December 25, 1982

December 24, 2011

I happened to be reading a comparison of the worst holiday seasons based on a number of economic factors since the Great Depression and, according to this study, 1982 was the bleakest Christmas of the past eighty years.

At the time, I was fourteen and blissfully unaffected by unemployment rates that exceeded those of recent vintage. Our small town was home to the headquarters for two industry-leading corporations. There were six very wealthy families, six poor ones, and everyone else resided solidly in the middle class.

(really, there once was a socio-economic stratum called the middle class in America)

I had been one of a dozen or so kids in the first computer class offered at our high school that autumn and, as I recall, was hoping that I might be getting the 1982 equivilant of a PC that Christmas.

There would be no computer – a device still primarily available to only NASA engineers and James Bond villains – that Christmas morning.

Instead, a pool table made for a surprising consolation prize.

It was secondhand but that mattered little and, in truth, added to the charm as there were peculiarities to the table – dead spots and slight slopes – that rewarded experience. Putting the eight ball into the side pocket was akin to reading the green on a golf course.

(the cues added a new, combative twist to the inevitible conflicts that would arise between my brother and I)

1982 was also the first Christmas that I wanted music as a gift and I do know that I received several cassettes including the debut releases by A Flock Of Seagulls and Men At Work, both of which had made a splash since the beginning of the school year.

And, six songs – half of them unknown to me – debuted on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart the week of Christmas, 1982…

Unipop – What If (I Said I Love You)
from Unilove (1982)
(debuted #90, peaked #71, 8 weeks on chart)

There’s little out there on the internet about Unipop and their lone brush with musical success. The group was a husband and wife duo who were labelmates of Bertie Higgins, providing backup vocals on his hit Key Largo.

As for What If…I’m not sure if there’s something wrong with the file or if the song is supposed to sound like The Chipmunks performing some non-descript rock ballad from the ’50s.

Michael Stanley Band – Take The Time
from MSB (1982)
(debuted #89, peaked #81, 5 weeks on chart)

Cleveland’s Michael Stanley was a major act in the Midwest in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Living on the Indiana/Ohio border, their music found its way onto many of the stations to which I was listening, but I don’t recall ever hearing Take The Time.

The song is a mid-tempo, soulful take on the economic malaise gripping the country, especially in the Rust Belt, and the need to pull together through tough times. The song would make little more than a ripple, but, a year later, the band would reach the Top 40 with the punchy, anthemic My Town.

Tyrone Davis – Are You Serious
from Tyrone Davis (1982)
(debuted #88, peaked #57, 6 weeks on chart)

All-Music Guide describes Tyrone Davis as “the king of romantic Chicago soul” and, despite the fact that the singer had a lengthy string of R&B chart hits in the ’60s and ’70s, I can’t say that I’m familiar with him aside from seeing the name in record store bins.

The smooth Are You Serious finds Davis crooning the title as a question as to the intentions of his lady. It’s pleasant enough and well executed if not exactly something that blows my hair back, though it must have struck a chord with someone as it became Davis’ final Top Ten hit on the R&B charts.

Little Steven & The Disciples Of Soul – Forever
from Men Without Women (1982)
(debuted #81, peaked #63, 9 weeks on chart)

I knew a few songs by Bruce Springteen in 1982, but I’m fairly certain that I couldn’t have named anyone from the E Street Band, so I wouldn’t have known that Steve Van Zandt and I know that I didn’t hear Forever at the time.

(I had progressed in my music listening enough that I did purchase Little Steven’s next release, Voice Of America, when it arrived on the heels of Springsteen’s Born In The USA two years later)

Over the ensuing years, I’ve owned most of Van Zandt’s oeuvre and even listened to his satellite radio show a few times. I’m familiar enough to known of his encyclopedic knowledge of rock and roll era music and tireless efforts to pay homage to the past.

The punchy, horn-driven Forever fuses his garage band rock sound with an unmistakeable, classic Motown vibe.

The Who – Eminence Front
from It’s Hard (1982)
(debuted #80, peaked #68, 6 weeks on chart)

While I was listening to my Men At Work and A Flock Of Seagulls cassettes during Christmas ’82, The Who were embarking on their farewell tour, having recently released It’s Hard.

I couldn’t have cared less and it would be a couple more years before I would.

Though I haven’t listened to It’s Hard in some time and it’s hardly a classic, there are a couple stellar tracks on that intended swan song including the slinky, shimmering, quasi-funky Eminence Front.

Duran Duran – Hungry Like The Wolf
from Rio (1982)
(debuted #77, peaked #3, 23 weeks on chart)

Twenty-nine years ago, if anyone knew the name Duran Duran it was likely as a character from the campy, late ’60s sci-fi flick Barbarella, but that was about to change. I wouldn’t hear of the band until a neighbor down the street brought them to our attention shortly before Hungry Like The Wolf broke into the Top 40 in the first months of 1983.

It’s odd to think of a world without Duran Duran as Simon LeBon and company have been a part of the musical landscape from almost the beginning of my interest in music. I was entranced with the kinetic and mysterious Hungry Like The Wolf from the first time I heard the laugh of LeBon’s girlfriend that opens the song.

By the following spring, Hungry Like The Wolf was a smash complete with an iconic video, Duran Duran was a sensation some were comparing to The Beatles, and most of us owned a copy of Rio. Rio would be the peak of my interest in Duran Duran, though I would like scattered songs by Duran Duran throughout their ’80s heyday and I’d argue that their latter-day hit Ordinary World was their finest moment.

But it all began inauspiciously enough with Hungry Like The Wolf debuting on the Billboard charts that Christmas in 1982 and the song has deservedly become a classic of the time.


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)


September 25, 1982

September 24, 2011

As the contents of my head need to settle back into place, I’m pulling up a Billboard magazine Hot 100 chart from the early ’80s – a period of my initial infatuation with music and radio – and checking out the debut songs for that week.

So, here are the eight songs making their first appearance on the chart during this week in 1982…

Billy Preston – I’m Never Gonna Say Goodbye
from Pressin’ On (1982)
(debuted #90, peaked #88, 3 weeks on chart)

For a man known to some as the “Fifth Beatle,” I know surprisingly little about Billy Preston.

I knew that Preston performed on the Apple rooftop with the band, had some legal and health issues, and passed away several years back. As far as his music, all I know is Nothing from Nothing and With You I’m Born Again – the ballad sung with Stevie Wonder’s then-wife Syreeta.

I’d never heard I’m Never Gonna Say Goodbye, but it sounds like a song that James Ingram might have done a few years later if you added a twist of stalker and a bit more melodrama.

Karla Bonoff – Please Be The One
from Wild Heart Of The Young (1982)
(debuted #85, peaked #63, 7 weeks on chart)

Singer/songwriter Karla Bonoff had a hit during the summer of ’82 with Personally. I didn’t really like the song at the time – and it got a lot of airplay – but now I find the catchy song’s bounce and playful vibe appealing.

Bonoff sang back-up for Linda Ronstadt and Please Be The One has a slow, sultry vibe that is reminiscent of Ronstadt to me. I didn’t remember the song until it reached the chorus and rarely heard it on the radio in ’82.

Jeffrey Osborne – On The Wings Of Love
from Jeffrey Osborne (1982)
(debuted #83, peaked #29, 18 weeks on chart)

I would come across Jeffrey Osborne’s On The Wings Of Love often during the autumn and winter that year when I got to the lighter rock stations on the dial. I’d stop long enough to identify it, but would only sit through it when it appeared on American Top 40.

I liked the light-funk feel of Osborne’s I Really Don’t Need No Light, and, though, On The Wings Of Love is pleasant enough, it just doesn’t appeal to me.

The Go-Go’s – Get Up And Go
from Vacation (1982)
(debuted #82, peaked #50, 9 weeks on chart)

The Go-Go’s were seemingly everywhere overnight in 1982. Their debut Beauty And The Beat had topped the album chart in the US with two massive singles – Our Lips Are Sealed and We Got The Beat – becoming instant classics.

Vacation was released toward the end of the summer with Beauty And The Beat still on the album charts. Vacation was an immediate success and the infectious title song was a hit, but both seemed to fade quicker than that summer.

The band seemed to vanish overnight – gone as quickly as they’d arrived – and I didn’t hear a new song by The Go-Go’s on the radio until Head Over Heels two years later.

(an eternity in that era)

Get Up And Go has a nifty opening that echoes Bow Wow Wow and, like most Go-Go’s songs, it is fun, but it isn’t in the same class as the earlier trio of hits by the band.

Survivor – American Heartbeat
from Eye Of The Tiger (1982)
(debuted #79, peaked #17, 16 weeks on chart)

Survivor had had the song of the summer of ’82 with their mammoth hit Eye Of The Tiger and American Haertbeat was culled as the follow-up to the band’s theme from Rocky III.

American Heartbeat was sleeker, built around pulsating keyboards, but still retained a rock edge and, though it certainly fit alongside stuff like Journey and Foreigner hits of the time, the song – not surprisingly – was unable to replicate the success of Eye Of The Tiger.

I dug the song, not that I think I heard it more than a few times on the radio at the time despite it reaching the Top Twenty.

Stevie Wonder – Ribbon In The Sky
from Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium I (1982)
(debuted #76, peaked #54, 7 weeks on chart)

Stevie Wonder had released the double-album retrospective Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium I in the early months of 1982. During that spring and summer, two of the album’s new songs – the yearning That Girl and joyous Do I Do – had become sizeable hits as well as Wonder’s duet with Paul McCartney, Ebony And Ivory.

Ribbon In The Sky was tapped as Original Musiquarium‘s third and final single. Unlike the previous hits from the set, the song was a gentle, lovely ballad that might not have found similar radio acceptance but has endured as a favorite among fans.

Chicago – Love Me Tomorrow
from Chicago 16 (1982)
(debuted #74, peaked #22, 15 weeks on chart)

If Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger was the song of the summer in 1982, Chicago’s Hard To Say I’m Sorry was arguably the season’s biggest ballad and a commercial comeback for the venerable band.

But, as Survivor would learn, it’s difficult to follow up to such a radio juggernaut without the song getting lost in the wake of its predecessor. I heard Love Me Tomorrow plenty and still feel that the song is the best of the group’s ’80s ballads, but it failed to resonate with the public as Hard To Say I’m Sorry had.

Billy Joel – Pressure
from The Nylon Curtain (1982)
(debuted #72, peaked #20, 17 weeks on chart)

When Billy Joel released The Nylon Curtain in autumn 1982, the singer was coming off a trio of albums – The Stranger, 52nd Street, and Glass Houses – that had sold nearly thirty million copies and made Joel a radio fixture.

The Nylon Curtain was edgier and darker, but received glowing reviews and praise for its mature subject matter. The manic, paranoid Pressure also reflected the burgeoning influence of synthesizers becoming prevelant at the time and, even though accompanied by a stylish video clip, the song and album would be a commercial lull before Joel returned with the massively successful An Innocent Man a year later.