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.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 2, Song 10

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

I preferred the Jimi Jamison era of Survivor to the Dave Bickler years. Maybe that’s because the songs were a little poppier, not quite as hard? In the bigger picture, however, it’s not like they were ever one of my top bands. This song is easily the one of theirs I liked best in real time (cheesy male fantasy video and the lyric, “And in the night the silence speaks to you and I,” notwithstanding).

That’s My Boy!

One of the Christmas CDs I inherited through my marriage is We Three Kings by the Roches. It still gets played every December. The first time I heard the title track, I thought to myself that the guitarist was trying awfully hard to sound like Mark Knopfler on “Sultans of Swing.”

Which, believe it or not, leads me to last night.

We took Ben out to get some of the nighttime driving time he needs before he can try for his intermediate license. As is often the case, the radio was on the 70s station. Our son has never been particularly interested the current pop scene and of course he’s been inundated with the music from 20-45 years ago for years. It’s endearing yet still somewhat amusing to hear him sing along to the tunes of my youth–this go-round it was stuff like “I’m Not in Love” by 10cc and “We Don’t Talk Anymore” by Cliff Richard.

And just before we got home, one of those moments that confirms HE’S DEFINITELY YOUR KID. “Sultans of Swing” comes on, and about a minute in, Ben says, “I don’t know why, but this song always makes me think of Christmas.” Martha had no idea why I started laughing so hard.

So, a little Christmas in August.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 2, Song 9

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

I don’t specifically recall hearing this song when it was popular (#9, Fall 73)–it could be that my primary exposure came through listening to 94.5 in Lexington as an ‘oldie’ in 82. All I know is that it’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.

SotD: Fastball, “The Way”

Last week I heard “The Way” for the first time in a while. I love the song, but it’s hard for me to listen to it without thinking about an NPR story I caught back in 98 about its origins. In a bit of a strange coincidence, today I came across this article in the Washington Post with some haunting similarities. While it’s touching to consider the love these couples shared, my heart aches over their final moments and the pain visited upon their children.

The video was one of those bright, overexposed mishmashes that somehow works put together by McG in the late 90s: see also Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, or “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies.

WTLX Mix Tapes: Side 2, Song 8

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

Perhaps my #1 top 40 playlist from among those I’ve assembled is that of January 29, 1977.  There is a boatload of classic hits and nice obscurities in it. (It’s also the case that reinforcements were on the way, as “Rich Girl” and “Carry On Wayward Son” would hit the following week.) Today we’re hearing one of two songs from this countdown that are part of my series.

For quite a long time I claimed that “Year of the Cat” was my very favorite song. It tells a good story with vivid descriptions and the music has texture and memorable riffs. After almost 40 years I think it still sounds great. I listen to both of Al Stewart’s late 70s albums (Year of the Cat, Time Passages) with some frequency even now.