WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 3, Song 5

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

I love the 1976 album Silk Degrees by Boz Scaggs. Yes, it’s a little disco-ish, but there are numerous fabulous tracks on it: “Lowdown,” “Lido Shuffle,” “Georgia,” “What Do You Want the Girl to Do,” “We’re All Alone,” etc. I’m not ashamed to say it was one of the first albums I ever purchased.

While his follow-up disk stiffed, 1980’s Middle Man spawned a couple of nice hits. It also contained this fun song, another I’m thinking I heard first via album rock stations.

From The Archives: W-V Beta Club, Spring 1982

Sometime after my high school senior yearbook was published, I must have had the opportunity to rummage through the photos they’d taken for it to take what I wanted.  This is one that didn’t make it into the yearbook, for one pretty obvious reason.  At least everyone else in it looks great!

I think the occasion is a year-end induction ceremony for new Beta Club members, even though all but one of the students pictured here was about to graduate.


SotD: Five Man Electrical Band, “Signs”

Yesterday I served as Worship Leader during our Sunday morning service at First Christian, Georgetown. Part of that job is to issue the invitation to offering, which I did thusly:

Those of you who are my Facebook friends are likely aware that I regularly post there about popular songs from the 70s and 80s. Well, today I have a confession to make, but before I do, it would help for me kinda do a Facebook-like thing about a 70s song.

“Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band, a group from Canada, was a big hit in the summer of 1971. (Some of you a little younger than I might remember instead the cover by the hard rock band Tesla from 1990.) For those of you not familiar with it, the song has a distinctly hippie vibe. Its main conceit is that the narrator is frustrated by signs of exclusion that he sees all around him: they say things like “Long-haired freaky people need not apply,” “Anybody caught trespassin’ will be shot on sight,” and “You got to have a membership card to get inside.” But then, in the last verse, he spots a sign with a different kind of message: “Everybody welcome. Come in, kneel down, and pray.” When the time for the offering comes, he realizes he “didn’t have a penny to pay,” but he doesn’t let that hold him back, saying, “I got me a pen and a paper, and I made my own little sign. ‘Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ‘bout me, I’m alive and doin’ fine.’” (Show ‘my own little sign,’ fold it, walk over to a deacon, put it in collection plate, return to lectern.)

So, my confession: this isn’t the first time I’ve done what I just did. About 18 months ago, I heard this song on a Sunday morning as I was getting ready to come here. That inspired me: unbeknownst to my wife, right before the offering that day, I got me a pen and paper, made my own little sign, and put it in the plate. I’ve been wondering what the Trustees thought when they came across it counting the money!

And now, my point: as we come to this time in the service, even if we aren’t putting any pennies in the plate as it’s passed today, we can give thanks that God is indeed thinking about us and look inside to consider what kind of sign we might display to reflect those thoughts outward in the coming week. Let us give, and plan to give, with joy.

Here’s to displaying signs of goodwill to those we encounter in the coming days–the world could use much more of that.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 3, Song 4

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

In 78, between Animals and The Wall, David Gilmour recorded his first, self-titled, album. A copy of it somehow wound up at WTLX. I believe that this is the first of four consecutive songs that come from albums in the music library we inherited in 83.

I have no recollection of how I came to be familiar with this song–would WEBN have still been playing it in the early 80s? This may be heretical, but I probably like it more than I do anything from Pink Floyd.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 3, Song 3

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

Foreigner’s 4 was one of the albums I bought my senior year in high school. My two favorite songs on it these days are probably “Urgent” and “Luanne.” This one is the opening track; for some reason, I still find the lyric, “Having the time of my night life,” which comes near the fadeout, amusing.

American Top 40 PastBlast: 8/18/84

Summer is apparently a great time for hit songs with the word “summer” in the title: “Summer in the City” by Lovin’ Spoonful (in 66), “Summer” by War (76), “Summer Nights” by ON-J and Johnny Revolta (78), “Hot Summer Nights” by Night (79), “First Day of Summer” by Tony Carey (84), “Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams (85). Something tells me this is not a coincidence.

Here’s another entry in that pantheon, from three British women, their first big US hit. They had a couple other get to the top 10, most notably a remake of Shocking Blue’s “Venus.” The video is clearly low-budget, but I guess you’ve got to start somewhere. Got to #9; it’s on the way up at #32 here.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 3, Song 2

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

I’ve been looking over my playlist, trying to figure out how many band members/artists in this series have passed away so far–after all, it’s been at least 31 years since their recordings were made. To this point, I can think of Gary Richrath (REO), Benjamin Orr (Cars), and Howie Epstein (Heartbreakers)–feel free to remind me of others in the comments if you wish. There are a few big names yet to come, and of course, we’ve got one today.

Glenn Frey had the greatest success of his solo career in 85. This song was wedged in between his #2 hits “The Heat Is On” and “You Belong to the City,” from Beverly Hills Cop and Miami Vice, respectively. My recollection is that it wound up being the basis for a Miami Vice episode. Unfortunately, it looks like the ‘official video’ isn’t available on YouTube. It’s another of the tunes that was in the process of climbing the charts when I made these tapes, on its way to #12.

American Top 40 PastBlast: 8/14/76

Back in my early days of listening to AT40, I would really look forward to the show’s start. Some of my strongest memories from those months–even before I began writing the charts down–center on learning the identity of the song at #40. Plenty of those tunes get no play any more: “Action” by Sweet (the first one I remember, from that March), “Hit the Road, Jack” by the Stampeders (I think I’ll be mentioning this one again before too long), and “Shop Around” by Captain and Tennille. Others, like “More, More, More” by Andrea True Connection and “Love is Alive” by Gary Wright, might ring a louder bell.

This countdown’s #40 is one of the more obscure. Lady Flash was Barry Manilow’s backup group; he co-wrote and co-produced this song, their only hit. It’s a nice tribute to an earlier era, and would reach #27.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 3, Song 1

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

I broke my left wrist on the afternoon of Saturday, November 5, 1977, still the only broken bone of my life (knock on wood). That night, after returning home from the hospital casted, I heard the Carpenters’ version of this song come in at #40, on its way to #32. I’d really love to know how Karen and Richard came to select it for recording…

I’m pretty sure that I was aware of the existence of Klaatu during that period, hearing the rumors that they were really the Beatles, secretly reunited, instead of three guys from Canada (probably from listening to the top 40). I was turned on to them for realz, though, by Warren Moore during my sophomore year of college. An edited version of this song was the B-side of “Sub-Rosa Subway,” which also has an historical basis (and a cool Beatlesque tune that’s worthy of your time). That single reached #62 in April 77.

The original World Contact Day, including the first “transmission” of the message on which this song is based, was March 15, 1953.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 2, Song 11

Note: This series originally appeared on Facebook in a slightly different form, Aug-Sept 16.

You know how when you encounter something new, you often try to fit it in with your past experience? That happened to me the first time I heard this song (think I was in the car with my parents in February of 80, on the way to one of my sister’s basketball games). This is no lie: as I listened to the opening verse, I somewhat seriously wondered if it wasn’t a Barry Manilow/Cher duet… I ended up liking most of Air Supply’s big hits well enough; “Sweet Dreams” is probably my favorite, but this one still sounds pretty good.