The Debris & The Dust of Memories


There’s a scene in an early Seinfeld episode where Kramer, Jerry and Newman are on a stakeout. Kramer thinks it feels like a Tuesday, to which Newman replies, “Tuesday has no feel.” That’s how I think of 1981. It has no feel to me. It started and twelve months later, it ended. The Top 40 was all over the place, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t some great or at least entertaining tunes during the week of August 22nd, 1981.

[I’ve covered some of these songs once before June 20th, 1981 here, here and here.]

40. Jim Steinman – Rock ‘N Roll Dreams Come Through

OHW – When Meat Loaf was recording his follow-up to Bat Out Of Hell in the late 70s, his  voice gave out, he couldn’t sing and he went on the DL. [Just kidding, there’s no DL in the music business.] So rather than wait for Meat to rest his voice, writer Jim Steinman decided to record an sing the songs himself, which is why we have this travesty – all of the bombast, none of the fun.

The song is friggin’ painful, and it has so many fake endings, you just want to reach into  the speakers and strangle him.

39. Frankie Smith – Double Dutch Bus

OHW – The fizun has returned with this monster R&B track (#1 for 4 weeks) which has already peaked at #30 but has been certified Gold for the 7 & 12″ singles. More than that, it became a very influential song in hip=hop. Snoop built his whole career on the “iz” slang that’s featured here, a kind of urban pig latin if you will.

Frankie passed away earlier this year and although his resume said he wrote songs for the Spinners & the O’Jays, I can’t find any recorded examples. He did write for Philadelphia International Records with songs recorded by Archie Bell, The Futures and Billy Paul.

38. Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes

How does a song like this stay at #1 for seven weeks? Not much competition. Spoiler alert: another example is at #1 this week.

37. Alan Parsons Project – Time

This was the first of four straight APP Top 10 hits on the Adult Contemporary chart, which in turn influenced Alan to continue to soften the edges as well as provide the soundtrack to your next cavity filling.

36. Balance – Breaking Away

OHW – Peppy Castro, formerly of Blues Magoos and Barnaby Bye teamed up with Kiss sidemen, Bruce Kulick & Doug Katsaros to form Balance. From their debut, this track will eventually bounce up to #22.

This what I call aggressive pop with a sugary compression filter, and when the two combine, it settles nicely into a radio friendly track that might also make it on an aerobics compilation.

35. Sheena Easton – For Your Eyes Only

PFK, RFW – The Big 80s countdown gets lazy with this song and intros this song with text from Wikipedia [SXM, did you check to make sure it was correct?]. This is on its way up into the Top 5, co-written by Bill Conti rather than usual Bond composer John Barry.

34. Lulu – I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do)

STA – Lulu is back into the Top 40 for the first time in eleven years with a song that was originally released almost two and half years previous from her 1979 Rocket Records LP, Don’t Take Love For Granted. The song was then recorded by Melba Moore and Bobbi Walker, both in 1980. But when Japanese label, Alfa, bought her Rocket catalogue, they re-released this and suprisingly had a US hit with it. It’s going to zoom up to #18 and be one of those Top 20 hits that has been lost to radio ever since.

The Music of My Life blog talked about the Rhino compilation series, Radio Daze back in May and if they ever released a Volume 6 and could secure the rights, this would surely be on it, along with #36, #32, #27, #26 and #21.

33. Air Supply – The One That You Love

I’ve talked before about how my brother and I would beat each other up to the Dimensions comp by K-tel. Here’s the short story on why we had that 8-track in the first place.

My mom was obsessed with this song, latching on to it when her sister passed away earlier in the year. As we were leaving the Sunrise Mall, my mom handed me some money and asked me to run into Sam Goody’s to get the album by Air Supply on 8-track so she could play it in the car. I went back in the store but was distracted by the K-Tel section. I found the comp Dimensions and not only did it have this song but it also had Stars On 45, which my mom loved as well. More bang for the buck, I said.

When I came out to the parking lot and explained to her the genius of my purchase, she got pissed off that I didn’t do what she said. She played it once in the car and threw it on the floor. My brother and I took and kept it down in the basement for years. And yes I still have it.

32. Rex Smith/Rachel Sweet – Everlasting Love

THW/OHW – Rex had a Top 10 hit in 1979 called You Take My Breath Away. Rachel only ended up with this one, although she was definitely the better talent with a great array of retro pop singles. Rex oversings the hell out of it like it’s Les Miserables and Rachel does her best to reel him back in and remind him it’s a duet.

This was the third time that this song hit the Top 40, which included versions by Robert Knight in 1967 and Carl Carlton in 1974. U2 recorded and released a version in 1989 as the B-side to All I Want Is You.

31. The Moody Blues – The Voice

As a kid, this one spoke to me through the radio. I had no idea back then who this was or that the title was The Voice, since they bury it in the verses, so when I found out it was the Moody Blues I was pretty surprised. Also, this song isn’t shit without Patrick Moraz’s synth wizardry and the fact that the band has erased his tenure with the band pisses me off.

30. The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys Medley

Capitol Records was always looking for new ways to make money off the Beach Boys catalog. After Stars on 45, they used that as an excuse to create this medley of Beach Boys 60s hits, which will give current Top 40 stations a reason to play oldies. Tied together with tambourines and hand claps rather than a lame disco beat, this medley will reach #12 and will do nothing but help Brian pay off Dr. Landy’s bills and reduce the band’s image to its surfer themed hits.

29. Stacy Lattisaw – Love On A Two Way Street

Stacy was only 15 when she released her third album, With You, which featured her cover of the Moments’ 1970 hit. It is her second Top 40 and will creep up a few more spots to #26.

Also, is love on a two way street a good thing? Doesn’t that mean the love is going is two totally different directions?

28. Electric Light Orchestra – Hold On Tight

ML – I always thought Jeff Lynne was saying hold on tight to your drink, not dream. That seemed to make more sense to me. I don’t want to lose my drink. Drinks become more important than dreams as you get older.

27. Franke & The Knockouts – You’re My Girl

Franke & the Knockouts are the kinda band that could only have existed and had hits in 1981, just before MTV or any trendy genre took hold. When both of those eventually happened, these guys were sent packing but not before they collected three Top 40 hits. IMO this one is the best out of the pack.

26. Robbie Patton – Don’t Give It Up

OHW – This song will not go any further than #26, but it had plenty of support from the Fleetwood Mac camp. It was produced by Christine McVie and Ken Caillat and it features three different eras of F. Mac guitarists: Lindsey Buckingham, Bob Weston & Bob Welch.

25. Ray Parker Jr. & Raydio – That Old Song

The follow-up to A Woman Needs Love is going to stall at #21. Bu that’s cool with Ray, who was in the midst of packing up his things and heading out the door for a solo career.

Also, in the immortal words of Ray: A good song and a love affair go hand in hand together. Jeez, he just can’t help himself, can he? Ladies, I urge you to please stay away.

24. Alabama – Feels So Right

Alabama was in the middle of their early 80s Pop crossover with this, their first Top 20. This is kind of a lame-o Country ballad that I never remembered hearing on Pop radio. What impresses me more is the fact that the band was in the middle of a streak of twenty-one consecutive Country #1s.

23. Eddie Rabbitt – Step By Step

This was the kind of Country music I heard more of in New York. Maybe it’s because Eddie was from New Jersey. Or maybe because it didn’t pander as much as Country artists are wont to do. It’s Eddie fifth Top 40 and will be his third straight Top 5.

22. Pat Benatar – Fire And Ice

The rock Queen of Long Island had her only #1 album with her third release, Precious Time. While I dig the title track, this single is still one of her best and earned her a Grammy for Best Rock Female. Who exactly was even her competition back then? And why the hell is she not in Cleveland?

21. Gary Wright – Really Wanna Know You

The dream weaver returns to the Top 40 after a five-year absence with a track he co-wrote with Ali “Take a Little Rhythm” Thomson. It’s on its way up to #16. They also included it on the K-Tel Dimensions comp. My brother and I would goof on it, but we always let it play through.


  • OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
  • THW – Two-Hit-Wonder
  • PFK – Perfect for Karaoke
  • RAR – Rite-Aid Rock
  • RFW – Ripped from Wikipedia
  • STA – Second Time Around

4 Replies to “The Debris & The Dust of Memories”

  1. Amen to “1981 has no feel.” I’ve always thought that but never had the right words for it. I was playing what amounts now to classic rock on our college radio station (no trendsetters were we) and most of that was fairly bland as well.


  2. I’m on board with you programming any and all subsequent volumes of Radio Daze.

    Agree that #40 is total bombast but I still file it in my guilty pleasures folder. I love #32 in spite of Rex (have you seen the video?–he’s completely over the top in it, too). “The Voice” was and is a huge fave.


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