The Not Contractually Obligated Top Ten Of 2012

December 31, 2012

Now that I’ve wasted so much time here establishing a few traditions, I’d be remiss to honor not them…

Almost every artist in the history of mankind has at least one title in their catalog that is a compilation, a stopgap collection meant to maintain interest between releases (often to boost holiday sales) or to fulfill a contractual obligation.

This is the former, a chance to make use, one more time, of a lot of wasted time over the past twelve months.

Four years ago, I reflected on the annual, childhood tradition of spending New Year’s Day with a half dozen blank cassettes as Q102 played back the Top 102 songs of the previous year.

So, as 2012 begins its fade into a speck in the rear-view mirror, here are the most popular songs that appeared here during the past year…

10. The Beautiful South – Everybody’s Talkin
from Carry On Up The Charts (1994)
If It’s December, It Must Be Christmas

“On one of the however hundred or so cable channels, NBC is airing It’s A Wonderful Life.”

9. Billy Squier – Everybody Wants You
from Emotions In Motion (1982)
October 2, 1982

“At some point last year, I started a semi-regular tradition of pulling up a Hot 100 chart from Billboard magazine and dissecting the debut songs for a given week in the early ’80s (when I was first listening to music and most familiar with Top 40 radio).”

8. Townes Van Zandt – Dead Flowers
from The Big Lebowski soundtrack (1998)
“Am I the only one around here who gives a @#%! about the rules?”

“I know that Walter Sobcheck does, indeed, give a @#%! about them. He was willing to send Smokey into “a world of pain” for a foot foul in The Big Lebowski.”

7. David Bowie/Pat Metheney Group – This Is Not America
from The Falcon And The Snowman soundtrack (1985)
February 2, 1985

“In early 1985, the shift in my musical interests, which had been evolving and changing in fits and starts for a couple years, was ongoing.”

6. Eye To Eye – Nice Girls
from Eye To Eye (1982)
May 22, 1982

“As I opt to periodically do – when I have no other viable or unviable ideas – it’s time to pull up an old Billboard magazine Hot 100 chart and note the songs that debuted that week.”

5. The Monkees- (Theme From) The Monkees
from The Best Of The Monkees (2003)
The Monkees And Me

“I suppose that for someone as fascinated by primates, both of the skyscraper-climbing and planet-ruling sort, as I apparently am, The Monkees should be a favorite band for, if nothing else, their name.”

4. Altered Images – I Could Be Happy
from Pinky Blue (1982)
Bagpipes

“I keep seeing some television commercial, touting some MMA bout. With bagpipes blaring over fight footage, some participant is in the frame spouting Irish proverbs in an accent that I’m not quite sure is Irish or Scottish.”

3. John Stewart (with Stevie Nicks) – Gold
from Bombs Away Dream Babies (1979)
Andrew Burt – Or Someone Else – In 2012

“The candidates have not yet formally been nominated and I am already fatigued by the quadrennial excercise in slapstick that is the presidential election.”

2. The Nails – 88 Lines About 44 Women
from Mood Swing (1984)
Cheese, Crackers And The Voigt-Kampff Test

“Having had a reaction due to the ingestion of a certain plant-based substance, I once rampaged my way through several boxes of crackers, leading my housemates to dub me ‘Cracker Vacuum.'”

1. The Dream Academy – Life In A Northern Town
from The Dream Academy (1985)
Ah Hey Oh Ma Ma Ma…

“In the last few days, I’ve rediscovered the music of The Dream Academy, a band which I had loved and forgotten (despite owning all three of their albums).”

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Time To Bust A Yule

December 15, 2012

ornamentAs a kid, Christmas was the one time of year that music was played in our house more than any other.

Our mom would throw on seasonal music from the ’50s and ’60s and Johnny Mathis or Andy Williams would croon from the stereo console in the living room.

The song that keeps coming to mind the past few days is Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. The version that I keep hearing contains an opening verse about palm trees and Beverly Hills that is omitted in most including Bing Crosby’s iconic take on the song.

We might not be in Southern California and the nearest palm trees are hundreds of miles away, but the sentiment of meteorological dissonance resonates.

Outside, it’s a gray, rainy Saturday morning that has a feel more befitting Halloween than Christmas and the temperatures today are expected to climb into the low ’60s, unseasonably warm as it has been this season.

The one recording of White Christmas that fits the time frame and my memory of it being a female singer would seem to be one by Darlene Love from the mid-’60s, but the singer I hear in my head doesn’t have the soul that I’d expect from Ms. Love.

But it is a mere week and a half until Christmas and Paloma has ensured that – though the weather outside might not suit the season – there’s no doubt what time of year it is.

For the first time since we’ve been together, we’ve put up a tree that has not been – as anticipated – a source of interest to the three felines and Paloma has garnished it in Christmas card-worthy fashion from the astounding inventory of ornaments that she has collected over the years.

There are also other traditional accoutrements – wreaths, garlands and such – as well as the smell of baking from the kitchen.

So, here are four holiday songs…

David Bowie and Bing Crosby – Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy
from The Singles Collection (1993)

Working in record stores in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it was a given that the holiday season would bring confused shoppers who didn’t set foot in record stores the rest of the year.

It was also a given that you would have to repeatedly explain that Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy, the unexpected Christmas duet by David Bowie and Bing Crosby, was unavailable.

Recorded during the summer of 1977 for a Crosby television special scheduled for that November, the duet was released in the US as a single in 1982 and, then, quickly went out of print. The situation was finally rectified a decade later with the song’s inclusion as a bonus disc on Bowie’s two-CD The Singles Collection.

The Pretenders – 2000 Miles
from Learning to Crawl (1984)

Following the deaths of original members James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon in 1982, Chrissie Hynde put The Pretenders on ice for a time. With new members Robbie McIntosh and Malcolm Foster in place, the wistful 2000 Miles became the reconstituted band’s first release in late 1983.

Though apparently about guitarist Honeyman-Scott, the seasonal references and the song’s sense of longing led to 2000 Miles becoming a modern Christmas staple.

Billy Squier – Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You
from A Rock And Roll Christmas (1994)

In the Midwest in the ’80s, Billy Squier was a rock god. The rock stations to which I was listening played not only the hits like The Stroke, Everybody Wants You, and In The Dark, but practically every track from the albums Don’t Say No and Emotions In Motion.

So, the rollicking Christmas Is The Time To Say I Love You was in heavy rotation each December.

Bryan Adams – Christmas Time (1985)

Like Billy Squier, Bryan Adams was a fixture on radio stations in our part of the Midwest from his debut. By 1985, the Canadian had firmly established himself as a superstar and he was still notching hits from his album Reckless, which had been released a year earlier.

So, it was hardly surprising that when he released the holiday-themed Christmas Time that year, it garnered considerable radio airplay. Like the string of hits he had had at the time, the song isn’t rocket science and Adams hardly reinvents fire, but the sentiment is true and it’s an engaging track.


October 2, 1982

September 29, 2012

At some point last year, I started a semi-regular tradition of pulling up a Hot 100 chart from Billboard magazine and dissecting the debut songs for a given week in the early ’80s (when I was first listening to music and most familiar with Top 40 radio).

It was an idea that I nicked from 70s Music Mayhem, a groovy blog that I’d been reading for awhile.

Each Saturday, like clockwork, there would be a new post in which Chris Stufflestreet would cover the songs that had been a debut on the Hot 100 from a corresponding date in the ’70s. It was an engaging mix of Joel Whitburn, Casey Kasem, and childhood nostalgia that was a favorite read.

And then, earlier this week, I was perusing another favorite internet outpost, The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, and was surprised to read that Chris had passed away last week.

I seem to recall exchanging an e-mail or two with Chris and the occasional comment on each other’s blog. I knew that he was considerably knowledgeable about baseball cards and I had been meaning to solicit his thoughts on a few items of sports memorabilia, but…

I didn’t know Chris, but, through his writing, I kind of felt like I did.

I’ll miss having his words to read as I lazily ease into a Sunday morning with coffee and offer my heartfelt condolences to any of his friends or family who might stumble upon here.

He seemed like a good guy.

Here are the ten songs that made their debut on Billboard‘s Hot 100 as October arrived this week thirty years ago…

The Clash – Rock The Casbah
from Combat Rock (1982)
(debuted #90, peaked #8, 24 weeks on chart)

Punk didn’t make it to our part of the Midwest and, though I knew The Clash by name, I had never heard their music prior to Rock The Casbah.

(it would be over the next few years – and thanks to the passion my buddy Streuss had for the band – that I would discover what all the fuss was over “the only band that matters”)

I thought that Rock The Casbah was übercool as was the song’s video which makes fine use of both Burger King and armadillos.

Bad Company – Electricland
from Rough Diamonds (1982)
(debuted #87, peaked #74, 4 weeks on chart)

I can’t say that I’ve ever had much affinity for Bad Company, though I much prefer the Paul Rodgers era to the late ’80s/early ’90s stuff sans Rodgers that briefly saw the band return to mainstream success.

And I can’t say that I’d ever heard Electricland, though its subdued, mysterious vibe briefly held my attention before I lost interest.

Missing Persons – Destination Unknown
from Spring Session M (1982)
(debuted #85, peaked #42, 14 weeks on chart)

Missing Persons was as exotic as exotic got for me and my friends in 1982 and we totally took to the band. Their sci-fi, synth sound and the comely looks of lead singer Dale Bozzio – and her plexiglass, fishbowl bra cups, bikini bottoms made of posters, and cotton-candy hair – were irresistible to our teenage ears and eyes.

I think we all had a cassette of Spring Session M and I still dig it when Words or the spacey, hypnotic Destination Unknown pops up on the iPod or Sirius.

Billy Squier – Everybody Wants You
from Emotions In Motion (1982)
(debuted #84, peaked #32, 17 weeks on chart)

During my junior high/high school years, Billy Squier was a rock god to most of the kids in my hometown. Of course, he was toppled from that exalted position as minor deity by the infamously bad video for Rock Me Tonight in 1984.

But when Emotions In Motion came out, he was still cool and Everybody Wants You was constantly playing from a radio or car stereo.

In fact, DJ Mark Sebastian from Q102 in Cincinnati – the station most of us listened to at the time – played the damned song repeatedly one night on his shift for an hour or two after supposedly locking himself in the DJ booth.

Timothy B. Schmit – So Much In Love
from Fast Times At Ridgemont High soundtrack (1982)
(debuted #81, peaked #59, 7 weeks on chart)

Apparently it was Irving Azoff, one of the film’s producers, who pushed for the inclusion of four solo Eagles and other ’70s acts on the soundtrack of Fast Times At Ridgemont High. The movie was a sensation but the kids in my high school in 1982 were listening to The Go-Gos and The Cars – who also had songs used – not Graham Nash, Jimmy Buffett, or Timothy B. Schmit.

Schmit’s contribution was a cover of So In Love, a hit by The Tymes from twenty years earlier, making the song positively antediluvian to us. Yet the song played during a closing scene in which the geek got the girl and, if its charms escaped me then, I find it pleasant enough now.

Bill Medley – Right Here And Now
from Right Here And Now (1982)
(debuted #80, peaked #58, 8 weeks on chart)

I had never heard Right Here And Now by Righteous Brother Bill Medley or, if I had, it hadn’t stuck. I listened to it and promptly forgot almost everything about it.

But, I do recall thinking that it wouldn’t have been out of place on one of the three or four soft rock stations on our dial in 1982.

Paul McCartney – Tug Of War
from Tug Of War (1982)
(debuted #75, peaked #53, 8 weeks on chart)

Paul McCartney’s 1982 album Tug Of War arrived with great expectations as it found the former Beatle reuniting with producer George Martin. The album received glowing reviews at the time and became a huge commercial hit driven by the ubiqitous duet with Stevie Wonder, Ebony And Ivory.

The title track was pulled as the third single from Tug Of War – following the breezy, summer hit Take It Away – and alternates between gentle and dramatic with a lilting melody and a hopeful vibe.

Linda Ronstadt – Get Closer
from Get Closer (1982)
(debuted #72, peaked #29, 12 weeks on chart)

Linda Ronstadt had a fairly impressive run of hits in the ’70s, but her singles began to receive a less attention with Get Closer. To me, the title song from that 1982 album lacks the personality of her ’70s stuff.

(I thought the album’s lesser radio hits – I Knew You When and Easy For You To Say – were better)

I can’t hear Linda Ronstadt and not think of a classmate not long after Ronstadt had released Living In The USA album – the one with a cover shot of her on roller skates and wearing an inconceivably short pair of satin shorts.

Our teacher asked us to name something twelve-year old boys wanted.

The classmate raised his hand and replied, “Linda Ronstadt.”

Donna Summer – State of Independence
from Donna Summer (1982)
(debuted #70, peaked #41, 10 weeks on chart)

A cover of a track by Yes’ Jon Anderson and Vangelis, Donna Summer’s State Of Independence has a bouncy, reggae hitch and a quasi-spiritual lyric. The song builds to an inspirational swell with a vocal choir that included Michael Jackson, Brenda Russell, James Ingram, Dionne Warwick, Kenny Loggins, Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder.

(supposedly the all-star vocal gathering inspired producer Quincy Jones for We Are The World a few years later)

I’ve not heard the original, but I was familiar with Moodswings’ version – retitled Spiritual High (State of Independence) – from the early ’90s which featured Chrissie Hynde on lead vocals.

Diana Ross – Muscles
from Silk Electric (1982)
(debuted #61, peaked #10, 17 weeks on chart)

Even though there wasn’t a lot of R&B on the radio when I first started listening – we had one station on a remote portion of the dial – Diana Ross was all over pop stations with songs like Upside Down, Endless Love, and Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

Still, about the only time I heard Muscles was when listening to Casey Kasem and American Top 40 on the weekends. It struck me as an odd song – a slow, sparse track with Ross cooing and sighing of her longing for buffness.

Of course, each week Casey would remind listeners that the song was written by Michael Jackson who soon was on the countdown with The Girl Is Mine, his duet with Paul McCartney and the first single from Thriller which would arrive that Thanksgiving.