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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July 9, 1983

July 7, 2012

As we stretch into another week of high temperatures in triple digits, thinking is a challenge.

(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.

Peabo.

Peabo.

Peabo!

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.


April 2, 1983

April 4, 2012

The hoops season has ended.

Yeah, there’s still the remainder of the NBA season and the interminable playoff march, but that can’t match the tension of its high school or college equivilant.

I’ve gotten to see my alma mater win a national championship, but that wasn’t as memorable as the run our high school team had in ’83. Twenty-six wins, most of them in dominant fashion…

…two losses, both by one point, both on the opponent’s court to a school that went on to win the state title that season.

9our state didn’t divide schools into classes based on enrollment – it was one title, period)

The school that ended our season was about four times the size of ours.

Our team was loaded and led by an all-state small forward who was also a state champion high jumper during track season. Though he was entirely capable of dunking in games, one of the few times he did that season was on the last play in the regionals.

It left the margin of the loss to the eventual state champs as one, single point.

(at that time, there was no three-point shot that would have given us the chance to tie)

Twenty-nine years ago, a lot of us were still in the doldrums from that loss several weeks before. I helped muddle through it with music and I was well familiar – or would be – with the eight songs that were making their debut on Billboard‘s Hot 100…

U2 – New Year’s Day
from War (1983)
(debuted #90, peaked #53, 12 weeks on chart)

U2’s first hit single couldn’t even crack the Top 40 in the US and, at the time, I rarely heard New Year’s Day on the radio. I do know that I heard of U2 from my buddy Bosco who was continually turning us on to new music.

(of course, at the time we thought Bono was pronounced like Cher’s ex-partner)

But come that autumn, I discovered U2’s music for myself with the live Under A Blood Red Sky and the newly-minted 97X. And though War hasn’t aged as gracefully as some of the band’s catalog, the adrenaline rush of New Year’s Day is essential.

Saga – Wind Him Up
from Worlds Apart (1983)
(debuted #89, peaked #64, 8 weeks on chart)

I know that they’ve released a lot of albums during their career, but the Canadian band Saga didn’t have much success here in the US. No doubt best known for On The Loose, I much preferred the follow-up, Wind Him Up.

And, it was always fun for us to mimic lead singer Michael Sadler saying, “No luck today.”

Scandal – Love’s Got A Line On You
from Scandal (1982)
(debuted #87, peaked #59, 13 weeks on chart)

Sure, everyone could hum The Warrior (and picture its Kabuki-themed video) in 1984, but Scandal was well known to us a summer earlier when Goodbye To You and Love’s Got A Line On You were radio staples.

The former was not to be trifled with, a straight-ahead kiss-off with some New Wave sass, but Love’s Got A Line On You was a mid-tempo groove on which tough-chick singer Patty Smyth seemed slightly more vulnerable.

(neither song reinvented fire, but both were ridiculously catchy)

Modern English – I Melt With You
from After The Snow (1982)
(debuted #85, peaked #78, 10 weeks on chart)

In 1983, I Melt With You was a minor pop hit with an undercurrent of Cold War fatalism.

Thirty years later, my mom would recognize the song from its use to sell Burger King and Hershey’s chocolate.

And though the music of the ’80s has been much maligned, the dizzingly romantic I Melt With You is as perfect a pop song as any that came before or after it.

Champaign – Try Again
from Modern Heart (1983)
(debuted #83, peaked #23, 20 weeks on chart)

There was only one R&B station available on the dial within reception and I didn’t spend much time tuned into it. But, I heard Champaign’s laid back Try Again a lot on the pop and soft rock stations. Its mellow groove wasn’t too different from their hit How ’bout Us from a couple years earlier.

ZZ Top – Gimme All Your Lovin’
from Eliminator (1983)
(debuted #79, peaked #37, 12 weeks on chart)

I knew little of ZZ Top when Eliminator was released aside from I Thank You, which I knew and loved from hearing it on the bowling alley jukebox. Though Gimme All You Lovin’ wasn’t a mammoth hit, it was all over the radio that spring and summer as Eliminator – propelled by a series of videos – became one of the biggest albums of the year.

Irene Cara – Flashdance…What A Feeling
from Flashdance soundtrack (1983)
(debuted #77, peaked #1, 25 weeks on chart)

I saw Flashdance at the drive-in with Footloose sometime during the summer of ’83. I thought that the movie – despite being a major hit – was uneventful and the song – despite being a major hit – to be equally uninspiring, but, as I was neither a dancer nor a welder, I might not have been the target demographic.

(more notable to me – as a fifteen year-old boy at the time – was Flashdance star Jennifer Beals)

Duran Duran – Rio
from Rio (1983)
(debuted #58, peaked #14, 13 weeks on chart)

Duran Duran hooked me the first time I heard Hungry Like The Wolf. The song seemed to be always on the radio during the first few months of 1983 and the song’s video a staple on the fledgling MTV.

(or so I’ve read as our small town wouldn’t get the channel ’til the following summer)

Q102, the station of choice for me and my friends, was playing Rio well before Hungry Like The Wolf had worn out its welcome. Though I much preferred the latter, Rio‘s manic charm proved to be irresistible as well and made its parent album one that most of us owned.