Hear The Creak That Lets The Tale Begin

Around the time I graduated from college I began making mixtapes to send to my roommate James. As I believe I’ve noted before, the first one was called simply “Stuff,” and that word was weaved into the titles throughout the series, which ran roughly annually through 95. Contents usually came from relatively recent acquisitions, though I’m sure I dipped back for seconds when a disk really caught my attention. I know that he still has (most of) them; I’d love to take my boombox down to his house one of these years and remind myself what I’d thought worthy of his attention back then.

What I didn’t do much of between 88 and 91 was make mixtapes for myself. The biggest obstacle was that I didn’t own a tape deck that hooked into my CD player–I imagine I generally made the tapes for James when I went to my parents’. I also prevailed upon my officemate Paul some, and his house must be where Way Cool Stuff was recorded, sometime in the opening half of 91. It’s the first tape from the CD era I kept that captures some ways in which my tastes had diverged from Top 40 and even AOR radio.

As you can see, years of exposure to sunlight have taken a big toll on what I wrote on the sleeve back then:

That’s enough opening chatter–let’s play some tunes.

The Waterboys, “Fisherman’s Blues”
Kurt Wallinger’s departure may have allowed/pushed Mike Scott to move his band’s music in a more traditional direction. It could be that I bought this disk because of “World Party,” but this is the one that kept me coming back. The first of 3.5 title songs on this side of the tape.

U2, “Seconds”
Second song on the tape, second song on War–guess that’s all fitting enough. It’d be awfully hard for me to rank the songs on U2’s third album. The competition is mighty fierce; I really like this one, and it still might come in as low as sixth or seventh.

The B-52’s, “Song for a Future Generation”
I was aware of this prior to Cosmic Thing‘s breakout, but it was only afterward that I took the time to check out Whammy! from the Urbana Free Library to dub it onto a tape. Looking up the lyrics online for this writeup has given me a new perspective on the song: some sites indicate that most of the lines are questions and not declarative statements. I still like it a bunch, but do wonder if it would be just as good if they’d cut off the last thirty seconds or so.

Lori Carson, “Shelter”
Title song from a possible candidate for a future Forgotten Albums post. Carson came out of NYC/Long Island and spent a big chunk of the 90s in Anton Fier’s circle as a member of the Golden Palominos. This song/album is much more in the sensitive singer/songwriter vein; I find a lot of it pretty endearing.

Tears For Fears, “Sowing the Seeds of Love”
Only song on the tape to have made the Top 40.

Rickie Lee Jones, “Flying Cowboys”
Think I’d picked up this CD from Columbia House. “Satellites” was the putative single, but it was the title track that spoke to me most.

John Hiatt, “Real Fine Love”
While I like Slow Turning and Bring the Family better, Stolen Moments got plenty of play right after I bought it in 90. This is the opening track, one that I suspect does a pretty good job of describing Hiatt’s state of mind at the time.

Suzanne Vega, “Rusted Pipe”
I didn’t dig on Days of Open Hand nearly as much as either of Vega’s first two albums. This was one of the few songs from it to make a strong impression. “Rusted Pipe” was the other of Suzy V’s songs to get the re-mix treatment from DNA, though not with any of the success of their work on “Tom’s Diner.”

The Pretenders, “Message of Love”
Yes, Pretenders II is rather lacking in comparison to its predecessor (who doesn’t cringe at “Bad Boys Get Spanked” or “Jealous Dogs”?) It’s got some great tunes, though: “Day After Day,” the cover of “I Go To Sleep,” and two of my top five from Chrissie: “Talk of the Town” and the one we have here, “Message of Love.”

The Pursuit of Happiness, “When the Sky Comes Falling Down”
I spun up “I’m an Adult Now” back on my son’s 18th birthday, but here we’ve got one of my two favorite songs from Love Junk, this Canadian band’s debut disk. Solid pop rocker, with great female background vox to boot.

The Sundays, “I Won”
Reading, Writing and Arithmetic was a big favorite in the latter half of 90. “Here’s Where the Story Ends” is of course the main attraction, but “I Won” isn’t far behind.

The Smiths, “Panic”
As so often was the case, a pretty short song to end a side. Big, big fan of Louder Than Bombs; this highlight is one that John and I rocked out to many a time.

The A side was all essentially self-discovered; we’ll see Greg’s influences several times on the B side (there will also be a few repeats of songs already blogged). That’ll come your way sometime soon.

AT40's Top 100 of 1976, Part 2

Now it’s Sunday, 1/2/77. The New Year has started off much colder and snowier than normal, and it’s only going to get worse. On just one day across the whole of January–the 26th–will temps in the Cincinnati area inch above freezing; on three successive nights in the middle of the month, overnight lows will be -20° F or lower. (Perhaps that’s not too impressive to readers in the northern tier of states, Canada, or Scandinavia, but it’s the only time I’ve experienced anything of the kind.) School is scheduled to start back the next day, but we don’t go until Tuesday, the 4th. That day, I’ll learn that two of my more popular classmates have broken up with each other (ah, the joys and perils of 7th grade romance). After that, a barrage of snow and frigid temps; the next time we’ll all enter the hallowed halls of Walton-Verona High School will be four weeks later, on 2/1.

But I couldn’t know what the rest of the month held in store as I listened to Casey tell me all about the top 50 hits from 11/75-11/76.

The one thing I distinctly recall from listening to the show that night was Casey saying that if any of the songs from this year were to become a classic, it would be the one that clocked in at #13. Like so many of his predictions, it’s fair to say that didn’t actually come to pass.

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.

Some Things In Life You Cannot Measure By Degrees

Final odds and ends from the re-examination of a year long ago…

Here’s what I thought I’d be doing with Destination 89 back in January:

I’ll be looking thirty years into the past, occasionally for stuff that happened in the world and to me then…but more often for music—I’m anticipating having a roughly weekly feature that highlights a cool tune from 89.

This is the 35th post with the Destination 89 tag. I’m not sure that quite constitutes ‘roughly weekly,’ but things evolved a little over time, as I occasionally went the listicle route by periodically examining Hot 100 and Modern Rock Tracks charts, as well as plugging a few Forgotten Albums. That’s okay; I got to re-visit a larger number of songs than I expected (though plenty were not ‘cool’).

I suppose I hit all the personal events I planned on writing up, though. Grad school life, both academic and social, was obviously the focal point. The year taken as a whole was almost exactly the middle of my time in Illinois, and it was transitional in many respects (though it was the only year in grad school I didn’t move). I started off not knowing for certain I would be able to advance on to PhD work and ended reading papers with the professor who agreed to be my advisor. Getting back into bridge wound up being a much bigger part of my life than I ever would have thought.

Progress in math was measurable but slow, too slow at times.  It would be several months into the new decade before I actually began tackling what turned out to be my dissertation work. Likewise, growth in bridge skills was often painfully incremental (and playing so much just might have impacted the pace of my graduate studies).

On the other hand, the unpredictable can happen, and quickly.  It might be a decently major health scare for a parent, or a whole new circle of close friends could form after getting invited to join a a group of grad students in physics and electrical engineering for a post-bridge trip to Steak ‘n Shake (though that didn’t happen until late January of 90).

My favorite song as the year ended—and for some months after—was without a doubt “No Myth,” from Michael Penn. I wasn’t alone, apparently—it made #13 on the Hot 100, #5 on Album Rock Tracks, and #4 on Modern Rock Tracks. Maybe it was its use of the Chamberlin that caught and held our attention? I picked up March sometime in very late 89/very early 90; it was probably the album I listened to most over the first half of the year. There’ll be a couple other songs from it in upcoming Modern Rock Tracks posts.

1989 was an hour shorter for me than other years, as it had begun in IL on Central Time but was ending back home in the Eastern Time portion of KY. I spent much of the last couple of days of the decade reading James Gleick’s Chaos. I imagine I rung in 90 with my parents, maybe my sister too, if she was home.  HS and/or college friends were perhaps too far scattered and busy with life by this time to conjure up a gathering.

On the whole, I’ve enjoyed mapping out and writing up the posts of Destination 89, but I won’t be doing anything thematically similar for 90 (or any other year) as we head into 2020.  To be honest, my muse has struggled a bit these last few months; I’ve cut back on the PastBlast posts recently and may well continue to do so. We’ll just have to see where she leads going forward. I definitely have a few projects in mind, but I’m going to try not to force anything.

Thanks to everyone reading this, and to anyone who stopped by, liked a post, and/or commented in 2019. I’m truly flattered that you find what I have to say interesting enough to visit. Happy New Year to us all.

AT40's Top 100 of 1985

The last time I listened in full to a countdown during the classic AT40 era was the weekend of January 4-5, 1986, when Casey laid the Top 100 of 1985 on us all. It was the third time that they’d released the year-end show as a single, eight-hour extravaganza. I’m sure I was tuned in to WKRQ, Q102. In my head, I see myself listening to Dad’s stereo system in the basement of our house in Florence. It would have been the tail end of winter break during my senior year in college. Even though it’d been over three years since I’d written things down carefully on a weekly basis, I was still frequenting the right record stores in Lexington often enough to have a decent idea about peak Hot 100 positions for most of the hits of 85.

As you see, it’s the barest of records, song titles only, on the back of what looks to be a page torn from one of my course notebooks; the front consists of the kind of mark you make when you’re trying to see if a pen works and seven four-digit numbers whose significance, assuming there ever was one, is long gone. I’d taken considerably more care with the 83 and 84 year-enders.

Perhaps the biggest surprise that weekend was hearing “Out of Touch,” “I Feel for You,” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” so high in the Top 10. I’d recalled that these songs had all done reasonably well on the end-of-84 show (#25 for Chaka Khan, #13 for Wham!, and #12 for Hall and Oates). All had peaked in December, previously a precarious time when it comes to doing well in year-end rankings. Clearly the methodology used had evolved so that: a) the qualifying period extended much closer to the end of the calendar year than it had in the mid-to-late 70s, allowing those three even to have placed in 84; and b) they gave credit for a song’s full run on the chart, rather than only that which occurred in the official time frame (I’ve read on the AT40 Fun and Games message board that 85 was the first year that the whole run got credited for songs peaking after the beginning of the period, which I believe was mid-November).

Looking at it again now, I see some amusing back-to-backs: Julian Lennon at #78 and #77, the two ‘Night’ songs at #33 and #32, and especially Teena Marie and Billy Ocean at #29 and #28.

AT40's Top 100 of 1976, Part 1

…or should I say, the Top 80?

Toward the end of 76, WSAI–1360 on your AM dial in Cincinnati back then, as I’ve noted before–was broadcasting American Top 40 at 8pm on Sunday evenings. Let me take you back to the day after Christmas of that almost-concluded bicentennial year. I’m fairly pumped, as Casey has been teasing AT40‘s year-end countdown of the Top 100 Songs of 1976 for a few weeks. I’ve even taken a few moments to prep two full pages, front and back, for the recording of history as it happens. As I often do, I’ve commandeered the kitchen table; perhaps I’ve got my charts on hand, just in case they can provide anything useful. And maybe I’m a little antsy, so I tune into WSAI a little after 7:30. Playing is “Getaway,” from Earth, Wind and Fire; as it fades out, Casey informs me that the #12 hit from October is checking in at #80 for the year. A mix of confusion and irritation quickly sets in. Apparently I’ve missed the announcements that the folks at WSAI have given over the last week or so saying they’ll be starting the four-hour special show at 6pm?

Anyway, here’s what I heard and wrote down that night, now just over forty-three years in the past. You can be sure I didn’t miss the start of the show the following weekend.

It’s quite possible this night was the first time I really paid attention to both “Wake Up Everybody” and “I Love Music.”

As you can see, I stapled the two pages together, likely very soon after the second half of the show played. Obviously I was really into record label info, even filling in some I didn’t know in real time after the fact. Since I’d only started listening in late winter and charting in June, peak position wasn’t always known to me.

If you want to know the first twenty songs of the show, you can check out the cue sheets here. It would be over thirty years before I’d learn what they were.

The Top 50 will appear next Saturday.