I love starting with the beginning of the 80s and working towards the end. The song selections are so messy and all over the place at the start becoming more focused yet predictable. Let’s review The Other Sixty from the fifteenth chart week of the year from 1980 up to 1983.
April 12th, 1980
The Beach Boys machine was barely functioning as they entered the 80s. Brian Wilson’s ambivalence about the project, Keepin’ The Summer Alive, thrust Bruce Johnston into the producer’s chair. Dennis Willson played on one track before exiting the sessions. The tracklist was a mish-mash of re-recorded abandoned tracks and some less than interesting new tunes, like this one. It will only surf up one spot before wiping out. This will also be the last Beach Boys album that Dennis Wilson plays on as he will pass away in three years.
The pride of Kansas City got their Hot 100 career started with this Gus Dudgeon-produced single. It’s a solid thumpin’ rocker that still lacked the band’s full personality. Also, they were on the English label Virgin which was mostly singing punk, and New Wave acts, so this may have confused folks a bit. That will all add up to a #76 showing.
Here’s a Mississippi-born singer-songwriter who had just had a surprise Pop hit, Romeo’s Tune from his second album, the critically-lauded Jackrabbit Slim. Steve’s stuff though was too good for Pop radio, and the follow-up was destined to fail at #85. But it’s a damn good tune, and his next album Little Stevie Orbit would be one of my favorites.
Teen idols don’t have a long shelf life, but Leif did himself no favors when it came to his career. He will end the 70s by getting into a horrific car crash, which paralyzed one of his best friends while Leif was drunk and high on ludes. That could explain this recording, which will get totaled at #78.
April 18th, 1981
Damn, Motown was jealous of Michael’s career. Now that he had a mega-hit with Off The Wall on Epic Records, they started releasing old recordings of his as a quick cash grab. It didn’t work. Even though this sensitive ballad is what you’d expect from MJ, it will only climb to #55. Tito, get him some tissue.
Can the funk be too potent? I know that funk can move, but it also can remove. This track was too much of a monster for Pop radio to add it against How Bout Us or Sukiyaki. That’s why it was removed from many a playlist and peaked at #58, though it would hit #17 Soul.
Let’s not feel too bad for Mr. Anka. He’s had big hits in the last three decades and will hit the Top 40 again in 1983. But when you put out weak-ass ballads like this one, don’t expect Casey knocking on your door. He almost did, but this topped out at #48.
It’s rare that two members of the same family debut on the Hot 100 together with different songs. Don’t know if it ever happened again, but it’s not surprising that it was the Jacksons who accomplished that feat. Nor is it surprising that Michael started twelve places higher than Jermaine. It’s a cool slice of smooth soul that was missing that special ingredient to take it higher. Wonder what would have happened if M & J switched songs? Written and produced by Jermaine, it will hit its zenith at #50.
April 17th, 1982
A year before, Bowie hooked up with Nile Rodgers for the Let’s Dance album, he collaborated with Giorgio Moroder for the title track to the movie Cat People starring Nastassja Kinski. It will turn to ashes at #67, but neither funk nor funky.
The followup to this Canadian quartet’s first and only Top 40 hit, Don’t Let Him Know, was a departure from their AOR sound, vibing more with some of the softer WestCoast pop of the day. Don’t know if that helped or hurt them. I’d say the latter because the radar gets jammed at #64.
Smokey is not only known for his smooth vocal prowess, but he’s also a great songwriter too. So I never have understood why he let others write songs for him and expected them to be big hits. We know he could sing the phone book. And that’s the only thing that keeps this bland song from completely sucking. The love will die at #60.
The Sugarhill Records label wasn’t only about hip-hop. This electro-funk trio consisting of label head Sylvia Robinson’s son Joey put out a few albums in the early 80s. This was one-off single released in 1982 – a cover of the Sly & the Family Stone classic punched up with drum machines and vocoders, which will only slide up three before sliding back down.
ABBA started to move away from the EuroDisco pop sound towards a synth-driven New Wave aesthetic, typified most by the title track to their final album released in late 1981. The song echoes the frosty relationship the members had during that time when they probably all felt like the others had become visitors in their own lives. It will be their last US chart single when it travels to #63.
April 16th, 1983
As we begin to move out of the early 80s into the mid-80s, we also are witness to the second British Invasion due to the enormous popularity of MTV. This bizarre yet catchy New Wave single was the mastermind of UK producer Barry Blue. It was a hit all through Europe but was overcooked in the States, hitting only #66.
Tony Carey was creating so much great music, according to him, that he needed another moniker to release it. He created Planet P for his proggier rock, but this one fit perfectly alongside The Police or Men At Work. It would actually peak as high as his best solo effort thus far when it reached #64.
In between Go-Go’s albums, Jane collaborated with Sparks, dueting on two songs for their LP, In Outer Space. This synthpop dance track will reach #49 bring the Brothers Mael into the homes of a whole new generation.
I bet Dennis Edwards was frustrated as hell at the material the Temps were given continuously in the late 70s and early 80s. It’s probably the biggest reason he left the group within the year (or got fired. The drama is thick with these guys.) The song’s not bad, but it ain’t temptastic, and it’s far from Papa Was a Rolling Stone. Dag gum it. It is debuting at its peak.