The Countdowns No One Asked For, 1979-80: 70-61
70. "Daydream Believer," Anne Murray
I was a daydreamer. The imaginary world held more interest to me than reality, which seemed overly concerned with tasks and getting things done. My classroom time was spent not listening to lessons or focusing on work, but rather on some story I wanted to write or a song I liked or how cool it would be if I hunted the monsters that only I could see. Or, maybe I could lead the whole class in a random dance number. While the teacher worked hard to educate me and my classmates, my mind drifted to wondering why kickball wasn't an interscholastic sport. Surely, it would be inexpensive and easy to manage. Plus, it could even be co-ed, which was probably far too progressive an idea for the time. I'm pretty sure I had ADD as a kid. I tried to make good grades because I wanted teachers to like me and I didn't want any trouble with authority. Still, the world inside my head captured my attention far more than any class work ever could. This negatively impacted my grades, of course, but I was who I was. Not much has changed in 40 years since. Still a daydreamer. Always a daydreamer.
69. "Better Love Next Time," Dr. Hook
Since losing vision in my left eye in 2015, I've gained a whole new appreciation and respect for people who wear eye patches. Ray Sawyer, one of the lead singers of Dr. Hook, is such a person. Even at 12 years old, I knew he looked cool as hell with his cowboy hat and eye patch. And just seemed like a cool dude. People in eye patches are cool. This is science. I did an experiment on it in my head when we learned the scientific method. I don't remember what exactly our teacher used as an example to teach us that concept, but my mind used people who wore eye patches. I never entered the science fair, but if I had it would've been on this topic. I wonder if an eye patch would've made more popular or just an object of bemusement, as if I were an oddity. It's hard to say at that age because most of us were just trying to fit in and survive.
68. "How Do I Make You," Linda Ronstadt
One way I struggled with fitting in was with girls. How was a guy supposed to get noticed among the throngs of guys vying to catch someone's eye? I tried being cool, but what the hell is even cool at that age? My primary influence on coolness was The Fonz and I don't think anyone was really watching Happy Days anymore. I wasn't a snappy dresser. My wardrobe consisted mostly of hand-me-downs with a few new items sprinkled in. I remember my mom bought me a t-shirt with a kid kicking a soccer ball on it. The caption read: soccer...a kick in the grass. This was interesting because, 1) I didn't know anything about soccer, and 2) Given the wordplay on the shirt, I'm surprised it passed the dress code. Either way, that shirt wasn't scoring any fashion points with the ladies. I opted to be funny because it was comfortable for me. This meant performing Steve Martin routines, particularly using his "Wild and Crazy Guy" voice. I didn't have a fake arrow through the head or Groucho Marx glasses, though, which, I believe would've been the best way to score a girlfriend. Mostly, they thought I was amusing, but not enough for one of them to step up and say, "back off, ladies. He's mine." The reaction I got bordered more on, "you're cute, now run along and play."
RANDOM FACT: While I knew nothing about the game of soccer (again, I was a kickball aficionado), I knew every team in the North American Soccer League and considered the New England Tea Men and the Tulsa Roughnecks my favorite teams even though I had never watched a minute of game play. This was not a trait girls found particularly attractive.
67. "I Wanna Be Your Lover," Prince
Seventh grade was when I started experimenting with poems and song lyrics. That's right. I was a 12-year old aspiring poet and lyricist. Gooey, icky, romantic stuff that I thought might be tipping factor in my quest to find a girlfriend. I have no idea why it was so important to me to have a girlfriend, but it seemed to be the in thing. It seemed like everyone had one, except those in my inner circle and the next ring of friendship beyond that. It was a confusing, weird time. Not anything close to being an adult, but clearly moving away from childhood. Writing helped me process all that and so it came to be that among the stories about aliens, monsters, and a ghost-hunting cat, I dabbled in poetry and songwriting. The poems were about as awkward as you can imagine, but nothing in them compared to the awfulness of the lyrics, which were just set to existing tunes. So, I might take something like Prince's "I Wanna Be Your Lover" and rewrite the lyrics to something more age appropriate. Those pages are lost to time, having been stored in a box in our barn which was invaded by mice. The box was gnawed through and the pages devoured. Though I sometimes I wish I could read them again and relive the embarrassment, it's probably best that the mice got them.
66. "Heartbreaker," Pat Benatar
Pat Benatar was not singing about me. Unless by "heartbreaker" she meant the kind of guy who wrote stories he rarely shared and obsessed over The Incredible Hulk TV show and believed in Bigfoot (still does) then, yes, I was a heartbreaker. If she was singing about a kid who imagined all the different ways he could become a mystery-solving, monster-hunting stand-up comedian who also played professional kickball, then I was the subject of her song. That's not the kind of person she was talking about, though, and I knew it. The question became whether I'd be okay with that? Could I become comfortable in my own skin?
65. "Fool in the Rain," Led Zeppelin
It didn't help matters that I was afraid of the dark. Not that I advertised this piece of personal information. I just believe it was a general vibe I gave off. People immediately surmise upon meeting me that I was not a fan of a room with little to no light. Sometimes even a song heard in the dark could freak me out. "Hotel California" was one such song. If my brother played that album at bedtime, I didn't sleep well. Those haunting guitar chords and spooky lyrics left me uneasy and terrified. Another song that bothered me was "Stairway to Heaven," by Led Zeppelin. Creepy as hell. Listening to that opening guitar riff and scary flute while lying in bed in the dark generated scary dreams. Cool guys at school talked about how awesome that song was and declared it The Greatest Song Ever Recorded in the History of Everything. I would nod in agreement, hiding my shudders from their judgmental eyes, and know deep inside I much preferred "Fool in the Rain."
RANDOM FACT: "Stairway to Heaven," despite its iconic status, was never released commercially as a single.
64. "Rapper's Delight," Sugarhill Gang
Researching for this series brought reminders that there was a world of diverse music being enjoyed beyond the city limits of Poplar Bluff. We had a steady diet of country, pop, and rock in our town, but not much beyond that. I heard some guys in gym class talking about rap and even tried to mimic it, but that was the extent of my exposure to it. So, of course, my limited experience had me believing I didn't understand it. Rap still never really became widespread while I was in school. It wasn't played on the radio stations and the only mainstream hit I knew that featured it was "Rapture," by Blondie, and I wasn't sure how I felt about that song despite its popularity. The first time I heard "Rapper's Delight" was in St. Louis and I was reminded of how small my hometown really was. I knew at an early age that living there my entire life was not something I wanted.
63. "Second Time Around," Shalamar
Kids had jobs in junior high. I don't believe they got paid for these roles, but they performed duties nonetheless. Students worked in the library and in the office. One such student job was what I called the Discrepancy Collector. This person entered our classroom just after the start of the period and simply asked a one word question:
The vast majority of the time we the teacher would shake their head and the Discrepancy Collector would move on. Some of my male teachers would tease the female Discrepancy Collector to embarrass them. It took me a little bit to realize that discrepancies meant unaccounted for absences and occasionally the teacher would confirm they had one. The Discrepancy Collector would then approach the teacher's desk and the teacher would hand them a slip of paper with what I assumed was the name of the discrepancy. This passing of confidential information made me want to become a Discrepancy Collector. I never applied, though, because I was intimidated at what I assumed was a rigorous interview process.
62. "Dream Police," Cheap Trick
"Dream Police" was another song on the great K-TEL collection known simply as The Rock Album. Other songs on it included "Renegade," by Styx, "More Than A Feeling," by Boston, and Robert Palmer's "Bad Case of Loving You." I wore that album out, especially when home alone when I could crank it up. The tiny shoebox of a bedroom I shared with one of my brothers had no door and was adjacent to our living room. I would drag the speakers to the doorway and blast The Rock Album and dance like crazy. This was a common snow day or vacation day activity. A typical agenda for such days:
Eat breakfast while watching Captain Kangaroo.
Play a solitaire board game.
Watch reruns of All in the Family or The Jeffersons.
Watch The Price is Right or some other game show.
Wait for brothers to leave for work.
Living room dance party to K-TEL album.
Watch Match Game.
Furiously put living room and stereo back together before parents got home.
61. "Wait for Me," Daryl Hall & John Oates
My seventh grade class schedule used to be engraved into my memory. Over time, the details have faded and blurred. My best recollection is my biology class was first hour, then I went to English followed by math. Fourth hour was split between lunch and study period. Fifth hour was P.E. Then, I know I had art and civics, but can't which was sixth hour and which was seventh. I'm surprised I remember that much and I honestly don't know why I can recall these insignificant details, but couldn't tell you what someone told me just a few minutes ago. How can I remember the schedule of my junior high years, but I struggle to remember to do something my wife asked me to do? I can tell you the chart history of Daryl Hall & John Oates, but I can't tell you most of what was discussed on a conference call I was on prior to finishing this post. This odd focus issue has dogged me my whole life. I zone out constantly, visiting places in my brain for extended periods. Something someone says or a random phrase on a TV show I'm watching will trigger a bizarre stream-of-consciousness episode where I dive down a deep rabbit hole of random trivia, a memory of some minutiae, or a story idea. This happened all the time in school, which made getting work done a challenge.
I forgot where I was going with this.