5/3/80 and 5/19/79 Charts

First, the May 80 show that was supplied by Premiere and also played by the VJs on SXM’s 80s on 8 earlier this month.

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A reminder about my code: the three numbers to the left of chart position are, in order, # of weeks on show to date, last week’s spot, and prediction for next week. It’s been a while since I checked on how my predictions fared. Not overly well here–I’m counting eight correct, with several off by one or two and some big misses on the songs I thought would hang out one more week but turned out to fall off the chart. I was ready to defenestrate “Call Me” but it still had three more weeks to go at the top; its successor is sitting all the way down at #24 on this show.

Next, what I thought about those tunes:

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Even though I thought Chris Cross was heading for #1 in the real world, he’s stalling out for me. The Pretenders will start a four-week run at the top starting the next time. Utopia had just hit #2. I’ve been seeing some dissing “With You I’m Born Again” over the last week or so in other posts about this show, but I always found it pretty and emotionally stirring. I can withstand your alternative opinions about the matter.

On the half of the chart I’m not showing you, two songs that didn’t visit Casey-land are hanging out. “The Spirit of Radio” was very much a favorite at this moment and is sitting at #35. I was also digging on Warren Zevon’s “A Certain Girl” quite a bit–it’s #47. Neither one got much higher, belying my actual level of affection for them. Over the next couple of years, there would eventually be songs that never made AT40 that reached my personal Top 10.

And finally, this past weekend’s 79 show:

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A little better on the prediction front this time–12, I think? Still wrong about a change at #1, though…

Obviously I listened to this show forty years ago but didn’t remember either the LDD or Livingston Taylor stories as I heard it on Sunday. I found the Streisand request moving enough: 82-year-old man in the Atlanta area recovering from a stroke dedicated the song to a high school sweetheart who’d visited him a couple of years earlier and took him out on a lark, to dinner and a movie (A Star Is Born, naturally). The writer noted that he hadn’t heard from her since the holidays; those listening in our house wondered if she’d fallen ill herself.

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American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/18/85: Don Henley, “All She Wants to Do Is Dance”

Yesterday I spent the day at a bridge tournament in Lexington. My team won the knockout event we entered. It was a little unexpected, given the experience and quality of some of the other teams, but overall we played well.

I don’t get out to play all that much these days, maybe 3-4 partial weekends for tournaments and a dozen club games a year—this was my first time out since February. Maybe I’ll do more after the nest empties, but the biggest impediment to playing these days is my job; as the average age of the bridge-playing population continues to increase, most folks are retirees and the better-attended games are those offered during the day.

My parents both learned to play bridge in college, though I think Dad took to it better. The game lingered a little in the air as I grew up; my sister and I found and played a few times a variant of the game, Bridge for Two, which the folks must have purchased in the early years of their marriage. I made noise occasionally about wanting to learn to play the real thing, but I don’t think there were more than one or two half-hearted efforts toward teaching us. I played lots of other card games with friends—spades, hearts, rummy—but learning bridge remained elusive.

Finally, the ball started rolling in the summer of 84. The four of us tried a few hands one evening after Sis and I returned home from our respective colleges. I had no idea what I was doing but my interest was piqued. A few weeks later I was working as a counselor at a computer camp at Transy, and it turned out a critical mass of the staff wanted to teach ourselves the game. Bidding was primitive and at times we knew just enough to be dangerous, but some of us got hooked. Mark H (the need for an initial will make itself clear in the coming weeks) was my best friend at Transy and one of my fellow counselors that summer; after we got back to school in the fall, he and I whiled away many an hour dealing, bidding, and playing out hand after hand. We began to reason out the skeleton of a bidding system, trying it out on our friends when we got together on the weekends.

Sometime during that junior year of college we realized there was a bridge club in town. One day I called to find out about the times of their duplicate games. Monday evening was novice night, a game for people with less that 20 Masterpoints (the currency of the American Contract Bridge League and the means by which bridge players are ranked). So it was on 4/15/85 that Mark and I drove out to a strip mall at the corner of Man o’ War Boulevard and Pimlico Parkway (is Lexington a horse town, or what?) and found the Lexington Bridge Club tucked inconspicuously at the end of a hallway. We were by far the two youngest people there and maybe, outside of the director, the only males.

This being the mid-80s, the venue was the opposite of smoke-free (if I get lung cancer, those first years at bridge clubs are a likely contributing factor). Regardless, I met many delightful folks that evening; some have passed in the intervening years, but there a few I still see occasionally (one just yesterday): Sheila, Sally, Pat, and especially Della and Geneva.

One generally gets (fractions of) Masterpoints by finishing in the top 40% of the field in a bridge game. I guess it helped that we were among fellow novices that evening, but Mark and I finished high enough to earn our first 0.13 MPs. Needless to say, we went back regularly over the next thirteen months, right up until graduation from Transy. We became known as “the boys.”

When I returned to town a little over six years later, the club had moved. There’d been a big hubbub over the smoking issue and some folks stopped playing when they couldn’t smoke at the table (it’s striking to think how much things have changed in this respect over thirty years, especially in a tobacco state). While one always has more to learn about this magnificent game, I was a fair amount better at it than when I had left in 86.

Such was my bridge obsession in the spring of 85 that I was inspired to write a parody of Don Henley’s current hit. “All She Wants to Do Is Pass” does a decent job of mimicking the original in a few places (“The Stayman Convention—the local bid”) but it could definitely use some polish, and of course, it’s a little funnier if you understand bridge lingo. Nonetheless, here it is for your reading pleasure:

AllSheWantsToDoIsPass

Henley himself is #14 on this week’s show, heading down after peaking at #9. Listening to “All She Wants to Do Is Dance” now, it sounds over the top enough to warrant parody from other realms besides that of a card game.

 

We’re heading into graduation week here at Harris Central, with lots of events to attend and preparation for celebrations to undertake in the coming days (a party at our house on Saturday, and Ben’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor—jointly with a good friend—on Monday). I’ve got a recurring feature to put up later in the week, but there’s a solid chance that posting will be lighter than normal for a little while.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/19/79: Alton McClain and Destiny, “It Must Be Love”

AT40’s switch to a four-hour show at the beginning of October 78 causes problems these days for the stations that rebroadcast shows from the 70s—naturally, almost all of them are allocating only three hours for the program. On those occasions when a countdown from the last fifteen months of the decade is offered, stations have a choice: play just the Top 30/32/33 (depending on the week), or go with an alternate show from an earlier year provided by Premiere. I’ve found maybe four or five stations nationally that will start an hour early to play the first hour of a four-hour show, but my schedule doesn’t always allow me to hear it (it’s a challenge this weekend). I understand why stations don’t want to make allowances for this variance, but it’s hard on the purists out there…

A significant downside to this matter of timing is some nice but now-obscure songs that struggled to make it the lower 30s never or rarely get heard as a part of the series.  Case in point: this week’s #38 tune from one-hit wonders Alton McClain and Destiny, “It Must Be Love,” a disco number whose groove reminds me a bit of Cheryl Lynn’s “Got to Be Real.” It spent just four weeks on the show and topped out at #32 on 6/9. That’s high enough to have made the second hour of the show, but unfortunately, that one was guest-hosted; it won’t ever be offered by Premiere. This means your one shot to hear “It Must Be Love” on a truncated three-hour show will be the next time they feature 6/2, as it leads off Hour #2 at #33.

A bit about McClain: she’s from Baltimore and moved to LA in the mid 70s to try to break into the music biz. She and the two women in Destiny recorded three albums for Polydor but had just the one hit (one of her group-mates, D’Marie Warren, was killed in an auto accident in early 85, a few years after they split). McClain married Skip Scarborough, the producer of their third album. (Scarborough co-wrote “Giving You the Best That I Got” with Anita Baker and one other person, “Lovely Day” with Bill Withers, and has solo credit for “Love Ballad,” a hit for both LTD and George Benson. Not bad.) She’s recorded a couple of gospel albums over the years, runs a foundation in the name of her late husband, and still performs occasionally. I found a two-part story, published this past February, on Electronic Urban Report (a link to Part 1 can be found if you click through), in case you’re interested in learning even more.

A Mirror Speaks, The Reflection Lies

Three months ago I took a gander at the Hot 100 of mid-February of 89. I’m considering making such a venture a quarterly kind of thing this year, which means it’s now time to do it again. Here are some tunes that were hip and happening on the 5/13/89 chart.

#94: Great White, “Once Bitten Twice Shy.”
I’d forgotten exactly when this became a hit—as far as I knew, could have been fall 87, could have been spring 91—can’t say I care. It’d reach #5 ultimately.

There’s way too much hair metal on this chart for my tastes. Just so you know, I’m going to be skipping over offerings from Poison, Warrant, Cinderella, Winger, Def Leppard, and even G ‘n’ R. So there.

#76: Vanessa Willams, “Dreamin’.”
Four-plus years after being pressured to resign from being Miss America, Williams’s pop career began to take off. This was the first of her seven Top 40 hits (four of which went Top 10), and it’s on its way down from #8. Really nice tune.

 

#75: XTC, “Mayor of Simpleton,” #51: Replacements, “I’ll Be You,” #49: Elvis Costello, “Veronica.”
In which the pop charts try to catch up to what was hot in Modern Rock (these were the top three MR cuts six weeks earlier). Alas, only EC would ascend to the Top 40.

#67: Sam Brown, “Stop.”
Torchy track from a British singer who’s just eight months younger than I. Picked up the CD of the same name in the cutout bin a couple years later but never got into it. Listening to it again now, I still don’t quite feel the love for her voice. Made it just to #65.

 

#55: Benny Mardones, “Into the Night.”
Okay, I was just sixteen years old the first time this was a hit, so I might have been willing to cut Mardones some slack, provided he was twenty or thereabouts. But he was 31! No thank you. It’s not clear at all to me why this merited a re-release nine years later—though I know that sort of thing was quite the rage at the time—or why it would climb to #20 the second time around. This was the highest debuter on the Hot 100 this week.

#53: R.E.M., “Stand.”
I know this video isn’t responsible for the return to respectability for line dancing but it seemed like it at the time. On the other hand, maybe this and “What I Am” brought the wah-wah pedal back to prominence. Falling from a #6 peak.

 

#50 and #19: Fine Young Cannibals, “Good Thing” and “She Drives Me Crazy.”
Two #1 songs, future and past, from the more successful band to emerge from The (English) Beat. The single from The Raw and the Cooked I may like best, though, is “Don’t Look Back.”

#47: Cyndi Lauper, “I Drove All Night.”
Lauper’s last Top 40 appearance; reached #6.  I’d rate her version below that of Orbison’s but ahead of Celine’s.

#39: One 2 Many, “Downtown.”
The most glittering lost gem on the chart. It’s by a Norwegian trio that released just one album before scattering to the wind. I heard it a few times thirty years ago and liked it then; may like it more now. Only got two spots higher.

 

#36: John Cougar Mellencamp, “Pop Singer.”
Big Daddy was the last album of the Cougar era, and “Pop Singer” was its only Top 40 hit (got to #15), but man, is “Jackie Brown” (which reached #48 in August) a great song, or what?

#30: Outfield, “Voices of Babylon.”
Title track of the British trio’s third album, almost to its peak of #25. A needed change-of-sound from their earlier singles (though I do love “Say It Isn’t So”).

#23: Neneh Cherry, “Buffalo Stance.”
Len O’Kelly offered his paean to this amazing track at the end of April; it’s one of my absolute favorites from this chart. The “wind on my face, sound in my mind” section toward the end of the song blows me away every time. On its way to #3.

 

#20: Lita Ford & Ozzy Osbourne, “Close My Eyes Forever.”
I’ll take time to highlight this metal ballad. I get its appeal, but I just can’t take it nearly so seriously as Lita and post-peak Ozzy seem to. Reached #8.

#13: Living Colour, “Cult of Personality.”
Now THIS is metal I can appreciate. Vernon Reid is laying down some mighty hot licks and Corey Glover is telling us like it is. We’re thirty years out from this warning about being sucked in by charismatic and/or autocratic leaders and seem not to be heeding it very well these days. At its peak position.

 

#8: Michael Damian, “Rock On.”
Uhh… Soap opera star records sterile, soulless cover of one of the classics of my elementary school days and zooms to #1. Pass. Real hard.

#5: Donny Osmond, “Soldier of Love.”
He’s back after a thirteen year absence. Pretty stunning to realize he was just 31 at this point. Even though this is pretty lousy (“Sacred Emotion” was decently better), I’m talking about Donny so that I can ignore the two New Kids on the Block songs on the chart. Made it to #2.

#1 Bon Jovi, “I’ll Be There for You.”
Mentioned only so you don’t have to look up number one for yourself. These thirteen words I swear to you…

Pretty lame ending to this post, I know, but that’s the risk you take with pop music in 89.

Voice from the Past

Dinner at home for the three of us hasn’t been a completely regular thing these last few months. Most of that has been related to school activities of one sort or another, but with my year at an end and Ben down to just his last few days, we’ve actually sat down at the usual time these last three nights. Conversation this evening wound up starting on the topic of music: I told Ben and Martha what I’d learned about Gloria Jones and Marc Bolan after hearing one of Jones’s songs on the radio last evening (I had had no clue). Noting that she was also the first one to record “Tainted Love” turned talk to describing to Ben what ‘new wave’ music was. And so on. If you’d been there, it would make sense how I ultimately arrived at discussing some of my father’s foibles, but I ended by saying, “…even so, I’d love to be able to sit down and have a conversation with him right now.”

As dishes are being rinsed and leftovers put away, I play bad role model and check email on my phone. I notice that Warren has just posted something on his blog. Warren’s an entertaining storyteller and the first couple of lines look interesting, so I begin reading it aloud. The post concerns his history of playing in various musical groups in his younger days, his interest in being a drummer, and how he brought a certain panache to playing timpani in the Wind Ensemble at Transy. It feels like the article is meant to be spoken, with plenty of guideposts for inflection and emphasis. Various turns of phrase lead to smiles all around, and I continue on without pausing to look ahead at where things are going.

Suddenly, I’m brought into the story. Yes, I was also a performer at the concert at the center of the post, but still I wasn’t expecting to receive mention. And as I keep reading to Martha and Ben, after the show my father appears, offering Warren one of his tried-and-true witticisms in praise of my friend’s style. Even if it’s not the back-and-forth for which I had wished not ten minutes earlier, I do hear Dad’s voice, and I become a puddle.

It’s only one small piece of an article that’s well worth your while for myriad other reasons, but I’m still grateful to have Dad remembered, to hear others’ stories of their interactions with him, no matter how minor. Thanks, Warren—I needed that, even if I didn’t know it.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/7/83: Duran Duran, “Rio”

Sundry notes and oddities from the chart featured in this past weekend’s 80s rebroadcast:

–This was the second issue of Billboard following the departure of Bill Wardlow as Director of Charts, and changes are already beginning to appear. Gone are the lengthy stays at relatively low peak positions (e.g., six weeks at #8 for “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart),” six weeks at #17 for “Allentown”); in are drops without even a second week at their apex. Songs on this show that moved up this week but will drop the next are “So Wrong” (#30), “It Might Be You” (#25), “Even Now” (#12), “I Won’t Hold You Back” (#10), and—definitely demonstrating there’s a new boss in town—“Jeopardy” (#2).

–I pointed out on Twitter this past week that the four songs departing from the show had occupied positions #37-40 on 4/30/83. Without doing a lick of research, I’m guessing it’d been a long time, if ever, since that had happened. And it wasn’t like they fell a long way: Billboard had them in spots #41 and #43-45 this time.

–The other notable thing about this show is the seven acts that appear with two songs each. Don’t know how to even begin determining if this is a record, but it feels like it could be. The seven, in order of first appearance on the show: Lionel Richie, Culture Club, Duran Duran, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Styx, Journey, and Michael Jackson. The two Hall & Oates songs appear back-to-back (the Journey tracks have only one song between them). How likely is it that we’d have at least one pair of songs by the same artist appear consecutively in a situation like this? My intuition is more likely than one would first think, at least in the 5-10% range. I’m going to put my day job hat on and get to work on it; I’ll let you know the results.

Three weeks later, only Styx would be represented multiply (though MJ had both #41 and #42).

–This is another AT40 for which I constructed an iPod playlist more than a decade ago. While it’s not quite up there with 1/29/77 or 4/21/84, it might be sitting at #3 in terms of most-played and most-enjoyed.

If I had to pick my ten favorites on the show (I won’t take the time to rank them), I guess I’d go with “Whirly Girl,” “I Couldn’t Say No,” “Welcome to Heartlight,” “Time (Clock of the Heart),” “Rio,” “She Blinded Me with Science,” “Overkill,” “Der Kommissar,” “Come On Eileen,” and “Let’s Dance.” Laura Branigan, Styx (both), and Greg Kihn wouldn’t be too far behind.

I’ve found that Spring 83 is one of my favorite periods of popular music. You can take a look at the whole Hot 100 here and see all the amazing stuff that never sniffed the Top 40.

Next week’s 80s show is yet another good one that I assembled for my own listening back in the day.

I’m sorely tempted to call “Rio” Duran Duran’s single best song. Yes, it’s one more piece of evidence that Simon LeBon can’t carry a tune, but it sure seems the boys are having fun and aren’t taking themselves too seriously. I guess it’s a combination of the driving beat, melody, that bass and sax instrumental interlude three minutes in, and ebullient ending that push it so high for me. It’s #16 on this show, two spots shy of its peak—how was this not a Top 5 tune?

Last Photo Together

It’s early August 2014, and Erlanger Christian Church has scheduled the folks at Lifetouch to come in and take pictures for a new edition of the church directory. By this point, Mom isn’t much of a morning person, so she called in and signed up for an early-to-mid afternoon time. There’s about a week left before my work schedule starts filling up again for the upcoming academic year, so it’s easy for me to drive up and take her to the church.

While we sit waiting in the hallway of the education wing, I see some folks I know from my years of attendance (I visit less often than annually these days). We chat a little, mostly catching them up on my life and family. Then it’s Mom’s turn.  We go into the gathering area where the camera and lights are set up, Mom slips off the tubing attached to her portable oxygen machine, and allows the photographer to arrange her arms and adjust the angle of her chin. He takes several photos and then we move across the hall to review them.

They aren’t very good. Mom has always complained that the camera shows no love for her. She’s not right about this in general, but maybe she is this time.  While we dither over what to do, a moment of grace arrives–the photographer offers to have her sit for another round. This creates delays for the people who’ve since arrived and are waiting in line, but no one complains (for this I’m grateful).

Perhaps in an effort to get Mom to relax, the photographer invites me to join her for a couple of shots. He even takes a couple of me by myself. Whatever his intent, it works. She has a couple of nice options now, and there’s a good one of the two of us.

Yes, he’s sensed a sales opportunity, but I don’t care. We purchase some of the pictures and then head off to Frisch’s for a late lunch. Mom won’t return to the church she grew up in and loved until the day of her funeral, seven months later.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love the picture.