Monday, October 11, 2004

Top 5: Not Even Past

The deeper we get into October, the more I retreat into my Top 40 past. The reasons are in the very first post on this blog last summer: "[T]he record charts became the calendar of my life, and . . . down to this very day, certain songs transform me into the person I was when they were hits so long ago." Sometimes I think the autumn me was the best of me in those years--although honesty compels me to report that it was often the worst of me, too. Nevertheless, the ability we all possess to ignore the bad and cherish the good in us makes it possible to remember these seasons with a lot of fondness.

Take October 1974, for instance. It's the fall of my freshman year in high school. I am trying to play saxophone in the band, I am equipment manager of the football team (and obsessed with the game, despite my inability to actually play it), and I am no doubt well on the way to becoming the insufferable geek I would be until I was maybe 26 years old. That fall, I would discover FM Top 40 in the form of an automated station from Madison, whose minimalist, jock-free approach sounded radically different to me, raised as I was on jock-driven Classic Top 40 radio. Now the only fading radio wave I had to listen through was the one with the Badger football games on Saturdays. Here are five tunes I still associate with the first days of that new station:

"Can't Get Enough"/Bad Company. Along with Skynryd's "Sweet Home Alabama," this was as hard-rockin' as the Top 40 got that fall.

"You Little Trustmaker"/Tymes. A great full-tilt love song, complete with the sort of "dooby-dooby-dooby"'s that were largely obsolete in pop music by this time.

"Jazzman"/Carole King. A sound far different than her other singles, thanks to Tom Scott's saxophone--one of the many sax players in the world who was better than I was.

"Carefree Highway"/Gordon Lightfoot. Lightfoot's big, warm voice says "autumn" to me, and it started with this record.

"Overnight Sensation"/Raspberries. A record more ambitious than any they--and all but a few other groups--ever attempted. It was never going to be a monster hit, but anybody who noticed it then hasn't forgotten it yet.

I could have picked five or ten more, but I'd better stop here, because as William Faulkner once wrote, "The past is never dead. It isn't even past." Otherwise I could go on for hours. And I will, but later.


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