American Top 40 PastBlast, 9/5/81: REO Speedwagon, “In Your Letter”

Even at the beginning of my senior year in HS, I was buying only the occasional LP—maybe I had around a dozen by then. One, likely purchased sometime early in the summer of 1981, was REO Speedwagon’s Hi Infidelity. I liked it pretty well; it definitely got quite a few spins on my dad’s turntable in our basement back then. While in college, I picked up You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish and Wheels Are Turnin’, but it’s fair to say that Hi Infidelity is still the REO album I know best overall.

A quick check at setlist.fm tells me that the Speedwagon played Champaign once while I was at UIUC, in November 1987. I didn’t go, and I don’t really recall any swelling sense of love for the hometown heroes during my time there, either. Nonetheless, I tip my hat to them for working hard and making good.

As I’ve done with other albums from my teen years that I owned, I’m taking a crack at ranking Hi Infidelity’s tracks.

10. “I Wish You Were There”
I get that rock bands need to do the ballad thing (though that’s frequently not my thing), and I guess this one isn’t terrible? It didn’t do much for me back in 1981, either, though.

9. “Don’t Let Him Go”
Third single, got to #24 the first two weeks of August. I seem to remember a school dance early that fall (DJ’ed by students) where this one got played—it cleared the floor. I’m just hoping I wasn’t the one responsible for that…

8. “Shakin’ It Loose”
How many times did I listen to this album after I graduated from HS, though? Very, very few. I’ll confess now that the names of the last three songs on side two didn’t trigger any music in my head prior to playing them earlier today. That said, I like this one fine—nice piano solo from Neal Doughty, for sure—but it’s still pretty close to filler.

7. “Someone Tonight”
Bassist Bruce Hall wrote it and sang lead. The sentiment behind the lyric is, um, uninspiring. Nonetheless, it’s a decent little rocker with good harmonies.

6. “In Your Letter”
This week’s #28 song, heading toward a peak of #20. I’m surprising myself a little by placing it as high as this, given that it didn’t exactly groove me in real time; I’m coming around to admiring it for channeling the pop of years past.

5. “Keep on Loving You”
On the other hand, maybe this one’s the victim of hearing it too much over the decades. It made #1 on my own chart for two weeks at the end of February (see, I can like rock ballads). Full credit for the “missin’/listen/hissin’” rhyme in verse one.

4. “Take It on the Run”
One of three songs—along with “I Love You” and “Sweetheart”—that became instant favorites in April and dominated my charts in May (got to #5 on the Hot 100, three weeks at #2 for me). This one may be the reason I bought the album. I remember it getting played over PAs at track meets that spring.

3. “Tough Guys”
Does Gary Richrath’s screaming guitar sound add to the song or not? I’m torn. This one has more fun writing (great second verse, and I’m a fan of “she’s gonna call your bluff, guys”). I’ll also cop to approval of the Little Rascals intro.

2. “Out of Season”
Another pop-rock gem. I was listening to WEBN, the AOR station in Cincinnati, quite a bit at this point, and I have to believe they were playing all of the top 3 in this list that summer. Classic song structure, but so well-executed.

1. “Follow My Heart”
First heard this by flipping over my “Keep On Loving You” 45, and liked it immediately. The urgency was palpable to a 17-year-old, not that I had any reason to relate to Kevin Cronin’s dilemma. It’s the cut from Hi Infidelity I would pick to take with me if made to choose just one, so that puts it at the top of the list. (It was the third song in the mixtape series that kicked off this blog, too.)

American Top 40 PastBlast, 8/28/76: Red Sovine, “Teddy Bear”

In the Classic Casey era between July 1970 and August 1988, there were only five (as best as I can tell) occasions when there was a single new entry on the show. Casey notes at the beginning of the 8/28/76 show that he can’t recall a time where this had occurred before, and with good reason: it hadn’t while he’d been hosting. Here are the five, along with some miscellanea. With one exception, these were not heavy chart hitters.

8/28/76
Song: Red Sovine, “Teddy Bear”
Debut Position: #40
Peak: #40
Number of weeks on AT40: 1
Replaced: Queen, “You’re My Best Friend”

5/20/78
Song: Linda Ronstadt, “Tumbling Dice”
Debut Position: #37
Peak: #32
Number of weeks on AT40: 3
Replaced: Parliament, “Flash Light”

9/20/80
Song: Elton John, “(Sartorial Eloquence) Don’t Ya Wanna Play This Game No More?”
Debut Position: #40
Peak: #39
Number of weeks on AT40: 2
Replaced: Robert John, “Hey There Lonely Girl”

10/19/85
Song: Mr. Mister, “Broken Wings”
Debut Position: #35
Peak: #1
Number of weeks on AT40: 15 (including the frozen chart of 1/5/86)
Replaced: Huey Lewis and the News, “The Power of Love”

1/9/88
Song: The Cure, “Just Like Heaven”
Debut Position: #40
Peak: #40
Number of weeks on AT40: 1
Replaced: The Kane Gang, “Motortown”

The sample is way too small to draw any meaningful conclusion, but I do find it curious that four of the five had little-to-no traction after making the show. Maybe a slow Hot 100 week made it more likely that such a song was already losing momentum?

“Teddy Bear,” in addition to being maudlin, isn’t decent poetry–too frequently meter is wrecked in order to cram in a rhyme. That said, Casey does have a genuinely sad story to share as he leads off the show: Norma Sovine, Red’s wife, died suddenly the day after Red recorded “Teddy Bear.”

My friend Warren spent his early years in Nashville. His parents are now buried there, and, as it happens, their plot is only about 150 yards from that of Woodrow Wilson “Red” and Norma Sovine. Warren and I occasionally have extended messaging sessions over Facebook, a mix of catching up and chatting about music. Sovine’s work has come up a couple of times, and he’s done me the favor (?) of pointing out other classics such as “Billy’s Christmas Wish” and “Little Joe.” (Let me be clear: he didn’t share them because he thought they were good.) I know that many folks appreciate spoken-word pieces of this ilk, but I confess I find these just a little over the top.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 8/19/72: The Detroit Emeralds, “Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms)”

I know I’ve said it before, but the single most enjoyable aspect of listening to these old shows has been learning about all the early 70s hits I somehow missed growing up, particularly songs from the R&B side of the spectrum. I’m hoping one day to compile a list of the great soul tunes I now know, but for today, we’ll settle for presenting a prime example, this show’s #27 tune. I don’t know that I’ve yet heard “Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms)” outside of the rebroadcasts from those few weeks it was striving toward a #24 peak. But boy, is it a sweet cut.

Casey names the three Emeralds as he introduces the song this week: brothers Ivory and Abrim Tilmon, along with James Mitchell. In putting this together I learned that Mitchell has a co-writing credit on “Float On,” the Floaters’ big #2 hit from 1977, and that “Leo, and my name is Paul” is Mitchell’s brother.

With the playing of 8/19/72 this weekend, there are now only two Casey-hosted regular AT40s from the 70s that have not be rebroadcast by Premiere, and oddly, they’re back-to-back shows: 11/24 and 12/1/79. I’m not quite sure how they managed that, but it looks like it’ll be late 2021 before the series finally gets completed.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 8/6/83: Charlie, “It’s Inevitable”

I spent Friday afternoon working on Canvas, the “learning management system” we use at my institution. An LMS functions as a clearinghouse of sorts for courses–one can post the syllabus, link to video presentations and slide shows, make assignments (which allows students to upload their work and profs to grade it without printing it),etc. I, and many of my colleagues, will be making greater use of Canvas this semester than previously (I’ve also been given pointers on good LMS practices from those on campus who are more tech-savvy–I can only hope I’m implementing their ideas reasonably). My musical companion for those four hours was the 8/6/83 show, broadcast by an AM station out of Black River Falls, WI.

I go back to the classroom tomorrow, in-person for the first time since March 6. My school is going to attempt face-to-face instruction for the most part (folks with good reason to do so are opting to teach online). The powers that be have taken about as thoughtful an approach as possible given the choice to bring students back. We’re starting a week earlier than originally planned and have eliminated breaks, so that fall classes will be done before Thanksgiving. They divided the semester into two seven-week-plus terms (I’ll have two classes each term). There’s been a lot of work done on improving ventilation, air flow and air quality, as well as re-thinking traffic flow, in a number of buildings. They’ve created a number of outdoor meeting spaces for classes, though I’m not likely to be able to leverage those much. Everyone is required to wear a face covering in public spaces, including classes of course, and there’s what seems to be a good plan for contact tracing. Due to distancing requirements, I’m splitting most of my classes into two groups, meeting with each every other class period (which means I’m creating and posting lots of videos filled with course content that students ostensibly watch ahead of time). Even with all this, I can’t say I’m particularly optimistic about success. I’m plenty nervous and figure that the realities on the ground are eventually going to drive us back to fully online instruction. I suppose one can wish for the moment that there will be some good arising from being together for a while. I know I’ll be as cautious as I can.

I’ll be in this classroom at 2:00 four days per week through the end of September. Martha made the mask for me out of a beloved shirt that had worn out.

My son’s college is going to be trying out what sounds like a similar plan, with some added bells and whistles like periodic random testing. He won’t be leaving until the end of the month and will be sharing a suite with three good friends. If they can just all stay clean… Once we drop him off, we don’t expect to see him again until Thanksgiving, assuming all goes well.

Ben is about to start his sophomore year. That’s where I was when the show I heard on Friday was originally broadcast. It was the middle of a summer full of self-inflicted angst, a precursor to a fairly unsettled fall semester. For entirely different reasons, I worry that my son’s second college autumn will also be sub-optimal.

Sitting at #40 is the one song by the British band Charlie that ever made the show. While it rose to #38 the following week before falling off, “It’s Inevitable” didn’t get played on that Keri Tombazian guest-hosted 8/13 show, due to a bizarre charting accident. Thus, 8/6 was the only time AT40 listeners got to hear it.

I was already a little familiar with the band. WKRQ had played the #54-peaking “She Loves To Be in Love” quite a bit five years earlier (we’ll see evidence of that in my next Charts post). As best as I can read Charlie’s Wiki page, there’d been a decent amount of turnover in personnel after 1978, even a new lead singer. Their earlier sound was certainly poppier; “It’s Inevitable” feels more like a cross between Def Leppard and the Sherbs (the vocalist reminds me of Daryl Braithwaite, for certain).

Can’t imagine Joe Elliott and the boys going for the slapstick thing, though.

Just Exactly Where We’re Going I Cannot Say

Today is my blog’s third birthday. The last couple of years, I’ve listed the most-viewed posts from the previous twelve months, along with a few other favorites. I’m not going to really do that this go-round, mostly for two reasons.

1) The average number of views any single post gets has gone down overall—I’m guessing that, like I do with other blogs, plenty of folks have the home page bookmarked;

2) There are a few posts from the past that draw an oddly large amount of attention. Right now, there are about four that get 2 or 4 page views every few days (and it’s always an even number of views). This happened last fall, as well; it eventually quit, but started up again a few weeks ago. Theories as to why this happens are welcome—I’m assuming it’s some sort of bot behavior. (The post that’s gotten picked on the most, by far, is a brief feature I wrote up in the spring of 2019 on World Party’s “Ship of Fools.”)

Anyhoo, excluding all these oddities, the three most-viewed posts of the past year included the two most personal pieces I’ve put up here: about the man who helped me meet my wife, and the events surrounding my mother’s final months. I’m most appreciative of the kind words and thoughts I received in response. I’ve said before that being an author was the first thing I can remember wanting to do when I grew up; that won’t really ever become a reality, but I don’t deny deriving satisfaction from having folks dropping by to read what I write. Thanks to all of you who do that.

(The other is one people find by accident, about a former church choir director written right after he passed away more than two years ago. I’ve discovered this year there’s a YouTube personality/music critic also named John Heaton, who I believe lives in the UK. Many of his fans stumble across my tribute in search engine results and click through, which only raises its profile…)

Both shows that Premiere featured this past weekend were dated 7/20, the only two Casey AT40s possessing that chart date. I have just a few scattered thoughts about those years.

1974: When I was young, we frequently took summer vacations to state parks in Kentucky. In 1974, we went to Pennyrile Forest State Park, out in the western end of the state; I’m sure Amy and I played a slew of miniature golf and shuffleboard that week.

On site at Pennyrile. It’s next to a man-made lake; that’s maybe a dam behind us in the right picture?

While hardly luxurious, the appointments at these parks bring back fond memories: the wood paneling everywhere, the dining rooms that often have a wall of windows affording some gorgeous view, the gift shops containing all things Kentucky that are arty-and-crafty. The quality was uniformly good across the system, too (at least based on my experiences, which have continued occasionally over the years). It feels like I could use a few days at one of them right about now.

Here’s that week’s #37 song, a future #9. This one hangs on me much more heavily than it used to. One of my mother’s central tenets was, “You can’t rely on anyone except yourself.”

1985: My summer at IBM. This may have been the weekend that Mark H and I drove down to Chattanooga to visit my friend Kristine. She was already on her own in an apartment, only one year through college. She had a summer job at the local zoo (she was pre-vet); Mark and I spent a decent part of that Sunday morning getting a behind-the-scenes view, chatting with Kristine while she worked in her lab/office space and around the grounds. (The radio in the non-air-conditioned office was playing late 60s rock—whenever I hear “Going Up the Country” now, I’m always taken back there.)

Speaking of the late 60s, here’s what was at #15—its peak—this week 35 years ago.

My parents died fifteen months apart. After my mother’s funeral in March 2015 and some of the initial aftermath, Martha asked where I wanted to go on vacation.  I immediately knew: “The mountains.” That July, we rented a small house for a week just outside of Estes Park, Colorado, near Rocky Mountain National Park. I was hoping to find some peace there, to just be for a few days. That didn’t exactly happen—it was too easy to get caught up in the moment planning out the days or losing my patience at little things gone awry. The highlight of the trip was a great hike in the park, on a trail that hits three small, charming lakes. The second one we encountered was Dream Lake; we stopped there for lunch. After eating, I wandered off to be alone and wound up sitting on a boulder abutting the lake. I was in search of a few minutes to reflect on loss, to mourn, to meditate, to commemorate the lives of my parents. I think it turned out to be a somewhat successful endeavor. When I’d done as much as I was going to do, I took out my phone and snapped a picture, in perhaps a vain attempt to retain the moment.

I see that photo, taken a little more than five years ago, just about every day, and my Twitter peeps might recognize it, too.

The third lake—and terminal point—of the hike is called Emerald Lake and lies about a mile straight ahead, tucked neatly in front of that peak.

I expect posting to be lighter for a while—I’m behind where I should be in planning for the upcoming fall semester, one which promises to be a challenge.

Oh, here again is the song I apparently must embed every July 20.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 7/11/70: Pacific Gas & Electric, “Are You Ready?”, and Rare Earth, “Get Ready”

Anyone who knows me more than passingly–be that IRL or online–is well aware of my interest in the eighteen-plus years of the original Casey Kasem run at the helm of American Top 40. I charted the show over roughly the middle third of that span. Even when I “outgrew” faithfully listening to the show not long after I left for college, it would be years before I stopped paying attention to the up-and-down rhythms of the Billboard Hot 100 and stopped listening to stations that played most of the songs Kasem would have been announcing. About the time I turned forty, now a husband and a father of a pre-schooler, nostalgia for those days began setting in, leading me to assemble playlists for dozens of those countdowns. In summer 2012, I became re-obsessed with hearing the actual shows not long after I realized they were being remastered and distributed again to stations everywhere for rebroadcast. I’ve now been at that game for longer than I listened as a teenager. It’s immensely enjoyable to have the opportunity to hear shows of all stripes–before, during, and after my charting years. With a few exceptions, I don’t have much desire to own personal copies of the shows, to listen to on demand–it’s enough right now to be able to check in on whatever the execs at Premiere and SiriusXM select each week. I imagine there’ll come a day when those same execs realize the folks most interested in classic-era AT40 are too old to make continued broadcasting sufficiently profitable, but I’m hoping that time is several years off.

AT40 of that era touched–to varying degrees, of course; I’m an outlier on the high end–the lives of a large proportion of people my age, plus or minus a decade or more. This weekend makes fifty years since Casey’s first broadcast. Numerous stations are celebrating by playing many of the special shows originally broadcast on various July 4th weekends of the 70s and 80s. There’s been some media attention given to the anniversary, too. And Premiere has the first show, chart date 7/11/70, on offer this weekend. I’ve never heard it in full, but I hope by the end of today that will have changed.

Two songs from that show, brimming with very different kinds of energy, have titles that, when taken out of context, feel appropriate for the occasion. If you secularize Pacific Gas & Electric (#19, on its way to #13) and de-sexify Rare Earth (#13, heading down after peaking at #4), the question “Are You Ready?” and command “Get Ready” tell us everything we need to know about the cultural tsunami headed our way.

Happy golden birthday, American Top 40.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/28/80: Rupert Holmes, “Answering Machine”

Funds for music purchases in the first half of my teen years were pretty limited, mostly derived from a weekly allowance, and perhaps the occasional odd job for a neighbor or my grandparents. I was 16 in the spring of 1980, able to drive, but real, though only passing, gainful employment was still a few months away. Whether by design or accident, vinyl for me then tended to come in the 7″ variety–there was definitely higher confidence one was getting something one really liked that way. I think I had maybe just a half-dozen LPs at the time.

I’d been a regular consumer of Dad’s Stereo Review magazines for about two years. Accurate or not, it seemed that Best of the Month and Recordings of Special Merit selections all too frequently were by artists I wasn’t hearing on the radio stations I tuned to. My money was too precious for leaps of faith. But in the April 1980 issue, one highlighted review caught my eye.

Over the previous few months, “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” and “Him” had both impressed me reasonably, enough to at least entertain the thought of buying Holmes’s album. While I’m sure I didn’t pay attention that the reviewer was not from SR‘s regular stable, Partners in Crime did become the first LP I purchased due to a thumbs-up in Stereo Review (but far from the last, which was probably Suzanne Vega, more than six years later).

On the whole, I recall being a little disappointed after getting PiC home. Mitz notes ‘sparse production,’ and he’s right–the first two singles were a little more fleshed out, less sterile than most of the other tracks. The relatively naïve and sheltered me was taken aback at first at the kinky inclinations noted in the title song, and the rampant horniness of all the characters in “Lunch Hour” (which I liked a lot, nonetheless). Still, I listened to–and enjoyed–it enough to have songs like “Nearsighted,” “The People That You Never Get To Love,” and “Get Outta Yourself” stick in my head over the years.

The real discovery, though, was song two on side two, the one that soon became the LP’s third single. A clever, if slight, tale about the shortcomings of modern technology, “Answering Machine” made me glad in the end I’d bought the album. While I had to have known about such marvels by the summer of 1980, I’m thinking my parents didn’t get an answering machine until they moved to Florence a few years later. I didn’t have any reason to own one until I began apartment life after my first year of grad school, in 1987.

Wife and son got a kick out of listening to me sing along with Rupert this past Saturday afternoon, the tune sitting at its peak of #32. Afterward, Ben noted that Holmes’s “I’m so sorry” begins with the same intervals that Hall and Oates later used to spell out the title of “Method of Modern Love.” The kid’s got an ear for 80s music…

Did you ever notice, though, that the entire unfortunate situation would have been avoided had both parties realized that their machines gave callers just twenty seconds of message time?

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/24/72: Godspell, “Day By Day”

This week marked twenty-three years since Martha and I moved into our current home. Even if you count only the time following my 2004-05 sabbatical year in upstate New York, this is the longest I’ve ever spent in one location. My first move came at the age of six months, when Mom, Dad, and I relocated from Ludlow (a small KY river town near Cincinnati) to La Grange (about twenty miles NE of Louisville). A little over four years later, around Labor Day of 1968, our now family-of-four headed south and east to Stanford, about forty miles south of Lexington. My education began there, up through second grade. But being a church minister often means being rather peripatetic, and at some point in early 1972, my father put out feelers for a new pastorate. Mom was wanting to get back closer to the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area–her parents would soon be moving back there after my grandfather retired from being Director of Medical Services at Eastern Kentucky University, in nearby Richmond–and at some point that spring, Amy and I were informed that we were leaving Stanford for Walton, a town of about 2000 about twenty miles south of Cincinnati.

While I have held on to tiny slivers from my time in La Grange, the bulk of my earliest memories occurred in that house in Stanford, in a subdivision called Oakwood Estates. I think it was a parsonage.

This is the best picture of it I can easily lay my hands on–there are plenty of shots much closer in, generally of Amy and me standing in front of those columns on Easter morning. What we can’t see here is the driveway running down the left side of the house, around to a two-car garage in the basement. Dining/living area to the left of the front door, bedrooms to the right, kitchen/family room/stairs/bathroom/bedroom from left to right on the back of the house. You’d think I’d remember which bedroom was mine.

The moving van arrived on Saturday morning, June 24, 1972. It was unseasonably cool and cloudy; my father would turn forty-one the next day. I don’t recall now any of the preparations, but Mom and Dad must have had things well in hand for the movers. Several families around us had children close to our age, so there were at least a few goodbyes to be shared. My strongest memory of the day, though, is of pulling my father around the side of the house while the van was being loaded, asking him to comfort his sad son by singing a couple of verses of a hymn. I believe it was my choice, semi-appropriate for the occasion only by coincidence: “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” My father showed me countless kindnesses over the years, but this is one of the more treasured.

The end of one chapter means a new one begins, however. Mom and Dad had picked a brick house toward the end of Bedinger Avenue, just beyond a left turn onto Plum Street.

I don’t have much in the way of full photos for this house, either. This was taken in the spring of 1973. Amy’s bedroom is on the far left, with my room (the smaller of the two, but I’m not bitter) immediately to the left of the front door. There’s no garage, just a slab driveway on the right, but there was a walkout basement. There were several acres of largely open fields to the left, with just a single house owned by one of the town’s attorneys and his family a couple hundred yards down that gravel road you see.

Here’s another view, this time featuring your humble blogger and his sis.

The back of the picture informs me it’s now the summer of 1975. Looks like by this time we’d replaced the flowering tree between my and Amy’s windows with something hardier. That cigar box came from my grandfather; wish I still had some of those (boxes, not cigars). We stayed in that house until a few months after my sister graduated from HS in 1983 (Dad was no longer in the ministry by the mid-70s)–not too surprisingly, that’s the second-longest stint I’ve had in a single spot.

Living close to Cincinnati afforded us some cultural opportunities we didn’t have in Stanford. One–perhaps canonical for PKs in those years–was getting to see a production of the recent Off-Broadway musical Godspell. Felt certain I still have a program from it among my bins of goodies from my youth, but it didn’t turn up in a search this morning (a scrapbook given to Amy and me by the folks at Stanford Christian Church right before we moved did, though). “Day By Day,” the song from Godspell you’re most likely to know, debuted at #37 on our moving day, very close to the end of the God Rock era. Five weeks later, it reached its peak of #13. The vocalist is Robin Lamont.

My final excursion in the Before Times was on March 9. The first positive test for COVID-19 in Kentucky had been announced two days earlier, in a town about fifteen miles away from Georgetown. It was the Monday of my spring break, and I drove north to take care of various pieces of business: dealing with our taxes, taking flowers to my mother’s gravesite (it was the fifth anniversary of her burial), doing some research at a public library and county courthouse. I had lunch at a barbecue place not far from my parents’ final home–I wonder now when the next time I eat a meal inside a restaurant will be. I’d brought a large bottle of hand sanitizer with me and used it liberally throughout the day. A couple of days later I’d learn that instruction was moving online for at least the next few weeks. Martha and I had planned a quick trip to the Carolinas later in the week but in the end thought better of it.

There’d been a bad accident on southbound I-75 that morning near Florence, and it was still bottling up traffic for miles when I was ready to head home mid-afternoon. It was very slow going trying to make my way from Burlington, a few miles west of the interstate, over to US 25, the obvious alternate route south. Traffic on 25 eased only after we reached access to I-75 south of the tie-up, but I didn’t jump back on quite yet–I wanted to go through Walton, another five miles south on 25. Our old house on Bedinger was on my mind.

Years ago, that attorney had sold the property adjacent to our plot, and dozens of houses had been built as Bedinger had been extended and new streets added. I parked my car on the corner of one of those streets, not far away from the place I’d left thirty-six-and-a-half years before, at the beginning of my sophomore year of college. I wandered around the neighborhood for a good bit, exploring some of the ‘newer’ parts but also the places from the old days, ticking off the families who’d lived in each of the houses (and seeing a few of those names still on the mailboxes). That section of street from US 25 to 33 Bedinger is much shorter than it seemed when I was nine, twelve, even eighteen years old. I took a few pictures, of course. My #LastNormalPhoto happens to be of that house we moved into on 6/24/72.

The driveway’s width got expanded by about 50% somewhere along the way, and there’s no window AC unit in the kitchen, next to the side entrance–it wouldn’t shock me if central air has been installed. The basketball goal we put up at the end of the driveway, the television antenna, the shrubbery, the weeping cherry tree in the front right corner of the yard–all are looooong gone. The iron railings on the porches, however, appear to be unchanged. It’s entirely recognizable.

There was a vehicle in the driveway that I’ve cropped from this picture. As much as I’d have enjoyed taking a look inside, I know it wouldn’t have been appropriate in the least to knock on the front door. Instead, I walked back to the car, drove south through downtown Walton, and worked my way over to the interstate so that I could scurry back home.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/11/77: John Miles, “Slowdown”

Well, at least that’s the way the title was written down in my own charts (as we’ll see by the end of the month). If you listen to the lyrics though, it’s plain that John Miles is imploring us to take it easy, not engage in performing less work. So where did I pick that up? From Billboard, on one of my many visits to Recordland at the Florence Mall. This is from the 6/11/77 Hot 100, courtesy of americanradiohistory.com.

Note who produced Miles’s hit.

It’s not a one-time typo, either, as I’ve got it this way for all five weeks it appeared on AT40. The next question becomes: why did Billboard do this? Well, take a look at the US single (from Discogs):

I’m speculating here, but it looks to me that whoever created the label on this side of the pond must have simply forgotten to hit the space bar. Here’s the UK single (also via Discogs):

Not a huge deal, but the error did propagate, all the way down to a 13-year-old’s sheet of notebook paper.

Miles’s biggest hit worldwide is “Music,” which reached #3 for three weeks in April 1976 in his home country–it peaked at #88 here a month later. It’s a hybrid ballad/anthem/proggy thing, complete with strings and a lengthy interlude in 7/4 time. Hearing it now (for the first time, actually), I can understand how it resonates, but the lyrics also seem plenty clichéd. I might feel differently if the song had been with me my whole life.

Miles has participated annually in the European concert series Night of the Proms since its inception in 1985. Last month, he, the NotP band, and the Antwerp Philharmonic created a quarantine version of “Music.”

Rebel, the album on which “Music” appeared, was produced by Alan Parsons (perhaps that’s not a surprise upon reflection). Miles subsequently provided vocals for several songs on Alan Parsons Project albums over the years, including APP’s first Top 40 hit “(The System of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether,” as well as their last appearance on the Hot 100 (one of my favorites), “Stereotomy.”

“Slow Down” (I’ll use the actual title for once) was a sizable hit in the US discos–Wikipedia says it reached #2 on the disco chart. It’s sitting at its AT40 peak of #34 on this show.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/31/86: GTR, “When the Heart Rules the Mind”

When I first started assembling playlists of AT40 countdowns to replay on our iPod, I figured I’d be content with picking a few collections from the June 1976-October 1982 period I kept charts. A couple years into the process, I realized there were any number of weeks from deeper into my time at college that I’d be happy to relive, so I began doing the research necessary to reconstruct charts from 1983-early 1986 (I wasn’t especially savvy about leveraging the Web to get that information fifteen years ago). Ultimately I settled on the end of May 1986 as the terminal point for my project, for three reasons: 1) I graduated from Transy on 5/25/86, so it was more or less an inflection point in my life; 2) my tastes in music had begun their turn away from pure pop; 3) since my charts began with the first weekend of 1976, ending it then would make it an even ten-year-long venture.

I’ve had it in my mind for quite some time to one day create the 500+ playlists for all the countdowns between 6/5/76 and 5/31/86–maybe this is the summer I start making real progress on that. I’ve always arranged the songs on my lists like they were on the show, starting at #40, so if I ever got all those lists together and then played them all consecutively, they’d start with Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” and wrap up with Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All.” But if instead one considered the lists as they appeared in Billboard (that is, beginning with #1), in the leadoff position would be “Love Hangover” from Diana Ross, and the very last tune encountered would be by a one-hit/one-off wonder fronted by a couple of prog-rock guitarists who shared a first name and a last initial. The Steves, Hackett and Howe, got together after the latter left Asia to form GTR. “When the Heart Rules the Mind” in some ways sounds indistinguishable from other AOR tunes of the period, but since it never advanced into the classic rock hits canon, I don’t object to hearing it when these summer of ’86 shows crop up. It eventually reached #14.