Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: Good Riddance...But.....

When you've had a life altering experience and try to cherish each day given to you since that point, it's hard, very hard, to adopt an attitude about wanting a particular chunk of time to quickly pass.

But one year ago tonight, I suddenly realized that the quicker 2016 passed, the better.

You know me as a Christian, and as a second generation ordained minister. You also know, if you've known me for any length of time, not to be one of those "believers" that talk constantly about how God spoke to them about which shoes to put on this morning or whether to get five or seven pumps off coffee in their morning Starbucks. When I use the term, "God spoke to me", I mean it. It's rare, but it happens.

And it happened sometime around 9:30 or 10pm last New Year's Eve, 2015, while enjoying the evening with Bonnie, Rachel, Aunt Tammy, Cora Jane and Tamera (yes, the only other males around with me were Harry J. and Cody). I'll never forget sitting in the great room with everyone when, all of a sudden, a pall of sorts came over me and the words God placed in my heart were, "get ready, it's going to be a tough year."

I didn't share this information with anyone, since the mood was light and the hour was late.

The next morning, I awoke to a phone call from my daughter at the hotel where my sister-in-law and grand-niece were staying. Rachel's words when I answered were:

"Dad, Aunt Tammy fell in the pool room, please hurry. They've called for the ambulance."

My immediate thought was, "Here we go, and (sarcastically) Happy New Year."

Tammy ended up with surgery, immobilization and tons of physical therapy, all while looking for employment. And that was just the beginning.

Bonnie and I trudged through the January 22/23 blizzard, trying to keep a small area open for the dogs to go outside and do their duty. Neither wanted to, nor could I blame them.

Rachel got deathly ill at Longwood in early February, went to the on campus "medical facility", was told she "had a cold" and "we couldn't see you until tomorrow", all while the doctor on call sat in his or her office. I kid you not.

Two hours later, I'm in Farmville picking her up, taking her home and to Patient First where they filled her up with medications to stop what was happening (you don't want details) and she stayed home for four days. As I prepared to return her to Longwood, you guessed it, Bonnie got the illness. Worse than Rachel did. So much so, Harry and I retreated to live in Rachel's room to stay away from my wife who moaned in the fetal position. That's how bad she felt.

Then Robbie lost his full-time job of three years in March and began a long odyssey of unemployment filings, job searching, job finding, only to find a serious lack of hours, or support, before he finally got back on his feet a couple of months ago. A first year of marriage shouldn't be that tough.

Rachel made it through freshman year, returned for her sophomore year, thankful for the best roommate in the world, but dealing with her own set of real issues regarding life on campus all while trying, and succeeding, in making Dean's List in Fall Semester. I'm so proud.  :)

Don't get me wrong, 2016 has had its ups. Rachel's academic success, Robbie and Tamera surviving, traditionally, the toughest year of marriage, the first, and Bonnie, late in the year, receiving a promotion to work in the Mortgage Department at her workplace, and she's very excited about it, though there are hundreds of customers at her branch that are literally in mourning that she is leaving. A longer drive, but more opportunity as she looks ahead to, hopefully, the final years of her career.

As for me? I, too, have had my ups and downs. When you're a heart attack survivor, every chest pain incident brings on the inevitable worries. A stress test in May showed good news, but my A1C is up, so I launch a plan of attack on that New Year's Day.

And then there are those unspoken events of your year, things good, but in 2016 more so bad, that happen that I don't list here simply because it is incredibly unwise to air all of your issues on social media. It may provide five minutes of relief from your anxiety, but will likely be followed by months and months of negative ramifications.

So, I won't bore you with the other crosses that were carried here at the Casa de Witham this year. Suffice it to say it's been enough that when we start counting down 10, 9, 8, 7 later tonight, it will be with an extra zest and zeal, and with a prayer that 2017 will be not an "easier" year, but maybe a "better" year in that the stresses are a bit fewer, and maybe not so complicated.

I think back to all the famous people we lost in 2016, and it has been an unusual year for that, but I think part of it is my generation, as we all hit "The Big 5-0", started to see more and more of our childhood idols say goodbye. When you are younger, and Presidents pass that served 20 years before your birth, you are not connected to it, though it's a major event.

But when the soundtrack of high school starts to die off (Prince, Glenn Frey, David Bowie and now George Michael), then it seems that 2016 was unusually cruel. Mrs. Brady left us, Princess Leia, then her mother the very next day, Mr. Seaver from Growing Pains, even Willy Wonka. Add in the instant era of social media and its good, and bad, interactions, and things mushroom.

For us, we saw our cat Cody, move away to live with Robbie's long-time best friend, and he's having a ball. His sister, Zoe, has come out of her shell being the only cat in town here, and we've seen parts of her personality hidden for eleven years.

Bonnie lost her best friend after she was missing for a few days after a hospital visit, and then found. We buried her on a cloudy day in April, returned to our car after the graveside service only to learn of Prince's death on Twitter.

Not many days later, I returned to the same cemetery with what seemed like half of Mechanicsville after the senseless tragedy that took Lee-Davis senior Dylan Ballard and his friend, a Lee-Davis grad away from us after an automobile accident. The scene at Lee-Davis a week later when Atlee came to play three sports, and the support shown by rivals who share the same community was heartwarming and the first step to healing.

A dear long-time friend and former employee suddenly watched her husband go to be with God before Christmas, while another dear long-time friend and former colleague walked a similar heart path as I did, and I'm happy to say he's going to be okay.

But it's gotten to the point where I'm scared to open social media for fear of bad news. Let's hope it's all just temporary and 2017 will seem more normal.

I have hope that 2017 will rectify the messes that were cascaded upon us by 2016, that we can get a fresh start, a good, but realistic, perspective, which includes a reminder that the same God who, for reasons only known to Him, gave me that warning a year ago tonight, is the God who still has everything in control.

I don't care who occupies the White House. I know who is on the Great White Throne. :)

In a last word, 2016 could not be discussed without all the opportunities I have had to meet even more incredible people, from student-athletes in high school and colleges to their families and teammates. As of this morning, I've heard the National Anthem played at live sporting events 200 times in 2016 (down from 210 in 2015). I've watched a son mourn his mom while scoring the touchdown that won his team a state championship, watched neighbors play for a spot in a state championship, with one team on fire and the other bitterly disappointed, saw a great lacrosse team have their championship hopes literally trickle away in overtime, saw an overlooked college football team prove everyone wrong and produce their best season in 32 years.

I met a young lady who won the Deaf World Cup of Women's Soccer for Team USA this summer in Italy, and a young man who didn't let cerebral palsy keep him from playing for Atlee football, all the while challenging his mind as, daily, his body challenges him.

I've seen ways to improve how our company, The RVA Sports Network, uses social media and our coverage tools in a more positive way, how to better focus on the really important issues, how to be fair to every student-athlete who works their tail off daily to get better while staying up with their studies, and how students who aren't athletes should be celebrated as well. I've seen how competitors (and yes, there is fierce competition in covering high school sports in this area, if you can believe it) have opted to cover things, looked at my plans, and altered them so that, hopefully, we do the best job in the area of spotlighting what really matters.

And what really matters is that all student-athletes are treated equally, whether they get 50 scholarship offers or never plan to play a sport in college, that a math whiz who gets a scholarship to UVA should be just as applauded as having the top women's basketball recruit hail from our area. That there's more to life than sports, to let teenagers know that they need to, in the back of their minds, have a plan for life after sports, and that, in this year where so many groups claimed things about how "lives matter", mostly to hide behind the slogan for their own political or ideological gain, the truth, I believe, that outshines it all is this.

Every life matters.

I'll leave 2016 with this thought. When the Monacan girls basketball team won their second straight state championship in March behind the top recruit in the nation, Megan Walker, who has now signed with Connecticut, the biggest cheer from the Monacan Maniacs student section didn't go to her. Instead, late in the game, it went to a reserve, Brittany Gordon, who rarely played, got into the game, and scored a basket late in the contest. It would be Gordon's last moments on a court like that. She wouldn't go on to play in college. But she can now cherish those cheers, and that moment, every time she opens her jewelry drawer or case, and sees her championship ring.

She busted her butt in practice, too. No one made a video of her. Throngs of TV cameras never approached her. She didn't see her name on Twitter often. But she sacrificed just as much for the success of that team in its championship run.

In 2017, I want to bring a focus to more of the Brittany Gordons, the people who complete teams. They may not fill box scores, but they bring intangibles that, without them, would leave teams different, and probably not as successful.

Everyone has a story. My aim is to find more of them. And, as we do that, maybe we'll also bring a better understanding of each other to one another, and 2017 won't be quite as divisive as 2016.

For you, from all of the Withams, prayers for you to survive your unspoken challenges, prayers for good health, for necessities provided, and, most importantly, for the peace that passes all understanding to guard your hearts and minds.

Happy New Year!  :)

--Rob Witham

Song #175: "Spirit Of The Radio"--Rush (1980)

The third of four contributions from Geddy Lee and company is the song that began to, finally, give them the exposure, and credit, they deserved, both in the United Kingdom, and the United States.

It was only heard on AOR radio stations, but it began a string of rock hits that cemented this Canadian band in its rightful place in rock history, and within a year or so, we had "Freewill", "Limelight", and "Tom Sawyer" to cherish and enjoy.

I have one final song left from Rush coming up in the Top 500. We've already enjoyed "Freewill" and "Tom Sawyer" and, now, "Spirit Of The Radio". What's my favorite Rush song?

Friday, December 30, 2016

Song #176: "Somewhere"--As Performed By Rachel Witham (2013)

When I first heard this song, I hated it. How's that for a starter?  :)

My first real exposure to it was when Barbra Streisand released it as a single around the end of 1985, and, when I finally got my first airshift on WUPE-FM on Sunday February 9th, 1986, which was from 2am to 8:30am, it was the song on the cart at the bottom of the heavy rotation slot.

That meant two things.

1) It was next to be played.

2) The DJ's on before me and the Saturday Night oldies show likely skipped it so they didn't have to play it.  :)

So, it was the first song I ever played on FM commercial radio, having NO idea how important the song would become to me, 27 years later.

Fast forward to 2013. Glen Allen High School's spring musical is going to be "West Side Story". Our director decides to create a scene with Tony and Maria where they dance together to the song "Somewhere", and he needs to cast a "Somewhere Girl" who would appear at the top of a scaffolding to sing as they romantically danced.

Rachel gets cast as "Somewhere Girl". We're all excited about it.

And, then, I go and have a heart attack. What an idiot!

Thanks to the grace of God, and the incredible work of both Henrico County Engine Company 15 and Memorial Regional Medical Center, just ten nights later, I am sitting at Glen Allen High School watching the dress rehearsal for "West Side Story", and out she comes.

And I fell in love with "Somewhere" in the middle of a puddle of tears.

There are a million reasons to be alive. Some are much greater than others. I learned a new one on April 18, 2013.

Note: Barbra gets the call out of the bullpen since I don't have a copy of Rachel's. It wasn't allowed due to copyright restrictions.  :(

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Song #177: "The King Of Eight"--Sesame Street (1970)

A huge part of my early childhood was spending time with my friends on what became known as PBS.

From Mister Rogers and King Friday to the Electric Company with Fargo North Decoder, Jennifer Of The Jungle, and Letterman, I spent hours watching, and learning, from all my TV friends.

Which included Susan, Gordon, Bert and Ernie, and the rest of the gang on Sesame Street. And, from it, comes today's song, a 71-second tribute to the number eight, its quick ascent and demise in a land controlled by what is two times four.

I shared it with my kids when I discovered it on YouTube, and I hope you do, too.  :)


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Song #178: "The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald"--Gordon Lightfoot (1976)

November 10, 1975 was a sad day in the annals of the history of the Great Lakes.

The loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald and its 29 crew members was due to a major storm on Lake Superior. Gordon Lightfoot brought the story to life nearly a year later in a song that is, by far, my favorite Gordon Lightfoot song, and an epic that completely exemplifies the "story song" genre.

There's really nothing more to say than thank you to Mr. Lightfoot for this package of musical genius.

Long live the Edmund Fitzgerald!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Song #179: "The Horizontal Bop"--Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band (1980)

It's the second of three Bob Seger tunes in our Top 500, all three of them from his amazing LP, "Against The Wind".

I will admit that, while compiling this particular list, I discovered some songs that I just couldn't bring to putting in this tapestry due to content issues. It's a simple case of the fact I was a pretty naive kid back in the late 1970's, and occasionally, even in junior high.

I first heard today's song in seventh grade, and I thought it was about a dance. :)

So, anyway, even knowing the real purpose of the song, this one I kept in, simply because I loved the entirety of the composition so much, from the instrumentation to the beat, and the great sound of Seger, I can overlook the fact that they're talking about everyone getting ready for, well, you know....

In case you've not heard this song I discovered on Side B of a single, hit play below.  :)

Monday, December 26, 2016

Song #180: "What's He Got?"--The Producers (1981)

Out of nowhere to the cooler radio stations (hee hee) came this short, but powerful ball of new wave music courtesy of The Producers, who earlier appeared in our countdown with their biggest charting single, "She Sheila".

I prefer this little ditty from the Atlanta-based group, however. It exploded out of our radios in 1981 with a beat that wouldn't quit and fantastic use of the word "hey!". It made you want to immediately get up and dance around the room with the stereo at full blast.

Some songs have it, some don't. This one had it in spades. Do you remember?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Song #181: "AD 1928/Rockin' The Paradise"--Styx (1981)

Merry Christmas!

Well, no, we didn't try to "time" the countdown so a cool Christmas song would appear today. It is the way it is.

Today, we travel back in time to early 1981, when Styx released the concept album "Paradise Theatre", about the life and death of a theatre, the people and places associated and surrounding it. From it, we've already heard "Snowblind" in the countdown, and "Too Much Time On My Hands" was among the final cuts.

But the first song "suite" on the LP ends as my second favorite song from Dennis DeYoung and the gang, kicking off "Paradise Theatre" in a fantastic way. This was, by the way, Styx's only #1 album in the United States, which makes me wonder what kept "Pieces Of Eight" from topping the charts a few years earlier.

There's one more Styx song to go here in the countdown. Any guesses?

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Song #182: "Mrs. Robinson"--Simon And Garfunkel (1967)

So Paul Simon makes a deal to write some songs for an upcoming Mike Nichols movie, "The Graduate", and only had one completed.

He said time was a factor (he didn't have enough of it), then he gave him a few notes from a song he had on the back burner, a song about the old days, of "Mrs. Roosevelt and Joe DiMaggio". The story goes, Nichols changed "Roosevelt" to "Robinson" in the conversation to go along with a character in the movie, and the rest is history.

The movie premiered late in 1967, the single was released when I was seven months old in early February, 1968, and it went on to become, perhaps, the single-best known song from the classic duo in their recording history.

It is definitely my favorite Simon and Garfunkel tune, one of two to make the Top 500 ("My Little Town" being the other). Paul, however, has one more solo song in him, and returns, later down the road.

Today, it's #HeyHeyHey to go along with your #HoHoHo !  :)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Song #183: "The Dating Game Closing Theme" (1973-1980)

There were many songs associated with one of Chuck Barris' ingenious game show creations, "The Dating Game", thanks to the talents of one Herb Alpert. One of them is still to come in our countdown.

But this, the fourth game show theme song in our countdown, gets more specific, as it was used as the closing theme, especially during the syndicated run of "The Dating Game" in the late 1970's. The official title is "Little Rosie", and it was written by, of all people, Chuckie Baby himself.

Below are the full version, which is nice but doesn't capture the feel of the show, and a video of the show itself, which gives you a better idea of why this then eleven year old boy would get up in his bedroom, usually in his Oakland Raiders pajamas, and dance along after Jim Lange and company would seal the end of the show with a kiss.

Some people would consider admitting this embarrassing, but I frankly don't mind. I was eleven, loved game shows and music, so I was in my zone every weeknight around 7:26pm. I mean, how else was I supposed to get ready to finish my sixth grade homework? I was getting fired up!  :)

Note: Head to about 4:46 of the bottom video. Make sure to catch the great credit at 5:31, and see if you understand the double entendre. :)

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Song #184: "Radio Ga Ga"--Queen (1984)

I cannot begin to tell you how many songs were under consideration for this Top 500 countdown from Queen. They were such an influential part of my childhood soundtrack, especially two releases, "A Night At The Opera" and "The Game".

"Another One Bites The Dust" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", from "The Game", I absolutely adored when they both exploded onto radio. I got the LP, and went nuts for other tunes after discovering some of them on Side B of the above singles.

"Don't Try Suicide" came so, so close to making it, just edged out by "Dragon Attack". Then add "Need Your Loving Tonight", then go back to "A Night At The Opera", and it's hard to believe "Death On Two Legs" didn't make it.

But today, what is considered the final successful radio single for Freddie Mercury and company hits the countdown, my second favorite song from Queen. Part of the song's appeal is their unique, funky twist on how music's direction had gone by early 1984. The other part came over time, as this song absolutely nails the power that radio once had, still had when the song was released, and for a decade or so once and after I had started my own career.

Then came the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the ability to start owning large numbers of radio stations, the Clear Channels, and thus, the beginning of the end of radio. And, sadly, we hastened our own demise, firing disc jockeys left and right in order to satisfy the creditors who held the debt, hour by hour turning stations with flavor, with personality that suited and fit their community, into mindless jukeboxes that we couldn't control.

Add in the advent of the iPod, satellite radio (invested in by Clear Channel and other radio companies even though it was "competition"), and later YouTube, Pandora, and Spotify, and you end up with where radio is today.

Radio is forgotten by my kids' generation. They never listened to it in their rooms, didn't care about it in the car. Press CD or now in Robbie's case, hook up the phone and listen via the smart dashboard.

Radio doesn't, with some exception, listen to the cities and towns they serve. A "national" or "regional" programmer creates the playlist, and off it goes from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine, blind to what the people want. Whole formats get sanitized names. A CHR station, call it "KISS-FM"! Unless, of course, someone else has that in a market, ironically as is the case here in RVA.

Don't even get me started on AM Radio, which is in hospice. The final decent AM format, sports, has been destroyed by "hot takes" talk which is also making ESPN, et al, unwatchable. Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith and company should all be writing for pennies at whatever newspapers are left. They deserve zero of the dollars they're making spouting off nonsense that, for whatever reason, a group of people decide to hang on their every opinion. Yecch.

Yes, radio, someone still loves you, as today's song says. But you fired him/her while failing to satisfy a $20 billion debt, so we all, who really love, know and understand how to be successful at radio, sit here without the buying power to go and do the only thing left to do for radio before you finish strangling it to death.

Buy it back, and give the people what they want.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Song #185: "(They Long To Be) Close To You"--The Carpenters (1970)

First today, a "Did You Know?"

Did you know that the first artist to record and release this song, seven years before Karen Carpenter made it a signature Carpenters tune, was, of all people, Richard Chamberlain?

Yes, that Richard Chamberlain.

Now, fast forward to 1970. Herb Alpert had the song, recorded it as a hopeful follow-up to his hit, "This Guy's In Love With You", and, thankfully, didn't like how it turned out. So, Alpert bequeathed it to his record company partners, and history was made.

This song made The Carpenters. It would be the launching pad for their many, many hits throughout much of the decade. They won a Grammy thanks to it in 1971, and the rest is history.

It's #2 on my favorite Carpenters songs, so we've got one more remaining, coming not too, too far down the road, and I think you'll be surprised as to which song it is. (Hint: It's not a Christmas song). :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Song #186: "Along Comes Mary"--The Association (1966)

Here comes the long entry from the group The Association, who enjoyed other hits such as "Cherish", "Never My Love" and a song that wasn't too far out of the countdown, "Windy".

All Association songs were discovered by me as they were played back in the early 1970's on WRVA, and, I can remember the first song we recorded this song off the radio, the cassette ran out of tape, so, halfway through the final verse, the song cuts off.

So, years later, when I finally found a 45 RPM copy of the song, it was nice to actually enjoy the whole thing!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Song #187: "Queen Of Hearts"--Juice Newton (1981)

Today, it's the debut of a usually forgotten country/pop hybrid artist of the early 1980's. For a time, after two albums of futility trying to hit big on the charts, Juice was a constant chart presence in 1981 thanks to her breakthrough album, "Juice".

On the heels of her first #1 song, "Angel Of The Morning", came today's song, which hit it big back in the Summer of 1981, which, looking back now 35 plus years later, was underrated musically. The more I scan my Top 500, and the other 250 or so songs that didn't quite make the cut, the more I realized that the Summer of '81 holds its own quite well when compared to summers around it.

Ironically, "Queen of Hearts" was Newton's biggest-selling single, though it peaked at #2. Why didn't it go #1? There was also a mediocre movie that summer featuring Brooke Shields called "Endless Love" which spawned a song of the same name that, thanks to the power of the duo of Lionel Richie and Diana Ross, lived at #1 for nine weeks from August to October.

Juice will be back later on as (spoiler alert) Spring 2017 fights for supremacy with the hopefully fading Winter. What song will that be?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Song #188: "Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes"--Jimmy Buffett (1977)

Here it is, my favorite song from Jimmy Buffett. It's the title track to a 1977 release that's best known for another song.

When you hear the name Jimmy Buffett, usually, the first song that comes to mind is "Margaritaville". That's all fine and good. But I've always (don't kill me) thought that song was overplayed and overused.

I fell in love with today's song as soon as I heard it, which was after the chart success of the aforementioned first single. It is, I'm happy to say, still a concert staple, so I'm told.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Song #189: "Don't Know Nothing"--Maroon 5 (2010)

Today, it's the second and final contribution from Maroon 5, thanks mostly to "The Withams' Strangest Weekend Excursion Ever", when we actually drove from Richmond to Cincinnati for our first NFL game pitting Rachel's Bengals and Robbie's San Francisco 49ers (the Niners won an uninspiring game 13-8), then immediately drove back to Richmond after the game, getting home around 2am Monday back in September, 2011....

It was a trip I didn't think possible as late as 2009, as Robbie and Rachel just didn't watch sports with me growing up....until then. I honestly think it was the advent of NFL Red Zone, whose first season on TV was 2009, that did it. They started watching NFL Football with me, and decided to pick favorite teams. Robbie picked the Niners, back when they were still struggling, while Rachel picked the Bengals.....because of the jerseys.  :)

It was a 42 hour period of complete insanity, but it was worth every single minute. Rachel, of course, would grab control of the music when she could, and, as I admitted here with the other song in the countdown, I began to really like two cuts from their "Hands All Over" release, neither of which was a hit. That's so my forte.  :)

So, today, it's the other cut that helped me drive the long, hard final hour out of Charlottesville early on that Monday morning, ending a weekend our family will never, ever forget.

Oh, and if you ever spend the night at the Country Inn and Suites in Wilder, Kentucky just across the Ohio River, make sure you ask if they'll have roasted small potatoes at the hot breakfast buffet.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Song #190: "Last Night A DJ Saved My Life"-- Indeep (1982)

One of the greatest things about growing up in the thriving metropolis of Beaverdam, Virginia was the great ability to pick up both television and radio stations from multiple markets.

On TV, I can't tell you how many summer mornings started with Porky Pig at 7:30, followed by The Flintstones at 8 on WTTG, Channel 5 out of Washington, DC. My choice for local sports was the great George Michael, also the host of the syndicated "George Michael Sports Machine" for many years, who handled sports on WRC-TV 4 with the great anchor Jim Vance. My first exposure to CNN Headline News was when WVIR-TV 29 in Charlottesville aired it weekdays from 5:30 to 6pm not long after its debut, first known as "CNN2", on New Year's Day, 1982.

Here's how Headline News debuted just after midnight almost 35 years ago....

Now, back to today's song. I've talked previously about the great Q107 in Washington, DC, which, in my opinion, was the greatest Top 40 radio station ever, at least of all the ones I heard. But there were lots of other out of town stations that dotted my dial, and my FM antenna that helped me find them. I listened to either Washington or Norfolk/Virginia Beach stations, depending on the weather conditions, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg on a regular basis, sometimes Tappahannock and, once in a blue moon, I'd even grab a station out of Greensboro, North Carolina.

One of the DC stations was WKYS-FM, an urban-formatted outlet that featured the great Donnie Simpson, who later became known for the show "Video Soul" on the early days of cable channel BET. Simpson is still on the air in Washington today on another station.

1982 was a year where, more and more, on Saturday nights, you'd hear urban stations begin to air "mix parties", where songs were segued with an extra beat sound to never allow an interruption of a long set of music. It was revolutionary 35 years ago, and well past old hat today.

And, likely, the first time I heard today's song was on one of those mix shows. The groove is insane, the story of the song hilarious, and, anyone with the guts to include a toilet flushing in the bridge, followed by a vocal "amen" of sorts ("Well, alright!") is fine by me.

Come back with me to the great early 1980's, when DJ's picked, played their own music sometimes, and even saved lives!  :)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Song #191: "Election Day"--Arcadia (1985)

Once upon a time, over thirty years ago, during a break in being Duran Duran, three members decided to join forces and form another group, "Arcadia", who recorded one album, released in 1985, and, from it, comes today's song.

It was their only Top 10 hit in this incarnation, as the follow-up single barely made the Top 40, and, later in 1986, for all intents and purposes, the group was done.

But they did leave us this gem, and the better, full album version is posted below. Eight minutes plus of mid-80's musical goodness.  :)

Ironically, the most memorable part of Election Day 1985 was the historic flooding going on here in the Old Dominion, which I missed, while a freshman in Western Massachusetts.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Song #192: "The Star Spangled Banner" (1814)

It's, by far, the oldest song in our Top 500, the most patriotic, and, sadly, perhaps, in these times, the most controversial. But putting today's current events aside, let's marvel at the history behind the song that made it the anthem of, in my opinion, the greatest nation that has ever graced the face of the earth.

Francis Scott Key writes what would be the lyrics in 1814 in the poem, "The Defence of Fort M'Henry" in September. It was only days later when he gave the poem to his brother-in-law, who placed the words into a 41-year old tune, "The Anacreontic Song" from John Stafford Smith of England. It was printed by two newspapers, then caught on up and down the Atlantic Seaboard.

Several versions of the song survived for the next century, then, President Woodrow Wilson decided, let's think about getting a standard version. Five musicians, including John Philip Sousa, voted on which version to adopt universally. By unanimous choice, the version we know today "premiered" of sorts at Carnegie Hall in New York City on December 5, 1917, just over 99 years ago.

But it would take over thirteen more years, and several attempts, before it was adopted as our National Anthem, as President Herbert Hoover signed the bill passed by Congress into law on March 4, 1931, over forty years after the United States Navy began using it each time the flag was raised.

We've heard many memorable versions, sung it many times. In 2015, I decided to keep track of how many times I heard The Star Spangled Banner at sporting events I covered along the way. My final count for the year was 210 times. I heard lots of recorded versions, some live versions, some good, some excellent.

There's Jose Feliciano at the 1968 World Series, Marvin Gaye at the 1983 All-Star Game, but, for my money, the best version ever was by the late Whitney Houston, and used at Super Bowl XXV in 1991 just after the start of The Gulf War. There was a brief controversy about her recording it prior to the game and not singing it live, but it died down, as it should have.

The next day, radio stations across the country were playing the song. The country embraced the version like never before, and her record company got a version out for sale as soon as possible for the technology of 25 years ago.

So here is a look at January 27, 1991, and the late Whitney Houston with our National Anthem, its roots now nearly 203 years old. (NOTE: Advance to 1:10 mark in the video....)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Song #193: "Sowing The Seeds Of Love"--Tears For Fears (1989)

It was the final big hit, after a long absence from the charts, for the British group Tears For Fears, who partially owned radio in 1985 thanks to songs like "Shout" and "Head Over Heels", the latter which appeared earlier in our countdown.

In the Fall of 1989, TFF returned with this song, done in the classic sound of the group. And, when all is said and done, it's my favorite from them, though, I must admit, the opening to "Head Over Heels" would probably be in my Top 25 for "All-Time Favorite Song Openings".

Peaking on radio just before the Berlin Wall came crashing down, it was appropriate for the crazy, changing times, though its message should have been pointed more East than West.  :)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Song #194: "A Matter Of Trust"--Billy Joel (1986)

I'm going to go ahead and tell you some of the Billy Joel songs you won't find in our countdown, as today's is the fourth of six entries.

"Piano Man"
"Only The Good Die Young"
"Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)"
"It's Still Rock and Roll To Me"
"We Didn't Start The Fire"
"You May Be Right"

"Allentown" was greatly considered, as was "You're Only Human (Second Wind)", "Sometimes A Fantasy" and "Say Goodbye To Hollywood".

You can go start trying to figure out the two left to come. :)

Today's song, to me, is highly underrated, and usually not on people's lips when they are asked for their Billy Joel favorites. It would be #3 for me. And I never hear this song without hearing a radio jingle right after Billy counts at the song's beginning.

As a rookie DJ, I, of course, thought it was SO cool to hit the jingle cart so that right after "One, Two, One Two Three Four!", out came the shout jingle, "FM 96, WUPE!" So, I did it as much as I could while this song was in current rotations.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Song #195: "Rock And Roll Band"--Boston (1976)

It's the third of four contributions in our musical journey from "just another band out of Boston", and the second of three from the debut album from "Boston" that has gone on, in the subsequent 40-year period, to go down as one of the greatest albums in rock history, not just one of the greatest debut releases ever.

I can count on my hand the number of albums where I can say I enjoy listening to every song, whether Side A or Side B. This is one of them. There's not a bad song on this album, leading to its legendary status.

Today's song kicks off Side B and tells the story of the band, and how they got to the point of recording this material. Remember, when they recorded this song, they truly were still "just another band out of Boston, on the road and trying to make ends meet".

But not for long.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Song #196: "Ice Cream Man"--Van Halen (1978)

In the end, it's my favorite Van Halen song, from the album that introduced myself, and everyone else, of their unique sound, incredible guitarist, crazy lead singer.....need I go on?

I remember well having a week in, I think, fifth grade where our music teacher at Beaverdam Elementary invited us to bring in a record of our favorite song at the time, and she might play it the next week in class.

I borrowed my brother's copy of "Van Halen", and sauntered into class, and, yes, she actually played this song on the good ol' record player. You remember the school issued record players, right? It kinda looked like.....

Here we are, 38 plus years later, Beaverdam Elementary survived a dose of Van Halen, and I look back at that album and remember some great songs, from "Eruption", "Jamie's Cryin'", "Feel Your Love Tonight", and, of course, today's dairy delight.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Song #197: "The Right Thing To Do"--Carly Simon (1973)

Originally released on her 1972 album "No Secrets", our Carly Simon contribution to the Top 500 was first heard on the radio in the Spring of 1973.

I like a lot of Carly's music, and she certainly had some great hits, from "You're So Vain" (which is not about me, by the way) and "Anticipation" to "Nobody Does It Better" from "The Spy Who Loved Me" in 1977 and "Coming Around Again" nearly a decade later.

But today's song marks her one entry here. It's my favorite from Carly, and brings back memories of being home with my Mama before starting school, and listening to WRVA Radio back in the good ol' days.  :)

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Song #198: "Life In One Day"--Howard Jones (1985)

From his "Dream Into Action" album, here's the second and final contribution from Howard Jones in our musical journey, an artist, as we talked about a couple of months ago HERE, who is, many times forgotten about when a look into the musical tapestry of the decade I love the most is undertaken.

This CD also produced the hits, "Things Can Only Get Better" (#264) and "No One Is To Blame".

The message is a great reminder to piggy back to our song of two days ago. Don't waste your time, spend it wisely, but try not to cram everything into a day. :)

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Song #199: "Modern Love"--David Bowie (1983)

Today, it's the second of two contributions from an artist who helped revolutionize several areas of popular music with a talent and personality that sometimes was completely misunderstood.

I'm most impressed by the fact that he did not let his recent terminal illness keep him from completing and releasing his final work literally just before his death.

This song was everywhere on radio in 1983, which was a very, very good year for music, and much more than just Michael Jackson tunes and "Every Breath You Take" by The Police. Bowie's contribution here is a great example.

So, time to put your trust in God, your fellow man, look at relationships, not religion, and question assumptions, challenge your faith, and take a second look at modern love.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Song #200: "New York Minute"--Don Henley (1990)

We begin our Top 200 with the fourth of five solo efforts from this member, then former member, then member of the Eagles.

If you've ever watched the "History of the Eagles" documentary, you know that, even though Henley grew up in rural Texas, he was able to be exposed to numerous forms of music during his childhood, which, in turn, allowed him to show so much variety musically throughout his career, solo or otherwise.

He's just as comfortable doing a country/bluegrass tune like "Midnight Flyer", back at #499 than he is crooning and wailing this lament about how life changes in an instant, sometimes out of our control, and sometimes by the choice of someone, or something, else.

I find myself, at times, being back in what I like to call the "mundane groove" of life, where I get worried about the stupidest things. And I have to go back and remind myself of my old rule: if this won't matter in 20 years, it shouldn't matter now.

After my heart attack, it only highlighted the need to remember this rule daily and not get stuck in worrying about what truly doesn't matter. Time is your greatest currency. Spend it very, very wisely.

Henley will return one more time in our countdown, and, a spoiler alert, it won't be until sometime in June.  :)

Monday, December 05, 2016

Song #201: "Roam"--The B-52's (1989)

We reach the 300 songs revealed milestone today with the second of three entries from the new wave group that never went away even after the new wave movement did.

In fact, some of their biggest work came, not at the beginning of the 1980's, but at the end, such as today's song. Though not as commercially popular as the smash single "Love Shack", I definitely prefer "Roam" instead.

This became a VERY popular song in the minivan with the kids and myself back in the day, with Robbie in elementary, then middle school, and Rachel starting elementary. I can still hear, oh, about five year old Rachel trying to sing this song with every bit of her lungs.  :)

So, with "Private Idaho" already having appeared, and with "Roam" today, what could possibly be my favorite B-52's song?  :)

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Song #202: "The Battle of New Orleans"--Johnny Horton (1959)

I must say, I was exposed to a variety of music when I was young. Not nearly as much as others, I know, but my day could consist of anything from Southern Gospel and quartet gospel, to country, to folk, to pop and to rock or rhythm and blues. It all depended on which AM radio station was on or which album was playing, either on the big stereo in the dining room or on our little record player in our bedroom.

One album that got lots of play in our room was from Johnny Horton, a man who tragically passed in 1960, years before my arrival, due to an automobile accident. He took a song written by Jimmy Driftwood and made it into the biggest song of 1959, a comical look at the historic battle. Brits didn't care for it very much, however.

Horton had other great songs like "Sink The Bismarck", "Johnny Reb" and, of course, "North To Alaska". But my favorite is below, and it transports me immediately back to my bottom bunk bed circa 1974 or 1975, enjoying tunes because I was in first and second grade, and, generally, homework wasn't much of a thing back then.  :)

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Song #203: "I Wish It Would Rain Down"--Phil Collins (1989)

Today, it's the fifth of six solo contributions from Phil Collins in our countdown, and one of two not to appear on 1985's "No Jacket Required". This song was on his late 1989 project, "...But Seriously".

It, however, would be years later before this song really became a big Collins favorite of mine, as I had a compilation CD in my van which I wore down pretty well in the wake of my Mom's passing and my subsequent beginnings of the battle with depression. Add to it tough times at work, struggles pastoring, struggles mentally, and other issues, and some days this became my theme song.

I know, however, that what I experienced through the mid-2000's was neither an identity crisis nor a mid-life crisis. It was a combination of crises, and, praise God, I made it through them. The battle is more of a skirmish today, but, once in a while, the rainy days still come.

On a completely different note, it's a shame it took this long (to late 1989) to get Eric Clapton to play lead guitar on a Phil Collins tune.

Deciding which Collins tunes would, and would not, make the cut for this countdown was excruciating. I can hear my eighteen-year old self yelling, "What?? Don't Lose My Number DIDN'T MAKE IT?!?!?!?"

Only one more Phil tune did, which will come.....after the thaw.......

Friday, December 02, 2016

Song #204: "Theme From 'Split Second'"--Stan Worth (1972)

I'm a game show fanatic. I would absolutely love to play "The $100,000 Pyramid" one day, it's my favorite game show from a "contestant" standpoint.

But, my all-time favorite game show, to this day, was, is, and forever will be, "Split Second".

I used to make quite the fuss on Thursdays, which was grocery shopping day with Mama, heading into Richmond to such supermarket classics of an era gone by like Food Fair, Colonial Stores, and Giant Open Air Market, wanting to be back home by 12:30 so I could turn on ABC and watch "Split Second."

I loved the rapid-fire questioning during the game, dug the part where the winner got a key and tried to start one of five cars in the bonus round, and, if it started, they won it!

But just as much as the format of the show, I absolutely loved the theme song. So, I was completely geeked out when I finally found it on YouTube several years back, in fact, almost as much as when I discovered another theme.....oh, that's another story for another day.  :)

If you don't remember "Split Second", it's highly doubtful you'll remember the theme. It's below, in its complete version, which you never heard on TV. You'll be able to pick up which part was used to open and close the show and go in and out of commercials.  :)  If you can't, there's an episode posted below, too.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Song #205: "Kodachrome"--Paul Simon (1973)

As I was going into my final summer at home before having to enter school in the Fall of 1973 in first grade (Beaverdam Elementary didn't have kindergarten when I was five), this Paul Simon classic debuted on radio, becoming a daily staple on WRVA. It was an edited version, though, as they would never allow the word "crap" on the air back in those days.

I've kinda prided myself over the last 49 plus years from staying away from curse words. Some of them irk me more than others. But, for some reason, I've never had a problem using "crap". I guess it's my one crutch.

But back to the song. What a fun tune, especially the piano and the sing-along leading to that great instrumentation as the song fades. And the chorus, wow, the chorus is just SO good.

Let's go back to a time where telephones were glued to walls and only were useful for, well, telephone calls, while pictures were taken by professionals and vacationers.  :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Song #206: "James Dean"--Eagles (1974)

Of the five Eagles songs to make my Top 500, the first three to appear all come from their 1974 masterpiece, "On The Border".

You won't find a bad song in the bunch, as Midnight Flyer and Ol' 55 have already left their mark here, and that doesn't even take into consideration lasting classics like "Already Gone" and "Best Of My Love". Interestingly, this song was released as a single, between the two aforementioned songs that went on to have tremendous radio success.

Bernie Leadon tears it up with the guitar as the late Glenn Frey handles vocals on this ode to an American film icon gone way, way too soon.

Two more songs from the Eagles still to come, and neither of them from "On The Border". Do we go further back, or later into their tumultuous times in the late Seventies? Time will tell.  :)

I will say this, I don't even think my own brother knows what my favorite Eagles song actually is. And considering we spent literally hundreds of hours listening to their albums growing up, that is a surprise. Or maybe he'll surprise me and know.  :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Song #207: "Say You Will"--Foreigner (1987)

Ironically enough, this song was released as the first single from Foreigner's "Inside Information" album just nineteen days before I asked my future wife, Bonnie, "the question" on Christmas Eve, 1987.

Here's how it went down.

I didn't want a simple proposal, I wanted to put some thought and excitement to it, but how? Working as assistant manager at the Regency Inn motel near Regency Square at the time, I decided to utilize my resources. I knew I would be staying there the week leading up to Christmas as our General Manager was taking time off. I knew the nice suite we used for business mixers and other events, that could also be rented out, was available on Christmas Eve.

The question was, how to get Bonnie to the hotel on the night of Christmas Eve.

So, the plan went into motion. Remember, it's 1987. Bonnie, her mom, and younger sisters, didn't have a home telephone in the apartment they'd recently entered. So, hypothetically, if the motel paged me due to a problem and I "had" to go back to check on things.....

So I had the front desk clerk on duty page me at exactly 9:30pm while I was with Bonnie. I said I'd have to run up the street and call on a pay phone to see what the problem was, and she drove up the street with me. I got into the car, explained there had been an apparent break-in in our business suite and I needed to return to deal with it.

Complete with speeding (if you know me, you know I don't do that a whole lot), we high-tailed it from Mechanicsville Turnpike across town to Parham and Quioccasin. I set her down in the lobby and headed to the third floor suite, with, of all things, a hole puncher in my hand. I wasn't armed, so, why not take an appropriate office tool. (Hilarious!)

Then, getting to the suite seeing everything I planned together (the sparkling grape juice, the ring, etc), I called her from the room politely asking her if she could come help me pick up the place.

A minute later, she arrived, and, I brought her in, sat her down, and said, "I've always said I was going to say this just one time so I'd better get it right. Bonnie Conley, will you marry me?"

She burst into laughter, and, after I took some time to collect my ego, we began negotiating the yearly fee I'd pay to be her husband.

Just kidding.

She said yes, and, 68 days after our first date, we were engaged. That was almost 29 years ago. Sigh.

I, essentially said, "Say You Will"??  And she did.

Back to the song, it's my second favorite from Foreigner, the third of four entries. My favorite comes further down the road, and you'll have to reach back earlier in their career, in fact, quite a bit earlier, to find it.  :)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Song #208: "My Clone Sleeps Alone"--Pat Benatar (1979)

As we were putting the wraps on one of the best summers ever for music, 1979, and as "My Sharona" by The Knack was dominating the pop chart in a way few songs did in that, or any, decade, Chrysalis Records quietly, on August 27, 1979, released "In The Heat Of The Night" from a dynamo named Pat Benatar.

It would become well known soon enough when the single "Heartbreaker" burst onto radio as, interestingly, the second single from the LP, peaking at #23 on Casey Kasem's chart, but also successful as introducing Benatar to AOR radio audiences like XL 102's.

A deeper look into the album, and I found this, today's song, the final cut from side one. From its great piano opening to its fantastic transition into classic Benatar rock, this song is a hidden gem that we Benatar fans know from start to finish, forwards and backwards.

This is the fourth of five tunes on the countdown from Pat Benatar. My favorite? What do you think it is? We'll find out, but not for a good while, again, as I said on another recent post, not until we've enjoyed the blooms and returns of, dare I say, another spring?  :)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Song #209: "My Brave Face"--Paul McCartney (1989)

I mentioned several days back about losing touch with pop radio, for the most part, during the late eighties and most of the nineties while I gladly focused on my work in Contemporary Christian music radio, so I can't really remember when I was exposed to this great solo song from Paul McCartney, released in the Spring of 1989.

It would be his last solo song on the Top 40 chart after nearly two decades of success post-Beatles, first with the group "Wings", then, on his own with the occasional collaboration with the likes of Stevie Wonder.

That is, until he collaborated again, this time with Kayne West, in 2014.

In the end, McCartney earns 16 spots in the Top 500: eight with the Fab Four, five with Wings, and three solo contributions, this being the top one.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Song #210: "Anytime At All"--The Beatles (1964)

From "A Hard Day's Night", here's the sixth of eight Beatle tunes to grace our Top 500.

It's a very simple tune with a great message of commitment wrapped up in about 2:13, just the way 1964 radio wanted it. The Beatles knew how to master that part of the music radio game. They also knew later how to make their heads explode as they transformed into a revolutionary experimental band via Sgt. Pepper and other works.

Two more songs left to reveal from the Fab Four. Any guesses?  :)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Song #211: "Feeling That Way/Anytime"--Journey (1978)

On this Black Friday, where now, by the time I post this most of you have probably already returned from your bargain hunting (rife with the occasional elbow, rude line-breaker and overtired cashier), I give you, in some people's opinion, two songs for the price of one!

But the reason they are listed "together" here is simple. In the annals of rock history, you really don't hear one without the other.

It's not quite that way in another similar situation from Journey, as "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" became a hit radio single that was immediately followed on the album by the awesome "City Of The Angels". But on radio, you never heard "Angels", as they segued into the next song in rotation after the final "nah nah, nah nah" was heard.

Classic rock radio rarely, if ever, separated these two, and thus, neither do I. They'd sound incomplete, both of them, without the other.

Lots of opportunities to sing along with Steve Perry and the gang here, so, the next time you head shopping this weekend, and you know you are, tear this one up at the highest volume and sing to your heart's content before you get bogged down by Christmas music.  :D :D :D

On a completely different note, I'm surprised that this is:

A) Journey's first song in our countdown;
B) One of only two appearances by the group.

If you know me very well, you know what the other will be. But if not, be patient. It'll come. :)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Song #212: "Feeling Stronger Every Day"--Chicago (1973)

On this Thanksgiving Day, it's the sixth of seven Chicago songs to appear in our musical journey. It's the classic definition of a "two-part song", with a completely, seriously awesome jam in the final stretch.

There's one Chicago song remaining as the countdown rolls on. There were several great songs that didn't quite make it (Saturday In The Park, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?, and Baby, What A Big Surprise being three of them), and a couple that, well, I didn't care for (I thought Hard To Say I'm Sorry was the most overplayed, overrated song from an otherwise killer Summer of 1982 for music, though I liked the longer version with the upbeat jam that always got cut off of radio).

What is my favorite Chicago song? We'll find out.....soon. But, in a partial spoiler, it may not happen before the robins return and signs of life sprout again.  :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Song #213: "Don't Bring Me Down"--Electric Light Orchestra (1979)

We hit the halfway mark for contributions from Jeff Lynne and the gang known as "ELO" today with the fifth of their nine songs to make the Top 500.

This one is from the incredible music year of 1979 and certainly qualifies as being one of the best sing-along songs of all time. You absolutely cannot help but turn the volume up and sing along, especially on the chorus, when it comes on the radio.

And, in the "bridges" of the song, of sorts, when Lynne is purportedly heard singing, "Bruce!", it's not that, but a German word instead. But, since, in our version of "going viral" back in those days, people just thought he said "Bruce", he eventually would sing that "version" sometimes in concert just for kicks.

Talk about a perfect combination. Between the beat, the easy lyrics (except for Bruce....), the incredible drum can't go wrong with this song.

If you're in traffic today trying to get to Grandma's house, this tune will help waste some bumper to bumper time in a great way. :)

ELO returns four more times as the countdown continues.  :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Song #214: "Time The Avenger"--The Pretenders (1984)

From, by far and away, my favorite release from The Pretenders, "Learning To Crawl", comes the third of their five songs in our countdown. Four of them come from this album that took a long time to release, sadly, due to two deaths in the group.

So, some of the songs from the album were heard on radio as early as late 1982. But the full production finally became public in January, 1984, when we first heard today's song.

It's a very simple premise: time ticks away, and nothing lasts forever. And, for those of you reading this under the age of, say, 25, you will really, really understand that one day.

Sadly, most of us learn it after a lot of our own time has been placed in the rear-view mirror due to that tiny little tick, tick, tick......

Monday, November 21, 2016

Song #215: "Just A Job To Do"--Genesis (1983)

In case you didn't know, since he made our countdown as a solo artist back on Saturday, Phil Collins makes a grand total of sixteen appearances in the Top 500, six solo, and ten with his buddies from Genesis.

Releasing "Genesis", their 12th studio album, in the fall of 1983, the guys produced a ton of great music on this release, but nowadays on classic hits or classic rock radio, all you ever hear is "That's All", which has become tired and overplayed. There are so many other great tunes on that album, and side one is close to a masterpiece.

Today's song is the third on side two, and, generally, when I stopped listening, as cuts #9 and #10 didn't do much for me. This is a GREAT song to jam to, especially if you're in the car for a long drive and need to get rid of some frustration. Just turn it up to "10" and sing along as loud as you can.  :)

Just remember, however, to not use this song to work yourself up over someone you are upset with. Not the way to go.  :)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Song #216: "Stranger In Town"--Toto (1984)

Hitting radio as I began to come to grips with the fact that I really was a senior at Patrick Henry High School, this song was not one of Toto's more commercial successes. In fact, it was more successful at rock radio, peaking at #7, as opposed to pop radio, just cracking the Top 30, long enough for a cup of coffee with Casey Kasem.

But the song is simply fantastic, and, when I got to college, began working in radio, and discovered the "seven inch" single version of the song in the music director's office located in the back off the hallway at our stations in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, I discovered a whole new version of the tune.

From the makers of "99, which made our countdown earlier, plus the 1982 smash hits "Rosanna" and "Africa", which did not, here's the second of four Toto tunes in my Top 500.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Song #217: "Inside Out"--Phil Collins (1985)

From one of my all-time favorite albums, "No Jacket Required", it's the third song from the album to appear in my Top 500, the fourth of six Phil Collins singles overall. In case you missed them, the other two so far were at #291 and #451.

That doesn't even include popular songs from the album that missed the countdown, from "Don't Lose My Number" and "One More Night" to "Sussudio".

Love the drive of this song, even though it's technically a "ballad". It's almost an "anti-ballad", with a typical ballad message and BPM, but not the ballad feel.  :)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Song #218: "Eternal Flame"--The Bangles (1988)

Their past radio success thanks mostly to mid-tempo and high-tempo hits like "Manic Monday" and "Walk Like An Egyptian", which was their first number one hit, the Bangles returned to the top of the charts during the snowy (at least in Richmond) late winter of 1989 with this haunting ballad.

Interestingly, it would be over a decade later before I discovered this song. By early 1989, as Operations Manager, and, about to become Music Director, of the former WDYL-FM and WGGM, my life was firmly ensconced in what's known as "CCM", or Contemporary Christian Music.

I played it five hours a day on my afternoon drive air shift and was now beginning to make the decisions on what to add, what to put in heavy rotation, when it was time to send a song to the "recurrent" category (raise your hand if you know what that means!), etc. So, my time listening to pop music became reduced to what few songs I would hear while throwing newspapers in the early, early morning, and, most of that time, I was listening to the news.

So, it was a pleasant addition to my musical tastes when I discovered this, and many other songs, in "catch up" mode in the early to mid 2000's.

The ladies return two more times in our musical journey.  :)

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Song #219: "Mr. Roboto"--Styx (1983)

It's the fifth of seven songs from a group that was woven into the musical fabric of the 1970's and early 1980's more than people remember now that we're over three decades removed from their run of incredible music.

Thinking about the variety of groups that populated some or most of that time frame, like Styx, Eagles, Chicago, Boston, Foreigner, Fleetwood Mac, The Pretenders, Fleetwood Mac, The Doobie Brothers....and that is only scratching the surface.

I'm not sure how the music of the 2010's will stack up a generation from now, and I suspect it will have its forty-somethings like me who will say it was the greatest time for music ever. Every generation tends to believe that way.

But I'd stack up the raw music talent of this era to any other, and I think it would fare just fine.

Today's Styx contribution is from their final album, really, in terms of the true "Styx". "Kilroy Was Here", was loved by many fans, and slammed by some. When I hear this song, I'm immediately transported to one of the greatest periods of my life, from February to April, 1983, when some fantastic things began to happen for me, and I started the final stretch to truly understanding who I was, and was meant to be.

And, (spoiler alert!), we will return to this album before the countdown concludes. :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Song #220: "Alive Again"--Chicago (1978)

Coming out about a year after their last chart success with "Baby, What A Big Surprise", Chicago returned to the airwaves in the Autumn of 1978 with today's song.

The opening is, in my view, among the strongest from any Chicago song. The instrumentation throughout is fantastic, really a microcosm of the Chicago feel. You feel like you're transported to the streets of Chicago in an impromptu street party on a bright, sunny morning, being greeted by complete strangers, and, had Starbucks existed in 1978, maybe the barista would greet you outside the door of the shop with a free latte.

This song, which was later used by CBS Sports for its NBA coverage, has to be among the list of best "feel-good" songs ever. I dare you not to feel better after playing it once. You might find yourself playing it again. And again. Pun kinda intended.  :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Song #221: "Never Comes The Day"--The Moody Blues (1969)

It's the fifth of twenty entries in our Top 500 Countdown by my favorite group of all time, The Moody Blues.

This song got screwed. Plain and simple.

Released as a single, it was shredded down to 2:42. How, I don't know. I've never heard the "radio edit" single, and don't want to. I don't see how it made any logical, musical sense. This song must stay intact as a complete package.

It's also not a "radio-friendly" song, anyway. This is a classic album cut from the Moodies, and it is an absolute classic in concert. Justin Hayward continues, even today, 47 years after the original recording, to nail the bridge-like ending of each verse. The crowd loves singing along with the chorus, and the choral jam, and the build-up to it, is so much fun.

The original version is posted below.

The Moody Blues occupy 15 places in our Top 220 songs. Do they occupy the #1 spot? We'll find out on June 23rd.  :)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Song #222: "Chiquitita"--Abba (1979)

The first single from their monster album, "Voulez-Vous", which I owned, it's the second of six Abba tunes on our musical journey.

Yes, I was, and still am, a HUGE Abba fan. No, I didn't go see Mamma Mia (the musical or the movie), that's not for me. But their music was a major part of my 1970's soundtrack, as the latter half of the countdown will unveil.

This song also "re-introduced" itself to me while listening to their "Gold" CD after my Mama passed away late in 2002. Talk about turning your "mourning into dancing" as The Bible says, I can't tell you how many times I would be driving in the van, or sitting in the back parking lot at Clear Channel, either arriving early in the morning, or leaving late at night, turn this song on, and proceed to cry, a lot, but smile through my tears during the chorus.

Then, add the final minute or so of this song, it becomes a beautiful suite, and certainly a presentation that provokes a myriad of emotions, all in one package. At age 25, this wouldn't be in this countdown. Now, most definitely.

I continue daily to "try once more" and "sing a new song".

You should, too.  :)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Song #223: "Our Song"--Yes (1983)

Yes returns with their fifth song overall, and their third from one of my all-time favorite projects, "90125".

A song that gives Toledo so much credit can't be all bad.  :)

This is such a great jam and I find it to be a great sing-along song as well. It fits perfectly with all the other gems on this album. Song after song after song, Yes was on fire with "90125".

So much so, we have three more cuts from the album coming in the final 222 songs, and I will go ahead and add this spoiler: all three of the songs are in the Top 100.

So, until spring time and the homestretch of the Rob Witham 500, here's Yes!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Song #224: "Volcano"--Jimmy Buffett (1979)

Buffett's 1979 album that contained today's song, which was the title track, had some really good material, even if radio didn't opt to play it back in the final year of disco-mania. You would have thought as some stations starting ending the stranglehold disco had on their playlists, they would realize that a fun Buffett tune would go along quite nicely with, say, "Heart of Glass" from Blondie, "My Sharona" from The Knack, "Pop Muzik" by M, just to name a few.

Eventually, "Volcano" did make its way to my ears, and I absolutely loved it. Fast forward nearly twenty years later and Robbie comes home from school, I believe at the start of first grade, singing this song. Come to find out, his teacher, for both kindergarten and first grade, was using it! I'll have to get Christy to refresh my memory as to how she was teaching to the test with Jimmy Buffett (hee hee hee.....)

This is the second of three songs in the countdown from Buffett, so he's back later with my favorite Buffett song.  :)

Friday, November 11, 2016

Song #225: "867-5309/Jenny"--Tommy Tutone (1982)

Though officially released late in 1981, the phone number that got everyone talking, and trying to call Jenny, became famous nationwide in 1982 as I navigated the final months of ninth grade, and the awkward two-year period of my life known simply as "junior high school".

Some back stories about why I love a certain song I still cannot reveal publicly, even after all these years, and this song falls into that category. However, I was happily with my first-ever girlfriend during the heyday of this tune.

This song definitely had its haters, but you couldn't go to a junior high or high school in America without seeing this phone number, and Jenny's name, scrawled on a bathroom wall or stall door. It sure was better than some of the other stuff I saw.

Hey Tommy! Pick up the phone and call her. It's been almost 35 years!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Song #226: "You Dropped On Bomb On Me"--Gap Band (1982)

Their first #1 hit on the Rhythm and Blues charts, back in 1980, was the classic "Burn Rubber On Me". With fans grooving to "Early In The Morning" off the "Gap Band IV" release in 1982, the stage was set for the group to release, in my opinion, their signature song.

In 2005, we held our 20th Anniversary class reunion of the Patrick Henry High School Class of 1985. I didn't handle the music for that reunion, and we had a, well, a peculiar disc jockey. But he was spot on when he cranked up today's song. That was the closest I came that night to heading to the dance floor to throw back to 1982, but, for the sake of humanity, I chose to keep talking with friends. :)

This is one of the quintessential party songs of the 1980's. If you have an 80's party and don't play this song, it really wasn't, officially, an 80's party. So here comes the Gap Band's contribution to our musical journey, a song that kept KS 96 in Williamsburg hot and heavy.....until the night their tower fell down.  :(

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Song #227: "Talk Talk"--Talk Talk (1982)

Safely said, this is the one song in the Rob Witham 500 where the title and artist completely match. :)

I guess that spoils the fact at (In A) Big Country by Big Country did not make the countdown.  :(

This British band, that formed just a year before we were introduced to today's song, had its biggest success a couple of years later with the song, "It's My Life", later covered by that Stefani lady.  :)

Though they would later have another excellent song that should have been more accepted in "Life's What You Make It", their one contribution to our musical tapestry is their first successful single, which didn't hit the Top 40 in the U.S., but all the "cool" radio stations back in 1982 spun this one.

We recorded it, inevitably on our stereo with the 8-track record option. That's right, 8-track record. I'd buy old 8-track tapes, not to listen to, but to tape over and grab my favorite tunes on the radio that way, rather than with cassette. What I would give to have those tapes still, and, of course, a way to play them. :)

Don't remember today's song? A great addition to the soundtrack of what would be, for me, a very trying Summer of 1982.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Song #228: "Give Me Tonight"--Shannon (1984)

American audiences were introduced to Shannon in 1983 when she broke through on the charts with what would be her biggest hit, "Let The Music Play", a song that continues to populate 80's channels and Saturday Night 80's shows on the radio.

But I was a much bigger fan of her follow-up single, which did not do as well commercially, but should, in my opinion, have done better. Yes, some can accuse it of being "part two" of the first single, but though there are a few similarities between the songs, I prefer to think of it building on the first, not piggybacking.

There's much more of a sense of musical urgency in "Give Me Tonight", playing off the usual screenplay, if you will, of the lovers nearing the end of their relationship, the guy one final time trying to prove to his woman that it's his love she needs.

Good energy from Shannon on her vocal performance that tells a story more than just sings a song. Two thumbs up from me.  :)

Monday, November 07, 2016

Song #229: "Part of The Plan"--Dan Fogelberg (1975)

Most people were introduced to Dan Fogelberg, who first appeared in our countdown just a few weeks ago, with today's song, back in 1975.

It's a pretty simple song, yet very powerful. It's fun to sing along with, but also very thought-provoking. It is sad, though, that the ending of the song points listeners in the direction of a life after death without a hope of heaven, a hope of eternity with God. That's what gets me through some days, to be perfectly honest with you, the hope better known and identified as "The Blessed Hope". :)

It's cool, however, to see that a group has been working for several years now to create "Part of The Plan", a Dan Fogelberg musical, which continues to be in development. I'd love for this to come to fruition, as his music would make for an incredible Broadway score with a story of the 1970's and 1980's.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Song #230: "Open Your Heart"--Madonna (1986)

As I relished and cherished my final days with friends in the Berkshires 30 years ago this coming December, both at college and at WUPE/WUHN Radio, this song exploded onto Top 40 radio.

I'll never forget my final weekend in Pittsfield, as the station threw a nice luncheon for myself and a fellow co-worker, Kate Kapteyn, as we were both leaving the company. We got snow, but Mike, Brett and I still made it up to Albany Saturday morning to meet my "dream DJ", Mary Sinclair, who worked overnights at a CHR up there, Fly 92. She proved to be just as sweet, and pretty, as she projected over the air.

Then it was quickly back to the radio station for my last Saturday shift, finally spending all of Sunday there doing my last WUHN shift, going to my program director's house for dinner, then back to do my last WUPE airshift from 8pm to 1am. I then said goodbye to more great friends, headed to a friend's house in Lee, where, about four and a half hours later, we said goodbye to that chapter of my life and moved home.

My college friend Ruth Brisbin was moving home, too, so we packed a Chevrolet Chevette meticulously and made the ten-hour trip back home. And, as if it were yesterday, I distinctly remember hearing this song all the time, all across the dial.

Once instance in particular was when I was driving near Washington, DC, and then CHR-formatted "Power 105" WAVA started the song, near the top of a new hour, with this Legal ID:

"Never underestimate the Power of 105, WAVA, Arlington-Washington".

To this day, one of my favorite Legal ID's ever....

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Song #231: "I Say a Little Prayer"--Dionne Warwick (1967)

I was just a baby when Dionne Warwick found this song she recorded over a year earlier to be released, originally as the B-Side for a single for the theme from the motion picture "Valley Of The Dolls". It was written by the legendary team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

Bacharach, the story goes, didn't like the final product, even after many studio retakes, and the song sat in obscurity until 18 months later when the head of Specter Records insist the song be on the "The Windows Of The World" LP he was releasing. Once the 45 RPM single went public, the listeners chose "Prayer" over "Valley of The Dolls", and today's song went on to peak at #4.

Now, "Dolls" ended up doing wonderfully on the charts, too, but not nearly as many people remember that song a generation later. Millions, however, equate Dionne Warwick with several signature songs, this being her first since 1964's "Walk On By".

This is Warwick's final countdown appearance, and thus, my favorite song from her.  :)

Friday, November 04, 2016

Song #232: "No More Words"--Berlin (1984)

It's the first of two appearances from a Los Angeles based band who finally saw their first real charting success with today's tune, the first single from their album, "Love Life".

"No More Words" was released in March of 1984 during probably the lowest point of my high school career. I bombed in forensics after placing third in the state in original oratory the previous year, the girl I liked had no reciprocal feelings, and our choral director was bravely fighting cancer, which forced the cancellation of a full spring musical.

Two months later, my Dad's brain aneurysm was discovered, and life really changed. So, I embraced this song that spring, sometimes relating to portions of the lyrics down to the very depths of my soul.

As an aside, the video today is "Bonnie and Clyde: The MTV Version".

Berlin's biggest success would come two years later, topping charts everywhere with "Take My Breath Away" from the movie "Top Gun", but that won't be the other Berlin song in our Top 500. Terri Nunn and company will return, but a hint for you, we won't see them for months to come.  :) :)