The minute I heard the J. Geils Band sing, "Years go by I'm lookin' through a girly magazine, and there's my homeroom angel on the pages in between," I knew that "Centerfold" would be a hit.
For some strange reason, I distinctly remember the first time I heard "Centerfold." It was my junior year, and my mom had just picked me up from school in her little red truck. The radio was on - this being the era when a radio only got you actual radio stations not blocked by the mountains - and this energetic song started.
It was easy to remember the chorus from the get-go: "My blood runs cold, my memory has just been sold, my angel is a centerfold. Angel is a centerfold. My blood runs cold, my memory has just been sold. Angel is a centerfold." Roughly 15 words, repeated over and over, followed by a healthy dose of "Na na, na-na na na" at the end. Brilliant.
When I recently looked up the history of "Centerfold" to prepare for this month's column, I was surprised to learn that the song was the J. Geils Band's biggest international hit. It topped the Billboard charts in the U.S. for six weeks in 1982, and it was their only big song in the United Kingdom, where it reached No. 3 on the charts.
This surprised me, as I liked their oh-so-sarcastic "Love Stinks" much better, and I thought "Freeze-Frame" was even more fun, more energetic - and less cheesy - than "Centerfold."
The 16-year-old me predicted a hit for the J. Geils Band, but I wouldn't have guessed then it would be their biggest success. I hope keyboardist Seth Justman has been doing well with the songwriter's royalty checks on that for the past 37 years.
I thought of "Centerfold" recently when I heard a snippet of an interview with Rod Stewart on that newfangled "radio" known as SiriusXM.
Though I could listen to dozens of satellite stations - even driving out Jones Cove Road or along Rocky Flats - I pretty much keep my SiriusXM tuned to "Classic Vinyl." They play songs from the '60s and '70s interspersed with interview clips of performers and songwriters telling the behind-the-scenes tales of their songs.
In one interview clip, Rod talks about preparing to release his 1971 solo album, "Every Picture Tells a Story." He recalls studio execs expecting him to turn in a certain number of songs by deadline, and they were less-than-thrilled with one he had already submitted, "Maggie May." At least one exec said the song "just rambles on."
Rod intended to write a replacement song for "Maggie May," but dithered around and ran out of time before the album went into production. He had to include "Maggie May" because he didn't have anything else prepared.
The song dismissed by the executive "experts" as rambling topped the U.K. and U.S. charts, and the album became the No. 2 album for that year.
In a 2015 interview, Rod told The Wall Street Journal, "At first, I didn't think much of 'Maggie May.' I guess that's because the record company didn't believe in the song. I didn't have much confidence then. I figured it was best to listen to the guys who knew better. What I learned is sometimes they do, and sometimes they don't."
If you like finding potential future hits or simply listening to songwriters tell the stories behind their songs, you might want to check out an upcoming festival and a restaurant. Both are in Gatlinburg.
The Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival returns for its seventh year, and Crystelle Creek is next door to the Dollar General on Highway 321. The restaurant with a dog-friendly porch and a mean bowl of chili hosts a songwriters night starting at about 6 p.m. on the second Monday of each month.
This year's Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival starts on Aug. 13 and runs through Aug. 22 in downtown Gatlinburg. And I expect Crystelle Creek's next songwriters night on Aug. 14 to be more crowded than usual - in all the right ways. If you go at nighttime, keep your eyes open for their humongous (150-feet tall, according to their website) tree decorated with lights that look like hanging tapered candles. The address is 1654 East Parkway, in case the tree isn't lit yet.
If you have a well-behaved - and leashed - dog, sit on Crystelle Creek's porch for a visit. You and your pooch just might hear the next "Centerfold" or "Maggie May" making its debut right there next to Dollar General.
Or you might hear it at the 10-day festival which, by the way, offers lots of performances open to the public - for free.
Contact Juli at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @NeilWatsonJ.