All my life, there’s a sound I’ve associated with early fall. It’s the trilling of the tree frog. I have never actually seen a tree frog—in fact, I don’t even know if the sound is really made by tree frogs, or if it comes from something else. But my mother always called them tree frogs, and that’s good enough for me. When we’d start to hear them, she’d say, “Six weeks till frost.” That wasn’t always true, of course, but it was usually close. The tree frogs would come out in mid-to-late July, and our typical first frost up here in southern Wisconsin comes during the last week of September.
Maybe it’s a consequence of the weird summer weather we’ve had, or global warming, or something else, but I haven’t heard any tree frogs yet this year. As a result, September has sneaked up on me. Last June, after summer had sneaked up on me, we took a look at summers past, one song at a time. So let’s try it again with fall, grabbing the Number 40 song from the Hot 100 on Labor Days past to see what they can tell us about the season to come.
1970: “All Right Now”/Free (eventual peak: #4, October 17). The fall of 1970 is where time begins for me, and this was the hardest-rockin’ thing on the radio when I first started listening. One of the memories it brings back is an an odd one. We’re on our way back from Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents’, I have cajoled my dad into turning on WLS while we drive home, and this is one of the first songs we hear. It’s not his cup of tea, but it’s definitely mine.
1974: “Can’t Get Enough”/Bad Company (eventual peak: #5, November 2). Sometime in the fall of 1974, I would discover FM radio, and switch my allegiance from WLS and WCFL to Madison’s Z104 and WACI from Freeport, Illinois. (I think I probably heard “Can’t Get Enough” for the first time on Z.) As a result, I would spend a lot of time that fall listening to my music on the big console stereo downstairs—better speakers—and would eventually retire the portable radio and record player I had in favor of my own stereo system.
1976: “Don’t Fear the Reaper”/Blue Oyster Cult (eventual peak: #12, November 6). That big console stereo was located in a little room on the front of our house that we called the sunporch. By 1976, it was equipped with a couple of comfortable chairs and upholstered with an unforgettable orange-and-yellow shag carpet. Although the console stereo and the shag carpeting are long gone, the sunporch is still one of the most pleasant rooms in the house I grew up in, although nobody spends much time there anymore.
1979: “Young Blood”/Rickie Lee Jones (peak position). My college radio station was under new management this fall. The program director and music director who had run the place during the first semester of the year had left school; the new guys installed an album-rock format lifted from a successful album-rocker in Milwaukee, where one of them had worked. I was paying close attention, and the semester wouldn’t be very far along before I decided I was going to run for program director in January.
1981: “The Night Owls”/Little River Band (eventual peak: #6, November 7). My term as program director was up in January 1981, and I didn’t go gracefully—I spent the next semester constantly criticizing everything the new regime did. During the summer, as one of the few students spending the whole summer at school, I anointed myself the de facto station PD—and found myself officially reappointed to the position that fall when the guy who had been elected in January quit. At the time, it seemed to me like a restoration of the natural order. In actuality, given the way I’d left, it was the most unlikely resurrection since the Resurrection.
(Speaking of resurrections, Echoes in the Wind will return to the Internets tomorrow. You can bookmark it here. A couple of our fellow bloggers have tried to pick up the slack during whiteray’s brief absence: AM, Then FM, and Any Major Dude With Half a Heart.)
Although I have played “All Right Now” 10,000 times on my own radio shows, it only sounds right to me in its remixed-and-shortened 45 version—which I don’t think I’ve ever played on the radio.