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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WKRQ's Top 102 of 1979

Forty years ago today, I had my ear mostly glued to the radio, writing down WKRQ’s annual countdown of its Top 102 of the year just ended. I have two other such compilations, summarizing the state of Cincinnati pop hit radio according to Q102 in 1981 and 1982 (the latter of which I posted here two years ago). Looks like my sister took over record-keeping for songs #30 through #24 on this one.

Some interesting differences between the local and national scenes back then. Top 10 hits according to Billboard I don’t see here: “Music Box Dancer,” “Just When I Needed You Most,” “Every 1’s a Winner,” “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” “I Want Your Love,” “He’s the Greatest Dancer,” “In the Navy,” “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)”, “Makin’ It,” “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough,” “Pop Muzik,” “Please Don’t Go,” and “You’re Only Lonely.” I can’t know, but I’m willing to believe that “Too Much Heaven,” “YMCA,” and “My Life” had all appeared on Q102’s 78 recap.

I see just three non-AT40 cuts here:
#71: Led Zep never released “All My Love” as a single, but Q102 joined stations nationwide in giving it lots and lots of play;
#89: “I’ll Supply the Love,” Toto’s follow-up to “Hold the Line,” topped out at #45 on the Hot 100 in late March;
#94: That’s not a mistake–you can find Robert Palmer at #45. “Bad Case of Watchin’ You” was an in-house parody about a local sportscaster who’d recently landed in Cincy. Chris “Zip” Rzeppa gained notoriety quickly at WLWT, the city’s NBC affiliate, with an enthusiastic and idiosyncratic delivery of scores and other sports-related miscellanea. Q102 intuited an opportunity to cash in: just replace “Doctor, Doctor” with “Zip Rzeppa,” and you’re already halfway to a regional novelty hit. I’m distraught, but not surprised, that no copy has made its way to YouTube (I doubt a physical single was ever released to the public). However, I did find the awful “Ballad of the Bengals,” something that Rzeppa recorded as the local NFL franchise was advancing toward its first Super Bowl in early 82.

Rzeppa, a Boston University alum with a couple of classmates who went on to much more notable media careers (so says Wikipedia), didn’t stay in Cincy too much longer; the bulk of his sportscasting career was spent in St. Louis. He’s now a motivational speaker and Catholic evangelist.

Die Mauern fielen nieder

I’ve not paid much attention to newsworthy events from thirty years ago in my Destination 89 series; today I’m atoning. The fall of the Berlin Wall, on 11/9/89, was among the most memorable geopolitical events of my grad school years (others included the rise and crushing of dissent in Tiananmen Square, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Gulf War, and the end of the Soviet Union/Cold War). The Wall existed in some form or fashion for a little over 28 years; it was early February of 2018 when the moment passed that it’d been down for as long as it had stood. I’m not nearly enough of a student of history to discuss the proximate or long-term reasons for why it happened at that particular moment in time. But what strikes me now is how suddenly it seemed to occur (though I recognize my distance insulated me from having to be aware of developments) and how a world with two Germanys, the only one I’d known, disappeared in an instant. Meaningful change is by no means always gradual.

Martha has been to Berlin four times, twice before 89 and twice after. Here are some pix.

The Brandenburg Gate is one of Berlin’s most iconic sites, sitting adjacent to the Reichstag. Here are two views when Martha was there in 1983 with a few college classmates on a class trip at the end of her junior year.

They were able to take the subway over to the East side. Here, she’s standing at some sort of barrier, as close as she was able to go. You can see the Wall on the other side of the gate.

The view from the West–there’s a short fence in front of the graffiti-riddled Wall.

And here are analogous photos I took in late June of 17:

You can see bricks in the road marking where the Wall once stood in this one. It’s remarkable to me to think how effortless it was to pass through the Gate and to visit the Reichstag, given how it was in the mid 80s.

Martha was back in Berlin in 85, during her yearlong stay in Hamburg after finishing college. This photo was taken in March on the West side (note the sign warning not to advance into the “no-man’s land”); she was en route to the airport in East Berlin, where she would take off to Moscow (a story for another day).

Not much of the Wall remains. One of the places we visited was the East Side Gallery, where they’ve turned still-standing segments into murals.

Rather than try to make some grand statement about the ultimate futility of walls myself, I’ll let a couple of songs do the talking, even if they’re not from the latter part of 89.


From the Archives: Ben’s 9th Birthday

Continuing what’s now become an All Saints’ Day tradition by going back to see what happened on my son’s birthday a decade ago.

11/1/09 was a Sunday, and Martha’s mother and sister were staying with us. Ben opened a few presents at the breakfast table before we headed to church.

My parents came to visit in the afternoon, for a fuller celebration. The boy might have received some Lego that day.

The theme for the cake that year was aquatic:

Those are candies that Martha made sitting on top of the cake–she’d bought some molds. There were just a few left over…

A couple of Saturdays later, we took Ben and two of his friends to the aquarium in Newport, KY, right on the Ohio River across from Cincinnati. Here he is on some sort of giant toad in a play area there:

Right outside the aquarium is a plaza, along with some surrounding shops. After we’d finished chilling with the sharks, penguins, and rays, the boys were wowed by a street magician plying his trade on the plaza.

Happy birthday, Bud!

We get to see Ben on his birthday this year–it happens that this is also Family Weekend at his college, so we’re heading out after I get done with my own classes. Martha’s made a cake big enough to feed all the guys on his floor.

There’s a small lake in the middle of the campus, and it seems to be de rigueur for birthday celebrants to be tossed into it. It will be in the 30s tonight when they get around to “laking” Ben, but I think he’s actually looking forward to it a reasonable amount–it’s not like it can be avoided.

In the years after I left home, my parents would do their best to call me and talk for a few minutes on my birthday at the exact time of day when I was born (fortunately, it was late morning and not something like 3:00am). Now that Ben’s begun that phase of his life, at some point I may attempt to see how well he’d abide such a thing. His official birth time isn’t all that different from mine, about 30 minutes later. I’m not in class this morning at that time, but he will be. Maybe some other year…

From The Archives: Gran

Lucille Barton Haskell Houston was born on this date 110 years ago in Erlanger, KY, the eighth and final child of Frederick B. and Elizabeth L. Haskell. She had four sisters and three brothers. In 1927, she was valedictorian of a graduating class of size six, from Erlanger High School. A few months later, she married Wilbur Houston, a medical student in Cincinnati. Over the next six years, they had three daughters; my mother was the middle child.

When my grandfather joined the Army to serve as a physician during WWII, Gran kept the household running (at first it didn’t look like Papaw would be sent overseas, so the family relocated briefly to Texas, where he was stationed—they headed right back to Kentucky after he received his orders to go to the Pacific Theater), including arranging the purchase of their first house. She was heavily involved in the fabric of life in Erlanger and surrounding communities for decades: a lifelong member of Erlanger Christian Church, a frequent officer in the Erlanger Women’s Club, and extensive work with a physicians’ wives’ auxiliary.

I was the eighth of her ten grandchildren, so she was well-practiced in the art by the time I was old enough to notice. My sister and I were fortunate that they lived close to us throughout our youth—our years in Stanford overlapped with those my grandfather served as the Director of Medical Services at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, and they returned to their farmhouse in Union soon after we had moved to Walton. (Many of my older cousins were similarly blessed—they love to reminisce about their experiences with Gran and Papaw in the mid-50s to mid-60s.) Among the fondest memories I have growing up are holiday afternoons spent with my grandparents and extended family.

They moved back to Erlanger in 83, to a house adjacent to and owned by the church, just before my grandfather became ill and passed away. Gran lived there about a decade; afterward, she managed to spend all but her last couple of months in an assisted living facility. She died in March 2001 at age 91, not long after her thirteenth great-grandchild, my son, arrived on the scene.

A couple of quick stories from my adult years:
–My grandmother never learned to drive; after my grandfather developed macular degeneration, she became reliant on daughters, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and friends for rides. The most memorable time I had out with her probably occurred in the late 80s. She’d always wanted to visit the observation deck at the top of Carew Tower (completed in the early 30s), then the tallest building in Cincinnati. I was the lucky one to take her when she achieved that dream.
–One of Gran’s greatest abilities while in her presence was to make you feel like you were the center of her universe. Every gift she received at birthdays or Christmas was “exactly what I wanted.” While I was job-hunting in 92, she needed to undergo a pretty serious heart surgery, and was still recovering in the hospital when my offer from Georgetown came through. I wanted her to be among the very first to know. When I leaned over her bed to tell her about it in a semi-conspiratorial fashion, she whispered back, “I knew this was going to happen for you.”

I know my many cousins, first- and second-, once- or twice removed, could fill hours with tales based on their time spent with my grandmother (and she was a great storyteller herself).

Gran’s persistently upbeat outlook on life, even in the face of more than occasional adversity, reminds me that I have much for which I should be grateful. I was incredibly fortunate to have her in my life for 37 years.

This photo, taken in her final year, sits on top a bookcase in a room on the main floor of our house.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/18/86: Janet Jackson, “When I Think of You”

Shortly after I moved to Champaign-Urbana in August of 86, I bought a point-and-shoot camera with some of my graduation gift money. While I’ve never been the shutterbug my wife is, I have managed to record the occasional moment, notable or otherwise. That fall, it looks like I mostly kept an eye out for sights that friends back in Kentucky might appreciate, often as inside references. For instance, this was for my friend Kathy Jo, who often went by KJ:

To call someone on-campus at Transy, you just had to dial the last four digits, which always began with an 8. The number on this seemingly random sign in a dorm window was the same as my friend Suzanne’s extension during my senior year. I likely discovered it on my way to the dining hall where I took my meals that fall (no, I didn’t recall whose number this was, though Suzanne would have been my first guess—I looked it up in the 85-86 campus directory I still have):

And here’s an iconic campus scene I hadn’t had the opportunity to witness firsthand at my tiny college:

It hasn’t been all that long since I browsed through these photos. As I was thinking yesterday about possibly including some in this post, one image came to mind, and in it, I thought I visualized an irritating detail. The picture is the one you see at the top, of the desk and shelf space in my cubby of a dorm room, apparently taken on 10/1/86. You are indeed looking at almost the entire length of the room—the door was at one corner, and that’s the bottom of the window, above the cooling/heating unit, on the right edge. And yes, what I feared was true. Long-time readers may notice it—it’s that decorative plate on the shelf, the plate I claimed back in February was something I’d gotten on my 25th birthday, well over two years in the future. 

Irritating, because now I have to deal with not remembering who gave me the plate (which I clearly treasure), and when, and why. Irritating, because I have to wonder what, if anything, I chose instead on 2/13/89. Irritating, because I’ve conflated two very separate events. Irritating, because I don’t want to be faced with the evidence of self-mythologizing—what else have I gotten wrong from misplaced confidence in my ability to recall the events of the long-gone past? Occasionally, in going through the items I still have, I discover tidbits that would have allowed me greater accuracy in some of my earlier posts—this time, though, the error was egregious.

From time to time I get asked, “How do you remember all this junk?” A partial answer is that apparently sometimes I don’t. Which leads to this: when I think of someone, or something that I believe happened, how can I be sure I’m getting the broad outline, much less any details, right? I’m going to try not to sweat it too much, but I clearly need to be appropriately humble.

Miss Jackson is in her second week at the top with the first of her ten #1s. She made a lot of very good music, but I’m inclined to say “When I Think of You” is my favorite (I’ll admit I’m by far most familiar with the singles from her first two albums). It’s another of those songs where I hear and feel the joy, getting swept along on a very pleasant four-and-a-half minute ride.

Okay, So No One’s Answering

Our son was home for his four-day fall break this past weekend. We didn’t have a lot of plans—he had a couple of doctors’ appointments, and we’d arranged for some long-overdue family portraits—but that was okay, since simply being together was the biggest thing. Ben brought along a friend who lives in Colorado; it was nice to have a chance to get to know one of his new peeps a little.

They went back to Terre Haute on Sunday by way of Louisville—Ben wanted to visit some of his HS friends who are at UofL.  He and his friend got back to his dorm about 6:00pm.

How do we know this? Not because he called or texted us, or vice versa: he’s allowed Martha to have access to his coordinates via the Find My app. As it happens, Ben didn’t contact us until the next morning.  (That’s perfectly fine—I’d like to think we’ve been giving him enough space in this transition period. At the least, he hasn’t complained to us about cramping his style since we dropped him off—and I think he would.)

Obviously, cell phones and GPS have changed so much about how and when we communicate since my first years away from home. Each dorm room at Transy had a phone hanging on the wall, just inside the door. Like everyone else, I had to rely on what we now call a landline—or the occasional pay phone—throughout my grad school years. And occasionally, I’d forget to honor my folks’ request to let them know I was back in Lexington or Urbana after trips home to see them.

I loved my parents dearly, but I’m not being fully truthful if I fail to admit they were not entirely rational when it came to the well-being of their children. An hour’s delay in acknowledging safe arrival led to them imagining a car off the road in a ditch or in a horrific accident. After a while, they’d begin calling, to try to assuage those fears. Frequently, I was on site to answer but yes, there were a few times when, like perhaps Ben did on Sunday, I’d trotted off to visit with friends or gone out to eat, all without a thought.

In those cases, they weren’t above trying to contact someone who knew me. I have evidence of this happening once, probably one of my first two years of college. I’d given my friend Cathy, whose home was just a few miles away from mine, a ride back to Transy one Sunday afternoon, and I suppose I’d gone on blithely about my business. Maybe I’d passed Mark H’s phone number on to them, or—more likely—they called campus information to find out how to reach him. Regardless, eventually I found this from Mark on my door:

I know I’m far from the only one to endure experiences akin to this—it’s natural for parents to have and show concern. On the whole my recollection is that I suffered “minor reprimands” like this reasonably well—I wasn’t the sort to blow up or feel special embarrassment in such situations. While I wasn’t responsible for anyone else’s state of mind, I suppose it was good to be able to offer (eventual) relief. I either inherited or obtained through osmosis a little of this irrationality, though I can hope a combination of technological advances and knowing how it was to be on the receiving end has made me less willing to act on those feelings when they arise.