Put The Right Letters Together

We’re continuing our recap of the Billboard Top 40 from June 4th, 1988, with the Top 20, a group of songs that has mostly disappeared from retro radio rotation. Was it just a pop radio lull? Was 60s nostalgia distracting station programmers? Or do they suck and/or put you to sleep? At least half of these are ballads, and most of these tunes are mellow, so we should have enough supermarkets and elevators to support them on their Muzak playlists. Let’s run through them and see.

20. Lita Ford – Kiss Me Deadly

THW – I prefer just about anything that Lita did as the Runaways guitarist to this song. But that’s not the point. Very few females succeeded in the male-dominated genre of metal. And even if one had a pedigree such as Lita’s, she still needed the support from the new manager, Sharon Osborne, to push her third album out to the public for them to hear it. It’s catchy pop-rock on its way to #12 with production from Mike Chapman and a harder edge provided by Pat Benatar’s back-up band.

19. Cheap Trick – The Flame

After struggling to reach the Pop charts through most of the 80s, this Power pop quartet from Rockford, IL had their biggest hit with this slow song, the first single released from their tenth album, Lap Of Luxury – perfect for proms and just in time for graduating Seniors. So So I’ll skip it, thanks.

18. Brenda K. Starr – I Still Believe

THW – Twenty-five percent of this week’s Top 20 are two-hit-wonders. Brenda, whose dad Harvey Kaplan was an organist in Spiral Starecase, is one of them. This ballad was her first Top 40 hit from her self-titled album, and it’s on its way to a #13 peak. One of the backing singers on this track was future superstar Mariah Carey. She’ll cover this tune in 1999 and take it up to #4.

17. Pet Shop Boys – Always On My Mind

Even though Willie Nelson sang Always On My Mind like he wrote it, he didn’t. And it didn’t stop this UK duo from doing their own synth-pop version, which was prompted by a TV performance celebrating Elvis’ 10th death anniversary. It also became the most successful rendition of this tune when it peaked at #4 a few weeks ago.

16. Cher – We All Sleep Alone

Yes, everyone but Cher, who was sleeping with Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora when she wasn’t chilling with that bagel dude. Good for you, Cher! This power ballad, co-written and produced by Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi, and Desmond Child, will doze its way up four more spots. Also, why hire three separate dudes when you can just hire Jim Steinman?

15. Prince – Alphabet St.

It’s a close call whether this song or Thieves In the Temple is the Purple One’s least remembered Top 10 hit. A quick little bluesy funk number, this song was a Top 10 hit in thirteen countries, including #3 on the R&B charts and eventually #8 on the Pop charts. It was written initially as a small piece of music to bridge 👁 No and Glam Slam on his new album, Lovesexy, programmed as one long track on the initial CD release. Arrested Development will sample the title of their first hit, Tennessee, from it.

Bonus points to the Big 80’s countdown, which plays the 12″ version.

14. Bruce Hornsby & The Range – The Valley Road

For a song that reached the Top 5 and #1 on the Rock and AC charts, it’s a wonder that it’s rarely heard on 80s stations today. I bought this 45 back then, and I find it far more interesting and less preachy than The Way It Is. Bruce recorded a new version of the song with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. 2. It won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Recording, which pissed a lot of folks off. a la Tull and their heavy metal Grammy.

13. White Lion – Wait

THW – A recessive gene in a white lion gives it a near-translucent color, almost as if it wasn’t there. In late 1991, a group of rare Nirvana neverminds escaped from a soundgarden, and pearl jammed them into near extinction. Efforts by the USNO (U.S. Nostalgia Organization) helped bring them back into temporary existence with the last decade.

12. Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana

Thriller made MJ otherworldly. Bad was the awful side effect of that, where no one ever said no to Michael again. But after a year and four number one, no one was truly complaining. This is a true travesty in his catalog, which started to rapidly fill up with them.  There’s no groove. The music sounds plastic. Steve Stevens doesn’t come close to Eddie Van Halen. And Michael singing about cheating on his girlfriend with a groupie isn’t just unbelievable; it’s laughable. It will reach #1 and knock Debbie Gibson from the top, which seemed like progress, but the bar was so low.

11. Belinda Carlisle – Circle In The Sand

RAR – BC amiably sings through another gauzy pop song, saved by Thomas Dolby’s keyboard work from becoming too precious. But, if you need something to hum while you wait on your Vicadin prescription at CVS, it sure beats most of the ballads in the Top 10.

10. Gloria Estefan & the Miami Sound Machine – Anything For You

I feel like Miami Sound Machine albums were like long auditions for the band to play your wedding. This was the group’s first #1 song and future dad/daughter dance number.

9. The Jets – Make It Real

“I need another ballad for the album. One that sounds just like You Got It All but is far less interesting. But not too sleepy that my nine-year-old daughter doesn’t like it.” – The Jets manager, Magic album pitch meeting.

8. Foreigner – I Don’t Want To Live Without You

This is the first of four Top 10 songs in 1988 that begin with I Don’t. [Elton John, Chicago, and Duran Duran will have the other three.] Not sure why there was so much obstinance going on.

7. Debbie Gibson – Foolish Beat

This is what a teen ballad about break-up sounds like when it’s done poorly. I know it seems like I always take any chance I can to dunk on poor ol’ Lil Debbie. But this is truly painful. No one ever needs to hear the thoughts of a teenage white girl with boy trouble unless it comes from Ronnie Spector or Kate Bush. The fourth single from Out Of The Blue will reach #1 in two weeks, which means it was the most popular song in the US. People thought it was better than anything else in the countdown, radio, or stores. It’s a low point in pop music from which we have never recovered. But I digress…

6. Brenda Russell – Piano In The Dark

THW – This is what an adult ballad about break-up sounds like when it’s done correctly. After a five-year hiatus, she returned with Get Here, her fourth album, highlighted by this semi-credited duet with former Brooklyn Dreams member, Joe “You’re The Best” Esposito. It’s a hauntingly beautiful tune and one of my faves from an artist I truly appreciate. And if it comes on the speakers while I’m walking down the cereal aisle towards you, be prepared to sing Joe’s part, cause I’m taking Brenda’s.

Fun fact: Singer Oleta Adams heard the title track, Get Here, in a record store while she was on tour with Tears For Fears. She decided to include it on her 1990 debut, and because we bombed the hell out of Iraq for six weeks in early 1991, it was heavily requested on radio and became a Top 10 hit.

5. Rick Astley – Together Forever

The SAW machine is in full force as Rick rolls his second Whenever You Need Somebody single up the charts on the way to another number one. It will also top the Dance Club chats, reach #2 on the AC chart, but get stuck behind Kylie Minogue for the top spot in the UK. How did we get so lost?

4. Hall & Oates – Everything Your Heart Desires

Save us, Daryl & John! Here’s the first single from the duo’s first studio album in four years, Ooh Yeah, a smoother take on Possession Obsession, if you will. It may not be their best, and it’s undoubtedly lost in a catalog full of hits, but it was a breath of fresh air back then. It will slide up one more spot, becoming their final Top 10 hit to date.

3. Samantha Fox – Naughty Girls (Need Love Too)

PFK – Believe it or not, this Full Force-written and produced freestyle jam was not a big hit worldwide. But we were suckered in over here and acknowledged it as one of the three most popular songs in the country during this week. It also contains this very wise couplet:

Don't let me be misunderstood.
Temporary love's so bad. But it feels so good.

2. Johnny Hates Jazz – Shattered Dreams

THW – This mid-tempo pop track about a pending divorce spent three weeks as the bridesmaid, but it’s lucky that it even got that far. Originally released in the Spring of 1987, it hit #5 in the UK in May. I heard it during that stretch and bought it as an import 12″. It slowly made its way around Europe, hitting many Top 10 charts before getting a US release in early 1988. Twelve weeks later, here it sits, trying to unseat…

1. George Michael – One More Try (2 wks at #1)

George had no trouble establishing himself as a superstar with his debut solo album, Faith. This is his third straight #1 from that release, from which he’ll have four total. It will reach #1 on the R&B & AC charts as well.

I feel like I need a nap.

KEY

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

 

 

 

 

There’s Nothing Better We Can Do Than Live

I can’t help myself. So I’m at it again recapping another American Top 40 countdown, this time from June 4th, 1988 – the beginning of another Summer rife with bittersweet memories, one in which I started with a girlfriend and a band and ended up with neither. The songs are better than I remembered, possibly because a good chunk of them haven’t been overplayed in the decades since.

40. Robert Plant – Tall Cool One

The first single from Plant’s fourth album, Now And Zen, didn’t chart. However, the next one makes the Top 40 complete with guitar provided by former compatriot Jimmy Page and samples from five other Zeppelin tunes. It’s on its way to a #25 high and will be his last solo Top 40 hit.

39. Glass Tiger – I’m Still Searching

The pride of Newmarket, Ontario is back with the third Top 40 single from their debut, The Thin Red Line. Though if I played this song for you, I doubt you’d be able to tell me who this was unless you had an Alan Frew poster from Smash Hits on your wall.

38. Rod Stewart – Lost In You

RAR – Rod tried to soak in some of the Power Station vibes, hiring Andy Taylor to co-write this song, have Tony Thompson play drums while Bernard Edwards produced. He just about pulls it out, although I would love to have heard what Robert Palmer would have done with it. David Lindley adds a little mandolin rain to the mix.

37. Natalie Cole – Pink Cadillac

Springsteen wrote and recorded this song during the Nebraska sessions and eventually released his version as the B-side to his second Born In The USA single, Dancing In the Dark. But the song gained popularity due to its inclusion on setlists and the fact that anything Boss-related in the mid-80s got exposure. Natalie was in the middle of her late 80s comeback and recorded her version for the 1987 Everlasting LP. It was the third single released and will be her biggest hit since I’ve Got Love On My Mind in 1977. Natalie pretends that the title isn’t about the lady bits. (For reference, Aretha did not.)

36. Bardeux – When We Kiss

OHW – Have you ever watched those adult films on Skin-a-Max and wondered how you could get a copy of the soundtrack?

35. E.U. – Da Butt

OHW – Go-go music is a for-real fun-as-hell subgenre of funk that started in the D.C. area, which needs all the fun it can get. Outside of Chuck Brown in 1979 with Bustin’ Loose, this was pretty much the only go-go Top 40 hit. Recorded for Spike Lee’s film, School Daze, and written and produced by jazz bassist Marcus Miller, this will hit #1 on the Soul charts, shakin’ booties for years to come. Like this one…

34. Aerosmith – Angel

I remember hearing a story about Joe Perry being bummed that Dream On eventually became a big hit for Aerosmith because they didn’t want to be known as a band that plays slow songs. I’m sure a decade of eating dirt sandwiches that you have to make yourself changed his tune. This will become their biggest hit until another ballad usurped it in 1998.

33. Suave – My Girl

OHW – Did we really need a New Jack version of the Temptations classic? The answer is no. Now please turn this example into a Dr. Rick Progressive Insurance commercial.

32. Terence Trent D’Arby – Wishing Well

I remember sitting in the back of a particular class that I can’t remember which subject it was, who taught it, or how I passed. All I remember about the course was the constant laughter between my two other friends and me. And a picture I drew of a restaurant called Terence Trent D’Arby’s. There was a wishing well out front and a speech bubble from the window that said, “Two Beef N Cheddar’s and make it funky now, boys.” I wish I still has that drawing.

31. The Church – Under The Milky Way

OHW – We’re about to start an Australian four-play on the Top 40, beginning with a Sydney quintet, who released an incredible album, Starfish, as their fifth. It contains this, their only US Top 40, and it’s now even the best song on the album. But it is an easy one to learn guitar and sing to.

30. INXS – New Sensation

What Men At Work was to the early 80s, INXS was to the later 80s, and then some. Their sixth album, Kick, was on the verge of making them superstars, and it already spawned a #1 smash, Need You Tonight, and a #2 hit, Devil Inside. This may be the song that most sounds like their previous work, more specifically, like a band rather than an overproduced product with a pretty boy lead singer. I’m bummed that I never saw them live (baby live). It will reach #3 and not feature a trumpet.

29. Midnight Oil – Beds Are Burning

OHW – Seriously, who had this group on their 88 bingo card? But good on ya, if you did. This story about the unfair treatment of Aboriginal tribes and the theft of their native lands became a hit all around the world, eventually reaching #17 in the U.S., a land with a similar history

28. Icehouse – Electric Blue

THW – Icehouse cracked the Top 20 in early 88 with the lead single from their sixth album, Man Of Colours, called Crazy. John Oates had been a fan of the group and wrote a song with lead singer Iva Davies, which became single number two. It was their biggest hit in America, climbing to #9 and their biggest Down Under reaching #1.

27. Def Leppard – Pour Some Sugar On Me

The Def Lep train is riding full steam down the track. Their third single from Hysteria, the title track, became their fifth Top 40 hit and first to reach the Top 10. This one will best it and almost get to the top, held down only by Richard Marx’s Hold On The Nights.

26. Pebbles – Mercedes Boy

Here’s another future bridesmaid, this one getting the stiff arm from Cheap Trick’s The Flame. It’s the second big hit from her debut album and features production from the Gap Band’s Charlie Wilson. The single was remixed into a more radio-friendly version than the album cut. It will reach #1 R&B and hit #2 on the Dance Club charts. It’s also one of the few songs that remind me of that summer. [Paradise by Sade is another and is sitting at #48 this week.]

25. OMD – Dreaming

After spending the first half of the 80s releasing synth-pop albums to the indifference of most Americans, OMD collected four Top 40 hits during the second half, including this tune that was featured on The Best Of OMD, which I happily purchased on CD on release.

24. Times Two – Strange But True

OHW – The California duo of Shanti Jones & Johnny Dollar got a big career boost (for them) when they released their debut and were hired to open for Debbie Gibson. I’m sure only the high-dollar babysitters splurged on the 45, which falls from its peak of #21. Steve Barri, who produced Billy Don’t Be A Hero and Undercover Angel, helmed the boards for this one as well.

23. Poison – Nothin’ But A Good Time

There is nothin’ more depressing than the line, and it don’t get better than this. Also, that’s the tagline for Old Milwaukee beer, so…

22. Al B. Sure – Nite And Day

OHW – Al celebrated his 21st birthday with a hit record as this Quiet Storm staple climbs up six more notches on its way to the Top 10. Also, there’s no one better in the biz for my money to break it down like Kyle West. Me’shell Ndegeocello did a fine cover of this in 2019.

21. The Deele – Two Occasions

OHW – Here’s a Cincinnati synth-funk sextet that released their third album in late 1987, Eyes Of A Stranger. This ballad was the second single from the album, and their only crossover hit, traveling up to a zenith of #10. It features lead vocals by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmunds, and its success plus the former Pebbles hit, Girlfriend, which he and bandmate LA Reid wrote and sang on, gave the duo the encouragement to quit the band and establish LaFace Records

Fun Fact: Babyface received his nickname from Bootsy Collins. That’s cred.

KEY

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

These Reckless Thoughts Of Mine

We’re down to the ten most favorite songs according to Billboard magazine for the week of May 12th, 1979.

FYI: I looked up the cue sheets for this week as the good folks at the Charis Music Group have compiled many of them online. There is an interesting warning letter from Tom Rounds to radio stations on the front page which I wish I included for Rod Stewart’s song entry. I’ll put it here anyway. And yes, these are real.

Since Elton John entered the word into the rock and roll lexicon a few years back, we have not been blesses with the word “bitch” again until this week. Rod Stewart’s “Ain’t Love A Bitch” enters the countdown, and will very likely become Top 10. We mention this fact in case there are subscribers who feel the title and record would offend in markets where there are no bitches.

I could dissect this as its own post, but I choose to move it along. There’s also this:

This week, in hour II, between #’s 25 and 24, there is a feature on disco saving New York. If yours is a station violently opposed to the subject (disco, not New York) check it out.

A station violently opposed to disco, airing an American Top 40? “Disco” songs have been charting for over five years. Isn’t this just adding fuel to the fire? No wonder July 12th was so incendiary at Comiskey.

That said, the top ten is filled with dance music this week.  Seven of these tracks are straight-up disco. One is about as disco as that artist will get. One is a ballad by a “disco” artist, and there’s a MOR duet by rock artists.

10. The Jacksons –  Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)

I love Michael Jackson’s contributions to Disco because he frequently elevated the art rather than trying to cash in by using previously successful templates. [#8 is what I mean.] Since their second Epic release, Goin’ Places stunk it up, Michael (and his brothers) produced their next one, Destiny. It’s filled with multiple dancefloor fillers, but this one is the killer, and best enjoyed when you play the album rather than the single. This will make you move whether you want to or can’t.  It’s gonna happen. Be prepared. This was actually the second single from the album, as Blame It On The Boogie only reached #54.

9. Sister Sledge – He’s The Greatest Dancer

After the success of Chic’s Dance, Dance, Dance, Atlantic Records allowed them to produce any art on their roster. They picked a sister act from Philadelphia that had already released two albums with no success. Nile & Nard wrote and recorded songs without ever meeting the band. But everything clicked, and the We Are Family album is one of the best in the Chic Org.’s catalog. This was the first single released, and it will top the R&B charts while it sits at its peak this week.

Will Smith sampled this song as the base for his hit Getting Jiggy Wit It in 1998.

8. Cher – Take Me Home

Cher was a star on TV and on the radio in the early 70s. After she divorced Sonny, the latter half of the decade was not as kind to her. By 1978, she needed something to hit big. So she signed with Casablanca Records and detoured into disco by releasing this. This is what people mean by “going disco.” It’s her first Top 10 record since Dark Lady hit #1 in 1974 and will reach #2 on the Disco Top 100 as well as #21 on the Soul charts. Cher will form Black Rose with Les Dudek in 1980 as a way to forget that this exists.

7. Chic – I Want Your Love

Hands down, my favorite Chic song. And give me the 6+ minute version, none of that single edit stuff. Bernard Edwards plays one of his most beautifully precise and melodic bass lines on the chorus. I hum along with it every time I hear it. This Disco Top 100 chart-topper is at its zenith this week. It also made the R&B Top 5 and climbed up to #9 on the AC charts. Guess those dentists like to drill to Nile’s chicken-scratch guitar licks.

6. Wings – Goodnight Tonight

Speaking of melodic bass lines, Macca writes a great one for this single. It’s also the first thing I could ever play on bass. I love that he recorded this to promote his new album, Back To The Egg, then decided it didn’t fit the theme and left it off. Was the theme called ‘keep the fans from buying the album’? Nevertheless, this is Paul “going disco,” although this was never aimed for the dance floor unless it was the 1930’s.

Fu Fact: All five band members play on this, so it is an actual Wings effort. But Paul plays the drums and bass, so he’s his own rhythm section.

Casey teases a fairly obvious story about the forming of the Village People, which takes most of the mystery out of the wait.

5. Village People – In The Navy

Here’s the new single from the visual answer from a six-year-old kid to What do you wanna be when you grow up? It’s from their fourth album, Go West, and it became a massive hit around the world or at least the countries that had military at sea. The Navy immediately latched on and used it as a promotional tool, even allowing the group to film a video at a San Diego Naval base. The 45 is two spots away from their peak.

4. Suzi Quatro & Chris Norman – Stumblin’ In

Smokie’s Chris Norman stops pining away for Alice and stumbles into bliss with Leather Tuscadero. Good choice, Chris. Suzi had a bunch of hits in the UK during the 70s, but not this one. She’s always been a badass rocker, but getting soft was the only way for her to succeed in the States. It’s one of two Mike Chapman-produced singles in the Top 5.

Suzi is still active, and her newest album, The Devil In Me, was released in the Spring of 2021. I don’t know what it would take for her to be in the RNRHOF as she has been a highly influential female artist. Maybe a top-notch documentary would help.

3. Donna Summer – Hot Stuff

Donna ruled 1979. Heaven Knows has already hit #4, and she’s gonna rack up four more Top 3 singles before the year is over. This is one of three #1s that she’ll garner, and it leaps seventeen notches this week. My house was filled with Donna’s music as a kid, which is why I’ve been a lifelong fan. The phrase itself had been around for a while, but in the 70s, it was used to describe someone who was a big deal or, in Donna’s case, a dude ready to bring it.

But nowadays, I can’t help but think of this scene in The Full Monty every time I hear it.

2. Blondie – Heart Of Glass

The Top two remain the same as last week. This New York sextet led by Debbie Harry was on album #3, Parallel Lines when they finally had their big breakthrough smash. It was the second single released from the LP, and it shot all the way to the top on April 28th. Supposedly its success can be tied to an episode of WKRP aired during Season 1 called Commerical Break. The single got a big bump in sales and airplay, and the grateful band gave the production crew a Gold single to hang on set.

1. Peaches & Herb –  Reunited (2 wks at #1)

It feels so good for Herb Fame and new Peaches, Linda Greene, as they rest at the top for another week, the second of an eventual four-week stay. Casey tells the story about how Herb quit the music business to become a cop in DC. After five years on the force, he decided to quit and restart his “easier” career in showbiz. Four years later, he’s number one with a bullet (the safe kind).

Fun Fact: Peaches & Herb truly made it when they end up on an episode of the game show Hollywood Squares.

Watch What You Say

We’re back with hour #3 on the American Top 40 countdown from May 12th, 1979.

20. Instant Funk – I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get It Girl)

And Casey introduces this decagon of funk as coming from Philadelphia, the home of liberty, cream cheese, and the hoagie, named after Hoagy Carmichael. The last one is debatable, and the cream cheese was actually created in update New York. The band is actually from Trenton, NJ but signed with Philadelphia International for the first album back in 1976. Their first big hit on the Salsoul label will top the R&B & Disco Top 100 charts. In the Top 40, it’s resting at its peak. And, oh, what a jam it is.

De La Soul put that intro to good use in this track from 1991.

19. GQ – Disco Nights (Rock Freak)

GQ was the band from the roughest area in the US (South Bronx) that signed with the only record company that showed up (Arista) to their basement audition. The story leaves out that these guys had already cut a few singles for Vigor and charted on the R&B charts with a song called Zone, which peaked at #92. This band was tight and, had companies not dramatically shifted away from Disco within a year, this quartet might have had a longer career. As it stands, this is the first of two Top 20 hits from the group and one of my favorite Disco songs from that era.

Fun Fact: Bass player Keith “Sabu” Crier was the uncle of future New Jack singer Keith Sweat.

18. Supertramp – The Logical Song

There’s an exercise in Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People where you’re asked to write your own eulogy. The idea is, to know where you’re going, you need to start at the end and name the things you want to accomplish. I always had trouble with that exercise. Recently I’ve been creating a playlist on Spotify for my loved ones to play at a party when I die. But if all else fails, just play Breakfast In America back to front, and my spirit will be happy.

17. Randy Vanwarmer – Just When I Needed You Most

This song takes the air out of the whole show. I wouldn’t blame anyone if they turned it off or fell asleep. That said, White people needed their sad ballad fix back then, which is why it will hit #4 on the Pop charts and #1 on AC charts. It will even make the UK Top 10.

16. George Harrison – Blow Away

Thankfully George comes in and shows us how it’s done. Casey mentions that he had been retired for a few years, but the near-fatal crash of Formula One drive, Niki Lauda, inspired him to write songs again. I have never heard that story before. And in George’s autobiography, I, Me, Mine, published one year later, he says he wrote this out of frustrations about a leaky roof. Either way, this is easily my favorite solo hit of his, and it always makes me feel good when I hear it. This will be as high as it will go.

Fun Fact; The drummer on this song is Andy Newmark. Next year he will play on John Lennon’s Double Fantasy album.

15. Frank Mills – Music Box Dancer

Here’s a tune by a Montreal pianist recorded and released in 1974, but it bombed. See, we already had Marvin Hamlisch that year, and the rule is one pianist per year. So Frank had to wait it out five more years, politely as Canadians do, until a track like this stuck out so much that it could be a hit. It falls from its height of #3 down twelve notches this week. I feel bad for all of the young girls who got a music box with this tune in it that Christmas.

Now it’s the second and final LDD, and it’s an unusual one as the young boy from Ohio wrote it sends the song out to himself. It seems that he got braces and the hell that he gets from friends feels like fire. So he requests that Casey play the song Fire by Pointer Sisters for him. Why does it seem like this kid grew up to be a politician?

14. Amii Stewart – Knock On Wood

Here’s another former #1 single and the only Pop hit for this D.C.-born singer. It’s a cover of the Eddie Floyd 1966 classic, and it’s the fourth of five cover songs in the countdown. No diss to Amii, but this is one of my least favorite Disco songs, mostly because of the gregarious production.

13. Orleans- Love Takes Time

Casey introduces Orleans by talking about Woodstock, which happened ten years previous, and Woodstock 79, which was discussed but never happened. [The debacle known as Woodstock 50 is a fascinating story.] The band had actually split after John Hall left in 1977. But slowly, the Hoppen brothers gathered a few new players and released their first Hall-less album, Forever, in 1979 that featured this big hit two spots away from its peak. Unfortunately, their label Infinity went under, and that siphoned most of the gas out of the tank.

Now Casey plays the 90th #1 song of the decade, You’re Sixteen by Ringo Starr, a cover of Johnny Burnette’s 1960 Top 10. But Ringo’s version had an ace in the hole – Paul McCartney doing a kazoo-like solo.

Fun Fact: Billy Ocean’s 1988 #1 smash, Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car, gets its title from a line in You’re Sixteen.

12. England Dan & John Ford Coley – Love Is The Answer

You may not know the original version of this song written by Todd Rundgren and released on Utopia’s Oops Wrong Planet in 1977. Seals and Coley rescue it from obscurity with a heartfelt performance and sax licks by Ernie Watts that pushed it all the way up to #10. It will be their last Top 40 hit. Ironically their final album, Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive features two songs that will become hits for other artists – Broken Hearted Me for Anne Murray and What’s Forever For by Michael Martin Murphey. Something about giveth and taketh away…

11. Bee Gees – Love You Inside Out

Do you love Boogie Child? Well, here’s the Gibb brothers’ 79 update and the final of six #1 songs in a row and easily their most forgotten. I love all their stuff, and Spirits Having Flown is one of their best albums. But I feel this hit the top purely on momentum. It will break up Donna Summer’s three-week #1 run with Hot Stuff in just a few weeks. Also, if you do this at karaoke, you’re a superstar!

I thought Feist did a great job covering this one back in 2004.

The numbers get smaller. The hits get bigger—ten more to go in the next post.

 

Let Me State For The Record

We’re back with the next ten songs from the AT40 countdown from the week of May 12th, 1979. But before we hear #30, Casey resolves his teased story of the singer who was plucked from the streets and became a star. It was Gary U.S. Bonds, who had tallied seven Top 40 hits, including Quarter To Three, which hit #1 in 1961. His music inspired legions of fans, including Bruce Springsteen, who would produce and write a #11 comeback hit for Gary in 1981 called This Little Girl.

Now on with the countdown…

30. Rex Smith – You Take My Breath Away

Here’s the seventh debut of the week from the brother of Michael Lee Smith, leader of the band Starz who appeared in the Top 40 in the Spring of 1977 with Cherry Baby. Rex had made his Broadway debut in Grease the year before and was asked to star in a made-for-TV movie. Sooner Or Later, which aired on March 25th, 1979, is a creepy piece of manufactured teen drama, where Rex, a 23-year-old who was married to a Playboy bunny, played a 17-year-old who dates a 13-year-old, who pretends to be a 16-year-old, played by Denise Miller who was really that age. It spawned this dramatic ballad co-written by the guy who wrote the theme to Sesame Street and will reach #10.

29. Tycoon – Such A Woman

To counterbalance the swell of disco in 1978, pop radio started to program some solid upbeat pop-rock records into the mix. Luckily for them, there were many good ones, such as Hot Child In the City, Baker Street, and Love Is Like Oxygen. Some of these tunes are forgotten because they weren’t necessarily a part of any movement, just good music for the times. [I think this is why Baker Street gets lumped into Yacht Rock.] This single from the New York septet’s Mutt Lange-produced debut has definitely been lost in the shuffle. It will climb up three more spots.

Fun Fact: Sax player Mark Rivera will join Billy Joel’s band during the An Innocent Man sessions.

28. George Benson – Love Ballad

Bad Benson scatted his way up to #18 with an L.T.D. cover. This slice of disco jazz is the first single on the countdown on its way down, ten big notches.

Casey then challenges the audience to a mini-quiz: Which member of the Beatles uses a stage name? Then he gives us three choices to choose, of which one is Richard Starkey. I’m sure it’s tough to come up with fun tidbits weekly, but these writers were working on fumes this week. Oddly, two other solo Beatles are on the charts this week.

27. Sister Sledge – We Are Family

This is the week’s highest debut, moving up from #53 in its third week on the Hot 100. It’s the first of two Sledge sister jams on the countdown and the first of three Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards productions. Only Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff kept it out of the top spot. But we know it went #1 in Pittsburgh that year.

26. Foxy – Hot Number

Foxy is not a one-hit-wonder, at least not as much as you’d like them to be. There’s something about this Miami’s band sound that reminds me of the trashier side of Disco. At least the guitar in this song doesn’t sound like it’s throwing up as it does on Get Off. Five more ticks are all this single will rise.

Casey teases another story about how New York was regarded as a shithole in the 70s until Disco saved it. Hahaha, good one.

25. Olivia Newton-John – Deeper Than The Night

Once Livvy showed up in her skin-tight leather and red Candies at the end of Grease, she was never the same. Her new album, Totally Hot, played on her tougher image and nabbed her a #3 hit with the slinky A Little More Love. This follow-up has some disco vibes, but it’s straight-up pop-rock. It moves up ten spots on its way to a #11 zenith. Casey also mentions that she is one of seven female soloists in the countdown. That’s way better than saying, girly singers.

Casey elaborates on how disco saved New York with not much evidence to support it. He mentions that it gave a lot of folks civic pride. Did that come straight from the chamber of Commerce or Ed Koch?

24. Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive

One of the most famous B-sides in history slides down eleven spaces after a three-week run at the top in March. It’s the longest active song in the Top 40, standing at seventeen weeks. [It will drop ut next week.] I would frequently hear my Mom singing this song and expected to hear that I’d splitting weekends with my parents. Otherwise, this is a glorious piece of disco perfection.

Also, do not try to resuscitate someone to this song.

23. Bad Company – Rock N Roll Fantasy

In precisely two months from now, Disco demolition night will be held at Comiskey Park in Chicago. I truly believe that had ad agencies not shoved disco everything down our throats in a short window of time, the music would have continued to peacefully co-exist. If you don’t believe me, look at New Wave and then freestyle, hip-hop, house, trance, electropop. Or hell, look at the charts today. It’s what we always come back to.

That’s all to say that there was plenty of rock music still getting Pop airplay, such as Bad Company, one of nineteen groups on the countdown. Even though this track will only reach #13, the 45 will sell a million copies. The band won’t have another hit until 1991’s If You Needed Somebody.

Casey steps away from the charts and digs into the AT40 archives to play the eighty-ninth #1 from the 70s, Show And Tell by Al Wilson.

After a Disco shuckatoom, we’re back.

22. Doobie Brothers – What A Fool Believes

This is one of five songs in the countdown that has hit #1 already, which it did four weeks ago. It scores a 100 on the Yachstki scale, and it’s where the Doobie bounce originated. It will win a Grammy for Record and Song of the Year. For me, the beauty of this song is all about Michael McDonald’s phrasing and melody. Never has an anxiety-ridden song about a break-up felt so soothing.

21. Styx – Renegade

Here’s the Chicago quintet who’s enjoying their Top 40 hit move up two notches on its way to #16. This was the second single from their eighth album, Pieces Of Eight, and it was written and sung by guitarist Tommy Shaw. He even takes a rare solo.  And if you are a Brewers fan, you know your relief pitcher is coming in if they play this song.

We’re halfway through the countdown, and Casey teases us with a story about a band who auditioned iht debasement in one of the roughest parts of the country. And the only record company that showed up signed them. Can you guess who that was? We’ll have details, next post.

Find Someone To Say They Sympathize

I listened to the American Top 40 countdown last weekend from May 12th, 1979, and although I’ve never written a recap from the 70s, this collection of songs hit my nostalgia bullseye. It was a month before Summer started, which was a rough one for me. So revisiting these tunes as a collective was oddly soothing. I assume that someone might feel that way listening to a countdown from February 2020 in the future, for example. I know others have trod on this ground, so I will strive to make it my own. I going to break this up into fourths cause I may have a lot to say.

A little background: AT40 expanded their show from three to four hours in October 1978, partly because their popularity and more time meant more ad dollars, partly because everything began their supersized transition in the late 70s. Casey spends the beginning of the show recapping last week’s Top 3: Music Box Dancer, of which the first twenty seconds he talks over, Heart Of Glass and Reunited. “Will it stay at #1?” [Yes, for three more weeks.]

Then he teases the first song with this tidbit: a hit single by a man who appeared in his high school yearbook photo dressed as a woman. Stupid and pathetic, but appropriate for its time.

40. Sylvester – I (Who Have Nothing)

And the singer they are referring to is on his third Top 40 hit. So his persona shouldn’t be unknown to the pop audience or worthy of a shock-value teaser. The intro gives a little more context to the life of this San Francisco who was known by the underground as the true Queen of Disco. What’s also missing about this bio was that Sylvester dropped out of high school but reattended and graduated at 21. At the same time, cross-dressing was still considered illegal in California until 1974. To AT40’s credit, they play almost six minutes of this 10-minute Ben E. King cover. It will be his last appearance in the Top 40.

39. Barbara Mandrell – (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right

Here’s the first of eight Top 40 debuts in the countdown. After a decade of trying, Babs crosses over with a Luther Ingram R&B smash, which he took up to #3 in 1972. Even though it counts as Country, it sounds like a record you’d hear on Solid Gold rather than Hee Haw. She’ll cheat her way up to #31 before saying goodbye to Mr. Jones.

38. David Naughton – Makin’ It

This is what Disco sounds like if your only experience with it is a Saturday night hang out at a strip mall bar called Rhapsody’s two doors down from a Radio Shack. Sung by David “I’m A Pepper” Naughton, it’s the first of three songs written by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris. It’s also a beautiful preview of what the 80’s vibe is going to be. I can just imagine some post-grad Yale kid hearing this song, joining E.F. Hutton, and preparing to sell junk bonds to suckers.

This song will also be used as the theme to the upcoming Bill Murray flick, Meatballs, and the title of the Saturday Night Fever rip-off sitcom bomb, which was already off the air as this debuts. The 45 will still go Gold and reach #5 during the Summer.

37. Billy Joel – Honesty

Billy Joel proved The Stranger was no fluke when he released 52nd Street in late 1978. This is the third Top 40 hit from that album and the third countdown debut. It will reach #24 Pop and #9 on the AC charts. I like to imagine that Jimmy Carter heard this song, and it inspired him to deliver his “crisis of confidence” speech on July 15th.

Also, coming off the frenetic pace of Makin’ it, this ballad seems jarring but ultimately becomes a nice change of pace.

Four songs (technically, seven) into this countdown, and we’re up to a long-distance dedication, the first of two. Typical fare, man meets woman, gets married, but they can’t be together. I know AT 40 was big on Armed Forces radio, and I swear the bulk of the LDDs are from homesick officers. They play The Closer I Get To You, which peaked at #2 in the Spring of 1978, and the dude writing the letter refers to the duo as Roberta Flack with the late Donny Hathaway, who had committed suicide only four months previous.

36. Kenny Rogers – She Believes In Me

Debut #4, Country song #2, and the follow-up to The Gambler. Kenny’s gonna take this ballad up to #5, matching his 1977 peak of the song Lucille. This ballad will also become the first of eight #1s on the AC chart. I hope songwriter Steve Gibb took his wife out for a nice lobster dinner once this became successful, especially after she had to endure many lonely nights listening to her husband writing songs in the kitchen. Also, I hope he invited David Gates to go with them.

35. Rickie Lee JonesChuck E.’s In Love

The fifth Top 40 debut takes a twenty-notch leap on the charts—quite an achievement for a first-timer. But I sense some condescension in Casey’s voice as he refers to her as a “girl singer” and makes reference to two frustrated producers “waiting around” for her to finish her album, which she did “just in time.” Jesus, it was her debut record. Back off. The LP featured some of the top L.A. session musicians of the day, while critics called her the new Joni Mitchell. [She wasn’t. She was the new Rickie Lee.] It will be nominated for five Grammys winning one for Best New Artist. This eventual #4 single cut through Pop radio back then like the coolest kid that needs no cred, and it still sounds great today. And damn, I love when Rickie and the band take it down to silence, and Steve Gadd brings it back with that rollicking drum fill.

Fun Fact: Two of the five Best New “artists” Rickie was up against in that category were Robin Wiliams and The Blues Brothers.

34. Roger Voudouris – Get Used To It

Here’s a nice little slice of keyboard-driven pop with some West Coast flair from Roger’s second LP, Radio Dream, co-written and produced by Michael Omartian. This single is on its way up to a #21 zenith, and it also reached #4 in Australia. It will be his only appearance on the Hot 100.

Now from the AT40 archives! AT40 decided to look back at the former #1s of the 60s to help pad out the show, and when that was up, they’ve moved on to the 70s. They would play three songs per show, and this week they’re up to January 1974 with the Steve Miller Band’s The Joker up first. Can you guess the next two while we shuckatoom?

33. McGuinn, Clark & Hillman – Don’t You Write Her Off

Three Byrds get together and take flight on their new venture as their first single together moves up four notches. I’m convinced that Roger and Chris only formed this to help Gene Clark out. The dude recorded some dynamite Country rock albums but let his alcoholism and drug abuse wreck his career. Clark hadn’t been in the Top 40 since Eight Miles High in 1965, but then again, Roger hadn’t seen this type of success since 1967’s My Back Pages. This breezy pop song is sitting at its zenith this week.

32. Bob Seger – Old Time Rock & Roll

Casey makes a big deal about how this countdown features 15 Disco songs, but it’s no more of an assault than British New Wave was in late 1983. It also implies that rock was dead, and while it may have been threatened ( or so says, rock fans), it is still significantly represented in the countdown and on this song quite literally. It’s the fourth Top 40 hit from Bob’s Stranger In Town (or Seger’s Thriller), but it will only move up four more notches. And if that four-second piano intro, played by Randy McCormick, doesn’t remind you of Tom Cruise, then I’m sure it makes you think of your cousin’s wedding.

Fun Fact: George Jackson, who co-wrote this, also wrote the Osmonds’ One Bad Apple.

Casey teases a story about a producer who fires a singer in the middle of a recording only to grab someone off the street and make him a star. I think he told this tale more than once on AT40. [We’ll find out in the next post who it is.]

31. Rod Stewart – Ain’t Love A Bitch

Here’s the seventh debut record on the countdown jumping up fourteen spots, only to eventually stall out at #22.  Squeamish Casey, who refused to say the title of George Michael’s song I Want Your Sex, sounds incredibly awkward saying this one. He adds that “the title may read like a question, but it’s more of a statement. A strong statement.” I don’t agree with that, and I don’t think Rod would either, but it’s funny to hear Casey try to balance clarity with mumbling as he says the bitch. What a bizarre follow-up to Da Ya Think I’m Sexy. That’s a statement.

Coming up, a listener in Boise, Idaho, wants to know what the highest-debuting song is this week. The answer is in the next post.

What Do You Consider Fun?

Here’s another Top 40 inbetweener. Even though I recapped a countdown from March and May of 1982, I couldn’t help wanting to jump into this one from April 24, 1982, with lots of forgotten tracks. Also, if you’ve ever listened to Barry Scott’s The Lost 45s, then you might have been reacquainted with most of these songs on his show.

40. David Lasley – If I Had My Wish Tonight 

OHW – David was part of a trio called Rosie, who released two albums in the mid-70s. Along with Arnold McCullar and Luther Vandross, he became an in-demand backing singer and shows up on many Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards productions. He also nabbed some co-songwriting credits for Maxine Nightengale’s Lead Me On and Jojo by Boz Scaggs. All of this experience helped him land a recording contract as a solo singer. He released Missin’ Twenty Grand in 1982, and the first single became his only Top 40 hit, eventually peaking at #36. He is also in the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom.

39. John Denver – Shanghai Breezes 

John’s superstar days were mainly over by the turn of the decade. In fact, many people might have only known him as the checkout clerk from Oh God. But this son of a former Air Force major’s concerts still drew large numbers, even if the size of the hits shrank. From his 15th album, Seasons of the Heart, this single will blow up to #31, but will gust as high as #1 on the AC chart, his ninth. It will be his last Top 40 hit.

Fun fact: John asked to be a part of We Are The World but was turned down. That’s rough getting dissed from a charity event.

38. Dan Fogelberg – Run For The Roses PD

Quick question – if the horse comes in last, is that when the precious flesh is greedily consumed?

37. Barry Manilow – Let’s Hang On

I listened to this Four Seasons cover a few times over the weekend, and it strikes me how Barry has absolutely no soul in his voice when he sings. How does he do that? He opens his mouth and hits the notes as hard as he can with nothing much behind it.  I’m guessing this is where Debbie Gibson learned her singing style, where loud is better than nuance.

36. Roberta Flack – Making Love PD

I love Roberta, but this song is like a four-minute nap. Feels good when you’re in it but disorienting when it’s over.

35. Buckner & Garcia – Pac-Man Fever PD

OHW – I loved this game so much that I would play the Atari 2600 version and pretend like it was fine. It wasn’t.

34. Quincy Jones ft. James Ingram – One Hundred Ways  – PD

33. Charlie Daniels Band – Still In SaigonPD

Here’s one for the Vietnam Vets and the first honest attempt to musical categorize the horror many of them went through. It’s no surprise that First Blood would be a box office hit late in the year. Also, when Charlie performed this in later years, did he sing Still in Ho Chi Minh City, or would that have made it worse?

32. Stars On 45 – Stars On 45 III

THW – Oh damn,, they’re back. It’s funny to think that a studio group that did a medleys cover could come back a year later and have another hit. It’s one thing to impersonate John and Paul, but this Stevie Wonder tribute sucks. Why did we need this when the living legend was already at #6 and #26 this week?

31. Tom Tom Club – Genius Of Love 

OHW – Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz of the Talking Heads took a break down in the Bahamas in 1980, started to jam, formed a band, and bumped into Island Records owner Chris Blackwell, who had them record a few tracks at Compass Point Studios. They squeezed out Wordy Rappinghood and this one, which became a high selling import 12″, eventually reaching #1 on the Disco Top 80 charts. It became a very influential track in the hip-hop community (more so than Blondie’s Rapture) and was a giant hit on the R&B charts climbing to the bridesmaid’s spot held off only by the man at #26. I mean, how many other songs do you know have paid tribute to James Brown, Kurtis Blow, Smokey Robinson, Bob Marley, Bootsy Collins, Sly & Robbie, and Hamilton Bohannon in one tune? That’s some funky love.

Pop radio didn’t care much and didn’t let this one get any higher than it is right now. They’ll wait for Mariah Carey to sample it for 1995’s #1 hit, Fantasy, to make it a mainstream success.

So by 1982, Talking Heads and this 50% spinoff had one Top 40 each. Although this song was featured in Stop Making Sense, its popularity motivated the competitive David Byrne to make the Heads successful on his terms. Now take a listen, go have some fun and stay out of jail.

30. Junior – Mama Used To Say 

OHW – “Hells, yes. This jam starts out so good and immediately pulls me in. I love the smooth feel and jazzy chord changes. Then it kicks off, and the bassline becomes a little square for me, but not enough to ruin it. I’d like to see Elvis Costello write something this engaging as this British soul singer.” – That would have been my entry into the 1982 Village Voice Pazz and Jop poll, which Robert Christgau would have violently spit on. This #2 Soul song is sitting at its peak.

29. Mike Post – Theme From ‘Magnum P.I.’ 

Having the instrumental theme to this Tom Selleck show in the Top 40 might be the most 1982 about this countdown. Or maybe it’s just because Mike Post is the friggin man?

28. Elton John – Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) PD

27. Human League – Don’t You Want MePD

26. Stevie Wonder – That Girl PD

25. Dr. Hook – Baby Makes Her Blue Jeans Talk

Dr. Hook and his crew have always projected a skeezy vibe. And now they’re starting at your ass. Inspired as much from hanging out at malls on a Saturday afternoon as it was from watching Sassoon and Jordache commercials, this will be the New Jersey’s group’s last Top 40 hit.

24. Rolling Stones – Hang Fire

Emotional Rescue: Mick’s in charge.

Tattoo You: Keef’s in charge.

I ask you which album has stood the test of time.

23. Journey – Open Arms PD

Don’t forget to close them, Steve. Maybe that’s why Sherrie fell through.

22. Ray Parker Jr. – The Other WomanPD

I always wanted to hear what someone like Conway Twitty would have done with this song. Then I researched his catalog and found that he recorded a song with the same title back in 1966. Great cheatin’ minds think alike.

21. Willie Nelson – Always On My MindPD

Props to Willie for writing a song so good that it became a standard, even though it came through the Country door. [Ed.  note – It was pointed out to me that Willie didn’t write this. Or record it first. That would be B.J. Thomas in 1970. In my defense, he sings it like he did.]

20. Charlene – I’ve Never Been To Me PD

OHW, STA, PFK – When people say “so bad, it’s good,” I always assume they are using this song as the Gold standard.

19. Greg Guidry – Goin’ Down

OHW, RAR – Greg is goin’ down for the last time, so please give him some tips on what to do because his neck is getting tired.

18. Le Roux – Nobody Said It Was Easy (Looking For The Lights)

OHW – This is what I was talking about when I mentioned Barry Scott. Songs like this are pure gold to The Lost 45s, a track that will reach the Top 20 (it’s at its peak) and never be heard of again. It didn’t even float back via Yacht Rock. You can find it on their fourth album, Last Safe Place.

The next group of songs is a product of their time, and I do not have any other association with them other than their place in the Spring of 1982. Maybe it’s because nine of them were one-hit wonders. Actually, the Stevie Nicks track makes me think of School of Rock, but everyone else belongs encased in this countdown’s time capsule.

17. The Beatles – The Beatles’ Movie Medley PD

16. Quarterflash – Find Another Fool PD

15. Kool & The Gang – Get Down On ItPD

14. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Did It In A MinutePD

13. Olivia Newton-John – Make A Move On MePD

12. Van Halen – (Oh) Pretty Woman PD

11. Stevie Nicks – Edge Of Seventeen (Just Like The White-Winged Dove)PD

10. Tommy Tutone – 867-5309/JennyPD, PD

THW – FYI – Tommy Tutone is the band’s name. Tommy Heath was the lead singer. No ska was played, and no one wore two-tone shoes.

9. Paul Davis – ’65 Love AffairPD

If Paul Davis and Crystal Gayle had a kid, it would been Chewbacca.

8. Bertie Higgins – Key LargoPD

OHW – 39.75 on the Yachtski scale, yet I still hear this on Yacht Rock radio channels.

7. Huey Lewis & The News – Do You Believe In LovePD

6. Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder – Ebony And Ivory PD

5. Rick Springfield – Don’t Talk To StrangersPD, PD

4. The J. Geils Band – Freeze FramePD

3. Vangelis – Chariots Of Fire (Titles)PD, PD

OHW – When Jon Anderson and Vangelis teamed up to release a few albums in the early 80s, I’m sure neither of them assumed they would each have a #1 record in the US just a few years later. Vangelis (hard G) did with the instrumental title sequence to Chariots Of Fire. Jon wasn’t even in Yes at this time but would rejoin and hit the top singing Owner of A Lonely Heart in early 1984.

2. The Go Go’s – We Got The Beat PD

1. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – I Love Rock N Roll PD, PD

KEY

  • OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
  • THW – Two-Hit-Wonder
  • ML – Misheard Lyrics
  • PFK – Perfect for Karaoke
  • RAR – Rite-Aid Rock
  • STA – Second Time Around

Spineless Movement And A Wild Attack

As we look at the top half of the Top 40 from February 28th, 1981, it’s a solid list of veteran artists’ songs. But it took many decades, format changes, and technology enhancements for many of them to get recognized and played again.

SXMFU – On the Big 40 Countdown, they intro the show as the year that Chariots of Fire wins the Oscar for best picture. That won’t happen until the 54th Annual Academy Awards on March 29, 1982. Ordinary People won the Oscar in 1981. Again, folks, this info is not a secret.

20. Barbra Streisand & Barry Gibb – What Kind Of Fool

PFK – Here we are on year two of the 80s, and the Bee Gees are still with us with their songwriting and with Barry’s smooth vibrato. This duet with Babs will be the third Top 10 from her Guilty LP. It will also spend a month atop the AC charts.

19. Cliff Richard – A Little In Love

Sir Cliffo nabs his fourth US Top 20 hit in a little over a year with the follow-up to his #10 smash, Dreamin(g). Not bad for a guy who took twenty years to get his first one.

18. Tierra – Together

OHW, PD – Tierra’s en fuego with their first Top 20, a cover of the 1967 Intruders song written by Gamble & Huff. Unfortunately, the Salas brothers will not be back for a return appearance. It wasn’t due to a lack of good material. They were on Neil Bogart’s Boardwalk label, and when he passed away in 1982, the label went under.

17. Steely Dan – Hey Nineteen

PD – No matter how much you may love the lead single off of Gaucho, you will never be able to shake the feeling of sadness and desperation that permeates through your soul as it plays. This could be you one day. This may be you today.  Sink a little lower, now.

Fun fact: This never spent a week at #19, so forget what I said about Billboard’s sense of humor.

16. John Lennon – (Just Like) Starting Over

PD – It’s barely been three months since John was murdered, and the radio kept his memory alive by playing songs from his new album incessantly. As this song spent its fifth week at #1, Woman was already at #27. I still find it hard not to hear this song and not travel back to that time as a kid trying to make sense of what happened and feeling all of this song’s optimism and hope just vanish away.

15. Blondie – Rapture

I think it’s safe to say that the immense success of Blondie is easily lost in history’s shuffle. There weren’t many bands in the 70s and 80s that had at least four #1 singles. [add your list in the comments] On top of that, all four had a different sound. The second single from Autoamerican is part New Wave, part disco, part rock, and part hip-hop. Fab Five Freddy gets a shout-out, and most of America won’t know who he is until Yo MTV Raps debuts later in the decade. In the UK, they will rack 6 #1s, but this will only make it up to #5.

14. Neil Diamond – Hello Again

PFK – Wanna know how bad The Jazz Singer is? Neil Diamond covers for his friend at a gig, but because his buddy is an African-American, he decides he’ll show up in blackface. It just gets worse from here. At least, Neil was smart enough to write and record karaoke-worthy ballads such as this one.

13. Rod Stewart – Passion

PD – Between 1976 and 1994, Rod only missed placing a single in the US Top 40 in 1985 and 1987. This seems like an early attempt to do anything he could to keep that streak alive.

12. Stevie Wonder – I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It

The second single from Stevie’s Hotter Than July is a Country-tinged affair and another great hit that’s been lost in his impressive catalog. It’s one spot away from its peak. This always makes me think of that Cotton Land sketch that he did with Eddie on SNL.

Fun fact: That SNL episode was from 1983. Stevie performed Go Home & Overjoyed, two songs that wouldn’t be released for almost three more years.

11. Don McLean – Crying

PFK – It had been eight years since Dreidel hit the Top 40 when Don roared back with this Roy Orbison cover. It was recorded for the LP, Chain Lightning which was released back in late 1978. He’ll be driving his Chevy all the way up to #5, and it will be his only other Top 10 hit aside from American Pie. It was also hit #1 in the UK.

10. ABBA – The Winner Takes It All

This is the definitive ABBA song. Yes, Dancing Queen is sonically beautiful, and Waterloo and Mamma Mia are catchier. But this encapsulates everything about the group’s dynamic that they hid behind a shiny Pop veneer. This will be their fourth and final US Top 10 smash, and thank God for that cause alimony is a bitch.

9. Dan Fogelberg – Same Old Lang Syne

PFK (and, please do it while I’m there) – This song was inspired by Dan meeting his high school sweetheart at a convenience store when he was back home in Peoria visiting his parents on Christmas Eve 1975, six years after they graduated. They end up splitting a six-pack of Olympia in the parking lot. Dan would have been 24 and just had his first Top 40, Part of the Plan, from his third album, Captured Angel. And yet, here he was bitchin’ about traveling to perform at paying gigs.  This single was released ahead of his seventh album, The Innocent Age, and will become his second Top 10 hit. Michael Brecker plays the sax solo at the end.

8. Delbert McClinton – Giving It Up For Your Love

OHW – The man who played harmonica on Bruce Channel’s #1 smash Hey Baby and had a decade of solo albums under his belt finally breaks through with his only Top 40 hit, which is sitting at its zenith this week. This sounds so much like a Bonnie Raitt song that I’m surprised that she’s never covered it.

7. Blondie – The Tide Is High

PD – Not many songs have number one in their lyrics and then end up hitting #1. Did anybody else do it?

6. Styx – The Best Of Times

All the older kids in my neighborhood were into the Paradise Theatre, to the point which they would tease me that I wasn’t. Why would anyone defend this album and/or song unless you were on a prom committee?

5. REO Speedwagon – Keep On Loving You

I like to pretend that these guys are one-hit-wonders, that they wrote this, that it hit #1 (which it did), and then they disappeared. That’s the kind of world I want to live in.

4. Kool & The Gang – Celebration

PD – I love this group, and I love that Yah- Hoo! The rest of this song can vanish and take every last yellow ribbon with it.

3. John Lennon – Woman

Paul McCartney was right, and he sleeps just fine. His love does it good, and there’s nothing wrong with filling the world with silly love songs. I just wish John was around longer for us to hear him perfect a mix of his rough and tender sides. This track that he possibly could.

2. Dolly Parton – 9 To 5

Dolly Parton Gets First Shot of COVID-19 Vaccine

1. Eddie Rabbitt – I Love A Rainy Night (1 wk at #1)

PD -I didn’t think anyone could not like this song. Until I saw this:

For some reason, that made me laugh so hard. [Thanks, JB. No disrespect intended.] Now every time I hear this, I’ll think of someone listening to that finger snap and hand clap interplay, wanting to haul off and throw a brick through a window. Actually, I’m going to watch The Big Lebowski scene where Walter destroys the car with the sound off and this song playing instead.

KEY

  • OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
  • THW – Two-Hit-Wonder
  • PD – Previously Discussed
  • PFK – Perfect for Karaoke
  • RAR – Rite-Aid Rock
  • SXMFU – Sirius XM Mistake

The Need To Give Such Secrets Away

Let’s take a look at the first half of what was popular the week of February 28th, 1981.

40. Con Funk Shun – Too Tight

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.

39. Firefall  – Staying With It

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.

38. Terri Gibbs – Somebody’s Knockin’

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.

37. AC/DC – Back In Black

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.

36. Elvis Presley – Guitar Man

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.

35. The Jacksons – Heartbreak Hotel

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.

34. Sheena Easton – Morning Train (Nine To Five)

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.

33. Phil Seymour – Precious To Me

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.

32. The Outlaws – (Ghost) Riders In The Sky

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.

31. The Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me

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.

30. Steve Winwood – While You See A Chance

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.

29. Donnie Iris – Ah Leah

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.

28. Air Supply – Every Woman In The World

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.

27. Bruce Springsteen – Fade Away

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.

26. Leo Sayer – Living In A Fantasy

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.

25. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Kiss On My List

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.

24. Ronnie Milsap – Smoky Mountain Rain

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.

23. Randy Meisner – Hearts On Fire

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.

22. Alan Parsons Project – Games People Play

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.

21. Pat Benatar – Treat Me Right

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.

KEY

  • 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

 

There’s a Hole In There Somewhere

I love listening to Top 40 countdowns, so I keep coming back to them on this blog. This first time around, I tried my best not to post countdowns with much overlap. But that left out plenty of songs that I wanted to comment on. So going forward, any week that has more than 10 previously discussed songs or 25%, I’m calling it an inbetweener. I link to my previously discussed post and give myself the freedom to add something new if I choose.

I’ve talked about 25 of these tunes previously, some twice during this chart week’s list. But I couldn’t resist. I call this group, The Ground Round countdown. Just about every song here reminds me of going to that restaurant with my family, smashing peanuts on the floor, watching Heckle & Jeckyl on a projector screen, and quickly losing quarters in the arcade.

Now, without further adieu, let’s jump into Top 40 from the week of February 13th, 1982. [This post may be long, so thanks for indulging me.]

40. Quincy Jones ft. James Ingram – One Hundred Ways PD

39. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – I Love Rock N RollPD, PD

That’s me, crunching peanuts to the beat.

38. Donnie Iris – Love Is Like A Rock

This was the second single from Donnie’s King Cool LP after Sweet Merilee stiffed at #80. It’s one notch away from its peak, and the chorus reminds me of that classic, unreleased track from Brock Landers.

37. Pointer Sisters – Should I Do It – PD

36. Oak Ridge Boys – Bobbie Sue – PD

35. ABBA – When All Is Said And Done – PD

34. Rod Stewart – Tonight I’m Yours – PD

33. Del Shannon – Sea Of Love

After a twenty-seven-year gap, Del is back in the Top 40 with his cover of the 1959 Phil Phillips smash, which reached #2. The song and album that it was released from, Drop Down and Get Me, was produced by Tom Petty and features the Heartbreakers as Del’s backing band. It is resting at its zenith.

32. Cliff Richard – Daddy’s Home – PD

31. The Go Go’s – We Got The BeatPD

Put them in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame already. The Bangles are next.

30. Eddie Schwartz – All Our Tomorrows

OHW – Here’s a Canadian singer/songwriter whose big break came when Pat Benatar recorded his tune Hit Me With Your Best Shot, which reached #9 in late 1980. When Eddie released his second album, No Refuge, Pop radio took notice a year later, and the first single release will reach #28. He’ll have further success co-writing two songs that Paul Carrack will make Top 40 hits (Don’t Shed A Tear, I Live By The Groove) as well as co-writing the Doobie Brothers 1989 comeback hit, The Doctor.

29. Loverboy – Working For The Weekend

It seems that radio stations had a three-song rotation in the 80s every Friday at 5 PM: Partytown by Glenn Frey, Take This Job And Shove It by Johnny Paycheck, and this one. [They should have just played this.] This will become the Vancouver quintet’s second Top 40 hit in the US, and it will not travel and further than where it is today. Personally, I prefer their follow-up single, When It’s Over.

Also, this.

28. Genesis – Abacab

From the divorce files of Phil The Shill: Phil was always good at creating nonsense words for song titles (see Paperlate, Sussudio), but he uses this one as a cover to get pissed off at his ex-wife. Since Mike & Tony didn’t think Demon Whore would go over well, they suggested using the chords used during the chorus, stringing them together to make a new word with no meaning. Though they could have a laugh about it when they shared a pint. Songs like this and the album they came from were a good bridge from their progressive roots to the Pop landscape. Current artists such as Steven Wilson are doing this but have faced a more significant backlash than this trio ever did.

27. Earth Wind & Fire – Let’s Groove

It was odd that Pop radio ultimately rejected this funk band’s last album, Faces, but was on board with the opening single from their new long-play, Raise! It has already peaked at #3 for five weeks sitting behind Foreigner’s Waiting… and Livvy’s Physical. This group dominated the 70s, but they will only have one more Top 40 hit during the Synth-funk era, which is a travesty.

26. Bertie Higgins – Key Largo – PD

OHW – Just imagine if Bertie was inspired by Bogey’s The African Queen. Don’t know about you, but I’d love to hear a rock song called Leaches Suck.

25. Police – Spirits In The Material WorldPD

If we are spirits in the material world and Madonna is living in a material world as a material girl, does that mean she’s a ghost?

24. Buckner & Garcia – Pac-Man Fever – PD

OHW – I much prefer MJ’s ode to his favorite game.

23. Barry Manilow – Somewhere Down The Road

I have nothing against Barry. He’s good at what he does. I’m not impressed by the fact that he can churn out one sugary, overly dramatic ballad after another. I’m amazed that we let him get away with it for this long.

22. Stevie Wonder – That GirlPD

A gigantic smash on the Soul charts, it’s always been my favorite Stevie jam. That angelic choir during the chorus gets me every time.

21. Alabama – Love In The First Degree – PD

If Country ain’t your thing…

20. Rick Springfield – Love Is Alright Tonite

People don’t immediately think of Rick as a Power Pop artist, but that’s precisely what this is. It’s the third Top 20 hit from his 1981 Working Class Dog album after I’ve Done Everything For You and Jessie’s Girl. It is sitting at its high.

19. Diana Ross – Mirror MirrorPD

After a decade of classic with the Supremes and another decade of hits as a solo artist, her 80s songs were like icing on the cake. That may be why some are forgotten. Is that possible with a Top 10 hit? Well, when was the last time you heard this?

18. Kenny Rogers – Through The Years – PD

RAR – Lionel Richie will hit #1 later in the year with his first solo hit, Truly. This was his warm-up.

17. Sheena Easton – You Could Have Been With Me

PFK – Sheena was on a roll in 1981 – three Top 20 hits, two of them reaching the Top 10, one reaching #1. Her fourth straight Top 20 was the title track to her second album, a biting ballad that is two notches away from its peak.

16. Stevie Nicks with Don Henley – Leather And Lace

PFK – Stevie’s first two Top 40 hits were duets. Her match-up with Don Henley was her second and is coming down from its high of #6. She wrote this for Jessie Colter & Waylon Jennings, who named their album after it but didn’t include the song. Stevie took it back and made them pay.

15. Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Hooked On Classics

OHW – Oh no, someone made Pop music for my mom. She played this every time she could, probably because she enjoyed aggravating us. These folks took the Stars on 45 approach, stitching a bunch of well-known melodies, in this case, classical passages performed by this London Orchestra conducted by Louis Clark to a lame drum machine track. This is falling from its high of #10. How did Pop programmers put this in their playlists?

SXMFU – During the Big 40 Countdown on SXM, they mention that K-Tel had a big hit with this. But it was actually released on RCA Records.

14. Little River Band – Take It Easy On MePD

13. Rolling Stones – Waiting On A Friend

Here’s the second single from the Stones’ last great album, Tattoo You. Had Keith been more persuasive, we would have heard the best songs from this album and Emotional Rescue in one package rather than be exposed to Mick’s disco distractions. This single was originally created during the Goat’s Head Soup sessions in 1972. It’s a beautiful and tender song and finishes with a soulful sax solo by Jazz great Sonny Rollins.

12. Dan Fogelberg – Leader Of The BandPD

I’m not dissing Dan, but I’m going to use space to post a different cool song with the same name that I enjoy more.

11. Paul Davis – Cool Night

How did this long-haired Country hippie from Mississippi churn out some smooth Yacht Rock jams late in his career? This was the title track to his last released album before he dives back into Country music. This week, it is at its zenith.

10. Air Supply – Sweet Dreams –  PD

9. Foreigner – Waiting For A Girl Like You –  PD

Still playing second fiddle to ONJ.

8. Olivia Newton-John – Physical – PD

And this where I place a Grease gif of Sandy saying Tell me about it, stud.

7. Juice Newton – The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known)

Juice was a Country artist who had more success on the Pop & AC charts than over in Nashville in the early 80s until this song became her first Country #1. When the Pop hits dried up in 1984, it allowed her to fully commit to Opryland and continue her career. This is her third Pop Top 10 from her album, Juice.

6. The Cars – Shake It UpPD

In a month from this current chart week, Ric Ocasek will turn 38. Let that sink in.

5. George Benson – Turn Your Love Around

Aww yeah. The Yachtski Scale says that What A Fool Believes is the nexus of Yacht Rock, but you can make a strong case that this track from George’s double LP greatest hits compilation is the penultimate smooth jam. GB mixes jazz, R&B, and pop like Reese’s mixes peanut butter and chocolate. It’s written by Bill Champlin, Steve Lukather, and Jay Graydon, who also produced it. That’s three heavy West Coast hitters. Also, David Paich plays Synth bass. Jeff Porcaro programmed the synth drums. David Foster is on synthesizer. I feel like I’m sailing on the S.S. Velvet.

4. Journey – Open ArmsPD

3. Quarterflash – Harden My HeartPD

2. Hall & Oates – I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)PD

When Hall & Oates hit #1 with this song on the Soul charts, it may have seemed like validation for them by staying true to their R&B roots. The fallout may have been the whitewashing of the Pop charts and record company budget cuts to their Black music divisions. Take, for instance, the duo’s label, RCA. Outside of Diana Ross, whom they signed in 1981, the record label never produced an R&B song in the Pop Top 10 in the 80s after this, and instead focused on soulful White acts, such as Eurythmics and imposters such as Rick Astley.

 1. J. Geils Band – Centerfold (2 wks at #1) – PD

Peter Wolf and pals are in the middle of a six-week run, propelled by one of the catchiest na na na-na na na lines in Pop history. They hit that point home by whistling that melody at the end too.

KEY

  • OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
  • THW – Two-Hit-Wonder
  • PD – Previously Discussed
  • PFK – Perfect for Karaoke
  • RAR – Rite-Aid Rock
  • SXMFU – Sirius XM Mistake