Top 5: My Summer With Marlo

After all these years of blogging, I never know precisely what will strike a chord. I didn’t expect last week’s Top 5 post about 1981 to be one of the most-commented in ages, but it was. Perhaps you people are more into the 80s than I imagined, so let’s grab this week’s Top 5 from 1980.

The last week of August 1980 was my last week of fulltime work as the night guy on WXXQ in Freeport, Illinois, before I went back to college. I did most of my shows that week live from the Winnebago County Fair. As I recall, they weren’t very much fun, because nobody seemed to know who I was or care very much about the station, so I ended my tenure wondering whether the work we had put in that summer had been worth the effort. In retrospect, I know that it was—if only because that summer now stands as one of my all-time favorites. Here are five albums that bring it back, based on the chart from CHUM-FM in Toronto dated August 30, 1980. (Last Monday, Echoes in the Wind looked at the Top 40 side of this week.)

1. Emotional Rescue/Rolling Stones. The jocks at WXXQ did not quite know what to make of the title song from this album, which seemed very un-Stones-like and was quite the momentum killer on the air besides. We’d moved on to “She’s So Cold” by the end of the summer, which was more satisfying to us. (I’ve linked to it before, but I really like this post from Kinky Paprika on the link between the title song  and The Great Gatsby.)

6. Empty Glass/Pete Townshend. We played “Rough Boys” every couple of hours all summer.

We avoided the big single from Empty Glass, “Let My Love Open the Door” until we absolutely had to play it. I remember a listener, a middle-school age girl, who used to call up and request it, although she called it “Let Marlo Open the Door.” Every radio station has regular callers—people who want to make song requests or just chat. I can’t remember too many from WXXQ, although the afternoon jock had one who was just a couple of clicks removed from being a stalker. If she missed him during the day (and even if she didn’t), she would call me just after I’d taken over at 6:00 and ask if Jeff was there. I would always say I didn’t know, even if he was standing next to me.

12. Just One Night/Eric Clapton. Once, live albums and best-of compilations from superstar acts were guaranteed smashes on the order of brand-new releases. Think of the way greatest-hits albums from Elton John, Chicago, America, and the Eagles became Number-One hits, or the way live albums such as this one (and One For the Road by the Kinks, also on this chart) got into heavy rotation at album stations. Just One Night did give us an excuse to play “Tulsa Time” and “Blues Power” over and over, which is not a bad thing.

15. The Blues Brothers/Soundtrack. We may have overplayed this album that summer, although I swear it wasn’t because the station’s music director (me) loved the movie so much—we weren’t alone. Album stations across the country were all over multiple cuts from it. All these years later, “Gimme Some Lovin'” still sounds pretty good to me. That big horn section gives it a punch the Spencer Davis original—which is plenty punchy its own damn self—doesn’t have.

19. Women and Children First/Van Halen. I had ended the school year back in the spring by destroying Van Halen in a campus newspaper column that generated tons of hate mail from pissed-off fans. I can’t say I had made peace with the band by the end of summer 1980, although 30 years later, I have—mostly by ceasing to care about them one way or the other. It’s not worth the effort anymore. I doubt that it ever was.

The last song I played on WXXQ at the end of my show that last Friday night was “How Does It Feel to Be Back” by Hall and Oates (which everybody forgets was the lead single from their career-making album Voices). I suppose I was ready to get back to school, but I also must have known I’d never have a summer like that again.

4 thoughts on “Top 5: My Summer With Marlo

  1. Thanks for the continuing kind words.
    “She’s So Cold” always seemed unsatisfyingly paint-by-number to me.
    It was like, having stuck their necks out into unfamiliar territory with the song “Emotional Rescue,” the Stones felt the need to retreat well back behind secure lines.
    (Sorta like how they followed up the “Undercover Of The Night” single — which was also sort of outside the mold — with the much more conventional and forgettable “She Was Hot.”)

  2. Chuck Small

    Let Marlo open the door, indeed. Thanks for the laugh!

    I agree with you about the first single from Voices being forgotten (but not deservedly so). I also liked the second single, the remake of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” It’s one of the few remakes that I like at least as much as the original.

  3. WestBerkeleyFlats

    The station played “Rough Boys” in regular rotation but avoided “Let My Love Open the Door”? I guess homoerotic subtext played better in Winnebago County than I would have first thought.

  4. Shark

    Of course, there was the occasional cheating on the format and playing of extra tracks from those albums that summer, including “Gonna Get You” from Pete Townsend, “Dance, Part 2” from the Rolling Stones, and “Cocaine (Live) by Eric Clapton..and let’s not forget “Sleeping with the Television On” from Billy Joel. All in all, not a bad summer of music in 1980.

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