November 6, 1982

November 5, 2012

Unless you have a masochistic streak, you are as likely to have election fatigue as I am. However, the end of this highly-informative, enlightening period is near and, before the next president is inaugurated in January, a new slate of empty suits will already be jockeying for 2016.

(all of this is, obviously, contigent upon no year-end Mayan nonsense)

So, 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.

And, since 1982 was the year during which I first truly fell in love with the radio, here is the octet of songs which first appeared on the Hot 100 thirty years ago…

Judas Priest – You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
from Screaming For Vengeance (1982)
(debuted #90, peaked #67, 7 weeks on chart)

I didn’t go through a metal phase as a kid (or as an adult for that matter) and by the late ’80s – when the hair-metal bands were ruling MTV – I thought the genre to be laughable. Over the ensuing years, I’ve come to enjoy some of the stuff, but, if I’m opting for metal from that period, I’m likely to dial up Iron Maiden.

However, Judas Priest, led by Rob Halford and the twin-guitar attack of Glenn Tipton and K. K. Downing, were titans of the metal world and fixtures in Circus magazine, one of the few music magazines stocked in the rack of our local drug store.

Though I’ve never embraced Judas Priest, I do recall hearing their driving You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ here and there at the time. It was catchy enough to give the band their lone US pop hit.

Bill Conti – Theme From Dynasty
from Television’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 3 (1990)
(debuted #89, peaked #52, 9 weeks on chart)

I knew the name Bill Conti as the composer of Gonna Fly Now, the theme from the movie Rocky, but, as I never watched the show, I had never heard his theme from the television series Dynasty.

I know that Dynasty was about rich people and there’s a snootier-than-thou vibe to the theme that I could imagine accompanying people playing polo, eating caviar, yachting, running for president or doing whatever else rich people do.

Frida – I Know There’s Something Going On
from Something’s Going On (1982)
(debuted #88, peaked #13, 29 weeks on chart)

I’m sure that, initially, I had no idea that the voice on I Know There’s Something Going On belonged to one of the women from ABBA. And, I doubt at the time that I recognized the drumming on the song to be Phil Collins (although I’d soon become familiar with the cavernous sound that was his trademark).

Instead, I loved the thunderous sound and omnious vibe of the song. And, in retrospect, it’s odd to think of Frida’s lone hit getting played on the rock stations playing Tom Petty, Saga, and Def Leppard that would have never touched ABBA.

Men At Work – Down Under
from Business As Usual (1982)
(debuted #79, peaked #1, 25 weeks on chart)

Men At Work had dominated the radio during the late summer and early autumn of ’82 with Who Can It Be Now? and, by Christmas, Down Under had become the Aussie act’s second smash.

I do know that my friends and I – living in a world without MTV – had seen both of those videos on Casey Kasem’s America’s Top 10 and been delighted by lead singer Colin Hay’s expressive antics and emotive nature. That Christmas, I received a copy of Business As Usual which I wore out over the following winter months.

Kim Carnes – Does It Make You Remember?
from Voyeur (1982)
(debuted #78, peaked #36, 13 weeks on chart)

Kim Carnes had unleashed the juggernaut Bette Davis Eyes upon the world in 1981 as music was beginning to tickle my fancy. Despite a lengthy career beginning in the ’60s as a member of The New Christy Minstrels and a number of solo hits including More Love and Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer, Bette Davis Eyes will headline the singer/songwriter’s obituary.

Carnes’ follow-up to Mistaken Identity, which contained Bette Davis Eyes, was destined to fail in matching its predecessors’ success. Voyeur‘s title track came and went quickly as the album’s initial single.

The second release was the mid-tempo Does It Make You Remember? which, like Voyeur, briefly reached the Top 40. It’s not a bad song and well-suited for Carnes’ raspy vocals, but my main memory of Does It Make You Remember? is that the singer seemed to appear on Solid Gold performing it every week that winter (accompanied by noted session guitarist Waddy Wachtel and his voluminous hair).

Phil Collins – You Can’t Hurry Love
from Hello, I Must Be Going! (1982)
(debuted #77, peaked #10, 21 weeks on chart)

I knew little of Genesis and even less about The Supremes as 1982 wound down and Genesis’ Phil Collins released his cover of the latter’s classic You Can’t Hurry Love. I knew Genesis for their recent hits from Abacab No Reply At All, the title track, and Man On The Corner – but I doubt that I knew The Supremes whatsoever.

Though it obviously doesn’t match the original, Phil Collins take on You Can’t Hurry Love is likely as good as one might hope for from a drummer of a (increasingly less) progressive, English rock band.

John Cougar – Hand To Hold On To
from American Fool (1982)
(debuted #72, peaked #19, 18 weeks on chart)

Few acts had as good a year as Johnny Hoosier – as my buddy Bosco referred to local hero John Cougar – did in 1982. The gritty rocker had broken through with the mega-selling American Fool set which had spawned two hits in Hurts So Good and Jack And Diane that had dominated radio that summer and into the fall.

As I was living in Indiana, local radio had given heavy airplay to American Fool even before Hurts So Good broke nationally, meaning that by the time Hand To Hold On To was issued as the album’s third single, I was well and truly tired of anything Cougar.

So, Hand To Hold On To usually prompted me to change the station, but, now, thirty years later, I hear it as a solid, amiable rock song, hardly as memorable as the first two hits but a decent track nonetheless.

Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney – The Girl Is Mine
from Thriller (1982)
(debuted #45, peaked #2, 18 weeks on chart)

If there is one song among Thriller‘s seven Top Ten hits that I haven’t really heard on the radio in the three decades since it was a hit, it would be The Girl Is Mine, the duet that launched the album. Even at the time, it offered no hint at how Thriller would dominate the airwaves for the next eighteen months, well into 1984.

The Girl Is Mine was Paul McCartney’s second superstar duet that year – he had paired with Stevie Wonder that spring on Ebony And Ivory – and it’s a pleasant enough song with a goofy spoken word interlude. I always thought that its laid-back, breezy vibe would have made the song more suitable for warmer months.

Not long after The Girl Is Mine hit radio, the full album arrived and several of the stations I was listening to quickly jumped on Beat It with Eddie Van Halen on guitar, a far more intriguing track to me.

I hear The Girl Is Mine now and I can’t help but hear a buddy ad-libbing “the goddamned girl is mine” in place of the more benign “the doggone girl is mine” in the chorus which was high hilarity to us at the time.

An Oasis Called Pizza Hut

July 7, 2009

There was no such thing as air conditioning when I was a kid. It existed, but we didn’t have it – not in our house, not in our school, not in the family car.

The last situation made for tense times on six-hour drives to Western Pennsylvania for vacation each summer.

Perched on the couch the other night, the drone of the central air was comforting, lulling me into a drowsy state. I was still coherent enough to have a personal revelation during a television commercial.

As a kid, Pizza Hut was nirvana.

Sure, it’s mediocre pizza, but how many times have you run across pizza that was truly inedible – especially as a kid?

(I could probably count mine on one had)

My hometown had Pizza Haus as the one establishment singularly devoted to purveying pie. It wasn’t bad but hardly the place you rave to friends about years later in one of those mindless discussions that occur shortly after one in the morning at some bar.

It was pizza. It was greasy. It was ours.

(and a place where we enjoyed heckling the town drunks)

The nearest Pizza Hut was twenty minutes away in a thriving megalopolis of ten thousand best known for the tree which grew from the roof of the courthouse.

Times were catatonic.

But there was a Pizza Hut. It was air-conditioned and dimly lit. There was pizza. And, once I was in high school and my friends and I could procure transportation (usually without prior consent of our biological guardians) and escape there, the juke box was of great importance, too.

Those treks rarely ended without souvenirs. One friend had a dozen of those red, plastic glasses at home (I believe he told his mom that they were free with a purchase). We once even made off with a pan pizza pan which another friend’s father was surprised to find in his trunk.

As much as those antics were important in keeping my friends and I occupied, it was those family vacations during which the familiar architecture of Pizza Hut was salvation – a brief respite from hunger, heat, and the drudgery of the road.

The (usually) annual pilgrimage that occurred in 1981 was memorable to me as radio was a new interest and, thus, a new way to pass the time with an eye scanning the horizon for that familiar red roof.

Some of the songs I recall hearing on that trip…

Kim Carnes – Bette Davis Eyes
from Mistaken Identity

I wasn’t exactly taken at the time with Kim Carnes’ mysterious, new-wave tinged take on this Jackie DeShannon song. That was unfortunate because it was simply inescapable that summer.

Over the years, it’s grown on me considerably and I dig the raspy vocals of Carnes.. And, in a brush with semi-greatness, I once bumped into her at Kroger’s. She was hidden behind a large pair of sunglasses, but it was definitely her buying a carton of eggs.

Jim Steinman – Rock & Roll Dreams Come Through
from Bad For Good

I like Meat Loaf. He seems like an affable, eager-to-please fellow whom you could depend on in a jam. I think I’d like to be his neighbor

The reason I mention Meat Loaf is because it was singing the songs of Jim Steinman that brought him to global fame. Rock & Roll Dreams Come Through was on Steinman’s lone solo album, released during the long wait for Meat Loaf to follow-up Bat Out Of Hell.

It’s gloriously bombastic. If you’re going to go big, you might as well go Spectorian.

Journey – Who’s Crying Now
from Escape

I distinctly remember hearing Who’s Crying Now for the first time on that vacation and, by the time it finished, I was already surfing the radio dial in hopes of hearing it again.

I wouldn’t even hazard to guess how many times I heard it during that two-week stretch. I am certain that it must have been enough times that had my family bludgeoned me to death with the lid from the cooler and left me for dead on the side of the interstate somewhere in West Virginia, they would have been acquitted.

Foreigner – Urgent
from Foreigner 4

You’ve got Junior Walker adding sax and Thomas Dolby playing synthesizer – on a Foreigner record. It’s lots of fun.

Personally, Foreigner 4 is a fantastic, straight-ahead rock record and I never really understood the critical angst over their records up through this one. Of course, I grew up in the Midwest and, during the late ’70s and early ’80s, Foreigner on the radio was omnipresent.

Sheena Easton – For Your Eyes Only
from For Your Eyes Only soundtrack

I confess that the only James Bond movie that I have ever seen is A View To A Kill (it’s a rather shameful admission, I suppose). I like James Bond, but, if he was a neighbor of me and Meat Loaf, I can’t imagine he’d let us use his pool or go bowling with us.

Anyhow, Sheena Easton was a bit too unremittingly perky for me, but I did/do like For Your Eyes Only. Blondie actually was supposed to do the theme to the James Bond flick of the same name, and I like their song, too (even though it is an entirely different song).