Saturday, December 31, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every life matters.

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!  :)

--Rob Witham

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 30, 2016

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

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

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

That meant two things.

1) It was next to be played.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 29, 2016

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

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

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

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

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

Long live the Edmund Fitzgerald!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 26, 2016

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 25, 2016

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

Merry Christmas!

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 24, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 22, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

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

First today, a "Did You Know?"

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

Yes, that Richard Chamberlain.

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 19, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 18, 2016

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 17, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, December 16, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 11, 2016

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

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

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

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

But not for long.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 09, 2016

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 08, 2016

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 05, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 04, 2016

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 03, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 02, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 01, 2016

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

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

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

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

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