(Pictured: the hairy dudes of Pablo Cruise.)
I have to admit that it’s been damn hard coming up with stuff to write about this month, October or no October. But because I don’t want a Friday to go by without posting something, let’s try this: a selection of songs that were sitting at #40 on the Billboard Hot 100 on this date, or a date to close to it, in years gone by. We’ll cover 1964 through 1986 because that is how we roll.
Week of 10/24/64: “You Really Got Me”/Kinks. I am probably wrong about this, but I suspect that “You Really Got Me” might contain one of the first iconic guitar riffs in rock history. What would be some earlier ones? In 1964 alone, the Beatles did “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “A Hard Day’s Night.” Earlier than that, “Jailhouse Rock,” maybe. But I can’t think of any others just now.
Week of 10/23/65: “Dawn of Correction”/Spokesmen. It’s easy to characterize this as the reactionary response to Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction”—and it gives the game away in its first lines, “The western world has a common dedication / To keep free people from Red domination”—but it makes some valid points, too. Voter registration was up, the Peace Corps was making a difference, the United Nations was a vehicle for hope.
Week of 10/22/66: “Rain on the Roof”/Lovin’ Spoonful. The world of 1966 was neither sweet nor simple, but sweet, simple songs like this make it seem as though it must have been. (Compared to 2016, in which America is going collectively mad in slow motion, it almost certainly was.)
Week of 10/23/71: “I’m Comin’ Home”/Tommy James. In which Tommy James hooks his pop music mastery to his growing religiosity and I’ll be damned (see what I did there?) if it doesn’t sound just great.
Week of 10/21/72: “From the Beginning”/Emerson Lake & Palmer. Their only Top 40 hit, because “Lucky Man” stalled out at #48.
Week of 10/19/74: “When Will I See You Again”/Three Degrees. This song is so beautiful that at certain moments (which often occur in the fall of the year) I can barely stand to listen to it.
Week of 10/21/78: “Don’t Want to Live Without It”/Pablo Cruise. This was a great radio song from a band that knew how to make them, even if the public didn’t always buy them in large amounts.
Week of 10/20/79: “Rainbow Connection”/Kermit (Jim Henson). During the first autumn of the 1970s, Henson was on the singles chart as a Sesame Street character, Ernie, doing the intolerable “Rubber Duckie.” During the last autumn of the 70s, he was back as a more versatile and enduring character, Kermit the Frog, and a far better song.
Week of 10/25/80: “Never Be the Same”/Christopher Cross. I occasionally annoyed my college radio colleagues by wanting to play certain records I liked that were straight-up pop radio cheese. Like “Never Be the Same.”
Week of 10/17/81: “Burnin’ for You”/Blue Oyster Cult. Although “Burnin’ for You” never got higher than #40, it has been a classic-rock radio essential for 35 years now. The album Fire of Unknown Origin got a lot of play on our college radio station, especially the bizarro track “Joan Crawford,” with a video containing a great deal of fked-up Catholic schoolgirl imagery.
Week of 10/23/82: “Get Closer”/Linda Ronstadt. I am pretty sure that I hadn’t heard this song in over 30 years before I listened it while writing this post. It’s far, far better than I remember. (And in the video, Linda is just smokin’ hot.)
Week of 10/18/86: “The Way It Is”/Bruce Hornsby and the Range. There had never been anything that sounded quite like this, with that rippling, rolling, powerful piano. When I got to the elevator-music station early in 1987, we had a version of it with all the vocals edited out.
The link in the last paragraph goes to a blog post by Len O’Kelly, who came to the elevator-music station, KRVR in Davenport, Iowa, shortly before all of us got sacked in a format change. It captures the essence of the place extremely well. If you enjoy the pondwater you find at this blog, odds are pretty good that you’ll like Len’s blog, too.