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.

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October 17, 1981

October 15, 2011

The autumn of 1981 was the first time that the radio was the first thing I turned on in the morning and the last thing turned off at night.

Q102 would air the Top Ten At Ten weeknights at the titular hour, so a lot of nights I’d leave the radio on, listening well after they’d finished counting down the day’s most requested songs.

The station was the station for most of my junior high classmates and the previous evening’s countdown usually merited at least a few minutes discussion and debate the following day.

It was a good station for a kid just beginning to become interested in music, Top 40 with diverse offerings ranging from Air Supply and Hall & Oates to The Go-Go’s and Rick James as well as classic Who, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin.

Perusing the Hot 100 in Billboard magazine from thirty years ago, most of the songs are recognizable, some more familiar than others; some I did hear at the time and some only over the ensuing years.

Here are the nine songs making their first appearance on the chart during this week in 1981…

Arlan Day – I Surrender
from Surrender (1981)
(debuted #90, peaked #71, 7 weeks on chart)

Arlan Day has one more hit song than me and likely you, yet there’s probably more info floating in cyberspace on most of us than there is on Arlan.

I Surrender makes me wonder if Day was concocted in some lab from leftover scraps of Leo Sayer.

Pablo Cruise – Slip Away
from Reflector (1981)
(debuted #88, peaked #75, 5 weeks on chart)

I know little about Pablo Cruise other than Whatcha Gonna Do? and Love Will Find A Way. I think that they were from California and had moustaches.

(they had that bright, late ’70s California soft pop sound and I think moustaches were mandated for such acts at the time)

Slip Away is pleasant enough, not quite four minutes of unadorned, mid-tempo, yacht rock blues.

The Alan Parsons Project – Snake Eyes
from The Turn Of A Friendly Card (1980)
(debuted #86, peaked #67, 5 weeks on chart)

I’ve long owned a lot of music by The Alan Parsons Project, but couldn’t remember Snake Eyes and it wasn’t familiar upon listening to it.

A follow-up to The Turn Of A Friendly Card‘s earlier hits Games People Play and Time, Snake Eyes is neither as catchy as the former nor as evocative as the latter.

Quarterflash – Harden My Heart
from Quarterflash (1981)
(debuted #80, peaked #3, 24 weeks on chart)

Thanks to Casey Kasem I know that Quarterflash got their name from…it’s an Australian saying…

I had to look it up. It derives from an Australian slang description of new immigrants as “one quarter flash and three parts foolish.”

Harden My Heart was appealing and seems to have retained a bit of a presence.

(and my teenaged buddies and I found Quarterflash lead singer/saxophonist Rindy Ross to be quite fetching)

Juice Newton – The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known)
from Juice (1981)
(debuted #79, peaked #7, 24 weeks on chart)

Juice Newton caught my attention when I heard Angel Of The Morning and Queen Of Hearts – her earlier Top Ten hits from her self-titled album – on the radio, mostly because her name was Juice.

(sadly, her name is actually Judy)

Juice straddled the line between country and pop with those songs and the singer became a breakout sensation in 1981. The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known) is on the twangier side and, thus, was of no interest to me at the time, but I find the song more engaging now and Juice belts the melodramatic ballad to the back row.

Survivor – Poor Man’s Son
from Premonition (1981)
(debuted #78, peaked #33, 14 weeks on chart)

Survivor was just another aspiring arena rock band in the autumn of ’81, but, by the following summer, the Chicago band would unleash the mighty Eye Of The Tiger into an unsuspecting world. I seem to recall reading that it was hearing Poor Man’s Son that prompted Sylvester Stallone to tap Survivor to compose the theme for Rocky III.

The punchy Poor Man’s Son is servicable but sounds more like a band that would be relegated to opening act status for the Journeys, Foreigners, and REO Speedwagons of the world, hardly hinting at the musical immortality awaiting Survivor.

Kool & The Gang- Take My Heart (You Can Have It If You Want It)
from Something Special (1981)
(debuted #67, peaked #17, 17 weeks on chart)

Kool & The Gang was a pop radio staple in the early ’80s and throughout much of the decade, but the venerable R&B/funk act had punched their ticket for enduring fame and fortune a year earlier with the mammoth hit Celebration. The effervescent song became the soundtrack to all things celebatory in nature, especially sporting events.

I never really cared much for the doo-wop tinged Take My Heart, perferring the grittier funk of its follow-up Get Down On It, but I recall my buddy Beej loving the song at the time.

Rod Stewart – Young Turks
from Tonight I’m Yours (1981)
(debuted #61, peaked #5, 19 weeks on chart)

In 1981, my classmates and I knew little of Rod Stewart’s already extensive history aside from his disco vamp Do You Think I’m Sexy, that song’s follow-up Ain’t Love A Bitch (because, hey, he just said “bitch”), and rumors of stomach pumping.

I totally dug Young Turks, the tale of Billy and Patti and their ten-pound baby boy, which found Rod ditching the disco trappings for a more wiry, New Wave musical vibe.

Diana Ross – Why Do Fools Fall In Love
from Why Do Fools Fall In Love (1981)
(debuted #56, peaked #7, 20 weeks on chart)

Diana Ross had retained her superstar status as a solo act in the ’70s not only with a string of hit songs but in a number of movies as well.

However, like Rod Stewart, my classmates and I knew Ross for her more recent work – stuff like the movie The Wiz and her early ’80s hits like Upside Down, I’m Coming Out, and Endless Love – than her iconic time as a Supreme in the ’60s.

Whatever I knew by The Supremes at the time would have been dismissed as ancient history and Ross’ update of a Frankie Lymon hit from the ’50s usually prompted me to search for something else on the dial.


Sam He Am (Somebody Give That Hobbit A Potato So He’ll Shut The @$%&# Up)

February 4, 2010

As an ESPN-watching male, I’m aware that I’m supposed to love the movie Rudy.

I don’t.

I’ve tried and, with dire viewing options the other night, I tried again. It’s nothing against Notre Dame or the story per se, it’s the title character. No matter what was going on, Rudy was blathering on and on about Notre Dame.

Half an hour into it, I was hoping that Ned Beatty, playing the father, would take the kid on a rafting trip down the Cahulawassee River and trade him to some mountain men for a jug of moonshine or some beef jerky.

At one point, Rudy gets a job as a groundskeeper at Notre Dame and proceeds to re-enact touchdown runs as his co-workers stare slack-jawed (likely realizing that, yet again, they will have to pick up this jackass’ slack).

Seriously, if real-life Rudy is/was as single-minded as he was portrayed, wouldn’t someone have eventually resorted to violence, if necessary, to get him to stop talking about Notre Dame football for ten minutes?

This wasn’t the first time that Sean Astin, who played Rudy, has driven me to distraction in a movie. In fact, he frustrated me in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, too. All that bellyaching for boiled potatoes (or something) and his fussing over Frodo grated on my nerves.

Of course, Paloma and I did make the regretful decision to watch all three movies in (mostly) one sitting. I think I would have been irritable after watching The Big Lebowski for that long.

(actually, that’s unlikely, and I’d like to see a remake of the trilogy with The Dude as Frodo’s sidekick instead)

Tolkien seems to be an all-in or nothing proposition. I’d read one of the books and was entertained but not indoctrinated.

But, Paloma and I kept catching portions of the first movie on television. I can’t recall if she had read the books, but I know that she gets a bit googly-moogly over Viggo Mortensen.

(this is why I spend great amounts of time making sure that the two never cross paths)

So, so we rented all of them and set forth on our own journey. We started in late afternoon and made it through eight or so hours before fatigue bested us.

The next morning, after a lot of nervously dancing around the subject, we trudged onward toward Mt. Doom.

(it was Mt. Doom, right?)

How long were those three movies on DVD? Twelve, fifteen, twenty hours? By the time we were midway through the final film, there was no more joy, just a primal drive to keep moving, to reach the end.

Oh, they’re wonderful movies. There’s some amazing cinema to be had, but probably not in such a concentrated dose.

(though I briefly came back to life when the Ents appeared as I am a sucker for talking, ambulatory trees)

Nonetheless, much like Rudy, we showed grit, hung in there, and eventually reached the end credits.

Rudy finally suited up for Notre Dame in the final game of the 1975 season. It was November. I was a second grader and certainly more interested in dinosaurs than music, but, according to the Billboard charts from the time, there were songs that would be quite well known to me years later…

ABBA – S.O.S.
from Thank You For The Music

I snagged a used copy of ABBA’s four-disc box for a pittance and, though I like these Swedes, I’ve only ventured beyond a dozen or so tracks once or twice. I imagine I’ve heard most of the essential stuff.

I was a kid during ABBA’s heyday, but I still remember hearing most of their hits on the radio. S.O.S. has always been a favorite. It swoops – it soars – it’s ridiculously catchy.

Wouldn’t a bio-pic on ABBA be a license to print money?

Jefferson Starship- Miracles
from Red Octopus

I can’t say that I know much of Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship aside from essentially the radio hits and 1984’s Nuclear Furniture (which, for some reason, I felt the need to purchase). I’ve always loved White Rabbit and I didn’t hate We Built This City as much as the rest of the world seemed to despise it.

As for Miracles, it’s a gorgeous track that always seems to sound better on a rainy day.

The Eagles – Lyin’ Eyes
from One Of These Nights

There was a time when, like The Big Lebowski‘s Dude, I hated The Eagles. Perhaps it was their oversaturation on radio while I was growing up. Though they had called it a day, their songs seemed to be playing constantly.

And though Lyin’ Eyes got played as much as any of those songs aside from perhaps Hotel California, the harmonies and resigned tone of the song made it the one that made me pause on the station. Over the past decade or so, I’ve come to appreciate more of the group’s catalog.

Diana Ross – Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)
from Diana Ross & The Supremes: The No. 1’s

There were a couple summers where I wore my hair in braids and my stylist was a clerk in a record store where I worked who spent nights as a popular drag queen whose specialty was Diana Ross.

(and none of that is made up)

Anyhow, Theme from Mahogany is a pretty song and filled with enough drama for a dozen drag queens. I can’t quite place it, but I seem to recall hearing the song playing in the mall with my parents during the Christmas season in ’75. The memory is there, but I can’t bring it into focus.