Life Is Cheap When The Bounty Is High

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There’s nothing here that’s even remotely reminiscent of the 80s. All of these debuts from 1980 up to 1983 could have easily been released in 1979. What do you think? Let’s review the Other Sixty from chart week twenty-seven.

July 5th, 1980

82. Dr. Hook – Years From Now

This was the third single from the LP, Sometimes You Win, which had already generated two big hits, Better Love Next Time & Sexy Eyes. This ballad would be their final charting single from their career-reviving stint on Capitol Records. It will peak at #51.

88. Roger Daltrey – Free Me

This was the first single released from the film, McVicar which starred Roger as John McVicar, a real-life robber from the 60s. It has a disco-rock vibe similar to Another Brick In The Wall. But unlike that megahit, this one will be captured at #53. His follow-up, Without Your Love, will be Roger’s only solo Top 40 hit.

90. Toby Beau – If I Were You

Within two years, the Texas quintet from 50’s retro pop to a full Westcoast embrace. Also, they were down to one member, Balde Silva, who pulled an Alice Cooper and officially became Toby Beau himself. None of this helped as the boat sank at #70.

July 11th, 1981

77. Jefferson Starship – Stranger

In 1981, it seemed we were OK with Marty Balin and Jefferson Starship as separate entities because both units had Top 40 hits this year. This stomper was the follow up to Find Your Way Back and features both Mickey & Grace sharing lead vocals. It skimmed the underneath of the Top 40 at #48.

81. Janis Ian – Under The Covers

What happens when a certain sixteen-year-old who doesn’t get picked for basketball grows up and moves to Spanish Harlem? Janis gives us the spiritual sequel at At Sixteen from her Restless Eyes LP. It will be her last chart hit when it reaches #71. Also, in another universe, I imagine she was an aunt to Ilana from Broad City.

83. Mickey Gilley – You Don’t Know Me

Gilley rides the bull onto the charts again with another slow dance cover, this one most popularized by Ray Charles, who took it to #2 in 1962. This #1 Country hit will end its eight seconds at #55.

85. Styx – Nothing Ever Goes As Planned

For as much as my neighbors used to play Paradise Theatre when it came out, I completely forgot about this song until I listened to it recently. It was their third release from their #1 album, but after two Top 10s, this sprightly pop-rock single with hints of disco and reggae only topped out at #54.

87. Mac Davis – Secrets

Mac is still trying to work his 1980 Texas In The Rearview Mirror LP with another single release. This was sounds like he’s trying to get some of that Eddie Rabbit Suspicions money and dock his yacht in a Nashville marina. Too bad, this one disappeared at #76 and has yet to have a CD release.

July 10th, 1982

90. 707 – Megaforce

This is the second and final chart entry for this Detroit rock quintet from the third album, co-written by Jonathan Cain. For this recording, they added a permanent lead singer, Kevin Chalfant, and were rewarded with a #62 zenith. The band would split the following year. Kevin would go on to form The Storm, who had a Top 40 hit in 1992 called I’ve Got A Lot To Learn About Love.

99. War – Outlaw

This single caps a fruitful Pop career as the title track to their latest album becomes their last Hot 100 entry. This is a solid disco-funk groove that, with a lot more promotion should have reached a higher peak than #94. It will reach #13 on the Soul charts.

July 9th, 1983

87. Zebra – Who’s Behind The Door

This hard rock trio from New Orleans was so big on Long Island, I have always assumed they were locals, but they weren’t. After a few years in the bayou, they decided to move up there in the late 70s and worked those clubs so hard, they were eventually inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2012. Their Jack Douglas-produced debut went Gold, but their one and only chart single had the door shut on them at #61.

95. Peter Tosh – Johnny B. Goode

The former Wailer and unicycle enthusiast, Winston MacIntosh, has his second and final chart entry with a reggae version of the Chuck Berry classic. It will only go up to #84. Unfortunately, Peter will be shot and killed in his Kingston home during a robbery only four years later.

Also, if you ever get the urge to play some UB40, suppress it and put on Mama Africa instead.

 

How I Learned To Count Backward

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I never adequately eulogized Casey Kasem when he passed away in 2014. He was just a guy. I never met him, and he never met me. But his creation along with Tom Rounds, Don Bustany, and Ron Jacobs had a massive impact on how I partition the success of Pop music. I put a different value on a song that reached #40 than one that peaked at #41. And I understand that myriad of factors that control from aggressive record promotion to straight-up payola, the good or bad timing from distribution and pressing plants to chart manipulation favors for a buddy.

None of that mattered when I listened to the American Top 40 countdown on Sunday. Casey never judges why a record placed at #37 or #14 or #1. He celebrated new artists that debuted, highlighting stories about years of trying hard and finally making it. He passed along tidbits of oddball trivia and was always trying to connect the dots between songs, creating as much of a musical community as he could. It sounded like all of those folks were friends, attending the same fun party. Some barely stayed. Others never left.

Casey had a distinctive yet reassuring voice, and it always felt like he was in my living room talking directly to me. Great DJs can do that, and he was one of the best. His Long Distance Dedication feature can seem cheesy and trite in retrospect, but it was the show’s attempt to establish a deeper relationship with the listener, inviting us in as a special guest.

The weekly broadcast debuted fifty years ago this week just before I was born. So it has been part of my music appreciation ever since. My parents never missed a chance to listen and guess what the most song was. It stoked my interest in Billboard magazine, and for years, I would read it at my local library, making photocopies of the Hot 100 for my collection until I saved enough money to purchase my own subscription to my parent’s confusion. That subscription lasted almost seven years, long after Casey did his last broadcast nearly twenty-eight years to the date of his debut.

American Top 40 continued after Casey, but it was never the same again. Shadoe Stevens, who I did get a chance to meet once, did a serviceable job for the next seven years. Casey eventually started his own program, Casey’s Top 40, which was based on the Radio & Records publication. Even when he returned to AT40 in 1998 for another six years, Billboard’s chart rules had changed so much, there wasn’t much turnover any more, and the fun just wasn’t there. Ryan Seacrest has continued on for the last sixteen years.

My interest in the show was renewed in the mid-90s when I was invited into the basement of a former record store owner, who was selling all of her LPs for $.25. I stumbled across ten original AT40 box sets on vinyl with the original playlist sheets in excellent condition and copied them onto cassette to listen. It was then that I realized the everlasting appeal of the show. They were aural snapshots of a moment in time. Oldies stations had blurred the memories of your favorite past songs, but American Top 40 was a clear picture of what you were listening back then, of what you were doing and of who you were.

Over the last twenty-five years, I’ve collected the broadcasts, and I’m up to over 700 of them. There were way more than that. I continue to put them on and will randomly hear my kids sing, “the hits from coast to coast” jingle. My daughter will also turn on AT40 to discover new music herself. I never imagined that it would continue past my generation, but I’m so glad that it has.

Casey and the show weren’t always perfect, but I was never looking for perfection. Just a chance to root for my favorite songs, and listen to a familiar voice help me count backward.


 

Special shout outs to Rob Durkee, who wrote a fantastic book on the show as well as Pete Battistini, whose book focused on the 70s.

Tom Driscoll, who providing early funding to the AT4o operation. If you’ve ever eaten Driscoll’s berries, you’ve helped the cause.

To the various productions team members whose name Casey mentioned at the end of each show, such as Stu Jacobs, Nikki Wine, Merrill Schindler, Scott Paton, Sandy Benjamin, Matt Wilson, and Guy Aoki. (Apologies for those I forgot.)

To Dick Clark, who was a driving force, an inspiration and confidant to Casey, not to mention a fill-in DJ and the dude who suggested that he pre-record the shows.

To some of my favorite DJ subs such as Mark Elliot, Charlie Tuna, Dave Roberts, Bob Hull (the first sub and L.A. legend), and of course, Charlie Van Dyke, who subbed 31 times, all in the 80s.

To Shannon Lynn and Charis for remastering these shows and preserving their history

And to the DJs and bloggers such as JB, WM, Herc, Kurt, Len, Mark, Dirk, and all the others who write about their love for music with passion and flair and keep inspiring me to do the same.

Making Some Sense When There’s No Sense At All

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Every single artist who debuts during the twenty-sixth chart week between 1985 and 1989 has already scored a Top 40 hit. [OK Debbie Harry didn’t do solo, but she did with Blondie.] So let’s not feel bad for any of this batch of The Oher Sixty. Let’s review.

June 29th, 1985

84. Carly Simon – Tired Of Being Blonde

Label changes can be a tricky prospect, especially for veteran artists. Carly’s switch from Elektra Records to Warner Brothers in 1980 started out OK with the #11 hit, Jesse, but that’s all she would have to show for it over three albums. Her one album switch to Epic in 1985 yielded this single, written by Larry Raspberry, which should have been a slam dunk Top 40 hit. But they botched it, and the roots grew in at #70. She’d sign with Arista in two years and have much better luck. Also, G.E. Smith, then playing with Hall & Oates, performed the guitar solo.

Fun fact: The video for this song was directed by actor Jeremy Irons.

89. Peabo Bryson – Take No Prisoners (In The Game Of Love)

The pride of Greenville, SC, is back with something funkier (as funky as you could be in 1985)  than his usual dramatic ballad. That might have thrown everyone off because it only peaked at #78 on the Hot 100 and #39 on the R&B charts.

90. Eric Clapton – See What Love Can Do

Clapton’s follow-up to his Top 30 hit Forever Man will only move up one notch.

July 5th, 1986

95. Icehouse – No Promises

This is one of a few singles that puts me right back in the Summer of 86. After the first time I heard it, I rushed to Record World to get the 45. This sextet from Sydney, Australia used a lot of different synths to augment their sound, so by this time, they were experts in creating layers and finding the right textures. Released initially Down Under in the Fall of 1985, by the time it reached the States, their second chart entry only hit the heights of #79.

96. Starship – Before I Go

Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick are still knee deep in the moolah with their fourth release from the first proper Starship album. This one will go at #68, but there will be more singles to loathe next year.

98. Jermaine Jackson – Do You Remember Me?

Oh yeah, you’re Michael’s brother, Marlon Randy Jermaine. Are the Jacksons still together? Can you get me Michael’s autograph? Is he OK? When’s his new album coming out? Tito Jermaine had his last Top 40 hit earlier in the year with I Think It’s Love, and this one gets amnesia at #71. Also, can you get Janet’s autograph?

July 4th, 1987

85. Debbie Harry – In Love With Love

Miss Angela Trimble is back with another single from her second solo LP, Rockbird, produced by Seth Justman of the J. Geils Band. It was written by her and Chris Stein as a sequel of sorts to Heart Of Glass. It will hit #1 on dance charts but only #70 on the Hot 100.

91. Laura Branigan – Shattered Glass

Laura’s new single from her fifth album, Touch, already sounds five years out of date. It was further mangled by the SAW production team. I’ve always wondered what her career might have been with the right songs, producer, and studio musicians. Instead, this one breaks apart at #48.

92. Night Ranger – Hearts Away

Night Ranger’s album, Big Life, was a commercial flop on the heels on their last record, 7 Wishes. This ballad was the second single to miss the Top 40 and will barely move two spots before falling off.

95. The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Stand Back

This quartet from Texas was at it for over a decade before having mainstream success with their brand of no-nonsense blues-rock.  Listening to this song today, I’m amazed at how many new bands have adopted this sound. Back then, it stuck out in a good way, but their singles mainly were played on Rock radio. This horn-laden track will sit down at #76.

July 2nd, 1988

89. White Lion – Tell Me

When a tidal wave comes round, it is not choosy of what it sweeps up in its path. In the case of the glam metal tsunami of the late 80s, we have exhibit A. This 45 will have a #58 zenith.

July 1st, 1989

73. Aretha Franklin & Whitney Houston – It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Ever Gonna Be

This was a missed opportunity between two amazing singers, divas, and icons. It’s a horribly produced track with a crappy drum machine arrangement. The NEw Jack Teddy Riley remix further exacerbates the issue. The fact that it climbed to #41 means we all wanted this duet to work even though it’s awful.

90. Dead Or Alive – Come Home With Me Baby

By the last 80s, DOA was running low on inspiration, so they just copied whatever was successful at the time. That’s probably why this track sounds like something Information Society would record minus the Star Trek samples. Even though it was a #1 Dance smash, Pop radio left it alone at #69.

91. Robert Palmer – Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming

This was the third charting release from his 1988 Heavy Nova LP, a cover of the Jermaine & Michael Jackson should-have-been hit. The single received an Al B. Sure! remix that featured Robert annoyingly yelling at himself to wake up after falling asleep in the gutter. The female vocals were performed by B.J. Nelson. It went back to sleep at #60.

93. U2 – All I Want Is You

This may be one of the beautiful songs that U2 ever recorded, so simple and understated, passionate yet peaceful. Even its use in Reality Bites five years from now doesn’t ruin it for me. It’s a travesty that it couldn’t crawl higher than #83, but maybe it’s because it runs for six-plus minutes. It received considerable airplay in 1994, enough to have it re-enter the charts and make it to #50.

 

 

Stand Up And Face The Music

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1983 and 1984 always seem to hit a sweet spot for me. Let’s see if it does for you as we review The Other Sixty during chart week twenty-six.

July 2nd, 1983

79. Smokey Robinson & Barbara Mitchell – Blame It On Love

Smokey carved an excellent solo career out for himself that was finally taking off in the Pop world in the early 80s. Unfortunately, he will be now be entering the dead zone where none of his singles will be successful for the next four years, starting with his album, Touch The Sky. Phoning it in with this album cover didn’t help. But this duet with the former lead singer of High Inergy should have placed higher than #48.

85. Meco – Ewok Celebration

New Star Wars movie. New Meco album. This John Williams track about the destruction of Death Star #2 gets an updated electro-funk arrangement that sounds like the Ewoks going on an Endor cruise. But the fun will be over by #60. Also, does anyone else think that the Minions ripped off the Ewoks’ voices?

88. Donnie Iris – Do You Compute

Donnie and his cruiser pals try to update their sound with more synths and digital wizardry. Just rock out, dude. That’s what you do best. Following trends is for suckers. He’ll get the blue screen of death at #64.

89. Bananarama – Shy Boy (Don’t It Make You Feel Good)

I’ve always preferred the earlier version of this UK trio to their much later one in which their fun was co-opted by the SAW machine. This would be their third straight UK Top 109, and their first US chart hit. Their combination of tropical drums and 60s Motown girl group stomp would take this track up six more spots than its debut.

Fun fact: Midge Ure of Ultravox directed the video for this song.

90. Toto – Waiting For Your Love

It’s hard to remember how huge Toto was in 1983 because Thriller overshadowed everything. But these guys had just picked up six Grammys from their Toto IV release, which had spun off four Top 40 hits with three of them hitting the Top 10. This single was trying to ride that momentum as they strive for five. IT’s puzzling that this funky as hell track could not go any higher than #73. Even Weezer’s cover of Africa in 2018 climber higher.

91. Tony Carey – West Coast Summer Nights

Tony “no relation to Mariah” Carey nabs his second chart hit, another single from his I Won’t Be Home Tonight LP. It plays out as a prequel to his later hit The First Day Of Summer and will do a little better than his first charter, getting as high as #64.

95. Double Image – Night Pulse

Did someone watch the dailies from an episode of Square Pegs and decided to score a scene between Patty and Lauren discussing lip gloss while cramming for a big math test? If so, voila. Also, that idea is more interesting than this song, which is why it bops up three places before gagging on a spoon. Fer sure.

June 30th, 1984

82. M+M – Black Stations/ White Stations

Martha & the Muffins were a Canadian rock band who, in 1980, scored an international hit with Echo Beach. It’s a lost New Wave gem. By 1984, the group shrunk down to a duo, shortened their name, and moved towards a dance funk vibe. This commentary of music industry racism produced by Daniel Lanois became an enormous club hit and was the band’s only chart single when it garnered at #63 zenith.

83. “Weird” Al Yankovic – I Lost On Jeopardy

Al partly chose his parodies, usually making sure they were #1 singles from the likes of Queen, Toni Basil, and Joan Jett. This Greg Kihn Band tune only hit #2 but its potential for spoofing for plainly evident. I will also point out that the Alex Trebek revival of said game show was still a year away with the original’s last TV broadcast back in 1979. Still, this is one of my favorites of Al’s even if it only snuck up two more spots before betting and losing it all in Final Jeopardy.

Fun fact: Don Pardo has a spoken word bit during the solo. And Greg Kihn shows up at the end of the video to drive Al off as a nice call back to his own video.

84. Berlin – Now It’s My Turn

This was an excellent follow-up to their first Top 40 hit, No More Words from their LP, Love Life. Somehow Pop radio missed out on this one, and it would top out at #74. It will be their fourth chart miss, and that will make this band 1 for 5. So they’ll be batting .200 when Giorgio Moroder gives them the call for Top Gun in 1986. The home run call will take your breath away.

87. Chris DeBurgh – High On Emotion

It took six albums before Chris had a US Top 40 hit with Don’t Pay The Ferryman in 1983. His follow-up long play, Man On The Line, produced by Rupert Hine, featured Howard Jones & Tina Turner and churned out this single, which almost made it as well. But the emotions subside like a Dan Hill therapy session at #44. Dude, just write a song about your wife. She’ll love that.

88. The Pretenders – Thin Line Between Love And Hate

The fourth single from Learning To Crawl is a cover of the 1971 Persuaders Top 20 hit. This story of a man who gets his ass kicked for being a cheating bastard is sung by Chrissie Hynde as a witness rather than a victim to this person’s misdeeds. But then again, maybe both. I’m guessing she’s singing to Ray Davies. Featuring piano and backing vocals by Paul Carrack, the line is drawn at #83.

89. Patrice Rushen – Feels So Real (Won’t Let Go)

Babyfingers nabbed her first and only Top 40 hit two years ago with Forget Me Nots. Her last Hot 100 entry is another sweet jam, although a bit smoother. It will let go at #78 but will be her best showing on the R&B charts at #2.

91. Talk Talk – Such a Shame

Mark Hollis never wanted to be a Pop star, but he and his band became one after It’s My Life hit the Top 40. The follow-up, inspired by the 1971 novel, The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart in which a psychiatrist makes life decisions by rolling dice, will stiff at #89. It will also be a Top 20 Dance hit.