A Long Time Since I’ve Spent Time With Uncle Vic

January 4, 2009

A lot of bloggers have taken time the past few days to offer their thoughts reflecting on music and events of 2008. I had no intention of doing so, but, inspired by a series of posts over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, I have instead found myself reflecting on the music of 1980.

On the precipice of my teen years, music had little appeal to me during that year. It was occasionally background noise, but, at most, my scant interest was prompted by my peers. Then, on the first day of 1981, I happened to tune into Cincinnati’s Q102, a popular Top 40 station, where they were counting down the top 102 songs of 1980. They ran the countdown three times that day and something prompted me to tape as much of it – commercials and DJ chatter included – as I could.

Although I had missed much of the music on those tapes throughout the actual year, I listened to them repeatedly through the early months of 1981. And, as I caught up on the musical landscape of the previous year, I began to pay increasing attention to the new year as well.

For the next several years, until I discovered the left of the dial artists I could only hear on 97X, it became a personal tradition to listen to the top 102 on Q102, filling countless hours of blank cassettes with songs.

It’s possible, although unlikely, that those tapes from that countdown of 1980 are buried somewhere in the closet of my childhood bedroom at my parent’s house. If they are, those cheap cassettes are probably unlistenable, having oxidized over time and already worn thin by the innumerable times I played them as a kid when I had no idea how much music would matter to me over the next three decades.

I’d be most curious to find an actual chart of Q102’s top songs from that year. I do remember that #102 was a novelty song, Space Invaders, about the phenomenally popular video game by an act called Uncle Vic – a song which I haven’t heard since then. And, at the other end of the countdown was Pink Floyd’s Another Brick In The Wall (part II).

Here are some of the songs I remember in between those two songs…

The Dirt Band – An American Dream
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band under a truncated moniker with Linda Ronstadt adding vocals, An American Dream was one song which was quite familiar to me. It seemed to be on constant rotation on the jukebox of the bowling alley where my friends and I spent numerous hours loitering and playing pinball during the winter months of 1980. It’s promise of a getaway to warmer climes had a distinct appeal to those of us mired in the Midwest.

The Cars – Touch And Go
I was familiar with The Cars because of Let’s Go, but, I must admit, that song was better known to me in the version appearing on my younger brother’s copy of the Chipmunk Punk album. As for Touch And Go, I found Ric Ocasek’s vocals on the song to be a bit menacing at the time and, now, I’d consider it to be one of that band’s more underrated hits.

Olivia Newton-John – Magic
Although I wasn’t overly familiar with the songs of Olivia Newton-John at the time, like my friends, I was enamored with her from Grease. I still haven’t seen the movie Xanadu (on which the soundtrack Magic appeared), but I did know Magic. A good portion of our family’s vacation that summer had been spent at our aunt and uncle’s cabin in the mountains of southwestern Pennsylvania. I recall that every time we piled into the car during that trip, I was guaranteed to hear Magic on the radio. To this day, the song still sounds like summer to me.

The Pretenders – Brass In Pocket (I’m Special)
Had I been a serious music fan in 1980, I would have well known The Pretenders from their much heralded debut album which caused quite a stir. I don’t recall even knowing Brass In Pocket until I heard that year-end countdown, but I do recall that I immediately “got” it.