I’ve enjoyed writing about various Top 40 countdowns during the 80s over the last year, culled from the Billboard Hot 100 charts. But what about the other sixty, you might ask? That’s where my radio show, The UnCola, which is broadcast weekly on 103.3 Asheville FM, comes in. I play those tracks and others that weren’t as lucky to chart over the last five decades. Some of them you may know. Some of them were more popular than specific Top 40 hits. Some deserved their fate. So let’s go through the decade week by week this year as I shine a light on The Other Sixty.
January 5th, 1980
81. Gamma – I’m Alive
This was guitarist Ronnie Montrose’s latest project, and the group’s first single was a cover that the Hollies took to #1 in the UK. This version will only make it to #60. Gamma would release three albums before taking a break and reuniting in 2000.
Fun fact: Alan Fitzgerald, who was Gamma’s bass player as well as with Montrose, became the keyboardist for Night Ranger.
83. Molly Hatchet – Flirtin’ with Disaster
Ridin’ Skynyrd’s coattails out of Jacksonville, FL, here’s the most popular tune from this Southern rock outfit’s second album, teasing their catastrophe all the way up to #42.
85. Bobby Vinton – Make Believe It’s Your First Time
Bobby became a star in the early 60s when music was defenseless, meaning that Elvis was in the Army, and the Beatles had yet to breakthrough. He had a few more hits in the mid-70s, cause everyone went nuts and embraced goofy shit. When we finally got it together, we collectively tried to stomp out future Vinton comebacks such as this one, which I call horny cornpone. An older man should not be telling anyone to pretend they’re a virgin. Karen Carpenter can if she feels like, which is why it became a Top 10 AC hit for the Carpenters in 1983.
86. Mike Pinera – Goodnight My Love
Mike Pinera was the founding member of the band Blues Image, which has a $4 in 1970 called Ride Captain Ride. After that group split up, he joined Iron Butterfly, formed a trio called Ramatam, and became Alice Cooper’s guitarist in the early 80s. This single was released from the “sun” side of Mike’s second solo album, Forever, Mike Pinera, and will climb up to a #70 peak.
93. Tavares – Bad Times
The Brothers Tavares were having trouble following up their Saturday Night Fever version of More Than A Woman. Maybe it was the endorsement by Tony Manero. It wasn’t for their lack of good songs. This cinematic jam reflected our horrific economy at the turn of the decade, and maybe people didn’t want that constant reminder. Still, this would make it up to #47. Can you dig it?
January 17th, 1981 (ed note: I mixed up the first two weeks, so next week you’ll get the Jan 10th debuts)
79. Queen – Flash’s Theme aka Flash
Queen just finished a busy 198o, their most successful year to date. I have no idea how they fit in recording a soundtrack to the film, Flash Gordon. The movie is a cheesy train wreck. The soundtrack fared a little better with this single, just missing the Top 40 at #42.
Fun fact: Even though they had two #1 singles in 1980, they also had three other songs within a year’s time peak between #42 & #44.
90. Slave – Watching You
Even though they were a one-hit-wonder on the Pop charts with Slide, this Ohio funk septet had many R&B hits, including this one that will reach #6 on the Soul charts. This oft-sampled, oft-interpolated jam will be their second Hot 100 entry but will stall out at #78.
97. McGuffey Lane – Long Time Lovin’ You
And from the other side of Ohio comes this country-rock septet whose DIY success earned them a contract with ATCO Records and an opening slot on a Charlie Daniels tour. Unfortunately, this did not translate to national sales as this single only made it twelve notches higher before plateauing at #85. They also crossed over a few times to the Country charts, and they are still kicking around today.
January 9th, 1982
81. Peabo Bryson – Let the Feeling Flow
Peabo had been releasing LPs since 1976, but still could not cross over to the Pop charts. This will be his 15th Top 40 on the Soul charts hitting #6 but will stiff at #42 on the Hot 100. One year later, he will breakthrough on a duet with Roberta Flack, Tonight I Celebrate My Love For You.
83. Teddy Pendergrass – You’re My Latest, My Greatest Inspiration
When Teddy P left the Blue Notes in the late 70s to embark on a solo career, he also picked up the mantle of R&B Quiet Storm crooner. No one could do it like him, but his stuff was too potent for the mainstream. This late Philly Soul classic will stand down at #43. Two months, Teddy’s life will forever be altered as a car accident he was in severed his spinal cord leaving him a quadriplegic. He still managed to give us another two decades of new music before his death at 59 in 2010.
January 8th, 1983
82. Chaka Khan – Got To Be There
Michael Jackson recorded the original version of this song, which became his first solo single. It reached #4. Chaka recorded it for her fourth solo album and released it as the first single. It will go as high as #67 on the Hot 100, but Top 10 on the Soul charts.
86. Dire Straits – Industrial Disease
I can’t imagine the band or the record company thought they would have a hit with a song called Industrial Disease. If that’s true, they were right, as it topped out at #75 though it did make the Canadian Top 10. It’s still a great song from their equally pleasing Love Over Gold LP. But their next album, which was three years in the making, would prove to be their most significant success.
88. Michael Martin Murphey – Still Taking Chances
M3’s follow-up to What’s Forever For swings for the bleachers but only comes up with a #76 Pop hit while crossing over to #3 on the Country charts.
90. Utopia – Feet Don’t Fail Me Now
I have no idea how Todd Rundgren and Utopia kept churning out top of the line albums year after year. I also have no idea why they weren’t embraced more fully by the Top 40 community. This is straight-up pop gold! With lead vocals by keyboardist Roger Powell, this will only move up eight notches before its descent off the Hot 100.