What to Do Right and How to Do It Wrong

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I read not long ago that the average blog lasts only four months. Somehow this one has lasted 12 years as of today, which is both remarkable longevity and a phenomenal waste of time. Here’s a rundown of my favorite posts since last July 11th. (You can see other such lists from previous years here.)

I reprinted the first piece of music writing I ever got paid for, about a trip to Graceland in 1997. It required three installments to get it all in—first one here, second one here, third one here. I got paid for a story about a young boy’s life-altering visit to a juke joint in 1938 Mississippi. (Part one here, part two here.) It’s one of the few pieces of fiction I’ve written that wasn’t terrible. A nonfiction piece, Playing Games With Names, seemed worthy of purchase by somebody, although no one would, so I gave it to you for free.

A post called Adventures on the B-Side, whose topic is easy enough to discern from the title alone, ended up one of the most-commented-upon in the history of this blog. Another well-commented post was Key Changes, topic also easy to discern. Oddly, practically nobody chose to comment on a post about which songs and stars of the last 50 years are still going to be popular 50 years from now. One of the best comments that any post ever got came in response to The Board Operator, a radio story about being at the bottom of the broadcasting food chain. (You’ll know it when you see it.)

I had to create a new post category for tributes, with the deaths of David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner, Keith Emerson, and Merle Haggard. (And Bob Elliott, and Muhammad Ali, and Prince, and Billy Paul and . . . .) On the subject of categories, visit One Week in the 40 for a now-concluded series of posts that ran from December through June about songs that spent a single week in Billboard‘s Top 40. And of course, there’s The 1976 Project, revisiting old posts and occasionally putting up new ones about this blog’s favorite year. A lot of them are worthy of inclusion on this list, but there’s not room, so here’s one I’m particularly proud of.

I had a brief enthusiasm this past spring for ranking songs on albums, including Rumours and Some Girls, along with a collection of pop covers Elton John made as an anonymous session singer. I also ranked tracks on the Eagles’ two greatest hits albums from bottom to top. (First album here, second album here.) Also concerning the Eagles: while many artists have successfully opened the vaults to expand and improve upon classic releases, their only foray into releasing the previously unreleased was largely a farce.

This blog contains thousands of words (maybe millions by now) about listening to music, but far fewer about my attempts at being a musician. That’s because I wasn’t very good at it, and my career ended up a disappointment. A radio story about modest moments of fame achieved by more successful high-school musicians is here.

Ultimately, this whole blog is an ongoing road trip through the times of our lives, although I got briefly tired of traveling in a post called The Old Country. Last fall, in New Jersey, I looked for some places Bruce Springsteen made famous. In Minnesota, I went searching for something to eat but found something else entirely.

Quick hits:

—You can learn a lot just by listening to the radio—about what to do right and how to do it wrong—as shown in a post about two different American Top 40 shows recorded 11 years apart.

—A lot of what I do on the air I learned from the best newsman I ever knew.

—Another radio tale was written for the 30th anniversary of the day I started doing the morning show on a Top-40 station.

—History is written by the victors, but songs are written about the losers, which is why there have been so many songs involving the Chicago Cubs.

—Cheap Trick got into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I was forced to surrender.

—One day when it popped up on shuffle, I live-blogged “We Are the World.”

—We noted the 50th anniversary of one of the most broad-based hit records of all time, a multi-format smash that came at a pivotal moment in history.

I am grateful to the ever-dwindling number of you who read this blog regularly. Thanks for your continued patronage.

4 thoughts on “What to Do Right and How to Do It Wrong

  1. Ken Gould

    HI JB – I am 77 years old. I am interested in some of your posts but not all yet I think all of them are well written and interesting. MY interest is the 50’s and 60’s. I love the 40’s but don’t expect much interest. Thanks for what you do. KG


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