American Top 40 PastBlast, 7/19/80: Change, “A Lover’s Holiday”

Because of you-know-what, the number 40 occupies an outsized portion of my mental landscape. I’ve noted before the thrill of anticipation in those first years of listening to Casey, not knowing how the show would commence–would it be a song I hadn’t heard before, something on its way down managing to hang on for one more week, or the same tune that had led off the previous week? I perhaps paid slightly greater attention to the subsequent fortunes of debuts in the opening slot, and of course noticed those occasions when a song dropped off after a single week of glory.

When I learned that this week’s 80s offering from Premiere was to be 7/19/80, I thought I remembered that it is the show when “A Lover’s Holiday,” from the Italian/American studio group Change, came on at #40 and then disappeared the following week. Change had three other songs hit the Hot 100 over the next couple of years, but never again made the show. This got me wondering: of the acts across the classic Casey AT40 era (7/70-8/88) with a single Top 40 hit, how many had their song peak at #40? And how many of those lasted on the show for only one week?

To investigate, I used two sources: my own charts and the website Ultimate Music Database. I was breezing through pages–both paper and virtual–pretty quickly, so I’m hoping there are no errors of omission or commission. (In the process, I noticed a couple of things that could be jumping-off points for future posts: a) there were more songs than I expected whose first and last weeks on the show were spent at #40, and b) several artists seemed to have a real knack for hitting #40 on their way up the chart.) The answers to the questions above? I count nine, with eight of them one-week wonders; as we’ll see below, I’m going to grant partial credit to three more, though.

These are the nine, in chronological order:

1. Ashton, Gardner, and Dyke, “Resurrection Shuffle” (8/7/71)
Somehow it’s taken me almost fifty years to get to know this burner. Just like Ben Folds Five almost a quarter-century later, these Brits were a keyboard-bass-drums trio.

2. Ten Years After, “I’d Love to Change the World” (11/20 and 11/27/71)
Another song from a UK blues-rock group, it’s the only one that lasted two weeks at #40. I did hear this one a fair amount growing up, and have always dug it.

3. Gunhill Road, “Back When My Hair Was Short” (6/2/73)
A favorite from the moment I discovered it on the K-Tel album Fantastic. Most likely song here to become an earworm.

4. Red Sovine, “Teddy Bear” (8/28/76)
One of these pieces is not like the others…

5. New England, “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya” (6/16/79)
Guess where these guys were from? Their debut LP was co-produced by Paul Stanley of Kiss; they lasted two more albums before hitting Splitsville.

6. The Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star” (12/15/79)
I gotta believe this is the best-known song in this list, and probably the one I like most, too.

7. Change, “A Lover’s Holiday” (7/19/80)
A pretty sweet jam–maybe it would have been a much bigger pop hit had it come out 12-15 months earlier? As it was, it was part of a medley that wound up as the #1 dance track of 1980. He’s not heard here, but Luther Vandross contributed vocals to several cuts on the album it came from, The Glow of Love.

8. Rainbow, “Stone Cold” (6/19/82)
Ritchie Blackmore’s band in between iterations of Deep Purple. Lots of blokes shuffled through Rainbow’s lineup over the years; Ronnie James Dio, Cozy Powell, and Tony Carey were already gone by the time Straight Between the Eyes was released. Roger Glover was back together with Blackmore at this point, though, maybe making a DP reunion all the more inevitable.

9. The Communards, “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (3/7/87)
Jimmy Somerville, late of Bronski Beat, teamed up with pianist Richard Coles and had a monster hit in the UK with this cover of Thelma Houston’s #1 song from a decade earlier. (Another possible task for inquiring minds is researching if any other covers of chart-toppers only made it to #40.)

As for the honorable mentions…I found three acts that conceivably could have qualified above, but, following the suggestion of The CD Project, were rejected because they weren’t listed as a separate act in my copy of Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles 1955-2002. Nonetheless, I want to acknowledge their consideration.

–Henhouse Five Plus Too, “In the Mood” (2/5/77)
We all know this bunch of cluckers was really just Ray Stevens all dressed up in feathers.
–Sonny Charles, “Put It in a Magazine” (1/22 and 1/29/83)
Charles is grouped in my Whitburn with the Checkmates, Ltd. Some singles credit just the band, others promote ‘Checkmates, Ltd. featuring Sonny Charles’, and the label on “Black Pearl,” their #13 hit from 1969, says they’re ‘Sonny Charles and the Checkmates, Ltd.’ He was strictly solo in the 80s, however.
–Joyce Kennedy (duet with Jeffrey Osborne), “The Last Time I Made Love” (10/6 and 10/13/84)
Kennedy apparently doesn’t merit her own entry in Whitburn (this song is listed under Osborne’s), though the band for which she sang, Mother’s Finest, had a couple of singles chart in the mid-70s. I know that editorial decisions must be made, but I will note that L.T.D. has its songs listed separately from those of Osborne…

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/19/76: ‘Fin Lizzie’, “The Boys Are Back in Town”

The third weekend of June 1976 was the second time I wrote down the songs being played on AT40. As well-documented here many a time previously, my first chart is from the 6/5/76 show; the next week, I missed the first seven songs due to attendance at a Cincinnati Reds doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals. For some reason I elected not to make a formal record of that week’s top 33 (or if I did, it got lost along the way). In many ways, then, it’s really the 6/19 show that began the solidifying of the ritual/practice/obsession I’d carry with me for six-plus more years.

Rather than wait another couple of weeks to show you in a Charts post what I recorded on that Sunday evening from WSAI, here it is in all its battered, tattered glory:

The notation of circles for debuts, asterisks for risers, underscores for fallers, overscores for the songs staying put, and predictions for the following week had begun with the 6/5 chart–I guess I was ready for stats-keeping from the get-go, even if most of that disappeared by October. Note also that I’d fully internalized ‘notches’ already, as well.

What stands out to me now, though, are the errors wrought by a twelve-year-old listening to a possibly crackly AM signal.
–Well, the signal wasn’t responsible for getting the year wrong;
–Casey didn’t give the title for #40 before playing it. Apparently I made my best guess while Mike Love crooned and did my best to correct things on the outro;
–I believe the same thing happened with #37;
–This would have been the first time I heard “Turn the Beat Around.” Could not discern ‘Vicki Sue’ that day; you can see I ultimately settled on ‘Casey.’ I figured it out by the following week’s show;
–I considered myself a very good speller back in the day, but apparently ‘rhythm’ was befuddling;
–Apparently I hadn’t fully grasped the titles of the Eric Carmen and Doobie Brothers pieces, making the former into a semi-remake of the Bacharach/David classic and the latter sound even more like a call to action. ‘It’ got added on the 6/26 chart, while ‘Gonna’ had to wait until 7/10;
–And then there was the name of the band singing “The Boys Are Back in Town.” I’d gotten fooled by Casey’s pronunciation of ‘Thin’ two weeks earlier, and it’d be another month before it got corrected. Phil Lynott and company would climb as high as #12 before the end of July. It’s now one of my very favorites from those first months I was keeping close tabs on the ebb and flow of the chart performances of pop 45s, an almost perfect summer song. Who wants to head down with me to Dino’s?

(I covered some of this three years ago, when I posted pictures of my 6/26/76 chart.)

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/7/75: Michael Murphey, “Wildfire”

It’s June 10, 2012, a notable day in my son’s life—the day of his baptism. Throughout the spring, he and three other boys have been preparing via a membership class led by our pastor. It’s traditional in our congregation for each person in the class to have an adult sponsor, for conversation and guidance. Ben chose one of my religion colleagues at the college for his sponsor—Ben is good friends with my colleague’s older son. The service goes smoothly, and afterward there are four happy families. Martha’s sister and my mother are also present, and the five of us have a nice lunch out.

It turns out to be a notable day for me as well, the day that parts of my past resurface in the present and go on to shape my future.

My eighty-year-old father isn’t feeling well at all. Two weeks prior, he bailed on flying to Florida with Mom and me to witness my nephew’s high school graduation; he just ate the cost of the ticket. Dad has talked up coming down to Georgetown for the baptism, but as Sunday approaches, he realizes that he wouldn’t be able to endure several hours away from home. In order to minimize my mother’s time away from him, I agree to meet her in Dry Ridge, about midway between us, and ferry her to Georgetown and back.

One of my favorite stations to listen to in the car is WWRW, Rewind 105.5 (“70s and 80s Hits”). I’m aware that old American Top 40 shows from the 70s are being rebroadcast on Sunday mornings, but up until now, I haven’t taken the time to tune in intentionally. Today, though, an opportunity has arisen. I’m at the main intersection of town, heading north, when I flip on the radio. I don’t recognize the song, and I try to guess which pre-1976 year this might be. Casey tells me on the outro that Eddie Kendricks is at #30, with “Shoeshine Boy.” Up next is a cover of “The Way We Were,” by Gladys Knight and the Pips, so that limits the show to either 1974 or 1975. When the Ozark Mountain Daredevils close out the first hour with “Jackie Blue,” all is revealed: I’m listening to 6/7/75.

I meet Mom just as #20 (“Magic,” by Pilot) is playing, and drop her off at the door to the church as Major Harris croons “Love Won’t Let Me Wait.” I learn that Jessi Colter’s “I’m Not Lisa” is #8 as I park the car. Sometime that evening, I root around the internet and find that John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” was the final song Casey spun.

That was the start of what’s now been a nine-year re-connection with AT40, closing in on 50% longer than the span I listened to it growing up. It’s become a weekend ritual once again, and I’ve noted before how much it’s taught me about the music of the early 70s. It’s not clear at all this blog would exist had I not stepped back into that world. I’m amused that it was a show from the first weekend of June, exactly 52 weeks before I started keeping my charts, that kicked things off again. It took a few years to realize there was irony involved, as well.

I listened to 6/7/75 in its entirety yesterday (unlike in 2012). When “Shoeshine Boy” came on, I began reliving the trip to pick up my mother; I knew exactly where I was along the way up when unfamiliar songs from Carly Simon, the Temptations, Tavares, Disco Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes, Seals and Crofts, and Paul Anka all played in a row. The Carpenters, Alice Cooper, Joe Simon, and Average White Band were part of the soundtrack of the return leg. Knowing now how little time my parents had left in 2012, remembering my father’s increasing fragility, thinking about life in the mid-1970s—listening to the middle 90 minutes of the show again was an emotional experience.

Michael Murphey’s “Wildfire” was also a part of that morning nine years ago, sitting at #17. In two weeks, it would jump from #12 to #3, where it would be stymied from further progress by the Captain and Tennille and Linda Ronstadt.

It’s a weekday afternoon, mid-to-late June 1975. Mom and Dad are off attending to things that need to be attended to, and Amy and I are at a farm a few miles outside of Walton, spending time with friends. It belongs to the family of our dentist; their youngest is a boy my age, though he and I don’t go to the same school. One of his sisters, maybe three years older than I, is around, too. Years later, the two of them will jointly take over their father’s practice.

I think we four kids are in a car, likely with their mother, when “Wildfire” comes on the radio. The girl declares it’s one of her current favorites—is it possible that she’s into horses? I like it pretty well, too. The association of the song with the moment will last a lifetime.

These days, the melancholia in “Wildfire” seems to be a foreshadowing of the sheen of sadness I hear and feel when listening to the songs on 1975 shows from later that summer and fall. It’s a sense I didn’t quite realize was present at the time.

I Hardly Know What To Say

Buddy, just a couple of months after we took him in.

There have been a few times these last few months when I’ve wanted to write but just haven’t found the necessary motivation. Now that the school year is over, I’m hopeful that my muse will return, at least partially. In an attempt to clear the decks, here are abbreviated versions of three posts that have been tossing around my head for a while. The month and title I intended for each are included; only on the third one had I made some meaningful progress earlier. You might detect a recurring theme.

February: I’ll Be Your Sister If You’ll Be My Brother

For my 27th birthday in 1991, Greg and Katie gave me a guinea pig. I’d been hanging out in their apartment regularly for about a year by this point (unrelated but almost interesting fact: their landlord was Alison Krauss’s father), and Pig—their guinea pig—had caught my attention from the get-go. This was the year I had an apartment to myself, so I guess they figured I could stand the company.

She was adorable, with a cute crest of white fur on the top of her head spraying out in all directions. As I hustled her and her carrier into the back seat of my car, I looked down and told her, “It’s just you and me now.” That was approximately the title of a song from Kirsty MacColl’s Kite, and so my new, nervous companion was immediately christened Kirsty.

Taken in my apartment in Lexington, so most likely 1993.

Guinea pigs frequently don’t live all that long; I had Kirsty for just over four years, a little more than half of which was after I’d moved back to KY. On a Friday in March of 1995, I came home from work to find her lying awkwardly toward the front of her cage. She was still alive, but something catastrophic—likely a stroke—had clearly happened. Alarmed, I opened the door, she (as was typical) tried to scramble away from me, I picked her up, and then held her as she died. (Guinea pigs aren’t loving pets, but I’ve always wondered if she’d somehow purposely held on until I returned.) I’d been dating Martha for only a few weeks at this point; I don’t think we’d made plans to get together that night, but I soon called her, and she offered what comfort she could over the phone. I wrapped Kirsty up, placed her in a shoebox, and buried her at the end of my driveway (there was no garage at that house). I wasn’t without a pet for long, though, as a stray cat and her kittens entered my life that summer.

March: There’ll Be (More Than) One Child Born

Chris Leverenz, a retired colleague, passed away at the end of February. While we didn’t socialize together outside of work, over the years we became good friends and confidants. She was my department chair from 1999-2010; many was the time I’d wander down to her office toward the end of the day to seek advice on how to handle some issue that’d arisen in one of my classes. We traveled together to several national conferences, usually when our department was hiring—driving to New Orleans in 2006 and DC in 2009, flying to San Francisco in 2010 and Boston in 2012. Some of our best conversations occurred on those trips. I miss her terribly.

Chris retired in 2017, not long after she discovered that the breast cancer she’d suffered more than a decade earlier (and thought she’d beaten) had returned and gone metastatic. We held a reception for her one Friday afternoon that April; I coordinated with the Alumni Office to get invitations out to alums, particularly those who’d majored in math, computer science, or elementary education, the main points of contact with students over her 35 years of service. It was a glorious event, one of the very best, most memorable occasions in my time at Georgetown.

The day Chris died, I learned that a good friend from church had become a grandmother again just the day before. Not long after, that line from Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die” popped into my head. The theology in the song didn’t match Chris’s remotely, but the thought of others carrying on one’s work has long been a powerful one for me. Touching, heartfelt tributes were many on Georgetown’s Alumni Facebook page after the news broke. It was abundantly clear from them (as it was in the appreciative notes I’d gotten via email four years earlier from alums who weren’t able to attend the retirement reception) that Chris had left a rich legacy, especially in elementary, middle, and high school classrooms scattered across Kentucky.

But there’s one other thing. Earlier in the day of her passing (a Thursday), a tenure-track offer went out to the first-choice candidate for a math position in our department—Chris’s position, one that we’d largely bridged in the intervening four years with a visitor. That offer was accepted on Friday afternoon.

April: American Top 40 PastBlast, 4/24/76: Henry Gross, “Shannon”

Our dog Buddy has really slowed down over the last year. His hind legs have gotten steadily weaker, so much so that negotiating stairs has become almost impossible. Falls are increasingly frequent, and he can’t always get himself up after he’s been lying down for a while. In recent months, walks around our neighborhood have gotten shorter and shorter; he’s now pretty much limited to our yard. There are signs of doggie dementia or some neurological disorder—he’ll sometimes wander around in a restless, almost manic state, unable to settle, and when he’s not sacked out from exhaustion, he doesn’t seem to know what to do with himself. His appetite is still strong, though he occasionally changes his mind abruptly about what he’s willing to eat.

When I was 8 or 9, my sister and I begged for a dog. Frisky came into our lives one summer (Amy thinks it was 1973, but I still wonder if it was ’74).

The date on the back says June 1978.
No date, but I’d guess 1974 or 1975; note the milk box on the porch.

She was a beagle mix, about a year old. At first, we kept her outside, chained overnight to a tree with a doghouse to shelter her as needed. (She was often loose during the day, which occasionally led to trouble, including once digging up a portion of our next-door neighbor’s garden.) Eventually, she moved indoors, but Dad wasn’t about to let her have the run of the house. So, she lived in our basement, confined to the larger, unfinished half. Without the opportunity to run up and down the street as in her younger days, Frisky gained a lot of weight. I’m saddened and rather ashamed looking back now at how little attention I gave her through my high school years—she plays virtually no role in my memories from that time. My mother wound up being the one who mostly took care of her.

When my parents moved to Florence in September of 1983, Frisky was relegated to the garage. I was living my best life as a sophomore in college then, and my sister had just left the nest herself. It may be a mercy that Frisky soon developed kidney issues serious enough to warrant putting her down. I was certainly sad when Mom and Dad told me about her demise, but it took time to realize how much I’d ignored her, how miserable I suspect she was.

The #18 song on 4/24/76 was “Shannon,” a song Henry Gross wrote about Carl Wilson’s then-recently deceased Irish Setter; it’d been killed after being hit by a car (that story had been relayed by Casey on the previous week’s show—by coincidence, Gross also had an Irish Setter named Shannon). The song climbed as high as #6, which is where it was the week I began my charting odyssey. It’s one of many tunes that transports me back to the spring I fell in love with AT40.

On the 9/14/85 show, Walt in Cincinnati wrote in with a Long Distance Dedication request for his two daughters, who were struggling over the recent loss of their dog Snuggles. Of course, Walt asked Casey to play “Shannon.” It would be a couple of years before news (as well as audio evidence) leaked about the profanity-laced tirade Kasem went on the first time he tried to read Walt’s letter—he was most unhappy having to transition to it from the bouncy Pointer Sisters’ song “Dare Me.” Casey makes it sound like this wasn’t the first time his staff had scripted the show in such a fashion. It’s out there on YouTube for the curious.

We don’t know how old Buddy is. Come August, we’ll have had him for eight years, and he was at least five or six when he arrived on our scene. There are lots of things he used to do that I miss: rolling over on his back for tummy rubs, playing ‘sock’ in the basement or backyard (he’d chase and semi-retrieve it for a treat), howling when sirens rang out while he was laying on the deck (his hearing is fairly shot now). He’s never been one to cuddle, but after a few years with us, we gained enough trust from him that he would climb the stairs in the middle of the night to lay on the floor in our bedroom—that happens no more, either.

We know the day is coming when he won’t be able to support himself well enough to get up, even with help, or walk around on his own. Until then, he’s getting special add-ins with his meals, extra treats on occasion, and lots of patience and love.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/17/86: Phil Collins, “Take Me Home”

Saturday’s attendees, as we appeared in Transy’s first-year student lookbook in 1982. We weren’t arranged this way on my version of the Zoom call.

This is my year for a college reunion (the 35th, if you must know), but, like essentially every other event these days, scheduling something formal has been a challenge. Once the vaccine rollout began gaining steam, my alma mater elected to move Alumni Weekend away from its traditional spring spot on the calendar (Transy doesn’t have a football team), pushing it this year near the end of October. I’m hoping to go.

Back in January, before any such planning had taken place, I’d floated the idea to a few of my classmates over email about holding a virtual mini-reunion in the spring. I brought it back up with one of them in mid-March, and she and I began working on an invitee list and thinking about possible dates. This past Saturday evening, nine folks from the Class of ’86 climbed into our little boxes on Zoom to catch up and share memories (a tenth was unable to make it).

I had a lot of fun over those two-plus hours, even if it wasn’t quite as lively as maybe I’d hoped it would be (given the format and the lofty percentage of introverts among us, that can’t be much of a surprise, though). We shared college-era photos and scans of artifacts, talked about kids and pets, reminisced about classes we’d taken together, profs we’d had, and so on, and so on. The nostalgia was there, but I don’t think any of us were letting it define who we were that night. For me, our 30th gathering five years ago was an inflection point of sorts in renewing some friendships, and my hope is that this event will further that along. We lived in close proximity during a formative period; while we still share that—or at least, what we now remember of it—advancing years and the ever-growing awareness of the finitude of my days make me want to circle back to these old friends and better see what we’ve become (currently three academics, an accountant at a university, a psychiatrist, a home-schooling mom, a retired state employee, an environmental lawyer, and an IT specialist; the one who couldn’t attend is a general practitioner), how we got there, and maybe what we can still learn about ourselves and each other.

(Much of the above may sound anodyne but believe you me, I’m happy that folks want to keep in touch. It was a great time in my life, but I think plenty about mistakes I made then, both social and academic, about how immature I was in various respects. I want to believe I’ve grown—including learning to cut myself some slack—but I’m not the best one to judge that.)

Quite a few of us had been involved with WTLX, so I don’t stand out as the Top 40 music geek with this crowd in quite the same way I do with my high school friends. I did share a picture of one of our posters, and Kevin, the station manager for three years, reminded us about the Top 57 countdown of favorites—as voted on by the student body—we ran our sophomore year (WTLX’s frequency was 570 AM; he promised me he’d forward me that list, which I’m a little surprised I don’t already have).

When I sent out a reminder email last Wednesday, I remarked upon the coincidence that the weekend’s AT40 rebroadcast would be 5/17/86, just a week before our graduation (perhaps unsurprisingly, I also included a list of the week’s Top 10). As it happens, one of the photos shared on Saturday night, with eight of the nine of us in it, had been taken that very day: all too aware of our impending scattering, we’d driven down, along with a couple of friends a year behind us, to my roommate James’s house for a cookout/picnic.

Most of us plus a few others four years later, on 5/17/86. Picture taken by James’s mother, courtesy of Angela Ray.

There may have been a volleyball game or two; I do know that later on, we drove to the nearby road sign that marks the original site of our institution.

“Take Me Home,” the fourth single from No Jacket Required, was sitting at its peak of #7 then, the second of its three weeks there. Phil wasn’t singing about reliving the glories of college, and I can’t even tell what he doesn’t remember. But Transy was home, and felt like home, for the better part of four years. By 5/17/86, I was ready to move on to the next phase. As far as letting my thoughts drift back there now and again these days, though—well, I don’t mind.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 1/29/83: Fleetwood Mac, “Love in Store”

Whether it was fully intentional or not, one of the things that happened after I began buying LPs much more frequently (usually at Cut Corner Records) in the spring of 1984 was stocking up on previously owned copies of Buckingham/Nicks era Fleetwood Mac albums. I skipped over Live, but the other four wound up in my hot little mitts in fairly short order. While not the classic that Fleetwood Mac and Rumours are, I found Mirage rather charming from the get-go. After listening to it again a couple of times over this past week, here’s a decent approximation of its tracks ordered in terms of personal preference.

12. “Only Over You”
The one song on the album I wouldn’t miss. I can confirm Wikipedia’s claim that Christine McVie offers “special thanks for inspiration to Dennis Wilson” for this song on the lyric sheet.

11. “Straight Back”
Stevie contributed just three songs to Mirage; maybe she was holding back a bit for The Wild Heart? This one might not have been out of place there.

10. “Empire State”
Buckingham had quite a few punchy, sub-3:00 pieces appear on FM albums over the years, including three on Mirage. This ode to NYC opens up side two.

9. “Can’t Go Back”
When I bought Mirage, I knew only the hits. I kinda remember the first time I played the album on my stereo back in the dorm: I recognized upon hearing “Can’t Go Back” rev up right after “Love in Store” that I’d made a sound purchase.

8. “Hold Me”
That “Hold Me” reached #9 on my personal chart is more a tribute to its lengthy run than my high esteem, though I fully admit it’s a quality piece. Still not sure about that “damage/manage” rhyme, however.

7. “Book of Love”
Three of Buckingham’s five contributions, including “Book of Love,” were co-written with co-producer Richard Dashut. This one’s a mid-tempo meditation on end-of-relationship angst (i.e., getting dumped).

6. “Love in Store”
I don’t really think of the two Christine-penned singles as fully hers, since Lindsey (and Stevie, to a lesser extent) has such a strong vocal presence on both. This is sitting at #22 for the third week on this show; it’d turn out to be the Mac’s last appearance on AT40 for more than four years.

5. “Eyes of the World”
Steve Simels singles this song out for praise in the October 1982 issue of Stereo Review, particularly noting Buckingham’s acoustic/electric guitar interplay toward the end. What stands out for me now is the single word “eyes,” repeated over as a sort of chorus, foreshadowing what was to come on Go Insane.

4. “That’s Alright”
A gently-rollicking kiss-off, as maybe only Nicks could pull off.

3. “Oh Diane”
A top 10 hit in England; I’d like to know what it might have done as a fourth single stateside.

2. “Wish You Were Here”
Since I never got around to repurchasing Mirage on CD, I’d put it aside for a long time. When I finally wheeled it out again on YouTube, I was struck by how well I could sing along with “Wish You Were Here.” It must be on one of the now-broken mix tapes I made my senior year that I absolutely must find a way to fix. Simply a stunner.

1. “Gypsy”
I’m pretty irrational in my love for “Gypsy.” Outside of “Silver Springs,” it’s my favorite song from Nicks. I’ve always liked the extended version in the video, and I’m a sucker for all that joyful dancing in the rain, too. But why is only just now that I’m picking up on the phrase “velvet underground” in the opening line?

American Top 40 PastBlast, 12/1/79: Daryl Hall and John Oates, “Wait for Me”

8/12/79: It’s Sunday morning, and I’m hearing voices. More accurately, the voices of folks around me in the hotel restaurant and the swimming pool area sound just like those of people I know, which makes no sense. I keep looking up in surprise—why are they here?—but of course it turns out I’m imagining things. It’s more than a little alarming that it keeps happening as the day progresses.

I chalk up the hallucinations mostly to the very tiny amount of sleep I’ve had the last three days.  On Thursday, I’d gone on an overnight hiking/camping trip to a state park in southern Ohio, maybe a couple of hours east of Cincinnati. There were five of us: my church’s minister, the female half of our youth group leadership, Meg (who’s my age), Dean (a couple years older), and me. (Those aren’t their actual names.)  I enjoyed backpacking through the woods, and I suppose cooking dinner over a fire was fine. But I’d laid my sleeping bag over some roots and rocks and had a miserable night trying in vain to get comfortable. I closed my eyes for 10-15 minutes a couple of times on the ride home, and it helped a little, I guess. Regardless, I wasn’t going to be kept from going to Friday night’s youth lock-in at the church. My fellow campers are there, along with maybe a dozen others, including my sister (I don’t remember why she bailed on the hiking trip). A lot of fun was had, but sleep was naturally not high on the agenda. After Amy and I got home late Saturday morning, we packed a suitcase and headed south to Lexington for a couple of nights. We didn’t have a family vacation in 1979; this would be the closest we’d come that summer. I imagine we visited with one of Mom’s oldest and dearest friends on our way to the Campbell House, but I was so wiped out, who knows.

So, throughout Sunday, I keep thinking that folks with whom I’d spent so much of Thursday and Friday were at the next table over or just out of sight, around a corner. As the hours pass, there is something else: a strange and funny feeling surfacing in both head and stomach. Meg. The Big Crush of my high school years has just happened. (Did I know then that this was her birthday? Maybe; maybe not.) I’m positively moony for several days as I adjust to my new reality.

12/1/79: It’s hard to say how cool I’ve played it at youth group throughout the fall—less well than I think, I bet. Talking to girls is definitely one of my many kryptonites, but so is acting normal around someone I “like.” One thing I’ve learned about Meg is that she’s in the flag corps at her school, and that turns out to mean she’s here tonight in my high school gym. I’m keeping stats for the boys’ basketball team as our respective schools do battle. As the buzzer for halftime sounds, I leave the bench and dash to the corner where the pep band takes up residence to pick up my trombone and blast a few tunes, foregoing the opportunity to listen to any berating from the coach in the locker room.

It also allows me to watch Meg take part in the corps’ routine. I’m surprised to hear the song to which they perform: “So Fine,” the opener on side two of ELO’s A New World Record. After they’re done, do I seek Meg out to talk? Doubtful. What about at church the next day? More likely, but I can’t say now one way or the other.

Sometime after New Year’s, I summon up the courage to give Meg a call. I slink downstairs to our partially finished basement; there’s a wall phone in the unfinished part, almost under the stairs and next to the washer/dryer. (It’s also the room where our dog Frisky spends most of her time.) Her father answers, and somehow I manage to identify myself and ask to speak with her. We talk for a moderate amount of time. Either it goes well enough or I’m oblivious to the opposite, because I find myself calling back regularly, maybe weekly, for a few months. Meg is certainly some combination of patient and kind in these conversations. There’s youth group, too, but when we’re both there neither gives any sign of additional contact. In the middle of all this, I get my driver’s license, but I guess I’m too nervous to ask her out.

Several months into 1980, it dawns on me that there’s been no particular sign of reciprocity, and I start calling less frequently. I’m surprised when she rings me up one day toward the end of the summer—the first time that’s happened—to ask if I’d like to go bowling. We have a nice enough time, but it’s obvious that we’ll stay “just friends.” By this point, I’m okay with that. Meg will agree to be my junior prom date the following April, our second and last time out together. Throughout this period, and for many years after, Meg’s mom is super nice to me when I see her at church on my infrequent visits home (to be honest, I’ve always wondered if the bowling get-together was her suggestion).

I missed the start of AT40 on that early December Saturday night just over 41 years ago now. My dad, forever indulgent of his son’s chart addiction, was pressed into service to listen to the beginning of the show and do some record-keeping. (This wasn’t the first time, as you may see someday in a Charts post.) At the top of the list Dad handed me when I got home was “Wait for Me,” a debut from Daryl Hall and John Oates; it would reach #18 at the end of January.

It’s one of those weird quirks of memory that I’ve come to associate a song I didn’t hear on 12/1/79 with the events of that day. Indeed, in this YouTube age, you’ll find me on December 1 more often than not—it happened again this past Tuesday—seeking out both “So Fine” and “Wait for Me” for a listen.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/19/77: Dave Mason, “We Just Disagree”

I began buying 45s in the middle of 1976, right around the same time I started keeping my AT40 charts; my sister jumped in on the fun not long after. By the end of 1977, a high percentage of our allowance money was being shoved at Sears and Recordland in the Florence Mall, so much so that while listening to this weekend’s show it felt like close to half of the songs would have been in our hands by Christmas that year. I rifled through my collection of singles last night in an attempt to verify my memories. Several tunes I expected to find didn’t pop up, but they were mostly the ones I remember to be Amy’s–I guess they wound up in her hands in the end. A visit to my trusty Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles 1955-2002, which lists B-sides, helped me confirm those I don’t appear to have anymore.

With that, let’s take a peek at what was being spun on the turntable chez Harris 43 years ago. An asterisk * means the single must have been my sister’s.

#40. The Bay City Rollers, “The Way I Feel Tonight”
You are not going to shame me on this one (Amy and/or I also bought “I Only Wanna Be with You” and “You Made Me Believe in Magic”). It’d never really registered with me until this weekend that they modulate going into the chorus two different times. Whitburn notes this single was released with two different B-sides.

#39. Foreigner, “Cold As Ice”
Did this one have a single mix? In my head I always hear the strings more prominently.

#35. Meco, “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band”
There are two copies in my collection–pretty sure at least one of them came courtesy of a neighbor who lived up the street.

#32. *Bob Welch, “Sentimental Lady”
Was disappointed not to find this one. That winter I grabbed onto the flip side “Hot Love, Cold World,” which also wound up being the third single from French Kiss, hitting #31 in July 1978. How often was that sort of thing happening in the late 70s?

#23. Barry Manilow, “Daybreak”
This one wasn’t on 45–your humble blogger had broken out the big bucks several weeks earlier for Barry Manilow Live.

#22. The Babys, “Isn’t It Time”
With apologies to “I Feel Love” and “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” I’ll stick my neck out and claim this is the best record on the show. I wrote an homage to it three years ago in my first year of blogging; as a pop record, it’s just got it all.

#17. Dave Mason, “We Just Disagree”
A minor gem. My recollection is it didn’t take too many times hearing this on the radio before I went out and got it. Compact storytelling, mature lyrics, sweet harmonies. Still dig it.

#14. The Little River Band, “Help Is on Its Way”
Probably my favorite song at the time of this show. I imagine I’ve noted before that LRB was right up there with ELO as my favorite band in the late 70s.

#10. Carly Simon, “Nobody Does It Better”
It’s no “You’re So Vain,” but except for that one, I’m not sure I like anything of hers more. Not sure how it took me over forty years to understand the word toward the end between “Baby, baby” and “You’re the best” is an over-emoted and growled “Darling.”

#8. *Rita Coolidge, “We’re All Alone”
Between my “Lido Shuffle” 45 and subsequent purchase of Silk Degrees, I knew the song well by the time Coolidge released her version. I see how her take was a hit, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s better than Boz’s.

#7. Paul Nicholas, “Heaven on the 7th Floor”
If only this hadn’t climbed one more notch… A song designed to appeal to teenagers.

#6. *The Bee Gees, “How Deep Is Your Love”
The only single from Saturday Night Fever either one of us bought (no LP, either), though I liked “Night Fever” and “If I Can’t Have You” plenty. I guess we didn’t lack for hearing those songs on the radio practically any time we wanted.

#5. *Chicago, “Baby, What a Big Surprise”
Their last hit prior to Terry Kath’s death. Was always kind of meh on it.

#1. *Debby Boone, “You Light Up My Life”
Not my doing, as you can tell, though I’ll tip my hat to the key change at the end of “And fill my nights with song.”

Okay, so it turned out to be ‘only’ fourteen of this countdown’s songs (though some years later I would pick up “I Go Crazy” and “Send in the Clowns”). I’d keep buying 45s at a steady clip over the next 4 or so years–the rate probably began tailing off once I got to college.

As for a feature, let’s land on Mason, who would climb to #12 with “We Just Disagree.” He was almost a one-timer on AT40, touching #39 with a remake of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” seven months after this one peaked.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 11/11/72: Nilsson, “Spaceman”

A good while back I mentioned in passing that one of my good friends from high school introduced me to Harry Nilsson’s 1972 album Son of Schmilsson. He’d learned about it when we were seventh-graders, as a member of the golf team–one of the seniors played the cassette (or would it have been an 8-track?) in his car on the way to practice and matches. It would be the summer of 1979 before my friend shared his find with me. The main attraction was the utter naughtiness of some of its lyrics, chiefly Nilsson telling us how hard he sang to impress a female studio visitor in “Take 54” and giving the finger over and over to his soon-to-be-ex-wife in “You’re Breakin’ My Heart.” I mean, they’re tuneful pieces with fine studio playing, but that was plainly secondary to the opportunity to giggle over what Harry was getting away with singing. (I clearly wasn’t all that mature at 15 and 16.)

Forty years on, I hear Nilsson beginning to spiral a little out of control. He is not in particularly good voice, devolving into semi-screaming too often. There are some interesting songs: I guess I was too young to recognize “Ambush” as anti-Vietnam War or “I’d Rather Be Dead” as pro-assisted suicide (watch the video) when I first heard them. On the other hand, there’s “Joy,” which Casey noted on the 8/19/72 show was released as a country single under the pseudonym Buck Earl. (That Nilsson thought this was a reasonable idea is additional evidence that his judgment was already in decline, never mind the fact I laughed hard over this song many a time.)

What feels somewhat odd is that I don’t have memories from the late 70s of hearing the song on Son of Schmilsson that actually made the Top 40: “Spaceman” is at its peak of #23 on this show. It’s another tune of its time, touching on the same theme of feeling alienation while circling above the earth in a tin can we hear in “Rocket Man” and “Space Oddity” (“Spaceman” made AT40 in between those two, though of course Bowie’s piece was over three years old by the time it hit).

I still have the LP–I must have picked it up sometime while in college. But that wasn’t the only vinyl copy of Son of Schmillson I ever bought; my friend reminded me when I saw him a little over a year ago that I had given one to him as a gift in January 1985, just before he moved away from KY to start on his career as an air traffic controller (a job from which he retired this past July; my-oh-my, how the years do fly).

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/23/82: Sylvia, “Nobody”

I’ve never been much of one for organizers and planners. When I was younger, I managed to do pretty well just storing things in my head. Now that I’ve reached the second half of my 50s, the old brain cells don’t quite function like they used to, and I’m starting to see the wisdom of entering appointments etc. on my phone.

When Mom and I went shopping for college supplies in the summer of 1982, one of the items we wound up with was a large pad for my dorm room desk, essentially a combination blotter/daily planner. I actually used it for the latter purpose most of my freshman year–for years after, alas, it served only in the former capacity. Yes, I still have the sheets for September 82-February 83–why do you ask, and why are you surprised? Here’s October:

This is one of the more fully filled-out months, even if it’s mostly due dates for assignments and birthdays. Somehow, I still have artifacts that verify a number of these notes, too. Let’s take a quick tour of a few:

October 6:

“S. O. L.” stands for Student Orientation Leader–maybe this was one final meeting with the group I’d gone through orientation with?

The interview was for my first newspaper article assignment; I posted a picture of that article this time last year, but I still have my notes from that interview, along with a second, with a faculty member, the following morning!

October 11:

We’d been reading parts of Plato’s Republic in Images of Man (our frosh comp-equivalent), and this was the day my three-pager on it was due. The comments from the professor mostly focus on how the paper would have been strengthened with some well-chosen quotes and support from Socrates, but I was given an A- in spite of that.

I typed that paper on my high school graduation gift:

The typewriter used cartridges for both film and correcting tape. When I popped the film cartridge out last night, I could identify the final characters I ever typed on it: Farmville, VA 23901. If I had to guess, I’d venture that was related to a job application to Longwood College (now University) in the spring of 1992.

October 15:

Two exams in one day. We had one in chemistry every other Friday (eight in all); this was the third. All were scored out of 90 points.

I’d be willing to bet the calculus test is in a drawer in my office, but I’ll just leave it there for now.

October 17:

Three years ago, I came across the first letter I sent home, dated 10/9. It referenced this upcoming event, in which I treated my new college friends to sights that formed a key part of my church youth group experience. (I wrote up my most recent trip to the Pinnacles here.)

Birthdays toward the end of the month included those of my maternal grandmother and my Great-Aunt Birdie (the latter’s birth occurred 119 years ago today–look for a write-up about her next year). The young woman I’d started dating earlier in the month shared her day with Aunt Birdie.

That fall, the local Top 40 station’s playlist included “Nobody,” country singer Sylvia’s one pop hit, stopping off at #25 on this show and heading toward a #15 peak. Not sure I ever hear the chorus without thinking just maybe I’m catching her singing along, perhaps like what might have happened while we were doing chemistry homework.