Saturday, April 30, 2016

Song #420: "I Know It's Today"--Shrek: The Musical (2008; Jaguar Drama Performance By Aly Campana, Anna Houtz & Lainie Cole, 2015)

This song didn't jump out at me as Jaguar Drama prepared to perform "Shrek: The Musical" as Rachel's final production one spring ago...until opening night. And, by closing night, I'm sitting on the front row at Glen Allen High School just bawling.

Sure, it was already an emotionally charged weekend, but I cannot express to you just how beautifully Aly, Anna, and Lainie performed this song, which goes back and forth from seriousness and concern to moments of great comedy (they said pee AND bi-polar on stage!). These three young ladies absolutely nailed it.

Unfortunately, thanks to good ol' copyright laws, I can't post the Glen Allen version, and it's a darn shame, because Aly, Anna, and Lainie deserve to be heard. But, until that day comes, enjoy the original soundtrack version.

Thanks, ladies. I, for one, will never, ever forget your version of this wonderful song.  :)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Song #421: "I Only Have Eyes For You" (Original 1934, Art Garfunkel Version 1975)

A song originally written for the movie "Dames" (I haven't seen it, have you?), and also used in later films, I Only Have Eyes For You has been covered by countless artists, including the Chairman of The Board, with an especially popular version done by The Flamingos in 1959.

But in 1975, for his "Breakaway" solo album, Art Garfunkel placed his spin on it, and this is the version I think of when this song comes to mind. Art's vocals are silky smooth, and the song sounds, frankly, like a cross between the moment you say I love you to her for the first time and the first time you make love to her (I hope it's on your honeymoon....)  :)

Art will be back later, accompanied by Paul, in our countdown.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Song #422: "Lotta Love"--Nicolette Larson (1978)

It was a decision between her biggest hit, and her follow-up single from 1979, "Rhumba Girl", but it was Lotta Love, with its powerful instrumentation and classic vocals from a woman we lost way, way too soon back in 1997 that grabs a spot in our countdown.

This song was all over the radio in the heart of my sixth grade year, and later, deservedly, grabbed a spot in rotations on classic hits radio stations across the nation. Listening just transports me back to my bedroom in Beaverdam, and Mr. Taylor's classroom in the old brick building that also served as the "cafetorium" at Beaverdam Elementary. Fun times!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Song #423: "Give Blood"--Pete Townshend (1985)

We welcome Pete Townshend's solo work to the countdown with the first of five songs. This one leads off the 1985 "White City: A Novel" release, and hit rock radio for a time in early 1986. That means I would have likely been introduced to it on "PYX 106" (pronounced "Picks 106") out of Albany while in college, or maybe the old "Rock 105" WBEC, one of our radio competitors in Pittsfield.

Simple premise to this song, stop the bloodshed, and give love instead, keeping blood between brothers. Townshend had some fantastic solo work, and we'll see him again, and again, and again, and then again.  :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Song #424: "Party Up"--Hilary Duff (2003)

Here comes another one of those "girl songs" that we referred to, that being, the group of songs I would have on a CD for Rachel and I to listen to (and Robbie to survive listening to) as I took Rachel to school at Greenwood Elementary first, then take Robbie to Brookland Middle before heading the "cubicle of destruction" at work. (Hee hee.....)

This certainly began as a song Rachel wanted to play, and Dad would answer with tacit permission and an eye roll. But over time, this one actually began to stick with me. And, today, over a decade later, I still jam to this one, now by myself going from game to game.

A good song to activate the open roof in the Hyundai.  :) :)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Song #425: "Heartbreaker"--Dionne Warwick (1982)

Though it enjoyed its biggest chart success in very early 1983, the late fall of 1982 saw this song hit radio, written by the Bee Gees, and sung by a powerful voice from the 1960's and 1970's who showed no signs of slowing down with the vocals from this single.

You can hear Robin Gibb on background vocals, too. Love the short, short bridge into the key change (Rachel! Key Change!) on this one. This is the first of two songs in the countdown from Dionne Warwick.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Song #426: "Philadelphia Freedom"--Elton John (1975)

From the unforgettable summer of 1975, "The Spirit of America", 1480 WLEE was all over this song, as it paid tribute to the upcoming Bicentennial, right?


This song was a favor to Elton John's friend, Billie Jean King, who at the time played for the Philadelphia Freedoms of World Team Tennis, founded the year before. It wasn't about tennis, either, but was, at its core, a social message, as John and King fought for similar causes such as women's rights and LGBT rights, which was a much different fight in 1975.

No matter one's political stance, this song is hard to not turn up, loud, when it still occasionally comes on the radio.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Song #427: "No Way Out"--Jefferson Starship (1984)

From the final album before "Jefferson" disappeared, and the remaining members began to build that city a year later, comes, surprisingly the only song on our countdown from a group that began as an Airplane in the 1960's counterculture movement in San Francisco, released some great music in the 1970's, then, frankly, went commercial in the 1980's.

What makes this one stand out?  The chorus, the synthesizers, and my unique desire to actually sing as high as this song requires, something I haven't done since shortly after my 12th birthday.  :) :)

Friday, April 22, 2016

Song #428: "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"---Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969)

Today's tune is a classic case of a song that I absolutely loved when I was young, but my interest in it has waned in subsequent years. However, this countdown is about my favorite songs over my first fifty years, so how I felt about a song in 1976 is just as important as my present-day feelings.

This is one of the most enjoyable parts of this musical journey: going back to find songs, pondering their influence on me, and their meaning, not just over the long haul, but at a certain time and place as well.

I remember trying to find, and finally finding (I don't know where) the 45 RPM single for this record, so I could listen to it anytime, not just when it happened to pop up on the radio. Since I was two when it was released, I certainly discovered the song well after its charting days.  :)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Song #429: "Anything For Love"--Gordon Lightfoot (1986)

Big fans of this Canadian legend remember this one, a later release from his "East of Midnight" LP/CD, a song I played a lot on WUPE-FM in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, being an AC station.

Gordon will be back as our countdown continues. If you haven't heard this song before, it's definitely worth 3:28.  :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Song #430: "I'm Goin' Down"--Bruce Springsteen (1984)

It's the Summer of 1984, I'm barely home to wash clothes from mid-June to the end of July, and, in the midst of all the good, and bad, craziness of Boys State, summer camp, Governor's School and my Dad's hospitalization and subsequent rehabilitation, I hadn't had the chance to grab Bruce Springsteen's now iconic "Born In The U.S.A." LP.

I finally did, and while radio was saturated with "Dancing In The Dark" (so was MTV with a certain "Friends" actress coming up on stage to dance with The Boss), I quickly fell for a few deeper cuts, one, which comes later, which was my favorite song from the LP long before it was finally released as a radio single in 1985.

But back to this song, a fantastic anthem of a person who has taken several punches, but, behind a driving saxophone (thanks Clarence!!), is ready to just look at his girlfriend and say "forget it".  :)

He just doesn't get around to doing it in this particular song. Maybe he waits for "Brilliant Disguise" three years later, a great song that just missed the cut.  :)

Enjoy the jam!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Song #431: "Christmas Dinner, Country Style"--Bing Crosby (1963)

Christmas on an 87-degree day in April?  Why not!

One of my favorite non-traditional carols of my childhood from one of the voices of the 20th Century. When I began programming an all-Christmas music format here in Richmond in 1989, I tried my darndest to find a copy of this song, but couldn't do it.

So, if you've only heard Bing sing "White Christmas" or that Hawaiian Christmas song that drives me up the wall, take 2:30 and enjoy how Christmas Dinner can be done like a square dance.  :)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Song #432: "Pop Muzik"--"M" (1979)

The more digging I have done for our countdown, the more fascinating I am, and reminded of, just how good the Summer of 1979 was for music. It was the dying days of disco and filled with many different kinds of variety.

Plus, the soon-to-come tidal wave of "New Wave" was just budding on Top 40 radio. Case in point was Robin Scott's musical masterpiece of sing-along, which filled the airwaves as summer ended and I began my seventh grade (and final) year at good ol' Beaverdam Elementary.

At this point, before my beloved Orioles saw their dream season ended by the Pirates that October, this was a fresh, new sound, and a harbinger of things to come for people like me who, at age twelve, wasn't connected to the independent and underground music scenes in the thriving metropolis of Beaverdam, Virginia.  :)

Soon would come "Cars" by Gary Numan (which just missed our Top 500) and many, many others. I've posted the longer version rather than the version I played, over and over, on my 45 RPM.

Do you read me loud and clear?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Song #433: "I've Got A Gal In Kalamazoo"--Glenn Miller, Tex Beneke & The Modernaires (1942)

My first recollections of the "Big Band" and "Swing" eras of music was stories from my Dad, since it was considered "Top 40" or "Popular (Pop)" Music in his early childhood into his teenage years.

Then, in my first high school musical, "The 1940's Radio Hour", set at a radio station in New York at Christmastime, 1942, a chance to perform many of the great hits.

Then, finally, my commercial radio station job, at WUHN-AM in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, which, at the time, used the "Music Of Your Life" format featuring Big Band, Swing and Adult Standards from the 1930's through 1960's. Man, did I LOVE working airshifts there. The music was awesome.

So, from 1942, it's my favorite band leader, the great Glenn Miller, and one of the era's best vocalists, Tex Beneke. The lyrics are phenomenal to sing, especially near the bridge (K-A-L-A-M-A-Z-O-Oh what a gal!), and near the end.

There will be more from this era, and I will say it will be represented later, much later, in the countdown.  :)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Song #434: "If She Would Have Been Faithful"--Chicago (1987)

From their "Chicago 18" album released in 1986, this song hit adult contemporary radio just after I left Massachusetts and my job at WUPE, so I didn't get to play this song on air, a simple tune about the benefits of having your girlfriend cheat on you. She doesn't do it, and you miss the love of your life!

Love, love, love the harmonies on this one. Plenty more Chicago to come on our countdown.  :)

Friday, April 15, 2016

Song #435: "Head Over Heels"--Tears For Fears (1985)

The opening to this song is so mesmerizing, so powerful, one of the few parts of any song that actually drive me to want to learn how to play the piano. The song itself is a simple premise, and it takes me back to those very hard days of my first semester in college in Massachusetts in the fall of 1985, trying to deal with a harsh new reality, preparing to come home for Thanksgiving to an apartment in Richmond and not the home I grew up in the previous eighteen years.

I can also, ironically, hear Tom Parker in my mind talk up the intro of this song on "99-G-FM", one of two CHR stations in Albany, New York at the time, having no clue then that he and I would be co-workers in Richmond at WRVA nearly twenty years later. You just never know.

I'm posting the long version, because, well, I'm an album track kind of guy. This is the first of two Tears For Fears songs in our countdown.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Song #436: "My Little Town"--Simon & Garfunkel (1975)

Getting together for just the second time since their 1970 breakup, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel recorded this song for the purposes of placing it on each of their 1975 solo releases.

I vividly remember the 45 single for this one, and playing it many, many times, likely leading to the later tradition that occurred when we bought "Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits" and played it EVERY night while going to sleep.  :)

I'm glad I don't look back on "my little town", Beaverdam, in the same way. In fact, I miss it terribly.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Song #437: "It Can Happen"--Yes (1983)

This is the first of six songs on our countdown, yes, six, from one of the most influential albums of my childhood, released my junior year of high school.

Mostly known for the hit "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" (is it one of the six?), "90125" from Yes was filled with great songs, so much so that, I went searching for another copy in 1993, finding a cassette that I used one day for a specific purpose.

From 1991 to 1996, I would take three days off from work at the radio station each March. Thursday and Friday were to watch and record the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Wednesday was to recharge the batteries. Being an Operations Manager in charge of two 24-hour stations and a staff of 10-12 people, constantly filling in on weekends, dealing with an antiquated automation system, AND running a newspaper route seven mornings a week with Bonnie home with our first baby, Robbie, meant many hours running around, working, creating, and few hours resting.

So, on a very rainy Wednesday, St. Patrick's Day, 1993. I brought "90125" along in my Chevrolet Cavalier and listened, loudly, as I took a "Sunday Drive" back to my hometown of Beaverdam, winding through Caroline County, ending in Fredericksburg at, of all things, a Phar-Mor clearance sale.

Good music, driving, and shopping. Therapeutic, if only for a day.  :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Song #438: "All Those Years Ago"--George Harrison (1981)

After the senseless murder of John Lennon on December 8, 1980, any hopes of a Beatles reunion were gone. Tributes poured in on that late Monday night into Tuesday, with radio correctly doing its job of immediately pivoting back in the days of 24 hour live DJ's, changing formats for a time to all Beatle and Lennon music, taking calls, then holding a salute to the singer the following Sunday.

Around the world, stations went dark for ten minutes in lieu of a funeral for the singer/songwriter. It was truly the end of a magical mystery tour. I did not witness Howard Cosell's famed breaking news announcement of Lennon's death on Monday Night Football, as I had gone to bed, needing to get up and head to eighth grade the next morning. When I woke up, turned on the radio, and heard nothing but the Beatles, it didn't take long to find morning jocks delivering the bad news.

The music for this song was already done before the shooting occurred. Lennon's former band mate then worked the lyrics to become a tribute to his slain colleague. On May 11, 1981, the song was released in the United States. I clearly remember that evening watching then WRC Channel 4 Sports Director George Michael, who was a very successful DJ in the 1960's in New York, start his sportscast discussing how the two Top 40 stations in Washington at the time, Q107 and WPGC, debuted this song at the exact same time earlier in the day.

It went all the way to #2 on the charts, and, yes, Ringo plays drums and Paul can be heard on background vocals.

This is the first of several Harrison solo efforts to reach our countdown, as his music in the late seventies, to me, was just as good as any other effort by band members in the post-Beatle era.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Song #439: "Nights On Broadway"--Bee Gees (1975)

Before their mammoth success with "Saturday Night Fever", there was the transition of the Bee Gees from the "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" trio to SNF. A large part of that was their 1975 successful release, "Main Course", which also yielded the big single, "Jive Talkin'".

You hear that one still from time to time on the radio, but you rarely hear this one, the second single from the album, and the one I prefer. This is the first two Bee Gees songs on our countdown. The second will come much later, and, hint, it is not from Saturday Night Fever.  :)

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Song #440: "Gramercy Park Hotel"--Edwin McCain (2006)

This song was discovered by me on the late, great "Live 365" website, where I spent many hours listening to tunes while grinding away day and night, day and night, and day and night, in the cubicle at Clear Channel.

Listening to an 80's station in 2006, commercials would come on plugging McCain's new release, which featured this song. The snippet intrigued me, and the rest is history.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Song #441: "City's Burnin'"--Heart (1982)

As summer turned to fall and I began my three-year journey at Patrick Henry High School, Ann and Nancy Wilson graced rock radio airwaves with this tune, hard-driving like usual, but with some twists and differences, especially the beginning and the bridge.

It isn't one of their best-known songs, but man would I love to hear this one live one day. The first of three appearances by Heart in our Top 500 countdown.

Friday, April 08, 2016

Song #442: "Not Enough Love In The World"--Don Henley (1985)

This song came in the middle of a big run of hits for the former Eagle in the mid 1980's, thanks to his "Building The Perfect Beast" album. Simple story of a guy still in love, trying to build a future even after realizing there's simply not enough he can do to continue the relationship.

Don takes that sucky premise and makes a great song out of it. Pain and reality with a driving drum and good beat. That's rock and roll.

More to come from Don later on. Maybe even "very" later on.  :)

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Song #443: "Forever Man"--Eric Clapton (1985)

From Mr. Clapton's "Behind The Sun", a song that topped the rock charts in my high school graduation year, peaking at #26 in the Billboard Hot 100. A power-packed song that clocks in at just over three minutes, perfect for open sunroof and a wide-open sing along. :)

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Song #444: "Una Paloma Blanca"--The George Baker Selection (1976)

Moving our way through Mrs. Ellis' third grade class at Beaverdam Elementary, here came a song out of nowhere from someone called The George Baker Selection. Already a European hit the year before, Una Paloma Blanca made it big in the U.S. early in 1976.

The story goes that Baker framed the song as a story about a farmer dreaming of being a white bird experiencing his freedom. Whatever it means, it was different, it was catchy, and it was probable you'd hear it on WRVA getting ready for school in the mornings with Alden Aaroe. Now, whether he'd let the entire song actually play or not was another story.  :) :)

And no, the Slim Whitman version is a complete disaster, do not substitute this for that.  :)

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Song #445: "Thumbelina"--The Pretenders (1984)

It's a smash-up of Johnny Cash meets a train meets Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders.

From their (speaking of smashes) highly successful LP "Learning To Crawl", which was delayed due to deaths and line-up changes. It never charted, but was a great way to start a side of the album. Serious song, catchy tune. More Pretenders later in the countdown, including from this release.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Song #446: "Heavy Metal"--Don Felder (1981)

There was a very little "Eagles" reunion on this song from an animated motion picture that reached cult status back in the early 1980s, as Don Henley, and the latest addition to the Eagles, Timothy B. Schmitt, added background vocals to this, Don Felder's only solo hit.

It's hard to even call it a "hit" since it never reached the Billboard Top 40, but it did get lots of airplay on AOR radio back in the day, on XL102, 3WV, and K94. (Now, how many of you remember listening to all three of those stations back in the day??)  :)

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Song #447: "Radio Free Europe"--R.E.M. (1981)

Released first in 1981 (I never heard it that year), but re-recorded and re-released two years later, this is the first hit for R.E.M. Did you know that the '81 recording session was in Winston-Salem, North Carolina?  Neither did I.  :)

Wasn't much of a fan of their music once they became wildly popular later in the decade, but loved, loved, loved this song in its second incarnation in 1983.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Song #448: "Celtic Soul Brothers"--Dexys Midnight Runners (1982)

Released as the first single in the United Kingdom from their breakthrough LP, "Too-Rye-Ay", yes, before "Come On Eileen", it's my favorite song from the one-hit wonders in America (more than that back home), Dexys Midnight Runners.

Give it up for the Celtic Soul Brothers!  :)

Friday, April 01, 2016

Song #449: "Beautiful Stranger"--Madonna (1999)

I still wasn't listening to much "popular music" in the Summer of 1999, two years after leaving my jobs at WDYL/WGGM. But this song did catch my ear, likely on the newspaper route listening to B103.7 after getting my news from WCBS 880, then Tim and John on WRVA.

It comes from a movie I've never watched (and have no desire to) from an artist that has several songs I like, and many I just don't care for, who came of age in my high school years. When I hear this song, I think of running the kids around, picking up Robbie in his final days of first grade at Longdale Elementary, and bowling.

Yes, bowling.

Robbie and I were in a parent/child bowling league that summer in Mechanicsville teamed with a wonderful lady and her daughter. Lots of fun. And bumpers!  :)

It was also about this time that we had to pull out of moving into a new house closer to Virginia Center Commons. And, almost seventeen summers on, as the British would say, we remain here on Tavern Way.