American Top 40 PastBlast, 1/16/82: The Go-Go's, "Our Lips Are Sealed"

I don’t think I’m obsessive about it, but I do pay attention to the weather. At my wedding, Greg joked during his best man’s toast about how often I had the TV tuned to the Weather Channel the year we roomed together (he wasn’t entirely wrong). And looking back, I can think of more than a few posts where I’ve made a point of referencing the outdoor conditions that I think existed when recalling various memories.

Perhaps the peak of my weather-watching ways was the first two-and-a-half months of 1982. Every day, I’d check high and low temps, as well as precipitation info, in the pages of the Cincinnati Enquirer. I believe this info came from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport (CVG), located maybe fifteen miles north of our house in Walton. I then appended my own impression of the day just past. Here’s a look at a big chunk of January:

When I came back across this a few years ago, I was a little surprised by how cold it had gotten that winter (there was another night well below zero in mid-February). Granted, I live sixty-ish miles south of CVG these days, but I haven’t experienced frequent bouts of cold like this in a long while. I’m pretty sure that “normal” today isn’t anything like the above ranges, either.

Looking at this sheet shakes loose a couple of memories. I think it was the night of Friday, January 8 that three friends and I had a memorable evening of late-night bowling in Florence (bowling was a very frequent weekend activity in my circle during our senior year of high school). When the center closed down at 2am, we elected not to head home but instead went to an apartment close by, where our driver’s older sister lived (I guess I’d used a pay phone earlier in the evening to give my parents a heads-up). She wasn’t there when we arrived, but my friend had a key to let us in. We hadn’t been settled for very long when sis came home. Let’s just say that any plans she and the guy with her had didn’t pan out, since for whatever reason we wound up staying. I don’t imagine that I heard any details of the ensuing conversation between my friend and his sister. What makes me think it was this particular weekend is the image I have of snow flying in the air as we drove home once the sun came up.

On a different note, I love foggy weather. Everything has a radically different feel to it–places you know become all kinds of mysterious, and you truly don’t know what’s just around the bend. I especially enjoy walking around on a foggy evening (driving at night in the soup is a completely different matter). I distinctly remember those three fog-filled days of the 19th through 21st, with the remains of recent snowfalls still hanging on as temps oscillated around the freezing mark.

Like with so many other projects, I gave up on weather-tracking after a while. The last entry is from March 15th.

A few weeks ago I was rummaging through my collection of cassettes that we’ve stowed away in a cabinet in our basement. Several of them caught my eye, but one in particular is germane at this moment:

I had a combo alarm clock/radio/tape recorder then. It appears I had nothing better to do that Sunday, arguably the coldest day of the year, than to sit in my bedroom with the radio and push record when a song I liked showed up. I know you’re anxious to find out what’s on it. Turns out I filled up only one side this way:

10cc, “I’m Not in Love” (LP version)
Atlanta Rhythm Section, “I’m Not Gonna Let It Bother Me Tonight”
Diesel, “Sausalito Summernight”
(single edit)
Mike Post featuring Larry Carlton, “Theme from ‘Hill Street Blues'”
Leo Sayer, “Living in a Fantasy”
Greg Lake, “Let Me Love You Once”
The Miracles, “Love Machine (Pt. 1)”
The Go-Go’s, “Our Lips Are Sealed”

Love the 10cc, the Diesel, and the Sayer still (gotta admit I think “Living in a Fantasy” is criminally underrated). The Lake piece, full of all-too-familiar early 80s male bravado, was sitting at #61 at the time, just down from its #48 peak. “Our Lips Are Sealed” was literally my favorite song right then, hanging out at #1 on this week’s Harris Top 50. It’s at #31 on the real thing, its last on the countdown, having peaked at #20.

The Go-Go’s finish before I run out of tape, and it becomes evident that I’ve recorded over something. We get to hear most of an ad for a big promotion being run by WYYS, Yes 95, which spent a good portion of 1980-81 trying without success to break WKRQ’s stranglehold on the Cincinnati Top 40 market. They were giving away a cool half-million; my best recollection is that the contest ran in the fall of 1980. There’s supporting evidence for this claim after the ad wraps up, as we get about thirty seconds of ELO’s “All Over the World” before the side ends.

Side two might just be my first attempt at creating a mixtape from my vinyl collection, though it must have been recorded several months later. It’s a much more AOR-dominated affair.

The Sherbs, “No Turning Back”
Foreigner, “Night Life”
Journey, “Feelin’ That Way/Anytime”
Queen and David Bowie, “Under Pressure”
Little River Band, “Man on Your Mind”
Electric Light Orchestra, “Confusion”

This time at the end, I find a snippet–just a very few seconds long–that’s both tantalizing and frustrating: the outro as one of the first three hours of an American Top 40 show comes to a close. My guess is that this is also from the fall of 1980; definitely bummed that I recorded over it.

Beauty and the Beat is another album whose tracks I’m tempted to rank, but that’s gonna have to wait for another day. All I’ll say right now is that I’ve always strongly preferred its first single over its second.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 1/18/75: Linda Ronstadt, "You're No Good"

To cut to the chase: “You’re No Good” was Linda Ronstadt’s first Top 40 hit in over four years, her only Billboard Hot 100 #1 (it’s at #21 on this show and would reach the top four weeks later), and the beginning of a multi-year run of hits that were almost all covers. Granted, Ronstadt wasn’t ever a songwriter, but working with now-producer Peter Asher seemed to make her gravitate toward re-recording major and minor works–often R&B–from the late 50s or 60s, and spinning them into gold. (Asher was doing the same thing at this time with James Taylor.)

Anyway, it’s very near the top (if not the top) of my list of Ronstadt singles from her commercial peak. I dig the range of emotions in her voice, though I think it’s the instrumental solo and coda that really suck me in.

“You’re No Good” was an oft-covered song, and I wanted to highlight a few of the other takes. It seems to be invariably brought up in conversation as a Betty Everett cover, and it’s true that Everett had the highest-charting version prior to Linda, reaching #51 in January 1964. Nice and smoky.

The Merseybeat group The Swingin’ Blue Jeans cut their version shortly thereafter, and it made #97 in August of the same year (#3 in the UK).

I was blown away, however, by the original. It’s by Dee Dee Warwick, who sounds nothing like her older sister Dionne. It made the faintest of chart noises the same time that Everett was getting traction, scoring a #117 peak the weekend of the Kennedy assassination. Simply incredible; distinct from the others, yet a clear ancestor of Ronstadt’s version.

Other acts to have taken on the song include Ike and Tina Turner, Van Halen (whose attempt I’d somehow never heard before writing this up), Elvis Costello, and Wilson Phillips. The truly interested can look those up themselves; here’s Linda.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 1/15/83: Juice Newton, "Heart of the Night"

A few thoughts on the first third of this past weekend’s 80s Premiere rebroadcast:

–Leading off the show is Ray Parker Jr.’s “Bad Boy,” a sequel to the previous spring’s #4 hit, “The Other Woman.” Refreshing myself on the lyrics of “Bad Boy” it’s pretty clear the title character is seeking pleasure to go with his pain. As much as I liked most Raydio tunes, Parker Jr.’s solo hits, with I suppose the exception of “Ghostbusters,” leave me completely cold.

–Call me a member of the grammar police, but when I sing along with Air Supply at #38, it’s always “Two Fewer Lonely People in the World.” Though I’ll admit I expect our two lovebirds are indeed both less lonely, say what you mean, guys!

–I know exactly where I was when I first heard “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” which is debuting at #35: the song came over the PA while I was in a cheap import store at the long-defunct Turfland Mall in Lexington. It was likely finals week at Transy, around a month before this show.

I’ve come to be convinced that my college years, fall of 82 to spring of 86, were the prime time for pop music in the 80s (I understand I’m being U.S.-centric in this statement). An important part of this was the Second British Invasion which arose throughout 83. We’re on the precipice of that moment: Culture Club first appearing now, Duran Duran coming on board the following week. That’s not to ignore A Flock of Seagulls (#37), Peter Gabriel (#32), or ABC (#18), but C^2 and D^2 were just about to blow everything up.

–I’ve written before about those few weeks I first got to play DJ at WTLX in the spring of 83. The station manager hadn’t bought too many 45s for us to weave into our shows; based on what I recall seeing in the studio, what little she’d done probably occurred at the very beginning of the term. One of those I played, at least once, was “Heart of the Night,” the sixth of Juice Newton’s seven Top 40 hits. It’s at #29 on this show and would reach #25 the following month. I’ve always liked “Angel of the Morning” and “Love’s Been a Little Bit Hard on Me” pretty well, but “Heart of the Night” communicates its atmosphere, its sense of anticipation and desire, so well that I wonder if it isn’t her best single.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 1/8/72: Three Dog Night, "An Old Fashioned Love Song"

This past Wednesday evening through Sunday afternoon, we hosted my cousin from Massachusetts and her friend. The four of us spent three days gallivanting all around these parts, and had quite the good time doing it. On Thursday, we took an informal tour of the horse country that surrounds the county in which I live, visited the local food co-op, and checked out a favorite Indian restaurant (the veggie samosas were especially to die for this time). Friday, we headed west to Louisville for a smallish but fascinating Picasso exhibit, a late lunch of massive non-standard burgers, and wrapped up with a trip to the very cool art studio of one of my cousin’s HS classmates. Saturday took us south and east, first to Richmond to see the church where my cousin’s parents were married and accidentally discover that the house where my grandparents had lived back in the early 70s had been recently demolished. After that, we went to the arts-and-crafts mecca of Berea. Dinner was at local landmark Boone Tavern, but before that we’d hit the state-run Kentucky Artisans Center and an amazing pottery, Tater Knob. The latter of these is fifteen minutes east of town; to call it “out of one’s way” is a sizable understatement. But I’m so glad we went–Sarah, the owner and one of the primary potters, was incredibly welcoming and gracious in showing us how she plies her craft. Martha and I bought a couple of juice cups–I have a feeling we’ll be going back again before all that long.

Needless to say, we were all a bit worn down by the end of our time together, but it was a fun, fun long weekend. Today, I’m back in the classroom, as Georgetown rings in the Spring 2020 semester. It’s good to see the students again.

Toward the end of our visit to Tater Knob, Sarah mentioned a business partnership of sorts she’s struck up recently with a group in Stanford, about forty miles to the west of the pottery. The folks there run a guest house, a farm-to-table restaurant, and a store featuring soaps and other handicrafts (such as Tater Knob pottery). What piqued my interest about this was that Stanford was the town where I lived between September 68 and June 72, covering the end of my pre-school days up through second grade. I’d been in town a little over two years ago, but hadn’t paid any attention to these Main Street businesses then (turns out they’re closed on Sunday, anyway). It’s not like I need all that much reason to return to the hometowns of my youth, but knowing about these might get me there a little sooner than otherwise.

During my second-grade year at Stanford Elementary, they undertook a school-wide spelling bee. Each grade was to select through competition one champion, and the six representatives would face off at an assembly. I had started reading at an early age, and spelling turned out to be one of those things that came pretty naturally to me. I wound up being the second-grade winner; I’d guess that within the next couple of weeks the assembly was held. Mom probably had me dress up somewhat. I remember the bright stage lights beating down on the six of us and whoever it was that served as pronouncer (the principal?). We all survived the first round, but my nerves weren’t calming down. The second word I got was a homophone–was I being asked about a body part or a first-person pronoun? I came to understand it was the latter. “i,” I said, and out to a seat in the crowd I went.

My recollection is that the sixth-grader won. He was someone I knew, an occasional companion on the afternoon walks home from school. Nice kid. I think he may offered some consolation the next time we walked together.

I did wind up having a modicum of spelling bee success a few years later, in seventh and eighth grades, but any tales about those can easily wait for some other time, if ever.

I have no idea what portion of the 71-72 school year the spelling competition took place, though I’m somewhat doubting it was January. Regardless, mention of my old stomping grounds over the weekend, in conjunction with the show selected by Premiere for rebroadcast, perhaps made it a decent choice for writing up now. Looking over this countdown, I realize that I was still some time away from regularly being able to focus on what was playing on the car radio in the moment (I was a few weeks shy of turning eight). But Three Dog Night was one group whose work I already had some awareness of. They had two songs on this show: “Never Been to Spain” debuts at #24, while “An Old Fashioned Love Song” tumbles from #4 to #18. The one that’s falling is among my favorites of theirs, so it gets the nod here. The speller in me is twitching over the lack of a hyphen in the title, however.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 12/26/87: Icehouse, "Crazy"

This weekend it’s an Aussie band on the leading edge of their greatest success. Iva Davies and company originally called themselves Flowers, but were forced to take on a new name after signing with Chrysalis Records for international distribution; they settled on using the title song of their debut album. I did hear “Icehouse” a time or two back in 81 after a friend down the street told me about it.

Personnel changes were the order of the day over the next few years. It wouldn’t be until 86’s Measure for Measure that they came to my attention again: both “No Promises,” which kinda brings to mind now “This Is Not America,” and “Cross the Border” got play on the AOR stations within my hearing that summer and fall. I didn’t dislike the songs, but can’t say I found them much more than serviceable, either. (Re-listening the last couple of days makes me wonder if I shouldn’t go back and dig on them a little deeper, however.)

Their next release, Man of Colours, gave the band their two biggest hits in both the UK and US. “Crazy” was ascendant at the very end of 87 (#21 this week, heading toward #14), while “Electric Blue” would go Top 10 here and #1 in Britain. I might like “Electric Blue” a little better myself, but how can I not promote what must be one of the last videos ever made to show a 45 spinning on a radio station turntable?

Davies seems to have kept Icehouse in some form or fashion a going concern to this day, though their releases over the last fifteen years or so have all been EPs, remix albums, live recordings, or compilations.

I’m guessing another song from their debut album will be popping up here sometime in the next couple of months.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 12/16/78: Lindisfarne, "Run for Home"

I’ve written before about songs of the last half of the 70s with which I fell in love solely from hearing them a very few times on AT40—tunes that Cincinnati radio never touched (Bram Tchaikovsky’s “Girl of My Dreams” and Sweet’s “Action” come immediately to mind in this regard). This week it’s another nugget from that treasure trove, a song hanging on at its peak of #33 in its fourth and final week on the show. Gotta say that “Run for Home” still sounds amazing to me, especially now that I’m paying attention to the swell of the strings and that oboe line in the chorus.

Being ignorant about British geography back in the day (and still, to be honest), I had virtually no chance of getting the band’s name right from Casey when they debuted on the 11/25 show. (I didn’t know that Lindisfarne is a tiny island rich in history just off the northeastern coast of England, not too far away from Scotland.) Perhaps someday you’ll get to see in a Charts post how I dubbed them “Lindasparn” for one week. 

Lindisfarne, the musical endeavor, has been an on-and-off thing for just a little over 50 years now. Their greatest commercial success in the UK was in the early 70s; “Run for Home” was a comeback hit, from the LP they recorded following their first reunion. One original member, guitarist Rod Clements, is still playing with the band (Alan Hull, who sang “Run for Home,” died of a heart attack in 95).

American Top 40 PastBlast, 12/4/71: Coven, "One Tin Soldier (The Legend Of Billy Jack)"

On the Wikipedia page for a song from this past weekend’s 70s rebroadcast is this somewhat odd sentence:

The single went to number 26 on the Billboard pop chart before it was pulled from radio by the film’s producer. 

The single in question is Coven’s cover of “One Tin Solder.” The film is, of course, Billy Jack, and the producer was also its director, co-screenwriter, and lead actor, Tom Loughlin. On the surface, the twelve-week Hot 100 run of the song doesn’t exactly scream support for the above claim: 87-80-64-52-43-41-39-30-29-27-26-30. There’s no surge up the chart followed by a sudden collapse. Additionally, it was not uncommon at all in the early 70s for songs to tumble out of the Hot 100 from within the Top 40 (on this chart, the songs at #35, #29, #26, and #23 do the same).

On the other hand, it is true that Loughlin was having trouble with Warner Brothers, Billy Jack’s distributor—it appears that perhaps the movie was taken out of theaters suddenly. Loughlin eventually gained control of the distribution rights and re-released it himself, to significant success, two years later. (I’ve never seen it; I don’t find this synopsis of the plot enticing, either.)

And this is where I think my memories of encountering “One Tin Solder (The Legend of Billy Jack)” begin. Even though it didn’t get all that high on the charts in 73 (more on that shortly), based on my mind’s eye, there had to have been stations in Cincinnati playing it then. My sister and I were known to sing along robustly with the chorus; I’m still pretty fond of it.

Some other stuff I’ve gleaned from working the Internet the last couple of days (yes, mostly Wikipedia, I fear), in bullet form:

–Even though Coven is credited on the 71 single, it’s really just their vocalist Jinx Dawson in the studio with an orchestra. Coven did record the song for themselves around the time of Billy Jack’s re-release. The new take peaked at #79 in August of 73. (The Dawson-only version that hit in 71 was also put back out there a few months later; it reached #73 in January of 74.)

–I had a conversation with my friend Warren about the song a couple of years ago. He doesn’t like it at all, for reasons I think I can guess (I’ll let him say why, though, if he wishes). But he had a theory for the song’s appeal: its trochaic meter, alternating stressed and unstressed syllables. (“LIS-ten CHIL-dren TO a STO-ry THAT was WRIT-ten LONG a-GO”). I don’t know if that’s really what makes it attractive, but I definitely learned something about poetry from the discussion.

–The first version of “One Tin Soldier,” by Canadians the Original Caste, was a Top 10 hit in Canada at the end of 69 (it made #34 here in the U.S. in February of 70).

–I know you’re dying to watch Cher’s medley of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and “One Tin Soldier,” doubtless from a December 73 episode of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.

Lots of other versions out there, but here’s the one that got to #26 (it was at #30 on its way down on this show).