Friday, September 30, 2016

Song #267: "Monday Morning"--Fleetwood Mac (1975)

Of the three Fleetwood Mac songs to make our countdown, there are one each from three different albums. Today's contribution comes from their aptly titled "Fleetwood Mac" album, leading off side one.

Like Duran Duran a few days ago, this group, too had several songs that missed the cut as we narrowed some 750 or so songs down to the final 500, most notably two from "Rumours", and maybe not two that you would immediately think of.

It was very hard not to include "The Chain", and "I Don't Want To Know", for example.

Both today's song, and the earlier posted "Second Hand News", led off their albums. My favorite Fleetwood Mac song, which we'll get to later down the road, did not. That's all the hint you get.  :)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Song #268: "Breakfast In America"--Supertramp (1979)

Here's the second of three countdown appearances by one of the most underrated groups of their era.

I was a proud owner of "Breakfast In America", and really loved the LP. And while it, the sixth released by Supertramp, featured hits like "The Logical Song", "Goodbye Stranger", and a song that just missed our list, "Take The Long Way Home", I was a big fan of the title track, even if it didn't fare as well as a radio single.

Simple, short, but exquisitely fantastic, it has a simple premise: the story of someone who has never crossed the pond to America, but dreams of it.

And now, 37 years later, I dream of visiting my family's roots in the town of Witham in England, along the banks of the Witham River. Maybe one day, if I can overcome my fear of flying across the pond.  :)

Hint: It will be awhile before our final Supertramp contribution, and it will come from "Breakfast In America". Did I mention it above? We'll find out as the countdown continues....

P.S.--Sorry the original version isn't posted; it's not on YouTube. Miss the great harmonies because of it.  :(

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Song #269: "The Reflex"--Duran Duran (1984)

From the worldwide smash "Seven And The Ragged Tiger" comes the second and final contribution by Duran Duran in our Top 500 Countdown.

By the time the countdown was on to the video release of this song on MTV, Duran Duran had become a worldwide phenomenon, briefly making people think back twenty years to another set of Brits who hit it big, really, really big.

I distinctly remember traveling down to North Carolina to spend a few days with my brother over Spring Break in 1984, and can still visualize the promo MTV played, over and over and over, for their premiere of the video to this song. He had cable in Clayton, North Carolina, and we certainly did not in Beaverdam, Virginia. So, I soaked up as much MTV as I could when I was there.  :)

For a promo using some of the video to promote MTV's "stereo" service, click here.  :)

We mentioned during this group's first countdown appearance that there would be some good songs from them that I liked that just missed the cut. Highest among them have to be "A View To A Kill", "Save A Prayer" and "Girls On Film".

So head back and relive the fanaticism of the Spring of 1984, perhaps the peak of "Duran Duran Mania". WrestleMania would come a year later.  :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Song #270: "Hooked On Classics"--Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (1981)

Yes, during my ninth grade year, popular music would actually allow a mash-up of Tchaikovsky, Gershwin, Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Handel and others to crack the Top 40.

I know WRVA played the living daylights out of this song; I can't honestly remember whether Q94 touched it with a ten-foot pole.

You can blame the success of "Stars On 45" from earlier in the year with their Beatles medley which opened the door for this and other songs of their ilk, back when music was still in transition from disco dominance to the true sounds of the Eighties.

You can also blame, who else, K-Tel, for coming up with this one, with an assist to RCA Records.

Later on, a song that nearly grabbed a spot in our countdown featured the greats of the Big Band era, which you know I'm all about. But we instead chose the original "Hooked On" song.

Thankfully, we didn't choose another "Hooked On" product.  :)

For a great comedy parody of that product, click here!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Song #271: "Perfect Way"--Scritti Politti (1985)

Well, this may be in the running for quintessential one-hit wonder song of the mid-1980's.

I think our Song #464 might be under consideration, too, but today's tune didn't enjoy the advantage of being featured in a Brat Pack movie, either, although it did receive new publicity in 2010 in a movie I'm proud to say I never saw, "Hot Tub Time Machine". They actually made a sequel of that, you know, creatively called "Hot Tub Time Machine 2", but I'm really digressing here.

There were never any members of this group named Scritti or Politti, and this was their one contribution to the Eighties music scene.

Little known fact, the year after this hit, the great Miles Davis covered the song, and it became a staple in his live performances for a time.

It's got everything a song in the mid-80's asked for: synthesizers, dreamy male vocals, stylish hair, mesmerizing beat. When I hear it, I'm immediately transported to Lenox, Massachusetts and my freshman year in college.

No, I didn't have stylish hair, but I did, by mid-semester, have a beard.  :)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Song #272: "Under Pressure"--Queen with David Bowie (1981)

After the massive success of songs like "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" and "Another One Bites The Dust" from their "The Game" LP, Queen returned to radio in late 1981 with this song, which would later be included in their next release, "Hot Space".

No one could imagine the influence this song would have over the next 35 years. It topped the British singles chart, but only managed to hit #29 on the Billboard Hot 100. Incredibly, the first song recorded specifically for "Hot Space", "Body Language", actually did better on the U.S. charts, barely missing the top ten.

But few remember Body Language while many remember Under Pressure, partially because of the song, in part thanks to the unique collaboration between two powerhouse rock figures in Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, and, also due in part to Vanilla Ice doing a big no-no some nine years later, effectively ripping off (it was called "sampling") the iconic bass line for his deplorable tune, "Ice Ice Baby". Have I given away my disdain for Vanilla Ice by now?  :)

Hearing this the first few times on radio, it just screamed brilliance. And now, with both of these great voices gone, it's nice to know we can enjoy "Under Pressure" for many, many years to come.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Song #273: "Don't Sleep In The Subway"--Petula Clark (1967)

Perhaps best known for her hit "Downtown", Petula Clark makes our musical journey with a song she released two months before my birth. The song peaked at #5 on the charts around the time I "debuted" at Richmond Memorial Hospital in June, 1967.

This song was also an oldies staple for years when WRVA played music, and was heard, a lot, on our recorded cassettes of music off the radio.

Yes Millennials, we would sit by the clock radio in our bedroom, my brother and I, and wait for our favorite songs to come on, then frantically press record and play when they did, and stayed VERY quiet for the song's duration.

And we hated DJ chatter leading up to or ending the song too early. I later was guilty of both.  :)

One of my early "favorite" songs, below, from Ms. Clark, who will turn 84 in November!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Song #274: "Classical Gas"--Mason Williams (1968)

If you haven't been able to tell yet, I'm a big fan of instrumental music.

It can be full length recordings, jam sessions, or television themes. You don't always need words to create memorable music.

This was definitely the case 48 years ago when Mason Williams brought us this masterpiece, Of all thiings, Williams was also a comedy writer, and led the team at the time of this song's release for the "Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" on CBS, which had an interesting history of its own.

But the show can also get credit for introducing America to a new form of gas, for it premiered on the broadcast. By August, it was the #2 single in the country.

You've not heard the song? Well, maybe you have, and just didn't know the title. Enjoy it below. :)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Song #275: "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"--Elton John (1974)

What a history this song has.

Written by Paul McCartney and the late John Lennon for the Beatles in 1967 for the incredible "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album, the song immediately faced controversy, with some calling the title a "code ode" to the drug LSD.

The songwriters have maintained all along that a drawing by Lennon's son Julian, plus "Alice In Wonderland" contributed to creating the tune.

Now, I do like the Beatles' version, but seven years later, Elton John took it, and really made it his own, and recorded, in my view, the better version of the song. By early 1975, the song hit #1, starting what would be a monster year for John.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Song #276: "Pretending"--Eric Clapton (1989)

A later Clapton hit, this song didn't fare well on the Billboard Hot 100, but did very, very well at rock radio. And, occasionally, you can still run across the song today on classic rock formatted stations.

The quick piano solo opening is fantastic, leading into the immediate jam that this song offers from start to finish. I just hope all that rain didn't ruin a perfectly good keyboard.  :)

It's the third and final contribution from Eric Clapton to our countdown, thus, my favorite Clapton song.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Song #277: "Match Game Theme" (1970's version)

In its initial run, Match Game was a rather staid game show, as game shows were in the 1950's and early 1960's. The show ran on NBC from 1962 to 1969, hosted by the popular Gene Rayburn. The theme song then was Bert Kaempfert's "Swingin' Safari".

A look at the 1962 pilot episode is available here.

Along came the 1970's, and CBS decided to, as we would now say today, "reboot" the game show, and give it a significantly updated feel. Loud carpeting, lots of twinkling lights, the revolving contestants, and a new theme song.

Interestingly enough, one thing remained the same, at least at the very outset, and that was the aforementioned staid feel of the show. The pilot episode was surreal when now compared to the well-known zany format that launched the show into a long period of success, and, eventually, Richard Dawson to "Family Feud".

I watched many a Match Game getting home after school and during the summertime. When Game Show Network (GSN) appeared in the 1990's, it was great to have Gene, Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly and the other casts of characters back on my screen. Add the skinny microphone and Gene's silent odes to his wife Helen, and this is game show gold.

And it was also fun to hear this song again. Below is an episode, plus an extra video showing every New Year's Eve sign change from 1973 to 1979.

This theme is so good, it'll leave you "Blank"!  :)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Song #278: "Precious Love"--Bob Welch (1979)

From the spring of '79 comes our final, and my favorite, musical contribution from the late Bob Welch, former member of Fleetwood Mac who, in the end, had a decent solo career throughout the late 1970's.

"Sentimental Lady" turned out to be his biggest radio hit, but a little over a year later, he released today's tune, a song that I thought was underserved by radio and should have done better on the charts (it peaked at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100).

Those of you from my generation may click the link below and think, "Whoa, I haven't heard this in years!" That's one of the reasons why I'm sharing my favorite songs with the universe in general. A long forgotten musical memory can bring back some of the best feelings ever.

So enjoy our top Bob Welch song, "Precious Love"!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Song #279: "Fire Lake"--Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band (1980)

I've only owned one Bob Seger album, and it was "Against The Wind". I played it many, many times in 1980 as my seven years at Beaverdam Elementary were coming to an end (Go Beavers!).

There will be multiple entries on our countdown from this release beginning with today's song, the first single to radio. Seger not only enjoys his regular band, he's able to convince some friends to come in and sing background vocals, a considerable accomplishment considering they were the late Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Timothy B. Schmitt of the, at the time, disintegrating Eagles. Frey and Henley were at each other's throats but were able to help Bob give this tune an unmistakable sound as it faded to black.

Seger had this song in his back pocket for years and didn't think his record company would actually release it as the first single from "Against The Wind". Well, they did, it peaked at #6, his fifth biggest chart hit. I still find it hard to believe that, of all songs in Seger's great catalog, it was "Shakedown" that provided him his only number one song.

Back to the matter at hand. Who wants to play those eights and aces??

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Song #280: "MacArthur Park"--Donna Summer (1978)

What "Love To Love You Baby", "I Feel Love" and "Last Dance" could not do, one of the strangest songs penned in the rock era did for the late, great Donna Summer.

Summer took today's song, written by Jimmy Webb and originally sung by, of all people, Richard Harris, ten years earlier, placed a disco spin on it, and created a symphony of sound that, for my money, completely galvanized Summer as the queen of disco, and one of the strongest forces in pop music in the late 1970's.

Remember, the mega-hits "Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls" were still several months away from going #1, both during that unforgettable Summer of 1979. Frankly, taking this song and doing what she did with it took some serious guts.

Radio got a nearly four-minute version, today I'm posting the six and one-half minute version, but if you'd like, there's a 17-minute version available on YouTube that is a mix of one side of the album, and includes another hit, "Heaven Knows".

Quick Did You Know: a 1969 version of the song was recorded by country legend the late Waylon Jennings. Imagine the balladeer of "The Dukes Of Hazzard" opining how his cake was left out in the rain.....

Listening to this song takes you back to big hair, flashy suits, the disco ball, and don't forget the Disco Break, which aired every weekday morning on Channel 8 during their 7:25am news break during "Good Morning America", which taught Richmonders a new dance move every morning to add to their collection once the weekend finally came around! I wonder whatever happened to Nancy London.....

Friday, September 16, 2016

Song #281: "Twisting By The Pool"--Dire Straits (1983)

The second and final Dire Straits song in our countdown comes from an extended play release in 1983, with "Twisting By The Pool" finding moderate chart success both in the UK and the U.S., as it found bigger success in, of all places, New Zealand, enjoying four weeks there as number one. They have good taste. :)

It's a definite departure from "Sultans Of Swing" or "Skateaway", and without a doubt the most "let your hair down" fun song they ever released to radio.

Charles and Diana are having babies, the cost of living is okay (so says Mark), so take in a show or meet new people at the disco while you dance to the Euro beat. All the while, make sure your center of gravity is over by the pool.  :)

This song received new life in our house a decade ago on a mix CD that played a lot in the car with my kids for ten days while my wife went on her first cruise with her late aunt.

My favorite Dire Straits song:

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Song #282: "Higher And Higher (Live)"--The Moody Blues (1969)

It's the song that led off the concept album, "To Our Children's Children's Children", the Moody Blues' tribute to space travel from the milestone year of 1969 which saw Neil Armstrong become the first man to step foot on the surface of the Moon.

It's also the first song written completely by the group's great drummer Graeme Edge, who, today, handles all the narration of the song when the group does it live during Act II of their concerts, beginning with a look back through his own years, including an ode each to AARP and Viagra. :)

Hearing it live is the best, especially when you see the on-stage antics of Edge, who turned 75 three days after the video below was shot. Interestingly, my childhood friend from high school, Janice Lloyd Thompson, was at this Charlotte show, which took place three days after my seventh journey with the Moodies here in Richmond back on March 25th.

We love ya, Graeme! Go Higher and Higher!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Song #283: "Boo Boo Baba Baba Dee Dee"--Cartoon Network (1998)

A commercial, yes, a commercial, swept like wildfire through our house in the late 1990's during my time as a "stay at home Dad" (which, by the way, is my favorite job of all-time), so much so that life stopped when it came on the television.

It also led me to eventually purchase the CD, "Cartoon Medley", which featured 36 of the greatest hits of Cartoon Network, which, at the time, still had a healthy daytime dose of classic cartoons, plus their 1990's originals which became staples at our house, from "Dexter's Laboratory" to "The Powerpuff Girls". Robbie also had a special affinity for watching "Ed, Edd and Eddy" before school, and we liked "Johnny Bravo", too.

From the classic era, we bring you a song in sixty seconds. I dare you to learn the lyrics, then video yourself singing along!  :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Song #284: "Honey, I'm Home"--Shania Twain (1998)

While technically today's song was first heard in late 1997 when lots of Shania Twain fans were given "Come On Over" as a Christmas present, it got its chance on country radio in the Summer of 1998.

Just like the Dixie Chicks tune from about a week ago on our countdown, here is another case of a song finding me, somehow, though the difference this time is the importance of its status as a single.

I have a vague memory of being in the parking lot of the then-new Target near Virginia Center Commons and this song coming on the radio. Maybe I was just flipping the dial, because I wasn't listening to country radio in 1998. I hadn't listened to country radio since WXGI when I was a little kid.

Somehow, Shania's song and my ears found each other, and I immediately fell in love with the song. Great driving tune, simplistic in a good way, with several gallons of sass as Twain laments about her job, her pay, her car, and her sore feet.

Hey, we've all looked at the clock wishing it was 5:00 when it was still only 1:30. So, for every time you've felt that way, and wanted somebody to be waiting for you to treat you like a queen (or a king) after the day is done, press play below.  :)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Song #285: "Holiday Road"--Lindsey Buckingham (1983)

It is the first of two solo appearances for this former member of Fleetwood Mac. The first song comes from a movie, the soundtrack to "National Lampoon's Vacation". It didn't do well on the charts, peaking at all of #82.

However, its lasting impression is its appearance in the film and sequels in the series. I rather enjoyed the tune because it was just a bundle of fun wrapped up in a short song, complete with dog barking. Easy to sing to, I thought it was a welcome addition to the soundtrack of the Summer of 1983. And, today, it's a perfect song to get you through a Monday!

Buckingham will be back later in the countdown, both by himself and with Fleetwood Mac. If, somehow, you've made it through the past 33 years without enjoying "Holiday Road", do yourself a favor and press play below.  :)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

When Fear Comes Calling: 15 Years Later

I had, to be honest, a love/hate relationship concerning the years I taught Sunday School at the church where I pastored, Bethlehem Congregational Church in Disputanta. The task allowed for much more flexibility, give and take, and a free flow of ideas, but it also took time and energy from the main task at hand, the service still to come and preaching the sermon. The good far outweighed the bad, by the way, the pull was within myself. I loved the class and everyone in it.  :)

On September 9, 2001, a day after Robbie, then nine, and myself took an impromptu ride in a small prop plane during an air show in Louisa County, my Mama (Robbie's Nana) proudly watching us from the ground as we both maintained the ability not to throw up (it was my first and to this day only flight in a small plane), the Sunday School lesson was entitled, "When Fear Comes Calling".

We had no idea.

Less than 48 hours later, walking down the corridors at work training a new employee on his first day on the job, I suddenly hearing the terms "plane" and "World Trade Center" come out of the mouth of Meg Byrd, then Sales Director of Q94. I made the short walk down the hallway to the back conference room, where a sales meeting had, repeat, had been underway. When I got there, the door was open, the television on, and a new reality emanated from it.

There's no real reason to go through all the "details" of what transpired the rest of the day. But there are things about it I cannot, and refuse, to forget.

--Rachel was with me. She didn't go to preschool that day, and Mom was at a mandatory meeting for a couple of hours for the credit union across town. So, I was already juggling a four-year old and a new employee. It was a non-issue moments later.

--Thankfully, Rachel didn't grasp what had happened. But Robbie was at Longdale Elementary School, in the fourth grade. I was completely confident in everyone there to take care of the children, having worked so closely with them in our PTO. They were phenomenal.

--"Oh, my goodness."--The words of Bryant Gumbel coming over CBS News when he got his first look at the Pentagon. Seconds before, my dear wonderful copywriter, the great Carol Deane had poked her head in the office door and said, "They hit the Pentagon!". I had CBS on my radio, back in the day when Channel 6's audio could still be heard at 87.7 FM.

--Dan Rather's disbelief when the late Harold Dow explained his eyewitness account of when the first tower came down at 9:59am ET. His report aired live, by phone, eight minutes later.

"We heard the building coming down and that's what we were running from. People literally were running out of their shoes."

--Bonnie calling me, after her meeting, trying to figure out what was going on after turning on her radio. She came straight to the station, we all went home briefly, me back to work with a portable TV for myself and my office mates to watch, Bonnie off to get Robbie.

--That evening, revival services began, as scheduled at a dear friend's church, also in Prince George. I was the scheduled speaker. It was a deep responsibility, but the opportunity to speak was of great solace to me.

The final memory of that fateful day was the eerie silence driving home on Interstate 295. No planes flew, there was little traffic, but, at one point, there was a line of military vehicles lined up and down the side of the highway. It's the closest I've ever been to anything resembling a "war zone". And it was chilling.

In the past fifteen years, much has changed, much has been debated, and, while we continue to fight to preserve our freedoms, the events of 9/11 caused us to lose some of it, too. Our nation, in some ways, is just as separated on this day as we were galvanized in the days after the attacks.

"God Bless America" was on storefronts, bumper stickers, and signs at fast food restaurants everywhere. I told people, that will not last. It most certainly did not. And with God more removed from the public square of America, and from the mindset of many of the 315 million individuals in our country, we are seeing the fraying in the fabric that comes with his denial. One of my favorite attributes of God is that he is kind. If He is not welcome somewhere, He will withdraw. But His absence will be noted.

My prayer is, as we close another anniversary of a most horrific day, that we spend, as a nation, a lot more time and energy inward, rather than outward. We need to listen and understand each other better. We need to usurp the power so centered in, ironically, the two locations attacked fifteen years ago today, the governmental and financial centers of our nation. We must remind the people in authority that they work for We The People, to remind the money changers of what happened to them when Jesus passed judgement on their work (and they do worse today) and return power to a honest level, and a local level.

Companies need to value their most important asset: their people. I'm a free-market guy all day long, but, when it comes to community responsibility, it's a good thing to pay honest wages even if it means less of a profit. It means more stability, to the family the employee is providing for, and for the community you serve, whether you serve just one, or, like Walmart, seem to want to serve them all.

There is such a thing as "enough".

Love your neighbor. Meet your neighbor. Heck, in some cases, learn the name of your neighbor.

Let's rebuild the land of the free and the home of the brave from within. Let's respect differences rather than be torn by them. We can beat the enemy outside the gate, we've done it over and over. Let's not experience the effects of the decay that threatens us here, on the inside.

Those who tragically left us 15 years ago today deserve so much better.

Song #286: "Ring of Fire"--Johnny Cash (1963)

The second and final contribution from the Man in Black in our countdown comes from a time when I didn't exist, as today's tune was released in the Spring of 1963.

Johnny Cash continues to find new fans even today, 13 years after his passing, and one major reason was the variety found in his music. He was able to balance a very difficult line of having a unique sound while being able to tinker with so many music styles.

His future wife, June Carter, co-wrote this song, and her sister Anita originally recorded it. Several months later, Cash recorded it, adding the mariachi band sound that transformed the song into a Cash classic for all-time. And, to boot, it is reported Carter wrote this song about the intense love she felt for Cash at the time, nearly five years before they were married. They stayed married for 45 years, and both died in 2003 just a few months apart.

From this song and Folsom Prison Blues, to his other Top 500 contribution, "One Piece At A Time", to the masterpiece "Hurt" released not long before his passing, the catalog of Johnny Cash is simply unbelievable.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Song #287: "It's Gettin' Late"--Beach Boys (1985)

There are several major groups of the pop/rock era that do not make an appearance in our Top 500 countdown.

The Rolling Stones are one. Led Zeppelin is another.

The Beach Boys almost joined that category, but did not, thanks to today's song, which was at best a minor hit for them back in the mid-1980's before they hit it big on the charts one more time a few years later with "Kokomo".

I discovered this song playing it on WUPE-FM in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in college. To me, a highly underrated song from them, and my personal favorite.

Here it is, our one and only song from the Beach Boys.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Song #288: "Second Hand News"--Fleetwood Mac (1977)

Rhetorical rock music questions of the 1970's:

1) When will Boston release its third album?
2) Where exactly is Hotel California?
3) Will "Rumours" ever get knocked off the top of the album chart?

I readily admit to not having my pulse of current popular music, and I know even less now that Rachel is in college and doesn't have nearly as much time to listen to music. I count on her to help me stay hip with my bumper music on our "High School Football Game of The Week" broadcasts this time of year on WHAN Radio and online on RVA Sports Network (subtle plug complete!).

But I'm not sure any group of albums this decade, or really any other, could have made the impact, not just on sales, but on the culture of the album chart, the way the following five did in such a short period in the 1970's. Listed, in order of their release:

1) Frampton Comes Alive--Peter Frampton (1976)
2) Boston--Boston (1976)
3) Hotel California--Eagles (1976)
4) Rumours--Fleetwood Mac (1977)
5) Saturday Night Fever--Various Artists (1977)

Think about the staying power represented in those five pieces of vinyl. And now think about this:

"Rumours" topped the Billboard Top 200 album chart for two weeks in early April, 1977, lost the honor for five weeks to "Hotel California", which now headed the chart for the fourth time, then returned to number one on May 21, staying there for eight weeks.

That's not all. After "Barry Manilow Live" snuck in for a week, Fleetwood Mac returned to the top, and stayed there for NINETEEN more weeks before Linda Ronstadt's "Simple Dreams" finally supplanted it in early December.

When you study and discover the back story behind the making of "Rumours", it makes the completed piece all the more amazing, considering all the obstacles that were around Fleetwood Mac, self-imposed and otherwise, during its production.

However, today's song is the only contribution from the album in my Top 500. This is the first of three Fleetwood Mac tunes overall.


Thursday, September 08, 2016

Rob's Fearless (And Normally Wrong) 2016 NFL Season Predictions!

We take a timeout from our Top 500 songs countdown to bring you an annual tradition. As the NFL season begins later tonight, it's my honor to bring you my usually way off-base predictions of how the season will unfold. Always remember, and never forget, do not take this information and perform wagering in any way, shape or form unless you are comfortable losing all of your investments. And you can't blame me, either.  :)


1) New York Giants (9-7): The NFC East shaping up to be an ugly division. The one (healthy) veteran quarterback in the mix is the default choice to win it. It's the Giants' turn. A little shake up at the top, a healthy season for the receivers, and some better play from the defensive front seven is the formula. But again, to win the East, 9-7 is about all you'll need, and, yes, the Giants will lose at Dallas Sunday.

2) Philadelphia Eagles (7-9): I like the Doug Pederson hire. He will bring some stability to the organization as a no-nonsense, quiet but forceful coach with good offensive thinking. The Eagles will also be able to breathe in the second half of games this season. The jury is big-time out on Carson Wentz. Their defense needs to win a few games for them, literally, or special teams, in order to gut out seven wins.

3) Washington Redskins (6-10): Kirk Cousins won't like that. Last year the Redskins won a couple of key games late, grabbed the division (kinda) and folded against Green Bay. Injuries will play a role this season, and Josh Norman, by week six, will be on Fox NFL Sunday openly questioning why he left Carolina. Awkward.

4) Dallas Cowboys (5-11): Remember when the Detroit Lions went 0-16 in 2008? Yeah, they went 4-0 that preseason. I put zero stock into Dak Prescott's spelling Tony Romo due to August success. I do think, however, he's worth a try at eventually replacing Romo, who is effectively done. Dallas is forced to hit fast forward on their late-decade post-Romo reboot this season, and, Ezekiel Elliott will likely be injured as often as Darren McFadden. Good luck with that.


1) Green Bay Packers (11-5): Jordy Nelson is healthy, Eddie Lacy is slimmed, and Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers. I'm concerned for Packer fans about their defense. If it can improve, you are allowed to smell Super Bowl. Hard to believe, but this is Rodgers' 12th season in the league, so his window, honestly, is starting to work towards the "closed" position.

2) Chicago Bears (8-8): Jeremy Langford. Loved what he did when Matt Forte was hurt last year, and think he can be the best running back in the division this year (GASP!---more later.....). But who does Jay Cutler throw to? On top of that, how do they make sure Cutler doesn't keep throwing to the other team?

3) Detroit Lions (6-10): The Lions will start horribly, win four late-season games, cost a team a playoff berth, and the Jim Caldwell era will be over. Matthew Stafford may be the most frustratingly good quarterback so far this century. He can throw for 350 yards, help your fantasy team, and never win a postseason game.

4) Minnesota Vikings (4-12): Until Teddy Bridgewater's injury, I saw Minnesota fighting for a playoff berth again. But now? Eight in the box, focus on AP, limit his yardage, and let Shaun Hill (or Mark Sanchez) beat you. Ahem. And, at age 31, it's past time for Peterson's to begin his downhill career slide. Beautiful new stadium in Minneapolis, bad year to open it.


1) Carolina Panthers (11-5): Cam Newton comes down to earth some this year, but still plays well. To me, the team's fortunes this year revolve around the front seven defensively. You've got to get pressure on Matt Ryan, Drew Brees and an improving Jameis Winston, and that's just in your division. They'll be good enough to repeat.

2) Atlanta Falcons (10-6): Right behind them, breathing down the Panthers' necks, the only team to beat them in the regular season last year. The best thing that ever happened to Julio Jones will be Mohamed Sanu. He was an unsung hero the past two years for Cincinnati, and the Bengals will miss him greatly. Dan Quinn has to get a better defensive performance out of his crew this year; he certainly has the mind to do it.

3) New Orleans Saints (8-8): Drew Brees, like Tom Brady, is insane. When will he ever hit the wall? How much is he looking forward to going back to San Diego to torch their bad defense? Oh, and speaking of bad defenses, here's the Saints! They'll be playing for the postseason in Week 17 in Atlanta.

4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10): Tampa Bay is a year away. Brees hits the wall in 2017, and the Bucs are ready to move up the division. Can't see them winning more than two division games, and will be shocked if Doug Martin stays healthy all season.


1) Seattle Seahawks (11-5): Nobody is talking about Russell Wilson. Again. And that's fine by him. He's got the big contract, a beautiful new bride, and a running back who speaks. I really like Thomas Rawls. Staying healthy, he'll bring a jolt to the offense a la Beast Mode in the Wild Card Game against then Super Bowl champion New Orleans in early 2010. The defense is still great, but it's another year older. That window is starting to close, too.

2) Arizona Cardinals (9-7): There's no way Carson Palmer throws for another 35 touchdowns this year. Many are picking the Cards to head to the Super Bowl. I just can't see it. They tasted it in the NFC Championship last year, then were exposed. They start the soft fall back to earth this year.

3) Los Angeles Rams (6-10): Todd Gurley and a good defense (MVP Aaron Donald??) won't be enough simply because they don't have a quarterback. As of now. Jared Goff needs work. A lot of work. I hope he succeeds, but I don't think it will be this year.

4) San Francisco 49ers (3-13): The 2017 NFL Draft will be in Philadelphia, and it will be a one-two California punch in the draft order next April, as the 49ers, still on oxygen masks after trying to grasp Chip Kelly's offense all season, will pick second. Here's another case of beautiful new stadium, putrid team on the field. At least wi-fi will let you post to Instagram quickly at halftime when you want your friends to see you're on your fourth beer trying to forget how far the Niners have fallen.


1) New England Patriots (12-4): Brady, Belichick, Gronk, yeah, they're fine. Just think, Brady's body will be four weeks healthier than every one of his playoff opponents.

2) New York Jets (9-7): This is an interesting bunch that surprised me last year, including in Week 17 when they absolutely choked themselves out of a playoff bid. But I'm a huge Todd Bowles fan. There will be more cheers than boos in Met Life this year.

3) Miami Dolphins (5-11): Who is Miami? Honestly, they haven't had an identity, much less a leader, since Dan Marino sailed into the sunset. Talk to any Dolphins fan about the wonder years of Jay Fiedler, the brief moment of excitement with Chad Pennington winning the Brady-less division in 2008. How 'bout that Ryan Tannehill? This is the franchise that had a "No-Name Defense" and The Perfect Season six years into their existence. Today? They're fighting the Marlins for respect on South Beach, behind the Heat.

4) Buffalo Bills (5-11): The Rex Ryan era will quietly come to an end this season, Buffalo will again miss the playoffs, and Western New York will wonder why the Bills gave so much money to Tyrod Taylor.


1) Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4): Imagine if Martavis Bryant could play. Yikes! If the Steeler defense can take care of business, they can run away with a division with the Browns, a Ravens team struggling to return, and a Bengals team on the decline.

2) Cincinnati Bengals (8-8): The Bengals have a good enough defense. The season will rest on whether Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill can become an upper-tier 1-2 punch in the running game, because Andy Dalton to A.J. Green isn't enough, especially with Bengal fans holding their breath over Green's health in the preseason. They're going to miss Sanu and Marvin Jones.

3) Baltimore Ravens (6-10): Last year was a bit of an aberration in that I believe they would have been playoff caliber had there not been so many injuries. The Ravens will not be so beat up by the injury bug this year, but what will be shown this year is that, right now, the team isn't just that good compared to the past several years and thus, no postseason again.

4) Cleveland Browns (3-13): I like Hue Jackson. I hated it when the Raiders showed him the door after a season. But when you're hired as head coach of an NFL franchise and your best players are a tight end no one knew about a year ago and your left tackle, who is excellent, but hasn't sniffed a playoff berth in his decade in the league, what can you really do? They'll have the third pick in the NFL draft.


1) Indianapolis Colts (10-6): The Colts are in a perfect position. The media is filled with Jacksonville talk (huh??) and forgetting that Andrew Luck spent almost the entire 2015 season hurt. A healthy Luck will do wonders for the Colts, but they will tie for the division title with.....

2) Houston Texans (10-6): Brock to DeAndre? Get used to it. There's no reason why the Texans offense can't finally now be, well, at least close to as good as their defense can be. Hey, they may even make the playoffs and beat a team not named the Cincinnati Bengals!

3) Tennessee Titans (6-10): I'm more on the Titans' bandwagon than the Jaguars. It's a lonely place to be. :)  But I think Derrick Henry will not fall into the mode of other recent Alabama running backs in the NFL, and is a definitive candidate for Rookie of The Year, so much so that DeMarco Murray will be traded just before the deadline back to the Dallas Cowboys. So there.  :)

4) Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10): Everybody calm down here. Two years ago we had the Jags in Los Angeles and fans couldn't name seven players on the roster. Blake Bortles showed some signs, but his division opponents have either improved, or gotten healthy. We'll see how much better he can be this year. The Jacksonville defense will be the unit that proves this prediction wrong.


1) Denver Broncos (10-6): Another divisional tie, as, when you have questions at quarterback following a Super Bowl win, you tend to struggle. Remember Bubby Brister, circa 1999? The reason Denver tops the division for me is, duh, defense. That part hasn't changed much. They'll be just fine.

2) Kansas City Chiefs (10-6): Until they get back to at least the AFC Championship, there's a reason that Kansas City under Andy Reid has had success, but hardly any print, hardly any talk. Even with the long winning streak last year; it was written off as a must just to make it to the playoffs, as it was. Alex Smith continues to be serviceable while the running attack and defense will finally give Reid another shot at the Big Game.

3) Oakland Raiders (7-9): I begin my 44th season as a Raiders fan with very, very low expectations. I'm seeing prognosticators everywhere bumping us upward, some even saying we'll win the division.


Derek Carr is better than David Carr. How much better? I'm still waiting to see something that makes me think "elite". I love Amari Cooper, and I was (so far) totally wrong on Khalil Mack. But we'd have to sweep either Denver or KC to win the division, and that's not happening.

4) San Diego Chargers (3-13): Via tiebreaker, with the first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Chargers select a really good player who won't hold out on them!  :)

NFC DIVISION WINNERS: NY Giants, Green Bay, Carolina, Seattle
NFC WILD CARDS: Atlanta, Arizona
NFC WILD CARD: Seattle d. Arizona, Atlanta d. NY Giants
NFC DIVISIONAL: Seattle d. Carolina, Green Bay d. Atlanta
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Green Bay d. Seattle

AFC DIVISION WINNERS: New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Denver
AFC WILD CARDS: Kansas City, Houston
AFC WILD CARD: Houston d. Denver, Kansas City d. Indianapolis
AFC DIVISIONAL: New England d. Houston, Kansas City d. Pittsburgh
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Kansas City d. New England

SUPER BOWL LI: Green Bay over Kansas City

Yes, my friends, everything old is new again as Aaron Rodgers finds Richard Rodgers midway through the fourth quarter, then the Green Bay defense forces an Alex Smith interception to seal a 27-19 win over the Chiefs. Vince Lombardi somewhere smiles and the Packers win their fifth Super Bowl championship.

Song #289: "Lawyers In Love"--Jackson Browne (1983)

Hey, remember yesterday when I discussed loving music and musicians in spite of their political disposition?

You can count Jackson Browne into that mix as well. I'm sure if we ever met for lunch, talking about Ronald Reagan would be a bad idea, but I so dig his 1983 dig at the then-President, the title track of Browne's latest album at the time.

It ended up as his fourth highest charting single on the Billboard Top 100, peaking at #13 early in my junior year of high school, from an album that gave us other good gems like "For A Rocker" and "Tender Is The Night".

Frankly, I'm little surprised Browne's only contribution to our Top 500 as a solo artist comes here. "For A Rocker" was a great tune, and "Doctor My Eyes" is a classic. And, if you want a window into how Browne's early song-making routine was, if you haven't watched it already, check out the 2013 documentary, "The History of The Eagles". In Part 1, there's a great discussion of how he finally got "Doctor My Eyes" together after many long hours, thanks in part to a teapot.

Do you remember "Lawyers In Love"?  :)

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Song #290: "Tonight, The Heartache's On Me"--Dixie Chicks (1998)

Different songs intersect with people at different times, and definitely not always when they are first released to the general public.

Such is the case with today's song, as I discovered it over a decade after it first appeared on the Dixie Chicks' "Wide Open Spaces" CD, cracking the top ten on the country charts in 1999.

After suffering my second layoff from a job in less than two years, I will admit to feeling defeated, especially since the economic situation in our country was still, well, terrible, back in late 2009. Add to that a myriad of physical issues which definitely overshadowed even the employment issue, and, well, you get the idea.

If a song with a hook and a good message of "yeah, I know how you feel" rolls around, I'm all over it. And, sure enough, this song came on one day while I was helping out at WHAN Radio up in Ashland. It immediately caught my ear. A few plays off the air, and I was hooked.

Their politics aside, this song is fantastic. By the way, my countdown is filled with artists that I love and respect for their music, while I may disagree with their political stands. Whatever. My days of being overtly political on social media are long gone, for several reasons, but one rule I do have is I don't "unfriend" people due to their beliefs.

Two reasons:

1) It's not nice, and generally, I like my friends.
2) I appreciate diverse points of view. I appreciate them all the more when presented with some thought and reason.

Now, back to the song.  :)

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Song #291: "Snowblind"--Styx (1981)

It was the final single released from Styx's 1981 concept album, "Paradise Theatre", which told the fictional story of a theatre in Chicago by the same name, from its great opening in "AD 1928" to its shuttering thirty years later.

Today's song was a look at the cycles involved in drug addiction, specifically cocaine. It's haunting, discussing the false promises and harsh reality that comes with that situation. The music ebbs and flows to signify those ups and downs.

The song got final exposure as the B-side of Styx's first single from their 1983 album, "Kilroy Was Here", the immensely successful, "Mr. Roboto". The reason for that is a long story for another day. (Hint: if you read my sentence backwards, it won't make any sense....)

Monday, September 05, 2016

Song #292: "Beginnings"--Chicago (1969, 1971)

Why two dates listed for today's song? It's a classic case of if at first you don't succeed....

"Beginnings" first appeared on the group's debut release, self-titled since, at the time, they were known as "Chicago Transit Authority". Released as a single in 1969, it flopped.

But after three top ten singles, all in 1970, the group decided to release it again, putting "Colour My World" on the B-side, just as they had for their first top ten hit, "Make Me Smile". In the Summer of 1971, "Beginnings" gained new life, and peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and topped the Adult Contemporary chart.

The radio single, frankly, is an abomination, as the original version clocks in at nearly eight minutes long, and, after all, it was 1971, and Top 40 and AC stations would never consider playing a song that long. So, Columbia released a 2:47 version that succeeded, but only hinted at its full greatness.

So, of course, we're posting the real thing here. Travel back in time to the year of Woodstock, when Gunsmoke and Gomer Pyle led CBS and Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In ruled the television ratings race, and enjoy the full version of "Beginnings".  :)

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Song #293: "Doesn't Anybody Stay Together Anymore?"--Phil Collins (1985)

Back with his third of six solo contributions to the countdown, and second of four from his monster 1985 album, "No Jacket Required" is Phil Collins.

At Song #451 (Long, Long Way To Go), we discussed the importance of this release to me as I transitioned from Beaverdam, Virginia to Lenox, Massachusetts, from high school to college. There's not a bad song on the whole project, nothing that you skip.

Today's song is Phil's ode to a seemingly endless series of divorces in his life, including an earlier one of his own, though at the time he was newly and happily married. He would divorce Jill, his second wife, in 1996, and would marry once more in 1999.

Drums, of course, play a large role in this song, and so does the vocal pacing, especially from verse into chorus, and during the bridge. Which two other tunes make our countdown from "NJR"? Time will tell, but here's a hint. You don't have to be a chart topping smash to make my chart.  :)

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Song #294: "Rough Boys"--Pete Townshend (1980)

Released as the first single in Great Britain, the third single in the United States, from his "Empty Glass" LP, it is the second of five solo contributions from the longtime member of The Who, Pete Townshend.

It's the first cut on the album as well, so, the first time you dropped the needle on the record, you get the very memorable guitar lick opening. It was the perfect song to kick off the first truly solo work of Townshend's career.

The most successful song, commercially, from "Empty Glass" was "Let My Love Open The Door". We'll see down the road if it, or any other tunes from this album make our countdown. A brief hint here, the final contribution by Townshend in my Top 500 will come quite later. Is that vague, yet specific, enough?  :)

Friday, September 02, 2016

Song #295: "Wonderful Christmastime"--Paul McCartney (1979)

A busy week on the countdown for Paul McCartney!

While working on his "McCartney II" album, Sir Paul decided to record a Christmas song, and I bet he had no idea that the song would become just as much a holiday music staple, both on radio and with the general public, as "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" or "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree."

I do admit to having a fuzzy memory here, and, if any of my former WDYL colleagues read this, maybe you can help me remember whether or not we played this song during "The Christmas Station" format that I programmed from 1989 to 1996. We had a precarious balancing act to work with, as very conservative Christian radio audience members slammed us for playing any song that referenced Santa Claus (like "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole), since the thought process was Jesus is Christmas, not Santa, and didn't like some of the secular artists we chose to play (Barbra Streisand, Mariah Carey, etc.).

Despite the backlash, the format did very well, lots of people enjoyed it, and, a decade or so later, other stations in the market figured out it would be a good idea to do it. I'm proud that we were the first in Richmond, years before anyone else.

Back to today's song. Ever since its 1979 release, it is a must-listen for me come holiday time. You have to understand, after leaving WDYL in 1997, and after programming Christmas music for eight straight holiday seasons, I was, and am still to this day, not high on Christmas music. Only a few songs make the Top 500. Serious, serious burnout.  :)

For now, lift a glass, and get ready! Christmas is in about 114 days!  :) :)

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Song #296: "I'm Not In Love"--10CC (1975)

This British band had enjoyed some success in their home country through the early 1970's, but nary a sniff at American audiences with songs like "Neanderthal Man" and "The Wall Street Shuffle". That is, until 1975, when they released an absolutely haunting song, "I'm Not In Love".

Released in May of that year, this song contributed greatly to the variety of sound that came out of our radios in the Summer of 1975. When "I'm Not In Love" moved up to #11 on the charts for the week of July 5th, here's a sampling of that chart, just to show you the tapestry we enjoyed:

1) Love Will Keep Us Together--Captain and Tennille
2) The Hustle--Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony
3) Listen To What The Man Said--Paul McCartney and Wings
6) Magic--Pilot
8) When Will I Be Loved--Linda Ronstadt
9) One of These Nights--Eagles
16) Misty--Ray Stevens
20) Why Can't We Be Friends?--War
22) Cut The Cake--Average White Band
24) Rhinestone Cowboy--Glen Campbell

It is neck and neck with the Summer of 1979 for the best, musically, of the decade.

Now for our song today, one that offered a completely new sound even during this era of wide variety. The lyrics are amazing, the bridge so unique. I'm posting the extended version so you can enjoy the full effect of "I'm Not In Love".