January 16, 1982

January 15, 2011

Several folk whose music blogs are regular reads for me frequently make it their business to dissect and discuss the songs from the music charts for a particular week from the past.

Favorites such as The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, Echoes In The Wind, Songs Of The Cholera King, and 70s Music Mayhem are likely known to anyone who stops by here, too.

That last one – 70s Music Mayhem – is a recent discovery that is impressive in its painstaking attention to detail in breaking down the songs that happened to debut on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart for a given week from the ’70s.

Like a lot of music fans, Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 was appointment listening for several years of my childhood and, at some point, I’m sure that I stumbled across Billboard‘s Hot 100 posted in a record store.

Years later, Billboard would be a regular read and even an employer, but, in the early ’80s, what lurked beyond the forty songs Casey would count down each week was a mystery.

It’s 2011, though, and in this age of enlightenment, a good portion of Billboard‘s back issues are available to peruse online.

So, borrowing a bit from some of those blogs I’ve mentioned and to give myself a source of material when I’m not not pondering something mundane in particular, I thought that I’d take a page from one of those charts from yesteryear and chew on it.

I’m not sure when I first heard an episode of American Top 40, but I do know that I became a regular listener in January of ’82. At the time, I was halfway through the final year of junior high and music was becoming my favorite waste of time.

On a frigid, snowy Saturday morning, surfing the radio dial, I happened across Casey counting down the hits on WRIA, an adult contemporary station – as I recall – out of Richmond, Indiana.

From perusing those Billboard back issues, I suspect I was listening to the countdown from the week of January 16, 1982 when the following songs debuted on the Hot 100…

Soft Cell – Tainted Love
from Non-Stop Erotic Café
(debuted #90, peaked #8, 43 weeks on chart)

There were only a couple of songs that debuted this week which I didn’t immediately remember. The moody ’80s synth-pop classic Tainted Love isn’t one.

(though it didn’t reach radio stations in our area until the summer)

Skyy – Call Me
from Skyy Line
(debuted #87, peaked #26, 11 weeks on chart)

Call Me was a #1 on the R&B charts which would have meant nothing to me and it didn’t get played on the pop stations I was listening to.

It’s a perfectly fine dance-funk number with a bit of guitar that makes me think of Ray Parker, Jr’s The Other Woman from that summer.

Smokey Robinson – Tell Me Tomorrow
from Yes It’s You Lady
(debuted #86, peaked #33, 12 weeks on chart)

And though I wasn’t listening to R&B stations, I did, at least, know Smokey Robinson for the suave Being With You, which had been a huge hit the year before.

Tell Me Tomorrow is a mid-tempo crooner that wouldn’t have appealed to me then, but I kind of dig now.

The Oak Ridge Boys – Bobbie Sue
from The Oak Ridge Boys
(debuted #85, peaked #12, 14 weeks on chart)

The radio station in my hometown flipped from rock to country about a year or so before I began to truly care. My only interest in the station was for school closing anouncements on January mornings.

I am willing to listen to any of the dozens of Toto songs named for women. As for The Oak Ridge Boys, Elvira was more than enough and, in restrospect, I consider it karma that a friend from college once drunkenly yanked on the beard of William Lee Golden and asked if it was real.

(or so I heard)

Chilliwack – I Believe
from Wanna Be A Star
(debuted #83, peaked #33, 11 weeks on chart)

Speaking of Toto, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of folks would guess that the groovy, mellow I Believe might have been that band. It wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Toto IV.

Though it’s a perfectly amiable song, I Believe isn’t the ridiculously catchy My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone), the Chilliwack hit that had preceded it.

AC/DC – Let’s Get It Up
from For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)
(debuted #81, peaked #44, 9 weeks on chart)

I’m glad that we live in a world where there is AC/DC and I think that Bon Scott was amazing, but I listened to Let’s Get It Up three times this morning shopping and it left me with no impression.

Cliff Richard – Daddy’s Home
from Wired For Sound
(debuted #80, peaked #23, 13 weeks on chart)

At the time Daddy’s Home was a hit, I thought it was music for old people. I’m sure that while it was in the Top 40, Casey told me that it had originally been a hit for Shep & The Limeliters in 1961, but, here were are almost thirty years later and I still couldn’t tell you if I’ve heard that version.

John Denver And Plácido Domingo – Perhaps Love
from Seasons Of The Heart
(debuted #79, peaked #59, 7 weeks on chart)

Like a lot of kids in the ’70s, I thought John Denver was pretty groovy. This long-haired fellow in the floppy hat, traipsing around the Rockies with bear cubs and denim-clad hippie chicks on television specials was, in my five-year old mind, The Man.

Perhaps Love arrived well past the time when John Denver ruled the world. I didn’t know the song ’til I listened to it and…well…it might have been pleasant enough had it been Denver solo, but Plácido Domingo just doesn’t work for me.

The Police – Spirits In The Material World
from Ghost In The Machine
(debuted #76, peaked #11, 13 weeks on chart)

I know some listeners began to turn on The Police with Ghost In The Machine, but the band was one of the first to earn the unwavering allegiance of me and several of my closest friends. The album’s first hit had been the stunning – though angst-riddled – pop song Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic and I can understand why the follow-up wasn’t as big.

It is darker and less inviting, but I’ve always loved the moody, distant Spirits In The Material World and it’s so brief – less than three minutes – that I’ve never tired of hearing it.

Stevie Wonder – That Girl
from Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium I
(debuted #72, peaked #4, 18 weeks on chart)

Stevie Wonder yearns for an unattainable girl who knows that she’s unattainable.

Just as I began listening to music, the legendary Stevie Wonder was wrapping up a decade and change of being a musical force, both commercially and critically. Since those months when I’d hear That Girl half a dozen times each day on one station or another, Wonder has released just a half dozen albums.

Journey – Open Arms
from Escape
(debuted #57, peaked #2, 18 weeks on chart)

There might not have been one junior high or high school kid in my hometown that didn’t own a copy of Journey’s Escape in late 1981.

I had no more than a handful of albums at the time, but one of them was a cassette of Escape. Then, in the winter months of ’82, Journey’s über-ballad became the biggest hit from one of the iconic rock albums of the early ’80s.

(though, even then, Mother, Father, which preceded Open Arms on side two, was the ballad that I’d rewind)


Waiting For The Howl

September 12, 2010

The poster creeped me out – the slightly sepia tint that almost gave it the appearance of a photograph and the inhuman creature splashing through the shallow water.

Below the movie’s title was a tagline that, like the poster, was simple but made it truly chilling.

A true story.

I hadn’t thought of the movie in years and years, but, The Legend Of Boggy Creek bobbed to the surface of the subconscious a couple weeks ago. It would seem from perusing the internet that the nearly forty-year old flick has maintained a prescence in the psyche of a lot of people – especially those that were kids – in the early ’70s.

It apparently did most of its business at drive-ins, but it hit our small town’s theater in late summer of ’74. I was six and the movie, despite being G-rated, was declared forbidden the first time my mom saw a commercial for it.

But there was most definitely a buzz surrounding The Legend Of Boggy Creek. The movie purported to tell the tale of a Sasquatch-type creature living in the forests and swamps of a speck of a town in the southwesternmost part of Arkansas.

Filmed for nothing and featuring locals and not actors, the movie was shot primarily as a documentary, making it a precursor to and an apparent inspiration for The Blair Witch Project twenty-five years later.

The commercial echoed the poster’s eerie vibe with a camera panning through remote, isolated swamp terrain before ending with a shot of dense, ominous woods at dusk and an unholy howl as the voiceover offered the stark reminder that the legend was truth.

It was simple and effective, especially as, at the time, we were living in an apartment complex that backed up to a wooded area. That commercial would air as we’d be watching television in the evening and I’d stare out the glass door to the patio, out into the darkness of those trees and wonder what might be out there.

By the following summer, we had moved to a subdivision on the outskirts of town where the slight outpost of civilization that was our town gave way to vast stretches of farmland. There were wooded areas in all directions broken by expanses of fields.

Those woods were a playground for me and my childhood friends, but, as a kid, when the summer faded and the chill of autumn arrived, those woods would also become a far more spooky setting, especially with dusk coming earlier each evening.

There was nothing in those woods more threatening than deer, but they were mysterious nonetheless and the idea that there might be something out there in the thick trees had been planted in my young mind.

I couldn’t help but stare out my bedroom window, across the fields, and to the treeline on the horizon and wonder…

I finally watched The Legend Of Boggy Creek last week and it is most definitely a mixed bag.

However, the first ten minutes are as creepy as advertised and made more so by the schizophrenic music that accompanies the camera gliding through ominous swamplands and open fields as a young boy – about the age I would have been at the time – hears the creature’s scream.

I wasn’t much into music in the autumn of ’74 as I was focused on what might or might not be lurking in the woods. Here are four songs that were on Billboard magazine’s charts that September…

Eric Clapton – I Shot The Sheriff
from Time Pieces: Best Of Eric Clapton

I can’t say that I’ve ever been devotee of “Slowhand.” Oh, I admire his skills and understand his place in rock history, but there’s just something that never completely resonated with me. Perhaps it’s because when my interest in music was taking root in the early ’80s, Clapton wasn’t exactly at the height of his powers.

However, Clapton’s take on Bob Marley’s I Shot The Sheriff not only became the guitarist’s biggest hit, it also brought the music of the reggae superstar to a new audience.

Stevie Wonder – You Haven’t Done Nothin’
from Fulfillingness’ First Finale

The funky You Haven’t Done Nothin’ – with The Jackson 5 providing backup vocals – took the political powers at the time to task and managed to reward Stevie Wonder with yet another hit song during his remarkably prolific ’70s output.

Ten years later, he was calling just to say he loved us.

Gordon Lightfoot – Carefree Highway
from Complete Greatest Hits

I like The Lightfoot (as I’ve noted before).

Brian Eno – Baby’s On Fire
from Here Come The Warm Jets

OK, Baby’s On Fire wasn’t a hit, but, in September ’74, Brian Eno’s first solo album since parting company with Roxy Music was on the album charts (albeit in the lower reaches of the Top 200). Despite limited commercial success for his own work, few musicians over the past forty years have been as influential as Eno has been as an artist, collaborator, and producer.

I would be in college before hearing Roxy Music or Eno’s solo work. It was my buddy Streuss who threw on Here Come The Warm Jets one day and the album blew me away. It was twelve years old at the time and sounded as though it could have been released twelve years in the future.

(and King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp’s solo is, in a word, wicked)


At Least You’re Not Trapped In A Chilean Mine

September 4, 2010

I overheard a co-worker bitching about a “delivery charge” being added to a pizza she had delivered for lunch.

Not surprising as she issues perceived grievances in fifteen to twenty minute monologues sprinkled throughout the course of eight hours.

As she railed against the injustice of the two-dollar fee, I thought, it could be worse – you could be trapped in a Chilean mine.

(and, yes, I admit that for a moment I considered that this might only be worse from her perspective)

It must have been two weeks ago that the story of the miners trapped in San Jose, Chile burst onto the front pages on news sites and it was riveting stuff.

As I read the details, I immediately thought that there had to be someone, somewhere, already working on acquiring the rights to the tale for books, movies, action figures – that might be cynical, but I’ve experienced the corporate world.

Then, as the timeline for rescue was projected to be months, I realized that this situation would be something which the entire world would follow – hour by hour, day by day – until the group was topside.

I thought of 1979 and the Iranian students who seized the US Embassy in Tehran, taking those working at the consulate hostage.

I was in fifth grade and every morning would begin with Sister Marie providing us with details about one of the individuals being held which I imagine she had culled from the numerous print articles and television coverage.

The event gave birth to Ted Koppel’s long-running Nightline program which helped kill off the brilliant late-night show Fridays by cutting into its timeslot.

(I’d like to see Iran sanctioned by the UN for that)

So as I read about the plight of these miners and the extraordinary measures that would have to be undertaken in their rescue, I envisioned how the story might play out.

And I imagined the world hanging on each new development and pondered a happy ending that might provide the entire planet with a reason to feel good for a moment.

(whenever I catch the movie Apollo 13, I wonder what the vibe around the world must have been like at that time)

Here’s hoping that the situation in Chile does end with a successful rescue. I couldn’t imagine being trapped in such confines with my co-workers for months.

Eight hours…that’s my limit.

And, no matter how slowly those eight hours pass, at least I’m not trapped in a Chilean mine.

I was stuck once in one of our building’s elevators for about ten minutes. As I had my iPod and cigarettes, I think I could have lasted twice that long. So, here are four random songs that I might have heard…

Shivaree – After The Prince And The Showgirl
from Rough Dreams

I first came across the name Shivaree reading enthusiastic reviews of the band’s 1999 debut I Oughtta Give You A Shot In The Head For Making Me Live In This Dump which was produced by Joe Henry. So, I was quite pleased to receive an advance of the trio’s follow-up, Rough Dreams.

I was fortunate to snag a copy because, nearly a decade later, the album has yet to receive a proper release in the States. It’s too bad as lead singer Ambrosia Parsley might well have endeared herself to the audience that Shelby Lynne claimed during the decade with her soulful Americana stylings.

Stevie Wonder – Uptight (Everything’s Alright)
from Song Review: Greatest Hits

The second major hit single of the legendary Stevie Wonder’s career, Uptight (Everything’s Alright) was the first to be co-written by the musician and helped establish Wonder as a staple on pop radio for the next two decades.

As for the song, it’s a dose of joyous R&B delivered in a tightly-packaged three minutes.

Dramarama – Incredible
from Hi-Fi Sci-Fi

Dramarama is a band that has left more than a few listeners puzzled as to why the alternative-leaning power pop act never broke through to major success. Beginning with 1985’s Cinéma Vérité, the band issued five albums that earned them attention at college radio but were mostly ignored by mainstream audiences.

By 1993, alternative rock had exploded, making stars of acts like Soul Asylum and Goo Goo Dolls. Blending humor and poignancy along with hooks galore, Dramarama’s Hi-Fi Sci-Fi deserved similar attention, but it would prove to be another undiscovered gem in the band’s catalog.

George Benson – Give Me The Night
from The George Benson Collection

Guitarist George Benson cut his teeth performing straight-ahead jazz with organist Jack McDuff as well as performing with the great Miles Davis. In the ’70s and early ’80s, Benson also notched a number of pop hits with songs like This Masquerade, On Broadway, and Turn Your Love Around.

Give Me The Night would prove to be one of Benson’s biggest hits. Written by Rod Temperton – who would go on to pen several hits for Michael Jackson’s Thriller Give Me The Night is a silky smooth ode to nightlife with a light disco feel.