Archive for the ‘1981’ Category

‘Finders, Not Keepers . . .’

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021

So, if there had been a quiet evening listening to the radio forty years ago this week – and there likely was, as the Other Half and I did not watch a lot of television – what would we have heard as we sat and read in our mobile home just outside Monticello?

We’d likely have tuned the radio to the Twin Cities station KSTP-FM, styled KS-95 in its promotions, with its tagline newly revised just a year earlier to celebrate the hits of “the Sixties, the Seventies and today!”

And forty years ago today, on November 3, 1981, the station’s top ten was:

“Hard To Say” by Dan Fogelberg
“Arthur’s Theme” by Christopher Cross
“The Old Songs” by Barry Manilow
“Just Once” by Quincy Jones feat. James Ingram
“The Night Owls” by the Little River Band
“We’re In This Love Together” by Al Jarreau
“The Theme From Hill Street Blues” by Mike Post
“Private Eyes” by Hall & Oates
“Here I Am” by Air Supply
“Waiting For A Girl Like You” by Foreigner

The only one of those for which I really needed a reminder this morning was “The Night Owls.” Ten seconds in, I recalled the record and was still, forty years later, unimpressed.

(There was an odd moment, too, regarding “Just Once.” The survey, as presented at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, credited the record only to Jones, and I thought to myself, “That’s a James Ingram record, isn’t it?” I grabbed my reference books and realized that I’d forgotten the song was from Jones’ album The Dude; the KS-95 survey as presented online had neglected to credit Ingram.)

Anyway, nine of those ten would have been a familiar and generally pleasant set of music forty years ago. Which of them would I like to hear these days? Let’s see how many of them are among the 2,700-some tracks in the iPod. It turns out to be just two: the Al Jarreau and the Mike Post, which is kind of how I figured it would go. As pleasant as some of the other eight might be, they really don’t matter to me.

And it’s not like the records from No. 11 through No. 20 on that survey from forty years ago offer great riches, either. There is one nugget, though, at No. 15, that I would probably put in my Top Ten from that long-ago year. And it’s a record that’s evidently been mentioned just once in the fourteen-plus years I’ve been throwing stuff at the wall here: “I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do)” by Lulu.

It was a major comeback record for the Scottish singer who’d first tickled the lower level of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964 with “Shout” and then flew to the top of the chart in 1967 with “To Sir With Love.” By 1981, Lulu had been absent from the charts for eleven years, but “I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do)” went to No. 18 in an eighteen-week stay on the Hot 100 and spent three weeks at No. 2 on the magazine’s Adult Contemporary chart.

And I still think it’s a great record:

The Moody Blues: 1981

Friday, August 27th, 2021

Here, we resume a long-dormant project: An assessment of the massive oeuvre of the Moody Blues, looking today at the 1981 album Long Distance Voyager.

It hasn’t quite been forty years – the conversation I recalled this morning happed in the autumn of 1981 – but it’s close enough. I was out for lunch with the new photographer for the Monticello Times – our previous, long-time guy had left for grad school in Missouri during the summer – and we were still in the stage of getting to know each other.

I mentioned that over the previous weekend I’d picked up Long Distance Voyager, the most recent release by the Moody Blues. It had come out the previous spring and had been on my want list for a bit, especially since I’d heard “Gemini Dream,” the album’s first single, during the summer, and had been hearing “The Voice,” the second single from the album, on the radio in recent weeks.

(At the time of the conversation I’m remembering, in fact, it’s quite likely that “The Voice” was nearing its peak position of No 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. And the album itself spent three weeks at No. 1 during the summer of 1981.)

“I do really like ‘The Voice’,” I likely would have told Andris, “and there are a couple of other tracks that I think are really good, but I want to hear them a few times.”

“Hmpph!” Andris looked at me over his menu. “I don’t like the Moody Blues at all. I don’t like the Wall of Sound.”

We found other things to talk about.

Forty years later, I still like Long Distance Voyager. Despite some flaws, it remains for me one of the most listenable albums in the Moody’s lengthy discography, from the opener, “The Voice,” right up to the end of “Nervous.” Then come the last three tracks, “Painted Smile/Reflective Smile” and “Veteran Cosmic Rocker,” all written by Ray Thomas.

The first of those tries to hard to be cute, with circus music and simplistic lyrics that – had I written them in 1981 – would have made me cringe. Then, with “Reflective Smile,” Thomas lapses into one of those bits of bombastic narration that mar the Moodys’ releases from the late 1960s. And in “Veteran Cosmic Rocker,” Thomas tries so hard that the track verges on parody.

Up until then, however, Long Distance Voyager offers plenty that I do like: “The Voice,” once we get past the Moody’s usual quasi-dramatic introduction, propels us into the album with lyrics that are both mystical and a call to action (I think). I also like the other two tracks that came out as singles: “Gemini Dream” got to No. 12; “Talking Out Of Turn” came out after the title track and stumbled, reaching only No. 65.

The best thing on the album, however, is John Lodge’s “Nervous,” which could have used a better title (as my blogging colleague jb noted in his perceptive assessment of Long Distance Voyager two years ago). Intense, compelling, and propulsive, the song, with its refrain of “Bring it on home/let’s bring it on home (your love)” would have been a perfect place to end the album instead of Thomas’ strange and sophomoric trilogy.

In fact, I think that the first time I listened to the album, I expected it to end after “Nervous,” and I thought to myself “That’s a really short album, isn’t it?”

So, forty years down the road, what grade do I give to Long Distance Voyager? Thinking of it that way, I’m reminded of a long-ago student of mine who turned in superior work for eight weeks of the quarter and then faltered. I knew life was throwing some challenges his way, and he ended up with an A after a good final exam.

But there is no final exam for the Moody Blues here. The first eighty percent of the record was A or A-minus quality, but the ending was full of nonsense that – because it comes at what should be a climactic moment – saddles the album with inescapable flaws. The record gets a grade of B-minus (and is lucky to get that).

Here’s “Nervous.”

On The Radio: March 1981

Wednesday, March 31st, 2021

Forty years ago today – March 31, 1981 – was a Tuesday, and I was no doubt sitting at my electronic terminal at the Monticello Times. As I noted not quite six years ago Tuesday was a writing day:

From seven in the morning until about four in the afternoon, I’d have been at my desk, turning out copy: An account of the previous evening’s meeting of the Monticello City Council; stories covering the previous Friday’s football games at the high schools in Monticello and nearby Big Lake, as well as coverage for the other fall sports at the two schools and their attendant junior high schools; highlights from the weekly sheriff’s reports in Wright County and Sherburne County; a feature story or two; and coverage of anything out of the ordinary that might have occurred during the past seven days in that small town.

There would have been very little music during the day, probably only what I heard in the car as I drove: to work in the morning, to and from lunch, to home in the later afternoon and then to and from work again in the evening, when I would do some final phone interviews for last-minute stories and we began to paste together that week’s edition.

It was around March 1981 when the Other Half and I purchased our first and only new car, a 1981 Chevette, which we thought was a decent vehicle. Beyond automotive value, it had an FM radio, so I was no doubt listening to the Twin Cities’ KSTP-FM as I drove. Here’s the Top Ten from KS-95 – as it was called – released forty years ago today:

“Morning Train” by Sheena Easton
“Hello Again” by Neil Diamond
“Just The Two Of Us” by Grover Washington, Jr. (with Bill Withers)
“What Kind Of Fool” by Barbra Streisand & Barry Gibb
“Crying” by Don McLean
“While You See A Chance” by Steve Winwood
“Somebody’s Knockin’” by Teri Gibbs
“Woman” by John Lennon
“9 To 5” by Dolly Parton
“Angel Of The Morning” by Juice Newton

That’s not a bad stretch of listening, actually, better than I expected. I got weary of the McLean single and of “9 To 5,” but the rest was not bad. Still, only four of those tracks are on the digital shelves here: those by Winwood, Washington/Withers, Lennon, and – surprisingly – Newton. And only “Just The Two Of Us” and “While You See A Chance” have made it to my day-to-day listening in the iPod.

I note one other interesting thing on the KS-95 survey: At No. 16 is Bruce Springsteen’s “Fade Away,” down three spots from the week before. Now, during the three or four evenings a week I was home in those days, the Other Half and I would often turn off the television and turn on KS-95. But I don’t recall ever hearing “Fade Away” during any of those evenings forty years ago. I wasn’t, of course, into Springsteen at the time, but still . . .

Here’s the single version of “Fade Away,” highlighting the organ work of the late Danny Federici. It’s slightly shorter, based on the listed running time, than the version on The River.

At Home With The Radio: 1981

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

I’ve noted here on occasion that during the times when I was a reporter in Monticello – November 1977 into August 1983 – there were numerous Saturday evenings when the Other Half and I turned off the TV and let KSTP-FM keep us company from the Twin Cities.

Here’s some of what we would have heard had we spent an evening like that forty years ago this week. Courtesy of the Airheads Radio Survey Archive, this is the Top Ten from KSTP-FM released January 13, 1981, forty years ago today:

“(Just Like) Starting Over” by John Lennon
“The Tide Is High” by Blondie
“Every Woman In The World” by Air Supply
“Hey Nineteen” by Steely Dan
“Love On The Rocks” by Neil Diamond
“I Love A Rainy Night” by Eddie Rabbitt
“Never Be The Same” by Christopher Cross
“I Made It Through The Rain” by Barry Manilow
“It’s My Turn” by Diana Ross
“Suddenly” by Olivia Newton-John & Cliff Richard

That likely would have been one of those evenings when – thirty minutes in – one of us would have turned to the other and said, “Some good music tonight,” and the other would have murmured “Yeah, there is,” while involved in a Stephen King novel (me) or a crafting project (her).

But how does that set play forty years later? I admit I had to duck out to YouTube to refresh my memories of two of those – the Newton-John/Richard record and the Cross single. The first is okay, carrying reminders of the indigestible movie Xanadu, and the second is decent, but even after listening to it this morning, it remains unmemorable, even though the entire Christopher Cross album is in the digital stacks.

But there are a couple of gems in that Top Ten: The John Lennon record would still have been making us a little sad, as it had been just more than a month since he was murdered, but it remains a good record; and “Hey Nineteen” is one of Steely Dan’s less opaque offerings, at least.

The others there that can still evince a smile from me forty years later are the records by Eddie Rabbitt, Blondie and Barry Manilow. That last – “I Made It Through The Rain” – is the kind of bittersweet schmaltz aimed directly at romantic fools such as I. And for all its flaws – and there are several – it’s a good memory.

I can, however, do without the records from Diamond, Ross and Air Supply.

About half of those ten are among the 81,000 sorted tracks on the digital shelves. Have any of them made it into the iPod and thus my day-to-day listening?

Well, just the records by Eddie Rabbitt and Blondie. “Hey Nineteen” should be in there (and likely will by the end of the day), and I’m thinking about the John Lennon record. And the Manilow.

So what do we feature today? Well, why not something from Xanadu? That’s a rhetorical question; there may in fact be many reasons why not. And why? Just because it showed up here today.

So, here’s “Suddenly” by Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard. As well as making the Top Ten at KSTP-FM (and peaking at No. 9 there), the record went to No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to No. 4 on the magazine’s Adult Contemporary chart.

Chart Digging: Four Julys

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

It seems that there were only four times during the years that interest us here that Billboard published on July 25: 1960, 1964, 1970, and 1981. The gaps between years – one remarkably short and another remarkably long – came for two reasons. First, I think that the magazine shifted its publication date from Monday to Saturday, creating the four-year gap between the first two charts we’ll look at; and then, the insertion of Leap Year Day – February 29 – into 1976 shifted days, so that July 25 moved from a Friday in 1975 to a Sunday in 1976.

All of that leads us to confirm an idea hatched here some years ago that anything that happens because of February 29 does nothing but cause trouble. Anyway, we have four instances of a Billboard Hot 100 to examine this morning, and we’re going to play some Games With Numbers, turning today’s date, 7-25, into No. 32 and see what treasures may lie at that spot in those four charts. We’ll also, as we customarily do, check out the No. 1 record for each of those weeks. So let’s get underway:

During this week in 1960, when a six-year-old whiteray was wandering through the summer before second grade, he and his pals were probably unaware of anything on the Hot 100 except perhaps Brian Hyland’s “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polkadot Bikini” because the title was fun to sing and it was a little bit daring. I’m not certain what my pals knew beyond that fifty-eight years ago, but I certainly was unaware that “Pennies From Heaven” by the Skyliners was sitting at No. 32.

In Top Pop Singles, Joel Whitburn describes the group from Pittsburgh as a doo-wop outfit, and that certainly held true for 1959’s “Since I Don’t Have You,” but the group’s cover of “Pennies From Heaven” sounds more like Vegas and the Rat Pack than an East Coast serenade from a brownstone’s step. The record had peaked the week earlier at No. 24 and was on its way down the chart. It was the last of three Top 40 hits for the Skyliners, although they kept trying, releasing singles into the late 1970s.

I wasn’t listening to KDWB at the time, of course, but from what I can see at Oldiesloon, “Pennies From Heaven” never reached the station’s survey.

The No. 1 record in the Hot 100 fifty-eight years ago today was Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry.” (And in my head, I hear Golden Earring.)

We jump ahead four years to the summer of 1964, when sixth grade (and an intense crush on a young lady who lived about ten blocks south on Kilian Boulevard) was approaching but still out of sight. Parked at No. 32 fifty-four years ago today was the classic “Chapel of Love” by the Dixie Cups, heading toward a three-week stay at No. 1. Do I remember it from then or just from repeated hearings over the years since? I have no idea (and that’s true of many records from before, oh, 1967 or so). Over the next year, the Dixie Cups placed five more records in or near the Hot 100, including the classic “Iko Iko,” which went to No. 20 in 1965. (That record, Whitburn notes, was a reworking of “Jock-O-Mo,” written and recorded in 1953 by James “Sugar Boy” Crawford & His Cane Cutters.)

At KDWB, “Chapel of Love” peaked at No. 3, parking there for three weeks.

The No. 1 record in the Hot 100 fifty-four summers ago this week was “Rag Doll” by the Four Seasons.

By the summer of 1970, the next time Billboard released a Hot 100 on July 25, I was a dedicated Top 40 listener, so one would expect familiarity at No. 32. And that’s just what we get with “In The Summertime” by Mungo Jerry. The record came from a skiffle band from England, with Ray Dorset on vocals, and it was seemingly everywhere that summer, reaching No. 3 in the Hot 100. (It also went to No. 30 on the magazine’s Easy Listening chart.) But I’m not altogether sure where I heard it, as the record never made the KDWB 6+30 survey, according to the lists at Oldiesloon. Well, no matter where I heard it, it seemed to be everywhere, and the lines “If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal. If her daddy’s poor, just do what you feel,” seem now to be awful advice.

As it happens, “In The Summertime” is a perfect one-hit wonder, as the group never had any other records reach the Hot 100 or even bubble under.

(As the note below from faithful reader Yah Shure makes clear, “In The Summertime” did get plenty of air play on KDWB, which is what I recalled. I clearly messed up the search somehow and did not trust my memory and look again. Note added August 7, 2018.)

The No. 1 record in the July 25, 1970, Hot 100 was “(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters.

And from 1970, we jump to July 25, 1981, smack in the middle of one of the six summers I spent as a reporter for the Monticello Times. As I’ve noted many times more than once here, I was listening less and less to Top 40 during those days, first because I had less leisure time and also because I liked what I was hearing less and less. Still, I do remember that week’s No. 32 record, “America” by Neil Diamond.

One of three Top Ten hits from Diamond’s movie The Jazz Singer, “America” had peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100 and spent three weeks on the top of the Adult Contemporary chart. (The other two hits from the movie were “Love On The Rocks,” which went to No. 2, and “Hello Again,” which peaked at No. 6.) Diamond, of course, had a lengthy list of records in the Billboard charts, with the 2009 edition of Top Pop Singles showing fifty-six records in the Hot 100.

There are no 1981 surveys from KDWB at Oldiesloon, nor are there any from WDGY, the Twin Cities’ other Top 40 station.

Sitting at No. 1 thirty-seven years ago today was “The One That You Love” by Air Supply.

Better Than Never

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

I did a quick look this morning to find a Billboard Hot 100 released on today’s date. There were a few in the 1990s and later, but they didn’t interest me. I found charts from today’s date in 1964 and 1970, but without looking, I decided that those two years have been pretty well chewed around here.

Then I came upon a chart from November 14, 1981. Most of the stuff in the Top 40 was familiar, reminding me of Saturday evenings near Monticello when the Other Half and I would eschew television and turn up the radio as I read and she worked on one craft project or another. We generally liked what we heard on the Twin Cities KS-95, which offered an adult contemporary format to the world. Here’s the Top Ten from the Hot 100 chart released thirty-six years ago today:

“Private Eyes” by Daryl Hall & John Oates
“Start Me Up” by the Rolling Stones
“Physical” by Olivia Newton-John
“Waiting For A Girl Like You” by Foreigner
“Tryin’ To Live My Life Without You” by Bob Seger
“The Night Owls” by the Little River Band
“Here I Am (Just When I Thought I Was Over You)” by Air Supply
“I’ve Done Everything For You” by Rick Springfield
“Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do)” by Christopher Cross
“The Theme From ‘Hill Street Blues’” by Mike Post feat. Larry Carlton

I don’t recall the tracks by Bob Seger, the Little River Band, or Rick Springfield. If I ever heard them, it wasn’t often enough for them to make an impression. The other seven I know well, although only two of them – the tracks by the Stones and Mike Post – really hold my interest.

(And I wonder if the Seger or the Springfield got play on KS-95. I don’t know that they’d fit the format. On the other hand, I’d think that the Little River Band tune would. As I wondered, I grabbed Joel Whitburn’s Top Adult Songs, which told me that seven of those records made the adult contemporary Top 40; those that didn’t were the records by Seger, Springfield and the Rolling Stones. )

That lack of interest was 1981 for me: The process that I referred to a couple of months ago – I wrote “We were slowly moving into a time when what was popular was no longer what I wanted to hear.” – had left me with very little on the radio that I truly dug. Radio still offered pleasant background noise to an evening of reading, but for the most part, that’s all it was.

Still, I had to assume as I looked at the chart this morning that somewhere in the 110 singles listed in that long-ago Hot 100 (with ten records listed as Bubbling Under), there must have been a record that would make me look at the radio in appreciation, a record that I would want to hear again. So I began to make my way slowly down the list.

It didn’t take long. At No. 27, I found “Harden My Heart” by Quarterflash, a record that was included in my Ultimate Jukebox some years ago. But there was something else, I thought, something that I’d skipped past. So I reversed course, and at No. 15, I saw Al Jarreau’s “We’re In This Love Forever.”

Now, that’s another record that I could hear frequently without getting tired of it. It was a huge hit for Jarreau, reaching No. 15 in the Hot 100 and No. 6 on the magazine’s R&B country and adult contemporary charts. But for some reason, even though I remember the record fondly, I’ve not given it any attention in more than ten years of blogging. In fact, I’ve mentioned Jarreau only twice in those ten-plus years, both times in passing, and I didn’t even notice that he died last February.

I guess late is better than never. Here’s Jarreau’s “We’re In This Love Together.”

Off To South Dakota

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

Well, the Texas Gal and I are heading west. Come Saturday morning, we’ll be off for the Black Hills of South Dakota. We’ll spend five days there taking in as much as we can.

There are some must-see sights, of course: Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Reptile Gardens, Custer State Park and its buffalo herd, the city of Deadwood and its Boot Hill. And we’ll hit some museums and other attractions. We’re hoping not to exhaust ourselves, but it will be a busy five days.

That means, of course, that I won’t be posting here for maybe a little more than a week. I might get a Saturday Single up before we head out, but I ain’t promising nothing. And I have plenty to keep me busy for the next two days as we prepare to head out.

So here’s an aptly titled tune by the late Buddy Red Bow, a South Dakota native who was a member of the Lakota tribe and who served in Vietnam. He died in 1993 at the age of forty-four, having released three albums: the soundtrack to Hard Rider in 1972, BRB in 1981, and Journey to the Spirit World in 1983. Black Hills Dreamer, which may be a compilation of earlier work, was released posthumously in 1995.

I’ve read this morning that some consider him a Native American counterpart to Hank Williams, and I think I’m going to have to keep an eye out for his work while we’re on the road. This is “South Dakota Lady” from BRB.

‘It’s Not A Lot . . .’

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

I thought some more this week about the young reporter I once was – the one we visited here last week – and as I did, I wondered what else besides Dan Fogelberg he might have had on the stereo when he spent an evening at home in the early years of the 1980s. The LP log shows a fair amount of classical music coming in to the house during the first years of that decade, as well as some big band music. As has been noted here before, that young man was dissatisfied with much of the popular music he heard, and he was looking for alternatives.

Still, the log shows purchases in those years of either new or relatively recent albums by Steve Winwood, Jackson Browne, and the Moody Blues as well as the aforementioned Dan Fogelberg. And he filled gaps in his collection with the purchase of older albums by Carly Simon, Steely Dan, the Bee Gees, and the Allman Brothers Band.

One of the tracks that caught his attention in those days came from the Moody Blues’ 1981 release, Long Distance Voyager. The tune “22,000 Days” is a lumbering meditation on mortality and time, topics that caught that young reporter’s attention even when he was on the short side of thirty. The verses were a little vague, but the chorus was blunt:

22,000 days. I’ve got 22,000 days.
It’s not a lot. It’s all you’ve got.
22,000 days.

At the time he got the album – thirty-four years ago this week, as it happens – his cosmic odometer had clicked over to 10,247 days. The Moodys’ benchmark of 22,000 days was far in the future. As he writes this morning, he hit that benchmark some time ago, as his odometer now reads 22,670. Theoretically, then, he’s living on borrowed time and has been since November 28, 2013.

But the 22,000 days is a symbol, not a measurement (though I do wonder why songwriter Graeme Edge didn’t use as a life span something not far off the Biblical three-score-and-ten and make the song “25,000 Days”). And I don’t expect to shuffle off anytime soon. Still, the track is a reminder that every once in a while we should remember that we are temporary beings and that life – on this plane, anyway – is finite.

And there aren’t many better days to ponder those facts than the last day of September, when the temporary nature of life presents itself clearly in the first days of autumn. Here’s the Moody Blues and “22,000 Days” from 1981.

Ghosts

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

On the way home from a lunch last week – I met my sister to celebrate my recent birthday – I drove through the city of Monticello, where I lived and worked after finishing college.

That in itself was not odd; Monti lies on one of our most direct routes to the Twin Cities, a drive that takes us through Monti on Highway 25, the main north-south street of the city, as we head toward Interstate 94. And if we take the other Monti exit on our way home, we drive down Broadway Street, the main east-west route through the city. I suppose we get through there ten times a year. But we rarely turn off those streets and we rarely stop.

Coming home from the Cities a couple of weeks ago, I had the Texas Gal turn off Broadway Street and drive along the parallel street, River Street, for a few blocks. It’s still as pleasant as I recall it, but an unexpected cul-de-sac forced us back to Broadway Street before I got to where I’d planned to go, and we headed on home.

Last week, driving alone, I turned at the right spot and drove past the building that housed the Monticello Times during the years I was a reporter and editor there, 1977 to 1983. It’s been a little bit more than ten years since my one-time boss, DQ, sold the paper to a chain and that chain moved the paper’s offices elsewhere in the city.

I’ve written here on occasion about the figurative ghosts I find here in St. Cloud, people and structures no longer present physically but very clear in my memory as I make my way through the city. Even though I’ve been back in St. Cloud almost thirteen years now, they still sometimes surprise me.

And ghosts of memory startled me the other day in Monticello. I lived there a far shorter time than I’ve lived overall in St. Cloud, from 1977 to 1987 with an eighteen-month interval in there for graduate school in Missouri. And I’ve known for maybe five years that the building that used to house the Monticello Times – on River Street and visible from Highway 25 – now houses a dental office. But I’d never stopped to take a look.

As I came near to River Street the other Tuesday, I was startled to see that the dental clinic had reconfigured the building. The main entrance used to be on River Street, up where DQ’s brother sold office products when I arrived in 1977 and where DQ’s office was located when I left town. It’s now at the opposite end of the building, and as I pulled into the parking lot and stopped, I looked at the large window to the right of the clinic’s main door. I imagine that on the other side of that window one now finds a waiting room. During the last couple years of my time at the paper, on the other side of that window you’d have found my desk.

It was, as I said, a Tuesday, and in the paper’s weekly rhythm, Tuesday was a writing day. From seven in the morning until about four in the afternoon, I’d have been at my desk, turning out copy: An account of the previous evening’s meeting of the Monticello City Council; stories covering the previous Friday’s football games at the high schools in Monticello and nearby Big Lake, as well as coverage for the other fall sports at the two schools and their attendant junior high schools; highlights from the weekly sheriff’s reports in Wright County and Sherburne County; a feature story or two; and coverage of anything out of the ordinary that might have occurred during the past seven days in that small town.

I sat in my car and looked at the window, thinking about the young man who, more often than his older version can now remember, would look out that window in search of the right word, the right lead sentence, the right way to offer his readers the news, both good and bad. And I realized that the young reporter and editor who sat on the other side of that window is as much a ghost to me these days as are the people in the stories he covered and the places he went to do so thirty-some years ago.

Having realized that, I dismissed the thoughts of going into the dental clinic, explaining what brought me there and looking at the space where my desk sat years ago. I left the ghost undisturbed, perhaps on the phone with the city administrator or maybe writing about a break-in at the local American Legion club, and I headed for home.

Here’s a track from an album I loved dearly during those last years at the Monticello paper: “Ghosts” is the closing track from Dan Fogelberg’s 1981 album, The Innocent Age.

Saturday Single No. 448

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

We’re going to play some games with numbers this morning, digging into some Billboard Hot 100s from a twenty-year span in search of a Saturday single. We’ll take today’s date – 5-23-15 – and add that up to 43, and then we’ll check out No. 43 in the Hot 100s for May 23 in the years 1987, 1981, 1976, 1972, 1969 and 1967.

Why, some may ask, are we beginning this in 1987, a year that rarely shows up here musically? (And many may not care.) Because May 23, 1987, was one of those dividing days, a day during which my life changed dramatically. First, and of lesser importance, it was the day that effectively ended my adjunct teaching time at St. Cloud State. I spent a good portion of the day sipping coffee in a St. Cloud restaurant, figuring out final grades for the students in my visual communications class. And then, that evening, I went to a friend’s party, where I met someone. By the time I drove home to Monticello in the early hours of May 24, my life had changed.

So off we go, starting with the Hot 100 released on May 23, 1987, where No. 43 was “Sweet Sixteen” by Billy Idol. More mellow and restrained than most of Idol’s charting work, the record was on its way up to No. 20. It’s catchy and sweet, but for some reason, the record unnerves me. I guess I’ve always had the sense that underneath the veneer of love, there’s an obsession for the young lady that might eventually find itself expressed in less-than-acceptable ways.

And in 1981, we fall directly on May 23 once more, and we find that the No. 43 record that week was “Say What,” by Jesse Winchester. The jaunty record was rising in the chart, heading for a peak of No. 32 (No. 12 on the Adult Contemporary chart), which would make it the only Top 40 hit in the long and mellow career of the late singer-songwriter. Running into “Say What,” which is a pretty good single, might be a sign, given my long-running affection for Winchester and his work, or it might just be a coincidence.

Things rock a little more when we go back to May 22, 1976, as we find “Crazy On You” by Heart sitting at No. 43. The first charting single for the Wilson sisters and their friends, “Crazy On You” was heading toward its peak at No. 35. (The Mushroom label reissued the single in 1977 after Heart had moved to the Portrait label on its eventual way to Epic; the reissued single went only to No. 52.) For some reason, I whiffed at the time on “Crazy On You” and its summertime follow-up, “Magic Man,” not catching on to Heart until “Dreamboat Annie” during the winter of 1976-77. I’ve since made up for that whiff.

And a decent bit of Stax soul greets us as we dig into the Hot 100 from May 20, 1972, when the No. 43 record was “I’ve Been Lonely For So Long” by Frederick Knight of Birmingham, Alabama. The record would peak at No. 27 (No. 8, R&B), giving Knight his only Top 40 hit. As I said, it’s a decent record, but the low bass parts contrast with the falsetto to make it sound – at some points, anyway – a little bit like a novelty.

And as we head back another three years, we go from an R&B singer with one Top 40 hit to a classic pop singer with twenty-seven Top 40 hits: “Seattle” by Perry Como was parked at No. 43 in the Hot 100 that was in play during this week in 1969. “Seattle” wouldn’t head too much higher; it would peak at No. 38 (No. 2, AC), but the song is etched deeply into my memory: One of Rick and Rob’s sisters was a big fan of the song and of the television series Here Come The Brides, which used the song as its theme, and I heard the record frequently when I was at their house. (According to Wikipedia, however, neither Como’s version nor the version recorded by Bobby Sherman – who starred in the show – was ever used on the show; when lyrics were added to the theme during the show’s first season, they were sung by “The New Establishment,” which one would guess was a group of studio singers.)

We finish our trek back today with a stop in the third week of May 1967, when the No. 43 record was “Melancholy Music Man” by the Righteous Brothers. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard the record until this morning, and it sounds like – a little more than a year after “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration” went to No. 1 – Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield were throwing anything at the wall, as long as it had a Spectorish backing and some call-and-response vocals, to see what would stick. Well, “Melancholy Music Man” didn’t stick, as it moved no higher than No. 43. And I understand its failure: The record sounds like a mess.

So, with six candidates, where do we go? Well, long-time readers will know that as soon as Jesse Winchester showed up, anything that came after would have to be better than good to alter the outcome of today’s contest. And although I like “Seattle,” it’s just not good enough. That means that “Say What” by Jesse Winchester, is today’s Saturday Single.

(The video above uses the version of the tune from the album Talk Memphis. Whether it’s the same as the single, I don’t know.)