May 22, 1982

May 26, 2012

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.

I nicked the concept from Chris at 70’s Music Mayhem who uses the format with far greater attention to detail as he works his way through the ’70s.

The first few years of the ’80s was when pop radio provided much of the music for me and Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 was appointment listening. Thirty years ago, twelve songs debuted on the Hot 100…

Leslie Pearl – If The Love Fits Wear It
from Words And Music (1982)
(debuted #90, peaked #28, 16 weeks on chart)

I know nothing about Leslie Pearl.

If I didn’t know If The Love Fits Wear It, I might believe Leslie Pearl was the name of a character pitched as a “female James Bond” for some proposed movie that never materialized.

But I do know If The Love Fits Wear It. I’d hear it on occasion as its soft rock style was well suited to the sound favored on our hometown radio station before it went full-frontal country a few years later.

It wasn’t much my cup of tea as a fourteen-year old guy in 1982, but now I find it a pleasant if undistinctive momento from the time.

Eye To Eye – Nice Girls
from Eye To Eye (1982)
(debuted #89, peaked #37, 13 weeks on chart)

I was surprised to find that Nice Girls only got to #37, as it was all over the radio stations I was listening to during the summer of ’82.

It’s not surprising that the debut album by the duo of American singer Deborah Berg and British pianist Julian Marshall would find success, though, as it boasted an impressive array of noted session players like Abe Laboriel, Jeff Porcaro, and Jim Keltner as well as guest appearances by Donald Fagen and Rick Derringer.

Tying it all together was producer Gary Katz, who had a lengthy resume working with Steely Dan and, though it lacks the lyrical bite of Becker and Fagen, Nice Girls is similarly sophisticated pop.

(Paloma loved the song when I played it for her but didn’t recall hearing it in the ’80s)

Kim Wilde – Kids In America
from Kids In America (1982)
(debuted #88, peaked #25, 18 weeks on chart)

We didn’t know much about Kim Wilde when she arrived with the New Wave bubblegum of her song Kids In America. She was a comely blonde and I imagine that’s all we needed to know.

But we did love the song.

It bounded along.

It had a chanted chorus.

It was about kids in America and we happened to be kids in America.

The J. Geils Band – Angel In Blue
from Freeze Frame (1981)
(debuted #87, peaked #40, 11 weeks on chart)

The R&B-laced blues-rock of the J. Geils Band earned them comparisons to the Rolling Stones and throughout the ’70s the Boston band was a popular live act with the occasional hit song.

In late ’81, the group released Freeze Frame and scored major pop radio success with Centerfold – one of the biggest songs of the year – and the title track.

The third track pulled from Freeze Frame was the mid-tempo ballad Angel In Blue which found its inspiration in doo-wop. Though the song failed to equal the success of the prevous two singles, the lovely, melancholic song retained the band’s soulful vibe and blue-collar grit as it told the tale of a world-weary cocktail waitress.

(for some reason, I’ve long mentally linked the unnamed waitress in Angel In Blue to Brandy in the hit by Looking Glass)

The Greg Kihn Band – Happy Man
from Kihntinued (1982)
(debuted #86, peaked #62, 7 weeks on chart)

Two of my friends were rabid fans of the work of power pop heros Greg Kihn Band even in 1982. I knew the band – as most people probably did – for the insanely hooky The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em) from a year earlier.

I don’t recall ever hearing Happy Man, but it’s certainly in the same vein as The Breakup Song and far more appealing to me than the shuffling dance-rock of Jeopardy, which would be a mammoth hit for the band the following spring.

The Gap Band – Early In The Morning
from Gap Band IV (1982)
(debuted #83, peaked #24, 14 weeks on chart)

There was essentially one R&B station in our listening area and it rarely caught my ear when I’d surf the channels. The pop stations I was listening to would play the hits, but I don’t remember hearing the funky cool and percussive Early In The Morning much at the time.

(which is too bad)

Jon And Vangelis – I’ll Find My Way Home
from The Friends Of Mr. Cairo (1981)
(debuted #81, peaked #51, 8 weeks on chart)

Jon And Vangelis is a duo, so they have that in common with Hall & Oates.

However, this duo is comprised of the lead singer for Yes and the man best-known for the theme from Chariots Of Fire and, unlike the singles of Hall & Oates, I’ll Find My Way Home is utterly devoid of a hook.

(though it is jam-packed with New Age sentiments)

Melissa Manchester – You Should Hear How She Talks About You
from Hey Ricky (1982)
(debuted #76, peaked #5, 25 weeks on chart)

Melissa Manchester was also an act which I associated with the hometown radio station. Her mellow hits like Midnight Blue and Don’t Cry Out Loud were staples I’d hear a breakfast as a kid.

You Should Hear How She Talks About You sounded nothing like those melodramatic ballads. It was upbeat, synthesized dance-pop and it seemed like Manchester was on Solid Gold every other week that summer performing the song.

Van Halen – Dancing In The Street
from Diver Down (1982)
(debuted #74, peaked #38, 11 weeks on chart)

Van Halen’s Diver Down was the first of the band’s albums to be released after my interest in music had become more than passive. So thirty years ago, I was far better acquainted with the band for their recent cover of Roy Orbison’s (Oh) Pretty Woman from earlier that spring than stuff from their classic catalog.

And I have no doubt that I had yet to be introduced to Martha & The Vandellas when I heard Van Halen’s version of Dancing In The Street.

I still love their remaking the Motown classic as a hard rock anthem complete with gurgling keyboards, Eddie’s guitar heroics, and David Lee Roth’s vocal howl.

(a position that is likely considered blasphemy to many)

Neil Diamond – Be Mine Tonight
from On The Way To The Sky (1981)
(debuted #73, peaked #35, 11 weeks on chart)

I vividly recall hearing a lot of Neil Diamond’s hits from the ’70s from the vantage point of the backseat of the car as songs like Cracklin’ Rosie, Song Sung Blue, and You Don’t Bring Me Flowers streamed from the soft rock stations my parents seemed to favor.

By 1982, I had (mostly) wrested control of the radio from the parents and I would have been far more intent upon finding Kids In America somewhere on the dial than Be Mine Tonight.

Journey – Still They Ride
from Escape (1981)
(debuted #72, peaked #19, 14 weeks on chart)

Of course I loved Journey in the ’80s. I was in junior high and high school when Escape and Frontiers were multi-million selling albums and allegiance to the band was hardly uncommon.

Like J. Geils Band, as summer arrived in 1982, Journey was still having hits from an album released before Thanksgiving break. Still They Ride – which I’d already been hearing for months – was the latest hit from the monstrously successful Escape,

Though I dug Journey and had worn out a cassette of Escape, I wasn’t too enamored with Still They Ride and often skipped it. Three decades later, I have considerably more affection for the wistful song that builds to a rather dramatic crescendo.

Alabama – Take Me Down
from Take Me Down (1982)
(debuted #69, peaked #18, 13 weeks on chart)

During the first couple years of the ’80s, our hometown radio began to shift from Top 40 to light rock to, eventually, whatever was passing for country at the time. Alabama managed to fit into all three formats and, thus, I was used to hearing Feels So Right, Love In The First Degree, and the laid-back, slightly twangy Take Me Down on the kitchen radio.

(not that I was particularly happy about it)

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A Hole In The Middle Of Summer

July 17, 2010

Last summer, I noted that I’d watched Major League Baseball’s All-Star game for the first time in years.

This summer, I mostly ignored the game again.

I watched a bit of the home run derby competition (and what I watched was uneventful). I spent most of the time trying to figure out if David Ortiz had actually gotten busted for performance-enhancing drugs, if he had been investigated for such hijinks, or if there had merely been rumors.

(that grew wearying and I lost interest in the contest)

I actually tuned in for the game in time to witness some well-meaning, but disturbingly-executed pre-game ceremony honoring good-deed doers. It gave me flashbacks of Up With People performing at the Super Bowl in the ’70s.

I watched the player introductions, recognizing no more than one of every three names, and began channel-surfing before the first inning had ended.

From the mid-’70s on, into the first years of the ’80s, the All-Star game was must-see television for me, an event that was anticipated for weeks. With only a couple national games each week, it was the chance to see players that you mostly had read about or saw brief highlights of on This Week In Baseball.

(that show was also appointment viewing each Saturday afternoon)

But somewhere along the trip, baseball became less a source of fascination to me. There are a lot of reasons, but it occurred to me that I might well be collateral damage from the 1981 players strike.

The plugged got pulled on the season in mid-June. Cleveland’s Len Barker had pitched the first perfect game in thirteen years and Fernando Valenzuela had been a sensation pitching for the Dodgers.

There was no baseball for two months, essentially the entire summer.

And plotting the timeline, it was the summer of ’81 during which music was taking on an increasing importance in my world. The time that might have been devoted to reading boxscores in the sports pages or watching a game was spent listening to the radio and becoming acquainted with the hit songs of the day.

In August, as the beginning of a new school year was bearing down on us, the strike ended and the baseball season resumed with the All-Star game. I’m sure I watched and I would continue to watch, but things had changed.

Baseball was never quite as important to me and it only became less so by the time I headed off to college a half decade later. By the time another strike wiped out the World Series in ’94, the sport was on life support for me.

Even if baseball hadn’t abandoned me that summer, I imagine that music would have still eclipsed my interest in the sport. I was thirteen and music was part of the required trappings of being that age.

Here are four of the songs that were filling the space that baseball had left during this week in 1981…

Rick Springfield – Jessie’s Girl
from Working Class Dog

In 1981, I was unaware that actors weren’t supposed to sing (and, usually, with good reason). Of course, I doubt that I was aware that Rick Springfield was a soap opera star aside from a DJ mentioning it in passing.

But Springfield was a musician before finding success on television and there was no denying that Jessie’s Girl was insanely catchy (as were most of his hits during the decade). Though there would be friends in my future who had girlfriends that I thought were fetching, none of them drove me into a state like Jessie’s girl drove poor Rick.

Marty Balin – Hearts
from Balin

Would I have know of Jefferson Airplane and/or Starship when Marty Balin scored a solo hit Hearts? Perhaps I knew the band’s more recent hits like Jane or Find Your Way Back, but I doubt I knew classics like White Rabbit, Somebody To Love, and Miracles.

I certainly had no idea of Balin’s connection to the legendary band unless, again, that information was passed on to me by the DJs playing the song or, perhaps, Casey Kasem, whom I had discovered earlier that summer.

Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight
from Face Value

Despite the dozens of hits that Phil Collins has had both with and wthout Genesis, I’d have to think that In The Air Tonight, his first solo hit, is the one for which he will be remembered. Not only are there the various urban legends about the song, but the cavernous drum sound would become Collins’ signature.

Add in the song’s use in the movie Risky Business and the television show Miami Vice as that program was becoming a phenomenon – as well as numerous commercials in the ensuing thirty years – and you have one of the more iconic hits of the early ’80s.

Greg Kihn Band – The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em)
from Rockihnroll

The Greg Kihn Band had a handful of hit songs including the mammoth Jeopardy in 1983, but the power-pop act wasn’t really able to break out beyond fringe status.

However, they got a lot of radio airplay in my corner of the midwest with songs like Happy Man, Reunited, and Lucky. As my friends and I became more interested in music, several of them were especially devoted to the San Francisco band, snagging each new release as soon as it was issued.

Though Jeopardy might have been the bigger hit, that song has nothing on the lean, wiry and concise The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em). In under three minutes, Kihn had me hooked with the song’s singalong chrous and his stuttered vocal at the end of each verse.


Monday Rears Its Ugly Head Again

January 24, 2010

Like grim death it does.

No sleeping past six. No lounging on the couch nursing an extra cup of coffee. No plotting out whether to take that nap after breakfast or hold off ’til after lunch.

As a kid, the weekend essentially ended the moment that I heard that stopwatch ticking to open 60 Minutes. As my parents settled in to watch the weekly news program, I knew that the clock had run out on my weekend.

In college, the transition from Sunday to Monday was far less jarring. Monday morning hardly loomed as some ominous, unstoppable force because liberation was as simple as noting with bleary eyes that I had forty-five minutes before my first class, rolling over, and waking two hours later, refreshed and ready to skip my afternoon classes to watch Twilight Zone reruns.

By refusing to play with Monday, an implacable foe, or even acknowledge its existence, I won.

That ride should have come to an end upon graduation, but, fortunately, my commencement from school coincided with the rise of slacker culture, a glorious period when it was no more acceptable to put off grown-up nonsense, but doing so had a nifty name. It was a good excuse to take an extra year or ten to live on noodles, attend shows on guest lists, and continue to ignore Mondays.

Monday had been reduced to merely the day before Tuesday, the day new albums were released, and life was good.

These days, that damned 60 Minutes stopwatch is, once again, a harbinger of the impending work week. As soon as I hear its ominous ticking, I switch the channel to The Simpsons and spend the final couple hours of the weekend with cartoons.

As a kid, I’d usually shuffle off to my bedroom, turn on the radio, and dial up 101.3 from Richmond which would be rebroadcasting that week’s American Top 40. I’d listen to Casey Kasem count down the songs and the weekend.

Here are some songs that were on Billboard‘s Hot 100 for this week in 1983…

Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Shame On The Moon
from The Distance

One of my best friends in our neighborhood as a kid was a big fan of Bob Seger, so I was familiar with his music, but I wasn’t impressed. And, at the time, I wanted nothing to do with Shame On The Moon when it would come on the radio. It was far too rootsy for my tastes.

Then, somewhere along the way, I realized that I had a greater affection for the music of Seger than I had known. That included the loping and wistful Shame On The Moon, penned by Rodney Crowell.

Joe Jackson – Breaking Us In Two
from Night And Day

Another artist that I have had a major reassessment of since I was a kid, Joe Jackson’s sophisticated pop was a bit too mature for me to truly appreciate at the time. I hadn’t cared for Steppin’ Out and though I liked Breaking Us In Two a bit more, my interest was still tepid at best.

But it’s hard to resist the charm of the song with its hypnotic, tick-tock melody and yearning lyrics.

Greg Kihn Band – Jeopardy
from Kihnspiracy

Greg Kihn got a lot of airplay from the stations in our area and his engaging power pop always sounded great on the radio. It wasn’t just his bigger hits like the infectious The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em), but even lesser-known singles like Reunited and Lucky got airplay.

Jeopardy was a monster. Of course, between a friend of mine who was a devotee of Kihn and wore out Kinhspiracy and the mammoth success of the song on radio, I did get burned out on it, but my ears perk up when I hear it these days.

ABC – Poison Arrow
from The Lexicon Of Love

ABC garnered heaps of attention and accolades when the group issued its debut, The Lexicon Of Love, particularly in their native UK. Their first single, The Look Of Love, was all over the radio during the autumn of ’82 and Poison Arrow arrived with the new year.

The song possessed the same air of drama as well as being flawlessly produced by Trevor Horn. It practically glistened. For whatever reason, the radio stations I was listening to – that had so embraced The Look Of Love – didn’t show Poison Arrow nearly as much love and I rarely heard the song outside of its appearances on American Top 40.