American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/16/87: Chris de Burgh, “The Lady in Red”

Honestly, there aren’t that many songs I’m digging on this chart. Yes, I love “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” at #15, but I wrote about it last year. Fleetwood Mac’s “Big Love,” at #7, is pretty decent, and “With or Without You,” all the way at the top, is one of my favorite U2 singles.  While there were several pop hits later in the year that I found quite appealing, listening to this show reminds me again that my Top 40-listening days were getting to be fewer in number by the end of that first year in Illinois.

But I can find one at least one more tune here worthy of consideration. It’s definitely a sappy love song weekend here at PastBlast Central, ‘cause here comes “The Lady in Red.” I thought Chris de Burgh’s “Don’t Pay the Ferryman,” from early summer 83, was a great song, and I really liked “High on Emotion,” the next single I heard, even if it didn’t quite make the 40. This ballad, though, was by far his biggest success, going top 5 in at least eight countries (#1 in four of them), and deservedly so. (It made to #3 in the US; it’s still climbing, at #5 here.) It’s a tender, beautiful track, as understated as “Love’s Grown Deep” is overdone. I’ll take the low-key approach 95 (or more) times out of 100 these days.

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American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/21/77: Kenny Nolan, “Love’s Grown Deep”

Martha and I formally and officially met for the first time on January 18, 1995, in the choir room at the church here in Georgetown. We talked a bit after practice that evening, had our first date two-and-a-half weeks later, and were married within eighteen months.  However, one time almost eighteen years earlier, not only were we together in the same room, we very likely had been sitting within ten feet of one another.

Dad had a good friend, Marion “Mac” McElveen, from his seminary days in the 50s. By 77, Dad was not in the ministry, so one weekend that spring, we traveled down I-71 from Walton to New Albany, IN, just across the river from Louisville. We spent Saturday evening at a hotel, and then on Sunday morning, attended services at Central Christian Church in New Albany, where Mac was pastor. I very clearly remember that we did this, but the only scene I have stored in my memory banks now is getting to swim at the hotel pool. (A couple of years ago, I discovered the place I was staying for a bridge tournament near New Albany was the same one my family used in 77; I was able to tell by looking at the pool area.)

I learned soon after Martha and I started dating that she had grown up in New Albany. Yes, Central had been her home church, and so I told her about Dad’s friendship with Mac and the time that my family had visited. Not too long after that, Martha’s folks gave the McElveens, who still lived in the area, a call. Mac’s wife Ruth told them her recollection was that the Harrises had sat immediately behind the Lutzes that day. Did our fathers shake hands at some point? Might our mothers have greeted one another? Did Amy and I acknowledge Martha and and her sister Ruth? One wonders. Martha has told me she does remember a time when it was announced that some friends of the McElveens were in attendance, but doesn’t have any idea now when that occurred. Could it have been us?

I’m virtually certain that this past Tuesday—May 15—was the 41st anniversary of that moment when maybe, just maybe, Martha and I encountered one another. The pictures above are school photos from the fall of 77, but I imagine they provide a decent approximation of what we looked like the previous May (there’s NO WAY I’m sharing my 7th grade picture from fall 76).

A couple of weeks ago, when I realized that there was a very good chance a mid-May 77 countdown might be upcoming to tie into this tale, I looked over the charts for an appropriate selection to incorporate into a post, just in case. I landed on the schmaltzy “Love’s Grown Deep,” which is at #31, heading toward a peak of #20. I purchased the single sometime during its chart run, and it’s fair to say that at the time I liked it better than “I Like Dreamin’” (which I also had bought that year)—I’m not sure that’s the case anymore. Of course I had no real idea what Kenny Nolan was talking about—I was 13!—but he made it sound like a pretty happy thing, even if I now think it’s a little overdone.

Last Saturday morning, walking back to the car after attending my college’s graduation service, I realized the full, serendipitous nature of that choice of song.

My 45 collection wasn’t all that big during the heyday of WQSR, so I often looked to B-sides as a way to expand the playlist. I found some real gems—this makes me think I should start an occasional series called something like “great flipsides I have known.”  The B to “Love’s Grown Deep” isn’t one that grabbed me—I doubt I played it more than a couple of times—but its title stuck enough to land back in my head this past week.

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SotD: Sheryl Crow, “Everyday Is a Winding Road”

One highlight of my early days back in KY following grad school was gathering on Friday nights with college friends at Thomas’s house. We mostly played games, drank lots of Coca-Cola, inhaled first- and/or second-hand cigarette smoke, and listened to music. I didn’t drop by every week, and probably attended less often once I moved to Georgetown at the very end of 93, but it was always fun to hang out there.

In the fall of 93, Tonya, Thomas’s girlfriend at the time, plopped a disk from a new and unfamiliar artist into the player. She was definitely proselytizing on the album’s behalf, but I had to admit that, after several plays through, there was a wide and interesting range of pretty good songs on it. And so I became an early (but not nearly so early as Tonya) adopter of Sheryl Crow’s Tuesday Night Music Club. “Leaving Las Vegas” and the fun, loopy “All I Wanna Do” made it to mix tapes before the latter song (and Sheryl’s career) blew up in the fall of 94.

(An aside: I like “Leaving Las Vegas” just fine, but hearing it always makes me think of seeing Shawn Colvin at Bogart’s in Cincinnati in the summer of 95—maybe the first concert I saw with Martha. Colvin did a really funny bit mid-show, noting the similarity in chord progressions among several then-recent songs released by women, including “LLV” and Jill Sobule’s “I Kissed a Girl.”)

In the following years, I picked up Sheryl Crow and The Globe Sessions. “My Favorite Mistake” contains what I think is her finest musical moment, that resolution about three minutes in, right after she sings, “…it’s your laughter, won’t let me go, so I’m holding on this way” (there are hints of it earlier in the song, too). I really liked “If It Makes You Happy” and “A Change” back in the day (and still do to a reasonable extent), but I don’t think their lyrics have worn well over time—she’s trying to be clever but in the end comes across simply as smartass. On the other hand, that eponymous release does have the tune of hers I like best, “Everyday Is a Winding Road.” The lines about being “a stranger in my own life” and “wondering if all the things I’ve seen were ever real” ring true and feel, well, real. I hadn’t realized until putting this together that Neil Finn is singing backup here, but I believe I can tell it’s him on the chorus.  Cool video, too.

American Top 40 PastBlast Redux, 3/8/80 and 5/31/80

Before I started this blog, I posted about songs from old AT40s on Facebook, January-July 2017. I’ll be moving them here over time. These two entries have been edited a bit from the originals.

3/8/80: Kicking off the countdown is this fine tune by J. Geils and crew; it climbed to #32.  It’s another song for which it’s tough to find a decent video.  Apologies for it being a little out-of-focus, but we can still see Peter Wolf go through his whole repertoire of moves!  It’s pretty well overshadowed now by the follow-up, “Love Stinks,” which made #38 about three months later.

The man who gave his name to the band died about a month after I posted this originally.

 

5/31/80: When I posted this last year, the day before had been Canadian singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn’s 72nd birthday–he’s almost back around for another one now.  This was his sole US Top 40 song (#25 here, soon to reach #21), though he got a decent amount of airplay a few years later for “If I Had a Rocket Launcher.”

Enjoy the pix of numerous kings and queens of the jungle.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/15/82: Aldo Nova, “Fantasy”

When Canadian rocker Aldo Nova came stateside in the spring of 82 with “Fantasy,” for some reason I figured he might have staying power. I suppose I thought it was a pretty hot tune and was therefore a tiny bit surprised when it stalled out at #23 (it’s three spots short of that this week). The eponymous debut album was one my first roommate at Transy owned and played a couple of times during our time together. I have to say, though, that none of the other tracks made any particular impression; that should have been a clue that Nova’s time in the sun would be short (I might have had help in reasoning that out if I’d seen Aldo in the leopard-print get-up in this video, too). I don’t believe I ever heard anything more of him.

In my world, May is always a time of transition (we like to call it “commencement”), and so it was, even back when “Fantasy” was on this chart. I was two-and-a-half weeks away from my high school graduation ceremony, to take place June 1. Eight days earlier, on May 7, I’d attended a dinner with some of my future classmates—we were all awardees of a new scholarship program at Transy. That evening, I met several folks–Mark, Angela, Pat, Cathy, Michelle, and Michaela–who wound up playing sizable roles in my life, particularly over the next four years.

PS. This is post #300 on this thing. They sure accumulate quickly…

Three Pix of Mom and Her Kids

In honor of my mother on this Mother’s Day, three pictures from years ago of her with Amy and me.

Looks like this is from right around my second birthday. If it was taken and not just developed in February, then Amy would be four months old. We’re in our house in La Grange. I appear to be a little squirmy!

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The second one seems to be Easter, very likely 69. We’re facing our house in Stanford. The Holtzclaws’ house is on the left, and I think that’s the Murphys’ on the right.

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My sister’s hair was this short in a school photo with a note on the back indicating she’s 10. That makes me say this one is from the summer of 75, a little before she turned a decade old. Additionally, I look more like my sixth grade picture, taken fall of 75, than the one from seventh grade. This is our front yard in Walton. I-75 is way in the background; all that open space behind us is well-developed now. 75 was a great year to be a Reds fan…

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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I’m definitely thinking about you today.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/13/72: Neil Diamond, “Song Sung Blue”

This countdown comes six weeks before we moved from Stanford to Walton. It wouldn’t be long before I finished second grade with Mrs. Brown (Amy was in Mrs. Winn’s class—she’d also been my first-grade teacher). I’d guess that by mid-May we would have been told about the upcoming change of venue, but I don’t really know—we never had to have such a conversation with Ben, so I can’t imagine what might be reasonable.

Neil Diamond will always have a special place with me because of “Sweet Caroline,” one of the 45s I remember hearing played on Dad’s hi-fi when I was five or six. His 12 Greatest Hits was the first cassette our family owned; we must have gotten it soon after Amy and I got the tape player for Christmas in 75. The temporal dividing line for me with regard to Diamond’s singles is “If You Know What I Mean,” from 76. After that, I find his work much more hit-or-miss, or at least less interesting.

“Song Sung Blue” is debuting here, at #35. There’s a fragment of a memory where I’m riding in the back seat of Dad’s black 71 LTD, hearing this song on the radio in what I now recognize must be May or June of 72. It’s night, and we’re on US 150, getting close to our home on the way back from Danville. I distinctly recall the willow/pillow rhyme capturing my attention during its run of popularity.

On June 24, the day we moved, “Blue” was #2. It reached the top the following week, but since Casey did a special AT40 for the holiday weekend and it was down to #3 by July 8, no one ever heard it as the final song on the show.