It was thirty years ago today

Actually, at the time I’m typing this, it was a little longer than thirty years ago, but I can’t pass up using that slightly modified song lyric!

Tracey Ullman on Solid Gold, March 1984
The first time I saw Tracey – on Solid Gold

 It was thirty years ago (plus nearly two weeks) that I first saw Tracey Ullman. It was late March in 1984. I was on spring break from Michigan State University, but although the calendar said it was spring, the chill in the air and the snow on the ground said it was still winter. I was staying with my aunt and uncle in Dearborn Heights. Earlier in the week, I’d taken the Amtrak train to Chicago (my first time riding Amtrak) and spent the night there at a hotel long since demolished. That was a fun trip. Then came Saturday the 24th (I had to verify the date by looking up vintage Detroit TV listings). At 6 PM, channel 50 aired a rerun of Star Trek — no Next Generation, no Deep Space Nine, no Voyager, no Enterprise, but the original series. I don’t remember which episode aired that night, but it was probably a good one.  Most of them were. Right afterwards, channel 50 aired that week’s episode of Solid Gold, a program featuring the top hits of the day. The TV guide listed the performers as Shalamar, the Pretenders, Culture Club, Stevie Nicks, and Paul Young, as well as Tracey. If I’d seen the listing earlier in the week, her name would have meant nothing to me.

A little before the halfway point, host Marilyn McCoo introduced Tracey and her then-hit song, “They Don’t Know.” I don’t remember my exact thoughts when I first saw her, but I would have probably thought something like “Hm, she’s kinda cute” and “That’s a catchy song.”  By the time the song ended, I was intrigued.  I resolved to look for the song when I got back up to State.  A few days later, I found the cassette of You Broke My Heart in 17 Places at the State Discount store in Meridian Mall in Okemos.  I put it in my tape player, and I was hooked.  And that continues to this day.

Now if my dorm room at Michigan State had had cable television, I might have seen her stint as a guest VJ on MTV in February. Or if I’d been more of a regular viewer of the Tonight Show, I might have seen the original broadcast of her first appearance with Johnny Carson rather than the repeat in April 1985.

Tracey on the Tonight Show, Feb 1984
Tracey singing “They Don’t Know” on the Tonight Show, February 1984

It does seem hard to believe it’s been over 30 years.

This was adapted from a post of mine from 2004, “20 Years of Tracey in the USA” on the old TTO site.

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