23 October 2008

1985: View from inside the dumpster

Oh, no one left alive in Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five will ever do.
-Paul McCartney

Let's skip forward one year, one week, and one month and take a look at the American Top 40 chart action in the dog days of Summertime 1985. It's purely coincidental that I happened upon the countdown which ran the week my first luv had a most unceremonious ending.

All that was sweet and celebratory in May 1984 was the exact opposite during the week ending July 6, 1985. I was at Arkansas State taking a couple of Summer term classes, and living in the (nasty, and now thankfully long-gone) Delta Hall dorm -- shaped like a swastika. Scout's honor.

Things with Christi were not so good. Summer '84 was a long time ago, and there were a lot of underlying problems - many of my own making.

I didn't have a phone in the dorm room. But my friend Amy - a grad student from Tennessee who lived in a trailer in nearby Indian Park (non-dorm "housing" for unmarried students) - had one. And Christi was going to call me on the afternoon on Tuesday, July 2 at 5:30 p.m. We had what you'd call "appointment phone conversations." Just how did we survive without cellphones and e-mail??

It's amazing what the mind recalls. I was seated at Amy's little kitchen table, my eyes staring at a folded lawn chair tucked between the table and the wall, as Christi said, "I don't know how to tell you this......"

Dumped for someone else. And, as it turned out, she was not going to transfer to ASU after all. Good, I thought. At least I won't have memories of her all around me. I won't have to look at her. I can put this behind me. I'm four hours away from Rot Springs.

Guess again. And July 1985 came flooding back last week when my son called me all despondent. I cringed at the pain in Tiger's voice as he was begging me in a way he'd never done before, to come live with Sera and me. "I hate this town. Everything here reminds me of Jes." Seems his girlfriend - his First Love® - upped and moved to Tennessee to live with her mother.

These memories formed a voice of wisdom as I assured my offspring, "Son, trust me ... moving here is not going to erase her memory. I know from experience."

So this post is dedicated to my son Tiger. He's been feeling exactly what I felt at the time Casey counted down the below hits.

Oh, and the relationship lasted the exact sum of 1 year, 1 month, 1 week and 1 day. May 25, 1984 - July 2, 1985. It's hard to forget a stat like that.

1985 was the year I began "hitting the wall." That meaning a time when a person can no longer relate to the majority of current hit songs. I'd keep one foot, off and on, in top-40 for a few years, however 1984 was the last year I actively kept up with the pop charts and what all was on 'em.

At this point, I was rebellious against top-40. I was angry because one of the coolest album rock stations ever, "Rock-103" in Memphis, died back in March. An original Lee Abrams "Superstars" AOR like Atlanta's old 96 Rock (their logos were very similar), Rock 103 was the station I listened to 95% of the time at ASU, until a new, AOR-hating program director took over and flipped the station to full-tilt high-energy CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio). Z-103 it was called.

The original Rock 103 is not at all to be confused with the present-day incarnation, a Clear Channel owned joke, your typical waste of FM spectrum.

Summertime 1985 was agony for this 20-year-old. Christi was taken away from me, Rock 103 and AOR were taken away from me, and - like a bitter syrup in the wound - COCA-COLA was taken away from me. This was the Summer of New Coke. Not even the cases of old Coke I'd hoarded from the Safeway in Jonesboro could patch together the shards of my heart, all shattered like that beer bottle I walked on a few months earlier.

No sex. No drugs. No rock & roll. Well, this sucks, Beavis.

Whoooookay. Let's start counting down the songs from this schitty week in my life (holy crap, was I that full of drama in July '85??)........

The following four songs dropped off the chart to make way for this week's debuts:
AXEL F THEME / Harold Faltermeyer (good riddance)
WAKE UP NEXT TO YOU / Graham Parker & The Shot (yeah, just twist that blade, pal)
NEVERENDING STORY / Limahl (kajagoogoo goo, and your little flying dog-like creature, too)
FRESH / Kool & The Gang (no, I was a sophomore)

Henley's second solo album, Building the Perfect Beast, was a staple of my college record shelf. It came out during my first semester at A-State, and its first hit single was the wonderful and still-magical-after-all-these-years "The Boys of Summer." After "All She Wants To Do Is Dance", we had NELITW. This was my second favorite cut on the album.

Just what the hell did "Choose Life" mean? Was George Michael a militant "log cabin" anti-abortionist? Or was he shilling for the breakfast cereal? Perhaps the board game? (and no, there's nothing in the rules that said you couldn't put two blue pegs in the same car. Sarah Palin was just a college sorority beauty queen, and reading Mein Kampf during her spare time. No, wait. She doesn't read anything with a spine and a cover. Never mind.)

Hated the song. George Michael's smarmy, toothy face was the personification of my lack of rock & roll on the radio.

And whatever became of Andrew Garfunkel Ridgeley, anyway?

*38) FIND A WAY / Amy Grant
Fundamentalist types were horrified when Miz "Baby Baby" breached The Wall of Jericho and recorded a "mainstream AC" album. It was okay as a song, but it still had the baggage of Amy Grant. I cannot stomach the woman; she reminds me too much of the whole culture of CCM. And "contemporary christian" music makes my ears bleed worse than a thousand playings of "Karma Chameleon."

37) SUDDENLY / Billy Ocean
"You wake up, and suddenlyyyyy ..... you're a man-me-down for a future girlfriend."

36) LITTLE BY LITTLE / Robert Plant
An island of pleasant listening in this long, hot Summer. Plant's third solo album was called Shaken 'n Stirred, and was quite the departure from his more Zeppelin-shaded efforts. One of my two favorite songs on this list.

*35) POWER OF LOVE / Huey Lewis & The News
Fire up the Flux Capacitor and set the cruise control for 88 MPH. I wanna go back in time, back to before July 2, so I could screw with the space-time continuum. Or forward in time so I could skip certain eras of my life and go directly to Seraphim.

*34) FREEWAY OF LOVE / Aretha Franklin
My heart's freeway was more like I-30 in Arkansas ... or I-95 in South Carolina.

And no button copy, either. Christi dun ripped out all dem sweet reflector-thingys.

33) WHAT ABOUT LOVE? / Heart

"What's a record?", I can hear any 20-year-old punks who hear this, ummm, record.

That's what I still call songs. Records. Even though they may never have ever seen the bottom of a vinyl pressing machine.

Yeah, just wiggle that dagger like a joystick. My mind's ear didn't hear "Donna", but "Christi."

Some songs are better left unheard.

29) NEVER SURRENDER / Corey Hart
My heart was singing this song. Like a damned fool, it was. That's what it gets for wearing blinders at night instead of sunglasses.

28) CANNONBALL / Supertramp
A really underrated hit song ... I didn't like it much at first, but it quickly grew on me.

27) PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE / Depeche Mode
What is "Depeche" and how do I switch out of that mode? I'd rather hear real instruments.

26) GETCHA BACK / The Beach Boys
They might play real instruments, but it doesn't change the fact that they were a washed-up group, milking their past glory. Without Brian Wilson, forget it. Worthy only because it isn't "Kokomo."

"If memories were all I sang / I'd rather drive a truck." -Rick Nelson

25) BANG A GONG (GET IT ON) / Power Station
Electricity does not trump a T-Rex. Indeed, one of them big dinosaurs could tear up a set of transmission lines faster than you could say "Sinclair."

24) JUST AS I AM / Air Supply
Are you still here?? I thought I asked you all to leave!!

23) SHOUT / Tears For Fears
Another fine "song from the big chair." Consider this the ottoman to my heart's Dick Van Dyke.

22) TOUGH ALL OVER / John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band
The bleeding shards were heard saying, "I know that's right."

21) 19 / Paul Hardcastle
No, that's not a stuck CD laser. The song is supposed to sound like that.

20) IN MY HOUSE / Mary Jane Girls
Not in mine. Please leave.

19) WALKING ON SUNSHINE / Katrina & The Waves
If there's anything I cannot stand, it's whiny, plodding ballads like this. Poor Katrina. It's not her fault the Gods of Hurricane Namers pulled her name out of the bag. It's not as if a plastic bicycle tag with her name on it was easy to find at your friendly roadside Stuckey's....

18) SMUGGLER'S BLUES / Glenn Frey
Another song from the poor man's Don Henley. Meh, meh, a thousand times meh.

17) CRAZY IN THE NIGHT / Kim Carnes
Subtitled "Barking at Airplanes." I think this was her last single. In 1985, "Bette Davis Eyes" was a disappearing speck in her career's rear-view mirror. Like that little white dot in the middle of old TV picture tubes after you turn off the set.

Oh, oh, ohhh-whooh, whooaaa-whoa, whoooooo-ooooa ... it's a song of inspiration. It, like the forthcoming song "Broken Wings", had lyrics I could relate to in 1985.

Two blocks from the end of Lonely Street and the Heartbreak Hotel (now a "Budget Inn" owned by Coloneltomparker Patel). To get here, take Exit 15 off the Freeway of Love.

First hit for this so-very-'80s duo. I liked it .... first time I ever heard this was driving back to Jonesboro from a Spring Break week visiting Gran Lera. I heard it through the static along I-65 north of Clanton, Ala. as I was losing the late great WLSQ-AM "95 ROCK" in Montgomery, and pulling my radio's antenna muscles trying to hold on to it for a few miles longer.

Little would I know that it was be my last taste of album rock for many, many months. I left 'home' listening to ROCK 103 and returned to an ugly surprise: HITRADIO Z-103!!!!!!!!!

I bought this 45 the day before The Phone Call, so I got a quick lesson in this record's meaning.

12) GOONIES ‘R' GOOD ENOUGH / Cyndi Lauper
No they aren't. Right, Nettie? ;-)

11) GLORY DAYS / Bruce Springsteen
Not really. Those were last Summer, remember? (hearing songs still being released from Born in the USA were ugly reminders of what used to be ... the album was released just as the relationship was taking off)

10) ANGEL / Madonna
I was hoping for a Seraphim, but my stubborn heart was still hung up on that damned Christi woman. The song? No sir, I don't like it.

9) VOICES CARRY / Til Tuesday
My other favorite song on this list. I've always loved it. As perfect as a pop record can be.

A song that made me want to yank the radio out of the car each time it came on (often; no AOR to listen to, remember?). The scene in Better Off Dead when John Cusack does just that is gut-busting funny.

7) YOU GIVE GOOD LOVE / Whitney Houston
My college buddy Adam used to do little graphic illustrations of song titles. I'd tell you the one for this song, if it wouldn't give this blog an NC-17 rating. I'll leave it at that.

6) WOULD I LIE TO YOU? / Eurythmics
I don't know why, but apparently this also found its way to the R&B charts ... "K-97", the longtime urban station in Memphis, had it on hot rotation. Go figure.

5) THE SEARCH IS OVER / Survivor
See "Seraphim, 1998."

4) HEAVEN / Bryan Adams
See #5.

I've never found one in a second-hand store. And you know I've looked.

Come to think of it, I'll settle for an old Rock-103 baseball cap.

2) A VIEW TO A KILL / Duran Duran
Not even James Bond could save this wad of cotton candy.

And I'll spare you the joke I know you'll be thinking after you see what was #1 this week:

1) SUSSUDIO / Phil Collins
No Jacket Required wasn't half bad as an album, if I gloss over this half-bad song. Personally, I'm quite fond of the 'cassette/CD only' bonus track, "We Said Hello Goodbye."

Yeah, I wasn't what you'd call enamored with things in July 1985. But things would eventually look up. I'd find another reboun--er, I mean, girlfriend. "Ruth." Several months later, she'd dump my "binge-drinking, heathenist, not-Christian-enough" ass and marry someone who loved children. Loved them, I tell you.

We'd get "Coke Classic", with high fructose corn syrup instead of cane sugar, the way The (Original) Real Thing was sweetened. I could go on a tangent about how I think soft drink bottlers' changeover to HFCS instead of sugar is a big part of why we have such an obesity epidemic. But I won't. Yet.

Good gawd on a pogo stick ... I need some happy thoughts. This is too damned depressing.

But yeah, I can feel my son's pain.

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge Coast-To-Coast

1 comment:

nettiemac said...

I'll comment on the music when I get home this evening, but my heart does hurt for Tiger. :(