Several folk whose music blogs are regular reads for me frequently make it their business to dissect and discuss the songs from the music charts for a particular week from the past.
Favorites such as The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, Echoes In The Wind, Songs Of The Cholera King, and 70s Music Mayhem are likely known to anyone who stops by here, too.
That last one – 70s Music Mayhem – is a recent discovery that is impressive in its painstaking attention to detail in breaking down the songs that happened to debut on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart for a given week from the ’70s.
Like a lot of music fans, Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 was appointment listening for several years of my childhood and, at some point, I’m sure that I stumbled across Billboard‘s Hot 100 posted in a record store.
Years later, Billboard would be a regular read and even an employer, but, in the early ’80s, what lurked beyond the forty songs Casey would count down each week was a mystery.
It’s 2011, though, and in this age of enlightenment, a good portion of Billboard‘s back issues are available to peruse online.
So, borrowing a bit from some of those blogs I’ve mentioned and to give myself a source of material when I’m not not pondering something mundane in particular, I thought that I’d take a page from one of those charts from yesteryear and chew on it.
I’m not sure when I first heard an episode of American Top 40, but I do know that I became a regular listener in January of ’82. At the time, I was halfway through the final year of junior high and music was becoming my favorite waste of time.
On a frigid, snowy Saturday morning, surfing the radio dial, I happened across Casey counting down the hits on WRIA, an adult contemporary station – as I recall – out of Richmond, Indiana.
From perusing those Billboard back issues, I suspect I was listening to the countdown from the week of January 16, 1982 when the following songs debuted on the Hot 100…
Soft Cell – Tainted Love
from Non-Stop Erotic Café
(debuted #90, peaked #8, 43 weeks on chart)
There were only a couple of songs that debuted this week which I didn’t immediately remember. The moody ’80s synth-pop classic Tainted Love isn’t one.
(though it didn’t reach radio stations in our area until the summer)
Skyy – Call Me
from Skyy Line
(debuted #87, peaked #26, 11 weeks on chart)
Call Me was a #1 on the R&B charts which would have meant nothing to me and it didn’t get played on the pop stations I was listening to.
It’s a perfectly fine dance-funk number with a bit of guitar that makes me think of Ray Parker, Jr’s The Other Woman from that summer.
Smokey Robinson – Tell Me Tomorrow
from Yes It’s You Lady
(debuted #86, peaked #33, 12 weeks on chart)
And though I wasn’t listening to R&B stations, I did, at least, know Smokey Robinson for the suave Being With You, which had been a huge hit the year before.
Tell Me Tomorrow is a mid-tempo crooner that wouldn’t have appealed to me then, but I kind of dig now.
The Oak Ridge Boys – Bobbie Sue
from The Oak Ridge Boys
(debuted #85, peaked #12, 14 weeks on chart)
The radio station in my hometown flipped from rock to country about a year or so before I began to truly care. My only interest in the station was for school closing anouncements on January mornings.
I am willing to listen to any of the dozens of Toto songs named for women. As for The Oak Ridge Boys, Elvira was more than enough and, in restrospect, I consider it karma that a friend from college once drunkenly yanked on the beard of William Lee Golden and asked if it was real.
(or so I heard)
Chilliwack – I Believe
from Wanna Be A Star
(debuted #83, peaked #33, 11 weeks on chart)
Speaking of Toto, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of folks would guess that the groovy, mellow I Believe might have been that band. It wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Toto IV.
Though it’s a perfectly amiable song, I Believe isn’t the ridiculously catchy My Girl (Gone, Gone, Gone), the Chilliwack hit that had preceded it.
AC/DC – Let’s Get It Up
from For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)
(debuted #81, peaked #44, 9 weeks on chart)
I’m glad that we live in a world where there is AC/DC and I think that Bon Scott was amazing, but I listened to Let’s Get It Up three times this morning shopping and it left me with no impression.
Cliff Richard – Daddy’s Home
from Wired For Sound
(debuted #80, peaked #23, 13 weeks on chart)
At the time Daddy’s Home was a hit, I thought it was music for old people. I’m sure that while it was in the Top 40, Casey told me that it had originally been a hit for Shep & The Limeliters in 1961, but, here were are almost thirty years later and I still couldn’t tell you if I’ve heard that version.
John Denver And Plácido Domingo – Perhaps Love
from Seasons Of The Heart
(debuted #79, peaked #59, 7 weeks on chart)
Like a lot of kids in the ’70s, I thought John Denver was pretty groovy. This long-haired fellow in the floppy hat, traipsing around the Rockies with bear cubs and denim-clad hippie chicks on television specials was, in my five-year old mind, The Man.
Perhaps Love arrived well past the time when John Denver ruled the world. I didn’t know the song ’til I listened to it and…well…it might have been pleasant enough had it been Denver solo, but Plácido Domingo just doesn’t work for me.
The Police – Spirits In The Material World
from Ghost In The Machine
(debuted #76, peaked #11, 13 weeks on chart)
I know some listeners began to turn on The Police with Ghost In The Machine, but the band was one of the first to earn the unwavering allegiance of me and several of my closest friends. The album’s first hit had been the stunning – though angst-riddled – pop song Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic and I can understand why the follow-up wasn’t as big.
It is darker and less inviting, but I’ve always loved the moody, distant Spirits In The Material World and it’s so brief – less than three minutes – that I’ve never tired of hearing it.
Stevie Wonder – That Girl
from Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium I
(debuted #72, peaked #4, 18 weeks on chart)
Stevie Wonder yearns for an unattainable girl who knows that she’s unattainable.
Just as I began listening to music, the legendary Stevie Wonder was wrapping up a decade and change of being a musical force, both commercially and critically. Since those months when I’d hear That Girl half a dozen times each day on one station or another, Wonder has released just a half dozen albums.
Journey – Open Arms
(debuted #57, peaked #2, 18 weeks on chart)
There might not have been one junior high or high school kid in my hometown that didn’t own a copy of Journey’s Escape in late 1981.
I had no more than a handful of albums at the time, but one of them was a cassette of Escape. Then, in the winter months of ’82, Journey’s über-ballad became the biggest hit from one of the iconic rock albums of the early ’80s.
(though, even then, Mother, Father, which preceded Open Arms on side two, was the ballad that I’d rewind)