Monday, December 31, 2012

No. 521 – Wrapped Around Your Finger

Performer: The Police
Songwriter: Sting
Original Release: Synchronicity
Year: 1983
Definitive Version: Live!, 1995

It’s impossible to not think of the video when I hear this song, and to a certain extent, I’ll always see Sting hopping in slow motion amongst the candles.

The first time I encountered the video, it was for one of those K-tel type hits albums, and King of Pain was played over a snippet of Sting surrounded by candles, so that’s what I thought the video was for. One day I was having dinner at Mike’s place with his family, and Steve was there. I mentioned this video and Steve said he’d seen the video. King of Pain, right? No, he said and just pointed at his finger. Oh, Wrapped Around Your Finger. Huh.

I don’t know why, but I never could figure out how they did the video until I read the secret, which, of course, was about as obvious as it proved elusive to me at the time: They sped the song up a few clicks and filmed all of the guys miming to the faster version. Then when they slowed the audio track to the correct speed, it made everyone appear to be playing the song in perfect time but slow motion.

Speaking of things that proved obvious yet elusive, Beth and I had a tumultuous relationship. And once the tumult spilled over to Mike’s house. I’m not 100 percent sure of the details, but I’m 99 percent certain that this particular incident took place over the mid-semester break in October 1983, before this song hit as a single but after the album had been played to death in Beth’s basement.

At this point, Beth and I had been dating almost a year and a half, and I seemed to be no closer to the gates of paradise than I had been a year earlier. We went out one night, and started talking about that issue, and the talk turned into a pretty good fight in my car. She kept saying she just wasn’t ready, and at one point, I got so mad, I got out of the car and started to walk away.

Now think of this: It was my car. Where the Hell was I going to go? I had no idea, but it seemed like just the right dramatic move to accentuate my desire for her and frustration or somesuch thing. Now think of this: Beth was 16 at the time.

Yes, we had been dating for more than a year, but … 16, really? Beth was an old 16 when it comes to maturity—she was far more mature than I was—but it wasn’t as though she was making me wait unfairly. She was just a freakin’ kid.

At the time, of course, I couldn’t see that. I just saw the time that we had been dating and that I loved her and that I wanted her … bad. I was starting to think that this was turning into a waste of my time.

Beth then got out of the car and started walking in the other direction home, trumping my dramatic gesture with one of her own. Well, I wasn’t going to let her walk home—I wasn’t THAT immature—so I got back in my car, told her to get in and drove her home.

I thought that we were on the verge of breaking up if not broken up already, and I was pretty righteously upset, so I took refuge where I thought I could—at Mike’s. He and Steve were there playing a virtual golf game on Mike’s dad’s PC. It was the coolest thing I ever saw, like pong, only more complex. It put the Atari Scott and I had to shame.

I asked if I could join in, and they said sure. Finally at about 3 in the morning, Steve split, and I asked Mike if I could crash in his room. I didn’t want to go home. No problem.

At about 8 in the morning, however, Mike’s Mom came into the room and woke us up, saying “Will’s girlfriend is here.” Oh, great. She tracked me down here? What’s she doing here?

Undoubtedly looking scruffy, I went downstairs, and there was Beth standing at the back door porch, looking upset—and beautiful. She asked if we could talk, so I invited her in—to my friend’s home—and ushered her downstairs to the basement, so we could have a little privacy.

Beth started by apologizing for the night before, again saying that she loved me, but she was scared and wasn’t sure she was ready, etc., etc. Well, I didn’t need to hear it. One night’s sleep was enough to know that I didn’t want her to be gone just yet, so I immediately accepted her apology and apologized myself for my behavior.

The whole conversation took no more than 10 minutes before I was shooing her out of the house, so I could get home and clean myself up. Then I would call her so we could get together later that day.

I found out later from Mike that when Beth and I went downstairs, Mike’s mom asked him, “are they going to fight down in our basement?” No, far from it, fortunately. In fact, although nothing more eventful happened that break, when I came home for Thanksgiving a month later, as I recounted, Beth let me go below her beltline for the first time—a crucial and irreversible turning point.

How much of that was due to partaking of Mike’s basement to patch things up that fateful morning isn’t known, but I’m betting it had a little something to do with it. It turns out at that point in our relationship, Beth and I were at the precipice and very much wrapped around each other’s finger. Maybe we just needed a little push to take the final step.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

No. 522 – Still … You Turn Me On

Performer: Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Songwriter: Greg Lake
Original Release: Brain Salad Surgery
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: The studio version

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve never seen a really big baseball milestone fall live. That isn’t true of hockey, and I’ve been to far fewer hockey games over the years (as has everyone else this year).

At about the time that my ELP rediscovery was in full bloom in the winter of 1992-93, Bill got together a hockey road trip to Buffalo. Now that the Flint Bulldogs were up and running and Bill was covering them, he became the No. 2 hockey writer for the Journal, as well as all of Booth Newspapers. That meant he got to cover Red Wings games when Len, the main hockey writer, took a break.

One of those breaks corresponded with a Detroit road game in Buffalo, and Bill decided to get together a crew to go over. Robb and I jumped in immediately; Dave bowed out because of work. (The game was a Wednesday, and Robb and I could move our schedules around more easily.)

The plan was we’d drive over Wednesday morning, leaving enough time to hit Bill’s favorite card store in London and then the game. Bill would be in the press box, so Robb and I had to get tickets. I can’t remember whether we bought the tickets ahead of time—I’m reasonably sure we did—but our seats were up in the rafters of the Aud, which, of course, was one of hockey’s glorious barns, now demolished. The seats actually weren’t as bad as they could have been, I suppose.

After the game, we’d crash somewhere in Buffalo and drive home the next day. (As it would happen, the Bulldogs were playing St. Thomas in St. Thomas the next night, and it’s possible that we made that a second game of our road trip, but I don’t specifically remember that.)

The drive over was fun, and Robb and I took great pleasure in bashing Bill when we got to Buffalo, and he was looking for Lower Terrace street, which he pronounced, Teh-ROSS. We couldn’t find it, until finally I said, Bill, you mean TEAR-ess? It’s right there. Robb was beside himself, and, of course, from then on the name of the street—and anything else that was spelled terrace—was dutifully pronounced Teh-ROSS.

The game was a great one, back when hockey was wide open before the powers that be in their dubious wisdom (and I’m looking at you, Gary Bettman) allowed teams to get away with clutch-and-grab defense that drained the life out of the game. Buffalo won 10-7—more goals than you might see in four games nowadays (assuming they ever play again).

But within that game, here’s what we were treated to: Pat LaFontaine took over the scoring lead for the year; Alexander Mogilny score a natural hat trick in the first period; Steve Yzerman got his 50th goal of the season; Mogilny netted his 60th goal of the season (he led the league with 76); and most important, Yzerman scored his 1,000th career point. That’s a pretty good game, no?

But the highlight of the trip might have come the next day. On the drive over, as we drew close to the Canada-U.S. border, we made a large S curve around a farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere, and I spotted a Big Boy statue, like those at the venerable fast casual chain on an island in the middle of a pond by the house.

No one else saw it, and they didn’t believe me when I told them, but when we headed back the next day—a crystal clear February day—sure enough: We came around the corner, and there was Big Boy big as life in the middle of that pond. I told you.

The sight of Big Boy hoisting a burger in the middle of an iced over Canadian pond was too weird to not take note. So we pulled over and took reverent photos and video from afar. I mean, Yzerman’s 1,000th point was great, but this was freakin’ Big Boy after all.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

No. 523 – Lookin’ Out for # 1

Performer: Bachman-Turner Overdrive
Songwriter: Randy Bachman
Original Release: Head On
Year: 1975
Definitive Version: None

Yes, BTO—the cheesiest non-Disco band of the Seventies—made the list. I make no apologies for this jazzy song, which would’ve fit better with The Guess Who. It’s about as far from sounding like Takin’ Care of Business as you can get.

Since third grade, I always was one of the tallest kids in my class in elementary school, but that extra height didn’t really translate into athletic prowess until sixth grade. I mean, I had always been OK at dodgeball or kickball and the softball throw, but in sixth grade, everything seemed to click physically. One such instance was the rope climb in gym.

I never was able to get more than about a foot or two off the ground, which was embarrassing—particularly when kids half your size were going all the way to the ceiling, about 15 to 20 feet off the ground. So it was with some hesitation that I approached the rope in sixth grade.

I grabbed hold and started shinnying up the rope, and I could tell instantly that this was going to be different. I was going up so fast that I didn’t have time to think about what I was doing.

I still remember the feeling of rising above the windows near the top of the gym and being able to look out over Greensview Drive before boosting myself up the final few feet and grabbing the top of the rope in the rafters in triumph.

The next test of my newfound athletic prowess was an athletic program that I have long forgotten the name of. It was like a decathlon in that you did seven events and depending on how well you did in each, you got a certain number of points.

At the end of the school year, you added up the points. If you got 135, you got a green t-shirt; 155 got you a red shirt; and 175 got you a black T-shirt and your name and picture on the gym wall. I had never gotten any shirt of any color before.

But in sixth grade, the standards just fell. The softball throw and 50-yard dash were first, followed by the standing long jump. I got 25s on my first attempt in each. The shot put and shuttle run came next and 25s soon followed, also on the first day. That left my two toughest events—the high jump and the 440 dash. Make that one tough event, because I cleared 4’-6” after a couple of attempts.

But my first trip through the 440, I could muster only 20 points. I was at 170, which meant a red shirt, but I wanted the black shirt. I was so tantalizingly close, but I couldn’t reach my goal on subsequent attempts, and time was running out. So I did something that was anathema to me at 11: I practiced. With Marty timing me, I ran the 440 over and over. Sometimes I made it; sometimes I didn’t.

Just before the end of the school year, I gave it one last shot, and as I was closing in on the finish line, I remember hearing the gym teacher saying five seconds to go. I put everything I had into the final sprint, and I beat the time I needed by a second. Yes! Yes! Yes!

It turns out, I was the only boy to get 175 points that year. (Four girls did.) Unfortunately, that year, they stopped with the T-shirts and just gave out iron-on decals. Mine was the Upper Arlington Award. Bogus, but I still got my picture up on the gym wall.

The final athletic triumph was in the annual Track and Field event held on one day between all of the classes in the same grade. I had never been on a winning team before, but this year, Mr. Sauer’s class, which wasn’t expected to win, went out and built up a huge lead in the morning

We swept the three places in standing long jump among boys (I took first place), went one-two on the softball throw (I took second), and our girls were kicking butt in everything. By the end of the event, Mr. Sauer’s class was announced as the winner to much tumult in an assembly.

But best of all, when baseball season started, I began to hit the ball with authority. I hit a triple—my first—early in the year. Could my first home run be far behind?

Friday, December 28, 2012

No. 524 – Breaks My Back

Performer: Jerry Cantrell
Songwriter: Jerry Cantrell
Original Release: Boggy Depot
Year: 1998
Definitive Version: None

The first SportsFest, which I attended in Philadelphia in 1998, was a great show. It might not have been as great as the National in Anaheim in 1996, but it was close.

My best acquisition was a 1957 Roy Campanella and Rocky Colavito for $25 total (book value $250). I also added a 1957 Frank Robinson for about $20 and a few other tough cards at a huge discount. I even met Roy Firestone and was able to compliment him on his singing.

Finally Sunday came—the last day of the show. I was leaving early, shortly after noon, so I had time to drive the nine hours back to Columbus. In the morning, I headed over to the show and, as I had the past two days, parked on the street behind the convention center. The parking was free, and you can’t beat free.

I made a final round to a few tables and headed back to the car. I had one more errand—add Frank Robinson’s signature to the barrel of my Hall of Fame bat—joining Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Harmon Killebrew and Eddie Mathews. After that, I’d head home.

I tossed the bookbag on the passenger seat next to the boombox I brought to listen to old Steve and Garry tapes that I was recataloguing. I suppose I could have put it in the trunk, but the trunk was full with other purchases and my suitcase, and I wasn’t going to be gone long.

I got the autograph and a handshake and was back to my car maybe a half-hour later. When I got back, a couple of Asian gentlemen were looking and pointing at my car. What the heck are they looking at? How about a car burglary?

The passenger side window had been smashed out, and glass was all over the sidewalk and street. I was pissed, and it actually took me a few seconds to fully grasp the gravity of the situation: Everything on the passenger seat was gone. The glove compartment was open, and Debbie’s cellphone, which I took in case of emergency on the road, also was nowhere to be seen.

I felt an arrow pierce my heart. The cellphone was the least of my worries; I would just cancel the service, or rather Debbie would do it. The boombox was a loss, but a bigger loss was the tape that was in it at the time. The Steve and Garry tape, from a 1989 show, was, in fact, irreplaceable.

And then there was the crusher—my bookbag. Normally, all the thieves would have gotten was a want list, a Beckett’s and some pencils. I take that back. Normally, they wouldn’t have gotten my bookbag, because I almost always kept that with me at a card show, but I saw no need to carry it around with me like a pack mule while I waited in the autograph line. It was not one of my better decisions.

The reason it was a big deal is I had a Tom Seaver autographed baseball and a couple of other purchases that have since been lost to time, but worse—and totally unlike me—I had put all my good cards in one of the pockets. I usually kept those with the rest of any cards I purchased, which were safely locked in my trunk and still would have been if I hadn’t been so careless.

But this time, I kept them in my bookbag, so I could have them with me at all times, in case I wanted to look at them. In other words, I lost every card that I bought that weekend that was worth more than $40, including all the aforementioned 1957 cards.

Nothing else was missing, including the stuff that I had lying out in the open in the back seat. It was an obvious smash-and-grab job, and all I could think was if I had put my bookbag in the back seat, let alone the trunk, the thieves wouldn’t have taken it.

I was frantic. I walked around a bit, hoping beyond hope that the thieves opened the bookbag, found nothing of value to them in there and tossed it, but no luck. I didn’t want to wander too far with my car now open to anyone who walked by, so I didn’t make a huge reconnaissance mission.

My breath came in gasps, and I thought I was going to be sick. I now had to go to the police.

(To be continued ... again)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

No. 525 – Deep in the Motherlode

Performer: Genesis
Songwriter: Mike Rutherford
Original Release: …And Then There Were Three…
Year: 1978
Definitive Version: Knebworth 78, 1978

At Medill, Intro to Journalism, aka Boot Camp, consisted of two parts. The first part I’ve mentioned—essentially it was classroom practice. The second part consisted of sending everyone out into the real world.

The assignment was simple: You were given a beat somewhere in the suburbs, and you covered it like you would if you worked at a daily paper. Four out of the five days, you were expected to file at least one story by a particular deadline—usually 4 p.m., if I recall correctly.

Beats were assigned based on how you did in first half to a certain extent but also on your mode of transportation. I had a car, so I was assigned Deerfield, an upper-middle-class suburb fairly far to the northwest of Evanston.

But I wasn’t assigned to cover all of Deerfield. Instead, I got Deerfield police, fire and parks. The reason why this was a problem quickly became apparent: It was November, so there wasn’t much activity with the parks. There hadn’t been a fire in a decade. And police? Crime in Deerfield consisted almost entirely of car burglaries—not car theft, but breaking into cars and stealing radar detectors.

How the heck do you craft a story out of that on a daily basis? That became my challenge and one I grew to quickly hate as my struggles to make something out of nothing and get it past my gatekeeper rapidly mounted.

Not only did we get new beats in the second half of Boot Camp at Northwestern, but we also got new instructors. Time has lost the name of my instructor—I remember what she looked like—but what’s important to know is that she hated me. Well, OK, that’s a bit strong. It probably is more accurate to say she hated my work. I could tell that from my daily grades.

In Boot Camp, we didn’t get letter grades. It was a check plus-minus system. If you had a check or a check-plus, you were good. A check-minus or, worse, just plain minus meant you had to rewrite and perhaps rereport your story, due the next day along with whatever else was due.

I had a few rewrites in the first half of Boot Camp, but the second half was a river of rewrites. I rewrote my stuff almost every day. Rare was the day when I’d turn something in, and I’d get even a check-minus, let alone a check. But what could I do? There was nothing going on worth writing about.

One night, I got the keen idea to go out on runs with the guy who was the media-relations guy at the fire department. There was one run: it was to a home where they smelled smoke, but it was just something that got stuck in the ductwork.

Otherwise, all he did was tell interesting stories about the “big ones.” He said the two biggest fires he encountered on the job was when the DC-10 lost its engine and crashed at O’Hare and when Arlington Park burned to the ground. He didn’t work either fire; Deerfield just had to cover the other communities called to the scene.

The story I generated from that night required two attempts to pass through the gate.

I suppose in retrospect, the fault of the rewrites was mine. I had no experience in news gathering and just flat didn’t know how to do it, or, really, how to do it to the instructor’s expectations. At the time, I was convinced that something more was going on, because I sure didn’t have as much trouble in the first half of the class.

I kept trying, driving out to Deerfield almost every day to call on my sources and see whether anything was happening. Fortunately, Scott had sent me a care package that consisted of a tape of a new bootleg he bought—Knebworth.

I wasn’t real familiar with mid-Seventies Genesis, so I listened to that tape all the time as I’d head out on the Edens Expressway, heading North to Lake-Cook Road in hopes of finding something, anything, to write about that day.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

No. 526 – Keep Talking

Performer: Pink Floyd
Songwriters: David Gilmour, Polly Samson
Original Release: single, The Division Bell
Year: 1994
Definitive Version: Pulse, 1995

In March 1994, in the span of five days, I saw Rush twice and Pearl Jam once. I saw Rush at the Palace of Auburn Hills on a Tuesday, drove down to Louisville on Thursday for Pearl Jam and then saw Rush again in Indianapolis on Saturday—three shows, three states, five days.

So why then am I talking about a Pink Floyd song? Allow me to explain.

After the Pearl Jam show, I stayed with Scott at his house at Ball State. I’ve described the house before: He had been living there for a couple of years, and he let me stay in his room. He stayed with Shani. That Friday night—a night off—we did our usual Friday night hangout at Ball State. John and his friend Chris drove down from Marion, and Scott and I got QL’s Bar-B-Que.

QL’s was a glorious ribs place that Scott found early on in his college career. He introduced me to it after he moved out of the dorms his junior year, and it became a routine stop every time I visited thereafter.

Actually to call it a ribs place is euphemistic. QL’s, at least back then, was nothing more than a drive-up window at a house in a bad part of town. It might have looked even scarier than it was, but because we always went when it was dark, you never really could tell.

You pulled up to the radio speaker out by the street to give your order, then pull ahead in the driveway to the window for pickup. As I recall, it was like $15 for a full slab, maybe less. The ribs would come slathered in sauce in a big plastic bag and had a couple slices of untoasted white bread on top for sopping up the sauce. You then circled out away from the house back to the street.

On the drive home, Scott and I would do what we called QL hits at every stoplight. We’d open the bag and stick our faces inside to get a deep inhale of the barbecue sauce. It was just that glorious.

And the ribs were as good as you might think they would be from a home-based business on the black side of town—smoky and outstanding. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, but in general, I’ve found that if you want the best cheap ethnic food, you have to go where the ethnics who make it live. That’s been true of Mexican food in Chicago, Chinese food in San Francisco, and it certainly was true when it came to barbecue in Muncie, Ind.

After we got home, we all built up a solid base of ribs and beer before the four of us went out. (I seem to recall that Shani was hanging out with her friends that particular night.) John and Chris provided the dinner music.

Because Scott and I still were on our Pearl Jam high, Chris brought some Soundgarden—Superunknown, the new album, and I liked the little I heard. But the big presentation was a tape of David Gilmour on Rockline. Pink Floyd was putting out a new album in the next week or so, and he played this song, which was a prerelease single.

The song sounded a lot like the stuff from Momentary Lapse of Reason, and I loved it on first listen. If this was an indication of the music to come, I couldn’t have been more excited for the new album.

Unfortunately, I found out later that Keep Talking was the only song that sounded like that—in fact it was the only song from The Division Bell that I liked. The rest of the album left me feeling cold. Maybe the problem was I needed to do a couple of QL hits before listening to it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

No. 527 – Wonderful One

Performer: Jimmy Page & Robert Plant
Songwriters: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Original Release: No Quarter
Year: 1994
Definitive Version: None, although I prefer the one on the Unledded video

Given the title and the day, this really should be a story that has a little religion attached to it. I have a couple of those, but they mostly involve either paganism, which would be more appropriate on a different day of the year, or Beth, which was long before this song existed. In other words, it doesn’t really work out.

But one story that does is New Year’s Eve 1996. This song was a huge song when Debbie and I got serious in 1994, so it’s appropriate here.

As I mentioned, I had decided that I was going to ask Debbie to marry me with the full knowledge that even though she would say yes, we never would go through with it because of her agreement with her ex-husband.

Debbie had a rather rough year in 1996, although I don’t remember specific reasons as to why it was so bad. I decided I wanted to get 1997 off to a good start by asking her to marry me just after midnight on New Year’s Eve.

I wrote a poem about myself that I wanted to use as a segueway into the proposal, but I didn’t get Debbie a ring. That was on purpose. I didn’t feel competent enough to shop on my own, so I decided we’d do it afterward, together, and she could get exactly what she wanted. I suppose I did this, because, well, we weren’t kids and this certainly wasn’t her first rodeo. It was less of a formal proposal.

It also was less romantic than it otherwise might have been—and certainly should have been. I suppose the fact that this would be something of a less real proposal had something to do with that sentiment.

Anyway, Debbie and I never went out on New Year’s Eve, and this year was no different. We went out to dinner somewhere—I don’t remember where—and then went back to the apartment in Gahanna before the partiers hit the streets to ring in the New Year at home.

After the ball dropped in New York, I excused myself to go upstairs. I said I had something for her. I then read the poem I composed and was shaking like a leaf the whole time from nerves. Debbie knew something was up, she said later, but she didn’t know what.

I then reached the end of the poem, and … I choked. I had meant to go right from the final line to asking Debbie to marry me, and I couldn’t get the words out. Debbie began to compliment me on the poem, and the timing was lost. It was only after a couple of minutes where I said what I really wanted to do was to ask her to marry me.

Except I didn’t really say “do you want to marry me” even though the intention was clear. Only when she repeated the words herself did she understood what just happened. It was in fact history’s lamest proposal, and, all things considered, it should come as no surprise that even though she accepted, our relationship didn’t work out in the end. In all honesty, sometimes I’m surprised that she accepted at all.

So, the actual proposal night was embarrassing, but we went shopping for her ring with relish. She knew where she wanted to shop—The Diamond Cellar—and I blanched only once when I realized how much I would be spending on her engagement ring. She ended up creating her own design, using a teardrop diamond of about a carat, which still was big back in those days, and a white gold band.

I remember how proud I was about the ring when we went to pick it up, and I put it on Debbie’s finger. She was happy, and at that moment, I considered myself married in all respects but legally. The lameness of the proposal itself was set aside, and we moved forward with vigor and happiness.

Instead of a ceremony, the next step was a house.

Monday, December 24, 2012

No. 528 – White Room

Performer: Eric Clapton
Songwriters: Jack Bruce, Pete Brown
Original Release: Wheels of Fire (Cream)
Year: 1968
Definitive Version: Live Aid, 1985

Although we weren’t in Texas to watch TV, one of the highlights of the trip that Jin, Scott and I took in July 1985 to visit Mom’s family in Houston involved watching TV—or at least recording it—all day. The reason for that was simple: We were in Houston the day of Live Aid.

I remember being excited about Live Aid with each passing announcement of the latest act to join the bill. The Who were going to get back together to play after a gap of three years, and even Led Zeppelin, or, rather, the remaining members of Led Zeppelin were rumored to get together. Well, I’d believe that one only when I saw it.

But … we were in Texas. It would be rude to spend the whole day watching TV when we were supposed to be visiting, but Jack and Linda’s kids, Jenny and Amy, wanted to watch as much as we did.

So we comprised: When there wasn’t anything going on, we would watch; and when there was, we would tape. You can tell when is when if you watch the videos now, because when we let it run, we had the seemingly endless repeats of promos featuring Sally Field encouraging viewers to help. Otherwise it was skipped. If only we had TiVo back then.

Actually watching TV in Houston in July isn’t necessarily a slacker’s task. It got so hot and humid so early that by 9 in the morning, you really should be inside.

For example, one day to help out—I don’t think it was the same day—I mowed the lawn. I went out to start my task at 8 a.m. In Ohio, if you cut the grass at 8 in the morning, you had to deal with ticked-off neighbors possibly calling the police. In Houston, you were already late to the game. No one wanted to be working in his or her lawn by, say, 10.

Scott, who was in charge of taping, bought three 6-hour tapes and dutifully got up at 6 a.m. to start the VCR in the living room in time to get Status Quo opening the event. As soon as I was up, I was watching, although I can’t remember the first act I saw. I kind of remember it being The Four Tops. (I slept late those days.)

I definitely remember, though, that that morning, Amy had a swimming club meet at a pool not too far from where Jack and Linda lived. Two things stood out about that: Amy’s team—she swam a relay and I think an individual breaststroke event—won, and the PA had the Live Aid broadcast playing in between events. Really, you couldn’t escape it that day.

Back home, we roared through all the biggies that came on in the afternoon—U2, Dire Straits, Queen, CSN, The Beach Boys, David Bowie, Santana, The Who—without a pause.

We could have stayed home all day and night, but the adults were getting restless. Watching a little TV goes a long way—a lot of TV is a different matter.

At dinnertime, they gathered us up and took us to a restaurant they wanted to go with some friends. In case you were wondering, the bar had the TV tuned to Live Aid. At one point, I went to the bathroom, and I could see on the bar TV that Phil Collins was on stage with Eric Clapton as promised. He had made his intercontinental jaunt, and they were playing this song as I later learned.

I started to panic, because supposedly Led Zeppelin was going to be next (with Collins on second drums), and we were going to miss it, unless we left really soon. Good fortune was with me that day, because only a few minutes went by before we headed out, and when we left, the TV had on a commercial—Sally Field, of course.

We got home and flipped on the TV as Collins finished up his solo set and brought Zeppelin on stage. It was happening after all! OK, I said, they’ll play Whole Lotta Love, Rock and Roll and Stairway. I was wrong, of course. They played Rock and Roll, Whole Lotta Love and Stairway.

The adults let us watch Led Zeppelin and even the brief and completely impromptu CSNY reunion that followed, but finally they had enough: We were booted upstairs where we could watch—but not tape—the rest of day’s events. They wanted to relax with a movie before bedtime. We were able to at least tape the finale with Bob Dylan. Jin’s still bummed that we weren’t able to record Duran Duran that day.

It had been quite a day, as Robert Plant said in between songs, and I can’t remember the last time I planned a full day around watching TV—maybe Dec. 31, 1999, although that was a bit different. But I regret nothing. It was for a good cause—my generation’s Woodstock, And I cling to that sentiment despite many gigantic festivals, concerts and even a couple Woodstocks themselves that have happened since.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

No. 529 – Everybody Wants Some!!

Performer: Van Halen
Songwriters: Michael Anthony, Alex Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen, David Lee Roth
Original Release: Women and Children FIrst
Year: 1980
Definitive Version: None

This seems an appropriate follow-up to the last story, right? Everybody wants some? But why the two exclamation points? One wasn’t enough?

I think I’ve mentioned that I like seeing end-of-the-world movies, because I’m fascinated by what other people think it will look like. So given all of the hullabaloo surrounding the made-up Mayan Apocalypse, I made it a point to watch 2012, which was as cheesily bad as I expected it to be. (The Yellowstone supervolcano eruption was pretty awesome though.)

Anyway, a couple nights ago, at Laurie’s annual Solstice party, I made an off-hand reference to 2012, and someone said, “oh, you mean the movie that ended John Cusack’s career?” I don’t know about that, but the comment started a discussion about some of Cusack’s movies, which brings me to this song.

I knew this song from when it first came out—it was on the radio a lot—but I didn’t really embrace it until I saw it featured in one of Cusack’s finest movies: Of course, I’m talking about Better Off Dead.

I saw that movie many years after it was in the theaters, and I loved it right away. It was mostly a typical teenage-angst story line, but it was given just enough of a surrealistic skew to make it rewatchable and quotable. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. If you have seen it, you know how I got into this song. The sequence where Lane Meyer brings the burger to life—to this song, of course—is a classic. (YouTube it.)

Even though the burger joint where Mr. Meyer worked was independent, I can’t help but think of In-N-Out Burger, which Jin introduced me to, most likely in 1996. In-N-Out seems like the perfect place to conduct such a Frankensteinian experiment.

In-N-Out for a long time was my second-favorite fast-food burger chain, behind only Steak-n-Shake, but a bad experience in 2011 soured me. When Laurie and I went to California last year, I made our first stop an in-N-Out burger in Sacramento before hitting the road to Yosemite. I was excited to introduce Laurie to the joys of In-N-Out.

Well, it obviously had been a while since my last time there—so long, in fact, that I forgot that unless you ask, the burger comes with Thousand Island dressing. Laurie hates Thousand Island dressing. That was strike one.

I’m fine with Thousand Island dressing, but a little goes a long way. The burgers were drenched to the point where you couldn’t taste anything but the Thousand Island dressing. Strike two.

But maybe overloading the Thousand Island dressing—and the chopped lettuce, for that matter—was to disguise the fact that the burger was grilled to within an inch of its life. Strike there, we’re out, although I did get a great picture of a very unimpressed Laurie trying to scrape the dressing from her burger and bun.

It’s too bad, because Laurie and I head to California next month to see Paul, Jin and Bridget before they make the big move north to Oregon. Normally, I’d request a trip to satisfy my In-N-Out urge—and every restaurant in a chain can be different—but it’ll be a much lower priority than before.

I’ll still think of this song though when we drive past one, however.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

No. 530 – Even Better Than the Real Thing

Performer: U2
Songwriters: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.
Original Release: Achtung Baby
Year: 1991
Definitive Version: None

Yep, when I saw U2 in the Pontiac Silverdome in August 1992, I was King of the World. Funny thing, my throne was in the upper balcony, about 150 yards from the stage. You’d think the King could wrangle better seats, right? No matter, considering how much I paid for them—nothing aside from picking up the dinner tab—and, more important, the company. Believe me, I wasn’t complaining.

Aside from being with Jenna—and how unbelievably hot she looked—I was geeked to be in the Silverdome. One of my favorite recordings had been the Join Together medley on The Kids Are Alright. It was recorded from a show at the Silverdome in 1975. As I learned more about The Who, I came to learn that that show was considered one of their greatest (more-complete recordings bear that out). Just being in the same building where that show took place was enough.

Before U2 came out, a DJ played songs over the PA. (My understanding is that Bono with a tweaked voice so you didn’t recognize him did the honors.) The crowd reacted depending on what was played. Early on, Owner of a Lonely Heart came on, and it drew good applause, which surprised and pleased me.

Later, almost before the lights went down, Even Flow came on, and the place blew up. I had just found Pearl Jam myself only months before, so I was right with everyone else on that one. The only roar that was louder was when U2 hit the stage.

I don’t remember much about the show itself, actually, aside from a few songs. It started with a funny video of President Bush cut as though he were saying, “We will rock you,” which segued into Zoo Station. (I recounted the video collage of Clinton during Desire many moons ago.)

I particularly was pleased that U2 played New Year’s Day and Sunday Bloody Sunday, because on an earlier swing through Detroit, they didn’t play anything older than The Unforgettable Fire—in other words, at the time, none of my favorite stuff.

Jenna was disappointed they didn’t play Acrobat, which was her favorite song on Achtung Baby (a sentiment I have come to agree with—SPOILER ALERT). They played almost everything else off that album, however.

After a song the title of which I can’t remember, Bono grabbed a remote and said, “let’s see what’s on TV.” He pointed at the big screen behind the stage and a bunch of different images flickered on the screen until an image of Garth from Wayne’s World appeared—much to the crowd’s approval.

Bono and Garth had a bit of funny interplay, and Garth asked if he could play along with U2 on their next song, which was this one. I loved Wayne’s World as much as the next person (the bits on SNL more than the movie), and I thought, how cool that U2 got Dana Carvey to work up a bit for the show. 

When the show was over and we left the Silverdome—the only time I ever made it to the now long-gone stadium, it turned out—it had started to drizzle. Caught without either jackets or umbrellas, we just walked through it the mile or so back to my car.

As she walked, Jenna used her jean jacket as a makeshift umbrella, which was an awesome idea considering that underneath she wore a white tank top that became see-through in the rain and thus apparent that she wore nothing beneath her shirt. And she looked as good as I had imagined she did.

The drive was quiet and uneventful, and we wound up back at The White Horse for one more round at last call before splintering off into the night. I walked Jenna to her car, and she pressed herself up close to me as she gave me a kiss for the ages, interrupted by Red letting the last of the patrons out of the bar. He gave a knowing nod and a thumbs-up. Yep, King of the World.

The punch line: A few days later, I chatted with Scott after he got home from visiting a friend of his at UCLA. Scott said he was just a block from Pauley Pavilion, where the MTV video awards was held. They weren’t able to get in, but he said the event was pretty cool. By the way, he asked, how did you like Garth with U2?

How do you know about that? Ummm … it was on the show.

Wait, what?

Yes, dear reader, or even readers, it wasn’t a prestaged bit at all; it was live and part of the MTV broadcast. I had no idea at any time until then that a live linkup was planned, and that was back when I still watched MTV on occasion.

So, if you see the video somewhere, at the part where Bono picks up the camera and holds it to the crowd before spinning around on stage, look way up in the top balcony in front of the stage. The guy in the black jacket with the three smokin’ hot babes—you can see him, right? That’s me.

Friday, December 21, 2012

No. 531 – Drunken Hearted Boy

Performer: The Allman Brothers Band
Songwriter: Elvin Bishop
Original Release: The Fillmore Concerts
Year: 1992
Definitive Version: None

The song today really should be It’s the End of the World As We Know It, or at least Until the End of the World, which is a song I actually like (Good old No. 917), right? Oh well …

When I got Live at Fillmore East back in 1989, I didn’t know much of the history of it. I was always intrigued that after the epic Whipping Post, it sounded like the band was going into another song that was cut off. Later, I found out it was the even more epic Mountain Jam, and that’s when I learned even THAT wasn’t the last song of the night. It was this one.

I love how Duane at the end tells the audience that it’s 6 o’clock, which I’m pretty sure doesn’t mean in the evening. I suppose they started really late, but I like thinking that the Allman Brothers played for, like, eight hours until 6 a.m.. What the heck, when two of last songs total an hour by themselves, that HAS to be a long show. My guess is they actually started about 2.

Anyway, as I’ve mentioned, the Fillmore Concerts was a regular play when Debbie and I went back to Maine in 1998. We stayed at the same place as before, but we did a lot of new things, which I’ve documented. One thing that was the same was dinner at the Rocktide Inn.

We found the Rocktide in 1996, more or less by accident. When we went into town for dinner one night, we noticed a bright restaurant across the bay from the central part of town. It was accessible by a 200-foot-long pedestrian bridge just above the water, so we decided to check it out.

The $15 twin one-pound lobster dinner was the hook, but the sale was the place itself. The Rocktide in 1996 was one of my three all-time favorite restaurants in terms of décor.

When you walked in, you were greeted by wooden models of old whalers, steamers and schooners, with the occasional tall-ships model thrown in for variation. The hostess stand wasn’t far inside the door, and if you had a wait, which we did, you were ushered into a sitting room to the left.

Inside was a fireplace and bookshelves that were filled not with books but rows upon rows of intricately painted toy soldiers of various countries, regiments and ages. The sofas showed the deep, permanent indentations of their decades of use.

The Rocktide had three dining rooms, one of which doubled as the bar. The two main rooms had tables clad in red-checked plastic overlooking the harbor, and because it was September and chilly when Debbie and I were there, flaps of plastic had been pulled down to provide protection of the porch outside that was closed for the season. So the view outside wasn’t what it could’ve been.

Fortunately, the view of the inside was unencumbered. One room had the salad bar; we sat in the other room. Both rooms were lit almost entirely, as I recall, by Christmas lights. At least they certainly provided much of the light and all of the ambience.

But the killer feature was a model train just below the ceiling that snaked through all three dining rooms. I suppose it’s possible that each room had a separate track and train, but my memory is that each train went through each room at some point.

When Debbie and I went back in 1998, I was pleased to see it was just the same, although the twin-pound lobsters had been increased to—gasp—$16. It was just as great as the first time.

But you know how it is: Almost everything changes. Laurie and I made it to Boothbay Harbor in 2008, the first time I’d been back in a decade, and although the Rocktide still was there (and I suppose it’s there still), it was totally different.

The sofas had been replaced; most of the miniature toy soldiers were gone, as was the twin-pound lobster special. Worst of all, the décor went from funky basement to big-city chic—dark woods, candle-lamp wall sconces and white-linen tablecloths.

And the trains were gone, or they might as well have been. One ran in only one room, and you had to ask to see it run. Then it would circle the track only once before stopping.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

No. 532 – Up From the Skies

Performer: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Songwriter: Jimi Hendrix
Original Release: Axis: Bold As Love
Year: 1967
Definitive Version: None

The back yard was one of my favorite features of my house. It was the thing that sold me on it, in fact, and after we moved in, it was a place where Debbie and I spent a lot of time.

After we bought our dining set and chairs, we had dinner out on the deck all the time. It didn’t necessarily have to be a dinner that came from the grill either. As long as the weather was nice, we’d dine outside and sit until the sun set and the wine was all gone.

Debbie and I would open the window from the rec room so we could hear the stereo on the deck, and I made a mix tape of tunes that I thought fit in perfectly with the ideal of a lazy summer evening before nightfall. This was the lead-off track on that tape.

We had plenty of entertainment. We’d watch the birds and the squirrels, the chippunk that lived under the deck and maybe the ducks, back when they came to visit. At dusk, the bunnies would start to come out. It was, as I’ve mentioned, quite a menagerie.

One evening, I saw one of the coolest things I ever saw. My vantage point was out from the house to the northwest to the back and into Berke’s yard, and I saw the sunlight catch a leaf that floated down from one of the tall trees in the back.

I first noticed the leaf high up in the air. It was bright yellow, and it floated slowly without a flutter, like most leaves do, turning occasionally in a different direction, falling flat like a bubble. By the time it reached the halfway point to the ground, I realized that it wasn’t a leaf. It was a butterfly.

I’d never seen a butterfly soar, with nary a flap. But it rode the breeze and sunlight, finally coming away from the trees and soaring between the homes, before circling back, still without a single visible flap of the wings. It landed amid the patch of black-eyed susans we had by the power line junction.

The whole descent and landing probably took no more than the 3-minute length of this song, but it seemed longer, and I could have watched it all evening. It was one of those things you happen to notice at the right moment, and it stays with you—well, it does me anyway. I don’t remember what wine we drank that night, but it had to have been good.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

No. 533 – Pocahontas

Performer: Neil Young
Songwriter: Neil Young
Original Release: Rust Never Sleeps
Year: 1979
Definitive Version: Year of the Horse, 1997

Take this song, for example. This acerbic elegy to the American Indians shouldn’t be in the sentence as Stairway to Heaven except to say it’s no Stairway. I think Neil would agree with me on this one, but I like it better anyway.

When Debbie and I moved into our house, I finally was able to set up and make use of one of my bequests from my grandfather. When he left Upper Arlington and moved out to Las Vegas to be with his new wife, I was given his workbench.

My grandfather’s workbench was designed and built by him, and it was as solid as concrete. The frame was constructed by 4 x 4s; the braces and bench top were 2 x 4s. Everything was held together by half-inch-thick bolts. It weighed a ton and could survive a nuclear strike.

It also was marked somewhat haphazardly, so after Dad took it apart and handed it over to me, I had to assemble all the pieces like a puzzle. But I got it all together and was able to add the vice that weighs 50 pounds if it weighs an ounce. I added a saw groove, which required drilling into the bench and seemed something of a sacrilege.

The basement at the house was open (I don’t know if Debbie ever finished it), but I claimed a quarter of it for my workshop. I assembled the workbench and a couple of metal shelves to hold my tools. I wanted to put up some pegboard, but I didn’t have anywhere to hang it. I bought a fluorescent light fixture to put over the workbench, and I was open for business.

My first project was to build Debbie a trivet for Christmas. She had mentioned one time that she saw in a catalog a wine trivet that consisted of wine corks. Well, Debbie had the corks collected over several years; I could build that. And over a six-month period, I did just that, mostly while listening to Year of the Horse.

I started by arranging the corks in a way that filled a square, then I diagrammed precisely the arrangement—the Silver Oak cork goes here, then the Columbia Crest—so I could reconstruct it later. I did this in one day while Debbie was at work, because I didn’t want her to notice the corks missing by chance.

When that was finished, it was time to go to Lowes and buy my supplies—wood for the frame and base, a sheet of cork wood to glue the wine corks and pegs to hold the frame together. I didn’t want to use nails.

I drilled the holes for the pegs, assembled the frame and base and sanded down the edges to account for slight imperfections. It was solid, like the workbench on which it was built. Then I glued in the cork wood. This process took several months—I didn’t work on it everyday—and I carefully hid my work each day, again to keep it out of sight.

Finally the moment of truth arrived. I brought out all the corks and reassembled them based on my diagram. They fit perfectly.

Now all that needed to be done, on a different day to account for the time, was to glue in the corks and let the whole thing dry before wrapping it and putting it under the tree.

As you might imagine, that was the last gift I brought out, and it went over as well as I might have hoped. Debbie loved it so much, in fact, that there was no way she was going to use it for its intended purpose—as a trivet, or a plate for hot dishes. Instead she had me hang it on the dining room wall, which is where it stood the rest of the time I lived there.

I have no idea the ultimate fate of the trivet. I assume Debbie still has it. Other than the fact that I made it, there’s nothing that ties it particularly to me, but who knows? It stands as the only thing I ever made from scratch.

As for my grandfather’s workbench, well, it remains in use. Now, instead of woodworking projects, I build this blog and other pieces of written work on it.

After Laurie and I moved into our current apartment in 2007, I brought the pieces out of storage in Columbus and reassembled it as my home desk. It’s not the same, of course, as having it in a workshop, but I think my grandfather would have approved all the same.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

No. 534 – Stairway to Heaven

Performer: Led Zeppelin
Songwriters: Jimmy Page, Robert Plant
Original Release: Led Zeppelin IV
Year: 1971
Definitive Version: BBC Sessions, 1997. The concert that’s on the second disc, which is worth the price of purchase, was one of the first times that this song was played live. It’s a fascinating listen. Here is, arguably, the greatest rock song of all time, and the band delivers an excellent performance. At the end, the crowd has only polite applause. Yeah, that was OK; now play Whole Lotta Love.

In all honesty, I don’t know where to rank this song. As far as my music preferences go, Stairway is as seminal a song as Like a Rolling Stone is to rock itself. It really shouldn’t be behind some of the songs that it is.

However, again, this isn’t a ranking of the quality of the songs themselves or even their importance but how much I like them, and maybe I’ve been a little burned out on this song. Honestly, if Zeppelin reformed and toured, I could name a dozen songs—as you’ll see on the list—that I’d rather hear them play than Stairway. That takes nothing away from my respect towards the song.

Because this is one of only a handful of songs on this here list that would have appeared on a similar list 30 years ago, I can’t ascribe a single story to it but multiple stories over time. Here are a few, in bulleted form:

* I went to see Song Remains the Same at the midnight movies my sophomore year of high school after my eye-opening morning at swim class. I went with Jeff, with whom I also saw the Jimi Hendrix movie. That probably more than anything was the thing that inspired me to get the album.

A couple years later, I saw the movie again with Mike. The midnight movies had moved from a theater on campus that had closed to nearby University City, a now closed theater that was next to the first McDonalds I remember seeing (back when the sign said 18 billion served).

The crowd, as you might imagine, was far more sedate at this location. In fact, the theater was mostly empty—another difference. But knowing what was coming made it a more enjoyable screening for me. Mike seemed nonplussed, until the end of this song, when he said “good job” with almost no emotion but definite awe.

* For a long time, every year at Memorial Day, Q-FM in Columbus would do its countdown of the top 500 songs of all time. Every year for a long time after I was introduced to this feature, Stairway was No. 2 to whatever song happened to be trendy at the moment, like Free Bird.

In 1986, I was following along fairly closely, more closely than usual, wondering what song was going to beat out Stairway this time. I was at Beth’s the day of the last songs, and I distinctly remember listening to the top 10 while in her dining room and kitchen. I have no idea why I or we were there, but I seem to recall that I was there by myself, because I wanted to hear the last songs.

Anyway most of the usual suspects were there: Won’t Get Fooled Again, Roundabout, Suite:Judy Blue Eyes. Free Bird was No. 8. A Day in the Life was No. 2, and unless I missed Stairway, it was going to be No. 1, finally.

Anyway, when Day in the Life finished, the DJ came on and said, “coming up next, the No. 1 song of all time,” and the first thing you heard was Carl Douglas crooning “Woah oh-oh-ohhhhhh”

Wait, what? Kung Fu Fighting? Seriously? No. It was the start to an ad or something, and I thought that was pretty funny. When Q-FM came back, it played Stairway.

The punch line though was that EVERYONE in my circle heard that, it seemed. For a while, if you heard Kung Fu Fighting, you could say, “No. 1 song of all time,” and everyone understood the reference.

* When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened in Cleveland in 1995, Debbie and I became charter members, which enabled us to get cool T-shirts and discounted admission.

Back then, of course, the actual Hall, where the names of all the inducted members of an act were inscribed was at the pinnacle of the I.M. Pei pyramid. (It since was moved down to a larger, supposedly less sedate area years ago.)

Anyway, I don’t know whether it was on a printed map to the museum or in the museum itself or what, but I would swear that the last staircase to the Hall was called the Stairway to Heaven. When I went back years later, in 2003, any such reference was gone, and I have been unable to find just where I saw that reference.

Maybe I just thought it up while Debbie and I were in line. It’s not a bad idea, although, of course, the point is now moot.

Monday, December 17, 2012

No. 535 – Doctor Jimmy / The Rock

Performer: The Who
Songwriter: Pete Townshend
Original Release: Quadrophenia
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: None

Another two-part song where 50 percent of where the song ranks is due to the first half and 50 percent of what’s keeping it back from a higher ranking is the second half. I could break it up, but you tell me where one ends and the other begins.

I really was looking forward to Christmas break 1984. My first semester junior year at Wabash had been busy like none other at Wabash, between football in the fall, basketball at the end and the courseload along the way. Paper week and finals were particularly dicey that semester.

But the activity kept me focused. I ripped through papers week, eating at the Scarlett Inn as necessary and getting everything done on time, including a massive 20-pager on Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, which became my favorite novel.

Finally … everything was done. Wabash was playing two holiday basketball tournaments out west. The radio station was fine with footing the bill to cover similar events in Ohio the year before but not this time. So I’d have the whole break off for some much needed R & R, and, of course, I couldn’t wait to get home and see Beth.

But one final detail remained. A week or so before finals, a note appeared on the school bulletin board outside the dean’s office that a student needed a ride to and from the Columbus area. Because I just happened to live in the Columbus area, I agreed to do it.

His name was Manesh Mehta, and he was something of a student prodigy. If I remember correctly, he was like 17 and a sophomore kicking butt in chemistry and biology. His family recently had moved to Gahanna, on the other side of town from where I lived. Close enough. I called him up and we set up the departure time for after his last final. I had to wait an extra day.

It was no big deal, and Manesh, I learned, was cool enough, so our conversation made the drive go fast. It went so fast, in fact, that I didn’t stop at all—not to fill up, which I had done before we left, not to eat and certainly not to go to the bathroom. When we got to his parents’ home in Gahanna, I had to go like never before. The result was Austin Powers-like—if Austin Powers never stopped during that scene.

Then came the longest part for me—the final drive home. It was only a half-hour, but I was so giddy to be done with everything and eager to be home that the seconds felt like hours. I was going to go home first and meet up with Beth after she was done with work. (She had a Christmas-time temp job, as I recall.)

Before I left Wabash, Scott told me he got Who’s Last, ostensibly The Who’s final album, which marked their “farewell tour” of 1982. Scott said the version of Doctor Jimmy was particularly excellent.

Well, he couldn’t wait for me to hear it, so as soon as I got home, he put it on in his bedroom, which, of course, used to be my bedroom. I was greeted by Roger belting out: “Laugh and say I’m green, I’ve seen things you’ve never seen …” as I entered the room. We air-guitared around the room for a few minutes, and I truly was elated to be done with the semester. It had been quite a ride.

I was even more elated later that week when I got my report card—three A’s and one A-minus, a 3.875 GPA. It turns out that as busy as it had been, it was the best semester I ever had at college.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

No. 536 – The Afternoon: Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?) / (Evening) Time to Get Away

Performer: The Moody Blues
Songwriters: Justin Hayward, John Lodge
Original Release: Days of Future Passed
Year: 1967
Definitive Version: None

I never understood why the two tracks that make up The Afternoon were joined. It should just be Forever Afternoon, and Time to Get Away should be moved to the—get this—EVENING segment of the album. Besides, 50 percent of the reason this song is ranked right here is because of Forever Afternoon and 50 of the reason why it’s not ranked higher is Time to Get Away. Oh well.

I’m a stickler for exactitude, as I’ve noted—and you might have noticed from the anal-retentiveness of this here blog. But I love correcting people about the name of the first part of this song. The title is Forever Afternoon; it’s NOT Tuesday Afternoon, which is how most people list it and how most people think of it.

I don’t know whether it happened on a Tuesday afternoon, but my exactitude was something that forced me into action to start the second half of my sophomore year as the lead voice of Wabash basketball. My first away game as the sole person, in November, had been a debacle even bigger than that of the high-school football game I mentioned earlier.

The game was at Illinois Wesleyan, and I had called to set up the phone line under Mike’s supervision that was necessary to broadcast. Essentially, we broadcast over a phone line that plugged into the sound box and then the radio transmitter at the station. The engineer then patched it through the sound board, and we were on the air.

But something got screwed up somewhere, and no phone line had been put in for the WNDY, thus no broadcast. The guy broadcasting for Illinois Wesleyan had no trouble, and all I could think of was my glorious career as the next Bob Costas was doomed even before it began. I was surely to be fired for this screwup.

I wasn’t, and when I was named Sports Director for the second semester, beginning in 1984, I was going to make sure that didn’t happen again. The home games were fine. It was a direct line to the radio station, but I had to take care of the away games.

So one day, I spent an entire afternoon in the main office of the radio station on the phone. The first thing I did was call every school that Wabash had scheduled and ask for formal permission to broadcast the games. Of course, everyone said yes. Then it was time to deal with the phone company to set up the phone line we needed.

For the most part that meant Indiana Bell. We had a couple interstate away games after the New Year, but most of those had been over the Christmas break or in the first semester. I don’t remember the process as being one phone call to Indiana Bell, however. It was like I had to speak with representatives at different branches to set up games in, say, Terre Haute or Richmond or wherever.

The process of getting this complete—identifying and speaking with the proper person and adequately explaining what I needed—took more than one day for sure. Several followup calls were necessary, and I kept on it until I had, what I thought, was everything I needed for the second half of the season.

Now that I think about it, I think I took care of all of this during finals week before the Christmas break to make sure I gave everyone enough time to handle it before the January schedule started.

Anyway, after that, it was a crapshoot: Were the phone lines installed and did they work? It was always nerve-wracking after I’d arrive at the gym with the team a couple hours before tipoff. Was there a phone line for us? Thank goodness. Did the phone line have a dial tone when I plug in the phone? Yes, OK. Now does the black box tuner work? Yes, good. OK, can you hear me at the radio station? Am I coming through the board? Yes? We’re ready to roll.

My diligence paid off. Most of the time everything worked smoothly. There was one time when the phone company installer flat blew us off and I had to call in live reports on a separate phone line at the end of each half, but that clearly wasn’t my fault.

I wonder whether Bob Costas had to go through this when he was in college. I’m guessing not. Oh well. You got to start somewhere.