By December 1983, my radio listening habits were going through a migration from Top 40 stations, which I had been listening to for a couple years, to the album rock of Q95 and, mostly in the evenings when reception was possible, the newly-minted 97X.
But, Casey Kasem and American Top 40 was still a drowsy weekend morning staple and I would often peruse Billboard magazine when I’d come across a copy in the magazine racks at Walden Books while hanging out in the malls in Cincinnati.
During the first week of December, 1983, nine songs debuted on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart…
Rodney Dangerfield – Rappin’ Rodney
from Rappin’ Rodney (1983)
(debuted #96, peaked #83, 8 weeks on chart)
I’d skip most of the songs that debuted this week if they shuffled up on the iPod, perhaps pausing for a nostalgic moment to think, yeah I remember this one, didn’t care for it in 1983 and I am no more interested now.
In the case of Rappin’ Rodney, I’d halt long enough to pay respect to the late comedian, but when it comes to Mr. Dangerfield, I want to watch him verbally joust with Sam Kinison in Back To School or sink Judge Smails’ newly-christened sloop in Caddyshack not listen to him rap.
Streets – If Love Should Go
from 1st (1983)
(debuted #90, peaked #87, 5 weeks on chart)
Streets was a short-lived venture formed by keyboardist/singer Steve Walsh who left Kansas in 1981 following the conversion of several members to Christianity and their desire to incorporate their faith into the music.
(as someone living in an über-pious part of the country, those born-again Christians can be a shrill bunch and, as Hank Hill once opined on King Of The Hill, “You people are not making Christianity any better, you’re just making rock ‘n’ roll worse”)
I used to hear If Love Should Go a lot on the radio, but it’s fairly generic and unremarkable arena rock that hardly stood out. By the end of the ’80s, Walsh had reconsituted Kansas, which had broken up after two albums released during his absence.
Anne Murray – A Little Good News
from A Little Good News (1983)
(debuted #88, peaked #74, 9 weeks on chart)
I have a soft spot for Anne Murray’s early ’70s stuff hits Snowbird and Danny’s Song as I’d often hear them on the car radio on whatever light rock station my parents would have dialed up.
I also heard A Little Good News a lot, again, thanks to the parents who would have the kitchen radio tuned to our town’s radio station before school. The station had flipped from light rock to country, so Murray was a natural fit.
However, hearing Murray’s lament about the state of the world makes me think of Lori, a sophomore classmate at the time. She was a tomboy who was on the girls’ basketball and volleyball teams and I spent much of that year quite smitten with her.
The smit went unrequited, but the two of us were good friends and hung out in several classes we had together. For some reason, I still remember her singing A Little Good News one day while we were working on an experiment in chemistry class.
The Doors – Gloria
from Alive, She Cried (1983)
(debuted #86, peaked #71, 7 weeks on chart)
Although, not unexpectedly, the kids with whom I went to school were mostly into the then-current bands of the early ’80s, there was a great, mass appreciation for the music of The Doors, who had ceased to exist well before any of us had even reached school age.
(there were even classmates who claimed to have a very personal connection to the band)
Alive, She Cried was a live compilation culled from performances by The Doors between 1968 and 1970 and I remember hearing Gloria a lot on Q95 that autumn. Personally,I’d rather hear the band doing one of their trippy originals than a version of the Them classic.
Jump ‘N The Saddle – The Curly Shuffle
from Jump ‘N The Saddle (1983)
(debuted #86, peaked #15, 14 weeks on chart)
Three Stooges-mania swept through our junior high in the late ’70s/early ’80s, though I’m not sure what triggered the mass rediscovery of Larry, Curly, and Moe amongst us.
There must have been something going on in the rest of the country, too, as Jump ‘N The Saddle’s homage to the Stooges was inescapable in the winter of ’83. It was a fun song for the first several thousand times and, then, it was not so fun.
Night Ranger – (You Can Still) Rock in America
from Midnight Madness (1983)
(debuted #83, peaked #51, 12 weeks on chart)
The San Francisco band Night Ranger was quickly embraced by the rock stations I was listening to and Don’t Tell Me You Love Me and Sing Me Away got their 1982 debut album a lot of attention.
So, it wasn’t a surprise to hear (You Can Still) Rock in America a lot when Midnight Madness was released even if the song didn’t reach the Top 40. The song had a sound tailor-made for the heartland and to be played on the radio alongside contemporaries like Journey, Foreigner, and Billy Squier.
A few months later, Sister Christian was issued as the second single from Midnight Madness, propelling Night Ranger to headlining status for a few years and giving the band one of the more enduring hits of the ’80s.
Bonnie Tyler – Take Me Back
from Faster Than The Speed Of Night (1983)
(debuted #75, peaked #46, 9 weeks on chart)
I’ve dug Bonnie Tyler’s raspy vocals from the first time I heard the Welsh singer in 1978 on her Top Ten hit It’s A Heartache.
Five years later, Tyler had another hit in the States with the Total Eclipse Of The Heart, a song so epic that it had its own postal code and sold millions of copies of its parent album, the Jim Steinman-produced Faster Than The Speed Of Night.
Take Me Back was another dramatic lament to love lost and, while not a bad song, it failed to reach the heights of its predecessor.
The Motels – Remember The Nights
from Little Robbers (1983)
(debuted #67, peaked #36, 12 weeks on chart)
Each and every time I do one of these recaps, it seems that The Motels pop up.
Not as dark or moody as Only The Lonely or Suddenly Last Summer, Remember The Nights is still a nice showcase for the compelling vocals of lead singer Martha Davis and, though not as successful or as well remembered as those two songs, it still managed to reach the Top 40 for a few weeks in early 1984.
Culture Club – Karma Chameleon
from Colour By Numbers (1983)
(debuted #52, peaked #1, 22 weeks on chart)
Though I wouldn’t have trumpeted it at the time, I quite liked Culture Club’s first two singles – Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? and Time (Clock Of The Heart) – and, now, I’d call both of them brilliant, timeless pop songs.
(there was no excuse for I’ll Tumble 4 Ya, though)
The group had reached iconic status by the time the harmonica-driven Karma Chameleon was released in late ’83 and the irresistibly catchy song became Culture Club’s biggest hit in the States.
Over the next six months, there would be several more hits from Colour By Numbers but the celebrity of Boy George and his antics would soon outstrip interest in the music of Culture Club.