all, energy, confidence, and flair.

My top track on BFF is this one.  It’s a witty take on the question of “who’s really behind that mask?”