Countdowns from the first year of the decade always have a lot the previous decade’s carryover trends mixed with a glimpse of the future. We have a little disco, Westcoast and arena rock mixed in with punk and new wave. and as always, soft rock ballads. Here’s the first 20 of the Top 40 from May 3rd, 1980.
40. Starting Over Again-Dolly Parton
Dolly does Donna. Summer, that is. Miss Parton crosses over to the pop charts with a song written by the Queen of Disco about two people trying to move on with their lives after a divorce. OK, we need to light it up and not be so serious….
39. Let’s Get Serious – Jermaine Jackson
Maybe not. The ever-prolific Stevie Wonder gives the elder Jackson, Jermaine, the biggest hit of his career. On its way up to #9 pop, it would also spend 6 weeks at the top of the soul charts.
38. Wondering Where The Lions Are – Bruce Cockburn
OHW – It took 9 albums for Bruce to finally cross down over the Northern border into the US Top 40 with a track heading up to #21. And that album, Dancing In The Dragon’s Jaws was released the year previously. Its easy soft reggae lilt and the mention of animals make it a nice song for your part-time folk singer to strum at a kid’s gathering at the local library. Adults can find deeper meaning in the lyrics which ask the question who still has the revolutionary spirit within them.
BTW Nina Blackwood reads Bruce’s bio RFW
37. Let Me Be The Clock – Smokey Robinson
Smokey is the man. Sing me the telephone book, Smokey. Wait, not the yellow pages. Are you in the watchmaker section?
36. Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen
This former number one was the first for this quartet as it spent a month at the top. It was written by Freddie Mercury as he was trying to learn how to play guitar and compose a tribute to Elvis. He also played this song at 1985’s Live Aid on guitar even though it wasn’t part of the biopic.
35. The Seduction (Love Theme From American Gigolo) – James Last Band
OHW – I don’t know anyone else who had this guys album in their collection let alone his catalog, but unfortunately we did. My dad tortured us with this easy listening schlager polka bullcrap every time he had friends over to party. Oh man, this shit is painful. And yet James managed a Top 20 hit in the U.S. that no one remembers or cares about. This was a cover of Giorgio Moroder’s version from the American Gigolo soundtrack.
As an aside, 1980 provided us with lots of Top 20 one-hit wonders that have just disappeared from playlists, maybe more so than any other year. There’s a bunch just in this countdown.
34. Train In Vain (Stand By Me) – The Clash
NAOHW – Hey here’s a seamless transition. Dad, take your James Last LPs and get them away from the stereo. I’m putting on London Calling.
Funny how the Clash for all of their punk leanings would finally breakthrough with a track that sounds like a bitter detour through the backwoods of Mississippi. I wonder if they were worried about alienating their punk fans by releasing it cause it’s the last track on Side four and it’s not even listed on the back cover. It would eventually reach #23 on the pop charts and #30 on the Disco charts. (don’t tell Sid)
33. Steal Away – Robbie Dupree
NAOHW – When disco was blown up in Chicago and Jimmy Carter told us to conserve our energy in July of 1979, we slowed everything down, stopped moving and filled the gap with Westcoast music (Yacht Rock to the snickerers) The groove was smooth, the funk was soft and it came in a “rock” package (aka white folks) so it was OK to play at a barbecue and not offend your racist, homophobic neighbors.
Thus Robbie soars into the Top 40 on a 22-place leap for the first of his two Top 20 hits. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it sounds like a Doobie Brothers B-side if they had let the drummer sing.
32. Fire In The Morning – Melissa Manchester
Are you a pyro in love? Melissa’s got your back with a song that lays out the perfect date plans. Get up early, start a fire and then you’ll have the rest of the day to get it on.
31. And The Beat Goes On – The Whispers
Some 70’s style disco sneaks into the countdown. The Whispers, one of a handful of artists featuring twins to make the Top 40, took a decade-plus to have some crossover hits. This one is falling from its peak of #19.
30. Off The Wall – Michael Jackson
Quincy has two productions in the first 20. This one is the Rod Temperton title track which had become MJ’s third straight Top 10, a good streak for him at that time. Believe it or not, Karen Carpenter was offered to record this song on her first solo album in 1979, but she passed. That album was shelved until 1996.
29. The Rose – Bette Midler
PFK – As happy as I am that Bette broke out with the title track to the movie she starred in, the best use of this song is in this film.
28. I Pledge My Love – Peaches & Herb
Now that they reunited you two love birds, Peaches & Herb have a song to keep you together. Way more of a wedding song than Reunited but less memorable.
27. Heart Hotels – Dan Fogelberg
From the 1979 LP Phoenix, this song sounds so out of place to me. It’s as if Dan was struggling whether to embrace the soft rock sounds of the day and made his decision too late. It does feature some funky lyricon by Tom Scott.
All I can think of when I hear about a heart hotel are those jacuzzis in the Poconos.
26. Do Right – Paul Davis
Christian music was catching on as a niche genre in the late 780s and early 80s. A lot of artists, mostly in Nashville, were creating some very smooth pop songs to praise the Lord especially when they utilized some Westcoast vibes.
Paul decided to give thanks to Jesus with this song, not because of a DWI conviction or court-ordered Born again switch but because as he says, He gave his life for him. And now He’s hooked him up with a sweetie, hopefully not one from back in 1965.
25. Too Hot – Kool & The Gang
The door to the boogie in the jungle is finally closed shut as J.T. Taylor smooths it out for y’all. And whenever I think 2Pac may be haunting me, I sing this song:
Oh-oh its Tu-pac (Tu-pac) Tu-pac Sha-koh-ur
Gotta run for shelter, Gotta close all my doors
24. Funkytown – Lipps Inc.
OHW – Homer Simpson once said, “Lurleen, I can’t get your song out of my mind. I haven’t felt this way since “Funkytown!” Nuff said.
23. Any Way You Want It – Journey
So what? So let’s dance!
Also, a donut with no holes is a danish.
22. Brass In Pocket (I’m Special) – Pretenders
A great song from a near-perfect debut and no better way to introduce the world to Chrissie Hynde. I hear a song like this and I imagine the hell she must have (possibly, still is) put through as a strong female in the music industry. She went through some major shit in the early 80s and the fact that she survives and is still creating great music should be one of a million reasons to let the artists work and leave women alone.
21. Stomp – The Brothers Johnson
Q strikes again with a mutha of a disco burner and another Temperton co-write, this time from Louis & George Johnson. It’s traveling up the charts to its eventually high of #6.
OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
NAOHW – Not A One-Hit-Wonder
PFK – Perfect for karaoke
RAR – Rite-Aid Rock
RFW – Ripped from Wikipedia