(it’s easy to be distracted by the bead of sweat rolling down my nose)
So, it’s time to pull up an old Billboard magazine Hot 100 chart and note the songs that debuted that week and, today, it’s 1983.
As the 4th of July hullaballoo was fading in the rear view of 1983, I was getting back to summer life as a kid in one of the last responsibility-free summers I would have. And that meant a lot of music.
I was still mostly tethered to Top 40 radio, but I was at least hearing of more exotic stuff thanks to my buddy Beej who was telling tales of the music videos that he was seeing on the newly launched Night Tracks on TBS.
I was beginning to check out hitherto unexplored frequencies on the FM band, among them the album rock of Q95 and, by that autumn, the alternative rock of 97X.
And, twenty-nine years ago this week, a half-dozen plus one songs made their debut on the Hot 100 chart in Billboard magazine…
Peter Tosh – Johnny B. Goode
from Mama Africa (1983)
(debuted #95, peaked #84, 4 weeks on chart)
Aside from Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff, my knowledge of reggae music is scattershot at best, but Peter Tosh was a member of the legendary Marley’s Wailers and claimed to have taught Marley to play guitar.
I had not heard Tosh’s take on Johnny B. Goode before and it’s mostly what I expected – a reggae version of Chuck Berry’s iconic song with a surprising amount of kick that leaves me bobbing my head.
Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack – Tonight, I Celebrate My Love
from Born To Love (1983)
(debuted #89, peaked #16, 29 weeks on chart)
I couldn’t seem to help coming across Tonight, I Celebrate My Love For You while channel surfing in 1983. It seemed to be a given as assuredly as it was a given that I would quickly move on in search of something else.
But, despite my dislike for the mawkish ballad, Peabo is a fun word to say and it is a fun word to hear said.
Zebra – Who’s Behind The Door?
from Zebra (1983)
(debuted #87, peaked #61, 8 weeks on chart)
During the summer of ’83, several friends were twitterpated over Zebra and their song Who’s Behind The Door? They were hardly alone as the band was quickly attracting fans (and detractors) for the heavy Zeppelin influence in their sound.
I liked the band’s name and found the song intriguing, so I snagged a copy of the Long Island (via New Orleans) trio’s debut and it was one of my most played cassettes of that summer. The dreamy, enigmatic Who’s Behind The Door still sounds like the summer of ’83 to me.
Rick Springfield – Human Touch
from Living In Oz (1983)
(debuted #70, peaked #18, 15 weeks on chart)
Even in 1983 – which, technologically speaking, now seems as advanced as 1883 – Rick Springfield was lamenting the disconnect between man and machine in Human Touch.
At the time, 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 or Casey Kasem mentioning it.
But Springfield had a string of hits in the early ’80s that were undeniably catchy and still sound pretty good all of these years later.
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Fake Friends
from Album (1983)
(debuted #68, peaked #35, 10 weeks on chart)
Few acts were hotter in 1982 than Joan Jett & The Blackhearts who had topped the charts with I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll – one of the biggest hits of the decade – as well as notching sizeable hits with Crimson And Clover and Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah).
So, there was great anticipation for new music from the quartet and I vividly recall staying up to tape the resultant Album when it debuted on WEBN’s Frog’s Midnight Album.
Often the nightly show was a chance to have an album before I’d have the opportunity to get into Cincinnati to actually purchase it, but Album was one that didn’t make the cut. It seemed as uninspired to me as the title and the first single, Fake Friends, simply lacked the monster hooks of Jett’s hits from the year before.
(all of which had been cover songs)
Journey – After The Fall
from Frontiers (1983)
(debuted #62, peaked #23, 12 weeks on chart)
If Joan Jett’s Album was one of the more anticipated releases of the summer of ’83, Journey’s follow-up to the massively successful Escape was one of the most expected from earlier in the year. Like Album, I had also taped Frontiers from its airing on Frog’s Midnight Album.
Though I was excited when Frontiers arrived and I played it a lot at the time, I still recognized it as a somewhat pale imitation of Escape. That didn’t stop it from selling millions and spawning hits in Separate Ways and Faithfully.
After The Fall became the third hit from the album, but I wasn’t a fan of the shuffling song.
Jackson Browne – Lawyers In Love
from Lawyers In Love (1983)
(debuted #59, peaked #13, 15 weeks on chart)
Lawyers In Love was Jackson Browne’s first new album since Hold Out from three years earlier, before I had truly become interested in music. I did know Browne, though, from hearing older hits like Doctor My Eyes and Running On Empty on the radio, and I’d loved Somebody’s Baby, which had been a Top Ten hit the previous summer.
I dug the catchy, upbeat Lawyers In Love, which was fortunate as my buddy Beej played the album into the ground, though the social commentary of the song likely escaped me at the time.