Monday, October 31, 2016

Song #236: "Middle of The Road"--Pretenders (1983)

This song, more than any other, may, to me, signify the "sound" of the Pretenders. A driving beat, taking no prisoners from its drum beginning, the array of instrumentation, and, of course, Chrissie Hynde. So, I'm sorry, but it blows other songs like "Brass In Pocket" away.

When this song begins, you should become overwhelmed with a desire to do something. But the song is also meant to make you think, about where you've been, where you're going, where you want to go, and if you really want to be in the middle of the road, or if you want to shake things up and go for it. Yes, you may hit the ditch occasionally, but no one succeeded greatly with some bumps in the road.

This song was also born for early morning treadmills.  :)

It's the second of five songs from the Pretenders in our musical journey.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Song #237: "Keep It Tight"--Single Bullet Theory (1982)

If you're not from the Richmond area, or more specifically, if you weren't here in 1982, you probably don't know this song.

It did make the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #78, representing the band's only chart success to that level. And, not long after this song hit radio and left us wanting more of Single Bullet Theory, they disbanded.

But, for a brief time, the group originally known as "X-Breed" back in the mid-1970's, a staple of the Richmond club scene for years, had that "15 Minutes of Fame" with an incredibly underrated song that deserved much more exposure than it received. That's probably the fault of some suit in an office at CBS Records (at the time) that didn't have a clue.  :)

It'll bring back memories for some of you, and for others, enjoy, for the first time, the Top 500 contribution of Single Bullet Theory.  :)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Song #238: "Paper In Fire"--John Cougar Mellencamp (1987)

So, today we welcome the one entry in our countdown from John Cougar, who, by now, was known as John Mellencamp, and, frankly, I'm not sure what he may be known as today.  :)

Certainly when you think of John, "Jack and Diane" immediately comes to mind, a song that was dominant like few others ("Eye of The Tiger"?) in the Summer of 1982. And I'm a fan of "R.O.C.K. In The USA" and "Pink Houses".

But the one song that made the cut into our list hails from his "The Lonesome Jubilee" CD release, and hit the airwaves late in the Summer of 1987.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Song #239: "Your Number Or Your Name"--The Knack (1979)

Of the five songs in our countdown from the comet known as "The Knack", three come from their groundbreaking 1979 "Get The Knack" release, and two were off the blatant rip-off of an album they rushed to release months later, "But The Little Girls Understand", which had fewer good songs, and, was almost as much a career-ender as "Get The Knack" was a career-maker.

Today is the fourth song from the group to appear in our countdown, as we've revealed two from each album. Thus, by process of elimination, we'll hear from them one final time from the better album at some point before June 23rd.

It's hard to believe a group I'd never heard of in June, 1979 had essentially flamed out by June, 1980. Life's a funny thing sometimes. But The Knack certainly left their mark on my musical tastes in a very short period of time.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Song #240: "Roll With The Changes"--REO Speedwagon (1978)

Rock fans knew REO Speedwagon's work well when the group released the album "You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can't Tuna Fish" in 1978. By the way, what a great title!

Both songs that were singles from the album fared, well, not so good on the charts. But, both songs proved, over time, that a three-month snapshot of a song's alleged popularity among the masses doesn't always translate into how that song will be long remembered.

Today's song was the first single, and, "Time For Me To Fly", a very good song in its own right, was the second. Now, 38 years later, both can be heard occasionally on classic rock radio. At least the stations with the better program and music directors.....but are there many stations left with their own program or music directors? Yeah, another story for another day.

This is the second of three REO Speedwagon songs in our musical journey, so we'll return to Kevin Cronin and the gang one final time down the road.  :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Song #241: "Conga"--Miami Sound Machine (1985)

It's late 1985, my life has been thrown completely upside down, it's a time of massive change.

In the midst of my first semester of my freshman year of college, 500 miles from home, onto the radio came the first hit for Miami Sound Machine, who, of course, would launch Gloria Estefan into the limelight.

And, at a time where we had radio playlists overrun with soundalike synthesizer male-vocal bands like this and this, here comes this song with an amazingly fresh sound. It stood out big time, and the video which hit MTV, and its newer sister channel, VH-1, still in its first year (and yes, at one time it played music videos, too!) was a huge plus.

Within months, Miami Sound Machine was huge, Gloria Estefan became a household name, and it all began with today's song.

Amazingly, as much as I liked several Estefan songs, this is her lone appearance in the Rob Witham 500. Songs like "Words Get In The Way" with MSM, and solo hits like "Anything For You" and "Higher" just missed the cut. I'm telling you, shaving down a master list to 500 songs was not easy.  :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Song #242: "Love Comes To Everyone"--George Harrison (1979)

George Harrison never got enough credit.

When people discuss the post-Beatle years from 1970 to present concerning members of The Fab Four, you hear the most about Paul McCartney, who, yes, had the most success, both with Wings and solo, as well as other collaborations.

We'll never know what John Lennon would have given to us post-December, 1980, sadly. Ringo Starr had a few hits, some movie roles, and is always looked upon as the lovable Beatle, so to speak.

Then there's George. Most, when discussing his solo work, immediately go to his "All Things Must Pass" LP, and certainly, it deserves much praise.

But, if I were proverbially stuck on a deserted island and given just ten albums to live on, his eighth studio album, "George Harrison", released early in 1979 would make that list. I owned the LP and I played the living daylights out of it.

Two songs make the Top 500 from this release, so I can't, at least today, get into which songs I really enjoyed without creating a spoiler alert. So, for now, enjoy the first of those two, a song which led off Side A as a matter of fact.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Song #243: "Weather Channel"--Sheryl Crow (2002)

Sheryl Crow hit it big in 1994 with her "Tuesday Night Music Club" CD, and, eight years later, did pretty well with the release, "C'mon, C'mon".

Without creating a spoiler here about a future countdown song, I purchased the latter CD sometime in 2003, I believe, because of another song I really liked that was on it. And that is when I discovered today's countdown entry.

"Weather Channel" was never a single, and closes the CD. And, in the wake of the loss of my mother to cancer at just age 64 on December 28, 2002, this song hit home with me in a ton of ways. I referred to my bout with depression (something that can lessen, but doesn't go away) several days earlier, and, when I first heard this song, it brought everything I was feeling emotionally to full circle.

Life continued, I worked, too much, and thus, I missed some of the development of my kids. Then, when I wasn't working, I was usually in bed sleeping away full days, sometimes even full weekends after I gave up my pastorate at the end of 2005.

I was in a storm, yet I was "waiting for the storm" simultaneously, which is a feeling, by the way, I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

This is a deeply depressing song. And, for a time, it was right on the mark for me. I'm glad I reached, as far as I have, over on the other side of it,

My message to anyone reading this who is in, or preparing for, the storm, or both comes by using the lyrics at the song's conclusion.

Don't be "the better faker."  Reach out. Get help. There's hope. Especially for those of you who are believers in Christ who have, at some point, been taught depression, or not being constantly filled with the joy of the Lord is a sin. I'm here to tell you those who purport that are dead wrong.

It's a natural human experience, and it can be dealt with and, to a significant extent, overcome. I am living proof.  :)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Song #244: "Cool Places"--Sparks with Jane Wiedlin (1983)

We had mentioned earlier that Go-Go's member Jane Wiedlin would return once more on her own in our countdown. Well, to a point.

Wiedlin's second non-Go-Go's appearance comes with, interestingly enough, one of her favorite childhood groups. She'd have no idea in the seventies that, in the next decade, she would record with them and help them achieve one of their better known songs.

Today's tune didn't hit Casey Kasem's American Top 40, peaking at #49, but certain radio stations gave it a spin in the Spring and early Summer of 1983, and I was sure glad of it.

Scratching your head trying to remember the song? Hit that play button below. Jane returns again with the Go-Go's soon as the countdown rolls on.  :)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Song #245: "Tom Sawyer"--Rush (1981)

One of my favorite groups of all time arrives!

I caught a documentary on the early history of Rush not too long ago, and now have an even greater appreciation for Geddy Lee and company after seeing how hard they worked, how long they labored to finally get the success they deserved, not just because it was their "time", but that the masses finally "got it" when it came to their style, their sound.

I can't say I was a huge fan of their very long "suites", but I'm a huge fan of many of their songs. Obviously, Lee's vocals are part of the equation, but Rush, with its music, created a different, unique niche in sound. When a new Rush song hit the radio, you knew it, and didn't need an intro by the disc jockey.  :)

This song was one that helped me navigate the second half of the worst year of my public school life: the eighth grade. New school, big class (compared to 28 of us at Beaverdam Elementary), lots of teasing, the bully on the bus, my first huge crush that left me speechless in Algebra I, and, unbeknownst to anyone, I was into my second year dealing with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Mine came as the "Sudden Onset" kind in 1979.

That was a lot to deal with at 13 1/2 years old. So, I think of this song, and others from that period, and smile, as I buried myself in music, A LOT, to get me through those days.  :)

More Rush to come as the countdown continues!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Song #246: "Galveston"--Glen Campbell (1969)

My first recollection of Glen Campbell was this.

Then, as a young boy, I guess at some point I put two and two together, realizing the TV guy was the also the same guy I heard sing bunches of songs on both WRVA and WXGI, the first two radio stations I ever remember listening to.

Today's song is the first of three songs from Campbell in not only my Top 500, but my Top 250. He really did have an impressive catalog of music, including a few songs from a later album released to Christian Radio in 1991 that I absolutely love.

I'm posting two versions today, the original as well as a live version from 2001.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Song #247: "Walking On Sunshine"--Katrina And The Waves (1985)

Can you think back in your life about a song that you love that was released at the perfect time, encapsulating all the good things happening to you at that snapshot of your earthly journey?

"Walking On Sunshine" is "that" song for me.

The song was released the day before my senior prom, which was April 27, 1985. Things were really, really, really good in life.

I was in the homestretch of senior year, had a wonderful girlfriend, had started a new job at Kings Dominion, my Dad was still recovering, and struggling, with effects from his brain aneurysm of a year earlier, but, hey, he was with us, and that in itself was a huge blessing.

Now, as May rolled and became June, and as I prepared to, then walked across the stage at The Mosque to wrap up twelve years in Hanover County Public Schools, Katrina and The Waves came crashing into the party to give me, essentially, a theme song to this important period of my life.

I had family, a pretty woman's love, a 1979 Chevette, a diploma, a few dollars, and big dreams for my future. Put all that together with this song, and it's "meant to be".

Need a pick me up? Need to celebrate? Just click play below. The song takes me back to an exact moment when, returning from somewhere, I had this song blasting in my aforementioned car as I rolled into the driveway back at the parsonage in Beaverdam.

I was on top of the world.  :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Song #248: "Dream Police"--Cheap Trick (1979)

Most people, when they think of Cheap Trick in the 1970's, think of their big hit, "I Want You To Want Me". Frankly, I didn't like that song at all.

"Dream Police", however, the first single from and title track from their 1979 LP, is another story. This song is jam packed with fun, great sing-along moments, a crazy bridge, and a super suspenseful build-up.

I don't know about you, but I dream every night. Most nights, I remember my dreams while they go on, briefly upon awakening, then can just remember vague generalities, but not specifics once the day is going. Occasionally, I remember the dream well, sometimes vividly, like last night, where I dreamed of being in Alaska and they were about to start a period of windstorms expected to last 12-18 MONTHS. So glad it was a dream for all you Alaskans out there.  :)

And, recently, I had a first. Have you ever dreamed about falling, only to wake up before you "land"? Well, after 49 plus years, I dreamed I fell, and I actually landed. And, I was fine.

What does it mean? I have no idea. Maybe it was the Cap'n Crunch just before bed. :)

Anyway, enjoy Cheap Trick's contribution to our musical journey!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Song #249: "Don't Leave Me This Way"--Thelma Houston (1977)

This song is usually lumped into the "disco" category by most music fans and critics, and I think doing that doesn't quite give this song the full credit it deserves.

Originally released, to pretty good success on the new "Billboard Disco Chart" in 1975 by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, today's tune was headed for Diana Ross originally, who enjoyed chart success in 1976 with "Love Hangover", a song with some definite similarities with our tune today. But it ended up in Houston's lap, and she absolutely nailed it.

Yes, I know the song screams "disco", but my earlier statement is to make sure Houston gets credit for fantastic vocals and the producers and band used for the song get credit for their work, especially the beginning. Forty years later, when this song comes on the radio, you know in 1.5 seconds what it is (listen at ;16 below). There are ten million songs in the world that would kill for that ability.

I'm posting the full album version, because, well, if you've followed the countdown at all you know I'm partial to the "real" version, not the chopped out "single" versions we were fed by radio stations, especially in the 1970's and 1980's when executives still shuttered at the thought of a song longer than four minutes.

If you think about it, radio singles back in the 1960's as "music radio" came of age was almost like the "Twitter Generation" of music. Anything over 2:30 long and you were in trouble. It was like they were thinking in 140 characters or less back then. :)

Transport yourself back just shy of a generation, and enjoy Thelma's contribution to music, disco, and our countdown.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Song #250: "Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling"--The Fortunes (1971)

We kick off my Top 250 songs of all-time with a group which had a few cracks at the American charts in the 1960's and early 1970's. Usually, when one hears a song from The Fortunes, you know the song, but have no idea who sang it.

Their success began with "You've Got Your Troubles" and "Here It Comes Again" back in 1965. They wouldn't return to the Top 40 until they released today's tune in the Spring of 1971.

Great hook, and excellent pacing for a song that's subject matter is really nothing like its sound. That's not easy to do, create a feel-good sound about, frankly, another bout of depression. Please note I've suffered/do suffer from depression, so I don't mean anything tongue-in-cheek here.

Dreaming in vain. That sucks. Happy Monday!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Song #251: "(Keep Feeling) Fascination"--Human League (1983)

We reach the midway point of the Rob Witham 500 today with the lone contribution of a UK group that certainly left its mark on the Eighties music scene, even though they really only hit it big three times on the American charts.

This song ended up #33 for the year 1983 on the Billboard Hot 100, released with just a few weeks left in my sophomore year of high school. Thus, it was a major part of the early soundtrack of the Summer of 1983, which began with my first (of only two) trips to California.

And what a trip it was! My homeroom teacher, the late, great Eleanor Tenney, around the last day of school, upon finding I was headed west, gave me a camera and film and told me to get lots of pictures, and to get with her when I got back! That was an amazing amount of trust given to an almost sixteen year old.

Now, thanks to her generosity, 33 years later, I still have a couple of packets filled with slides from that trip, which included my first time ever on an airplane. I also have the ticket from that flight, aboard this now-defunct airline.

It was the trip where I watched The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson live (with guest Robin Williams), watched Reggie Jackson and the California Angels play at Anaheim Stadium, and much more. Great times.  :)

Back to today's song. Human League had three Top 10 hits. The other two went to #1. This song peaked at #8.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Song #252: "Leader Of The Band"--Dan Fogelberg (1981)

We welcome one of the most underrated singers and songwriters of the late 20th century to our countdown in Dan Fogelberg.

Some of you may think I'm being a bit too high with my praise. But if you take 20 minutes and just read over his discography, I think I could persuade you to understand where I'm coming from.

Fogelberg's music was simple, yet complex, sometimes soothing, sometimes driving, always thought-provoking.

See, I used to think my opening statement was poppycock. But then I dated a hardcore Fogelberg fan after high school, and she helped me better understand his unique talents. If you asked her today, some 30 years later, she would probably tell you the concert she went to, finally seeing him live is still one of the best nights of her life. I regret greatly not going with her.

Today's song is about Dan's father, a musician and educator who would pass away a year after this song was released. This song gained much greater meaning to me over the past few years as my own Dad reached his final days, and even more so after his passing on October 2, 2013.

It's so true. My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man. I'm just a living legacy to the leader of the band (pictured in the middle with his then two brothers, some 80 years ago, then with me and my brother Frank at my Ordination Service, June 6, 1999).

Friday, October 14, 2016

Song #253: "Roundabout"--Yes (1972)

Recorded in 1971, today's song was released as a single just after we rang in the new year of 1972 with Guy Lombardo And His Royal Canadians . And, many of you don't remember Guy and the gang. :)

I would discover this song years later as I discovered the AOR radio format, AOR standing for "Album Oriented Rock". This type of format would welcome an eight and a half minute gem from one of the founding groups of the progressive rock movement. Top 40 radio would not, and thus, the radio single came in at a robust (for the time) 3:27, and made it to #13 on the charts.

How you can edit this song by 60 percent is beyond me and I refuse to listen to the shortened version. It's like a :30 promo for an hour-long TV drama. I'm not posting it below either.  :) :)

Yes has eight songs in our countdown, six from one of my albums of all-time, 1983's "90125". Today's song joins "All Good People" which appeared earlier in the countdown as Yes tunes not on that recording.  :)

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Song #254: "Throwing It All Away"--Genesis (1986)

What a five-year stretch for the group Genesis from 1981, when they released the super album "Abacab", to 1983's self-titled release, then on to "Invisible Touch" in 1986, just in time for me to get to spin some great tunes at my first professional radio job.

At WUPE-FM in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, we were an adult contemporary station, but we did play "Invisible Touch", played the living daylights out of it, in fact. That song was about as "hot" as we got with our sound at the time.

The follow-up single that summer, today's song, was much more aligned with our format, and we wore it out in heavy rotation, too. A simply marvelous tune with a final verse that is so haunting, and dead on true.

"Someday, you'll be sorry, someday when you're free;
Memories will remind you that our love was meant to be.
But late at night when you call my name,
The only sound you'll hear is the sound of your voice calling...calling out to me."

We've all pretty much had that feeling (whether we've voiced it or not to that special someone is another story) and we've all pretty much felt the way the verse described.

This song was a sharp pierce to the heart of millions thirty years ago, and continues to cut deep today.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Song #255: "Heartless"--Heart (1978)

Originally recorded two years earlier but caught up in legal issues with a record company, "Heartless" would eventually be released in the midst of a string of great singles from Ann and Nancy Wilson.

Before it, there was "Crazy On You". Still to come was "Straight On", both songs you still hear on classic rock radio today. Less often, sadly, you hear today's song.

The second of three Heart contributions to our countdown, it combines fantastic guitar work, the usual out of this world vocals, and a driving beat with super pauses going from end of chorus to the next stage in the process. And the ending is just perfect. And did I forget to mention the bridge?

Which song from Heart do I love even more than "Heartless"? We'll find out down the road.  :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Song #256: "Mad Love"--Linda Ronstadt (1980)

I don't think, when you really look into it, there is any doubt that the artist with the most musical ability to perform at a high level in multiple genres in our countdown is Linda Ronstadt.

Early on, it's "Silver Threads and Golden Needles" country that borders on bluegrass. By the mid-1970's, she's on to an edgier pop, asking "When Will I Be Loved?", which appeared earlier in our countdown, while able to cover a seemingly endless number of songs and crafting them as her own.

By 1980, she's able to understand the move rock music is making, and here comes the LP, "Mad Love". From the first single, "How Do I Make You?" to yet another successful remake in "Hurt So Bad", Linda never let times change her; she simply wasn't afraid to change.

Proof of that? Six years later, when pundits might predict "Ronstadt Goes Madonna", she's making money hand over fist with a series of incredible projects with the great Nelson Riddle singing adult standard favorites from 40 and 50 years earlier, and crooning "Somewhere Out There" with James Ingram for the animated classic, "An American Tail".

Linda appears eight times in our Top 500 and three songs come from this album, including today's selection, the title track.

I have Mad Respect for the woman behind "Mad Love".

Monday, October 10, 2016

Song #257: "Blow"--Kesha (2011)

This one came out of left field. Trust me.

Released near the end of my second, and longest, period of unemployment, I first heard the song on a weekend trip to North Carolina in April, 2011, during a time of compromise with the radio, mostly to assuage Rachel, I'm sure.

This song came on a couple of times and I was first intrigued by the opening, then the bridge, then the beat. A week later, I'm looking around for a copy to jam to in the car, not on a trip, all by myself.

There aren't a lot of songs from the 21st Century on our countdown, as most people tend to identify most with the songs of their youth, and I'm certainly no different. But this one won me over, as has several others, a few of which made our list.

Now for the anthem about heading to the club to have a good night.

Well Known Fact: I've never gone to such a club, thus, never had a good night there, either.  :)

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Song #258: "All Over The World"--Electric Light Orchestra (1980)

It's, I guess, a good time to confess that I never saw the movie "Xanadu".

I think, 36 years later, that was, and is, a good decision.

But I did love a lot of the music connected with the film that appeared on the soundtrack, especially the contributions of the Electric Light Orchestra (also known as ELO). Their first single from the soundtrack, "I'm Alive", appeared here at #324 a couple of months back.

The follow-up single makes its appearance today, a feel-good song about joining the party a la others before it, most notably the classic "Dancin' In The Streets".

Today's song is the fourth of nine in our countdown for ELO, good for third most in the Top 500 behind Genesis and The Moody Blues.

So, party like you just decided to take in "The Empire Strikes Back" at Ridge Cinema instead of "Xanadu", and jam to ELO!  :)

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Song #259: "Shock The Monkey"--Peter Gabriel (1982)

Once the leader, and lead singer, for Genesis, Peter Gabriel first came to my attention with his single, "Games Without Frontiers" from his 1980 "Melt" LP, a song which featured a 22-year old backup singer named Kate Bush.

You only heard this song if you were listening to AOR radio, as it never sniffed the Top 40. So, the cool kids who preferred XL102 over Q94, and the cooler kids like me who lived in Beaverdam and could pick up stations from four, sometimes five different markets, heard Gabriel on 3WV in Charlottesville, WAVA in Washington, and K94 in Tidewater.

Yeah, I had XL102 Rocks bumper stickers on the back of my clipboard, and was proud of it. Take that, Q!  :) :)

Fast forward two years and Gabriel returns with "Security", and its first single, released as I began my three-year stint at Patrick Henry High School, was today's song. Catchy? Yes. Rife with deeper meaning? Kind of.

It's not about a monkey; the monkey represents jealousy and how it can take a person to his or her's most basic instincts. Come to think of it, when one is really jealous, you can begin to do things and make decisions you normally wouldn't consider.

So, nothing wrong with shocking that jealousy back into its proper place and getting your head on straight. And doing it with such a hypnotic sound makes it even enjoyable.  :)

Peter returns later in the countdown one more time. Much later. Like 2017 later.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Song #260: "Private Idaho"--The B-52's (1980)

It's the first of three contributions in our Top 500 countdown from The B-52's, and I'll go ahead and give away a spoiler here to set up today's song.

After the group burst onto radio in the midst of the New Wave musical revolution with "Rock Lobster", a song that I completely when head over heels for, the B's returned with this, the first single from their 1980 release, "Wild Planet".

A bit slower, a bit of a reminder of Rock Lobster, but it carved its own niche, and made parents across America look at 13-year olds like me and wonder what exactly a Private Idaho is. By the way, legend has it Idaho represented a state of paranoia that one needed to get out of.

So, "Dude, you're so paranoid!" became "You're living in your own Private Idaho".

Works for me. Now, pardon me while I look over my shoulder......

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Song #261: "Let My Love Open The Door"--Pete Townshend (1980)

The breakthrough single for the solo career of The Who's Pete Townshend came in 1980 when a grand cross-section of radio added today's song into their rotations.

In Richmond, you were just as liable to hear this song on XL102 as you would on Q94 or WRVA, a tidbit people under 30 can't fathom.

This is the third of four songs from Townshend, not counting Who tunes, in our Top 500, so we'll hear from him one more time....down the road. Maybe even well down the road. :)


Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Song #262: "Love Is The Answer"--England Dan and John Ford Coley (1979)

We had already enjoyed several singles, and bought several 45 records, from the duo of England Dan (Seals) and John Ford Coley when they released today's song in the early spring of 1979.

With the final stages of sixth grade in sight, and a couple of Saturday school sessions in my rear view mirror (we had a rough winter!), we welcomed this gem, which became, and still is, my favorite song from this duo.

Great instrumentation, tremendous pacing, and you can't beat the message. :)

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Song #263: "Don't Fight It"--Kenny Loggins with Steve Perry (1982)

I can't remember if I got a new clipboard (yes, clipboard!) to start my career at Patrick Henry High School in late August of 1982, but just before entering tenth grade, and a brave new world, I do remember this song dropping on radio and thinking, "WHOA!"

It became an immediate jam, with two of the best and most distinctive voices of this pop/rock era joining forces for today's song.

Add a lead rhythm guitar performance from Neil Giraldo, who you might know as Mr. Pat Benatar, and the ingredients were all there for a song that demanded you turned your stereo up to maximum level.

With the headphones that you got for your birthday on, of course.

That was the BEST birthday gift I've ever received, by the way. Headphones for my 15th birthday earlier that summer from my Dad and Stepmom. I'm sure the present was as much for them as they were for me. :)  It was the first of several pairs I wore out jamming day and night. Mostly at night.

Go to page 33 of the 1982 Radio Shack catalog HERE. My headphones are to the far right for $14.95.

Trivia: This is the fourth song out of twelve in our countdown whose song title begins with the word "Don't".

How many hints do I need to drop?  Click play below, and turn the computer to 100.  :)

By the way, this is our final contribution from Kenny Loggins. Honorable mentions include Vox Humana, Meet Me Halfway, This Is It, and Welcome To Heartlight. And, if you want to make me cry, turn on some "Return To Pooh Corner".  :)

Monday, October 03, 2016

Song #264: "Things Can Only Get Better"--Howard Jones (1985)

If you ever get into a roundtable discussion (or something thereabouts) about male artists of the 1980's, the obvious players come up first.

Michael Jackson
Phil Collins (with or without Genesis)
Sting (with or without The Police)
Bruce Springsteen

As the conversation continued, finally, someone intelligent would say, "Hey, don't forget about Howard Jones!"

Jones is like the key utility player on a baseball team. He rarely starts, but can play several positions and seems to find ways to win your club ball games, so much so that you'd never dream of not having him on the roster.

He's Earl Morrall to Bob Griese for you old-time NFL fans. He's solid, and developed a very impressive library of singles during his run.

Today's song is the first of two to make our countdown, a song which kicked off his 1985 release, "Dream Into Action". It cracked the top five, and ended as his second biggest chart hit. I won't talk about other Jones' tunes because another will appear later in our countdown. Then, we'll take a look at his stellar library.

A salute to you, Howard Jones!

Sunday, October 02, 2016

A Thank You To Two Legends: Dick Enberg and Vin Scully

There aren't many connections left to my childhood. On this final Sunday of the Major League Baseball season, we said thank you and so long to two of them.

I had wanted to be on the radio since I was three years old, and, as most of you know, I am a huge sports fan. It's no surprise then that, growing up, radio and sports would play a huge role in my upbringing, as well as the voices heard on television.

It all began with Chuck Thompson and Bill O'Donnell on Baltimore Orioles radio broadcasts, first on WFLS Radio in Fredericksburg. When I see the O's on TV now, I see Manny, Matt and Adam, but I hear Chuck in my mind when I flip past a game on the tube.

On television for baseball, it was Joe Garagiola and Tony Kubek on the Game of The Week, Curt Gowdy as well, back in the day when you only saw national games on NBC. There was no MASN, no HTS (remember Home Team Sports, the "channel you cheer for"??). When WRLH-TV, Channel 35 signed on in 1982 and started showing syndicated regular season Baltimore Orioles games, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. :)

Three other voices were most prominent thanks to sports on television. My favorite television announcer, period, was the lead football and golf announcer for CBS Sports, the late Pat Summerall. Summerall, a former player for the New York Giants, learned his craft in several ways, including on WCBS Radio in New York City, but also from another legendary football voice whose national career ended just as I was paying attention, and that was Ray Scott.

Scott was what is known as a "minimalist", which means, especially for the purposes of doing television play-by-play, say as little as necessary and let the pictures describe the action. Summerall adopted that measure, and, with his rich, deep, "voice of God" type voice, it became broadcasting gold.

Summerall was paired with former Philadelphia Eagle Tom Brookshier, and the duo instantly clicked, becoming the "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid" of broadcasting. Their chemistry was undeniable, plus, they knew football, and knew it well. But, they also knew how to have a good time, and, by Super Bowl XIV in early 1980, it was showing on the air.

CBS executives knew they had to do something about their top NFL team. At the same time, The Tiffany Network was breaking in a new analyst in recently-retired Oakland Raiders head coach John Madden. They quickly knew they wanted him on the top broadcast team. So, in 1981, CBS decided to experiment, having Madden team with Vin Scully for a few games in September, then with Summerall for a few games in October.

The executives chose Summerall, and it was the right call. The "minimalist" Summerall gave Madden's developing on-air personality the time it needed to develop, and allowed Madden to be Madden. Scully's more poetic style of doing a broadcast would have sucked enough air out of the team to render Madden to be about half of what he would become, and that would never have worked.

As the story goes, to assuage Scully, CBS gave him and Hank Stram the 1981 NFC Championship Game to call, and, as it turns out, it put Scully in position to call one of the biggest plays in NFL history, and, in my view, one of the two iconic "seed change" plays in NFL history. By that, I mean the result of the play set off a chain of events that completely turned the hierarchy of the league on its head.

So that's why you hear Scully, instead of Summerall, exclaim, "Dwight Clark!" on January 10, 1982 in Candlestick Park.

Oh, earlier that day? A gentleman named Dick Enberg, who was probably wearing 15 layers of clothing, called "The Freezer Bowl" because of the intense cold in Cincinnati that day (the wind chill was 38 below at Riverfront Stadium...). Enberg had settled into his role as the new lead football announcer for NBC along with his partner, the great Merlin Olsen.

Enberg came onto my radar, first, thanks to a great television broadcast: "Sports Challenge"! Imagine a 30 minute quiz show all about sports complete with highlights and more, and your favorite athletes competing. What a great show.

But Enberg's reach widened quickly thanks to the beginnings of the growth of college basketball in the 1970's, first with his work for UCLA, then becoming NBC's lead college basketball announcer, joining the best three-man booth in sports history: Enberg, Billy Packer, and Al McGuire.

Oh, and did you know Vin Scully also hosted a game show? Check out a clip from the short-lived NBC show "It Takes Two".

What I learned from Pat Summerall was much, especially the importance of not talking too much, yes, even on the medium of radio. I'm not afraid of not talking for a few seconds between plays. The listeners hear the fans in the stands, the band playing in the distance, the echoes of a PA announcer.

Here's what I learned from Dick Enberg and Vin Scully:

In 1984, trying to get accepted to the Governor's School for The Gifted after my junior year of high school, part of the application process was to write a letter to someone in the industry that you aspire to become a part of looking for advice. I wrote my letter to Dick Enberg.

What I loved about Enberg was two very distinctive qualities: consistency and fun. His cadence, no matter the sport, met and fit the mood, He developed a catch phrase in "Oh, My!" that I am sure was not planned, not given to him by a focus group. It was just him. And I never found myself bored watching a game with Enberg announcing. He would find a way to make a 35-0 rout riveting.

When I think of Vin Scully, I think of versatility. I know baseball is his groove, the Dodgers are his home. But I also hear him call "The Catch" from Montana to Clark, I hear him host a game show, I hear him in 1986 say, "A little roller up along first....behind the bag! It gets by Buckner! Here comes Knight and the Mets win it!"

Before that, after a wild pitch brought in the tying run for the Mets, who, five minutes earlier, were an out away from losing the World Series to the Boston Red Sox, who thought their 68-year drought was ending, Scully uttered this line.

"Five-five in a delirious tenth inning!"

The perfect set up for Mookie Wilson's line drive foul down the left field line, and then, of course, what would next transpire. See it all at the 3:30:00 mark by clicking HERE.

Then, take serious note of what Vin, and Joe, do after Vin says, "..the Mets win it."


Two replays.

More silence. Three minutes and 23 seconds without a comment from the commentators. Scully explains why at the 3:34:30 mark. NBC was also guilty of being caught with the proverbial pants down as they were already in the Red Sox locker room, plastic tarp taped over lockers, the champagne on ice, the World Series trophy sitting, awaiting Boston to wrap it up. Bob Costas has been quoted as saying he's never seen a tear-down of a playoff locker room happen so fast than it did that night. And remember, this was Game Six. The Mets only forced a Game 7.

So, on this monumental day in sports broadcasting history, two icons bid farewell, and between them, they take home 127 years of broadcastinng experience. Scully began with the Brooklyn Dodgers, describing the play of baseball's color barrier breaker in Jackie Robinson. Harry Truman was President. We were only five years removed from World War II and Korea was just beginning.

Six years later, Eisenhower is President, Don Larsen is months away from pitching a perfect game in the World Series, and Enberg began his career at a much lower level of baseball.

And, over the next 60 years, you can't think of these moments without Vin:

--"The Catch"
--"Here Comes Knight and the Mets win it!"
--Bo Jackson's monster home run in the 1989 All-Star Game while interviewing Ronald Reagan
--Kirk Gibson's Home Run to win Game 1 of 1988 World Series

And you can't think of these without Enberg:

--"Notre Dame ends UCLA's 88-game winning streak"
--"Michigan State Spartans, National Champions, 1979!"
--John Riggins on 4th and inches for a touchdown in Super Bowl XVII
--"The Catch II" for San Francisco: Montana to Taylor to win Super Bowl XXIII
--Plenty of tennis moments, from Wimbledon to the U.S. Open

In a new age of "look at me, hot take sportscasters" which has brought an industry I love down to its lowest level of professionalism and respect that I've seen in my lifetime, we now lose two more voices who understood humility, God-given opportunity, and the inevitable fact that what they were describing was not earth-changing, but it sure was a lot of fun. Classy, selfless, always allowing the game, and their broadcast partner, take the shine.

I know my play-by-play career has touches of Enberg, Scully, not to mention Summerall. I'll never be what they are, but they most certainly continue to drive me to be the best I can be, for I never know when new opportunities to do this will arrive. If they do, I want to be ready. If they do not, I'm certainly grateful for those which have.

Thank you, Vin. Thank you, Dick. Enjoy your families, and may retirement be filled with love and a clean slate, filled with things that you love to do, and enjoy.  :)

Song #265: "Is It Love?"--Mr. Mister (1986)

In late 1985, the group Mr. Mister entered the incredibly crowded category of mid-1980's bands with their "Welcome To The Real World" release. The first single to radio, Broken Wings, continues to be a mainstay on classic hits radio today, and I played it many times in recurrent rotation on WUPE in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1986 as my radio career got underway.

Today's song, the third single from the album, peaked in the top ten in June of 1986, the beginning of a summer where I did an about face.

When I left for college on September 1, 1985, I never dreamed that I would opt to stay in the Berkshires by May of '86 rather than come home for the summer. By May, I had two regular weekend airshifts on the stations, a third on the way, and had spent several weeks that spring anchoring and reporting news while we were in between news directors.

I was gaining incredible experience. Why would I go home and sit out for three months, let someone else get the hours, and lose out on the opportunities?  When my great boss, Dave Malachino, carved up three hours weekdays from 11am to 2pm on WUHN, our Big Band sister AM where I began my career, for me for the summer, it was a no-brainer.

I lived on the college campus, part of the summer in a dorm room, the other part, when the college hosted an event called "Elderhostel", I moved my stuff into the academic building to the college radio station, WCWL-FM, and slept on the floor in the office by the transmitter.

That's really, really wanting to be in radio. Today's song reminds me of those days where I learned from some great professionals, and got experience I could never get in today's world of voice tracking.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Song #266: "Who's That Girl?"--Madonna (1987)

By the time this song, and the movie with the same name, were released in the Summer of 1987, we were three plus years into Madonna-Mania in the pop world. She could do no wrong by this point. I think she could have re-released "The Morning After" from the movie "The Poseidon Adventure" (a movie I adore, by the way), put a dance track to it, and crack the top five.

I never saw this movie. In fact, I've never seen any Madonna movie. It was somewhat surprising when I broke down this countdown into artists that Madonna ended up with five songs in my Top 500.

I certainly was never a Madonna fan per se, and some of her songs absolutely nauseate me (see "Like A Virgin"). But there was several that I really, really enjoyed, and thus their inclusion. We have two more to go, somewhere down the road.  :)