Let’s take a look at the first half of what was popular the week of February 28th, 1981.
THW – Since their 1976 debut, this Vallejo, CA funk band has been throwing down jam after jam with only a #23 Top 40 hit, Ffun in 1978, to show for it. This song debuts at its peak because 1981 was anything but funky. I bet Maurice White heard this and immediately sat down to write Let’s Groove.
This is the sixth and final Top 40 hit for the five-man band from Boulder, CO. It also features female vocals by singer/songwriter Lisa Nemzo who released a trio of solo albums in the 80s and is still musically active today.
OHW – Here’s the only Top 40 hit for the Country singer, Terri Gibbs, debuting at #38. It was nominated for a Best Country Song Grammy but only peaked at #8 on those charts, placing higher on the AC charts at #3. In the Pop world, she’ll take this one up to #13.
Some people become frozen in their grief. Others channel their energy into something productive, such as creating one of the best hard rock songs of all time. It was almost a year ago this week that original lead singer Bon Scott passed away, and their tribute to him is sitting in the Top 40.
STA – Has any record company done as inferior a job with a classic artist’s catalog as RCA had done with Elvis? There are generations of folks who have no idea what his music sounds like, let alone his impact on music history. Anyway, Elvis’ first version of this Jerry Reed-penned track reached #42 back in 1967, recorded for the film, Clambake. In late 1980, the backing track was re-recorded with Jerry on electric guitar, but Presley’s vocals were kept intact. The single release will be his last #1 Country hit and last Top 40 when it reaches #28.
The thing I appreciate about the Billboard magazine staff is their sense of humor. It’s why Pete Wingfield’s Eighteen With A Bullet actually reaches #18, with a bullet rather than 17 or 19. It’s also why we have Elvis right next to a song that originally shared the same title as one of his biggest hits. As the story goes, the title eventually had to be changed to This Place Hotel because MJ was unaware of the original. Yes, the guy that eventually marries the King’s daughter didn’t know about one of the biggest 50s songs, which would inspire many British Invasion bands, including the Beatles, the catalog of whom he would own in a few short years. Hope everyone wore their boots for this post.
SXMFU – The Big 80’s countdown starts this song off right a the chorus skipping the intro and first verse.
PFK – What does it say about 1981 that we had two songs sung by women reach #1 with 9 to 5 in the title, let alone appear in the charts simultaneously? This song was released in the UK six months before Dolly put out her song in the US. The biggest difference between the two is that Miss Parton is singing for the ladies, while Sheena waits at home (or the train platform) for her working man.
OHW – Here’s a Tulsa, OK power-pop singer who had previously been in the Dwight Twilley Band in the mid-70s, performing on the Top 20 smash, I’m On Fire. After the group split up, Phil sang back-up on a few Tom Petty classics (Breakdown, American Girl) before launching his solo career with his only Top 40 hit, which will top out at #22.
THW – Southern Rock’s dominance on the Pop charts was winding down during the beginning of the 80s, but a few bands still eked out a hit or two. This will be the second and best showing for the Tampa, FL sextet, a cover of the Stan Jones Western classic written in 1948, recorded for its sixth LP, Ghost Riders. Their version will peak at #31.
The song that’s been most on repeat in my head for the last year whenever I see any of you.[ Lolita reference, not included.]
SXMFU – The first time the Big 40 Countdown aired, they played the 1986 remake instead of the original. Does anyone at Sirius actually final review their shows before broadcast? Someone noticed (and I can’t believe they cared) because it was changed to the Zenyatta Mondatta version in repeat airings.
RAR – By the time of Steve’s second album, Arc Of A Diver, he had yet to achieve any solo success in the U.S. This single, on which he plays all of the instruments, will be his first smash, reaching #8. Also, if you’re a synth geek, the lead riff is played on a Multimoog.
The pride of Pittsburgh and king of cool nabs his first Top 40 from his 1980 solo debut, Back On The Streets. I don’t know what it is, but it sounds so good any time it comes on the radio. Also, per Donnie, the title doesn’t have any specific women in mind, nor is it a reference to the Jews’ exile from Israel. And singer Aaliyah was born in 1979, so her parents weren’t inspired by it either.
RFW – Read along with SXM as they talk about Donnie Iris album puns.
PD – Here’s a soft rock ballad that was written by Bugatti & Musker about a dude who goes to discos to dance away his problems before being rescued by a real/fantasy woman. This Australian duo nabs their third straight Top 5 hit.
Fun fact: Early bandmate Jeremy Paul left in 1977 and formed the band Divinyls.
This is the follow-up to Hungry Heart from the double album, The River. It’s on its way to #20. I’m going to use the rest of this space to tell you to watch the hilarious show Broad City if you never have.
Leo’s coming to the end of his U.S. run. This is the second single and the title track from his 1980 LP written by him and Alan Tarney, becoming his eighth and final Top 40 hit. Leo is still at it and put out a few new singles, just last year.
Even after nine LPs and wrestling control over producing their own recordings, it wasn’t until their third single from 1980’s Voices that Hall & Oates became the 80s juggernaut we all know and love. This one is on the way to #1 for three weeks, four years after their first chart-topper, Rich Girl, and the first of five they would have during the decade. Every time I hear this song, I can still smell the burnt pizza wafting through the Commack roller rink.
SXMFU – The DJ mentions that this is Ronnie’s best-known song, but I strongly disagree. On the Pop charts, it would probably be (There’s No) Gettin’ Over Me. On the Country charts, it’s a little more challenging as he’s racked up 35 #1s. I’d proffer that Lost in The Fifties Tonight might his most remembered down Nashville way. This track is at its peak on the Hot 100.
I’ve seen rain. Now I see fire, courtesy of former Eagle Randy “I ain’t singing the high note tonight” Meisner. This will be the biggest out of his three Top 40 hits and will peak at #19.
APP is on their way to best showing in the Top 40 thus far, and they just can’t stop it. This was the first release from their fifth album, The Turn Of A Friendly Card, a concept album centered around gambling. Sung by Lenny Zakatek, it’s on its way to a #16 high.
I don’t care whether you like Pat or not. She rocks, and she belongs in the RNRHOF.
Fun fact: This single was written by Doug Lubahn, who played bass on the Doors album Strange Days. He also formed the horn rock group, Dreams in 1970 and played on Billy Squier’s Emotions In Motion and Signs Of Life albums.
- OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
- THW – Two-Hit-Wonder
- PD – Previously Discussed
- PFK – Perfect for Karaoke
- RAR – Rite-Aid Rock
- RFW – Ripped from Wikipedia
- STA – Second Time Around
- SXMFU – Sirius XM mistake