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.