American Top 40 PastBlast, 12/11/76: The Bar-Kays, “Shake Your Rump to the Funk”

One of AT40‘s many charms for me when I began listening in 1976 was Casey Kasem’s storytelling. I know now that he (or maybe more accurately, his staff) didn’t always get the facts straight. However, I was both a sucker and a sponge for what he dished out, and I didn’t mind relaying what I learned (?) from the show on to anyone who would listen, be they family members, classmates, etc. Forty-plus years will make one forget far more than what has been retained, but occasionally something pops up on these re-broadcasts that I remember hearing way back when.

Such is the case on this weekend’s 70s show, two weekends before Christmas 1976, right before the #32 song is spun. Casey noted that nine years ago this very week, Otis Redding and most of the members of the Bar-Kays–his back-up band–were killed when Redding’s small plane crashed into Lake Monona as it sought to land in bad weather at the Madison, WI airport. The only survivor was Bar-Kay trumpeter Ben Cauley (Casey mistakenly says his last name is Curley, I’m guessing due to bad transcription somewhere along the way). Another member of the band, bassist James Alexander, had stayed behind to take a later flight in part due to lack of space on the plane. Kasem then relayed that not long after the tragedy, Alexander assembled a new version of the Bar-Kays, and years of hard work were paying off as they returned to the charts with “Shake Your Rump to the Funk.”

The AT40 crew and Wikipedia are at odds about one detail: Casey says that Cauley didn’t take part in the re-constituted group, while that crowd-sourced compendium of knowledge claims he remained a Bar-Kay until 1971. Regardless, Cauley continued playing trumpet, including as a session musician (despite health issues along the way), until his death in 2015. I surmise that’s he we’re hearing prominently on their crazy good 1967 #17 instrumental hit “Soul Finger.”

It’s certainly strong enough to have charted on its own, but I did wonder at the time if “Shake Your Rump to the Funk” (which topped out at #23 in January) got a boost because of its title’s more-than-passing similarity to that of a certain recent #1 hit from K.C. and the Sunshine Band.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/30/74: Neil Diamond, “Longfellow Serenade”

The evidence points to the picture being taken in late 1972—I’ve long thought the occasion was Thanksgiving. My sister and I are wearing long sleeves, squeezed between Grandma and Aunt Birdie on a settee in my great-aunt’s living/dining room. We’re each holding a toy—they need only the flimsiest of excuses to have a gift for us, and joining them for dinner certainly qualifies. Amy has just received a paint set, I a scale-model 1972 Mercury Cougar. Aunt Birdie is adoringly regarding her sister’s grandchildren, while Amy and I are almost looking in the direction of the camera. Only Grandma gets it right—this makes me think that Dad is the photographer—a faint smile on her lips, one that perhaps belies her condition. Somewhere I think there must be a few other photos from that sitting, but this is the one that got placed in an album by my mother. It could be the final picture ever taken of my grandmother.

Grandma’s mental state had been deteriorating for a couple of years at this point. “Hardening of the arteries” is what I remember Dad and Aunt Birdie calling her ailment, but it surely was some form of dementia. Over time it became clear that she could no longer live by herself in the farmhouse on U.S. 42, so she moved back to the house in Warsaw in which she’d been born at the end of the 19th century, where sister Birdie, three years her junior, could better attend to her. It wasn’t very long after the picture was taken that she became bedridden, and from there it was just a matter of time until moving her to a nursing home was necessary. Dad chose Woodspoint, a facility in Florence, 10 miles away from us and almost three times as far for Aunt Birdie. With no place of that sort in Walton or Warsaw, though, it was close to the best he could have done.

There are no fond memories of visiting Grandma at Woodspoint. I can still conjure up its smell, an unpleasant mixture of cleaning solution and urine. To see her, we turned left upon entering, and left again into her room about halfway down the hall—her window was on the front of the building. She was always in her bed, invariably unresponsive. Aunt Birdie went to Woodspoint several times a week, and no doubt Dad saw her plenty, too. Amy and I were there only every few weeks if I’m recalling correctly.

Grandma lasted in this condition for quite a while.

I don’t remember anything about our Thanksgiving celebration in 1974, two years after the picture. Chances are, Aunt Birdie stayed with us over the holiday weekend, making trips to Florence during the day.

One Wednesday evening toward the end of January 1975, Mom, Amy, and I were watching the weekly installment of Name That Tune on television. The phone rang, pulling Mom away from Tom Kennedy’s playful banter with the contestants. It was Dad, letting us know that Grandma had passed. I don’t know that Amy and I had been told that her end might be coming soon.

Dad had revered his mother throughout his life, though I recall hearing him say afterwards something to the effect of, “That wasn’t my beautiful mother in there; she had been gone for some time.” Nonetheless, I believe her physical death hit him hard.

I’ve mentioned before that listening now to the American Top 40s Premiere rebroadcast in 2014, when I was spending most weekends with my ailing mother, sends me back to her townhouse (especially the ones from the 70s). The last weekend I spent with her there was the one following Thanksgiving; the show they played was 11/30/74. While her favorite song from the show was almost certainly John Denver’s “Back Home Again,” I’d bet that “Longfellow Serenade” wasn’t too far behind (she was a pretty big Neil Diamond fan). Neil’s first hit after moving to Columbia Records was hanging out at its peak of #5.

It’s a morning in the fall of 1974. A fifth-grade boy and a fourth-grade girl are at the table for breakfast. Since it’s getting colder out, maybe this morning their sweet mother Caroline has fixed oatmeal or cream of wheat on the stove. As usual, the kitchen radio is on, tuned to WLW. The morning DJ, James Francis Patrick O’Neill, doesn’t play all that much music—he’s a performer at heart—but today he spins a new song from Neil Diamond. The boy doesn’t remotely parse that it’s about seduction; he just likes the way the chorus soars. He’s also certainly not thinking about the weight his father is carrying, or about his grandmother’s state. If anything, he’s wondering about what will happen in Mrs. Layne’s class this day, or what he’ll do with the friends on his street after school, or…

…as Diamond’s voice fades after weaving his web of rhyme, it’s suddenly forty years later: the morning of Saturday, November 29, 2014. The fifty-year-old considers what he still has to do before heading home that evening. He’s made arrangements for his mother to spend a few days at a Hospice Care facility, beginning Sunday evening—“respite care.” Someone from the companion care service will be showing up soon so that he can run a few more errands. In conversations with his mother, he’s eliding what will happen at the end of the coming week, though he doesn’t yet know the full details himself. He doesn’t consider there might be parallels with the situation his father had faced in the early 1970s.

Tomorrow he’ll return to drive Mom over to the facility and help her settle in. She’ll have just spent her final night in her home.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/13/82: Donald Fagen, “I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)”

One of the extra-curricular activities I pursued soon after getting to college was writing for the campus student rag, The Rambler. I hadn’t done journalism of any sort in high school—Walton-Verona was really too small to have a newspaper, and my schedule hadn’t allowed me to work on the yearbook staff. Nonetheless, as someone who liked writing pretty well, I jumped at the chance to take on assignments and talk to folks around campus. Publication during the fall of 1982 was usually weekly, sometimes every other week. Looking through the issues from that November, I see a few nuggets of personal interest and/or curiosity.

11/1/82 (the issue is actually undated, but the contents point to this as the likely publication date)
Headline: Professor writes Lexington history
History professor John D. Wright, Jr., one of the few members of the Transy faculty remaining from my father’s time there 30 years earlier, had recently authored Lexington: Heart of the Bluegrass, covering the city’s 200+ year history. Dad, who’d been a history major, held Dr. Wright in high esteem and they maintained occasional correspondence well into the 21st century (I came across a kind note from Dr. Wright when going through my father’s effects after his passing—it was from just a few years previous). I regret somewhat that I didn’t take one of Dr. Wright’s classes.

Headline: Bacchus coming to Transy’s campus
A chapter of a national student organization working toward responsible alcohol consumption by college students was soon to be established.

Headline: Art Course Offers Students Chance to Travel
Yours truly gets his second byline, about an upcoming May 1983 course that included visits to museums in NYC and DC.

Headlines: Tennis team wins NAIA District and State and Women’s field hockey team wins state championship
It was a good fall for women’s sports on campus. The tennis team had earned a trip to the national tournament the following spring.

11/15/82

Headline: New admissions director takes charge on Jan. 1
William Hanger would be coming to campus from Miami University (OH), reuniting with his former boss and recently-installed Transy president David Brown. He was actually to serve as Vice President for Enrollment, with a charge of increasing the number of students on campus from its then 650-ish to 1000. Both Hanger and Brown would depart Transy several months later, in the summer of 1983, when the powers-that-ultimately-be decided a change in leadership was necessary. An internet search informs me that Hanger returned to Miami and worked in Institutional Relations there until his retirement (he passed away about three years ago).

Headline: A Gown for His Mistresses delightful play; acting sterling
A review of the fall theater production, a farce by Georges Feydeau. By the way, the play’s title is incorrect in the headline—there was only a single mistress involved. Pretty sure I went and saw this.

Announcement: Wind Ensemble plays Dec. 1

That fall we were a very tiny and indeed unconventional group: five flutes, two trumpets, and one each of clarinet, bassoon, horn, trombone (moi), and tuba. Six of the eleven of us were first-year students. The ensemble did grow steadily in size throughout my time there.

11/22/82
Headline: Transy community debates value of May Term
Transy had what we called a 4-4-1 calendar, with two thirteen-week terms, followed by one four-week term in May (the numbers refer to how many classes are taken per term). I honestly have no recollection of this hullaballoo, but my reading between the lines is that President Brown had floated the idea of either moving to a more traditional two-semester model or placing the short term in January. The article outlines arguments, both pro- and con-, about making a change and is accompanied elsewhere in the issue by an editorial, as well as pictures of and quotes from several students and a couple of faculty reacting to the possibility of something new (almost everyone appears to prefer the status quo). In the end, nothing happened, and the calendar today is the same as then.

Headline: Greek sing is a success
Fraternities and sororities tended to dominate the social scene at TU. Greek Sing was an annual rite, sponsored (at least in 1982) by the Chi Omega sorority. The author gives a rave review, finding something award-worthy in each performance (official winners Phi Mu did an American Bandstand send-up, while Delta Sigma Phi sang Broadway tunes).

Headline: BACCHUS urges better behavior
The fledgling organization hosted a cocktail hour in the cafeteria and elected officers. The article mentions that BACCHUS (Boost Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students) is currently “an ad hoc committee of the Student Government Association. But after this school year, it will be on its own.” I don’t recall that this effort got any sort of long-term traction.

Headline: Hall stays busy at Clay-Davis
Your humble blogger had another article, this time a feature on the head resident advisor (whose last name was Hall) for my dorm, named jointly for Henry Clay, and yes, Jefferson Davis—he’d studied at the 1820s incarnation of Transy while in his early teens. It’s been demolished within the last decade.

There’s no mention in any of these issues of The Rambler, but other items in my Bin of College Memories remind me that 11/13/82 was Parents’ Weekend. My folks, who needed only the faintest excuse to come visit me, drove down for the day. We doubtless attended some of the formal functions (I wrote four years ago about President Brown challenging students to a “naming bee” as part of the weekend’s festivities; I participated, and you can read about the outcome here). Afterward, they took me to the mall to shop for a new winter coat, one that lasted me until sometime after I went to Illinois.

During the second quarter of the 70s, my father became quite interested in stamp collecting (I did too, to a lesser extent). On those rare occasions when I happen to think about the International Geophysical Year, an image of the U.S. stamp issued in celebration of it often springs to mind:

I had to have seen this somewhere around 1974.

Donald Fagen is sixteen years older than I am, so he didn’t have to learn about I.G.Y. through philately. His song about the eighteen-month-long endeavor captures both the imagination (space travel, Spandex) and the misplaced optimism (undersea rail, eternal youth) of the era. Nearly twenty-four years after I.G.Y. had ended, I was studying to become a programmer, though whether I ever had the vision or compassion necessary to help create a just decision-making machine is up for debate. That November weekend my parents came to visit me, “I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)” was at #33, moving toward a #26 peak two weeks later. (Side note, expressed with an appropriate amount of shame: while The Nightfly is revered by friends from many phases of my life, somehow it’s never found a spot in my collection. I don’t even know if I’ve ever listened to it in its entirety. Don’t hate on me for this–I’m certain I have a redeeming quality or two.)

My Rambler collection is less complete following the 1982-83 year. Part of that, perhaps, was me getting more involved in other aspects of campus life, but the paper’s student leadership began faltering, too. A re-set was necessary during my junior year (they even ignored the Rambler’s storied 70-year history and—at least for a while—dialed things back to Volume 1). Recent developments include a move to online-only publication in August 2016, a kerfuffle that made the news in the spring of 2019 regarding discontinuation of paying an outside part-time advisor (I’ve not able to determine how the situation was resolved, but it apparently it was in some fashion), and of course much more sporadic publication in these pandemic times.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/2/85: Glenn Frey, “You Belong to the City”

I don’t remember when I decided I wanted to go to graduate school, but I believe that seed was well planted before I even spent one day in college. The whole school deal was something I did pretty well, at least when it came to test-taking; I imagine that as early as age 16 I wasn’t ready to concede it might end one day. If you’d asked me when I started at Transy what I’d be studying in four years, the answer would have been computer science. By the end of my sophomore year, though, the needle was pointing much more in the direction of mathematics. The experience I had programming at IBM during the summer of 1985 didn’t do anything to sway me back toward CS, and early in my senior year my math professor mentor loaned/gave me a journal with rankings of math grad programs, assistantship information, etc. I began considering in earnest about where I might find myself in twelve months. Right or wrong, one thing I decided fairly early on: I’d be looking out of state–the University of Kentucky didn’t hold sufficient appeal. I zeroed in particularly on Big 10 schools.

My good friend Mark H, another math/CS double major, was also thinking about grad school (though in computer science), and by October we began planning a road trip. We settled on visiting the flagship universities of Wisconsin and Illinois, though my recollection is we didn’t set up any appointments. On Saturday, November 2, Mark and I headed north and a little west in my 1981 navy Chevy Citation. I had contacted Maria—the sister of one of my best friends from HS, a pen pal, and a sophomore at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb—who graciously made arrangements for Mark and me to crash in her dorm on our way to America’s Dairyland. We stayed long enough into Sunday to watch the start of the Bears-Packers game, then wended our way to a motel on the outskirts of Madison in time to see Walter Payton’s TD run keep da Bears undefeated (William “The Refrigerator” Perry had his one career TD catch in the first half).

Maria had badly cut her finger working for NIU’s dining services a couple of days earlier. The stylish hat I’m wearing was a purchase from Filene’s Basement when I’d visited MA relatives in August.

Thirty-six years fuzzes a lot of memories, you know? On Monday the 4th I visited Van Vleck Hall, where UW-Madison’s math department is housed; the following day included the first of the hundreds of times I was in Altgeld Hall in Urbana-Champaign. I chatted a little with the Director of Graduate Studies for math at both schools, while Mark made his visits to the respective CS buildings. I guess we each got our own sets of vibes about the places. Looking back, it feels a bit odd to have been focusing on the future in this way when I had months of college still to enjoy. I don’t know that anything was ultimately accomplished by going, other than getting a few days’ break on the road with a good friend. I do think the trip was when it began to hit me and some of my Transy friends that our time together had an end in sight.

It should surprise no one who knows me that music I heard over those days stuck in my memory more than some of the events. The two biggest hits at the time, “Part Time Lover” and “Miami Vice Theme,” came over the car radio early and often. I heard “Talk to Me” from Stevie Nicks for the first time, on the road between Madison and Bloomington, IL on Monday night. And James Taylor’s remake of “Everyday” cropped up a few times, too (Mark favored AC/soft rock more than I did, so tuning in to AOR stations was kept to a minimum).

Also among the strongest musical associations I have with the trip is the sax solo that opens the album version of Glenn Frey’s second contribution to the Miami Vice Soundtrack, “You Belong to the City” (#6 on this show, heading to #2). In my mind’s eye, Mark and I were heading out to grab dinner after watching some more football in that Madison motel. I wasn’t remotely connecting the song to the quest about which Midwestern city I might soon ‘belong to,’ as pat a story that might make—I was just a 21-year-old who paid far too much attention to music playing in the background, and who was hoping to make progress toward the next step.

I wound up applying to Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, and two schools in the northeast. I went 3-for-5 on acceptances/assistantship offers, and y’all know which way I went in the end. Mark elected to pursue a master’s at Washington University in his hometown of St. Louis; we got together 3-ish times a year throughout my time at Illinois. Maria and I saw each other a few times over that period, too, and we’ve reestablished an email connection in the last couple of years.

Note: I’ve started recording my Thursday afternoon radio shows and uploading them to Mixcloud. You can click here, but I’ve also added a link in the Blogroll. The October 21 show featured many other songs from the fall of 1985.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/10/87: The Other Ones, “Holiday”

There is a very large yet finite number of ways that English words can be combined to form song titles (though one could make a strong argument that the combinations songwriters select aren’t always sensical). Thus, over time one might expect there to be multiple hits having the same title but different lyrics. I don’t know if it’s still the case, but back in the early 80s, the most frequently occurring title for songs reaching the Top 40 since 1955 was “Call Me”–I’d guess “Hold On” or something else has overtaken it by now.

I got to thinking about repeat titles after looking over the first few songs played on the 10/10/87 show, as two of the debut tunes have titles making at least their second trip to the Top 40 (and aren’t remakes, of course). After a little research on the Ultimate Music Database, I could count five such rock-era song titles on this show (no promises I didn’t overlook something). Here’s a quick rundown, including info about the titles’ previous tours of duty:

“Here I Go Again.” Whitesnake, with a little help from the late Tawny Kitaen, is sitting at #1. But the title appeared first on a #37 hit for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles in October 1969. (Plenty of Smokey-related action on this show: “When Smokey Sings” is at #20, and the man himself has “One Heartbeat” at #14.)

“Carrie.” Europe is way up there as well, at its peak of #3. Back in the spring of 1980, Cliff Richard had a haunting song of the same name reach #34.

“Victim of Love.” The other three duplicate titles on this show didn’t get anywhere near the rarified air of the Top 10. Bryan Adams is the victim this time, stuck at #32; almost eight years earlier, Elton John had managed to climb only one spot higher than that.

“Holiday.” The Australian-German sextet known as the Other Ones embarks on their one and only trip to the forty, starting at #36; they’d peak at #29 the following week. No slight to Smokey, but this title has the most star power behind its previous incarnations: both the Bee Gees (November 1967) and Madonna (January/February 1984) reached #16 on their own “Holiday.”

“Notorious.” Loverboy’s at #39 and was destined to advance only one position. Duran Duran had been on less than a year earlier with the biggest–by far–of the earlier hits, having gotten to #2 in January.

I’m not overly inclined to do much research to see if five recycled titles is high or low; logic dictates that the number of such titles should increase over time. Just as a sanity check, though, I checked out the chart from one year later. The 10/8/88 chart has–I believe–six such titles (“I’ll Always Love You,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Fallen Angel,” “True Love,” “Chains of Love,” and “Desire”)–and a seventh, “It Takes Two,” is at #41 and would join them the following week. Unlike what happened a year earlier, three of those ’88 titles date back to the ’50s.

The Aussies in the Other Ones were two brothers and a sister (the female was a twin of the younger male); they all had made their way to Berlin by 1984. Earlier in 1987, they’d hit the U.S. charts with the #53 “We Are What We Are.” (I heard it a few times back then; listening to it again now, it’s better than I remembered.) “Holiday” made a much more favorable–and lasting–impression, even if it also disappeared pretty quickly. In 1992 I ripped it from a CD in Greg’s collection to a mixtape.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/9/82: Crosby, Stills & Nash, “Southern Cross”

I’m often aware of the date when it rolls around each October, but this year it was more front and center in my mind than usual, likely because it was on Thursday.

She and I had met back in May over dinner, seated at the same table with our parents, another family, and a college administrator, the three high school seniors recipients of a generous scholarship. Come fall, we had chemistry together and were both in the Tuesday afternoon lab, assigned adjacent stations. We began hanging out some at lunch and dinner and otherwise, and on a Thursday evening about a month after classes started, acknowledged our mutual interest in each other. It was the first serious dating experience for both of us.

The other night I was rummaging through my bin of 80s correspondence for letters from my college roommate and came across a thank-you note she had written me just a few days before we started dating. (The previous Saturday I had driven her to a nearby cross-country meet where my sister and some of her HS friends were running.) I flipped the note over and noticed that the paper on the back was a little thinner in the upper left corner—I must have placed a square of adhesive there and stuck it to the wall of my dorm room. When I opened it, on the face opposite her handwriting and under a small circle of clear contact paper, there was a four-leaf clover. I’m certain that hadn’t come with the note, but I can’t remember for the life of me now how it came to be placed there. I’m guessing I’d come across it that autumn and considered it a portent.

That wasn’t the only change in my life at the time. The weekend immediately following was the first that I didn’t make a formal accounting of the songs on AT40 in six years. I still have notes that extend into early March of 1983, but none of them were ever converted into a chart.

Debuting at #36 on the show that kicked off this new era (and sailing toward a #18 peak) was “Southern Cross,” the second single from CS&N’s Daylight Again. My recollection is that the summer’s “Wasted on the Way” was a song she particularly liked; I had a more favorable reaction to this follow-up.

We lasted as a couple for fifteen months. We were compatible in many respects, and I could recount to you several ways in which she’s had a lasting, positive impact on me. In the end, though, my immaturity doomed us. It’s one thing to look back and acknowledge you had a lot of growing to do; it’s another entirely to understand that someone else had to pay that cost as well.

That note is the only item remaining from the letters we exchanged over breaks while dating–I’d tossed them all sometime before I left home for grad school. I imagine the note had been separate from the rest.

Obviously, I didn’t fail all the time, and failing certainly wasn’t the easiest thing to do. However, at ages 18 and 19, it was all too easy.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/6/79: Jennifer Warnes, “I Know a Heartache When I See One”

About two-and-a-half years ago, I did a post on trivia associated with the songs and artists on an April 1974 show. It was fun enough, so I’m going to take another whack at that sort of thing, this time on this weekend’s featured 10/6/79 countdown. I’ll repeat some categories I used then but introduce a few new ones, as well.

Song with the longest AT40 run: M, “Pop Muzik,” 20 weeks

Song with the shortest AT40 run: Mary MacGregor, “Good Friend,” 2 weeks

Acts in their final week ever on AT40:
Chic, Maxine Nightengale, Maureen McGovern

One-hit wonders:
Ian Gomm, France Joli, Moon Martin, Patrick Hernandez, Sniff ‘n the Tears, Nick Lowe, M

Two-hit wonders:
MacGregor^, Nightengale^, McGovern^, Bonnie Pointer
(^ = second appearance)

Other acts making their final AT40 appearance:
Bob Dylan (ignoring his turn in U.S.A. for Africa), K.C. and the Sunshine Band (though not for K.C. himself), Michael Johnson, Wings (looks to me it was just McCartney after this), Lobo, Gerry Rafferty

Acts with more than five years since their previous AT40 appearance:
McGovern, Herb Alpert, Robert John (Dionne Warwick was at #3 with the Sprinners on the 10/5/74 chart)

Act with more than five years until his next AT40 appearance:
Robert Palmer

Acts who wrote another song on the show besides their own:
Gomm (co-wrote “Cruel to Be Kind” with Lowe), Martin (wrote “Bad Case of Lovin’ You”)
[Note: Ashford & Simpson were at #41 and would be on the 10/13/79 show–they wrote “The Boss.”]

Acts with a #40-peaking song in their future:
Stephanie Mills (a duet with Teddy Pendergrass), Diana Ross, Pointer, Donna Summer

Acts with a #1 duet in their future:
Jennifer Warnes, Kenny Rogers, Ross, Summer, Michael Jackson (McCartney, Michael McDonald, and Lionel Richie are on the show with their groups; Barbra Streisand had just fallen off)

Warnes, McCartney, and (I guess) Jackson all had two duets make it to the top in the 80s, but only Warnes took home Grammy hardware–both times, even–for her collaborations. I wasn’t a huge fan of either duet, but found other songs of hers more to my taste. In grad school I picked up Famous Blue Raincoat, her collection of Leonard Cohen songs, not long after it came out in late 1986. And I certainly liked her two 70s AC/country/pop solo hits, particularly “I Know a Heartache When I See One,” which is sitting at #33 this week, heading toward its destiny of topping out at #19 a month later. It’s great to sing along with; maybe I should put it on my karaoke to-do list. Wikipedia informs me that we’re hearing Andrew Gold on backup vocals–I should have sussed that out a long time ago.



One-Hit Wonderama

So, it’s once again National One-Hit Wonder Day. I know it’s a hotly-discussed matter as to what constitutes an act being a one-hit wonder; for the purposes of today’s post, I’m taking the slightly liberal position that it means an act had a single Top 40 hit in Billboard.* I’m noting the occasion by lifting up a song from each of the seven years I was actively paying attention to American Top 40 in late September. To qualify for selection, the song:
–had to be on the Hot 100 during the week containing 9/25;
–hasn’t been previously featured in a PastBlast post here on the blog.

Let’s get the celebration started. I’ll note chart position during the week of National One-Hit Wonder Day, as well as where and when the song peaked.

1976: John Valenti, “Anything You Want” (#63; peaked at #37 on 11/6)
WSAI in Cincinnati promoted this song a decent amount in the late summer, but had dropped it from their playlist well before it appeared on AT40. Seems fitting to pick Valenti today, since it sure feels he’s doing his best to sound like Stevie Wonder.

1977: Paul Nicholas, “Heaven on the 7th Floor” (#24; peaked at #6 for three weeks beginning 11/26)
Only song in this list for which I bought the 45 in real time. A shame of sorts it didn’t top out one position lower. I still like it, but somehow I don’t think it was his appearance in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band that relegated him to OHW status.

1978: John Paul Young, “Love Is in the Air” (#9, peaked at #7 for two weeks starting 10/14)
Young comes the closest to not being in this post, having hit #42 in early 1976 with “Yesterday’s Hero.” That song, as well as “Love Is in the Air,” were written by former Easybeats George Young and Harry Vanda.

1979: Lauren Wood, “Please Don’t Leave” (#70, peaked at #24 for two weeks starting 11/24)
Some smooth West Coast groovin’ here, complete with Michael McDonald crooning alongside. Additional success wasn’t for lack of trying: members of Toto and Little Feat, as well as Patrick Simmons, contributed to her album.

1980: Amy Holland, “How Do I Survive” (#28, peaked at #22 for two weeks starting 10/11)
Continuing on a bit of a theme: McDonald not only sings backup again, he also produced Holland’s debut album and has been her husband since 1983.

1981: Balance, “Breaking Away” (#22, its peak for two weeks starting 9/26)
This wasn’t singer Peppy Castro’s only Top 40 appearance–he’d been in Blues Magoos in 1967 when they scored with “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet.” By the early 80s, he’d traded psychedelia in for something, well, peppier.

1982: Jennifer Holliday, “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” (#94, peaked at #22 for three weeks starting 8/28)
Our third #22 OHW in a row. I was making an effort to pick tunes that hadn’t already fallen off their high point on the chart, but surprisingly, all five songs on the 9/25/82 chart that fit that bill have already had their moment to shine in this space (the acts are Tané Cain, Sylvia, Toni Basil, Rush, and Moving Pictures). Holliday’s star turn in the Broadway hit Dreamgirls therefore gets the nod.

Here’s to singular success (by one definition, anyway).

*At least as of the end of 2002; I’m using Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 as my source.

What Did You Hope To Learn About Here?

There’s an American Top 40-related message board I usually visit a few times each week, in part to find out which 70s and 80s shows are going to be offered by Premiere over the coming week or two, in part to learn from the folks who post there (as in other portions of my life, I tend to lurk). The great preponderance of the community is male, and from what I can tell, age-wise I’m somewhere in the middle–most of them seem to be between roughly 45 and 65. This isn’t news if you pay attention to the commercials that Premiere runs each week–we Casey-philes are clearly an aging bunch.

I stopped listening to AT40 sometime in the second half of my first year of college, late winter 1983. Despite that, I stayed fairly on top of the pop music scene for another four or so years, so I’m glad I have the opportunity now to hear those mid-80s shows (I confess I’m not normally all that interested in the 1988 offerings). Many of the younger people on the message board paid attention to AT40 (and other countdown shows) a lot longer than I did; one fellow in particular is a veritable fount of knowledge when it comes to the Radio & Records CHR chart (which was used on Casey’s Top 40 and the late 90s reboot of AT40), at least up to the end of the 20th century.

I’m going on about this because this past holiday weekend, Premiere offered as a bonus the 9/5/98 American Top 40 from Casey’s second run. Curiosity got the better of me. Through the message board I was able to find a station in North Carolina playing it on Monday afternoon (though I missed the first four songs). It was plenty interesting to note differences with–and similarities to–the shows from the years I know pretty well now.

First, Casey definitely sounds older. In September 1998, he was 66 years old, eligible to draw Social Security. The vitality is still there–mostly–yet the toll of the years is making itself known. Hearing him announce “Flagpole Sitta” and “Ghetto Supastar (That Is What You Are)” felt a little incongruous.

(Aside #1: Kasem was almost an exact contemporary of my father–he was ten months younger than Dad, and his death in June 2014 came only 6.5 months after Dad’s. Back in the 70s it didn’t remotely occur to me that the two were pretty much at the same points in their lives.)

In 1998 I was 34. Many of the songs on this show–mostly the R&B, rap, and boy-band tracks aimed at a somewhat younger audience–weren’t familiar. That said, three of my favorite songs for the year were played in the third hour: “Torn,” “The Way,” and “One Week.”

(Aside #2: I’d lost much of my sense of connecting music to events in my life by this point, but I actually know what I was doing on Labor Day weekend 1998. Martha and I traveled up to Champaign-Urbana for a mini-reunion with my officemates and their spouses. Paul and Sue still lived there, and we spent much of our time hanging out in their family room.

Sports was on the TV in the background. On Saturday, Sammy Sosa hit his 58th homer, while Mark McGwire notched his 60th–this was the year both of them shattered Roger Maris’s record. Sunday was opening weekend for the NFL and my fantasy football team. 1998 was the only year I won my league, and I learned that weekend how wise I’d been to draft the Seattle Seahawks defense.)

I didn’t care for the updated jingles and bumpers, which were pretty tuneless. In fact, it was hard to discern any kind of musical theme overall–each hour just seemed to start with Casey talking up the next song in the show. As in the mid-to-late 80s, there were stories that had nothing to do with the music (for instance, Casey told about Dizzy Dean when Fastball’s turn came up). One sign of the times–online dating–played a key role in two of the ever-maudlin Long Distance Dedications. On the positive side, I’ll grant it was very good they were using the Radio & Records chart, since Billboard was still three months away from including songs not released as singles on the Hot 100. As a result, we rightly got to hear the top two pop songs for the year, “Torn” and “Iris.”

I’m 100% glad I had the chance to listen to this show–seriously, when was the last time I heard “Hooch,” from Everything? However, it’s not clear how frequently I’d listen were these to become a semi-regular thing; there’s just not enough nostalgia for the late 90s in my bloodstream, I guess.

For the curious, the #1 song 23 years ago was the Diane Warren-penned, Steven Tyler-crooned “I Wouldn’t Want to Miss a Thing,” from the Armageddon soundtrack. For a song feature, though, we’re going two spots lower. Honestly, I never really got why Matchbox Twenty blew up. The songwriting’s only so-so at best, and it’s not like Rob Thomas has golden pipes, either. Nonetheless, the chorus of “Real World” isn’t bad, and the song is plenty fun and catchy if you don’t listen too closely to what’s going on in the verses. Besides, I think most of us could use less hassle these days.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 8/28/82: Asia, “Only Time Will Tell”

When I was much younger, I made a few attempts at maintaining a diary, none of which ultimately took hold for all that long. The first began in the summer of 1975, at the tender age of 11–quite a bit of that focused on the status of my baseball card collection, with only a little devoted to what was going on inside me at the time. Two later efforts had a better mix of reporting on current events and looking inward (or at least I think so). One of those occurred at the midpoint of my junior year in college; I wrote about that a couple of years ago. The other had taken place (mostly) in August and September of 1982, just before and immediately after I’d flown the nest to begin life at Transy on 9/4. Those weeks are almost certainly the most closely chronicled of my life, though that hardly means they make for compelling reading. Nonetheless, you get a brief synopsis of some of what I elected to record for posterity at the end of that August.

–We had returned from a family vacation to Myrtle Beach on Sunday, the 22nd, and my sister started her senior year of high school just two days later. I visited my school (at least) twice between 8/24 and 8/31;

–I mentioned going shopping for stuff to take with me to college on four occasions, including the desk pad/calendar I wrote about last fall;

–“Making the rounds” to see high school friends one last time was a common refrain, and several close ones receive specific mention (and visits);

–I went golfing with Dad a couple of times–he was still scoring better than I was. A couple of bowling outings with my good friend Tony happened, too;

–What about my AT40 habit? Well, that got a shout-out, on 8/24. I wasn’t taking as much time to listen to the show at this point, relying on Recordland’s posting of the Hot 100 instead:

Funny thing is, I didn’t record those predictions on the 8/21 chart.

–A recurring theme is dithering over what to do about the girl I was kinda sorta dating at the time. We’d met at FBLA Leadership Camp the previous summer, and after a few weeks of calling her after school started back, I’d let things drop (she lived just a couple of counties over from me, which fortunately meant the calls were local). We’d reconnected at the Regional and State FBLA Conferences in the spring, and at the latter, I’d been there to offer some comfort after she lost the election for State Treasurer–she was a year behind me in school. The phone calls resumed, and we’d gone on a date or two over the summer.

But I was about to embark on a new adventure, and she would still be in high school sixty-plus miles away… At first I considered driving to see her over the last weekend of August to “talk it over,” then it got pushed back to the middle of the week, and finally…nothing happened. At one point I did consider how she might be feeling about things, how my apparent lack of interest in seeing her before I left might be playing.

The first encounter with the term “supergroup” I can recall came in the spring of 1982, when Asia blasted on the scene. Even if I wasn’t that into prog rock growing up, I certainly knew about King Crimson, Yes, and ELP (yeah, the Buggles, too). I’m virtually certain my sister had purchased Asia while “Heat of the Moment” was riding high on the charts, though I don’t remember it getting played much while I was around. By this final weekend before the start of my next phase, second single “Only Time Will Tell” had advanced to #24. It would be at its peak of #17 on my final chart in early October.

She and I exchanged a couple of letters after I got to college. In the last one I sent, probably in mid-to-late October, I made not-so-casual mention of my new female friend. The whole thing was clearly far from my finest moment. She was never anything but nice to me, and even if that hadn’t been the case, she was undeserving of shabby treatment. I guess I can only hope that she wasn’t as bitter as John Wetton.