(Above: Charlie Brown gets it.)
It’s a quiet Saturday night. Mrs. O has plans with some colleagues tonight. My plans involve a frozen pizza, a couple beers, and a box of 45s.
Over the years I’ve amassed a pile of records. Some came from radio stations where I worked (ssh). Some, as I’ve referred to in other posts, I’ve owned since I was four. Between four and forty-eight (almost) I’ve made more than a few trips to record stores, garage sales, been handed boxes by family, etc. There’s a few thousand in the closet now. They’re not as well organized as they should be, but at least I have the 45s by decade.
I’ve grabbed a box from the closet marked “1980s Box 2.” As I see interesting things in the box, I’ll give a listen and make note.
“The Captain Of Her Heart” – Double (#16, 1986). Good start. I’d classify this as a guilty pleasure record. I also haven’t heard this on the radio in years. I think with a modicum of practice I could get the piano part for this down. I vaguely remember this in the rotation at WJTW.
“20/20” – George Benson (#48, 1985). This should have been a bigger hit. It’s very mid-80s synth-heavy R&B. Thinking to myself: I could hot-mix this with Jermaine Stewart’s “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off.” I won’t, though, lest the neighbors be able to hear it.
“Nobody Told Me” – John Lennon (#5, 1984). I was watching MTV Classic last night, and this video came up – so I’ve now heard this song twice in 24 hours after years of not hearing it at all for years. Somewhere I have a mix tape called “1984” that contains it. It’s inextricably linked to the end of my sophomore year of high school, when I heard it a lot.
“Guaranteed For Life” – Millions Like Us (#69, 1987). One hit, and that was it. There’s a Michael McDonald vibe to this one, and it sounds like it should be the background to a movie montage where a young couple slowly decides that they don’t really hate each other. Back in the box with you.
“Samantha (What You Gonna Do)” – Cellarful of Noise (#69, 1988). Here’s our first genuine “Oh, wow” in the box. I think I recall this from college radio – the timing would be right, anyway. This is just… weird, but in a good way. It’s going to be stuck in my head, and heaven help me the next time I encounter a student with this name, because the hook is infectious and I will sing it.
“Black Dog” – Newcity Rockers (#80, 1987). Another “oh, wow,” but for the wrong reasons. Some things should not ever be remade. Also in the box: “Stairway to Heaven” – Far Corporation (did not chart, 1985). Same rule applies.
“Money” – The Flying Lizards (#50, 1981). Sometimes, though, the remake is just so damn quirky that you have to play it, say, on a college morning show.
“Tired of Toein’ The Line” – Rocky Burnette (#8, 1980). I’ve loved this record since I was a kid. Sure, it’s cheesy. It’s a “fauxldie” – a song made to sound like a retro throwback out of place with its contemporary hits. But is that always a bad thing? This first charted in May of 1980 when the charts were topped by “Funkytown.” Maybe that’s why I was drawn to it.
“Change of Heart” – Tom Petty (#21, 1983). Sure, there’s a lot of Petty on the radio. Not normally this one, though. I seem to recall having to dub it from vinyl to play at WERV when I found it missing from the library. It’s that sort of “happy/angry” mix that I am sure that I played passive-aggressively (now there’s a word!) in college.
“Holdin’ On” – Tane Cain (#37, 1982). Another “oh, wow,” but in a “Was that in Flashdance? No? OK.” kind of way. Still, that’s probably the first time I’ve heard it in 35 years.
“You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want)” – Joe Jackson (#15, 1984). I have to be careful with Joe Jackson records. After a couple of beers I am pretty sure that I can sing them in his voice. I am sure this is not the case, but it’s fun to try. A friend in high school put the Night and Day LP on my radar, and it’s long since been a favorite. This was from right after that, but still right in the middle of high school, which is probably when I bought the single.
“We Said Hello Goodbye” – Phil Collins (B-side, 1985). This should have been its own A-side, since it’s a great song. I vaguely recall it being played a lot at a party that summer or the next, but am not sure as to what the circumstances were (or who split up, which is probably what caused it to be played on repeat). It was not on the No Jacket Required LP, but included later in re-release as a bonus track.
“She Looks a Lot Like You” – Clocks (#67, 1982). This should almost get its own blog post as a “Greatest Misses” entry. Wow. I haven’t heard this in years, and need to remedy that. A true one-hit wonder from Kansas, except for the “not making the Top 40” part. There’s nothing to dislike about this record, and it should have been a much bigger hit.
“Tragedy” – John Hunter (#39, 1985). Technically this was released in 1984, and since Hunter was from Chicago, I remember it being all over local radio. He had no other hits, which is too bad. This is another one that should get its own “Greatest Misses” tag. It’s also one where I could possibly figure out the piano riff.
“Come As You Are” – Peter Wolf (#15, 1987). This is a fun record, even if it is nothing like the J. Geils band stuff that Wolf did. Permanent associated memory with this record: being in downtown Chicago with a girl I was dating and her older sister. The sister and I were jumping up and down (like in the video) in front of the Art Institute. She was more fun than the girlfriend. No, it didn’t last.
“I Don’t Mind At All” – Bourgeois Tagg (#38, 1987). Speaking of “it didn’t last” – this is a fantastic breakup song that got a lot of play (from all of us, not just me) my first semester at WLRA. It’s one of those examples of how you can achieve pop perfection in two and a half minutes. It’s worth a revisit, if it’s been a while (or never) for you.
“Your Wildest Dreams” – Moody Blues (#9, 1986). I actually played this one twice, since it had been so long since I had heard it. Another piece of pop perfection that I’d probably include on a favorites list from the decade. This also turned out to be the second biggest hit for the band, which should give pause as well. File it under “breakup song, with regrets.” My only complaint about the single is that it omits the cool longer intro I recall from the video and whichever radio station I was listening to. This came out right before I left high school, and it fit neatly with preparing to leave that whole world behind.
“19” – Paul Hardcastle (#15, 1985). I’ll suggest that this was one of the most unlikely Top 40 hits ever. I seem to recall it being played at a high school sock hop and clearing the dance floor almost immediately. You just can’t get your groove on while thinking of teenage casualties of war. The narrator on the record is legendary voiceover talent Peter Thomas, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 91. He voiced a show for ABC in 1984 called Vietnam Requiem, which is sampled on the record. Technically, this song should have made the end-of-year “in memoriam” reels.
There’s plenty more records to go through. One thing I have realized: the more I pull out of the box, the more I’m thinking “Wait, don’t I have…” with other songs that would mix well. In my mind, I’m putting together a radio station. I guess you never really stop being a DJ, no matter how firmly you deny it.