American Top 40 PastBlast, 4/19/86: Sade, “Never as Good as the First Time”

Just like last August, the powers-that-be at Premiere have scheduled shows from 1986 and 1982 for rebroadcast on consecutive weekends. Then, preparations to decamp for grad school and college were on my mind; now, I’m thinking back on those final weeks of college and high school. This past weekend I rummaged through my brain and a bin of college memorabilia to pull out artifacts from my senior spring, a couple of which are tangible. Here are three short tales.

I. Transy observes a 4-4-1 calendar, with the spring term ending right around this time of year. One of the classes I took my final spring was a general education course called something akin to Music Theory for the Liberal Arts Student, to fulfill a distribution requirement. My recollection is that it was interesting enough, though given past experiences with piano lessons and band, perhaps I would have enjoyed a similar course designed for majors more? Anyway, the professor was in her first year on campus, her specialty in composition.

Fast forward almost six years. I’m at the interview in NW Indiana I mentioned in last week’s post, talking with one of the members of the search committee. He pulls out a picture with three people in it, asking if I recognize them. I do know two–they’re faculty in English and art at my undergraduate institution. The third turns out to be that music theory instructor, to whom my interviewer is now married–he tells me that when he mentioned that Transylvania was on an applicant’s resume, she was able to verify I’d once been her student (gradebooks are forever). I suspect he’s been waiting for this moment for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve kind of blown it. (In retrospect, I half-wonder if the connection didn’t play at least a minor role in securing an on-campus interview. My faux pas had nothing to do with failing to merit an offer, though.)

II. At the end of my junior year I was elected president of our campus’s leadership honorary, Omicron Delta Kappa. In March 1986, I flew down to Baton Rouge to represent Transy at ODK’s national conference. Two items of mild note from the trip: 1) one piece of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament was being held at LSU at the same time as the conference, and one morning I shared a hotel elevator with then-Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins; 2) I also got to briefly meet Frank Rose, a bigwig in the ODK leadership structure. Rose had assumed the presidency of Transy in the early 50s, about halfway through my father’s time there, despite being only about a decade older than Dad. He left Transy after several years to become president at the University of Alabama. Desegregation occurred during his tenure in Tuscaloosa; he also hired Paul “Bear” Bryant away from the University of Kentucky’s football team. Dad knew Dr. Rose, of course, and regarded him with esteem, so he was glad I was able to introduce myself.

Transy’s circle (that’s what ODK calls their chapters) was the Lampas Circle, Lampas being the name of TU’s leadership honorary prior to pursuing national affiliation. Early in the school year, we’d been approached by the national office about inviting Lampas members from the past to become formal ODK members. I somewhat naively went along with this effort, and in March we sent out letters to appropriate alums to join us for an induction service on the first Sunday in May. Perhaps not too surprisingly, only a few folks (one of whom was my father) accepted–I assume most just ignored it. One invitee, an alum from the late 60s, did take the time to respond in memorable fashion, cc-ing the college President along the way.

Looking back, she was hardly wrong to see the invitation as a money grab. And I’d obviously been sloppy in not clearly identifying myself in the letter. While I think in part I simply had the misfortune of being a convenient target for venting, I actively chose to hold on to this letter as a reminder to stay humble and not get too wrapped up in self-importance.

III. The “1” in the 4-4-1 calendar is a four-week period known as May Term. Students take just one class, frequently a non-standard offering. My last May Term class was a topics course in Archaeology. Ostensibly taught by the college’s anthropology prof, it was in reality directed by an archaeology Ph.D. candidate from UK; I imagine we were helping him with his doctoral research. We first learned a little about field techniques, and then got to put them into practice on a real dig. Our site was farmland south and east of Lexington, just outside the small burg of Athens (for the non-locals, it’s pronounced AY-thens; if you think that’s funny, wait until you hear how we say the name of the town due west of Lexington known as Versailles). Evidence of past Native American settlement had been found in some of the farm’s fields, and our task was to discover what we could over a two-plus week period. We started by laying out plots via elementary surveying and then tucking in, taking off a layer at a time, moving on once we’d found what we could. One of the course requirements was to keep a journal of daily activity–while we had to hand them over at the end of the term, you know that I made photocopies before I did so. Here are two of the entries.

Chris T. was the UK grad student; Chris B., then a sophomore, later got his Ph.D. in anthropology and now teaches at our alma mater. That plot turned out to be plenty fruitful the next day.
The weather didn’t always cooperate, but we did find some pretty interesting stuff–a later entry notes some bone awls we’d dug up. MFA = Mitchell Fine Arts, a Transy classroom building.

The final journal entry was from 5/19, just six days before my graduation ceremony. I don’t know how it all turned out, whether there was subsequent work on the site, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed the class, though.

Good times, they come and they go. I had a wonderful college experience, but by April 1986 it was just about time to move on to the next stage. Staying at Transy probably wouldn’t have been the same, been as fun.

Sade is singing about romance in “Never as Good as the First Time” (debuting at #37 on 4/19/86, heading toward a peak of #20), not four years in college, but work with me here–there are plenty of things in this world that simply aren’t as enjoyable if extended beyond their shelf life. Savor the moments, treasure them, recall them fondly, but maybe think twice before you attempt to re-create them.

What’s In A Name: Emmylou Harris, “Mister Sandman”

At long last, the third installment of what’s turning into a very occasional series about the nine solo artists named Harris who hit the Billboard pop charts over the first thirty years of the rock era. (At this rate, I’ll finish about the time I turn 70, which suggests I should speed things up a bit.) As I’ve noted previously, the odd thing is that none of them hit the Top 40 more than once. This time around, it’s the most highly regarded (not to mention successful) musician of the nine, country legend Emmylou Harris. The source of inspiration? “Mister Sandman” is at #39 on this weekend’s 4/11/81 Premiere offering, embarking on a three-week ride that peaked at #37.

My write-ups about Tony Harris and Major Harris attempted to provide a bit of biography because of their relative obscurity, and also because there just wasn’t much out there. Since this isn’t the case for Emmylou Harris, I’ll largely content myself with a few choice passages about her courtesy of Stereo Review, since that’s where I would mostly have learned about her. A quick perusal of the SR archives reveals an article by Carol Offen in December 1975 (which summarizes Harris’s life and career up to her breakthrough LP Pieces of the Sky, including her serendipitous introduction to and work with Gram Parsons) and at least a half-dozen Best of the Month, Recordings of Special Merit, and featured reviews, all courtesy of Harris mega-fan Noel Coppage.

From the Offen article, a quote: “I’d rather have somebody come see me and, instead of going out and buying my album, go buy a Louvin Brothers album and experience what I experienced the first time I heard it. I would really get off on that.”

As for Coppage…
–on Pieces of the Sky (BotM, 6/75): “Emmylou’s voice is smooth, it has good range and a lovely tone that shimmers on the high notes, and she complements all this with a folksinger’s straightforward phrasing.”
–on Elite Hotel (RSM, 5/76): “..she simply doesn’t need quirky songs or chestnuts everyone knows by heart, just a few that really say something she can wholeheartedly connect with…”
–on Blue Kentucky Girl (BotM, 5/77): “Harris has prodigious talent as a singer, and more than enough style to make her the absolute owner of a song once she’s recorded it. She also has good instincts about what kinds of songs go together…”
–on Evangeline (BotM, 6/81): “…she is one of the few singers around now who give the (probably accurate) impression that they won’t do songs they don’t identify with, let alone don’t like, even if it means going without hits.”

Coppage died in late 1982, and his final reviews appeared in the March 1983 issue. Appropriately, those include one for Late Date, a live Harris album.

Despite the high praise from Coppage, despite rave reviews of later albums such as Wrecking Ball and Red Dirt Girl, I remain almost completely ignorant of Harris’s body of work. My excuse back in the late 70s/early 80s was that country music outside of Waylon Jennings wasn’t much my thing. Later, though? Now? It’s just an outright unforced error that I’m more familiar with “Emmylou” by First Aid Kit than any of the real Emmylou’s songs. I expect that to change, and soon.

I feel certain that Casey mentioned on one of those April 1981 shows that Emmylou first recorded “Mister Sandman” with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton. For years I didn’t realize that the take on the single was all Emmylou, harmonizing with herself–Ronstadt’s and Parton’s record companies wouldn’t allow the trio’s version to be released on a 45. It was on Evangeline, however; I’m thinking Kasem played the album cut at least once?

See which one you favor.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 3/5/88: Aerosmith, “Angel”

A couple of months ago I, like lots of folks, got sucked into the Wordle vortex. I’ve always had an affection for logic puzzles, including playing a decent amount of Mastermind in my youth, so this development was not exactly shocking. It’s quickly become a part of my morning routine: get up, let the dog outside, try my first two words while she’s eating her breakfast, mull over the positive and negative inferences while she goes out a second time, hope to discern the answer by the fourth line. (It doesn’t always work out that way, of course.) I’m part of a couple of small Facebook communities devoted to sharing results of our daily efforts, and I’ve also become intrigued by Quordle, and to a lesser degree, Nerdle.

A few days ago, the Wordle answer was NASTY; for the rest of the day, Miss Jackson’s jam from the summer of 1986 bounced around my head. This got me to wondering, too: how many other song titles of Top 40 1980s hits could show up inside those five green boxes? Based on a quick-but-fairly-careful examination of 80s charts, I think the answer is that there are twenty-eight songs, with twenty-six unique words.

Not all five-letter song titles qualify, at least as I understand Wordle’s rules. Proper nouns are out, so say goodbye to JESSE, GYPSY, JAMIE, BRUCE, KYRIE, and VENUS. Next to go are plurals, meaning YEARS, SOULS, GIRLS, and TEARS are also right out (meaning poor Rick Springfield misses out twice). Lastly, the judges here are disqualifying PRIDE due to the parenthetical portion of its title.

That leaves the following, presented by year:
1980: STILL*, STOMP, MAGIC
1981: WOMAN, ALIEN
1982: TRULY
1983: none
1984: MAGIC, DRIVE, STRUT
1985: SOLID**, RELAX, LUCKY, FRESH, ANGEL, SHOUT, SHAME, NEVER, CONGA
1986: NASTY, PRESS, HUMAN
1987: CANDY, ALONE, HAPPY, FAITH, CRAZY
1988: ANGEL
1989: STAND
*yes, it’s more of a 1979 song, but it was ‘still’ in the Top 10 in January 1980
**debuted the last week of December 1984, but it’s a 1985 song for me all the way

Congrats to the Cars and Heart for double representation. I missed the first 199 Wordles, so I don’t know if any of these besides NASTY has appeared to date. Perhaps honorable mention status should be extended to HELLO AGAIN (twice, giving the Cars a third appearance today, all from Heartbeat City, even), SUPER FREAK, HUMAN TOUCH (have a bone, Rick), and especially SHINE SHINE. Feel free to identify omissions.

Aerosmith had begun their comeback after re-forming in 1985, but the bucks didn’t start raining on them again until 1987’s Permanent Vacation. The second time a song called “Angel” made it in the 80s would become Tyler, Perry, and company’s biggest hit to that point, reaching #3 (it’s #36 on this show). It’s not a particular favorite in these parts, but I’ll give it full marks today for providing a hook for this post.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 2/13/82: Eddie Schwartz, “All Our Tomorrows”

The Cincinnati Bengals began play in the American Football League in 1968, and became part of the NFL two years later when the merger between the two leagues was completed. My father had been a Cleveland Browns fan in the 1950s and 60s but switched allegiances when their former coach Paul Brown became owner/coach of the new team closer to home. That quickly rubbed off on his children.

The Bengals had some success early on, scoring three playoff appearances in their first eight years, but it wasn’t until 1981-82, my senior year in high school, that they were able to win some postseason games and advance to Super Bowl XVI. They were legitimately the best team in the AFC, benefiting from a career season by QB Ken Anderson, who was the league’s MVP. Alas, they lost 26-21 to the equally upstart San Francisco 49ers in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

(Seven years later, the Bengals were in Super Bowl XXIII. They were legitimately the best team in the AFC, benefiting from a career season by QB Boomer Esiason, who was the league’s MVP. Alas, they lost 20-16 in heartbreaking fashion to the now dominant San Francisco 49ers. I wrote about that season three years ago.)

Soon after the 1980s ended, the Bengals became a really bad team for a really long time, almost fifteen years. Since 2005, they’ve been occasionally decent, occasionally awful, but until this year hadn’t won a playoff game since January 1991. They were probably the third or fourth best team in the AFC this past season, but lucked out in that there wasn’t a truly dominant team and have–finally–for the third time made it to the Super Bowl (maybe their real luck was not having to face Buffalo in the playoffs). QB Joe Burrow wasn’t the MVP, but seems to be on the cusp of a fabulous career.

The one time February 13, my birthday, was a chart date during the years I paid close attention to AT40 was that senior year in high school. While it was the last birthday celebration before I began my journey toward independence, nothing has stuck in my head from the day. FBLA Regionals and track season were in the offing, my college decision had already been made–I suppose I was taking life in stride (but perhaps also for granted).

The #30 song on that day was from a Canadian enjoying his one moment of glory on the U.S. pop charts as a performer. Eddie Schwartz would soon reach #28 with “All Our Tomorrows,” but he was already collecting royalties from penning “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.” Eventually he’d also contribute to Paul Carrack’s hit “Don’t Shed a Tear” and “The Doctor” for the Doobies.

Maybe on this date forty years ago, I was among the Bengals faithful still licking their wounds from the Super Bowl loss almost three weeks earlier. Thanks to now starting the season a week later than before, adding a week between the conference championships and the Big Game, and tacking on a seventeenth regular season game, the Super Bowl will now happen on my birthday every so often. It’s a trip and a treat to have the Bengals playing tonight.

In several hours, we long-suffering Bengals fans will know if we get to spend all our tomorrows remembering this as the day they won it all.

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.