The Not Contractually Obligated Top Ten Of 2011

December 31, 2011

Now that I’ve wasted so much time here establishing a few traditions, I’d be remiss to honor not them…

Almost every artist in the history of mankind has at least one title in their catalog that is a compilation, a stopgap collection meant to maintain interest between releases (often to boost holiday sales) or to fulfill a contractual obligation.

This is the former, a chance to make use, one more time, of a lot of wasted time over the past twelve months.

Three years ago, I reflected on the annual, childhood tradition of spending New Year’s Day with a half dozen blank cassettes as Q102 played back the Top 102 songs of the previous year.

So, as 2011 begins its fade into a speck in the rear-view mirror, here are the most popular songs that appeared here during the past year…

10. Asia – Ride Easy
from The Very Best Of Asia: Heat Of The Moment (1982-1990) (2000)
Harpsichord Everywhere

“I like that song,” I told her. “It has harpsichord in it.”

9. Bow Wow Wow – Do You Wanna Hold Me?
from When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going (1983)
Mohawks And Middle Linebackers

“It was 1982 and the big bang of punk rock had come and gone without us even noticing in rural Indiana.”

8. Single Bullet Theory – Keep It Tight
from Single Bullet Theory (1982)
March 5, 1983

“Yeah, if someone had shown me a device the size of a cassette that would hold 150 times the number of songs I owned, my flabber would have been gasted.”

7. Guadalcanal Diary – Watusi Rodeo
from Walking In The Shadow Of The Big Man (1984)
Odd Stuff In The Trunk

“Instead, there was several handfuls of straw, a crumpled carton that had contained wine coolers, and one tube sock.”

6. Player – Baby Come Back
from Super Hits Of The 70s: Have A Nice Day Volume 21 (1993)
Cat D’État

“I have legitimate concerns that, when nightfall arrives and Paloma is absent, things could get ugly.”

5. Squeeze – 853-5397
from Babylon and On (1987)
Caller Identity Crisis

“I sometimes wonder what his outgoing message might have been had his time with the “cowslaw” number coincided with the celebrated period during which he was the self-declared ‘Man Who Loves All Women'”

4. Mitch Ryder – When You Were Mine
from Never Kick a Sleeping Dog (1983)
July 16, 1983

“There would never be a time in which more music would be a wholly new experience for me.”

3. The Hollies – Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress
from Big Hits Of The ’70s (1998)
You Go Canoeing To Aintry With Burt, You Take Your Chances

“After a grueling day under the flourescent lights of an office, a commute from hell, and the rawness of a dark winter’s day in early January, does anything goose the spirits like a river trip to Aintry, hillbillies, and Ned Beatty getting sodomized?”

2. Was (Not Was) – Spy In The House Of Love
from What Up, Dog? (1988)
Was (Not Was)…Was

“‘Did anyone ever tell you that you look just like Don Was?'”

1. J. Geils Band – Angel In Blue
from Freeze Frame (1981)
Shuffling Slowly Toward Sound Fidelity

“It was a battered, oblong box – one corner of the grill covering the 45-sized speaker had separated from the unit and the cord was a scoliotic snake.”

March 5, 1983

March 5, 2011

If I were able to teleport back to 1983 and show my iPod to that year’s version of me, it would undoubtedly blow my mind.

Obviously being visited by a being claiming to be myself from thirty years in the future would be mind blowing, but a device smaller than a cassette case containing 40,000 songs would have been the most amazing thing that I’d ever seen.

At the time, I’d been buying albums – in cassette form – for a year or so and I doubt that I had more than two dozen of them. It couldn’t have been more than three hundred songs.

Yeah, if someone had shown me a device the size of a cassette that would hold 150 times the number of songs I owned, my flabber would have been gasted.

Anyhow, it’s as good a time as any to peruse the Hot 100 chart from Billboard magazine for this week in 1983 and, as inspired by several other blogs, sift through the debut songs.

Seven songs debuted on that chart twenty-eight years ago and none of them even managed to make the Top 40 – though several came close – and I believe a couple of them are unavailable…

The System – You Are In My System
from Sweat
(debuted #90, peaked #64, 8 weeks on chart)

I don’t think I’d ever heard The System’s You Are In My System, but I did know Robert Palmer’s cover of the song from a few months later as I heard it sporadically on the radio that summer.

The System’s original sounds no different to me aside from lacking the suaveness of Robert Palmer

Single Bullet Theory – Keep It Tight
from Single Bullet Theory
(debuted #84, peaked #78, 4 weeks on chart)

Nor had I heard Single Bullet Theory’s lone hit, but I did know their name from seeing it on leader cards while browsing through record stores.

The Wikipedia page for the Virginia band tells the too common tale of a promising band getting snuffed out by a label’s indifference and/or ineptness.

Keep It Tight made me smile from its opening. It’s less than three minutes of New Wave-tinged power pop, complete with saxophone, that’s more fun than killin’ drifters and makes me curious about the rest of the band’s one album.

Robert Hazard – Escalator Of Life
from Robert Hazard
(debuted #83, peaked #58, 9 weeks on chart)

I’d come across things on Robert Hazard through the years and knew that he had written Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and seemed to have a cult following for his own music. And, from what I’d read, there seemed to be great affection for Hazard’s one hit Escalator Of Life.

The song was likely a bit too New Wave for the stations in our part of the Midwest to air in 1983. We wouldn’t get MTV for another year, so I didn’t hear the song or see the video at the time.

I can understand Escalator Of Life‘s appeal. It’s chilly, droning synth-pop with robotic vocals that’s an ode to excess (or maybe not). The song, like it’s accompanying video, is totally of its time.

Mac McAnally – Minimum Love
from Nothin’ But The Truth
(debuted #81, peaked #41, 12 weeks on chart)

I could have sworn that I saw Mac McAnally perform this song three or four times on Solid Gold in a span of a couple months in 1983. I wasn’t hearing the song on radio, but there was this McAnally fellow taking three or four minutes of screen time from the Soild Gold Dancers.

Minimum Love is pleasant enough adult pop, I suppose, and his voice reminds me of James Taylor. But the song didn’t do much for me then and I really haven’t warmed to it over the years.

Berlin – Sex (I’m A…)
from Pleasure Victim
(debuted #79, peaked #62, 7 weeks on chart)

Berlin was a band that I knew in early ’83 by reputation only as the L.A. band had caused a stir with the lyrics for their song Sex (I’m A…) and a lot of stations across the country wouldn’t play it.

I heard the song later that summer. My buddy Beej returned from a couple weeks in Arizona with albums by bands that he’d discovered on a Phoenix alternative radio station and Pleasure Victim was one of them. I dug it, but I was a little underwhelmed considering the hoopla.

Years later, I’d interview lead singer Terri Nunn who was an absolute sweetheart.

John Anderson – Swingin’
from Wild & Blue
(debuted #75, peaked #43, 14 weeks on chart)

Our small hometown had a country radio station which would usually be playing in our kitchen during breakfast, so I heard Swingin’ often that spring, but it also got played on the Top 40 stations I preferred right alongside Journey, Duran Duran, and Michael Jackson.

The song was hardly my cup of joe and I mostly remember how my friends Beej and Kirk The Pyro thought it be hysterical and would often sing the chorus, imitating Anderson’s gruff drawl.

The Psychedelic Furs – Love My Way
from Forever Now
(debuted #73, peaked #44, 10 weeks on chart)

Love My Way, produced by Todd Rundgren, was probably the first song by Psychedelic Furs that I ever heard, but it wasn’t on radio. Instead, I knew the song from its use in the movie Valley Girl . That autumn, 97X took to the airwaves and I heard more from the Furs including their signature song Pretty In Pink.

The following spring, my buddy Beej became a fan of the band from seeing their videos on Night Flight, the USA Network show which aired music videos over night on weekends. MTV wouldn’t be available to us until the summer, so Night Flight was the only chance to see the new medium for music.

During the summer of ’84, we wore out Psychedelic Furs’ new album, Mirror Moves, but it was the dreamy Love My Way that was my first exposure to one of the more iconic bands of the ’80s.