Of late, my thoughts have been pre-occupied with nautical nonsense – giant squids and repeated viewings of Jaws – and, as I have no sea shanties to post, I thought that I’d take some shore leave. Fortunately, JB over at the wonderful The Hits Keep Comin’ has made me nostalgic for a time when radio meant something in my life – actually, it meant everything.
Music wasn’t a part of the landscape of our home when I was growing up. The radio was tuned in to the local country station but mostly for the weather. Although my parents were teens during the birth of rock and roll, like so many people music was hardly a need in their lives once they reached adulthood.
I do recall a few albums being played as a kid – stuff like Roy Orbison, Ray Price, and The Statler Brothers – as well as the odd, current hit single. I had little interest and, now, I wonder how I spent my time before I fell in love with music.
However, my time – almost all of my time – would soon be filled with music as the result of two things that were conversation staples among my classmates in junior high as the result of the popularity of Q102 out of Cincinnati.
The first thing that had my classmates abuzz was the on-air antics of Q102 DJ Mark Sebastian. Sebastian was irreverent and, to us, completely outrageous, signing off his shifts with the declaration, “And remember that I, Mark Sebastian, want to see you completely naked.” In 1981, in Southeastern Indiana, that was inconceivably shocking.
The other topic of many conversations centered on the previous evening’s Top Ten at 10, during which the ten most popular songs of the day would be counted down. Tuning in nightly, something clicked in my pre-teen consciousness, some connection was made and these songs, some for only a brief time, meant something to me. Music suddenly mattered and nothing in my life would ever be the same.
So, here are a few of the songs that were all the rage in those early months of 1981…
Styx – The Best Of Times
Styx – as well as Journey, REO Speedwagon and Kansas – was a staple on radio in the Midwest and Paradise Theater was the album among many of my friends. Not only were they my first concert two years later, but Paradise Theater was one of the first cassettes I ever purchased. Along with The Best Of Times, Too Much Time On My Hands and Rockin’ The Paradise were fixtures in Q102’s Top Ten.
Blondie – Rapture
While some of my early favorites hold little appeal to me now aside from nostalgia, Blondie’s stature has only grown as my tastes have matured. Musical chameleons fronted by Debbie Harry, whose non-musical charms had us equally as captivated, Rapture was the introduction to hip-hop for many kids of my generation.
Hall & Oates – Kiss On My List
The tall, blond one and the short, dark-haired one known as Hall & Oates were an unstoppable radio juggernaut in the early ‘80s. As a teenager during that time, it seemed hard to imagine a world without a Hall & Oates song every twenty minutes.
John Cougar – Ain’t Even Done With The Night
Before he was John Mellencamp, saving American farms, and incessantly reminding television viewers that “this is our country,” he was simply John Cougar (or, as my friend Bosco would refer to him, Johnny Hoosier). He’s arguably done better music since those early years, but this is, perhaps, the one song of his which I still never tire of hearing.