Songs Casey Never Played, 10/7/78

This go-round on SCNP I went casting for tunes I don’t think I’ve ever heard, by artists previously unknown to me. Turns out there were some absolute gems I missed out on forty-two years ago.

#92. The McCrarys, “You”
Wowza. I’m definitely picking up a Staples vibe here. They’re four siblings originally from Youngstown who started out as a gospel group. And yes, that’s Stevie on harmonica. It’s a real shame this had topped out at #45 the week before.

#88. Judy Cheeks, “Mellow Lovin'”
An interesting slice of Eurodisco. Cheeks tried the Donna Summer route by looking to launch her career in Germany. “Mellow Lovin'” did reach #10 on the U.S. Dance chart, but only made #65 on the Hot 100. She did have a couple of #1 Dance hits in the 90s.

#87. ZWOL, “New York City”
This is the first of two minor hits Canadian Walter Zwolinsky had in the late 70s. The other, “Call Out My Name,” is considerably more smooth. “New York City” reached #76 in a two-month run.

#81. Gabriel, “Martha (Your Lovers Come and Go)”
Growing up nominally in the Midwest in the late 70s/early 80s, I have fond memories of hearing songs on the radio by regional bands trying to break nationally, such as Head East, 707, and Shooting Star. I suspect there are guys roughly my age from the Pacific Northwest who dig “Martha (Your Lovers Come and Go)” the way I do “Last Chance” and “Never Been Any Reason.” Based on just a few listens, if I had grown up in Seattle, I totally believe I’d be one of them. Even though this was the highest debuting song of the week (ahead of “Hold the Line,” even), “Martha” stalled out at just #73.

#69. Clout, “Substitute”
This was a #1 hit all over Europe, as well as in New Zealand and South Africa (the homeland of these five women), but it could only reach #67 here. Even though I’m not convinced they’re really playing their instruments, I’m smitten. Originally recorded by the Righteous Brothers during their 70s revival.

#67. Don Ray, “Got To Have Loving”
If like me you’re picking up a hint of “Love in C Minor” from the opening of this one, it might be because Jean-Marc Cerrone co-wrote and co-produced it. Raymond Donnez elected to anglicize his name for recording purposes. Wikipedia says Ray produced Santa Esmeralda’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” “Got To Have Loving” failed by only four spots in making Casey-land.

Modern Rock Tracks, 10/6/90

It took a few months of duking it out at the bridge club in Champaign before I became good friends with Greg, Katie, Toby, and Karl. They’d started going in the last half of 1989, around the same time I had gotten back into it. Toby had played quite a bit growing up in the super-competitive DC bridge scene and was a natural at the game; the other three (two fellow physics grad students and a spouse in EE) had learned of his mad skills and pestered him to teach them.

The summer after I fell in with them, Toby and I got around to playing a couple of games at the club. Initial results were pretty promising, so we started looking at the tournament calendar to see where could take on a larger field. We settled on a regional in Cincinnati, to be held the first weekend of October, mostly because we could get free housing by staying with my parents.

We drove down on Thursday and played in two-session pairs events on Friday and Saturday–I must have gotten someone to cover my classes. Friday turned out only so-so; the high point of the day was walking down to Riverfront Stadium between sessions. This was the year the Reds came out of nowhere to win the World Series, and they’d just snagged Game 2 of the NLCS (a day game) against the Pirates. In the parking lot beneath that uninspiring concrete bowl, we got to see greats such as Jose Rijo emerge and walk to their waiting vehicles (no autographs, alas).

Saturday, though, was mighty sweet. Despite my inexperience, we charged out to a big lead in the afternoon session of our event and held on to first place in the nightcap. It would be a few years before I’d earn that many masterpoints in a single event again.

That win was thirty years ago today, the same day that Billboard listed the songs below in their Modern Rock Tracks chart. May be time to spin a few tunes…

#28. Ultra Vivid Scene, “Special One”
UVS was ostensibly a band, but it was mostly just Kurt Ralske doing his thing. This song is a VU-meets-“September Gurls” affair, with a big assist from Kim Deal of…

#23. The Pixies, “Velouria”
I imagine I tuned the radio to WOXY 97X on our way in and out of Cincy. This is one of the first songs I recall hearing on 97X in this period, maybe from Labor Day weekend? Not as melodic as “Here Comes Your Man,” but I guess it’s fine enough.

#22. Mojo Nixon, “Don Henley Must Die”
My officemates and I had several good laughs three years earlier when Nixon and Skid Roper released “Elvis Is Everywhere,” though we never found a way to incorporate it into our shrine to the King. Much as I liked some of the songs on End of the Innocence, this send-up was reasonably well-deserved.

#21. Los Lobos, “Down on the Riverbed”
I absolutely love The Neighborhood and Kiko from these guys. Neither one sold remotely near as much as “La Bamba,” but I suppose I’m grateful at least one song from them charted somewhere here in the U. S.

#19. The Darling Buds, “Crystal Clear”
Speaking of albums I adore… Crawdaddy has got to be in my Top 10 for 1990. The Buds are veering away to a degree from what made Pop Said… so charming, echoing more of what some of the other UK bands on this chart are doing. But Andrea Farr still makes it all her own.

#14. Aztec Camera, “Good Morning Britain”
Roddy Frame said he tried to write this song to sound like something Mick Jones (non-Foreigner edition) would do. He did so well that he managed to get Mick to play and sing on it.

#13. Soho, “Hippychick”
Greg was pretty unhappy any time “Hippychick” came on, tricked into thinking he was about to hear “How Soon Is Now?” instead.

#10. The Heart Throbs, “Dreamtime”
My big find from this set. It sounds exactly like something that WOXY would have played, though I don’t have any recollection of hearing it. Definitely feels like a precursor to Lush and other shoegazer bands. Their lineup included two sisters of Pete DeFreitas, the drummer for Echo and the Bunnymen who’d died the year before in a motorcycle accident.

#9. The Cocteau Twins, “Iceblink Luck”
Stan Freberg parodies usually focused on one aspect of their target and just drove it into the ground (the snare drum on “Yellow Rose of Texas,” the piano on “The Great Pretender”). For “Sh-Boom,” Freberg took aim at the supposed difficulty in understanding its lyrics (come to think of it, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic took the same tack on “Smells Like Nirvana”).

I felt like Freberg’s character in “Sh-Boom” when I heard Elizabeth Fraser sing quite clearly “That will burn this whole madhouse down” on “Iceblink Luck.” I’m not supposed to be able to understand you, Elizabeth!

Despite that, Heaven or Las Vegas may well be the Twins’ most solid album overall–certainly their most accessible.

#8. The Charlatans UK, “The Only One I Know”
Greg and I invented our own term for the music coming out of the UK in the very early 90s–we called it wakka-wakka, I guess because of some combination of its rhythms and guitar sounds (it’s all wrapped up in the Madchester movement, I know–maybe it’s what other folks called baggy?). It’s a tossup as to whether “The Only One I Know” or the Stone Roses’ “Fool’s Gold” is my quintessential wakka song.
(I Stand Corrected: Greg reminded me in a recent conversation that it was actually Katie, his wife, who came up with wakka-wakka. He and I just ran with it, apparently.)

#7. DNA featuring Suzanne Vega, “Tom’s Diner”
I won’t repeat the story of how this hit came about–I’m just glad Vega didn’t try to put the kibosh on it. But now I’m wondering if the sound of 99.9°F was influenced by the success of this?

#4. INXS, “Suicide Blonde”
You’re just not very likely to follow up a huge smash like Kick with anything nearly as successful. X was a game effort, I guess, but this first release tried too hard to sound like some of their earlier–and better–songs.

#3. Living Colour, “Type”
Vernon Reid, Corey Glover, Muzz Skillings, and Will Calhoun followed up Vivid with Time’s Up. I remember hearing this lead single from their sophomore effort a few times.

#2. The Soup Dragons, “I’m Free”
Scottish band hops on the wakka-wakka bandwagon with this cover of an old Stones song.

#1. The Cure, “Never Enough”
I’d forgotten about Mixed Up, the Cure’s album of remixes. Smith and company did include this rockin’ new tune. In spite of the later success of Wish and “Friday I’m In Love,” I’ll go on record as saying that we’d already seen the best this band had to offer by this point.

And with that…we’ll dip back into the MRT charts in early December.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 10/3/70: Michael Nesmith and the First National Band, “Joanne”

Like lots of folks who grew up in the 70s, I had plenty of exposure to The Monkees via syndicated reruns on television. I couldn’t tell you any of the plot lines (such as they were) now, but I do recall the invariable silliness and slapstick nature of the show, frequently involving some ludicrous chase scene. Did I have a favorite Monkee? Probably Mickey, though Mike, as the more cerebral one, definitely held appeal as well. (I will admit I found the dark glasses Mike wore in the later episodes a bit scary.) I paid only slight attention when MTV introduced the series to a new generation of viewers during my last semester of college in 1986. The losses of Davy in February 2012 and Peter (with whom I share a birthday) almost seven years later didn’t go unnoticed in these parts, however.

Michael Nesmith’s name popped up for me a few times over the years. Eventually I learned he’d written “Different Drum.” I didn’t ever manage to see Elephant Parts when it came out in 1981, though I was well aware he was attached to it. And I probably caught wind while I was in college that Nesmith was executive producer of Repo Man. It would be decades, though, before I realized he’d had a post-Monkees Top 40 hit of his own.

October 4, 2014. Like so many Saturdays, I wake up early after a fitful night’s sleep. I slip quietly upstairs to the kitchen and fix myself a bowl of cereal and a small glass of orange juice. As usual, I launch the TuneIn app on my iPad and set it to WMVL, Cool 101.7, out of Meadville, PA, to catch the 70s rebroadcast of AT40. I keep the volume low enough so as not to disturb–they begin their show each week at 7:00am. After breakfast, it’s back downstairs to shower and dress, maybe even make the bed.

By the start of the second hour, I’m ensconced in a chair in the main room of the basement, the den. (That chair nowadays is in my living room; I’m sitting in it as I type these words.) Maybe I’m grading, but it’s also quite possible I’m playing a stupid game on the iPad. What I do remember particularly is the string of songs I hear over a 30-minute period, the final two for probably the first time:

#27. Grand Funk Railroad, “Closer to Home”
#26. Linda Ronstadt, “Long, Long Time”
#25. The New Seekers, “Look What They’ve Done to My Song, Ma”
#24. Three Dog Night, “Out in the Country”
#23. R. Dean Taylor, “Indiana Wants Me”
#22. Hotlegs, “Neanderthal Man”
#21. Michael Nesmith and the First National Band, “Joanne”

It must not be long afterward that I hear stirring upstairs. Mom stays up plenty late watching TV and has a harder time each week getting going in the morning. I better go check on things.

(It’s hearing the story Casey tells about the multi-national New Seekers again, here in 2020, that jolts me and sends me back in time six years. I start to tear up when I sing “I wish I had you to talk to” along with Taylor.)

“Joanne” is a sad, beautiful song; I can listen to it over and again. That #21 showing, fifty years ago now, was its best.

Stereo Review In Review: September 1988

My decade-long love affair with Stereo Review was pretty much over by this time. John and I had just moved well south of downtown Urbana, to our basement apartment on Michigan Avenue; it was a swell spot, but I missed being a stone’s throw from my favorite diner, The Courier Café. Maybe even more importantly, I could no longer make the easy, one-block trek to the Urbana Free Library, so it wasn’t nearly so easy to get my music magazine fix, Rolling Stone subscription aside.

That doesn’t mean we can’t take a look inside an issue from then, though–right?

Articles
Mark Peel Interviews Thomas Dolby
Dolby had just released his first album in four years, Aliens Ate My Buick, and Peel uses the occasion to get TD on the record about producing (Prefab Sprout, Joni Mitchell), soundtrack-writing (Howard the Duck, Gothic), making videos, and, of course, his new album. Among other things, Mr. Blinded with Science defends his lyrics on the first single (“It’s not about women, it’s about airheads.”), and goes on about working with George Clinton, who wrote “Hot Sauce” (“George doesn’t even confine himself to this planet.”).

Polygram’s First Compact Disk Videos
I never bought a CDV—not even sure I ever knew they existed until now—but apparently folks were trying to jump-start the DVD era even before the 80s closed out. CDVs featured one video and four audio tracks. SR identifies twenty titles in the first (only?) wave of releases, including titles by Bon Jovi, Cameo, Cinderella, John Cougar Mellencamp, the Moody Blues, and Rush. Wondering how many of these are in the hands of the folks over at the CD Project…

Our reviewers this month include a couple of new ones for me: Chris Albertson, Phyl Garland, Ron Givens, Roy Hemming, Alanna Nash, Mark Peel, and Steve Simels.

Best of the Month
–k.d. lang, Shadowland (AN) “…perhaps this record is only a side excursion from what promises to be a certain, if circuitous, trip to the top.” lang lured Owen Bradley, Patsy Cline’s producer, out of retirement for this stunning work.
–Marti Jones, Used Guitars (RG) “…an incomparable voice—thick and sensuous on the bottom, clear and silvery on top—and an incurably romantic personality.” It’s one of the last new vinyl LPs I ever purchased; it became a CD-only world for me very soon after the fall of 1988.

One of the rare cases where I own both BotM features; they’re fabulous.

Selected Other LPs Reviewed (* = featured review)
Rock/Pop/Country/Soul:
–*Camper Van Beethoven, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart (SS) “Best Sixties Album Made in 1988 by a College Radio Band…arch and absolutely sincere at the same time.”
–Michael Crawford, Songs from the Stage and Screen (RH) “His combination of youthful exuberance and romantic charm even manages to win out over the bland orchestra-and-chorus arrangements.”
–Everything But the Girl, Idlewild (RG) “These are the torch songs of normal people living normal lives, universal situations presented in low relief with a subtlety that gives them great power.”
–*Daryl Hall and John Oates, Ooh Yeah! (RG) “If you’ve ever loved Hall’s emotive crooning, Oates’s sweet harmonies, and the funky-but-cool band behind them, this new record will satisfy you down to your boogity-shoes.”
–Evelyn “Champagne” King, Flirt (PG) “…she proves that she still has the power to deliver classy dance music that’s tuneful and spirited.”
–Dan Reed Network, S/T (RG) “When it comes to writing catchy tunes, Reed stocks more hooks than a bait-and-tackle shop, and his Network plays as if its musical life hung in the balance.”
–Feargal Sharkey, Wish (RG) “…five out of the ten tracks are hardly memorable. But the good ones are very good.”
–Southern Pacific, Zuma (AN) “Anyone looking for artistic or spiritual vision…is not likely to come away satisfied.”
–Van Halen, OU812 (RG) “…the music seems less cartoony than before.”
–Neil Young and the Blue Notes, This Note’s for You (SS) “…this latest installment of Young’s ongoing identity crisis is at best a middling effort.”

Jazz:
Classic Jazz Piano (1927-1957) (CA) “…reflects the diversity of jazz in the most compelling way.”
–Gil Evans, Bud & Bird (CA) “My advice is: pick up that Verve album, or any of the Davis/Evans sessions, instead.”
–Ella Fitzgerald, Ella in Rome—The Birthday Concert (CA) “Everything you have ever loved about Ella Fitzgerald is reflected in this previously unreleased, truly superb fortieth-birthday celebration, recorded in Rome’s Teatro Sistina in 1958.”

American Top 40 PastBlast, 9/25/76: Paul Davis, “Superstar”

WSAI in Cincinnati spent a few weeks late in the summer of our nation’s Bicentennial trying to break Paul Davis’s lead single from his album Southern Tracks and Fantasies. I confess that all I picked up at the time was the beginning of the chorus, “Superstar, I want to thank you for what you are,” somehow not realizing it was all about showing appreciation to four rock luminaries of the day (I like it now plenty, but seriously, what’s up with telling Linda Ronstadt that she’s “lookin’ thinner than (she) used to be”?). My recollection is that WSAI had already dropped “Superstar” by the time it made AT40 in September. This was its third and final week on the show, at its peak position of #35.

So I’d also missed Davis’s line, “On your six ninety-eight, Lord, you sound so great,” not that I would necessarily have recognized the number as the then-suggested list price for a vinyl LP. But hearing the song again this week got me wondering just how long this lyric reflected reality. I couldn’t think of any phrase to enter in Google that gave me any dope on the history of LP prices; then I remembered that album prices were included on Billboard‘s Top LPs chart for a good while. After a little digging around the archives at worldradiohistory.com, I have a few things to report, in case anyone cares.

Billboard began showing suggested list prices in the 2/17/73 issue. I chose to look at the LP charts from the first week of July, about the time of year that “Superstar” was released, between 1973 and 1988. That’s essentially up to the end of the Classic Casey era (though there’s another reason to consider that as a cutoff date, as we’ll see). To keep things simple, I’m focusing only on the albums in the Top 10.

Year$5.98$6.98$7.98$8.98$9.98No List2 LPs
197382
19742611
1975181
197682
1977181
197882
1979541
1980343
198182
19821441
1983631
198455
1985532
1986721
1987253
1988154

Some notes and thoughts:
–The “no list price” in 1974 was Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
–In 1976, cassettes and 8-tracks are listed at $7.98. Thereafter, prices match for the three formats.
–Sitting at #6 in 1981 was Hard Promises. Just a week earlier, on the 6/27/81 show, Casey told one of my favorite stories, about Petty’s resistance to listing his new album at $9.98, going so far as to threaten to re-title it as The Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ $8.98 Album if MCA gave it the higher price. (Hat tip to the Soft Rock Kid for reminding me of the exact ‘alternative’ title). Hard Promises is indeed listed at $8.98 (so were subsequent TP albums), but I’m guessing that the growth in the “no list” column through the first half of the 80s was not-so-secretly about pushing $9.98 titles.
–The Human League’s Dare is the $6.98 LP in 1982.
Genesis and 90125 are the first legit $9.98 titles I see, on the 1984 chart, already well off their peaks from earlier in the year.
–All of the Top 5 in 1987 were listed at $9.98 (Whitney, U2, the Crüe, Whitesnake, and Heart).

But major change was creeping in as the 80s progressed. Check out part of this article on the front page of the 7/7/84 issue of Billboard:

Soon after, most top titles are also being released on CD: 7 out of the Top 10 in 1985, 8 in 1986, and all 10 in 1987 and 1988.

But back to where this started: we can see that line in “Superstar” was obsolete within months. Maybe it’s just as well it didn’t make an impression in real time?

Forgotten Albums: Mary Margaret O’Hara, Miss America

My wife and I are outliers when it comes to watching television. As in, we rarely have the TV on. No Netflix subscription, no Amazon Fire Stick or Roku. I received the complete Rockford Files for Christmas last year, and we’re about halfway through Season 1, for what that’s worth. We do have basic cable, but mainly because it seemed to make sense to bundle it with our internet (I’m not sure that’s the case any more).

I have the distinct sense we’ve missed out on some very good series over the years; I guess the good news is that living in the streaming era allows us to catch up sorta quickly if we ever get the bug? Via my Twitter feed, I’ve become aware of the titles of many of the possibilities. And since the Emmy Awards happened just a couple of days ago, I guess I’m learning even more about them this week. Take Schitt’s Creek, for instance. Record number of awards for a comedy–that’s pretty cool, I suppose. But while I knew the name, I’d never bothered to find out it was a Canadian series, or that it just ended, or that it starred those SCTV stalwarts of long ago, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara.

Even though I don’t know much of anything about TV these days, I do store plenty of music trivia in my noggin, and the tidbit coming to mind right now is that Mary Margaret O’Hara, Catherine’s sister, released an album in 1988. Miss America had actually been recorded four years earlier, and it took all that time for MM to win the battle with Virgin to get it out on the market. Feel certain that it came to my attention via Rolling Stone; apparently they were sufficiently impressed, and sometime in the early 90s I picked up a used copy:

(Aside: my friend Greg was adamant about not peeling the stickers off used CDs he bought–he wanted to maintain some semblance of an historical record. I think I began following suit the year he and I roomed together. Now if only I could remember whether Periscope Records was in C-U, or the Cincy area, or Lexington, or somewhere else. Another case of winning the battle but losing the war.)

I found Miss America a difficult listen the first few times I put it in the player, and it wound up falling out of favor pretty quickly. In the last couple of years, though, I’ve sought out a song or two from it on YouTube, and am finally beginning to embrace O’Hara’s exquisite, tortured voice. Let’s wander around some of its better tracks.

“Year in Song” is track 2, and one of the more challenging cuts. “Joy is the aim,” O’Hara notes, and proceeds to make it clear that’s not on the horizon. Nonetheless, the title has stayed with me over the years, and was incorporated into the title of one of my earlier posts.

Next up is “Body’s in Trouble,” which as this Pitchfork review from a couple of years ago notes, straddles the divide between stuff like “Year in Song” and the stunningly beautiful songs here. O’Hara isn’t so much singing as she is inhabiting her work. It’ll be a while before I’ll think of the phrase “Who do you talk to” in a way different from how it’s presented here. We also get to witness her approach to the craft in the video.

Probably my favorite right now is “Anew Day,” the closest thing to a potential pop hit on Miss America. In contrast to just about everything else on here, it’s jaunty and optimistic. We also get to listen in as O’Hara creates new language.

No overview of Miss America would be complete, though, without showcasing how breathtakingly beautiful O’Hara can sing. I’ll give you two examples: “Help Me Lift You Up,” and the phenomenal closer, “You Will Be Loved Again.” (But don’t overlook “Dear Darling.”)

Mary Margaret went down a completely different path in the arts from her more famous younger sibling, and hardly recorded following this release. We’re fortunate to have Miss America, though, and I plan on keeping it in occasional circulation now.

Dad’s 45s, Part 4: The Fab Four

My Dad liked the Beatles quite a bit. Not a “played them frequently in the house while the kids were growing up” like; it was more of a “make your kids aware of how good they are when a song of theirs comes on the radio” like. I believe there were Beatles LPs among his collection that I carted off to the Cincinnati Public Library, though I couldn’t tell you now which ones or how many. I do know there were several of their biggest albums on CD in the box under the bed in their townhouse basement, as I used some to fill gaps in my collection.

As for singles he purchased that featured one or more of John-Paul-George-and-Ringo, I found five. Here’s a quick tour.

“I Want to Hold Your Hand”/“I Saw Her Standing There”
The one that kicked off Beatlemania here in the States. I never thought to ask my father if there was any connection between his love for these and the fact that the A-side was #1 when I was born. I’ve noted before that he rated these #3 and #2, respectively, on his all-time hit parade.

During winter break of my junior year in college, I must have come across his collection of 45s, as I borrowed this for a few weeks, and played “I Saw Her Standing There” on the radio show I recorded for my cousin.

“Hey Jude”/“Revolution”
This is one that Dad did play for us, at least in the late 60s/early 70s when we were living in Stanford. Like “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” it’s a song that feels like it’s always been a part of my life. I definitely dig the sleeve; the next entry has one just like it, too.

“Come Together”/“Something”
So, he had their first, biggest-selling, and last double-sided U.S. singles. Not bad.

George Harrison, “What Is Life”
I love this song, too, and wish I could talk with him now to learn what endeared him to it.

Paul & Linda McCartney, “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”
Another delight to discover here. When I think of Dad and McCartney singles, though, it’s the Wings Over America version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” that comes to mind first. He’d quit buying singles long before the spring of 1977, however.

Scads of July and August Charts

Catching up on the shows recently played on Premiere for which I have charts…

7/25/81
They last played this show three years ago, right after I started blogging (#37 was the song I featured, both praising and lamenting Steinman’s craft). Hadn’t started posting charts yet, though, so I get to right that wrong. Don’t know how quickly after I wrote this up that the grease stain appeared.

Hello/Goodbye: Even with just two debuts, there’s a newbie: it’s the first time on for Alabama. Eight songs fell off after this week, and half of the acts on the way out never appeared again: Carole Bayer Sager, A Taste of Honey, Climax Blues Band, and Rosanne Cash.

My sun-faded chart:

The Moodies start a four-week run at the top. “Bette Davis Eyes” is in the last of an eight-week stretch in the top three (only one of those had been at #1). Wish I’d ranked “Seven Year Ache” higher (it would peak at #16); it’s one of my absolute faves on this chart now.

7/29/78
Half of the sixteen songs that debuted on either 7/1 or 7/8 have moved into the top 20. Two of ’em are already top 10, but only three more would eventually join the Commodores and Pablo Cruise.

Hello/Goodbye: Last time I did a charts post, we bid adieu to the Village People. This time, it’s bon jour; we’re also seeing Chris Rea for the first time. On the flip side, that’s all for Love & Kisses.

8/6/77
How long did I try to draw an outline of the lower 48 at the top of the first page? I’d started the week prior. It lasted through the end of October; I guess my broken wrist on 11/5 is what sank the practice.

Hello/Goodbye: Both of the debuts come from cagey veterans. On the farewell side of things, we have Cat Stevens, Dean Friedman, and Hot.

Continue reading “Scads of July and August Charts”

Courtesy of Disk Jockey Records…

I’ve written before that our trips to the record store to buy vinyl for the music library at WTLX often netted us a few free promo albums that the manager at Disk Jockey Records decided he didn’t want to play in-store, particularly during the 1983-84 school year. We lucked out on a couple that proved to be hits, most notably Cyndi Lauper’s She So Unusual. The vast majority wound up being stiffs commercially, but since our library was pretty out-of-date (probably due to a combination of neglect and raids by graduating seniors of years past), it was good to have some new-ish releases on hand. I can still see several of the LP jackets in my head, even if I didn’t always give them a try (I hope other jocks did).

Let’s take a look at five disks among those that wound up in our mitts. Friends of the time–you’re welcome to remind me of others.

The Rubinoos, Party of Two
Let’s start with one I should have definitely paid more mind. I missed out on their cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now,” which peaked at #45 in May of 1977. Six years later, the original foursome had winnowed down to a duo, Jon Rubin and Tommy Dunbar. They tried to jump start their career with this Rundgren/Utopia-produced EP. I’m pretty sure I listened to “If I Had You Back” a time or two while the station was off the air; how I didn’t dig it enough to play it during one of my shows is a big mystery.

Bill Nelson, Vistamix
I believe I knew of (by name only) Be-Bop Deluxe by the time I was in college. Former leader Bill Nelson was well into pursuing a solo career by 1984, when this compilation came out. Another one I spun a couple of times out of curiosity only–“Flaming Desire,” from a couple of years before, was the one that caught my ear.

The Circle Jerks, Golden Shower of Hits
This is the LP that broke through among me and my friends. Off-color band and album name? Urinal on the cover? Amber liquid of unknown provenance arriving from the left? Check, check, and check. Hardcore punk, with song titles like “Parade of the Horribles.” “Coup d’Etat,” and “When the Shit Hits the Fan” (an unplugged version of that last one appears on the Repo Man soundtrack–James bought that a year or so later). Not particularly my style, but it did hold quite a bit of entertainment value for several 18- and 19-year olds. I can see why a record store might not feature this during business hours.

Our favorite, and one which I’m sure I played on my show at least a couple of times, was the title track, subtitled “Jerks on 45.” It’s exactly what you think it is and if you’ve never heard it, definitely give it a listen. I won’t spoil the fun by revealing any of the songs they include, but I will say that it’s actually coherent (as opposed to, say, one of Weird Al’s polka medleys): somewhere in the last few years I read it tracks the life cycle of a relationship.

Kissing the Pink, S/T
This British group (later known simply as KTP) appears to have released this EP and their debut album, Naked, almost simultaneously. Kinda odd, since they share three cuts. One of them, “Maybe This Day,” is the only song on any of these albums to have hit the U.S pop charts, peaking at #87 in late August. If I ever threw this on the turntable, I sure don’t remember it.

Fun Boy Three, Waiting
If I’d known about the Specials back then, perhaps I would have given this album by three of their alums more of a chance. As it was, I probably couldn’t process the juxtaposition of a band with “Fun” in their names and the dour looks I saw on the cover. No doubt I gave the cover of “Our Lips Are Sealed” a shot (vocalist Terry Hall co-wrote it with Jane Wiedlin), but I wasn’t ready for such a somber take. I do wish I’d paid attention to “Tunnel of Love,” though (a Top 10 hit in the UK).

If I could be a sophomore in college all over again, I hope I’d choose to have wider musical horizons.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 9/5/81: REO Speedwagon, “In Your Letter”

Even at the beginning of my senior year in HS, I was buying only the occasional LP—maybe I had around a dozen by then. One, likely purchased sometime early in the summer of 1981, was REO Speedwagon’s Hi Infidelity. I liked it pretty well; it definitely got quite a few spins on my dad’s turntable in our basement back then. While in college, I picked up You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish and Wheels Are Turnin’, but it’s fair to say that Hi Infidelity is still the REO album I know best overall.

A quick check at setlist.fm tells me that the Speedwagon played Champaign once while I was at UIUC, in November 1987. I didn’t go, and I don’t really recall any swelling sense of love for the hometown heroes during my time there, either. Nonetheless, I tip my hat to them for working hard and making good.

As I’ve done with other albums from my teen years that I owned, I’m taking a crack at ranking Hi Infidelity’s tracks.

10. “I Wish You Were There”
I get that rock bands need to do the ballad thing (though that’s frequently not my thing), and I guess this one isn’t terrible? It didn’t do much for me back in 1981, either, though.

9. “Don’t Let Him Go”
Third single, got to #24 the first two weeks of August. I seem to remember a school dance early that fall (DJ’ed by students) where this one got played—it cleared the floor. I’m just hoping I wasn’t the one responsible for that…

8. “Shakin’ It Loose”
How many times did I listen to this album after I graduated from HS, though? Very, very few. I’ll confess now that the names of the last three songs on side two didn’t trigger any music in my head prior to playing them earlier today. That said, I like this one fine—nice piano solo from Neal Doughty, for sure—but it’s still pretty close to filler.

7. “Someone Tonight”
Bassist Bruce Hall wrote it and sang lead. The sentiment behind the lyric is, um, uninspiring. Nonetheless, it’s a decent little rocker with good harmonies.

6. “In Your Letter”
This week’s #28 song, heading toward a peak of #20. I’m surprising myself a little by placing it as high as this, given that it didn’t exactly groove me in real time; I’m coming around to admiring it for channeling the pop of years past.

5. “Keep on Loving You”
On the other hand, maybe this one’s the victim of hearing it too much over the decades. It made #1 on my own chart for two weeks at the end of February (see, I can like rock ballads). Full credit for the “missin’/listen/hissin’” rhyme in verse one.

4. “Take It on the Run”
One of three songs—along with “I Love You” and “Sweetheart”—that became instant favorites in April and dominated my charts in May (got to #5 on the Hot 100, three weeks at #2 for me). This one may be the reason I bought the album. I remember it getting played over PAs at track meets that spring.

3. “Tough Guys”
Does Gary Richrath’s screaming guitar sound add to the song or not? I’m torn. This one has more fun writing (great second verse, and I’m a fan of “she’s gonna call your bluff, guys”). I’ll also cop to approval of the Little Rascals intro.

2. “Out of Season”
Another pop-rock gem. I was listening to WEBN, the AOR station in Cincinnati, quite a bit at this point, and I have to believe they were playing all of the top 3 in this list that summer. Classic song structure, but so well-executed.

1. “Follow My Heart”
First heard this by flipping over my “Keep On Loving You” 45, and liked it immediately. The urgency was palpable to a 17-year-old, not that I had any reason to relate to Kevin Cronin’s dilemma. It’s the cut from Hi Infidelity I would pick to take with me if made to choose just one, so that puts it at the top of the list. (It was the third song in the mixtape series that kicked off this blog, too.)