For some reason, AT40 recaps are some of the most popular things I’ve ever written. So, given a long weekend, I’m gonna take on another one from the early ’80s. (As with last time, there is no special significance to the chosen week, and I didn’t know what would be played until I listened.)
Favorites in bold, as always.
No. 40, debut: Bob Seger, “Shame on the Moon.” As solid and dependable as a cinderblock, but easier to swallow. The sort of country song that even li’l old countryphobe me could sit down and kinda get into. A Rodney Crowell cover and, according to Wiki, Seger’s only Top 40 country hit.
No. 39, debut: Billy Joel, “Allentown.” Much ink has been spilled on this song here and in other places.
So I’ll content myself with imagining what it was like among my former neighbors in the Lehigh Valley in the early summer of ’82, just before the release of BJ’s The Nylon Curtain, as the word started spreading: “Billy Joel wrote a song about us! Really. It’s called ‘Allentown.’ I wonder what it sounds like.”
I wonder how they felt as they sat down for the first few spins, and heard Beej nail their suffering to vinyl so trenchantly. And, I wonder if they realized that this 45 was going to come to define their otherwise unremarkable burg to the rest of the world for at least three decades.
No. 38, debut: Juice Newton, “Heart of the Night.” I vaguely remember that period of time when “Queen of Hearts” was inescapable on the radio. It was, to coin a phrase, the sort of country song that a lot of countryphobes could sit down and kinda get into (or get up and dance to). This ode to “two hungry hearts under the gun” is a serviceable piece of work — that ending is kinda cool, especially — but it just doesn’t have the same mojo.
Casey talks about how David Geffen made $23 million while retired from the record business.
No. 37, up two notches: Peter Gabriel, “Shock the Monkey.” I should probably bold this just in deference to Gabriel’s early-’80s rep: He was sort of pop music’s favorite weirdo, a guy who could maintain his outsider-alternative cred while also selling large quantities of records. All well and good but I don’t overmuch like this song; it repeats itself and kinda plods forward in its one electro-bag for three-plus minutes.
No. 36: After a shoutout to KCPX Salt Lake City, we get Kool & the Gang with “Let’s Go Dancin’.” A limp, rote invitation to go dancin’, reggae dancin’. Disco was a four-letter word in December ’82, but at least when disco was king, dance songs actually swung, pumped, moved and/or grooved.
Casey teases the upcoming Top 100 of 1982 countdown, and mentions all the chart buffs who send in their guesses on each year’s list. AT40 geeks? Who dey?
No. 35: “Three bands from Australia in the countdown this week,” Casey announces, and here’s the first: Moving Pictures with “What About Me.” I’ve always found this one overblown and maudlin and I didn’t give it much of a chance to change my mind this time around. What’s next?
No. 34: “A Penny For Your Thoughts,” Tavares. No memory of this at all so I’ll give it a minute. I don’t hate the chorus, and this won’t be the worst song on this week’s countdown, but as with Kool and the Gang, I can’t help comparing this to the best from the past — in this case, “It Only Takes a Minute.”
Casey mentions that a lot of long-distance dedications involve civilians and people in the military. This one involves a Marine sent to Okinawa after getting married. His wife asks Casey to play Firefall’s “Just Remember I Love You.” Like the old blues song says: Uncle Sam ain’t no woman, but he sure can steal your man.
No. 33, up seven spots: Fleetwood Mac, “Love In Store.” Another of those unflappable, straight-ahead, not-hugely-surprising, mid-tempo Christine McVie songs about matters of the heart. She turned them out with a distinctly British resolve — the same spirit, perhaps, that drove Agatha Christie to keep writing mysteries. As works of art go, this song ranks somewhere between Dead Man at the Vicarage and A Scream on the 4:22 to Skegness.
No. 32: Thirteen male solo artists on the countdown this week, and here’s one from Boston: Billy Squier, “Everybody Wants You.” (Actually, Case, he’s from Wellesley, but what’s a few miles between friends?) Shiny arena-rock with a big stoopid riff. Remember when people went for that?
No. 31, up six notches: Another high-quality contribution from the Hub of the Universe: J. Geils, “I Do.” I’ve heard this song for years and honestly never knew what it was called — maybe because the sense of warmed-over ’50s I got from it never inspired me to look deeper and learn more. This is the live version from the Showtime! album — the Obligatory Live Single, kinda like Geils’ equivalent of “Going to a Go-Go” — no doubt shined up in the studio, but at least Magic Dick gets a couple bars to play. Sure, what the hell.
No. 30: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, up two with “You Got Lucky.” From time to time I remember a weird experience I had in seventh grade. A girl I had a small crush on was walking over to talk to me, and I heard the intro to this song in my head as clearly as if Benmont Tench were seated between my ears. (Things might have gone better if he had been; I think what I said when she arrived was something along the lines of, “Hi, I’m a dork with a bowl cut and bad breath.”) Great tune, anyway.
A listener from Norwich, Connecticut — what’s with all the New England all of a sudden? — asks about Number One hits whose titles are not mentioned in the lyrics. Casey says there are five: “Three Bells” in 1959, “Sukiyaki” and “Fingertips Part 2” in 1963, and “T.S.O.P.” and “Annie’s Song” from 1975.
No. 29: Jeffrey Osborne, “On The Wings of Love.” I was getting ready for another smoove ballad, and then — that crash of big L.A. guitar! What? I don’t really like the song but I almost wanna keep listening just to see how many more times that intrusive guitar shows up. I can only assume there’s probably an emotional, well-crafted, studio-cat solo someplace … but my patience has run out.
No. 28: Casey mentions that San Francisco’s little cable cars used to climb halfway to the stars … and they will again, once the city and the National Parks Service complete an overhaul of the system.
Having provided this random moment in time, Case then throws us over to the laser-gun guitar of Jefferson Starship’s “Be My Lady.” If I can make it through entire Hot Tuna albums I can make it through three-and-a-half minutes of this.
OK, I did.
No. 27, up eight: Casey mentions that the next tune takes its title from a children’s rhyme written in 1765 by Oliver Goldsmith — who presumably did not receive any royalties from Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes.” Good bouncy nonstop British silliness with an unexpected but welcome Al Green name-drop.
No. 26, up five: Kenny Loggins, “Heart to Heart.” A solidly produced Kenny Loggins product, guaranteed to deliver your required daily intake of Kenny Loggins.
An AT40 extra by the only American group ever to have five straight Number One hits — in this case, between August of 1964 and June of ’65. I would have guessed the Beach Boys, but nope, the Supremes. Case plays “Come See About Me.”
No. 25, up four: John Cougar, “Hand to Hold On To.” The last of the singles from American Fool, the LP that made the once and future Mr. Mellencamp a star. This tune — like that Fleetwood Mac song eight or 10 spots ago — has that third-single-from-the-album feel. It’s OK but not much more.
No. 24, down eight: Olivia Newton-John, “Heart Attack.” Sort of spikey and new-wavey and actually mildly unpleasant.
No. 23: After a shout-out to WQMU in Indiana, Pennsylvania, it’s Dan Fogelberg with “Missing You.” This is the second straight countdown in which I’ll say something positive about Dan Fogelberg. This one ditches the starry-eyed balladry for an acceptable Kenny Loggins-ish not-really-funk strut. I’m getting closer but I don’t know what to.
No. 22: Phil Collins, “You Can’t Hurry Love.” In which Collins refuses to let his progressive-rock god status prevent him from dusting off a classic bit of teenage cotton-candy. This is not actually a bad record, and easier on the ears than some of the stuff that came later, like all the “Miami Vice” posturing he was into for a year or two there.
No. 21: The Little River Band, “The Other Guy.” Damn … if Moving Pictures and Olivia Newton-John are the other two Aussie bands this week, that must mean we won’t be hearing Men at Work. Double damn.
No. 20: Patti Austin and James Ingram up five, “Baby Come To Me.” Good smooth soul, or what was passing for soul in 1982, with a fine chorus. Not quite gonna bold it but nothing really wrong with it.
No. 19: Casey tells the story of how the guitarist and keyboardist of British band ABC chucked in a executive job with the local natural-gas company to play music. Their first American hit is “The Look of Love,” and whaddya know, here it is. We haven’t had all that much British synth tootling in this countdown; I guess we were due for some. Still another OK-but-not-wonderful tune.
No. 18: Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle, “You and I.” Recently a Number One country hit. No thanks.
No. 17, up two: The Clash, “Rock the Casbah.” Their second U.S. Top 40 hit, in all its weird, piano-spiked, armadillo-toting glory. There’s gotta be one weird/unusual voice on every countdown, and I guess Joe Strummer fills that role this week. The Combat Rock album had a cult following on the Penfield High cross-country team of my youth so I remember this one extra-fondly.
(Does anyone else remember the Dr. Demento parody, “Lock the Snack Bar”? “‘Cause there’s ants between the Raisinets / Down the snack bar way.” Good times.)
No. 16: Toto up two notches with “Africa.” We’ll just forget the existence of the Internet cult surrounding this song and enjoy it the way people did in 1982. Toto’s drummer, the late Jeff Porcaro, once said he liked the groove of this song so much that he made himself an hour-long tape of it. As a top-call session drummer, Porcaro knew from grooves, so this must indeed be an excellent one.
No. 15: “Up Where We Belong,” Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, a former Number One. You know the song.
No. 14: After a shout-out to WQEN in Gadsden, Alabama, here’s Dionne Warwick with “Heartbreaker.” Forgot all about this song until it got to the chorus — and, oh, yeah, there’s that Gibb falsetto. Always welcome. (The song sorta sprawls out structurally like those Bee Gees hits of the Seventies, too.)
You know what? I’m glad to find a song that remembers what was well-done from the Seventies and doesn’t turn away from it. So I’m gonna bold this, just for the Gibbs. Dionne Warwick, “Heartbreaker.” There ya go.
No. 13: Pat Benatar, “Shadows of the Night.” More Big Hard-Rock Overwroughtness. I’m sure it spoke to lots of people, but not to fortysomething me.
No. 12 in only its fourth week, from the Number One LP Business As Usual: “And now we’re up to a hit song about Australia,” Casey says — oh boy! I guess we’re gonna get Men At Work after all. After an explanation of Vegemite (“we understand you have to acquire a taste for it”), we get “Down Under.” I could listen to these guys all day, and maybe should have today.
No. 11: Supertramp, “It’s Raining Again.” Why do I like this? Maybe because it goes naturally with baseball rain delays. I’m a little embarrassed to have confessed a fondness for Supertramp. Let’s keep going, shall we? The Top 10 is waiting.
No. 10: Diana Ross holds the No. 10 position for six weeks in a row — how? what? how is that possible? — with “Muscles.” So we’ve heard the Supremes; we’ve heard Phil Collins cover the Supremes; and now we get Miss Ross her ownself, with an assist from Michael Jackson. In a weird way I kinda like this one too, as a creative production and arranging job (even if they cribbed the fade-away-and-radiate ending from “Grease.”)
No. 9: The Stray Cats, “Rock This Town.” How did a rockabilly band get so popular? I mean, the British eat up the Fifties and always have, but Americans aren’t quite so eternally devoted to hair-grease and upright basses. Today, of course, we have the context to see the Cats in their true light — as the predecessor band to Phantom, Rocker & Slick.
No. 8: The Number One soul song this week: Marvin Gaye, “Sexual Healing.” I’ve never been a huge Marvin Gaye fan, and I’ve never found this song as anthemic as some people seem to, so I’m sorta bolding this out of some perception that I’m supposed to.
Long-distance dedication from a 19-year-old woman in Charlotte, N.C., to her mom in Texas: “Out Here On My Own” by Irene Cara.
No. 7: Don Henley, “Dirty Laundry.” Piss off, Don, you supercilious asshole. Just … piss right off.
No. 6, fifth week in the Top 10: After a shout-out to Armed Forces Radio, it’s Joe Jackson with “Steppin’ Out.” Hey, Marvin Gaye, this is how you use a drum machine. The Cole Porter-loving Englishman checks in with a mesmeric, urbane ode to having a very large, very shiny city spread out at one’s feet. Can you taste the champagne?
No. 5: Lionel Richie with a former Number One, “Truly.” On the counter near the computer as I type this is nine-tenths of a pound of chorizo sausage from New Bedford, defrosting. Tomorrow night I will mix it with diced sweet potatoes, maybe some onion, and serve it in soft tortillas. It’s gonna smoke.
No. 4: Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, “The Girl is Mine.” Haven’t heard this in years and years. Not sure who put the deadweight “doggone” in the lyric but I’m betting it wasn’t Michael. The back-and-forth between the two at the end would be Macca’s most embarrassing Top 40 moment ever, if he hadn’t gone and played the kazoo solo on that one Ringo Starr record.
No. 3: Laura Branigan, “Gloria.” Casey explains that this is a remake of a huge European hit that was never released in English. He then plays the first half of the Italian original before segueing over to Branigan’s cover. I love when he does stuff like that. The Italian version seems more buttoned-down; Branigan’s is louder, more flamboyant, the kind of thing ice skaters do free routines to.
Number One on the country chart: “Somewhere Between Right and Wrong,” Earl Thomas Conley.
No. 2: Toni Basil, “Mickey,” down from its sole week at Number One. Another song that brings its Dr. Demento parody to mind (Weird Al Yankovic’s “Ricky.”) I guess we were overdue for some cheesy Farfisa organ, so here we are. An OK pop song but I only really need to hear it maybe once every two years.
No. 1: Casey talks about duo acts with the most Number Ones. Ahead of the Everlys, the Carpenters and Simon & Garfunkel, Hall and Oates claims its fifth Number One with “Maneater.” A decent repurposing of the same bump-bump-bump Motown rhythm that props up “You Can’t Hurry Love,” but not my favorite of their songs. (“Private Eyes” for the win, followed by “You Make My Dreams,” followed by “Rich Girl,” followed by “She’s Gone,” followed by “Sara Smile” … yeah, this one isn’t really all that close to the top. It beats out “It’s a Laugh,” anyway.)