Wednesday, August 09, 2006

30 Years Ago...(Part 2) or 13 Years Ago (Part 1)

Labor Day 1993 was rather boring. I don't remember what my initial plans were, except that they fell through and I spent the better part of the day listening to the newly-formatted PLJ countdown the Top 300 songs of the 1970's. Once we hit the Top 100, there were few surprises and most were tunes that still received regular airplay on the radio. But the highlight of the day came on the intro to song #78 (I think). "I understand this is Joe Nolan's favorite song. Going back to The Bicentennial Summer of 76, here's The Starland Vocal Band with Afternoon Delight..."

It may have very well been the first time in 16 years that I had heard the song in its entirety (a piece of it was featured in a 1991 episode of "Get a Life"; It was also Chris Elliot's character's favorite song). It was also one of the favorite song's of my best friend from college whom I first met 20 years ago this week. In today's day and age it may seem weird to have not heard one of your favorite songs in 15 years, but this was not only before the Internet but also before many "one-hit/two-hit wonder" songs were released on CD and out of print vinyls were often very hard to come by.

Afternoon Delight was the only hit by The Starland Vocal Band and it topped the charts for two weeks (the weeks ending July 10 & July 17, 1976). The band, which won the 1976 Best New Artist Grammy, was led by Bill Danoff and also consisted of his wife Taffy and another couple that would later marry, John Carroll and Margot Chapman. Bill and Taffy had co-written "Take Me Home, Country Roads" with John Denver and had sung backing vocals on the 1971 hit.

Memorial Day, 1976 and I'm with my family riding back from Jamestown to our home in Portsmouth, Virginia. In those days, the only ways to pass time in the car were listening to the radio and low-tech games. I was playing a bingo game of sorts where I marked off sights as I passed them (a barn, a windmill, etc.) until at some point I dozed off (you can see how much fun the game must have been). When I woke up, the radio was playing "Afternoon Delight." It was my first time hearing the song, and yes, as a six year old, I did really think they were singing about ice cream.

I'm not sure how many times I heard the song during the Summer of '76. Aside from the memories of the Bicentennial (rainy day in Williamsburg, clear night with fireworks in Virginia Beach), the lingering image of the summer was when my parents told me on my birthday that we were moving (yet again). This time to Philadelphia. The first weeks in the new town were tough, but one of the initial memories I have of living in Philly was going to buy new back-to-school "Jaws" sneakers at Buster Brown. Waiting to pull into the parking lot at 47th and City Line, there was Afternoon Delight on the radio like an old friend that had followed me along from Virginia.

Largely on the strength of Afternoon Delight, The Starland Vocal Band received their own variety show on CBS in The Summer of 1977. The cast included a couple of young comics named Jeff Altman and David Letterman (I'm pretty sure I remember Dave in an amusing skit where he played a mailman). Ironically, the show flipped from from Sunday Night to Friday Night in August of 77, to make way for "A Year at the Top" co-starring Dave's future bandleader, Paul Shaffer.

Afternoon Delight has experienced a second life over the past decade, appearing on numerous soundtracks. Most notably, over the closing credits of "Good Will Hunting." If ever they make my life story into a film, we'll have to add room for it there as well.