Diamond Anniversary Day

It was a sleepy, warm Saturday night in the Kentucky counties immediately south of Cincinnati. Friends and family from across the area gathered at the church on the southern corner (yes, the roads run SW-NE and NW-SE right there) of Graves Ave. and Home St. in Erlanger to bear witness to a third-grade teacher living in Fairborn, OH, and the minister at Bromley Christian Church (situated just a few miles north of the evening’s festivities) becoming united in holy matrimony.

The two had met a little over a year earlier, when her father, the minister’s physician, decided to visit the church in Bromley one Sunday morning with his wife and middle daughter. They took the minister out to lunch afterward, and sufficient sparks flew between the two younger folks that they soon arranged a date. Things became serious quickly enough, and before you knew it, Caroline Houston and Richard Harris, who were to become my parents, were making plans for a wedding, one which occurred sixty years ago tonight.

Someone–though I doubt it, maybe my grandmother Harris?–added watercolor to one of the invitations and gave it to Mom and Dad. I remember this sitting on an end table during my youth. The service started plenty late in the day, 7:30pm.

I fortuitously stumbled across my parents’ wedding album this past weekend. If you’re willing to stick around, I’ll share a few moments from the event. The picture at the top is obviously from after the ceremony; Martha and I have a photo analogous to it in our album.

Mom’s two sisters were already married. That’s younger sister Nancy next to her, serving as matron of honor. The two flower girls are my cousins Carol (on the right) and Diane, the third and fourth daughters of older sister Sue. In between is Mom’s best friend from high school and college (and fellow elementary school teacher), Betty Jane Webb.

The sanctuary in the original Erlanger Christian Church was unsurprisingly not air-conditioned (it was demolished in 1976, the replacement building erected adjacent to it). I’m digging the white tux jackets. My grandfather was four weeks away from turning sixty.

The happy couple, now husband and wife.

My paternal grandfather had passed away the previous November–my mother never got to meet him. You can tell that it’s already (mostly, at least) night in these outdoor photos. Initial research indicates that Kentucky may not have been observing Daylight Savings in 1962, in which case sunset would occur a little after 8:00.

The reception was held at my maternal grandparents’ house in Union, several miles to the south and west of Erlanger. It was a grand old stone house, well over a century old even then. My cousins and I have so many happy childhood memories being out at “the farm.”

That’s a pretty impish look on Dad’s face, but it’s looking like he suppressed any impulse to misbehave with the cake.

View of the front of the house (not the side we usually entered–the driveway wound around from U.S. 42 on the back). Mom is visiting with guests, while Dad seems to be chatting with two of the groomsmen.

I love the kinetic energy in this one, an artifact of photographic technology of the time; you sure can sense their happiness as they jog toward the car. The honeymoon took them to Niagara Falls (my wife and I found two commemorative painted plates of the falls among their belongings when sorting through things after they both had passed).

Mom and Dad made it to anniversary #51. I imagine both would acknowledge it wasn’t the happiest marriage ever. As the years passed, though, each came to depend on the other, to be grateful for the other, in their own way.

The last good photo of my parents together was taken in 2009, when the Erlanger Christian Church member directory was undergoing one of its periodic updates. I’m sure I received a framed copy that Christmas. It resides on a shelf in our basement.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/21/83: Thomas Dolby, “She Blinded Me With Science”

Notes and scenes from the end of the first year of college:

1) My May Term class was a lit topics course, Studies in Short Fiction. The professor was Dr. Holmes, the same fellow I’d had back in the fall for my composition course. He’d come to Transy in the early 60s, having been Ivy-trained at Cornell and Columbia. Maybe he had a bit of the patrician in his demeanor but on the whole was eager to engage with students. His comments on papers were generous though occasionally hard to decipher. (He seemed plenty old to me at the time, but I’m able to determine I’m now the age he was then. Yikes.) We read stories in an anthology and also imbibed from Joyce’s Dubliners and a Chekhov collection. As much as I enjoyed writing, looking back at my work I can tell I definitely needed the feedback. I’m glad I took the class–I still have a deep appreciation and affection for the short story format.

2) Having just one class for two hours a day gave one plenty of free time (they didn’t call it “Play Term” for nothing). I’d been maintaining some sort of distance running program, as I participated in a rain-soaked 10K race in mid-May, my second and final effort at that distance. Top 40 radio ruled in James’s and my dorm room, I suspect largely at my behest. (I’ve been trying to bring to mind what James was taking that May–thinking it was a history course, since he was a minor. Would that I could consult him.) For two weeks in May, I taped a ranking of my favorite songs to the door of our room (the outside, of course, so others could bear witness to my excellent taste). The second was that for 5/21, our last weekend before finals.

That spring of 1983 remains one of my favorite periods for pop music, and I’m still very much okay with all ten of these tunes.

3) Voting in the Kentucky primary would occur on 5/24, the same day as my final exam. 1983 was a gubernatorial election year (only KY, LA, and MS choose governors the year before a presidential election). Back in the day the Democratic nominee was highly likely to prevail in November, and that year featured a fierce, three-way competition among Martha Layne Collins (then Lt. Governor), Harvey Sloane (mayor of Louisville) and Grady Stumbo (a physician from the eastern part of the commonwealth). All three would score more than 30% of the primary vote, with Collins eking out a victory over Sloane by a little more than 4500 votes. (She would win in November over Republican nominee and future Baseball Hall of Famer/U.S. Senator Jim Bunning by a little more than 10 percentage points.)

The ads on television must have been incessant that spring, since I’d been inspired also to put this on our door, maybe right below my top 10 list:

About that write-in line…my college and grad school friends can attest that my father wasn’t shy in the least about disclosing his political loyalties to anyone and everyone. The young woman I was dating at the time apparently felt obliged to offer him up as an option.

4) The last entry in the diary I’d started the previous August came on 5/20; this was the first time I’d written in it in four months. It acknowledges the upcoming time apart between my girlfriend and me, notes that my sister’s HS graduation would also be on 5/24, and discusses my high school friend Frank’s relatively-new-yet-very-serious dating relationship (I’ve been asked to be best man at the as-of-then unscheduled wedding). While I wrap up with “maybe I’ll be becoming more acquainted with this book in the near future,” I’d never put pen to it again.


My favorite at the time was #5 in America, in the second of a four-week run at that position. Despite its nod toward novelty, “She Blinded Me with Science” seemed to be a pretty big hit all around me–I’ve noted before how a hall-mate was fond of blasting it at high volume after classes were over for the day. While I wouldn’t see the video for months (I lived in an MTV desert), the 45 quickly found a spot in my collection.

While it wasn’t perfect, on a personal level that spring turned out to be the high point of the year. The next several months would be quite bumpy, and it was entirely of my own doing.

Thirty-four years later, on an unseasonably cool and rainy day toward the end of April 2017, I met up with college friend Pat in Lexington to participate in the local March for Science. James was there as well, with his wife Amy and their two children; most of us carried homemade signs (mine read “Science Makes Our Children’s Future Brighter”). I’d guess that several hundred people gathered next to the county courthouse that afternoon to first walk southeast on Short St. and then northwest on Main St. Afterward, we gathered in a nearby covered space where we could learn about local organizations whose goals likely aligned with those of attendees and grab a warm drink. They had music playing in the background, and it was perhaps no real surprise when at one point Thomas Dolby came over the speakers.

I fear that in the years since we’ve learned that too many folks are blinded to, not with, the stuff.

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.

Modern Rock Tracks, 4/11/92

By mid-April 1992, my job search for a college math position was languishing. An interview in February at a regional school in northwest Indiana had bombed (looking back it’s easy to see that now; then, I had to be told by the chair of the search committee just how far down I was on their ranked list of interviewed candidates). Around this time, a small school in Illinois to which I’d applied did send me a letter, essentially offering me a job sight unseen. That, along with the accompanying minuscule salary, set off enough red flags to cause me to quickly decline. I was beginning to countenance the possibility of staying at UIUC another year, leading me to put off scheduling the defense of my dissertation.

Probably the most memorable event of the spring was a trip to Maryland that Greg, Karl, and I took over a long Easter weekend to see Greg’s wife Katie. Like this year, Easter fell pretty late in 1992, on April 19. All three of us had research assistantships without teaching duties that spring, so we left early on Thursday morning in my 1986 Camry, easily the most reliable of the vehicles at our disposal.

It’s about 700 miles between Urbana, IL, and the Maryland suburbs northeast of DC, so despite switching off drivers, it was a pretty long day. We all crashed at Katie’s apartment–being poor grad students, Karl and I slept on couches or in sleeping bags on the living room floor. It was nice to meet Chrissie and Lisa, Katie’s roommates (and also first-year math grad students at UMD), after learning some about them over the previous months via Greg and Katie’s phone conversations.

It was a pretty laid-back time. I don’t recall going into DC to do any sightseeing–I imagine overall we stayed within a decent radius of the apartment, though I’m sure a visit to a record store or two was high on the list of things to do. I tuned into the alternative station WHFS when I could, as I had done three months earlier when in Baltimore for the math conference where I’d had some initial interviews.

The guys did drive up to Baltimore ‘s Inner Harbor on Friday evening to see the fourth-ever game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards–we sat in the right field bleachers.

The O’s won 8-0, the fourth consecutive time one of the teams had failed to score in the new park. Rick Sutcliffe started for Baltimore, pitching the last of his career 18 complete-game shutouts; the offensive hero was first baseman Randy Milligan, who had two jacks and 6 RBI. The main thing I recall from the evening, though, is the razzing from the fans (one of whom might have been Greg) that Rob Deer, playing RF for the Tigers, endured throughout.

On the way home on Easter, we made the mistake of assuming that a straight line was the quickest way between two points, and lost a few hours on the back roads of northern West Virginia and southern Ohio. I don’t know now whether it was planned in advance, but we veered a little south to Florence to spend Sunday night with my parents and sister (who happened to be home at the time), arriving back in IL on Monday afternoon. A long trip for a short visit, but well worth it.

As for what was on the Modern Rock Tracks chart (and likely WHFS’s playlist) at the time, well, let’s take a gander…

30. Cowboy Junkies, “Murder, Tonight, in the Trailer Park”
This still-active Canadian outfit, best known for their cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane,” never could quite break through. At one point I owned Black Eyed Man but I’m not finding it in my collection now.

28. Tori Amos, “Silent All These Years”
My favorite song of the year, from my favorite album of the year. I’d picked up Little Earthquakes by this time, and Greg and I had already connected Amos to her past life as Y Kant Tori Read.

WHFS was also playing her version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (which is included on the soon-to-be-released “Crucify” EP) while we were visiting.

27. Peter Case, “Dream About You”
I like Case’s third solo album, Six-Pack of Love, quite a bit–I believe I bought it on that trip. While I get the criticism about Mitchell Froom’s (over-)production, “Dream About You” is still a pop delight.

20. E, “Hello Cruel World”
I was last-week-years-old, doing research for my radio show featuring many of the songs on this chart, when I learned that E (Mark Oliver Everett) went on to found the band Eels (“Novacaine for the Soul”) later in the decade. This catchy number deserved more attention.

18. Lush, “For Love”
If Lush is on the countdown, you can be sure I’m going to note it and embed a video. “For Love” was their second and last MRT Top 10 song. It’ll be another four years before they appear here again (how “Hypocrite,” from Split, didn’t score remains a mystery to me).

17. Nirvana, “Come As You Are”
Currently, the owner of the second-longest run on the chart (13 weeks)–the endurance champ is still to come.

10. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Under the Bridge”
I’m not a big RHCP fan by any means, but I’ve always really, really liked “Under the Bridge.” Can’t help but note, though, that seemingly every song of theirs I’ve heard on the radio since bears at least some resemblance to it.

9. Concrete Blonde, “Ghost of a Texas Ladies’ Man
Johnette and company had peaked in various ways with their previous release Bloodletting; I wasn’t as impressed with this first single from Walking in London.

7. James, “Born of Frustration”
Seven came out on the heels of the re-recorded “Sit Down” from the previous year. “Born of Frustration” was its second single, but the only one to make a dent in the U.S.

5. The Sugarcubes, “Hit”
It’s been a long time since I’d heard “Hit,” but after taking a listen preparing this post, I can unequivocally say it’s the ‘Cubes best song–I’d completely forgotten how good it is. Stick Around for Joy was their swan song, though–in just over a year, we’d be treated to Björk’s first solo project, Debut.

4. Sarah McLachlan, “Into the Fire”
The song that informed us that McLachlan was well on her way. The stuff on Vox is nice enough, but “Into the Fire” was a major step forward. Likely my favorite of hers.

3. David Byrne, “She’s Mad”
From his second post-Heads solo album Uh-Oh. The video has lots of special effects that were revolutionary at the time but sure feel dated now. I do like the line, “If sex is a weapon, who’s winning the war?”

2. U2, “One”
The previous week’s #1, in its fifteenth of twenty-three weeks in MRT-land. Sure, Bono’s lyrics got more and more precious over time, but I’m giving him a pass on this tune.

1. The Cure, “High”
Wish was about a week away from its release. “High” isn’t the album’s most enduring track–we’ll be featuring that one in June–but it definitely satisfied Cure fans’ appetites after almost three years without new material.

AT40’s Top 100 of 1979

As 1979 came to a close, the staff at American Top 40 assembled two special year-end shows. On 12/29/79, Casey told us all about the Top 50 of 1979, while on 1/5/80, he counted down the Top 50 Songs of the 1970s. I certainly understand the desire, maybe even the need, to survey the greatest hits of the decade, but I imagine I would have enjoyed hearing a whole Top 100 for 1979 to match what had been presented the previous three years..

Wishes sometimes come true. Last weekend Premiere Networks broadcast a fabricated show of songs #100-#51 from the year the disco backlash began. It was created by Ken Martin, programming director at WTOJ in Watertown, NY, who painstakingly pieced together bits of Kasem’s patter. Much of the time, he used stories Casey had told at some point during the chart year to introduce a tune; in other cases, Martin made him say things he had never actually verbalized (such as “the #98 song of 1979”). It was thoroughly enjoyable to listen in this past New Year’s Day.

But I didn’t stop there, intuiting an opportunity to make one more chart. Perhaps inspired by the Topps Heritage collections (which these days feature current players on cardboard in the style of the cards I collected in the 1970s), I wrote up last weekend’s show as if it really had been broadcast at the end of 1979. Fortunately, I was able to locate a small cache of unused, five-ring wide-ruled loose leaf paper–slightly yellowed, even–in my office to match what I’d used originally (just get in touch if you find yourself in need of supplies that might have been in vogue at some point over the past thirty years).

1979 was the year of cursive writing in making my charts, so I went back to refresh myself on 15-year-old WRH’s handwriting. Not surprisingly, it’s changed over the years–my style is more a hybrid cursive/print these days–but before long I could come close to making capital F, S, and T and lower-case r (plus 2, 4, and 5) like I used to. It’s far from a perfect match, but I’m pleased enough. Without further ado, two sheets of paper, drawn up forty-two years apart:

I looked back through the year’s charts to duplicate the slightly idiosyncratic capitalization rules I followed then. My assumption, not wholly correct, was that the chart year went from 11/4/78 to 10/27/79; I did not use the frozen chart of 12/30/78 for calculating stats or chart points when forming predictions. Alas, either the work used to generate predictions is buried somewhere separate from all of my other chart stuff or it got tossed out years ago. Whatever I did looks pretty solid, and makes me want to reverse-engineer and determine what I had predicted for #51-100 back then–no doubt it was very similar to the process I’d used for 1978 year-end predictions. That may be a summer project…

AT40’s Top 100 of 1981

As I mentioned last week, I applied a formula to calculate points earned by songs that hit AT40 over the 1981 chart year, and then used it come up with predictions for what Casey would count down on the weekends of 1/26/81 and 1/2/82. It was analogous to what I’d done for my own charts: here it was (41 – n) points, where n was the song’s position, plus 10 extra points for each week on the show, with bonuses for multiple weeks at #1 (so a week at #30 got 11 + 10 = 21, a week at #8 got 33 + 10 = 43, etc.). Here’s a sample of the painstaking labor involved:

The end result came out thusly:

Ah, but what did I use as the chart year? I’d remembered that back in 1976, Casey had said they used first week of November to last week of October, so I assumed that five years on that was still the case. This list is based on a 11/1/80-10/31/81 chart year. How did I do? Here’s the full countdown–the three numbers next to each song are: 1) # of weeks on the chart during my theorized chart year; 2) peak position in said chart year; 3) my prediction.

I think you can make a strong case that the 10-points-per-week-on-AT40 was a decent proxy for what the folks creating this list actually did, awarding (101-n) points for every week on the Hot 100 (along with bonuses for weeks at #1). There are several clumps of songs (#96-#90, #82-#78, #76-#71, for instance) that were grouped together in my predictions, albeit I had placed each group several positions higher on the countdown. My big failure was in not realizing that they were going to extend the chart year well into November of 1981, either two or three weeks (two weeks would get “Hard to Say” and “I’ve Done Everything for You” in about the right spots, but even three more weeks isn’t enough to explain the big misses on “Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You,” “Start Me Up,” “Arthur’s Theme,” and especially “Private Eyes”). It appears they also bestowed credit for some weeks in October of 1980, based on my low-balling of “Dreaming,” “Whip It,” “The Wanderer,” and “Lady,” among others. Alas, I just wasn’t going to get it right, but the effort was certainly fun.

WKRQ’s Top 102 of 1981

January 1, 1982 was a Friday. I was a senior in high school, and I spent the day listening to WKRQ, Cincinnati’s Q102, recording their annual countdown of the Top 102 hits of the year just past. Four years ago, I posted the 1982 list, and two years ago, the 1979 countdown appeared here. This is the third and final such sheet I have; I don’t know now why I didn’t write things down on 1/1/81. I’m not surprised at all by the song at #1.

Here are the songs that Q102 played a-plenty then which didn’t make the Top 40 nationally during 1981 (one did in 1982).

#101. Pat Benatar, “Hell Is for Children”
I heard an AT40 show this fall–10/20/84–where a portion of “Hell Is for Children” was played as a Long Distance Dedication from someone who had grown up in an abusive home. On 1/1/82, we were still more than five years away from Suzanne Vega’s “Luka” and “What’s the Matter Here?” by 10,000 Maniacs settling into the musical landscape.

#97. Foreigner, “Juke Box Hero”
Wouldn’t be released as a single until January 21, but was an early favorite album cut from 4. About a decade or so ago, my next-door neighbors’ young nephew thought it was called “Juice Box Hero” (and why wouldn’t he?).

#79. McGuffey Lane, “Long Time Lovin’ You”
I’ve noted before that Cincinnati radio stepped up and promoted area bands during my years of dutiful listening (I’m sure that was true all over the country); we’ve really lost something with the iHeart-ification of the airwaves. McGuffey Lane got its start in southeastern Ohio; “Long Time Lovin’ You” had reached #85 on the Hot 100 in February.

#73. Don Felder, “Heavy Metal”
An almost-Top 40 hit, as it climbed to #43 in October. The phrase “Take a ride, ride, ride…” certainly sucks me back in time. Another song from the Heavy Metal soundtrack, Devo’s cover of “Working in the Coal Mine,” peaked at #43 the week after Felder had been there.

#41. Russ Mason, “Prep Rap”
I have no idea how widespread an impact on the national psyche “Prep Rap” made in 1981–there’s precious little about it, and basically nothing about its composer, Russ Mason, on the web. The narrator is, as you’d expect, a very white, rather wealthy Northeastern WASP. There are some funny/clever lines, but forty years later the attempts at braggadocio tend to fall flat, at least to these ears.

“Prep Rap” was released on Nemperor, the same CBS affiliate that housed Steve Forbert at the time. It sure was a big thing on Q102 for several weeks and I’ll admit to taping it off the radio at some point during its moment in the sun.

#26. Styx, “A.D. 1928/Rockin’ the Paradise”
You can see that the two big hits from Paradise Theater rank even higher than this; it wouldn’t surprise me if it was the top-selling rock album in Cincinnati for the year (my sister contributed to the cause). Not sure if I ever figured out a way to distinguish “A.D. 1928” from “The Best of Times” in their first five seconds.

How can I not expose the broader world to the exploits of Biffy McAdoo and company? It is a cultural time capsule of sorts, but fair warning: I promise you won’t be able to un-hear it.

And here’s Styx as a chaser.

Wishing everyone the best in 2022.

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.