I always like to think about the ways pop records fit into real people’s lives and moods. An improvisation, then, upon that theme:
It is the first week of January 1982 in Buffalo, New York. The weather can safely be assumed to be as cold, gray and snowy as it usually is at that time of year.
The Buffalo Bills, the region’s flagship sports franchise, have won four of their last five regular-season games (with long-serving, long-suffering Joe Ferguson at the helm) to qualify for the wild-card playoff game against the New York Jets.
Against the Jets, on Dec. 27, 1981, they pull out a close 31-27 win on the road — the Bills’ first playoff win since the AFL days of 1965.
But a week later, on Jan. 3, 1982, they narrowly lose to the eventual AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals, 28-21, again on the road. Their promising season — one of the most exciting seasons cooked up by any Bills squad of that era — is done.
As it happens, local Top 40 station WBEN is playing just the right tune that week to console the Bills’ oft-disappointed fans.
It’s by an English band that went 18 years between U.S. Top Ten singles … a cold streak to match the Bills’ playoff drought. (They were still in the midst of that cold streak as of January 1982. Not for another year-and-a-half would they reach the Top Ten, with a song about nostalgic, simpler times.)
WBEN is the only station in the ARSA database of local radio-play charts to include this tune on its local countdown of hits. That doesn’t necessarily mean no one else did — the ARSA database is not all-encompassing. But it does suggest that maybe this particular single was well-suited to this particular market.
In January 1982, nobody knew that Buffalo’s contribution to the national sports scene would be four straight nationally televised kicks in the junk and a controversial Stanley Cup-losing goal. There was still hope for the future … still some guarded degree of positivity.
Still hope that better things would be on their way.
“Be an optimist instead / And somehow happiness will find you.”