Rockin’ the suburbs: The Billboard Top Rock Tracks, February 12, 1983

billboard tracks

Yesterday’s post about the songs likely played at the school dances right around this time was a bit of a bummer. It’s not because school dances themselves are sad – certainly not so many years later – but because the songs on the list were, frankly, a downer. They’re also not the things I would have been listening to, certainly not 35 years ago, when I was a freshman in high school. (I’m going to let the sting of that sentence bake in just a bit before moving on….)

My musical preferences were all over the place at almost-14. I spent Saturday nights listening to the all-Oldies request show on WCLR-FM, taping songs that I needed for the collection. I kept a half an ear on pop radio. I also started listening more and more to WMET-FM, since that was the station that was played on the school bus. (I first heard Rush on the bus that same school year, but that wasn’t on the radio.) I also spent time, when I could get control of the TV, watching MTV. Remember that in the pre-“Billie Jean” world, MTV was very rock-heavy. Even after that, it still took chances on rock acts long before it would take the same chance on a Black artist or a dance record.

Billboard kept track of what the rockers were playing – and selling – in its Rock Albums and Top Tracks chart. There’s often Top 40 crossover, since the top 40 actually included rock songs then. So, let’s see what goodies were on it 35 years ago this week:

60. The Clash – “Rock the Casbah.” There are sixty spots on the chart, and this one is moving down to the final position. The MTV video featured an armadillo – which I referenced more than once on the radio. No matter if the audience got it or not, because some jokes were just for me.

58. The Who – “Athena.” I still love this record, and will play it at full volume whenever I can. It’s a song I associate clearly with sitting on the bus, in the dark, heading for a first-period phys ed class that started at 7:20 in the morning.

53. Saga – “On the Loose.” This band was there and gone. I don”t think of them as a one-hit wonder since WMET played #28 – “Wind Him Up in a pretty decent rotation as well. I went years without hearing either of them, and then found a copy of the album on CD.

50. Ozzy Osborne – “Iron Man.” I don’t recall hearing it as a freshman in high school, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it since then.

47 and 46. Phil Collins – “Like China” and “You Can’t Hurry Love.” I’ll take ’em both. I picked up a copy of Hello, I Must Be Going, and played it a lot. At least one mix tape I made at the time contained “It Don’t Matter To Me,” which I haven’t heard in far too long.

43. Judas Priest, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming.” I vaguely remember a field trip to the zoo for biology class that year. We carried a boom box with a mix tape, and this was on it, along with the theme from “Heavy Metal.” None of us had girlfriends.

41. Dire Straits, “Twistin’ By the Pool.” I didn’t listen to it then, but I played it a lot on my shows at WLRA. Late bloomer. Same applies to #37 – “Industrial Disease,” which contains one of my favorite lyrics in rock: “Two men say they’re Jesus/One of them must be wrong.”

40. Bryan Adams, “Cuts Like a Knife.” One of those videos that I remember watching every time it was on. It may have been the girl in the pool. But the album was pretty decent. I preferred “This Time” to this record.

35. The Human League, “Mirror Man.” This seems out of place on this chart – it’s more new-wavey than rock. It’s also a song that I probably listened to in the privacy of my own bedroom rather than around others. (By the end of my freshman year, I was spending more and more time in there with my music than anywhere else.)

34. Duran Duran, “Rio” and 33. Styx, “Mr. Roboto.” The charts were weird. Note that #3 is “Hungry Like the Wolf,” which was actually the top song on this chart last week.

29. The Fixx, “Stand or Fall. This was one that, again, had a memorable video. The same shot of a horse falling over and over again. I can still picture it. I haven’t heard this song in a darned long time, and that should be remedied.

27. Dexys Midnight Runners, “Come On Eileen.” This is still a great record, and I will argue this point loudly.

24. Frida, “I Know There’s Something Going On.” It’s another Phil Collins record, since that’s his drumming on it. Frida, of course, is Anna-Frida, one of the A’s in ABBA. It’s another of those records I haven’t heard in forever, but I think this one needs more time between plays than some of the others.

23. The Greg Kihn Band, “Jeopardy. Another memorable video, which looks really weird as it was actually shot on video rather than on film. This song led off a night of music played for our school on WLS in the fall of 1983, which I have on tape somewhere and need to find for a future post.

17. Def Leppard, “Photograph.” This is debuting this week, which seems odd, since I remember people playing this as soon as I got to high school. Of course, we’re trying to remember things from a long time ago, and memories play tricks on us.

14. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “You Got Lucky.” A great song then and now, with a really weird concept video from the future. It was on the Petty list I did when he passed last fall, and for good reason.

12. Scandal, “Goodbye To You.” I had a major crush on Patty Smyth, and it was because of this video. I worked through the “Warrior” phase, and tried to give extra spins to “Never Enough” when it came out. I think the last record I noticed from her was the Don Henley duet, and that was it. We’ll always have the red dress from this one.

8. Sammy Hagar, “Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy.” This one got a lot of Top 40 play, even on B-96 in Chicago. It sounded odd alongside a lot of the rest of the playlist.

7. Night Ranger, “Don’t Tell Me You Love Me.” I will still drive fast to this record on the rare occasion I hear it. Remind me to tell the story about “Sister Christian” and the broken bass drum in the band room sometime.

5. Men at Work, “Be Good Johnny.” You’re a funny kid, Johnny – but I like you. Another great song that doesn’t get nearly enough airplay.

4. The Pretenders, “Back on the Chain Gang.” This is a song that I couldn’t stand when it was out. Then, I got a little older, and a little more experienced, and the song took on a little different meaning. It’s one that, when it comes up on the iPod, I actually let get to the end without hitting the advance button. Maybe it takes me to a place in the past I got cast out of, or something like that.

And at #1 – Golden Earring, “Twilight Zone.” It’s the video with the bullet cutting through the playing card. It’s a song that has an insanely long intro on the LP, and it sounds fantastic. Of course, time was necessary here, since between WMET and MTV I actually burned on this song at 14. Now, I don’t hear it that often, and it’s almost fresh again.

2 thoughts on “Rockin’ the suburbs: The Billboard Top Rock Tracks, February 12, 1983

  1. It comes as no surprise that we share many of the same likes and a few dislikes on this chart though I was a sixteen-year-old high school junior some 1745 miles southwest of metropolitan Chicago. If I may, I’d like to call out seven more songs from The Billboard Top Rock Tracks for the week ending February 12, 1983:

    39. Little Steven and The Disciples Of Soul, “Forever.” Springsteen stalwart Steven Van Zandt began recording his Men Without Women album in 1981, taking breaks to produce a second comeback album for Gary U.S. Bonds and to begin sessions for Born In The U.S.A.. Adopting Little Steven as his solo moniker to distance himself from his work with Springsteen, Men Without Women was released in late 1982 followed by the lead single “Forever”. The song is a delightful throwback to the music of the Sixties, incorporating elements of Motown, Stax and Spector’s Wall Of Sound. Were it not for Little Steven’s distinctive vocals, this could have easily appeared on a Springsteen album. This would be the track’s peak on the Rock chart in the last week of a three-week cameo. Over on the Hot 100, “Forever” peaked at number 64 in a nine-week bid.

    36. Eric Clapton, “I’ve Got A Rock N Roll Heart.” Though it actually fell five spots from its debut on the Rock chart the previous week, “I’ve Got A Rock N Roll Heart” actually rebounded and peaked at number 24 in a fifteen-week stay. The song struck a particular chord with my father who bought the Money and Cigarettes cassette just so he could listen to the song on his way to work each morning. (I opted for the 45.) The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, as I also get off on ’57 Chevys and screaming guitars.

    32. Red Rider, “Human Race.” was the second highest debut on the chart behind Def Leppard. And while the parent album Neruda sat at number 12 over on the Rock Albums chart, another Red Rider single from the album, “Power”, sat up at number 19. My local rock station played a really cool promo-only segue of an instrumental from Neruda called “Light In The Tunnel” with “Human Race” which I had to recreate on my dual well cassette deck because, on the album itself, “Light In The Tunnel” was track 1 and “Human Race” was track 3. Track 2 was “Power (Strength In Numbers)” aka “Power”. In a fifteen-week jog up and down the Rock chart, “Human Race” peaked at number 11.

    26. Missing Persons, “Walking In L.A.” Dale Bozzio’s vocal style turned a lot of people off but her husband Terry and the other two boys in the band known as Missing Persons could actually rock. “Walking In L.A.” would prove to be their biggest of five hits on the Rock chart, peaking at number 12. It also holds the opposite distinction on the Hot 100, where it stalled at number 70. I’d have to rank it at number 4 on my list of 5 Favorite Missing Persons Tracks behind “Words”, “Mental Hopscotch” and “Destination Unknown”.

    13. Frank Marino, “Strange Dreams.” Frank Marino is sometimes referred to as the Canadian Jimi Hendrix for reasons I have never fully understood though I do agree he is underrated as a guitarist in both his work with Mahogany Rush and his solo stuff. “Strange Dreams” is from his second solo album, 1982’s Juggernaut, which was at number 33 over on the Rock Albums chart this week. Like a lot of even the hardest rocking stuff on the Rock chart, there was more than a bit of synthesizer in “Strange Dreams”, making it one of those spacey rock songs like Billy Thorpe’s “Children Of The Sun” or Styx’s “Come Sail Away” that always attract my attention. The song was Marino’s only appearance on the Rock chart and it eventually peaked at number 9.

    10. Ric Ocasek, “Something To Grab For.” In between The Cars albums Shake It Up (1981) and Heartbeat City (1984), group members Greg Hawkes and Ric Ocasek recorded and released their own solo albums. Ocasek’s album sounded most like The Cars and “Something To Grab For” is probably the one song most often mistaken as a Cars track. As a big Cars fan, I gobbled up the Beatitude album and two twelve-inch singles spun off of it. “Something To Grab For” was still on the rise this week and would peak at number 5 on the Rock chart and number 47 on the Hot 100. The week prior, February 5, 1983, the album’s second single “Jimmy Jimmy” debuted at number 25 and spent exactly one week on the Rock chart before disappearing completely.

    I skipped five pages ahead in the February 12, 1983, issue of Billboard to see the MTV Adds & Rotation for 2/2/83. Looks like the video for that special Red Rider segue was Added and five of the songs you mentions were in Heavy Rotation (3-4 plays a day) while six others were in Medium Rotation (2-3 plays a day.


  2. Men at Work were the best, until they weren’t. My older brother was a big fan and I heard a lot of them in 1982-83. At some point I will give in to nostalgia and buy myself copies of the first two albums (wonder whether anyone still buys them? Is there some kid out there discovering Men at Work, with a crate-digger’s joy, for the first time?)


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