Forgotten Albums: Jane Siberry, No Borders Here

Over the past four weeks I participated in a class called Course Design Institute, offered via Spalding University and under the auspices of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities (AIKCU, for short). Roughly forty colleagues from across the state, including ten or so from my institution, learned alongside me about best practices in setting up online courses, you know, just in case. It was very much a worthwhile endeavor; our instructor shared many valuable insights and resources, and I’m already putting a good bit of it into practice as I prepare for the coming school year. Even though current plans call for as much face-to-face interaction as possible, I’m expecting to be doing plenty of classroom-flipping in most of my courses.

Our instructor’s first name–which I’ll reveal down the way–isn’t all that common, and is one that always makes me think of a song on a fine but obscure album from 1984, Jane Siberry’s No Borders Here. I’ve written some about Siberry before, featuring tracks from her 1988 disk The Walking a couple of years ago. No Borders Here was her second album, the one that began to get her noticed in her native Canada. It’s plenty arty–there’s a reason why she was promoted as being in the vein of Kate Bush–with lots of word play and abundant shifts in time signature, tempo, and rhythm. The production is competent but not as lavish as she would receive on future recordings. One of my bridge-playing friends at Illinois put me on to No Borders Here; since I already knew about The Walking, that wasn’t a hard sell, and it quickly became the album of Siberry’s I most consistently enjoy. Here are a few of the choicest cuts (though one of my faves isn’t available on its own on YouTube).

The album kicks off with “The Waitress.” You get a good idea of what you’re in for from the get-go. Most memorable line: “I’d probably be famous now if I wasn’t such a good waitress.”

Next is “I Muse Aloud,” whose narrator takes the odd position that she “fill(s) (her boyfriend) up with so much love” that he has no option but to fall for the girls he meets while out and about.

After treats like “Dancing Class” (about a woman who takes lessons for many years) and “Extra Executives” (in which a salesman’s behavior gets compared to that of a grouper fish), we get “Symmetry (The Way Things Have To Be).” Just remember: “You can’t chop down the symmetry.” The poster of the video on YouTube indicates these scenes come from Dames, a 1934 flick choreographed by Busby Berkeley.

And our last feature is my favorite, a track that reached #68 on the Canadian charts. “Mimi on the Beach” is also the song that’s been on my mind this past month as I’ve gone through my class. Great lines: “I stand and scan on this strand of sand;” “She’s checking out her arms and legs/In case her casing’s getting burned.”

Many thanks to Prof. O’Malley for her feedback and help–I hope I can translate the experience into good things for my students.

You can find a link to the entire album here. Twenty-seven minutes in is “Follow Me,” a real charmer that I wish I could have more easily shared.

AT40’s Book of Records Special

The only 80s American Top 40 that Casey hosted that hasn’t been rebroadcast to date by Premiere was the 7/5/80 Book of Records special (it features plenty of songs from the 50s and 60s). Yesterday, WTOJ, Magic 103.1 in Watertown, NY, played the show as part of its 50th birthday celebration. WTOJ’s programming director Ken Martin has helped engineer the mono-to-stereo conversion of many of the early shows in recent years; he’s also worked on some of the more obscure special shows and gets to play them on his station. As far as I know, this was the first time the 7/5/80 show has been aired again.

It’s also one of the few special shows between 1976 and 1982 I followed closely enough to track what Casey was laying down. The cue sheets at indicate the songs on the show, but if you’re interested in the descriptions of the records they held, well, look no further, though it doesn’t appear I noted all of the drop pieces.

After writing this (but before publication), I stumbled upon My Favorite Decade’s four-part retrospective of the Book of Records show, written up just over three years ago. MFD catches all the drop pieces I missed.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 7/11/70: Pacific Gas & Electric, “Are You Ready?”, and Rare Earth, “Get Ready”

Anyone who knows me more than passingly–be that IRL or online–is well aware of my interest in the eighteen-plus years of the original Casey Kasem run at the helm of American Top 40. I charted the show over roughly the middle third of that span. Even when I “outgrew” faithfully listening to the show not long after I left for college, it would be years before I stopped paying attention to the up-and-down rhythms of the Billboard Hot 100 and stopped listening to stations that played most of the songs Kasem would have been announcing. About the time I turned forty, now a husband and a father of a pre-schooler, nostalgia for those days began setting in, leading me to assemble playlists for dozens of those countdowns. In summer 2012, I became re-obsessed with hearing the actual shows not long after I realized they were being remastered and distributed again to stations everywhere for rebroadcast. I’ve now been at that game for longer than I listened as a teenager. It’s immensely enjoyable to have the opportunity to hear shows of all stripes–before, during, and after my charting years. With a few exceptions, I don’t have much desire to own personal copies of the shows, to listen to on demand–it’s enough right now to be able to check in on whatever the execs at Premiere and SiriusXM select each week. I imagine there’ll come a day when those same execs realize the folks most interested in classic-era AT40 are too old to make continued broadcasting sufficiently profitable, but I’m hoping that time is several years off.

AT40 of that era touched–to varying degrees, of course; I’m an outlier on the high end–the lives of a large proportion of people my age, plus or minus a decade or more. This weekend makes fifty years since Casey’s first broadcast. Numerous stations are celebrating by playing many of the special shows originally broadcast on various July 4th weekends of the 70s and 80s. There’s been some media attention given to the anniversary, too. And Premiere has the first show, chart date 7/11/70, on offer this weekend. I’ve never heard it in full, but I hope by the end of today that will have changed.

Two songs from that show, brimming with very different kinds of energy, have titles that, when taken out of context, feel appropriate for the occasion. If you secularize Pacific Gas & Electric (#19, on its way to #13) and de-sexify Rare Earth (#13, heading down after peaking at #4), the question “Are You Ready?” and command “Get Ready” tell us everything we need to know about the cultural tsunami headed our way.

Happy golden birthday, American Top 40.

Another Round of May and June Charts

Another two months’ worth of AT40 rebroadcasts have passed, so there are five more of my charts to share, along with a few other odds and ends.

5/16/81: Some fine 60s Archive tunes, sappy LDDs, and the final time I listed all the songs that Stars on 45 sang (it was simply “Medley” from here on out).

Hello/Goodbye: T. G. Sheppard, take a bow. Terri Gibbs, James Taylor, and J. D. Souther, have a seat. (I was a little surprised to find this was it for J. T.)

WKRQ’s list from the following Monday largely shuffled most of the songs on the show, but note they held on to Loverboy, April Wine, Journey, and even Abba longer than most of America had.

I was on to “Just Between You and Me” longer than America was, too, though. “Sweetheart” would have another go at #3 before spending four long weeks in the runner-up spot, locked out forever by the Climax Blues Band.

5/27/78: The 6/3 chart is one of the few I have written in red ink; must have made these predictions right before that show? The Saturday Night Fever reign on the charts is almost done, but Grease is just starting to ramp up.

Hello/Goodbye: Michael Johnson is gracing us with his presence for the first time. I’m sad to report that time was up for Warren Zevon.

Goodies from 1982, 1979, and 1980 lie over the fold…

Continue reading “Another Round of May and June Charts”

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/28/80: Rupert Holmes, “Answering Machine”

Funds for music purchases in the first half of my teen years were pretty limited, mostly derived from a weekly allowance, and perhaps the occasional odd job for a neighbor or my grandparents. I was 16 in the spring of 1980, able to drive, but real, though only passing, gainful employment was still a few months away. Whether by design or accident, vinyl for me then tended to come in the 7″ variety–there was definitely higher confidence one was getting something one really liked that way. I think I had maybe just a half-dozen LPs at the time.

I’d been a regular consumer of Dad’s Stereo Review magazines for about two years. Accurate or not, it seemed that Best of the Month and Recordings of Special Merit selections all too frequently were by artists I wasn’t hearing on the radio stations I tuned to. My money was too precious for leaps of faith. But in the April 1980 issue, one highlighted review caught my eye.

Over the previous few months, “Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” and “Him” had both impressed me reasonably, enough to at least entertain the thought of buying Holmes’s album. While I’m sure I didn’t pay attention that the reviewer was not from SR‘s regular stable, Partners in Crime did become the first LP I purchased due to a thumbs-up in Stereo Review (but far from the last, which was probably Suzanne Vega, more than six years later).

On the whole, I recall being a little disappointed after getting PiC home. Mitz notes ‘sparse production,’ and he’s right–the first two singles were a little more fleshed out, less sterile than most of the other tracks. The relatively naïve and sheltered me was taken aback at first at the kinky inclinations noted in the title song, and the rampant horniness of all the characters in “Lunch Hour” (which I liked a lot, nonetheless). Still, I listened to–and enjoyed–it enough to have songs like “Nearsighted,” “The People That You Never Get To Love,” and “Get Outta Yourself” stick in my head over the years.

The real discovery, though, was song two on side two, the one that soon became the LP’s third single. A clever, if slight, tale about the shortcomings of modern technology, “Answering Machine” made me glad in the end I’d bought the album. While I had to have known about such marvels by the summer of 1980, I’m thinking my parents didn’t get an answering machine until they moved to Florence a few years later. I didn’t have any reason to own one until I began apartment life after my first year of grad school, in 1987.

Wife and son got a kick out of listening to me sing along with Rupert this past Saturday afternoon, the tune sitting at its peak of #32. Afterward, Ben noted that Holmes’s “I’m so sorry” begins with the same intervals that Hall and Oates later used to spell out the title of “Method of Modern Love.” The kid’s got an ear for 80s music…

Did you ever notice, though, that the entire unfortunate situation would have been avoided had both parties realized that their machines gave callers just twenty seconds of message time?

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/24/72: Godspell, “Day By Day”

This week marked twenty-three years since Martha and I moved into our current home. Even if you count only the time following my 2004-05 sabbatical year in upstate New York, this is the longest I’ve ever spent in one location. My first move came at the age of six months, when Mom, Dad, and I relocated from Ludlow (a small KY river town near Cincinnati) to La Grange (about twenty miles NE of Louisville). A little over four years later, around Labor Day of 1968, our now family-of-four headed south and east to Stanford, about forty miles south of Lexington. My education began there, up through second grade. But being a church minister often means being rather peripatetic, and at some point in early 1972, my father put out feelers for a new pastorate. Mom was wanting to get back closer to the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area–her parents would soon be moving back there after my grandfather retired from being Director of Medical Services at Eastern Kentucky University, in nearby Richmond–and at some point that spring, Amy and I were informed that we were leaving Stanford for Walton, a town of about 2000 about twenty miles south of Cincinnati.

While I have held on to tiny slivers from my time in La Grange, the bulk of my earliest memories occurred in that house in Stanford, in a subdivision called Oakwood Estates. I think it was a parsonage.

This is the best picture of it I can easily lay my hands on–there are plenty of shots much closer in, generally of Amy and me standing in front of those columns on Easter morning. What we can’t see here is the driveway running down the left side of the house, around to a two-car garage in the basement. Dining/living area to the left of the front door, bedrooms to the right, kitchen/family room/stairs/bathroom/bedroom from left to right on the back of the house. You’d think I’d remember which bedroom was mine.

The moving van arrived on Saturday morning, June 24, 1972. It was unseasonably cool and cloudy; my father would turn forty-one the next day. I don’t recall now any of the preparations, but Mom and Dad must have had things well in hand for the movers. Several families around us had children close to our age, so there were at least a few goodbyes to be shared. My strongest memory of the day, though, is of pulling my father around the side of the house while the van was being loaded, asking him to comfort his sad son by singing a couple of verses of a hymn. I believe it was my choice, semi-appropriate for the occasion only by coincidence: “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” My father showed me countless kindnesses over the years, but this is one of the more treasured.

The end of one chapter means a new one begins, however. Mom and Dad had picked a brick house toward the end of Bedinger Avenue, just beyond a left turn onto Plum Street.

I don’t have much in the way of full photos for this house, either. This was taken in the spring of 1973. Amy’s bedroom is on the far left, with my room (the smaller of the two, but I’m not bitter) immediately to the left of the front door. There’s no garage, just a slab driveway on the right, but there was a walkout basement. There were several acres of largely open fields to the left, with just a single house owned by one of the town’s attorneys and his family a couple hundred yards down that gravel road you see.

Here’s another view, this time featuring your humble blogger and his sis.

The back of the picture informs me it’s now the summer of 1975. Looks like by this time we’d replaced the flowering tree between my and Amy’s windows with something hardier. That cigar box came from my grandfather; wish I still had some of those (boxes, not cigars). We stayed in that house until a few months after my sister graduated from HS in 1983 (Dad was no longer in the ministry by the mid-70s)–not too surprisingly, that’s the second-longest stint I’ve had in a single spot.

Living close to Cincinnati afforded us some cultural opportunities we didn’t have in Stanford. One–perhaps canonical for PKs in those years–was getting to see a production of the recent Off-Broadway musical Godspell. Felt certain I still have a program from it among my bins of goodies from my youth, but it didn’t turn up in a search this morning (a scrapbook given to Amy and me by the folks at Stanford Christian Church right before we moved did, though). “Day By Day,” the song from Godspell you’re most likely to know, debuted at #37 on our moving day, very close to the end of the God Rock era. Five weeks later, it reached its peak of #13. The vocalist is Robin Lamont.

My final excursion in the Before Times was on March 9. The first positive test for COVID-19 in Kentucky had been announced two days earlier, in a town about fifteen miles away from Georgetown. It was the Monday of my spring break, and I drove north to take care of various pieces of business: dealing with our taxes, taking flowers to my mother’s gravesite (it was the fifth anniversary of her burial), doing some research at a public library and county courthouse. I had lunch at a barbecue place not far from my parents’ final home–I wonder now when the next time I eat a meal inside a restaurant will be. I’d brought a large bottle of hand sanitizer with me and used it liberally throughout the day. A couple of days later I’d learn that instruction was moving online for at least the next few weeks. Martha and I had planned a quick trip to the Carolinas later in the week but in the end thought better of it.

There’d been a bad accident on southbound I-75 that morning near Florence, and it was still bottling up traffic for miles when I was ready to head home mid-afternoon. It was very slow going trying to make my way from Burlington, a few miles west of the interstate, over to US 25, the obvious alternate route south. Traffic on 25 eased only after we reached access to I-75 south of the tie-up, but I didn’t jump back on quite yet–I wanted to go through Walton, another five miles south on 25. Our old house on Bedinger was on my mind.

Years ago, that attorney had sold the property adjacent to our plot, and dozens of houses had been built as Bedinger had been extended and new streets added. I parked my car on the corner of one of those streets, not far away from the place I’d left thirty-six-and-a-half years before, at the beginning of my sophomore year of college. I wandered around the neighborhood for a good bit, exploring some of the ‘newer’ parts but also the places from the old days, ticking off the families who’d lived in each of the houses (and seeing a few of those names still on the mailboxes). That section of street from US 25 to 33 Bedinger is much shorter than it seemed when I was nine, twelve, even eighteen years old. I took a few pictures, of course. My #LastNormalPhoto happens to be of that house we moved into on 6/24/72.

The driveway’s width got expanded by about 50% somewhere along the way, and there’s no window AC unit in the kitchen, next to the side entrance–it wouldn’t shock me if central air has been installed. The basketball goal we put up at the end of the driveway, the television antenna, the shrubbery, the weeping cherry tree in the front right corner of the yard–all are looooong gone. The iron railings on the porches, however, appear to be unchanged. It’s entirely recognizable.

There was a vehicle in the driveway that I’ve cropped from this picture. As much as I’d have enjoyed taking a look inside, I know it wouldn’t have been appropriate in the least to knock on the front door. Instead, I walked back to the car, drove south through downtown Walton, and worked my way over to the interstate so that I could scurry back home.

Stereo Review In Review: June 1982

What was I discovering in SR as I was graduating from high school? Among other things, one of my inner-circle Hall of Fame LPs.

Noel Coppage Interviews Karla Bonoff
We learn that Bonoff decided to become a songwriter after watching Jackson Browne play at the Troubadour when they were both in their teens. Her breakthrough came when Linda Ronstadt recorded three of her songs on Hasten Down the Wind, including the righteous “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me.” Her connection to Ronstadt was no accident, though: Bonoff had been in Bryndle, a band with Andrew Gold, Kenny Edwards of the Stone Poneys, and Wendy Waldman, in the early 70s.

Coppage likes Wild Heart of the Young, Bonoff’s new LP, fairly well. He notes a bit of a Motown vibe and observes (as Casey did once) that “Personally,” what turned out to be her one hit, was one she didn’t write. “The melodies are catchy, sure-handed, and mostly pretty—but their straight-ahead simplicity leaves no room for the brief, off-the-wall detours her old melodies took, and those did lead, sometimes, through a garden of delight.”

This month’s reviewers are Chris Albertson, Noel Coppage, Phyl Garland, Paul Kresh, Mark Peel, Peter Reilly, Steve Simels, and Joel Vance. Peel had come on board with the October 1981 issue.

Best of the Month
–Gordon Lightfoot, Shadows  (NC) “His melodies are so natural-sounding you find yourself thinking there’s no excuse for their not having existed before.”
–Wynton Marsalis, S/T (CA) “…one of the most impressive debut albums I have ever heard, a grand entrance that will undoubtedly give jazz a healthy boost at a time when some of its best practitioners have strayed from the field.” 

Recordings of Special Merit
–Irene Cara, Anyone Can See (PG) “…it stands above most (other albums) because of its success in reshaping the molds and moods of the past to suit current tastes.”
–Jean Knight and Premium, Keep It Comin’ (PG) “This is the sort of plain, old-fashioned r-&-b that’s played on bar jukeboxes before last call.”
–Graham Parker, Another Grey Area (SS) “…he sounds again as if he means what he’s saying.”

Quartet (PK) “More new records like this one just might bring back the Jazz Age along with Jean Rhys’ novels.”

–Benny Carter, Opening Blues (CA)
–Chico Freeman, Destiny’s Dance (CA)
–Egberto Gismonti and Academica de Danças, Sanfona (CA) 
–Bill Henderson, A Tribute to Johnny Mercer (CA)
–Jean-Luc Ponty, Mystical Adventures (MP)

Featured Rock/Pop Reviews
–Paul McCartney, Tug of War (MP) Peel is not a fan: “Much of the problem is over-production, excessive electronic tampering often disfigures the vocals and horns to no apparent purpose.”
–Marshall Crenshaw, S/T (SS) This review put Crenshaw on my radar. Even though I liked “Someday, Someway” quite a bit that summer, it’s not clear I would have bought the LP 18 months later without Simels’s clarion call. “But let us not pussyfoot: this is the strongest debut album by an American rocker I have ever been privileged to review. In the immortal words of Redd Foxx: ‘This is the Big One, Elizabeth.’”
–Toots and the Maytals, Knock Out! (MP)  Second month in a row I’ve picked an issue with love for Toots. “At a time when too much reggae seems to slipping away into lazy, monotonous, knee-jerking jamming, this album is packed with catchy melodies and irrepressible rhythms.”
–Lou Reed, The Blue Mask (SS) “…Lou Reed has finally shed his masks (blue or otherwise) and made the album that most of us, even his biggest fans, had long lost hope of ever hearing.”
–Bunny Berigan, The Complete Bunny Berigan, Vol 1–1937 (JV)  His name is new to me, but he was a bit of a legend. Played with Miller and Goodman, led his own band for a few years, severe alcoholic who died in 1942 at age 33. “Of all the figures in the Swing Era, he probably swung the hardest.”

Selected Other LPs Reviewed
–Adam and the Ants, Prince Charming (SS) “It’s somehow immensely reassuring to know that a good commercial gimmick can still compensate for utter lack of talent.”
–B-52’s, Mesopotamia (MP) “Give them credit: the B-52’s are making baking, ancient civilization, and mediocrity in general a lot more fun to dance to.”
The Catherine Wheel (Eric Salzman) “These are rhythmic outlines for music with a ghastly emptiness inside…”
–Sammy Hagar, Standing Hampton (MP) “…the guy’s convinced he’s a ladies’ man and a deep thinker. Maybe he is, but he seems to have exhausted most of his cleverness here on the enigmatic record jacket.”
–Loretta Lynn, I Lie (NC) “Not a great album, but one aspiring singers could learn from.”
–Grover Washington, Jr., Come Morning (MP) “…all atmosphere, all sensation.”

Bryndle recorded an album in the early 70s but it was never released. They re-formed in the 90s and did put out two albums before Edwards and Gold passed away. Here’s a song from those first recording sessions that actually was released as a single.

A favorite from that Crenshaw debut.

And we wrap up with Berigan’s best-known song. He’s doing the vocals, too.

Still I Have Not Found My Way Out Of This Night

Spring of 1994. I’d just turned thirty, and was wrapping up my second year at Georgetown. An active summer, both professionally and socially, lay ahead. Mid-June would find me at Purdue for a nine-day workshop on constructivist learning as it applied to an upper-level class I’d be teaching for the first time come fall (the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman occurred while I was there). By the end of the month, I was blowing money I didn’t really have on my first trip to the Europe, where I was able to meet up with John and Ann in Paris, then Toby and Kasia in Zurich. A couple weeks after returning, I was back on the road to visit Greg and Katie in Maryland for a few days (that’s when I saw Sam Phillips perform).

This cassette was a companion on at least that Purdue trip, and maybe to MD, too. We visited side A last week; let’s now see what awaits on side B. There are plenty of long-time favorites.

B-52’s, “Roam”
It’s not my favorite song from Cosmic Thing. It’s still plenty good, though. There’s a song off Voice of the Beehive’s Let It Bee, called “I Walk the Earth,” with a similar theme. I’ve got that one on another tape…

The Darling Buds, “Long Day in the Universe”
From the Buds’ third album Erotica. That album is a much more challenging listen than their first two pop-oriented disks, but it’s not without its highlights.

Suzanne Vega, “Blood Makes Noise”
Short yet so sweet. 1987 me would have been flabbergasted that Vega would sound like this five years later. Producer/future husband Mitchell Froom can be fairly criticized for going overboard in the studio during this era (he also handled Kiko for Los Lobos and Six Pack of Love for Peter Case in 1992). The gadgetry and gimmickry couldn’t overwhelm a catchy tune like this, though. It legit should have been her third pop hit.

The Polecats, “Make a Circuit with Me”
On trips to Chicago in the early 90s, I’d often tune the radio to WXRT. This came at my roommate John’s recommendation; our tastes overlapped enough that he knew I’d enjoy it. One of the songs XRT introduced to me was this 1983 rockabilly/New Wave treasure out of England–I heard it more than once traveling up and down I-57. A clever extended metaphor on all things electric, I cannot understand how it wasn’t a big hit. I’m grateful the folks assembling the Living in Oblivion series saw fit to include it on one of their compilations.

I suppose it’s possible that some exec was trying to leverage the Stray Cats’ recent success promoting this band whose name and sound bore passing resemblances to Brian Setzer’s group. It was a worthwhile gambit–I know I’d rather listen to “Make a Circuit with Me” than “(She’s) Sexy + 17.”

Texas, “Fade Away”
Big bunches of this cassette reflect recent purchases. Rick’s Road, the third album from these Scottish rockers, was among them. On the first few listens, only the second track, “Fade Away,” stood out. It wound up being the fourth single released in the UK, though it didn’t chart there. Still a groovy, soulful, bluesy number.

Jane Wiedlin, “At the End of the Day”
Tangled sank like a stone when it came out in 1990. I’d heard “World on Fire” around that time, and wasn’t too surprised that it couldn’t build on the success of the awesome “Rush Hour” from two years before. In spite of that initial impression, eventually I plucked Tangled out of a cut-out bin to give it a shot. There are a few real highlights: the title track is good, “99 Ways” is super charming (it also made a tape), and I think “At the End of the Day” could have been a minor hit had it been released as a single.

Matthew Sweet, “Time Capsule”
In between Girlfriend and 100% Fun came Altered Beast; I was never able to get into it like those other two. “Time Capsule” was easily its best song. Hope bugs don’t freak you out–apparently Sweet was cool with them.

Brenda Kahn, “I Don’t Sleep, I Drink Coffee Instead”
This must have been another song I first encountered on WRFL in the fall of 1992. I scooped up Epiphany in Brooklyn not long after. Kahn’s punk-folk reminds a little of Cindy Lee Berryhill, who’d had a couple of albums a few years earlier. Kahn definitely has sass and a way with words. The references to Louisville and “a couple of Hoosiers” being “well-traveled in two states of the Union” may have caught my ear first, but there’s a lot more going on in this sub-2:30 piece.

Bettie Serveert, “Tom Boy”
There are some great songs on Palomine, the 1992 debut from this Dutch band. I noted in the very early days of this blog that the intro to “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” reminded me a lot of the opening notes of “Tom Boy.” Bettie Serveert is still an ongoing project; they last released an LP almost four years ago.

Monte Warden, “Feel Better”
I saw Monte Warden open for someone–probably Béla Fleck and the Flecktones–at the Kentucky Theater in the spring 0f 1993. I don’t buy CDs at concerts all that often, but I must have liked Warden’s Texas sound enough that night. “Feel Better” shows a hint of early Elvis and has a raucous guitar solo smack dab in the middle; definitely worth a listen still.

Warden’s career started in Austin with The Wagoneers. Several years ago he and the band reformed. They’re still together.

The Indigo Girls, “Least Complicated”
I guess the release date of Swamp Ophelia–5/10/94–gives me a big clue as to when this tape came together. “Least Complicated” has to be among my top 5 Indigo Girls songs.

Eighteen of the tape’s twenty-six songs feature female vocals–I’ve not been lying to you over the years about where most of my music money was going in the first half of the 90s.

Lisa Germano, “Energy”
Germano’s second album Happiness was originally put out on Capitol in the summer of 1993. Something must have gone sideways between Mellencamp’s fiddler and Capitol shortly thereafter, because it was re-released on 4AD six months later. I have the original CD, which includes a cover of “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”–it was stripped from the reissue. That wasn’t the only change, apparently–Kenny Aranoff’s drum track has been removed from “Energy” in what we hear below. To me, this changes the whole nature of the track, ironically sucking much of the song’s energy away.

Iris DeMent, “My Life”
Some might think “My Life” too maudlin, but it spoke to me the first time I heard it, among the songs that invariably bring tears to my eyes. I believe I can check off at least the first two items from DeMent’s list in the chorus. I can’t help but notice she phrases those in past tense, while the third–“I can give comfort to my friends when they’re hurting”–concerns both the present and the future. I can aspire to do the same.

Over this past weekend I learned of the passing of a woman I went to college with. We overlapped only one year, and I didn’t know her all that well. We had a number of mutual friends, though, so I would see her occasionally in those first few years after I graduated. Full of life and humor, a genuinely nice and caring person–it’s cruel for the world to be robbed of folks like her far too many years early. She became a librarian, and served as director of the system in the county where she grew up over the last dozen or so years of her life. Reading anecdotes involving her these last few days on FB awakens me once again to the good we can do just by being present with one another.

Rest in peace, LJ.

Songs Casey Never Played, 6/11/77

Here are five songs by artists who hadn’t had Casey call their names as of June 1977. It was just a matter of time…

99. Walter Egan, “Only the Lucky”
Lead track from Egan’s debut album Fundamental Roll. Buckingham’s producing, Nicks is singing backup, and it’s a thorough pop delight–a stronger vocal could have put it over the top. As it is, it’s only gonna climb to #82.

94. REO Speedwagon, “Ridin’ the Storm Out”
That siren sounds, the crowd fires up, and the boys from Champaign start rockin’ live. The studio version had appeared four years earlier, but this is what I heard on the radio in high school. It’s their first charting single and is at its peak.

89. Dave Mason, “So High (Rock Me Baby and Roll Me Away)”
Former Traffic member would finally have a Top 40 hit later in the year with Let It Flow‘s second single, “We Just Disagree” (a much better song, honestly). He’d just missed in 1970 with his “Only You Know and I Know,” a #20 hit the following year for Delaney and Bonnie.

Like the song immediately above, “So High” is at its peak, in its last week on the chart.

86. Chuck Mangione with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra and Esther Satterfield, “Land of Make Believe”
Someone’s going to have to help me out on this one–is this a single version of the 12-minute title song from Mangione’s 1973 album, somehow released four years after the fact? My attempts to figure this out are coming up dry so far. It’s a cool piece, but also wouldn’t climb any higher.

68. Bonnie Raitt, “Runaway”
Raitt was on her sixth album, Sweet Forgiveness, at this point. Even though she was already highly regarded, it was the first time she charted with a single. Raitt took by far the longest of these five acts–fourteen more years, Casey hosting a different show by then–for him to spin one of her tunes. This cover of the Del Shannon classic would peak eleven slots higher.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/11/77: John Miles, “Slowdown”

Well, at least that’s the way the title was written down in my own charts (as we’ll see by the end of the month). If you listen to the lyrics though, it’s plain that John Miles is imploring us to take it easy, not engage in performing less work. So where did I pick that up? From Billboard, on one of my many visits to Recordland at the Florence Mall. This is from the 6/11/77 Hot 100, courtesy of

Note who produced Miles’s hit.

It’s not a one-time typo, either, as I’ve got it this way for all five weeks it appeared on AT40. The next question becomes: why did Billboard do this? Well, take a look at the US single (from Discogs):

I’m speculating here, but it looks to me that whoever created the label on this side of the pond must have simply forgotten to hit the space bar. Here’s the UK single (also via Discogs):

Not a huge deal, but the error did propagate, all the way down to a 13-year-old’s sheet of notebook paper.

Miles’s biggest hit worldwide is “Music,” which reached #3 for three weeks in April 1976 in his home country–it peaked at #88 here a month later. It’s a hybrid ballad/anthem/proggy thing, complete with strings and a lengthy interlude in 7/4 time. Hearing it now (for the first time, actually), I can understand how it resonates, but the lyrics also seem plenty clichéd. I might feel differently if the song had been with me my whole life.

Miles has participated annually in the European concert series Night of the Proms since its inception in 1985. Last month, he, the NotP band, and the Antwerp Philharmonic created a quarantine version of “Music.”

Rebel, the album on which “Music” appeared, was produced by Alan Parsons (perhaps that’s not a surprise upon reflection). Miles subsequently provided vocals for several songs on Alan Parsons Project albums over the years, including APP’s first Top 40 hit “(The System of) Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether,” as well as their last appearance on the Hot 100 (one of my favorites), “Stereotomy.”

“Slow Down” (I’ll use the actual title for once) was a sizable hit in the US discos–Wikipedia says it reached #2 on the disco chart. It’s sitting at its AT40 peak of #34 on this show.