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From Zero To 60, Part 2:

Ten Songs From My Next Ten Years

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Over the summer, I invite you to join me by celebrating a song from each year to the present. These 60 songs may not all deserve 10’s on our TNOCS scale, but they all mean something to me. And I look forward to sharing them with you.

Part 2:
Welcome back to a celebration of 60 great songs, one year at a time, to the present:


1973:

Midnight Train to Georgia
Gladys Knight and the Pips:

By 1973, life changed significantly for my brother, sister and me. My parents divorced the summer before, and for a while, we were the only family we knew that celebrated birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter at two homes. It took adjusting, but my parents kept things matter-of-fact and amicable, so we followed their lead.

My mom worked in reservations at Hyatt Regency O’Hare in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont; that’s where she met an assistant for Gladys Knight. They hit it off, and Mom’s new friend arranged for the three of us to meet Gladys briefly before she and the Pips left the hotel to get back on the road.

It’s impossible for me to hear “Midnight Train to Georgia” without thinking of my one meeting with a Number Ones artist. A nice lady, and a fantastic song.

1973 Flashback:

My brother, sister and me with “The Man of Steel” at the Amazing World of Superman in Metropolis, Illinois (southern part of the state).

I don’t think the museum exists any more, though the town is still around.


1974:

The power of a strong composition is its ability to shine in any version. This worked in a ‘90s dance remake by Real McCoy. About the same time on the soundtrack of “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar.” Cyndi Lauper offered an oddball yet charming mashup of this song and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

Still, nothing beats the original. At 10 going on 11 when this was a hit on Chicago radio, I wondered why stations would permit a song with “Hell” so prominent in the lyrics. (I reasoned that the same stations were playing Sister Janet Mead’s version of “The Lord’s Prayer.”) It took decades before I learned the group was singing, “Hail…”

1974 Flashback:

No, I did not match my shorts to my bicycle.

It was the ’70s, though.


1975:

Philadelphia Freedom
The Elton John Band

This song was everywhere in the summer of ’75. Even playing on radios on Chicago’s L (elevated) trains – which was supposed to be forbidden.

I don’t recall anyone complaining whenever this or Van McCoy’s “The Hustle” was on.


1976:

My favorite song of 1976 peaked at No. 22 on “American Top 40.” I remember being stunned the week it fell to No. 36, thinking, “What was wrong with radio stations and record stores?” I felt vindicated eight years later when “Caribbean Queen” brought Ocean back in the US, all the way to the top…

… And again in 2019 when this song gained a new set of fans due to its inclusion in a Netflix series.


1977:

Best of My Love
The Emotions

Like my 1971 choice by the Grass Roots, the Emotions’ “Best of My Love” is a song that cannot help but brighten my mood. Even if I were to remain immune to its charms through the first two thirds, that dramatic pause, simultaneous “Ohh!!” and final vamping of the chorus make resistance absolutely impossible. 


1978:

Bluer Than Blue
Michael Johnson

I appreciate this record for the way I feel when I sing along with it, completely the opposite of the Emotions’ smash. Often, I’m contemplative if not downright sad, and singing with Johnson’s bewildered, brokenhearted narrator, I find solace in knowing I’m not alone. It’s not a mood brightened, but a mood shared. And sometimes that’s enough.

1978 Flashback:

With my dad and my brother at Christmas, our last Christmas in Chicago.


1979:

Hot Stuff
Donna Summer

I wasn’t surprised by the disaster that was Comiskey Park’s “Disco Demolition Night. All through the winter and spring of ’79, I heard anti-disco sentiment every day from classmates on the bus heading home from the Chicago suburbs.

The worst was when one guy asserted that Donna Summer must be a lesbian because she sang, “Wanna share my love with a {woman} lover…” I decided anyone so stupid to hear that non-lyric and not even notice that the next line was “Wanna bring a wild man back home” wasn’t worth an argument.

I do remember saying the song sounded more rock than anything else in the Top 40. (“My Sharona” didn’t hit until the school was out, leaving Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock and Roll” as the main challenger. To me, no contest.)


1980:

Hot Rod Hearts
Robbie Dupree

In the summer of ’79, my dad and the three kids moved from Chicago to South Bend, Indiana. I’ll write about that down the line, but it was even more of a life change than my parents’ divorce. For now, suffice to say that everything I loved about being a high school junior in South Bend comes to mind when I hear “Hot Rod Hearts.”

Now, I’m craving a Bonnie Doon’s sundae.

1979 Flashback:

My brother, sister and I have a “GlamourShot” (before such things really existed) at the Hyatt Regency Chicago downtown (a different hotel from where Mom worked when we met Gladys Knight). Look at all that hair! Mr. Small did have it, once upon a time.


1981:

I’ve read that Mr. Mellencamp doesn’t care much for this and other hits pre-“American Fool.” That’s too bad. For me, this song conjures up a moody teenage feeling that later hits like “Cherry Bomb” can only aspire to. By the fall, I’d be heading his way, leaving South Bend for Bloomington and Indiana University.


1982:

It truly amazes me how much the shift from “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” to “Getaway” elevates this song. With both parts, it’s a 10. With just the ballad, it’s a 6 or 7. If I know I’m listening to the full composition, I’ll listen every time. (See also, Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U/Baby I’m a Star”)

WENS, the adult contemporary station out of Indianapolis that I listened to a lot at IU, almost always played “Getaway” along with the ballad.

1982 Flashback:

Working the Hyatt booth at Taste of Chicago, where the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me?” played all summer long.


Next time:

Young adulthood.

A broken heart.

And the road to recovery.

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Chuck Small

Journalist-turned-high school counselor. Happily ensconced in Raleigh, N.C., with hubby of 31 years (9 legal).

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Zeusaphone
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Zeusaphone
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July 17, 2023 7:46 am

“Hot Stuff” won Best Rock Performance, Female for Donna Summer at the Grammys that year

stobgopper
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July 19, 2023 7:22 pm
Reply to  Zeusaphone

Fully earned, as well. Also, Jeff Baxter’s solo is a killer.

mt58
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July 17, 2023 8:02 am

Another ten good ones, Chuck.

The Robbie Dupree record has a lyric that I always thought was pretty good:

“Two lips touchin’ together
Cheek to cheek, sweatshirt to sweater”

It’s simple, but effective, and paints a nice picture of a couple of young kids. It always reminded me of a quiet, late fall night . Suburban poetry, if you will.

cappiethedog
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July 17, 2023 1:30 pm
Reply to  mt58

I responded to Countdowner’s column because he featured “Steal Away”. In my opinion, “Hot Rod Hearts” is the superior song. My original observation was adult contemporary Bruce Springsteen. I’d like to add: “Born to Run” in the midwest.

It’s a great couplet.

“Hot Rod Hearts” is underrated.

Phylum of Alexandria
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July 17, 2023 11:04 am

TIL that John Cougar Mellencamp released music as “John Cougar.” It’s a nice tune, and you gotta love that album cover!

Pauly Steyreen
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July 17, 2023 12:13 pm

Oh yeah, even Jack and Diane and Hurts So Good came out under John Cougar in 1982. It wasn’t until Pink Houses and Authority Song in 1983 that he started incorporating the Mellencamp into his stage name.

thegue
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July 17, 2023 3:10 pm

I used to DJ at a bar/club called Who’s on Third in Philadelphia just off South Street back in the early 90s, and I always finished the night with this song by John Cougar.

It easily makes my Top 10 Cougar/Mellencamp songs of all-time:

10: Pink Houses
9: Cherry Bomb
8: Hurts So Good
7: Check it Out
6: Authority Song (I remember first watching it on NBC’s “Friday Night Videos”, which was like crack to those of us without cable)
5: Hand to Hold On To (already mentioned on my Irrational Love chart)
4: Jack and Diane (still remember being at Kevin Murphy’s house the first time I saw the video/heard the song – MTV worldwide release. We were in on lunch break from playing tennis, and he had cable. Sent chills down my spine IMMEDIATELY…which is the same for the next 3)
3: Ain’t Even Done with the Night
2: Love and Happiness
1: Rain on the Scarecrow – not included on my Irrational Love chart because I never purchased it, but my absolute favorite Mellencamp song!!!

cappiethedog
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July 17, 2023 5:20 pm
Reply to  thegue

I love the drums that announces “Rain on the Scarecrow”. I think it’s meant to evoke nails being pounded into the coffin of the independent farmer. It’s one of those overtly political songs that will never age.

mt58
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July 17, 2023 9:41 pm
Reply to  cappiethedog

Yes – overtly political, and right up there with Dylan’s Hurricane as my “angriest vocals” favorites.

mt58
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July 17, 2023 9:41 pm
Reply to  thegue

“Rain on the Scarecrow” – my JM favorite outing, as well.

blu_cheez
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July 18, 2023 9:08 pm
Reply to  thegue

This list is correct, other than missing “Wild Night”
https://youtu.be/1aoywIHLqbs

stobgopper
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July 19, 2023 7:25 pm
Reply to  blu_cheez

And ‘Key West Intermezzo.’

LinkCrawford
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July 17, 2023 12:20 pm

A lot of good songs there! I especially love “Philadelphia Freedom”, “Bluer than Blue” and “HTSIS/Get Away”. I’m totally with you. HTSIS without Get Away is such a letdown, and I’m sure I was listening to WENS at the same time as you at this point. I’m a pretty big Chicago fan, and “Get Away” holds up with anything they put out in their Columbia years. Love it.

Pauly Steyreen
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July 17, 2023 12:28 pm

Super happy to see Redbone here. Not only because the song is an earworm and a half, but also love to see Native people represented in the music world!

To whit, the only instrumental song ever banned from radio for indecency is courtesy of Link Wray, who was Shawnee:

https://youtu.be/ucTg6rZJCu4

Phylum of Alexandria
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July 17, 2023 1:50 pm
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

TIL that Link Ray was Shawnee! Is there anything I do know??

Pauly Steyreen
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July 17, 2023 2:19 pm

None of us know anything. Only some of us recognize this fact.

Virgindog
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July 17, 2023 1:12 pm

Some great stuff here, Chuck. “Midnight Train To Georgia” and “Come And Get Your Love” are 10s in my book.

JJ Live At Leeds
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July 17, 2023 4:18 pm

Good to hear that Gladys was a nice lady. Nice memory to have for a budding music fan. Enjoying the journey and some great songs.

Knowledge of John Mellencamp over here is mostly limited to Jack and Diane. Guess I need to broaden my horizons of the cougar. I can make a start with thegue’s top 10.

dutchg8r
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July 18, 2023 10:16 am

This is such a fun series Chuck, terrific idea!

I’ve often looked back on pictures of myself as a toddler in the mid 70s and wondered what was wrong with everyone’s fashion sense, especiallymy parents’? Nothing ever matched! Like, green corduroy pants and some orange print shirt? Everything, all the clothes were just all kinds of wrong, lol.

‘Ain’t Even Done With the Night’ is an easy Top 3 Mellencamp tune for me; love that song.

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