Thursday, July 20, 2006

Top 5: Just a Song Before I Go

Tomorrow The Mrs. and I are leaving on a 9-day vacation. This will be our first really long trip in four years--usually our vacations are long weekends that don't require us to hire a cat-sitter. But on those rare occasions when we stay away longer, I'm always reminded of those family vacations we used to take back in the day.

The first one I can remember must have been in the late '60s or 1970--we visited Mark Twain's hometown, Hannibal, Missouri, where my mother bought a copy of Tom Sawyer. The sole memory I retain of that trip is of my brother and I lying in our motel bed each night while Mom read a chapter to us. The first trip I can date is the one in 1971. We went to Detroit to tour the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village--and as a newly-minted radio geek, I wanted to listen to the local stations. I even snagged a music survey from one of them. I know that we went to Mackinac Island one year--I want to say 1973. Another time, we went to the Black Hills of South Dakota. That may have been 1974. I remember I was amazed to discover a radio station in Rapid City, South Dakota, called KKLS, which used the same jingle package as WLS in Chicago, only they called themselves "Double-K-L-S." (That may have been the year our car broke down on the way home, somewhere in North Dakota.) But I also associate the Black Hills with the last family vacation all five of us took together, which would have been in 1977. That summer, I was a sullen 17-year-old who did not want to be on the trip one damn bit, because my girlfriend has just returned from a month in Europe only days before we left. I am guessing that my parents made me go because I had quit my summer job a few weeks before, and they didn't want me hanging around the house at loose ends by myself, particularly if my girlfriend was no longer safely across the Atlantic. So I got dragged along--and one afternoon on the way home, while listening to a Cubs game on the radio, we heard that Elvis had died.

I realized only years later how fortunate we were to take extended family vacations at all. My father was a dairy farmer, with cows that needed to be milked twice a day every day, 365 days a year. It's not easy to find somebody to milk cows for you, since most people who are capable of milking cows, or who want to milk cows, have cows of their own. Lots of dairy-farm families never got to take the sort of trips we took.

Since I've already gassed on at length here but still want to do a Top 5, let's keep it brief. Here are five memorable records from the end of July, 1977. I'm cheating a little, using a survey from Madison's WISM dated August 11, 1977, only because I had an actual hard copy of it back then.

I do not know what it means to be "easy like Sunday morning," but it doesn't matter. This was as good as it got for the Commodores.

"Handy Man"/James Taylor. I know it's uncool to prefer this to the 1960 original by Jimmy Jones, but I do. You can just tell that Taylor's sensitive-guy act is getting him laid. A lot.

"Whatcha Gonna Do"/Pablo Cruise.
I recall reading, maybe on liner notes, that the name "Pablo Cruise" was designed to symbolize "everyman commonality" and strong fluid motion. On "Whatcha Gonna Do," they got the fluid motion thing right.

"Da Doo Ron Ron"/Shaun Cassidy. Homercat posted this at Good Rockin' Tonight last Friday. He claims to have been cringing while he posted it, but no cringing is necessary. It's a trash classic, a superb radio song with one of the great intros you'll ever hear. Better hurry over while the link's still live.

"Smoke From a Distant Fire"/Sanford Townsend Band. My girlfriend and I exchanged frequent letters while she was in Europe, and in one of them, I told her about this record.

On this year's trip, I'm taking the laptop for e-mail and music, and that means there's the outside chance of a post appearing here during the week sometime, but if there's nothing new until the 30th or 31st, don't be surprised.


At 7:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those are all great songs that bring back so many memories....most of them good.

At 9:23 AM, Blogger The Stepfather of Soul said...

Have a great vacation!

At 2:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was right around the time I saw my first rock concert...Heart, with opening act The Charlie Daniels Band (I kid you not). A few weeks later I saw Peter Frampton in concert. ---Shark


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