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)