August 6, 1983

August 12, 2012

My brain is mushy from work.

(there might be a hell of a screenplay if I could unscramble my mind)

And I am under the sway of the Olympics.

(well done London)

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.

1983 is always good as I was surfing more of the radio channels, beginning to gravitate toward album rock but still interested in the pop stations. That autumn, 97X would debut and I’d discover the exotic sounds of modern rock.

Twenty-nine years ago – more or less – seven songs debuted on the Hot 100…

Kissing The Pink – Maybe This Day
from Naked (1983)
(debuted #95, peaked #87, 5 weeks on chart)

The one song from these debuts with which I was not familiar was Kissing The Pink’s Maybe This Day. The British synth-pop act would shorten their name to KTP and have another minor hit a few years later with Certain Things Are Likely, which I do remember, but Maybe This Day? Nothing.

Maybe This Day shuffles along punctuated by muted horns, but I can hear why it wasn’t a big hit. It reminds me a bit of Naked Eyes, who were having great success at the same time, but not nearly as catchy.

Lindsey Buckingham – Holiday Road
from Naked (1983)
(debuted #92, peaked #82, 5 weeks on chart)

I can’t hear Holiday Road – the theme song from National Lampoon’s Vacation – and not want to cruise through a desert in the American Southwest in a station wagon with a dead aunt strapped to the roof on the way to a theme park thousands of miles from home.

Tears For Fears – Change
from The Hurting (1983)
(debuted #90, peaked #73, 6 weeks on chart)

Growing up om a small town was underscored by the occasional visit of my buddy Beej’s uncle from Cincinnati. The fellow had an enviable collection of New Wave albums, EPs, and twelve-inch singles by artists we often wouldn’t hear of until months later (or sometimes not at all).

Most American listeners wouldn’t hear Tears For Fears until 1985’s Songs From The Big Chair which had the hits Everybody Wants To Rule The World, Shout, and Head Over Heels.

Beej’s uncle had made us familiar with the name Tears For Fears during the summer of 1983 when The Hurting was released. A few months later, I found 97X where I heard Pale Shelter and the shimmering Change.

Robert Plant – Big Log
from The Principle Of Moments (1983)
(debuted #86, peaked #20, 16 weeks on chart)

In ’83, I was still becoming acquainted with Led Zeppelin’s extensive catalog beyond Led Zeppelin IV (a locker room staple) and I was completely unfamiliar with Robert Plant’s solo debut from the year before.

I quickly became well acquainted with Plant’s follow-up, The Principle Of Moments, when it arrived as summer was slipping away. Not only was the languid Big Log becoming the singer’s first Top 40 single, I was hearing other tracks from the album like In The Mood and Other Arms on the rock stations.

Spandau Ballet – True
from True (1983)
(debuted #67, peaked #4, 18 weeks on chart)

Beej might have heard of Spandau Ballet from his uncle, too, but I remember him mentioning the New Romantic act from seeing their videos on Night Tracks.

Of course, anyone listening to the radio late that summer and into the fall would have known True. The lush ballad was a mammoth hit and one of the enduring songs of the period (currently heard in some car commercial).

The song wasn’t my cup of tea at the time. The sophisticated crooning of Tony Hadley held no appeal to me, but, other the past three decades, I’ve succumbed to True‘s charms.

Elton John – Kiss The Bride
from Too Low For Zero (1983)
(debuted #60, peaked #25, 12 weeks on chart)

Elton John was no longer the radio juggernaut he had been as my interest in music was beginning to develop, but the man was still having hits. In 1983, John’s Too Low For Zero would lead off with the upbeat I’m Still standing and, as the year wound down, the ballad I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues would be inescapable.

Sandwiched in between was the rollicking Kiss The Bride, another track that, like Spandau Ballet’s True, I have a greater fondness for now than I did at the time.

Stray Cats – (She’s) Sexy + 17
from Rant N’ Rave With The Stray Cats (1983)
(debuted #51, peaked #5, 15 weeks on chart)

I didn’t really like rockabilly revivalists The Stray Cats when their Built For Speed became a smash in late 1982 and Rock This Town and Stray Cat Strut were constantly on the radio. They were a band that might have existed when my parents were in high school which was not a selling point.

By the time Rant N’ Rave With The Stray Cats was released, I was becoming more curious about lots of different music and I was more receptive to the retro trio. Plus, (She’s) Sexy + 17 was too damned catchy to dismiss.

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November 13, 1982

November 13, 2011

As we closed in on Thanksgiving in 1982, I imagine that it seemed as though summer had never happened and never come ’round again. We were housebound more as raw days of wind and cold, stinging rain were a November staple in our part of the Midwest.

For one of the first Novembers of my life, I had the radio to help battle the restlessness of being a kid confined to quarters. Casey Kasem and American Top 40 was a drowsy weekend morning staple.

But there were sixty songs beyond the ones Casey counted down each week and, though I had heard him reference Billboard magazine and the Hot 100, I don’t think that I’d ever seen either.

(the magazine wouldn’t appear in the racks at the town drug store – a small, family-owned outlet on a downtown corner – for another five or six years)

I was – listening to as much radio as I was – familar with a lot of the songs on the Hot 100 including the ten that debuted on that chart twenty-nine years ago…

Sonny Charles – Put It In A Magazine
from The Sun Still Shines (1982)
(debuted #90, peaked #40, 14 weeks on chart)

Put It In A Magazine might have debuted on the Hot 100 as folks were making Thanksgiving plans in 1982, but the song by R&B singer Sonny Charles wouldn’t reach the Top 40 until the following February. I have no doubt that the only time I heard the song was during its brief time on American Top 40.

It didn’t appeal to me at the time, but now I kind of dig the laid-back groove of the song.

Robert Plant – Pledge Pin
from Pictures At Eleven (1982)
(debuted #89, peaked #74, 5 weeks on chart)

Most weeks, the Sunday newspaper would include a list of the week’s Top Ten singles and albums. I vividly recall seeing Robert Plant’s Pictures At Eleven listed and being puzzled as to who this fellow was and how his album could be in the Top Ten if I wasn’t hearing its songs on the radio.

Of course, I had heard of Led Zeppelin and I knew a few of the band’s song even if I didn’t know the name of their lead singer at the time. When Plant’s next solo album, The Principle Of Moments, arrived a year later, I had begun to gravite to the album rock stations on the dial and I was far more knowledgable about Percy.

Scandal – Goodbye To You
from Scandal (1982)
(debuted #86, peaked #65, 11 weeks on chart)

Scandal might have released their self-titled debut EP in ’82, but I don’t recall hearing Goodbye To You (or its follow-up, Love’s Got A Line On You) on the radio until the following spring.

Goodbye To You might not have been a major hit, but the song – a straight-ahead kiss-off with some New Wave sass – was ridiculously catchy and lead singer Patty Smyth’s vocals made it clear that her affections were not to be trifled with.

Adam Ant – Goody Two Shoes
from Friend Or Foe (1982)
(debuted #85, peaked #12, 21 weeks on chart)

When my friends and I first heard the manic Goody Two Shoes, we thought it was hysterical. The fact that it was sung by someone called Adam Ant only added to our amusement.

(his pre-solo incarnation Adam & The Ants had not found their way to our part of the Midwest)

However, the song was like a sugar buzz to me and it went from fun to grating quickly.

A Flock Of Seagulls – Space Age Love Song
from A Flock Of Seagulls (1982)
(debuted #83, peaked #30, 18 weeks on chart)

Even folks who lived through the ’80s probably remember A Flock Of Seagulls for no more than their debut hit I Ran (So Far Away), which was a Top Ten single, and lead singer Mike Score’s gravity-defying hair.

That’s too bad as I thought that the band’s blend of spacey synthesizers, effects-laden guitar, and sci-fi lyrics made for an engaging and interesting sound that stood out from a lot of their contemporaries and merited more than a footnote.

Though it wasn’t as successful as I Ran, I preferred A Space Age Love Song from the moment I heard the full album. The song is breathtakingly wooshy and, at the time, it had a sonic vibe that sounded as if it might indeed be perfect for a romantic encounter in a future filled with jet packs and laser blasters.

Steve Winwood – Valerie
from Talking Back To The Night (1982)
(debuted #79, peaked #70, 4 weeks on chart)

In 1982, I would have only known Steve Winwood for While You See A Chance, his hit from the previous year, and I certainly didn’t hear Valerie until it was remixed and became a Top Ten hit five years later following his comeback album Back In The High Life.

It’s a pleasant enough song that’s a bit more welcome to me now as opposed to 1987 when the ubiqitousness of Winwood’s music had left me a bit fatigued and unreceptive.

The Motels – Forever Mine
from All Four One (1982)
(debuted #77, peaked #60, 8 weeks on chart)

Martha Davis and The Motels had notched a breakthrough hit with Only The Lonely during the summer of ’82, but neither of the follow-up singles – Take The L and Forever Mine – managed to get much attention.

Though it’s hardly as memorable as the melodramatic and noirish Only The Lonely, the sprightly Forever Mine reveals a lighter, more playful side of the band.

(and I still haven’t bothered to see if my liner notes were used for a planned repackaging of the band’s two albums prior to All Four One)

Michael McDonald – I Gotta Try
from If That’s What It Takes (1982)
(debuted #76, peaked #44, 11 weeks on chart)

I’ve never had the affection for Michael McDonald, either solo or as a Doobie Brother, that apparently the rest of the world has for the singer.

(and it’s not just because he once almost rear-ended me in his convertible – at least I’m almost positive it was him)

But I do like I Gotta Try. It’s got a bit of pep (but not too much).

Air Supply – Two Less Lonely People In The World
from Now And Forever (1982)
(debuted #72, peaked #38, 14 weeks on chart)

Air Supply was a pop music juggernaut during the first few years of the ’80s when I was becoming acquainted with the radio. So, I heard hits like Lost In Love, All Out Of Love, and The One That You Love and I heard them often.

The songs were breezy and light and, at that age, I assumed that these Aussies had love figured out since it was the subject of every song. I’m sure that I surmised their music could offer me valuable insight into charming the ladies.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – You Got Lucky
from Long After Dark (1982)
(debuted #58, peaked #20, 18 weeks on chart)

Though I liked Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – at least the few songs that I knew like Refugee and The Waiting – I was more enamored by the video for You Got Lucky than the song. The song that really caught my ear from hearing Long After Dark repeatedly at my buddy Beej’s house was Change Of Heart.

Over the next decade, Petty would earn a place amongst my favorites and I’d grow more fond of You Got Lucky (though the grittier Change Of Heart still appeals to me more)


Q95

September 7, 2010

As I began my sophomore year of high school in autumn of ’83, I was increasingly exploring the musical terrain beyond Top 40. And, Indianapolis’ Q95, an album rock station which I had begun listening to in the spring, was a frequent destination when listening to the radio.

(though, by Halloween, the modern rock of 97X would become the station du juor – on nights when I could pull in the station’s signal)

But, Q95 was the place for straight-ahead rock for me. WEBN, out of Cincinnati was the most popular rock station at our high school which was likely why I opted for Q95 as it seemed more exotic. As I recall there wasn’t that much of a difference between the two stations.

One difference was that Q95 had The Bob & Tom Show (and this was a dozen years before the show went national). Nothing helped ease the pain of being up early for school like the antics of the duo.

Musically, I still dug Hall & Oates, Duran Duran, and a lot of the other staples of Top 40 at the time, but Q95 was providing me with exposure to the catalogs of classic acts like Pink Floyd, The Who, and Led Zeppelin.

I was also hearing deeper album tracks by acts that were also having pop radio hits like Journey, Billy Squier, and ZZ Top.

The station showed support for local heros like John Cougar/John Cougar Mellencamp and Henry Lee Summer and – as to be expected – heartland rock bands from Styx and REO Speedwagon to lesser-knowns like Shooting Star were staples.

And Q95 was the station where I remember hearing Iron Maiden for the first time.

It was the station where I listened to syndicated radio shows like Rockline and the concert program King Biscuit Flower Hour.

The latter gave me the opportunity to hear live music – to hear the sometimes amazing twists and acquaint myself with the time-honored clichés – at a time when there wasn’t much opportunity for me to attend shows.

Q95 was actually one of my longer radio station relationships. When I left for college, I couldn’t listen to 97X, but Q95 remained well within range.

By the end of the ’80s the station was playing too much Winger when I would rather have heard Concrete Blonde or Cocteau Twins. However, Q95, though holding less allure for me, remained the best option on radio.

(our college station was a cable outlet so, unless you were home, it lacked convenience as well as being prone to offering time slots to student DJs hell-bent on attempting to be as esoteric as possible)

It was finally distance that ended the relationship between me and Q95. I graduated from school and left the Midwest and the station behind.

I haven’t listened to Q95 in almost two decades, but here are four songs I remember hearing on the station as autumn arrived in 1983…

Heart – How Can I Refuse?
from Passionworks

Passionworks was one of Heart’s albums released during the lull between their successful period from the mid- through late-’70s and their even more successful period from the mid- through late ’80s. I’m sure, at the time, I knew little by the sisters Wilson aside from Magic Man and Barracuda.

But I dug How Can I Refuse?, especially the opening line of “Wake me up with laughter.” It was playful and flirtatious power pop that was a bit slicker than the band’s ’70s hits and hinted at the direction Heart would take with 1985’s mega-selling, self-titled comeback album.

The Moody Blues – Sitting At The Wheel
from The Present

The Moody Blues had experienced their own return to the limelight in 1981 with Long Distance Voyager and the hits Gemini Dream and The Voice. The Present wasn’t as successful as its predecessor, but the enthusiastic Sitting At The Wheel – though dated like much of the band’s ’80s output – sounded good to me at the time.

I didn’t own the album, but I was fascinated by its artwork – a variation on Maxfield Parrish’s painting Daybreak. Years later, Paloma exposed me to Parrish’s work and I quickly made the connection.

Robert Plant – In The Mood
from The Principle Of Moments

In the autumn of ’83, I was still becoming acquainted with Led Zeppelin’s extensive catalog and I was completely unfamiliar with Robert Plant’s solo debut from the year before. However, I quickly became quite familiar with his follow-up, The Principle Of Moments, when it was released at summer’s end.

Not only had I seen the video for the album’s first hit, Big Log, on Friday Night Videos, Q95 was playing several songs from the record including the shimmering In The Mood.

Zebra – Tell Me What You Want
from Zebra

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 trio’s debut quickly attracted fans (and detractors) for the heavy Zeppelin influence in their sound.

I liked the name and found the song intriguing.

As autumn approached, Q95 had moved on to another track, the driving Tell Me What You Want. With two songs that I thought were pretty stellar, I took the plunge, bought a copy of Zebra (on cassette), and promptly wore it out.