Showing posts with label earl thomas conley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label earl thomas conley. Show all posts

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Reviewing The Top Ten Country Hits From This Week In 1987


As someone who considers myself quite the country music aficionado, the number of successful country hits I've forgotten is mind-boggling. In perusing the country singles chart from this week in 1987, thirty-five years ago, only two (two!) of the top ten are familiar to me. 1987 was a rather seminal year for me in country, since that was the year I came back, after a several-year foray into rock. My leaving wasn't my fault; it was country's. Naturally, however, while I was away, country got good again and I had a lot of catching up to do. No regrets. With music it's a snap to play catch-up. It's not like music suddenly disappears. And everything is new, even if it's old! 

But I digress. Scanning the totality of the top forty for this particular week, a few soon-to-be classics were scratching their way to the top. That, however, is not my job here. My designated task is to review the top ten as if I've never before heard them. In most cases, that's actually true. 

The usual disclaimer: Performance or music videos may not be available on YouTube. All I can do is my best.

Let's begin.

#10 ~ You Still Move Me ~ Dan Seals

I love this guy's voice. It reminds me of that seventies pop group, England Dan and John Ford Coley 😀. Truthfully, however, his voice belongs in country, not pop. That said, this song is forgettable. It's a middling ballad that without the soulful voice would be something a wannabe singer would strum on an acoustic guitar in his basement bedroom. I'm going to boost it half a grade solely due to the singer.


#9 ~ Mornin' Ride ~ Lee Greenwood

I'm not sure what to make of this. It has a comforting cadence that evokes the song's message. The chorus is relatively easy to memorize and thus is sing-alongable. But it's one of those tracks that doesn't say as much as the writers maybe thought it did. 


#8 ~ I Can't Win For Losin' You ~ Earl Thomas Conley

This song should remind today's songwriters that the best lines are not twelve words long. Five words, if they're the right words, are the mark of great songwriting. GREAT songwriting. Shout out to Robert Byrne and Rick Bowles. HUGE shout out to the late master Earl Thomas Conley who made this track magic. A great song, a great, soulful singer; a track that will pull couples onto the dance floor (trust me). What dos that add up to? A classic.


#7 ~ Fire In The Sky ~ Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

This group is capable of so much more. I don't even know what this is, but it's a mistake. The track seems to have one foot in (bad) eighties pop and one toe in country. The key changes do nothing to improve it. And the Kenny G-type sax -- c'mon. Even Jeff Hanna's voice is buried in this rancid stew.


#6 ~ Right Hand Man ~ Eddy Raven

Never wear your boots outside your pants, but that has nothing to do with the track itself. I just felt a need to mention it after viewing the video. Hmmm, this is kind of a little nothing song, but it does have a pleasant melody. Surprisingly, this topped out at number three for Eddy. If I heard it once (which I just did now) I'd never care to hear it again.


#5 ~ Straight To The Heart ~ Crystal Gayle

While watching Crystal perform this song, my mind wandered. I wondered if she'd ever cut her hair (spoiler alert: no). A wandering mind is the mark of a bad song, which this most definitely is. They all can't be winners, I guess. But they all don't need to be this bad.


#4 ~ I'll Come Back As Another Woman ~ Tanya Tucker

It's near impossible for this woman to do a bad performance. This is but one of a ton of Tucker hits, and a minor one. In the hands of a lesser singer this song would be a mess. I would listen to it again, but it's not $-worthy. So, no, I wouldn't buy it. Or include it in a 1987 Spotify retrospective. Another half-grade bump based on the singer.


#3 ~ How Do I Turn You On ~ Ronnie Milsap

It's a sad fact of show biz that 99.9% of artists have a shelf life (the other .1% are named George Strait). This track reeks of desperation. I would never play this again and would celebrate my superior taste in successfully avoiding it. Love ya, though, Ronnie.



#2 ~ Half Past Forever (Till I'm Blue In The Heart) ~ T.G. Sheppard

See: "Shelf life (Ronnie Milsap)". The first thing Sheppard shouldn't have done was try to sing in a higher register. I think there's a reason I've never heard this track before. I'll just say it: this is putrid.


#1 ~ Leave Me Lonely ~ Gary Morris

A totally forgettable track. This makes me want to lie down and go to sleep. I don't know what this guy's deal is. I guess he performed on Broadway or something, and went slumming into country music and fooled some people. I don't get it and I don't get him. The only reason this track gets a bump is because T.G. Sheppard's song is so bad.



This was a fun experiment. Was. Now I'm simply depressed. I happen to know that country music wasn't this bad in 1987 as a whole. Maybe it's just that the year was new and listeners didn't know how much wondrous music was yet to come. Or maybe if one sorts out the chaff, they're left with one classic track. Is there only one classic country song released each year? That can't be right. I might have simply stumbled on the wrong year.

I should be celebrating Earl Thomas Conley's A+++ instead of dwelling on the absolute drivel. 

Celebrate the good. Forget the rest.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Solitary Music

My musical tastes are, to an extent, eclectic. I appreciate genres that would have many of my generation shaking their heads (and wagging their finger at me, no doubt). From my perspective, a person who only likes, say, classic rock, is inflexible and missing out on some of life's musical joys. How many times can you listen to "Walk This Way"? Even if you happen to like it?

I've also come to like things I used to hate. When I was a kid, I thought Sinatra was putrid. Really putrid. Actually, however, he's not bad!

I always loved big band music. Give me a Glenn Miller tune any day.

I like roots rock 'n roll (a lot). And don't even get me started on '80's MTV-era tunes!

I grew up during arguably the best era for music ~ the sixties. Those hundreds (or thousands) of tracks will always claim a ventricle of my heart.

But, all in all, I'm a country girl. Country has always been the ugly stepchild in the eyes of the masses. I grew quite used to that when I was a teenager in love with country music. I actually hid the fact that I loved country ~ I was uncool enough already; I didn't need any extra help in that arena. Outside my immediate family, it wasn't until the nineties that I found simpatico people ~ suddenly I was surrounded by folks who only liked country music. Maybe it was a measure of the musical times. Country was pretty good back then. Every single person I worked with (save two or three), and I worked with a lot of people, listened to country exclusively. It was nice to have people to talk to about songs and friends who frequented concert venues with me. Granted, they didn't know country music history, but how many people did? My high school best friend (who'd reintroduced me to country) had moved on with her life, and we no longer spoke. That's why I rather consider country solitary music. I don't have anyone to which I can say, "Ooh, remember that one?" Because nobody would.

I was thinking about that as I read the autobiography of a former pop star who began a second musical career in Nashville. I'm skeptical that this guy would have recognized George Strait's name in the eighties, much less someone like Tracy Lawrence or Clay Walker or Mark Chesnutt (I bet he knew Kenny Rogers, though ~ which proves my point). I'm not calling this person an interloper...just naive. I sort of like that he suddenly realized country music is good, and he's definitely not someone who claims a verse in this song:

I also thought about how singular and solitary country music is when I read that Earl Thomas Conley had passed away. I don't understand why there isn't a music video, or at least a performance video of this song ~ it's one of my all-time favorites. Is it just me? I can't believe that. In the mid-to-late eighties this was the ultimate slow-dance song in honky tonks:

Throughout his career, Earl Thomas Conley charted more than thirty songs. How many artists can claim that? And yet, few people even know who he was. I miss my friends from the nineties ~ at least they'd know who I was talking about. 

Too, I was sad to learn that Hal Ketchum has retired from performing because he's been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. When buying CD's was a thing, I bought "Past The Point of Rescue", which featured this song that people wouldn't know was rather cynical unless they listened closely:

How many people recognize Hal Ketchum's name? Alzheimer's hits too damn close to home for me ~ Hal doesn't even know that he was once a country star. But I (we?) know. 

It scares me that we're going to lose more people and hardly anyone will notice.

That's kind of why I do this blog ~ so someone, at least, remembers. And acknowledges. 

Even if no one but me cares, these are artists who touched me.That counts for something in my musical world.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

1986 In Country Music - A Renaissance

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly when country music "came back". I'd long been a sap for stone country -- give me a Ray Price two-step any day. That high harmony pierced my heart. Alas, Ray had surrendered sometime around 1970 to Chet Atkins' country-pop. Gone were the twin fiddles; here were the violins. Merle was always reliable, but even he eventually decided he wanted to do something a bit different. Then the pre-fab artists took over. Sylvia is probably a very good...writer, and while I have nothing against her personally, "your nobody called today" is like a pounding tension headache. And several artists continued to ride the shirttails of Urban Cowboy -- Mickey Gilley, Johnny Lee. It was a movie, people! The most enduring remnant of the Urban Cowboy soundtrack is "The Devil Went Down To Georgia", and that's not even Charlie Daniels' best song.

Along about 1981 a new revolutionary channel showed up. It was called MTV. No longer did I have to conjure musical scenarios in my head. They were all flayed out before me on my TV screen. An added plus -- the songs were actual music -- not rewarmed pop songs with a faint glaze of steel guitar or an album of duets starring the long-dead Jim Reeves and the latest country Pop Tart. Country had given up, so I gave up, too.

I think I was sitting behind the wheel in front of my kids' elementary school one nice fall day, rocking out to songs on Y93 when a track came on that I didn't really like, so, with time to kill, I twisted the dial on my radio to the country station just for kicks. I heard this:

Who the heck is this, I asked nobody (I was alone in my car, after all). My immediate thought was, I need to buy some country cassettes (yes, they were cassettes). Surprisingly (maybe because I didn't know who the heck had sung that song), the first cassette I bought was by the Sweethearts of the Rodeo. 

Later, again on 12th Street, awaiting the school bell, I heard some guy on my new country station who sang real perrty, with a country cry in his voice (and he had fiddles and steel guitar!):


I had so much to catch up on!

There was this four-piece band consisting of names like Cactus and a twirling blonde lead singer who was (supposedly) from North Dakota, who could sing like nobody else. 

Another band who'd bored the hell out of me with their "Mister Bojangles" had suddenly become as country as country could be:

This music was a revelation! It took my going away for it to replenish itself -- and it came back loud and country.

The very best ballad of 1986 has no live performance videos (I don't know whatever happened to Earl Thomas Conley), but dang!

From that point on I was hooked. And there would only be more good to come. Even today, in 2017, I am in love with Dwight and with George. I never quite gave up on my MTV -- I lived a dual musical existence. The eighties were awesome, musically.

There will never again be a time like it.


Friday, December 30, 2016


I don't know if country bars even exist anymore -- I mean the old-fashioned kind -- a live band, a little sawdust on the floor. Sure, I know about Billy Bob's, which is apparently akin to a gigantic convention center, but I'm talking about local watering holes that are a bit more intimate.

There was a time when I and my then-partner visited our hometown nightclub, the Dakota Lounge, every Saturday night. It was a way to get out of the house, out of our rut, and practice our dance moves while discreetly blending in with the other (better) dancers. I wasn't much of a drinker -- three beers made me three sheets to the wind -- but I liked nursing a bottle of Miller Lite and observing while I waited for the band to start their set. The regulars showed up every weekend -- the tall faux cowboy wearing his black cowboy hat, nonchalantly leaning against the bar while scoping out the single ladies. The brunette female bartender who had a gaggle of guys clamoring for her attention, and not because she was a world-class drink mixer. Three girls at a table and the same one getting hit on for a dance to the juke box over and over, while her two friends tossed their heads and tossed off the slight. Fake cowboy inviting himself to the table where a blonde in a fringed western skirt sat pretending not to notice him. Fake cowboy excusing himself five minutes later and sidling back to the bar.

Inevitably there was a group of people (from work?) who got up and line danced to someone like Charlie Daniels. Non-regulars. Some groups were actually quite good; some were embarrassing. But it was all part of the (my) show. It was a diversion before the real music started. Line dancing wasn't the name of the game at the Dakota, nor was showing off in general. Line dancing was for those not in the know.

The Dakota displayed its roster of upcoming bands on a scrolling marquee and I made note of the weekends when my favorites would be playing. The bar booked regional and local bands and some of them were awesome -- Me And The Boys, The Back Behind The Barn Boys, Firehouse, and my favorite, Live N Kickin', a North Dakota band that was so good they landed a label deal in Nashville. Alas, it was the nineties and nothing blossomed from their debut single, but they were good.

There were certain songs, no matter the band, that had to be played. The Dakota's goal was to sell lots of drinks; the single boys' and girls' goals were to find comfort for the night. My goal was to dance without tripping over my feet or otherwise calling undue attention to myself.

Hence is my short list of the best two-stepping songs.

The ultimate (this one got 'em every time):

There was one song, immensely popular at the time, that was impossible to dance to. Trust me, I tried. A great song, but getting a bead on the beat was impossible. Know people who have no rhythm? That was me, trying to wrap my body around this song. I looked like a toddler having a temper tantrum.

Thus my primer on basic two-stepping. Pick any of the songs above (except Fishing In The Dark) and you can't go wrong. You, too, can be a faux cowboy!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Music's Circle

When I was a kid, all music was new -- new and exciting. Every song, no matter how old, was new to me; a new discovery; a new coin of knowledge to tuck in my pocket. I didn't know I was studying music; I thought I was simply inhaling it. I don't have any means of comparison, so for all I know, every kid was like me -- every kid scoured the 45 label and memorized the songwriters' names that were printed in parenthesis below the title (they always seemed to be compound writers then:  (Brown - McGee). Rarely was the artist on the record also listed as the writer. Maybe every kid imprinted the label's logo on their brain; the yellow and black Bang emblem, the orange and yellow swirl of Capitol, the blue sky of Motown. 45-RPM records were cradled in our hands like they were spun silver. I never once broke one -- I chipped a few, but I still managed to get them to play -- doggedness could form miracles.

I don't remember the last time any music felt new. If I was to guess, I'd say it's been about ten years. The last song I remember falling in love with was "Come On, Joe" from one of George Strait's albums. So now music is all memory -- a circle that's closing. Sometimes that makes me sad, but life is busy with daily stressors and a clock with hands that whirl around fast like on one of those old campy TV shows that wants to show that time has passed so it can segue into the next scene. I don't listen to the radio unless it's songs from the sixties or eighties or unless it's political news. I don't know new country and I frankly don't want to. I sampled it a bit, enough to know that it's gross and irritating. I dabbled in Texas country a bit many years ago -- some of it was good, yet obscure. Now when I'm working, I don't mix music with drudgery. It would feel like I'm disrespecting the music. It's bad enough that I have to endure eight-hour pain; it wouldn't be fair to subject something as pure as music to that bad karma.

Which brings me to tonight.

We have a Sirius Music subscription that allows me to also listen on my phone. So, naturally, I dialed the app to Eighties Country. It's a quintessential human condition to only remember the good. Funny how reality isn't exactly a match for our soft reminiscences.

I've been listening for a couple of hours now, and what have I learned? Well, Garth was everywhere, for good or bad (mostly bad). Here are some others who rocked the Sirius eighties jukebox: Martina McBride, Sawyer Brown, Brooks and Dunn, Alan Jackson, Shenandoah, Diamond Rio, The Judds, Alabama, Trisha Yearwood.

Here is what I remember from the eighties:  Vince Gill, Dwight Yoakam, George Strait, Randy Travis, Highway 101, Rodney Crowell, Clint Black, Rosanne Cash, Ricky Van Shelton, Restless Heart, Steve Wariner, Holly Dunn, Earl Thomas Conley, Mark Chesnutt, Patty Loveless, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Keith Whitley, T. Graham Brown, The Forester Sisters, Shania Twain, Collin Raye. Alan - of course. Brooks and Dunn - of course. Diamond Rio - of course.

But funny how I completely blanked out Garth. Garth, the hugest country artist of all time.

Also funny how Sirius has, in the past (now) three hours only played one George Strait song, but three Alabama songs. Really? Sirius folks, are you familiar with the eighties?

My memory has apparently weeded out the bad songs and only retained the good. That rather eases my mind. I'm not fixated on "Achy Breaky Heart".

Overall, however, it's been a fun evening. I like to be taken back to a time in my life when music meant so much.

Oh no -- now they're playing Sylvia.

I should start my own podcast -- the worst country songs and artists of all time. I wonder if it would catch on.

Time for bed. I wonder if I'll dream about a black 45 with a bold red line and the word "MUSICOR" emblazoned on it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I Want My CMT

Well, here's the deal:  I was completely enamored of MTV in the 1980's.  Sure, one wouldn't call the music "rock"; more like rock-pop or something; but it was GOOD.

The one and only reason I switched back to country music was because I happened to flip my radio dial one day, while waiting in my car for my kids to be dismissed from school; and I heard a song by somebody named "George Strait".  I said to myself, well, that sounds good!  Maybe I've been missing out on something, lo these five or six years that I've been away from country music.  (Isn't it just like music to flip on you when you least expect it?  And suddenly become good, when you turned away from it because it was so putrid?)

After hearing a song by this "George Strait" guy, I chanced to give country music another go.  I honestly had never heard of any of these artists that were suddenly wafting out of my speakers.

The first cassette tape (remember those?) I purchased was by somebody who called themselves the Sweethearts of the Rodeo.

I carried my boom box around while pseudo-cleaning my house, and I played that tape endlessly.  Why I had glommed on to this particular group, I don't know.  I know that I was reticent to embrace George Strait, because my mom and dad thought he was so good, and I wasn't about to bow to Mom and Dad's whims.  While I was visiting them one evening, they popped in a VHS tape of a George Strait live concert, and I watched it half-hardheartedly between snippets of conversation, and I still didn't get it.  Or chose NOT to get it.  I came late to the George Strait party, but when I finally climbed aboard, I turned into a giggly adolescent girl; devouring anything and everything that had the Strait name attached.

Meanwhile, though, there was this other guy, who had sort of a nasally sound, but, boy!  Those guitars sure rang!  This was like Buck Owens and the Buckaroos on steroids.

FULL DISCLOSURE:  Even better than George Strait!

This was a weird time in music for me.  Number one, aside from SOTR (or, Sweethearts of the Rodeo), everybody I liked was male.  I'd come of age during the time of Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette and Lynn Anderson; but no girl singers (except for one) were even a blip on my country music radar.  What had happened since I'd been away? 

But when the girls were good, they were good:

I sat behind my steering wheel, parked in front of my kids' elementary school, when this song accosted me from my radio speaker.  The first time I heard it, I believe I actually swooned.  I simply wanted to hear it again...and again; but I had to wait for the damn album (or by this time, CD) to be released before I could listen to it as many times as I needed (George never made a music video for this song ~ huge mistake):

(Admittedly, that song wasn't from the eighties, but I just wanted to include it.)

This song, too, had no official music video, but wow ~ what a great song!

Speaking of George (again), and speaking of swooning, well, here I went again:

And, again, there was Dwight:

But it wasn't all George and Dwight.  It was Clint:

It was Randy:

And did I forget some girl singers?  Apparently!

Some guy I'd never heard of before recorded an album of songs that took the 1989 CMA award for album of the year, and I knelt in front of my TV that night; cheering him on:

Sitting at a table at the Dakota Lounge one Saturday night, this new guy managed to strangle my heart strings with this:

Another really great song to two-step to was this, by Steve Earle:

"Got a two-pack habit and a motel tan" ~ I so admire great lyric writers.  FOUR STARS on this song!

Country music in the eighties wasn't all George and Dwight and Randy and Clint; however.  I want to also feature some of my favorite eighties country by some artists that might not readily spring to mind when we think about that decade:

Foster and Lloyd:

Rosanne Cash:

Singing background vocals on Roseanne's song segues us into Vince Gill:

Singing background vocals on Vince's song leads us to Patty Loveless:

Singing background on nobody's here-to-fore mentioned songs, and unfortunately a video with poor sound quality (but I wanted to include it, just because), here is Steve Wariner:

(For unknown reasons, in the days when I went out dancing on a Saturday night, whenever the band played the part in "Lynda" that went, "I woke up screaming this morning", all the patrons were apparently obliged to scream.  Naturally, I abstained.)

Speaking of live music and dancing, this next song is essentially impossible to dance to.  I'm thinking it's because the tempo changes between the intro and the rest of the song; and then back again.  If you want to look really foolish out on the dance floor, try dancing to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and this:

Like Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea has a great voice, and I love this song:

Please don't forget Restless Heart (another song I love):

I have no doubt forgotten to include some artists.  After all, it was more than 20 years ago (really?)

You can shoot me now, but I just never was a big Garth Brooks fan.  I certainly didn't hate him; I was simply ambivalent.  That is why I have not included any Garth Brooks videos.  Feel free to hum, "If Tomorrow Never Comes". 

I do believe I have made my point, however.  The 1980's were the prime time for country music; and alas, it will never be the same again.  I don't begrudge anyone their taste in music.  I like a ton of stuff that would cause people to scratch their heads.  That's why we're called "individuals".  For me, however, I choose not to listen to "today's country".  But who knows?  If a Randy or an Alan or a Rodney comes around again, and shakes things up, chances are I would be right back listening to radio again.  Luckily, in the absence of that, I have music videos.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Sad Ones

Since I'm in a pretty decent mood tonight, I thought, why not make good on my earlier promise, and feature some sad songs?

See, one doesn't want to listen to sad songs when they're actually sad, because that might just push one over the edge, you know? I'm not saying I haven't had those moments in my life, when I cried in my beer, listening to the saddest songs I could find in my playlist. Because I have. Hasn't everyone?

And, just for the record, I don't think crying is a bad thing. Of course, I'm a female, and females understand that. Crying is actually cathartic. Men need to learn that.

Anyway, the weird thing to me about so-called "sad" songs is, they don't make me feel sad. They make me feel, which is completely different.

Trying to post sad songs is like trying to find three songs to download for free from your local library (And thanks, by the way. Nice feature). The choices are daunting.

Every songwriter or would-be songwriter (like me!) writes sad songs. They're easy! Who's happy all the time? Only the insane.

And sad is relative, I'll say.

Some of the songs I post here may be considered more "inspirational" than sad. I don't know. You be the judge. They seem sad, or at least wistful, to me.

So, relying on my tiny memory cells and what I can find on YouTube, let's all get sad.

Naturally, the first song that comes to mind for me, when I think of sad songs, doesn't actually have a real video associated with it. But I'm still starting with this one, by Earl Thomas Conley:

Brooks & Dunn:

By way of disclosure, I don't like Rascal Flatts, generally. HOWEVER, I like this one, and this one is sad.

I don't really like the video for this song. That's just my personal preference. Personally, I think they should have left it up to each listener's imagination. Nevertheless, what is sadder than Alison Krauss singing, well, anything?

Nobody features Gary Allen enough. I'm glad I have the opportunity to do it here:

No video for this song, of course, but it's one of my favorite George Strait recordings:

And speaking of George, I didn't really want to double up on singers here, but I think this is a mightily sad song:

Everybody tends to cite the same ones, when they're talking about the saddest country songs. I'm not really aiming for the saddest songs "ever", but more, the songs that make me cry. Yup, everybody has "Whiskey Lullaby" and "When I Call Your Name", but let's face it, they're sad. So, there's no getting around it. I'm not going with "He Stopped Loving Her Today", because everyone lists that as the number one saddest country song. I don't know. Not to me, I guess. But music is a personal thing.

In conclusion, I don't know if this song is supposed to be sad or inspirational, but let me just say that this song makes me cry. Every time. So, I'm including it. And it gets the cherished "top spot" in my list of sad songs, because it's just that good.

If I made you cry with at least one of the videos here, then my job is done.

I'm betting it's the last one. But that's entirely up to you. But you'd be crazy if it wasn't that last one.