March 5, 1983

If I were able to teleport back to 1983 and show my iPod to that year’s version of me, it would undoubtedly blow my mind.

Obviously being visited by a being claiming to be myself from thirty years in the future would be mind blowing, but a device smaller than a cassette case containing 40,000 songs would have been the most amazing thing that I’d ever seen.

At the time, I’d been buying albums – in cassette form – for a year or so and I doubt that I had more than two dozen of them. It couldn’t have been more than three hundred songs.

Yeah, if someone had shown me a device the size of a cassette that would hold 150 times the number of songs I owned, my flabber would have been gasted.

Anyhow, it’s as good a time as any to peruse the Hot 100 chart from Billboard magazine for this week in 1983 and, as inspired by several other blogs, sift through the debut songs.

Seven songs debuted on that chart twenty-eight years ago and none of them even managed to make the Top 40 – though several came close – and I believe a couple of them are unavailable…

The System – You Are In My System
from Sweat
(debuted #90, peaked #64, 8 weeks on chart)

I don’t think I’d ever heard The System’s You Are In My System, but I did know Robert Palmer’s cover of the song from a few months later as I heard it sporadically on the radio that summer.

The System’s original sounds no different to me aside from lacking the suaveness of Robert Palmer

Single Bullet Theory – Keep It Tight
from Single Bullet Theory
(debuted #84, peaked #78, 4 weeks on chart)

Nor had I heard Single Bullet Theory’s lone hit, but I did know their name from seeing it on leader cards while browsing through record stores.

The Wikipedia page for the Virginia band tells the too common tale of a promising band getting snuffed out by a label’s indifference and/or ineptness.

Keep It Tight made me smile from its opening. It’s less than three minutes of New Wave-tinged power pop, complete with saxophone, that’s more fun than killin’ drifters and makes me curious about the rest of the band’s one album.

Robert Hazard – Escalator Of Life
from Robert Hazard
(debuted #83, peaked #58, 9 weeks on chart)

I’d come across things on Robert Hazard through the years and knew that he had written Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and seemed to have a cult following for his own music. And, from what I’d read, there seemed to be great affection for Hazard’s one hit Escalator Of Life.

The song was likely a bit too New Wave for the stations in our part of the Midwest to air in 1983. We wouldn’t get MTV for another year, so I didn’t hear the song or see the video at the time.

I can understand Escalator Of Life‘s appeal. It’s chilly, droning synth-pop with robotic vocals that’s an ode to excess (or maybe not). The song, like it’s accompanying video, is totally of its time.

Mac McAnally – Minimum Love
from Nothin’ But The Truth
(debuted #81, peaked #41, 12 weeks on chart)

I could have sworn that I saw Mac McAnally perform this song three or four times on Solid Gold in a span of a couple months in 1983. I wasn’t hearing the song on radio, but there was this McAnally fellow taking three or four minutes of screen time from the Soild Gold Dancers.

Minimum Love is pleasant enough adult pop, I suppose, and his voice reminds me of James Taylor. But the song didn’t do much for me then and I really haven’t warmed to it over the years.

Berlin – Sex (I’m A…)
from Pleasure Victim
(debuted #79, peaked #62, 7 weeks on chart)

Berlin was a band that I knew in early ’83 by reputation only as the L.A. band had caused a stir with the lyrics for their song Sex (I’m A…) and a lot of stations across the country wouldn’t play it.

I heard the song later that summer. My buddy Beej returned from a couple weeks in Arizona with albums by bands that he’d discovered on a Phoenix alternative radio station and Pleasure Victim was one of them. I dug it, but I was a little underwhelmed considering the hoopla.

Years later, I’d interview lead singer Terri Nunn who was an absolute sweetheart.

John Anderson – Swingin’
from Wild & Blue
(debuted #75, peaked #43, 14 weeks on chart)

Our small hometown had a country radio station which would usually be playing in our kitchen during breakfast, so I heard Swingin’ often that spring, but it also got played on the Top 40 stations I preferred right alongside Journey, Duran Duran, and Michael Jackson.

The song was hardly my cup of joe and I mostly remember how my friends Beej and Kirk The Pyro thought it be hysterical and would often sing the chorus, imitating Anderson’s gruff drawl.

The Psychedelic Furs – Love My Way
from Forever Now
(debuted #73, peaked #44, 10 weeks on chart)

Love My Way, produced by Todd Rundgren, was probably the first song by Psychedelic Furs that I ever heard, but it wasn’t on radio. Instead, I knew the song from its use in the movie Valley Girl . That autumn, 97X took to the airwaves and I heard more from the Furs including their signature song Pretty In Pink.

The following spring, my buddy Beej became a fan of the band from seeing their videos on Night Flight, the USA Network show which aired music videos over night on weekends. MTV wouldn’t be available to us until the summer, so Night Flight was the only chance to see the new medium for music.

During the summer of ’84, we wore out Psychedelic Furs’ new album, Mirror Moves, but it was the dreamy Love My Way that was my first exposure to one of the more iconic bands of the ’80s.

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6 Responses to March 5, 1983

  1. jb says:

    I was working country radio in early ’83 when “Swingin'” came out, and I can tell you that the thing blew the telephones out for weeks. In Chicago, it was Top 10 on WLS even though they weren’t playing it. Never underestimate the mojo of a novelty song, I guess.

    • It seemed that there was always a novelty song current when I was a kid even if it was only something regional.

    • Chris S. says:

      Since my parents were regular listeners of country music, I didn’t see “Swingin'” as a novelty song. What I did find funny was the way that John Anderson’s Florida twang makes the word come out as “Swangin’,” only to have the female chorus correcting his grammar — “Swingin'” — like a well-meaning speech teacher.

  2. Chris S. says:

    The first time I heard “You Are in My System,” I mistook the lyric to say “You are in my sister.” That seemed odd, especially since I’d have been throttling the guy by the neck, not singing.

    Late in ’82 I saw the video for Berlin’s “The Metro” and really liked that track. “Sex” may have been a little too racy for my local radio station, as I don’t recall hearing it until much later.

    Lastly, I was a huge fan of Night Flight. First, it showed videos we never got to watch on MTV. It also exposed me to some interesting movies and the shorts may have contributed to the warping of my developing mind.

  3. […] 8. Single Bullet Theory – Keep It Tight from Single Bullet Theory (1982) March 5, 1983 […]

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