November 13, 1982

November 13, 2011

As we closed in on Thanksgiving in 1982, I imagine that it seemed as though summer had never happened and never come ’round again. We were housebound more as raw days of wind and cold, stinging rain were a November staple in our part of the Midwest.

For one of the first Novembers of my life, I had the radio to help battle the restlessness of being a kid confined to quarters. Casey Kasem and American Top 40 was a drowsy weekend morning staple.

But there were sixty songs beyond the ones Casey counted down each week and, though I had heard him reference Billboard magazine and the Hot 100, I don’t think that I’d ever seen either.

(the magazine wouldn’t appear in the racks at the town drug store – a small, family-owned outlet on a downtown corner – for another five or six years)

I was – listening to as much radio as I was – familar with a lot of the songs on the Hot 100 including the ten that debuted on that chart twenty-nine years ago…

Sonny Charles – Put It In A Magazine
from The Sun Still Shines (1982)
(debuted #90, peaked #40, 14 weeks on chart)

Put It In A Magazine might have debuted on the Hot 100 as folks were making Thanksgiving plans in 1982, but the song by R&B singer Sonny Charles wouldn’t reach the Top 40 until the following February. I have no doubt that the only time I heard the song was during its brief time on American Top 40.

It didn’t appeal to me at the time, but now I kind of dig the laid-back groove of the song.

Robert Plant – Pledge Pin
from Pictures At Eleven (1982)
(debuted #89, peaked #74, 5 weeks on chart)

Most weeks, the Sunday newspaper would include a list of the week’s Top Ten singles and albums. I vividly recall seeing Robert Plant’s Pictures At Eleven listed and being puzzled as to who this fellow was and how his album could be in the Top Ten if I wasn’t hearing its songs on the radio.

Of course, I had heard of Led Zeppelin and I knew a few of the band’s song even if I didn’t know the name of their lead singer at the time. When Plant’s next solo album, The Principle Of Moments, arrived a year later, I had begun to gravite to the album rock stations on the dial and I was far more knowledgable about Percy.

Scandal – Goodbye To You
from Scandal (1982)
(debuted #86, peaked #65, 11 weeks on chart)

Scandal might have released their self-titled debut EP in ’82, but I don’t recall hearing Goodbye To You (or its follow-up, Love’s Got A Line On You) on the radio until the following spring.

Goodbye To You might not have been a major hit, but the song – a straight-ahead kiss-off with some New Wave sass – was ridiculously catchy and lead singer Patty Smyth’s vocals made it clear that her affections were not to be trifled with.

Adam Ant – Goody Two Shoes
from Friend Or Foe (1982)
(debuted #85, peaked #12, 21 weeks on chart)

When my friends and I first heard the manic Goody Two Shoes, we thought it was hysterical. The fact that it was sung by someone called Adam Ant only added to our amusement.

(his pre-solo incarnation Adam & The Ants had not found their way to our part of the Midwest)

However, the song was like a sugar buzz to me and it went from fun to grating quickly.

A Flock Of Seagulls – Space Age Love Song
from A Flock Of Seagulls (1982)
(debuted #83, peaked #30, 18 weeks on chart)

Even folks who lived through the ’80s probably remember A Flock Of Seagulls for no more than their debut hit I Ran (So Far Away), which was a Top Ten single, and lead singer Mike Score’s gravity-defying hair.

That’s too bad as I thought that the band’s blend of spacey synthesizers, effects-laden guitar, and sci-fi lyrics made for an engaging and interesting sound that stood out from a lot of their contemporaries and merited more than a footnote.

Though it wasn’t as successful as I Ran, I preferred A Space Age Love Song from the moment I heard the full album. The song is breathtakingly wooshy and, at the time, it had a sonic vibe that sounded as if it might indeed be perfect for a romantic encounter in a future filled with jet packs and laser blasters.

Steve Winwood – Valerie
from Talking Back To The Night (1982)
(debuted #79, peaked #70, 4 weeks on chart)

In 1982, I would have only known Steve Winwood for While You See A Chance, his hit from the previous year, and I certainly didn’t hear Valerie until it was remixed and became a Top Ten hit five years later following his comeback album Back In The High Life.

It’s a pleasant enough song that’s a bit more welcome to me now as opposed to 1987 when the ubiqitousness of Winwood’s music had left me a bit fatigued and unreceptive.

The Motels – Forever Mine
from All Four One (1982)
(debuted #77, peaked #60, 8 weeks on chart)

Martha Davis and The Motels had notched a breakthrough hit with Only The Lonely during the summer of ’82, but neither of the follow-up singles – Take The L and Forever Mine – managed to get much attention.

Though it’s hardly as memorable as the melodramatic and noirish Only The Lonely, the sprightly Forever Mine reveals a lighter, more playful side of the band.

(and I still haven’t bothered to see if my liner notes were used for a planned repackaging of the band’s two albums prior to All Four One)

Michael McDonald – I Gotta Try
from If That’s What It Takes (1982)
(debuted #76, peaked #44, 11 weeks on chart)

I’ve never had the affection for Michael McDonald, either solo or as a Doobie Brother, that apparently the rest of the world has for the singer.

(and it’s not just because he once almost rear-ended me in his convertible – at least I’m almost positive it was him)

But I do like I Gotta Try. It’s got a bit of pep (but not too much).

Air Supply – Two Less Lonely People In The World
from Now And Forever (1982)
(debuted #72, peaked #38, 14 weeks on chart)

Air Supply was a pop music juggernaut during the first few years of the ’80s when I was becoming acquainted with the radio. So, I heard hits like Lost In Love, All Out Of Love, and The One That You Love and I heard them often.

The songs were breezy and light and, at that age, I assumed that these Aussies had love figured out since it was the subject of every song. I’m sure that I surmised their music could offer me valuable insight into charming the ladies.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – You Got Lucky
from Long After Dark (1982)
(debuted #58, peaked #20, 18 weeks on chart)

Though I liked Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – at least the few songs that I knew like Refugee and The Waiting – I was more enamored by the video for You Got Lucky than the song. The song that really caught my ear from hearing Long After Dark repeatedly at my buddy Beej’s house was Change Of Heart.

Over the next decade, Petty would earn a place amongst my favorites and I’d grow more fond of You Got Lucky (though the grittier Change Of Heart still appeals to me more)

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Thank You For The Music, Mona

September 30, 2010

As I entered seventh grade, the decade of the ’80s was less than ten months old and music was something in which I had minimal interest.

On the first day of school that September, I learned that I had been assigned a new teacher for my homeroom class.

She couldn’t have been more than twenty-five, a young blonde female in a school in which half of the teachers were nuns.

Really, really old nuns.

Our town was small and the kids in my seventh grade class were kids I had known since we’d started school. We had never had a teacher like Mrs. Winston – so young and so blonde.

It’s no surprise that the guys in our class took slack-jawed note of her, but so did the girls. She could have stepped from the glossy cover of a magazine.

She looked like the The Beach Boys’ California Girls sounds.

She’d wear a green sweater dress with knee-high, tan boots and little make-up.

She was a natural beauty.

I’m not sure where Mona was from, but, if I recall her voice, there was a slight drawl that makes me think Texas would be a good guess. And she was married to an attorney.

My male classmates and I were reaching an age at which hormones were taking the first hostages. Our locker room now sounded like a locker room.

The merits of the girls in our class were often discussed, but as most of us had no experience with those of the double-x chromosomes, much of the banter was merely speculative.

And though less-accessible women such as Cheryl Tiegs, the actresses on Three’s Company, or the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders might also enter into our conversations, Mona never did.

Maybe it was because she was so geniunely kind and, unlike most adults we knew, treated us kids as intelligent beings.

Maybe it was because she was so casual and real.

Though my classmates and I were well aware of Mona’s beauty, I don’t recall any of us viewing her with anything more than respectful awe.

But, for more than her aesthetic virtues, Mona was memorable for providing fuel for the small flicker of interest I had in music.

As September morphed into October, more and more recesses were spent stuck inside as a grey rain fell outside. Mona brought in a turntable and encouraged us to bring in our albums. So, as we were all scattered throughout the classroom during those rained-out recesses, there was constant jockeying to play DJ.

I owned little music at the time – a couple albums that had been gifts, maybe a dozen 45s – but as I played tabletop football with friends, I was hearing Queen’s The Game, AC/DC’s Back In Black, and The Cars’ Panorama.

Most of the albums played were current and most had a song or two that had been hits. Though I didn’t know much music, I wasn’t totally in the weeds.

Soon, being trapped indoors at lunch wasn’t such a bummer and, for the first time, I was actively listening to music.

By the time the school year ended, I was hooked.

Mona – her taste in music was light rock. So, here are a quartet of songs from some of the albums she brought in for those recess listening sessions from thirty autumns ago…

Christopher Cross – Sailing
from Christopher Cross

I don’t think I would take the plunge and – like some five million other people in the States – buy a copy of Christopher Cross until months later (perhaps with money received at Christmas), but Sailing had been the song of the summer and I couldn’t hear it enough.

Ride Like The The Wind, Sailing, and a couple more hits that I’d heard on the radio led me to purchase the cassette, but the fact that it was a favorite of Mona’s no doubt added to the album’s cachet for me.

Hall & Oates – Kiss On My List
from Voices

Although Kiss On My List wouldn’t become a hit (and a massive one at that) until the following spring, I recall that the song was the one that Mona referred to her as her favorite when she played it for us in the fall of ’80.

From the stutter-step opening, Kiss On My List hooks me when I hear it. It’s lighthearted, playful, and has a fantastic chorus.

Air Supply – Every Woman In The World
from Lost In Love

Like Christopher Cross, Australia’s Air Supply arrived on the scene in 1980 and had already notched a couple of huge radio hits with Lost In Love and All Out Of Love by the time we were closing in on autumn.

I liked the group. The songs were breezy and light and, at the age of twelve, I assumed that these Aussies had love figured out since it was the subject of every song. I’m sure that I surmised their music could offer me valuable insight into charming the ladies.

AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long
from Back In Black

On the other side of the Australian coin…Back In Black wasn’t an album that Mona brought in, but she didn’t keep us from playing it when one of my classmates dropped it onto the turntable.

I’m not so sure that she dug the album, but millions of the other humans did.

(and, like Air Supply, AC/DC had advice for us about the ladies)

Did people at the time realize what a perfect rock song that AC/DC had given the world with You Shook Me All Night Long? It’s still an arresting three and a half minutes of bravado, lust, and adrenaline.


Little. Yellow. Different.

May 24, 2010

Thirty years ago, my friends and I were still living in a pinball world – pay your quarter, release the plunger, and hope you didn’t watch the ball drain straight through the flippers as you furiously and helplessly caused them to pummel nothing but air.

Some of us had primitive home systems such as Pong, but our experience with video games was limited.

Space Invaders had been released in 1978, but none of us had played the game until the new decade had arrived. Sometime as the winter snows melted in early 1980, Space Invaders appeared, sitting there against the wall near the small music department in the rear of the Danners Five & Ten.

It quickly became the place to find most of the kids our age after school and on weekends, pouring quarters down the machine’s gullet.

Later, that summer, Asteroids appeared, nestled next to the pinball machines and near the pool tables at the bowling alley and getting a chance to play was about as likely as getting a table at the trendiest bistro in Hollywood.

On May 22, 1980, we were likely counting down the final days of the school year.

Some ten thousand miles away in Japan, twelve-year olds there were being introduced to a video game that would soon be separating us from our hard-earned allowances and change how we would waste our free time for the next several years, ushering in the video game era.

It was Pac-Man.

(actually, it was Puck-Man, but – upon export to the States – someone had the foresight to realize that young vandals such as we would likely alter the “P” to an “F” to the chagrin of more upright citizens)

The first time that I ever heard of Pac-Man was a year or so later when a new girl, Molly, arrived at our school. Sitting next to me in class one day, she began recounting some plot involving a jaundiced little fellow, babbling about a maze, ghosts, eating dots, and fruit.

As video games were not a part of our consciousness despite Space Invaders and Asteroids, I thought that she was describing some movie she had seen.

“We should play some time,” she suggested.

I nodded, having no idea what the hell she was talking about.

Molly and I never did share a game of Pac-Man. The game soon arrived at the bowling alley, but she had been recruited into the group of A-list girls in our class and I was, on a good day, strictly a B-list kid.

However, my friends and I spent a lot of time trying to master the game and memorize the patterns and, with its phenomenal success, new video games began to sprout like weeds. Each would cause initial excitement – “You have to check out Defender” – before being supplanted by the next big thing until there were enough of them to be herded into an gaming menagerie.

Here, in a belated birthday nod to Pac-Man, are four songs from the charts during the week it was introduced to the world. I wasn’t listening to much music, yet, but I might have heard them playing on the juke box at the bowling alley as I played pinball, hoping for a chance to get a shot at the Asteroids machine…

The Brothers Johnson – Stomp!
from Light Up The Night

Smooth and funky, The Brothers Johnson’s Stomp! has an irresistible, anthemic chorus. Disco might have been dead by the end of the ’70s, but it didn’t keep the song from being a mammoth hit during the spring of ’80.

Air Supply – Lost In Love
from Lost In Love

The Top 40 station that I listened to in the first few years of the ’80s was relatively unhindered by its format. They’d play Rush’s Tom Sawyer or something old by Van Halen. There was a lot of Journey and Styx.

But there was also the hits and hits in the early ’80s meant Air Supply.

Lost In Love is pleasant enough, a bit mawkish, but breezy and engaging. I think I thought was Starland Vocal Band when I first heard it.

(I hadn’t listened to much music up to that point)

Billy Joel – You May Be Right
from Glass Houses

Billy Joel seemed edgy to me in 1980.

Maybe it was because when I thought of him I thought of songs like Big Shot or Sometimes A Fantasy before I thought of She’s Always A Woman or Honesty.

And, at eleven or twelve the line about dirty jokes in You May Be Right seemed rather adult.

Christopher Cross – Ride Like The Wind
from Christopher Cross

Early on, I noted the prominent place that Christopher Cross’ debut occupied in my childhood.

And I really have nothing more to add.