Let’s not make ourselves do any unnecessary arithmetic today, shall we? Here are some top fives from 20, 25, 30, 35, and 41 years ago this week. (I’ll explain the 41 in a bit.)
WMJQ, Buffalo, week of January 10, 1990:
1. “Downtown Train”/Rod Stewart
2. “Pump Up the Jam”/Technotronic
3. “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You”/Michael Bolton
4. “Everything”/Jody Watley
5. “Just Between You and Me”/Lou Gramm
Comment: I can’t say precisely why, but knowing that it’s been 20 years since Lou Gramm’s solo career makes me feel really old. So does realizing it’s been that long since “Downtown Train,” which appeared on the Storyteller box set I would get from The Mrs. for my birthday in February. What she doesn’t know (until now) is that I knew I was getting it before she gave it to me. One night when I was picking her up at her office, she opened a cubicle drawer and I saw it stashed away there.
Comment: A generation later, Madonna’s vast catalog has diminished the impact of “Like a Virgin,” so listen to it again and try to really hear it again. Although it’s loaded with monster hooks, there’s none bigger than the backbeat on the intro, right before the vocal. And is not “Sea of Love” a 70s-level oddity?
CHUM-FM, Toronto, week of January 12, 1980 (album chart):
1. The Wall/Pink Floyd
2. In Through the Out Door/Led Zeppelin
3. The Long Run/Eagles
4. Regatta de Blanc/Police
Comment: Although 1979 and 1980 wouldn’t go down as great years for singles, they were among the greatest years ever for superstar albums. Also current on this chart: Damn the Torpedoes by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, Breakfast in America by Supertramp, and the Cars’ Candy-O.
KPOI, Honolulu, week of January 17, 1975:
1. “Please Mr. Postman”/Carpenters
2. “Do It (Til You’re Satisfied)”/B.T. Express
3. “When Will I See You Again”/Three Degrees
4. “Boogie On Reggae Woman”/Stevie Wonder
5. “Everlasting Love”/Carl Carlton
Comment: “Please Mr. Postman” is one of the handful of 70s hits that seem to have disappeared from the radio as soon as they dropped out of current rotation. I can’t recall hearing this much in later years at all, though somebody’s probably playing it somewhere now. Every time I go looking for Carpenters songs at YouTube, I find original videos, which were a bit unusual (but not unheard of) in the pre-MTV era. “Please Mr. Postman” has an innocent charm I am having trouble explaining, even as it looks like the trailer for a movie called “Virgins in Disneyland.”
There are a lot of quintessentially 70s hits further down the KPOI chart: Three Dog Night’s “Play Something Sweet,” “Junior’s Farm” by Paul McCartney and Wings, and “Rockin’ Soul” by the Hues Corporation, which is “Rock the Boat” turned sideways.
WRIT, Milwaukee, week ending January 13, 1969:
1. “Crimson and Clover”/Tommy James & the Shondells
2. “I Heard it Through the Grapevine”/Marvin Gaye
3. “Things I’d Like to Say”/New Colony Six
5. “Stormy”/Classics IV
Comment: I’m throwing in a ringer here since we discussed the transition from 1969 to 1970 just a couple of weeks ago and I don’t want to do it again. Also, this chart clearly states it’s “effective until January 13,” but many, many charts (including Billboard) say they are for the week ending on such-and-such a date, and I’ve been ignoring that for years, so there. The Tommy James, Marvin Gaye, and Classics IV records haven’t been off the radio much in 41 years, and I’m betting most of the readership would recognize “Cinnamon.” “Things I’d Like to Say” is a nice bit of sunshiny pop, and may have gotten a boost in Milwaukee since the New Colony Six were from Chicago, but I dunno.
Be sure to note that on the flip side of the survey, WRIT is advertising a bridal show for January 14. Even back then, jocks couldn’t escape ’em.