April 2, 1983

April 4, 2012

The hoops season has ended.

Yeah, there’s still the remainder of the NBA season and the interminable playoff march, but that can’t match the tension of its high school or college equivilant.

I’ve gotten to see my alma mater win a national championship, but that wasn’t as memorable as the run our high school team had in ’83. Twenty-six wins, most of them in dominant fashion…

…two losses, both by one point, both on the opponent’s court to a school that went on to win the state title that season.

9our state didn’t divide schools into classes based on enrollment – it was one title, period)

The school that ended our season was about four times the size of ours.

Our team was loaded and led by an all-state small forward who was also a state champion high jumper during track season. Though he was entirely capable of dunking in games, one of the few times he did that season was on the last play in the regionals.

It left the margin of the loss to the eventual state champs as one, single point.

(at that time, there was no three-point shot that would have given us the chance to tie)

Twenty-nine years ago, a lot of us were still in the doldrums from that loss several weeks before. I helped muddle through it with music and I was well familiar – or would be – with the eight songs that were making their debut on Billboard‘s Hot 100…

U2 – New Year’s Day
from War (1983)
(debuted #90, peaked #53, 12 weeks on chart)

U2’s first hit single couldn’t even crack the Top 40 in the US and, at the time, I rarely heard New Year’s Day on the radio. I do know that I heard of U2 from my buddy Bosco who was continually turning us on to new music.

(of course, at the time we thought Bono was pronounced like Cher’s ex-partner)

But come that autumn, I discovered U2’s music for myself with the live Under A Blood Red Sky and the newly-minted 97X. And though War hasn’t aged as gracefully as some of the band’s catalog, the adrenaline rush of New Year’s Day is essential.

Saga – Wind Him Up
from Worlds Apart (1983)
(debuted #89, peaked #64, 8 weeks on chart)

I know that they’ve released a lot of albums during their career, but the Canadian band Saga didn’t have much success here in the US. No doubt best known for On The Loose, I much preferred the follow-up, Wind Him Up.

And, it was always fun for us to mimic lead singer Michael Sadler saying, “No luck today.”

Scandal – Love’s Got A Line On You
from Scandal (1982)
(debuted #87, peaked #59, 13 weeks on chart)

Sure, everyone could hum The Warrior (and picture its Kabuki-themed video) in 1984, but Scandal was well known to us a summer earlier when Goodbye To You and Love’s Got A Line On You were radio staples.

The former was not to be trifled with, a straight-ahead kiss-off with some New Wave sass, but Love’s Got A Line On You was a mid-tempo groove on which tough-chick singer Patty Smyth seemed slightly more vulnerable.

(neither song reinvented fire, but both were ridiculously catchy)

Modern English – I Melt With You
from After The Snow (1982)
(debuted #85, peaked #78, 10 weeks on chart)

In 1983, I Melt With You was a minor pop hit with an undercurrent of Cold War fatalism.

Thirty years later, my mom would recognize the song from its use to sell Burger King and Hershey’s chocolate.

And though the music of the ’80s has been much maligned, the dizzingly romantic I Melt With You is as perfect a pop song as any that came before or after it.

Champaign – Try Again
from Modern Heart (1983)
(debuted #83, peaked #23, 20 weeks on chart)

There was only one R&B station available on the dial within reception and I didn’t spend much time tuned into it. But, I heard Champaign’s laid back Try Again a lot on the pop and soft rock stations. Its mellow groove wasn’t too different from their hit How ’bout Us from a couple years earlier.

ZZ Top – Gimme All Your Lovin’
from Eliminator (1983)
(debuted #79, peaked #37, 12 weeks on chart)

I knew little of ZZ Top when Eliminator was released aside from I Thank You, which I knew and loved from hearing it on the bowling alley jukebox. Though Gimme All You Lovin’ wasn’t a mammoth hit, it was all over the radio that spring and summer as Eliminator – propelled by a series of videos – became one of the biggest albums of the year.

Irene Cara – Flashdance…What A Feeling
from Flashdance soundtrack (1983)
(debuted #77, peaked #1, 25 weeks on chart)

I saw Flashdance at the drive-in with Footloose sometime during the summer of ’83. I thought that the movie – despite being a major hit – was uneventful and the song – despite being a major hit – to be equally uninspiring, but, as I was neither a dancer nor a welder, I might not have been the target demographic.

(more notable to me – as a fifteen year-old boy at the time – was Flashdance star Jennifer Beals)

Duran Duran – Rio
from Rio (1983)
(debuted #58, peaked #14, 13 weeks on chart)

Duran Duran hooked me the first time I heard Hungry Like The Wolf. The song seemed to be always on the radio during the first few months of 1983 and the song’s video a staple on the fledgling MTV.

(or so I’ve read as our small town wouldn’t get the channel ’til the following summer)

Q102, the station of choice for me and my friends, was playing Rio well before Hungry Like The Wolf had worn out its welcome. Though I much preferred the latter, Rio‘s manic charm proved to be irresistible as well and made its parent album one that most of us owned.

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The Colonel

March 17, 2010

Growing up in a basketball-mad state and half an hour away from the school that inspired the movie Hoosiers, this time of year meant the culmination of the hoops season with the state-wide tournament.

In fact, Sports Illustrated devoted a feature story to my high school’s team during the last open tournament in ’97. That team had been ranked third in the state and, with the tournament being divvied into classes the following season (a highly contentious and unfortunate decision), the team from my hometown had become the darlings of fans statewide who hoped for one more run from a small school at the state title.

Fifteen years earlier, I was in junior high and the high school team replaced a beloved coach that had won a couple sectional titles. The new coach was greeted with the same open arms and small-town hospitality that Gene Hackman found in Hickory. But, he won and soon all was right with the world.

My freshman year, the team was loaded, led by a small forward who could have played Division I ball, opted for a smaller, Division III school and was an honorable mention All-American.

(dude was also a state-champion high jumper)

We lost two games all season.

Two.

Both games were to team from a school five times our size who had made several, recent trips to the Final Four. The first time was on their court, by a point, during the regular season.

The second time was on their court, by a point, with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line.

The team which beat us went on to win the state title.

It was a fun trip to experience up close and it locked in the once-suspect coach as entenched. Two years later, I had the coach for a teacher – geometry class.

My buddy Bosco quickly dubbed him The Colonel – “Bobby Knight’s called The General, so…”

I’m not sure if it was an homage or a dig

(with Bosco, it was sometimes hard to tell)

Despite the drowsy hour – it was first period – we looked forward to The Colonel’s class. Bosco would often side-track the preceedings by bringing up the idea of dating The Colonel’s oldest daughter, a freshman.

Bosco was far more Spiccoli than scoundrel, so The Colonel played along and the two would good-naturedly banter. The Colonel often countered our antics by immortalizing us on his exams as stick figures with identifying characteristics (my stick figure had long hair, Bosco’s sported checkerboard Vans, another friend had oversized glasses, etc.).

The Colonel, like many of our teachers, was often subjected to having his house pelted with eggs on the weekends by disgruntled students. I’d see Bosco in school on Monday morning. He lived across the street from The Colonel and he’d tell of coming home in the early morning hours to find him in his yard.

“He was in his robe, hosing egg off his siding. He shook his fist at me.”

“Really?”

“No. He’s The Colonel, man. He waved.”

The Colonel was a good teacher. He seemed to enjoy it and, more so than most of our teachers, he seemed to remember that, though we were almost adult-sized, we were still kids.

I think he still was, too.

Here are some of the songs I remember during that run by The Colonel’s team in March of ’83…

Def Leppard – Photograph
from Pyromania

There are few acts that seemed to explode overnight to the degree that the Leps did with Pyromania. I’m thinking that I might have heard Bringin’ On The Heartache from their previous album, but, if I did, it wasn’t a song that got more than a smattering of airplay.

But Photograph launched like a rocket. It was as though I heard it for the first time and – twenty minutes later – the song (and Union Jack t-shirts and shorts) were everywhere. It was just one of those songs that seemed so obvious that it would be mammoth and it still sounds stellar.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Change Of Heart
from Long After Dark

I was non-plussed by You Got Lucky (though the video was pretty cool at the time), but there was something rough and tumble about Change Of Heart that I found far more appealing. I’d argue that the song is one of Petty’s most underrated hits.

Saga – Wind Him Up
from Worlds Apart

I know that they’ve released a lot of albums during their career, but the Canadian band Saga didn’t have much success here in the US. No doubt best known for On The Loose, I much preferred the follow-up, Wind Him Up.

And, it was always fun for us to mimic lead singer Michael Sadler saying, “No luck today.”

Frida – I Know There’s Something Going On
from Something’s Going On

I’m sure that, initially, I had no idea that the voice on I Know There’s Something Going On belonged to one of the women from ABBA. And, I doubt at the time that I recognized the drumming on the song to be Phil Collins (although I’d soon become familiar with the cavernous sound that was his trademark).

Instead, I loved the thunderous sound and omnious vibe of the song. And, in retrospect, it’s odd to think of Frida’s lone hit getting played on the rock stations playing Petty, Saga, and Def Leppard that would have never touched ABBA.

As Bosco would have no doubt said, it was a one-eighty.