December 3, 1983

December 3, 2011

By December 1983, my radio listening habits were going through a migration from Top 40 stations, which I had been listening to for a couple years, to the album rock of Q95 and, mostly in the evenings when reception was possible, the newly-minted 97X.

But, Casey Kasem and American Top 40 was still a drowsy weekend morning staple and I would often peruse Billboard magazine when I’d come across a copy in the magazine racks at Walden Books while hanging out in the malls in Cincinnati.

During the first week of December, 1983, nine songs debuted on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart…

Rodney Dangerfield – Rappin’ Rodney
from Rappin’ Rodney (1983)
(debuted #96, peaked #83, 8 weeks on chart)

I’d skip most of the songs that debuted this week if they shuffled up on the iPod, perhaps pausing for a nostalgic moment to think, yeah I remember this one, didn’t care for it in 1983 and I am no more interested now.

In the case of Rappin’ Rodney, I’d halt long enough to pay respect to the late comedian, but when it comes to Mr. Dangerfield, I want to watch him verbally joust with Sam Kinison in Back To School or sink Judge Smails’ newly-christened sloop in Caddyshack not listen to him rap.

Streets – If Love Should Go
from 1st (1983)
(debuted #90, peaked #87, 5 weeks on chart)

Streets was a short-lived venture formed by keyboardist/singer Steve Walsh who left Kansas in 1981 following the conversion of several members to Christianity and their desire to incorporate their faith into the music.

(as someone living in an über-pious part of the country, those born-again Christians can be a shrill bunch and, as Hank Hill once opined on King Of The Hill, “You people are not making Christianity any better, you’re just making rock ‘n’ roll worse”)

I used to hear If Love Should Go a lot on the radio, but it’s fairly generic and unremarkable arena rock that hardly stood out. By the end of the ’80s, Walsh had reconsituted Kansas, which had broken up after two albums released during his absence.

Anne Murray – A Little Good News
from A Little Good News (1983)
(debuted #88, peaked #74, 9 weeks on chart)

I have a soft spot for Anne Murray’s early ’70s stuff hits Snowbird and Danny’s Song as I’d often hear them on the car radio on whatever light rock station my parents would have dialed up.

I also heard A Little Good News a lot, again, thanks to the parents who would have the kitchen radio tuned to our town’s radio station before school. The station had flipped from light rock to country, so Murray was a natural fit.

However, hearing Murray’s lament about the state of the world makes me think of Lori, a sophomore classmate at the time. She was a tomboy who was on the girls’ basketball and volleyball teams and I spent much of that year quite smitten with her.

The smit went unrequited, but the two of us were good friends and hung out in several classes we had together. For some reason, I still remember her singing A Little Good News one day while we were working on an experiment in chemistry class.

The Doors – Gloria
from Alive, She Cried (1983)
(debuted #86, peaked #71, 7 weeks on chart)

Although, not unexpectedly, the kids with whom I went to school were mostly into the then-current bands of the early ’80s, there was a great, mass appreciation for the music of The Doors, who had ceased to exist well before any of us had even reached school age.

(there were even classmates who claimed to have a very personal connection to the band)

Alive, She Cried was a live compilation culled from performances by The Doors between 1968 and 1970 and I remember hearing Gloria a lot on Q95 that autumn. Personally,I’d rather hear the band doing one of their trippy originals than a version of the Them classic.

Jump ‘N The Saddle – The Curly Shuffle
from Jump ‘N The Saddle (1983)
(debuted #86, peaked #15, 14 weeks on chart)

Three Stooges-mania swept through our junior high in the late ’70s/early ’80s, though I’m not sure what triggered the mass rediscovery of Larry, Curly, and Moe amongst us.

There must have been something going on in the rest of the country, too, as Jump ‘N The Saddle’s homage to the Stooges was inescapable in the winter of ’83. It was a fun song for the first several thousand times and, then, it was not so fun.

Night Ranger – (You Can Still) Rock in America
from Midnight Madness (1983)
(debuted #83, peaked #51, 12 weeks on chart)

The San Francisco band Night Ranger was quickly embraced by the rock stations I was listening to and Don’t Tell Me You Love Me and Sing Me Away got their 1982 debut album a lot of attention.

So, it wasn’t a surprise to hear (You Can Still) Rock in America a lot when Midnight Madness was released even if the song didn’t reach the Top 40. The song had a sound tailor-made for the heartland and to be played on the radio alongside contemporaries like Journey, Foreigner, and Billy Squier.

A few months later, Sister Christian was issued as the second single from Midnight Madness, propelling Night Ranger to headlining status for a few years and giving the band one of the more enduring hits of the ’80s.

Bonnie Tyler – Take Me Back
from Faster Than The Speed Of Night (1983)
(debuted #75, peaked #46, 9 weeks on chart)

I’ve dug Bonnie Tyler’s raspy vocals from the first time I heard the Welsh singer in 1978 on her Top Ten hit It’s A Heartache.

Five years later, Tyler had another hit in the States with the Total Eclipse Of The Heart, a song so epic that it had its own postal code and sold millions of copies of its parent album, the Jim Steinman-produced Faster Than The Speed Of Night.

Take Me Back was another dramatic lament to love lost and, while not a bad song, it failed to reach the heights of its predecessor.

The Motels – Remember The Nights
from Little Robbers (1983)
(debuted #67, peaked #36, 12 weeks on chart)

Each and every time I do one of these recaps, it seems that The Motels pop up.

Not as dark or moody as Only The Lonely or Suddenly Last Summer, Remember The Nights is still a nice showcase for the compelling vocals of lead singer Martha Davis and, though not as successful or as well remembered as those two songs, it still managed to reach the Top 40 for a few weeks in early 1984.

Culture Club – Karma Chameleon
from Colour By Numbers (1983)
(debuted #52, peaked #1, 22 weeks on chart)

Though I wouldn’t have trumpeted it at the time, I quite liked Culture Club’s first two singles – Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? and Time (Clock Of The Heart) – and, now, I’d call both of them brilliant, timeless pop songs.

(there was no excuse for I’ll Tumble 4 Ya, though)

The group had reached iconic status by the time the harmonica-driven Karma Chameleon was released in late ’83 and the irresistibly catchy song became Culture Club’s biggest hit in the States.

Over the next six months, there would be several more hits from Colour By Numbers but the celebrity of Boy George and his antics would soon outstrip interest in the music of Culture Club.

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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)


Friday Night Videos And The First Chill Of Autumn

September 18, 2011

The living room of our treehouse is a very cozy nook to me.

From the second floor perch at the corner of a T intersection, there is often a steady flow of traffic and pedestrians to observe.

A friend once called and asked what I was doing.

“Watching Afternoon Traffic Theater,” I replied, describing the actual scene playing out down below, some twenty-yards away – two middle-aged woman who had had some minor mini-van tête-à-tête.

I covered the incident until its underwhelming conclusion without lifting my head from the back of the couch and with most of my attention focused on ESPN.

But the room is usually a calm place with the traffic usually nothing more than a steady, soothing background hum almost like the urban equivilant of ocean surf.

It’s a glorious place to have the windows open.

Tonight, there’s something in the air that arrived with the setting sun a couple hours ago.

(aside from a very luminous moon through the tree branches)

For the first time, as summer ends, there’s a chill in the evening air that is unmistakeably autumn to me.

As a kid, that hint of chill was the signal that the months of sleeping with the bedroom window open – a necessity growing up in a ’70s-styled ranch house with no central air – was coming to an end.

The hum of the interstate, a mile down the country road running in front of the house but audible at night, would soon no longer be lulling me to sleep.

(but those last few nights with the window open and the crispness in the night air did make for the best sleep of the year)

When that chill arrived in 1983, it did so a mere six weeks or so following the debut of Friday Night Videos.

MTV wouldn’t be available to us until the following summer, though my friends whose families had cable had been watching music videos on WTBS’ late-night, weekend show Night Tracks all summer.

(my buddy Beej would rattle off the names of bands whose videos he had seen that were unfamiliar to us)

Though video clips for songs had existed for years, MTV had become a phenomenon in the early ’80s and Friday Night Videos offered those of us without cable ninety minutes each week to feel like we were living in the modern world.

Here are four songs whose videos I most certainly saw on Friday Night Videos as autumn arrived in 1983…

Billy Idol – Dancing With Myself
from Don’t Stop

With a mere ninety minutes less commercials, Friday Night Videos had little time to show more than videos that were popular songs or new. In 1983, Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself was neither.

The song had appeared on Idol’s four-song EP debut from two years earlier, but, since its release, the singer had a couple hits from his self-titled full-length album with Hot In The City and White Wedding.

I don’t think that I ever heard the energetic and catchy Dancing With Myself on the radio, but the apocalyptic, zombie-filled video seemed to pop up on Friday Night Videos each week until Idol’s Rebel Yell album was released later that fall.

Quiet Riot – Cum On Feel The Noize
from Metal Health

From all I’ve read and based on a few first-hand accounts, Quiet Riot lead singer Kevin DuBrow worked ceaselessly to break his band. Then, he proceeded to alienate most of the music industry and Quiet Riot, who had been the first metal act to have a Number One album in the US, plummeted back to obscurity (with DuBow getting fired from the band).

However, during the autumn of ’83, Quiet Riot’s cover of Slade’s classic Cum On Feel The Noize was inescapable and Metal Health was heard blaring from every car stereo in our high school parking lot

The Motels – Suddenly Last Summer
from Little Robbers

With the sultry vocals of lead singer Martha Davis and their moody style of New Wave-tinged rock, Los Angeles’ The Motels had broken through the year before with the Top Ten ’80s classic Only The Lonely.

As I headed back to school in 1983, the band had issued its follow-up, Little Robbers, introduced by the single Suddenly Last Summer. The wistful, almost eerie song became a second Top Ten hit for The Motels and the song’s video apparently featured one of Davis’ daughters.

(and, somewhere out there, there might be a compilation of The Motels featuring liner notes by yours truly)

The Stray Cats – (She’s) Sexy + 17
from Rant N’ Rave With The Stray Cats

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.