(Above: Kenny Rogers, somewhere between psychedelia and chicken.)
By the middle of November I was entrenched in my new school. My parents decided to move to Orland Park near the end of my sixth grade year; in fact, I commuted to Helen Keller School for the last three months of the term that spring. I began seventh grade at Orland Junior High School and introduced myself to the students there by running for 7th grade class president. I won the election, and as such completed the highlight of my junior high years. I knew I’d be reunited with my grade school friends when I began at Andrew High School in 1982, and that most of the people who were now my classmates I wouldn’t see again once that happened. Not only that, but middle school is hard and some kids are just assholes – and we seemed to have more than our share. Hence, junior high was pretty rough.
In part, it might have been because I didn’t fit in any discussions of music. I was much more likely to sit in my room on the weekends listening to oldies throwback shows and compiling cassette tapes full of songs to fill gaps in my collection. Modern music? By the end of 1980 it wasn’t doing much for me. Even now, looking back at this chart, there’s a few things I see where I think “Oh, yeah, that one works,” but I didn’t know them at the time. There’s others where I think “Yuck, that’s my parents’ radio station.” What made me realize this was hearing this countdown on Sirius XM today. I made two trips in the car, and at both times the same song – “Guilty” by Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb – was on. Both times I wanted to switch the station.
There’s an awful lot of variety on this chart, though – the Country influence is huge, the soft AC component is there, and there’s still remnants of disco as well. Let’s see what we have.
97. Burt Reynolds – “Let’s Do Something Cheap and Superficial.” I totally forgot that he had a record, and for good reason. Let’s not speak ill of the deceased and move on.
92. Pete Townsend – “Rough Boys.” This song makes its debut this week. There’s solo work by Townsend and Daltrey on this chart despite The Who still being active (“You Better You Bet” comes out next year.) This still rocks.
91. Charlie Daniels – “The Legend of Wooley Swamp.” Oh, you think Country is at its peak today? I’ll submit this chart as evidence that it was bigger in the early 80s than today – and with acts that aren’t just “hat bands,” either.
85. Irene Cara – “Fame.” It’s heading down the charts after peaking at #4. Cara started as one of the Short Circus, the singing group on The Electric Company that usually made me lose interest in the program. We’ll hear more from her when Flashdance comes out.
84. The B-52s – “Private Idaho.” There is no way in hell that 7th-grade me would have discovered this band. I didn’t spend enough time in this neighborhood of the charts. This peaked at #74.
81. Blondie – “The Tide Is High.” This song is debuting this week, and will go on to be one that I do hear a lot.
80. Bob Seger – “The Horizontal Bop.” I have played a lot of Seger on rock radio, and damned if I can ever remember playing this one. This is its peak position.
77. Eddie Rabbitt – “I Love a Rainy Night.” OK, I’ll admit to liking this one. He’s also at #54 with “Drivin’ My Life Away.” Country abounds.
73. Cheap Trick – “Stop This Game.” I’m a guy who loves this band, and even I can’t remember this one.
69. The Kings – “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide.” I wrote about this one here. It was a much, much bigger tune in and around Chicago than nationally, and it was hard to find this album for a long time. I think I have three copies now.
67. The Cars – “Touch and Go.” Attention 80s channels: It wouldn’t kill you to play this a little more and “You Might Think” a little less.
63. Johnny Lee – “Lookin’ For Love.” Yet more Country. As an SNL fan from way back, though, I can’t hear this song and not sing it as “Wookin’ Pa Nub,” no matter how inappropriate that might be.
62. Al Stewart – “Midnight Rocks.” This was a #24 hit, and I can’t think of the last time I’ve heard it. For that matter, do you hear any Al Stewart outside of the various “yacht” incarnations?
60 and 61. George Benson – “Give Me the Night” and “Love X Love.” The former is the one you’ve heard of, but both run back-to-back this week.
57. Paul Simon – “Late In the Evening.” Inexplicably, the riff in this was used as a promo bed on WGN-TV before it became a superstation and was just a low-budget local TV station. That’s what is stuck in my memory, and I can’t for the life of me think of what they were promoting.
53. Kansas – “Hold On.” This one’s on the way down from peaking at #40. Despite the lower showing, it’s been a staple of classic hits lists for years. I’d much rather hear this than “Carry On Wayward Son” for the eight millionth time.
50. Kool & the Gang – “Celebration.” It’s on the way up the chart, and, sadly, there’s no stopping it.
48. Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard – “Suddenly.” I passed over ONJ at 58 with “Xanadu,” and now I have to mention it. She was a chart force to be reckoned with in the early 1980s. AC radio should take this out every now and again.
47. Kenny Loggins – “I’m Alright.” I love Caddyshack, and yet I never need to hear this outside of the context of watching the film. Driving and singing “You gotta listen to the man/Pay attention to the magistrate” is a little weird.
45. AC/DC – “You Shook Me All Night Long.” I had never heard of this band until I got to junior high school despite them being around for years. By 1981 my friend Dave and I – who I was still hanging out with on weekends instead of current classmates – were using them in our pretend radio shows. This one’s a staple of wedding receptions now, so it’s hard to think of it as “edgy.”
41. The Police – “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.” From the soundtrack of The Last American Virgin, a film you don’t hear nearly enough about anymore.
We’re finally into the Top 40.
40. Don Williams – “I Believe In You.” I always have this one and Fred Knoblock’s “Why Not Me” together in my mind. Not only are they both from about the same time, to 11-year-old me they sounded similar, as in “That’s something I don’t like.” While the Knoblock song has grown on me over time, this one sounds dated. Maybe it’s the disbelief in the price of gas.
38. The Vapors – “Turning Japanese.” I suspect that this does not get released today.
36. Billy Joel – “Sometimes a Fantasy.” I had the Glass Houses LP, and took to this one early. It would be years before I engaged in a romance of any kind, let alone one at a distance.
33. Carly Simon – “Jesse.” Didn’t like it then, does nothing for me now. I think it’s the backup singers.
30. Waylon Jennings – “(Theme From) The Dukes of Hazzard.” Yes, I watched it (my brother was a big fan). Again, I don’t see this show getting made today. This is the peak for this song on the chart. I do appreciate the longer version, in which Waylon bitches about how they only show his hands on TV.
29. Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb – “Guilty.” Nothing screams “my parents’ eight track collection” like this one.
26. The Rolling Stones – “She’s So Cold.” On the SXM countdown Alan Hunter was talking about the objection to the disco sound of “Miss You,” and how that may have carried over a bit here. I think of this as more the return to the classic Stones sound and a departure from the songs of Some Girls. Your mileage may vary.
24. Roger Daltrey – “Without Your Love.” This is a fine record I don’t hear enough of.
21. Bruce Springsteen – “Hungry Heart.” I hadn’t discovered The Boss yet in 1980, and yet here he was, right in front of me.
20. Willie Nelson – “On the Road Again.” Tell me again that this isn’t Peak Country on the pop charts?
17. Neil Diamond – “Love On the Rocks.” There was way, way too much Neil Diamond played in my home. And not the good early stuff: the 70s schmaltz. Not long after we got our first VCR, The Jazz Singer was brought home as a rental. It gave us this song, the inescapable “America,” and the song that has forever been an earworm, “My Name Is Yussel” tapped out on a piano.
16. Pat Benatar – “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” I put Pat Benatar in the same category I put the Doobie Brothers: played her a lot on classic hits radio, and never once was asked to by a listener.
15. Supertramp – “Dreamer.” This one I didn’t play enough. Of course, my preference would be for the original 1974 version, and not the live version (which was the hit.)
14. Devo – “Whip It.” See what I mean about this chart? There’s something for everyone, and yet not enough for anyone.
11. Cliff Richard – “Dreamin’.” Note to oldies/classic hits programmers: you forgot this one. It peaked here at #11, which is a lot higher than some of the stuff you’ve burnt out.
10. John Lennon – “(Just Like) Starting Over.” In less than a month from this chart he’ll be gone, which is still very strange to think about.
9. Leo Sayer – “More Than I Can Say.” For me, this one’s Bobby Vee or bust.
8. Pointer Sisters – “He’s So Shy.” Trivia: Nancy Faust, the former Chicago White Sox organist who defined what that position was, used this for walk-up music for Harold Baines for years.
6. Stephanie Mills – “Never Knew Love Like This Before.” OK, guilty pleasure alert. This one’s fun. I’d rather hear it that #5 – Diana Ross, “I’m Coming Out,” which has been played a lot more. Or, for that matter, #4 – Queen, “Another One Bites the Dust.”
3. Donna Summer – “The Wanderer.” Yeah, the chart goes off the rails for me here. Between this, last week’s top song but now #2 – Barbra Streisand “Woman in Love,” and the new #1 song – Kenny Rogers “Lady,” I’d have switched off Casey Kasem after Queen and gone outside to play in the dirt. Come to think of it, I’m probably out after Stephanie Mills these days. (I’m listening to it again – should she have gone after Madonna for the royalties to “Borderline?”)