Don’t Turn Off the Radio (Part III)

The Mrs. and I made it to midnight last night, which is news because we don’t always. The first time I can remember making it until midnight on New Year’s Eve was in 1969, when I counted down the last 10 seconds to the 70s on my grandfather’s old table clock, which now sits on the dresser in my bedroom. The next dozen or so midnights would come in to the accompaniment of somebody’s New Year’s Eve radio countdown. Here’s the third part of our annual series, based this year on the yearend charts from the Cash Box magazine archives. (Find part one here and part two here.)

1979
#1: “Le Freak”/Chic
#100: “Love Is the Answer”/England Dan & John Ford Coley
Comment: This may have been the worst year of the 70s for Top 40 music. If you told me I could never hear any of these songs again, I wouldn’t miss more than a dozen of them.

1980
#1: “Another One Bites the Dust”/Queen
#100: “All Over the World”/Electric Light Orchestra
Comment: “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” makes it two Queen songs in the top five on this chart, and there’s a pretty good stretch of segues from #90 through #85, especially “Boulevard” (#87) into “Pilot of the Airwaves” (#86). Also, let me just say I have never completely forgiven Jeff Lynne for his contributions to the movie Xanadu, and I sometimes wonder if he’s ever forgiven himself. ELO was never considered a legitimate rock band after the triple train-wreck of “Xanadu” (#61), “I’m Alive,” and “All Over the World.” The latter provides the music for a particularly hideous dance number from the movie. Imagine taking LSD in hopes of seeing God, only to find out that God is Richard Simmons. And how badly must Gene Kelly have needed a paycheck to be in this mess?

1981
#1: “Endless Love”/Diana Ross & Lionel Richie
#100: “The Voice”/Moody Blues
Comment: Mushy ballads! Country songs that don’t twang! Power ballads! Medleys! Movie themes! There was no escaping the Black Hole of Suck that was 1981. Not even the mighty Four Tops were powerful enough—their last hit, “When She Was My Girl” (#77), sounds like a Dr. Hook reject.

1982
#1: “Eye of the Tiger”/Survivor
#100: “I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)”/Donald Fagen
Weirdest entry: “Bobbie Sue” by the Oak Ridge Boys (#82), a feeble attempt to repeat the success of the 1981 hit “Elvira,” but with none of that record’s off-the-wall charm. (Hear how it sounded in 2008 here.)

1983
#1: “Flashdance . . . What a Feeling”/Irene Cara
#100: “Heart to Heart”/Kenny Loggins
Comment: Styx, Paul McCartney, Bob Seger, and other 70s icons appearing on this chart would score more hits after 1983, but most were being supplanted in hipness by Duran Duran, John Mellencamp, and the Police. The decade we call “The Eighties,” capital-T, capital-E, really begins here.

1984
#1: “When Doves Cry”/Prince
#100: “Radio Ga-Ga”/Queen
Weirdest entry: Weird Al Yankovic’s “Eat It,” a parody of “Beat It,” all the way up at Number 44.
Weirdest segue: “Pamama” (#99) into “All of You” (#98)

1985
#1: “We Are the World”/USA for Africa
#100: “Alive and Kicking”/Simple Minds
Comment: The success of “We Are the World” was “Ballad of the Green Berets” all over again—massively popular in response to a particular cultural moment, but irretrievably gone down the memory hole once that moment passed. Or maybe it was “You Light Up My Life” all over again—a massive success that few individuals would admit to liking at the time, and one nobody wanted to hear again after its time passed.

1986
#1: “Higher Love”/Steve Winwood
#100: “The Rain”/Oran “Juice” Jones
Comment: Heart and Boston make comebacks, Van Halen retools with a new lead singer, and the Rolling Stones and James Brown score hit singles—why, this year was just like the rockin’ 70s all over again, except for all the synthesized drums everywhere.

Here endeth our annual trip through the yearend charts. As we begin another trip—the one around the sun that we’re calling 2009—let me say again how much I appreciate your continued support of this bilgewater. Your opinions, suggestions, musical or topical requests, and your random credit card numbers are always welcome, either by clicking “Comments” or by sending me private e-mail. Find my address here.

4 thoughts on “Don’t Turn Off the Radio (Part III)

  1. Fascinating series of posts! Digging into the charts seems to do that. Regarding 1979: Lots of crap there, but I’d put “Heart of Glass” and “Rise” on the occasional playlist. Other than those, I agree.

  2. I hate to say it, but I’d say there are as many as 20 songs on the ’79 countdown I enjoy hearing.

    And I kinda liked “Xanadu.”
    Michael Beck was dreadful, and the music was silly, but Gene Kelly was a trouper ’til the end; every scene he’s in lights up a little bit.

  3. Pingback: A Long Time Since I’ve Spent Time With Uncle Vic « Barely Awake In Frog Pajamas

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