“Every Breath You Take” by the Police was the best-selling single of 1983. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks. It is also possible the most popular song dedicated to stalking every recorded. Because if you listen to the words — “Can’t you see? You belong to me.” — are downright creepy. But nobody really listens to the words.
The song “Toy Soldiers” by recording artist Martika reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on this day in 1989. After my dad died, Mom 1.0 sprung for cable after we moved into town from the acreage west of Winterset. This video was in heavy rotation that summer. The sing-song chorus reminds me of the rhythmic chatter girls used to say when they skipped rope in games of double dutch in elementary school. Interesting side note: The backup singers on this track include a number of women who would go on to success in their own right, including Stacy Ferguson and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Enjoy this song.
The film “The Legend of Billie Jean,” an enjoyable teenage rebellion movie from 1985, was released on Blu-ray this week. The movie stars Helen Slater, as a teenager trying to protect her brother from bullies and her self from a sleazy store owner who tries to rape her. I’ve always enjoyed the film, though critics thought it was lousy. So it goes. The Pat Benatar song “Invincible” was the theme for the film. I’m a big fan of Benatar, too, even though a lot of people I know don’t think she’s a real rock and roll icon. So, too, that goes. The song reached No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1985. I hope you like it.
On this day in 1990, Roger Waters performed the Pink Floyd album “The Wall” just north of Potsdamer Platz to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. Guest performers included Bon Jovi, Scorpions, Bryan Adams, Sinéad O’Connor, Cyndi Lauper, Thomas Dolby, Joni Mitchell, Marianne Faithfull, Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Van Morrison.
The song “Counting Blue Cars” by Dishwalla reached No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1996. The song was in heavy rotation on college radio stations and MTV while I was in college. It had been so long since I had heard the song that when it popped up on the local alternative radio station last week, I thought it was a new cover. But I enjoyed 18 years ago, and I enjoy it today. I hope you do, too.
I was at my favorite restaurant several weeks ago when I song I hadn’t heard before started to play. I tried to download that smartphone app that listens to songs and tells you what they are. I couldn’t get it down fast enough and the song ended. All I could remember was “there’s people out there” from the lyrics. I thought it might be something from Richard and Linda Thompson. It had a polished 1970s sound. Maybe it was Fleetwood Mac. I called my buddy Syd Spink, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music. We couldn’t come up with anything. I told him it sounded like Stevie Nicks, but not Lindsey Buckingham. But damned if I knew the song. I finally heard the song again and used that app I downloaded. It was “Gold” by John Stewart. Though I completely wiffed on the band, I was at least partially right: Nicks and Buckingham were on the record with Stewart. I enjoyed the adventure figuring out the name of this song. I hope you enjoy the music.
This song is dedicated to all the teachers who tried to get me to pay attention in English class, to all the assignment editors and copy editors who catch my grammatical goofs and to all the retired English teachers who write snotty notes to every person who writes for a living because they may no longer work in a classroom but the can’t resist correcting papers. This is “Word Crimes” by the terrific “Weird Al” Yankovic. Enjoy this song.
Kings of Leon is a band I lost track of in the last decade. I first caught them in 2003 when they played a gig at a riverfront bar in St. Louis when I lived there. I recall enjoying their first EP, “Holy Roller Novocaine.” There might still be a copy of it in the vast Finney Memorial Library. But that was during a time when I bought a lot of albums from two terrific music shops in St. Louis — Vintage Vinyl and Streetside Records. Vintage still thrives, but Streetside died. Anyway, I don’t remember much about the live show. I was with my girlfriend at the time, a lovely blonde girl I met through one of those quicky dating services. She had pretty blue eyes and was extremely loyal. But my head was in a bad place during my years in St. Louis and I was very shabby and abrupt when I ended our relationship. That’s in the past now, but the Kings of Leon live on. I was listening to KFMG here back in Des Moines, I caught this song, “Family Tree,” from Kings of Leon’s 2013 album, “Mechanical Bull.” I liked it. I hope you do, too.
Jenny Lewis has a new album coming out this month called “The Voyager.” The first single released from the record is called “Just One of the Guys,” which is a fun song. Lewis has more fun with the video, which includes actresses Anne Hathaway, Brie Larson and Kristen Stewart. The song has a nice sound and the video is playful. I enjoyed it. I hope you do, too.
Bob Dylan had a satellite radio show called “Theme Time Radio Hour” that ran for 100 episodes between 2006 and 2009. I listened to the first few episodes, but I hit hard times and cut off my satellite radio subscription. One of my favorite moments was the episode “Baseball,” in which Dylan sang the traditional “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” acapella. In honor of tonight’s All-Star Game, the last for my favorite ballplayer, Derek Jeter, here’s that moment. Enjoy this song, my friends.
I made a snotty comment on Twitter about Garth Brooks the other day. Brooks is releasing a new album. I made fun of that, but it didn’t sit well with me. Back in my freshman year at Winterset High School, Brooks’ “No Fences” album was a massive hit. I remember at least once dance at the high school where everybody stood in a circle and belted out the lyrics to “Friends in Low Places” just rocking back and forth under the spinning mirror ball. I have fond memories of that song. I’m not sure what possessed me to say something mean about Brooks, especially since I just wrote a few days ago that I believed every song is somebody’s favorite song. So, I apologize to Mr. Brooks, who likely never saw my tweet and has endured far worse. But I was being a hypocrite. I don’t like the way that feels. So the least I can do take note of my own failings. I really like this song. I hope you do, too.
Time travel is possible, in a way. Sometimes when I catch a whiff of Aqua Velva after shave, my mind floods with memories of Dad 1.0, who used the product. For an instant, I can almost feel the prickly edges of his mustache as he gives me a kiss goodnight when I was a boy. He’s been gone 26 years, but one whiff and I’m adrift in the time vortex.
This happens with chance encounters with old friends and loved ones, too. I often snarl at the social media age, but I celebrate the connections it helped me revive with my friends from Winterset, classmates I had to leave for reasons too complicated to detail here.
Last week I had the chance to interact with a couple of those classmates. This was all done in 2014, of course, but there was a strong flavor of childhood there. One classmate, who I estimate was my first crush, wanted my helping looking up some federal court records. I was happy to oblige. She’s married with children, a breast cancer survivor and as beautiful as ever. What I remember about her was that when I we were in middle school, she would always let me dance with her during mixers. That was really sweet, and for an overweight and awkward boy, it was terrific thing. I will remember that the rest of my life.
I commented on another classmate’s photo of her garden, which to me looked more like a farm. We chatted briefly by message. We were in the same church confirmation class. She was sweet and kind. I remember her as an excellent singer. She’s married with children, too, but I always value an exchange with her. Life is fleeting and our time on this earth is eventually forgotten. When I left Winterset, I was afraid all my friends forgot me. But they didn’t. And some have said very kind and tender things about how they remembered me.
So for those two fine people, and to all those whose lives have touched mine, and whose lives I have touched, I offer this 1994 song, “I’ll Remember,” by Madonna. It was the theme for the underrated film “With Honors.” Thank you all for being my friends, and enjoy this song.