Top 5: I Wish I Was 18 Again

If you had asked me in January 1980, I would have told you that it was my world and everybody else was paying rent. I was not yet 20 years old, but I was program director of my college radio station. I had landed a part-time job at KDTH in Dubuque, in what we called “commercial radio” to distinguish it from what we were doing at school, and to distinguish ourselves as people who were good enough to get paid to be on the air. (Not paid much, however—the minimum wage, which practically all of us got, was $3.10 an hour.) I’d met a cute girl, I had a car and lots of good friends, and the drinking age was 18.

It was good to be the king.

As I look over the record chart from KKEZ in Fort Dodge, Iowa (“100,000 Watts of Power for the 80s”), dated January 19, 1980, some of the songs snap me back hard to that winter. I was still living in the dorms, which I hated, although I had a good roommate, a guy named Ron. We co-existed amicably, although we didn’t have much in common except our address—and after school got out in the spring, I don’t think I ever saw him again. I was taking a lot of broadcasting courses, plus an English course called Modern Grammars. I remember nothing about that one, which is not surprising, since I didn’t remember anything while I was taking it, and I got a D. I also took Medieval Europe, which I liked a lot better. (We joked that our professor lectured so well because she had lived through so much of the period. Her relatively advanced age seemed hilarious to us at the time. Now, not so much.)

A few favorite songs from that month, and a couple of oddballs, follow.

1. “Sara”/Fleetwood Mac (up from 2). What I like about “Sara” now is what I liked about it then—its hazy, hypnotic fall into a deep well of passion. “Undoing the laces”? Why yes, please do. 

10. “Lost Her in the Sun”/John Stewart (holding at 10). The third single from Bombs Away Dream Babies is the least well known, but the best by a mile.

14. “Looks Like Love Again”/Dann Rogers (down from 8). Dann Rogers was big in Iowa, apparently, because we played his song at KDTH for a long time. From its skillful deployment of love song cliches to the style of its production, “Looks Like Love Again” screams 1980. YouTube DJ Music Mike has it here.

21. “I Wish I Was 18 Again”/George Burns (up from 28). George Burns turned 84 in January 1980, and since he’d done everything else by then, it was apparently time for another hit record, 47 years after his first charted song. “I Wish I Was 18 Again,” which made #49 on the Hot 100 and #15 on the country chart, is sappy and sentimental, which should surprise exactly nobody. Neither should the fact that it blew out the phones at KDTH.

26. “Him”/Rupert Holmes (up from 30). The Mrs. hates “Him,” although maybe not as much as she hated it 31 years ago this winter, when it was all over the radio at a moment when she had to choose between the rugby player she was dating and this guy at the radio station. “What’s she gonna do about him?/She’s gonna have to do without him/Or do without me.” Seems like an easy choice now. Right, dear?

Right, dear?

8 thoughts on “Top 5: I Wish I Was 18 Again

  1. There’s a copy of that George Burns CD at my day job waiting to go home with me. I bought his Buddah album on vinyl a few months ago, so it’s in good company. I look forward to his reading of “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine”. (A Rupert Holmes best-of also lies in the wings.)

    “Lost Her in the Sun” is awesome, but I’m still a “Gold” boy at heart. I wish BABD was in print as something other than a CD-R with suspect sound quality from Amazon.

  2. Shark

    Seems like we played “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd and “I Can’t Tell You Why” by the Eagles til we wore them out back then, too. I also recall a “Broadcast Management” class I was taking that semester in 1980. Even with all the screwing around in class, and going Pizza Hut and having pitchers of beer for lunch before class, I somehow got an “A” in that class.

  3. Yah Shure

    Not that Rupert Holmes’ 1979-80 output was as good as his largely-unheard earlier efforts for Epic, IMO, but “Him” was one of the better records to have been saddled with on the playlist at the time, especially when compared with his “Escape” and the particularly insipid “Answering Machine.”

    Good ol’ Fort Dodge… I have fond memories of the place, no doubt due to having moved away before turning five. The owner of a class A FM start-up there wooed me to come do mornings in 1980 after his first choice had bailed. Once I told him I’d lived in Fort Dodge as a child, he confessed that the city was essentially “a smelly little Chicago.” Bail x 2.

  4. porky

    I clicked on the Dann Rogers link and recalled the tune as soon as the needle hit the vinyl. Remembered most of the words too. Worked at an A/C station in ’80 and probably had this drilled into my head subconsciously.

    I always pick up “cash-in” records when I find them (someone gets popular and a label re-releases older things by the artist, usually with updated photos or art-work) and got a Rupert Holmes LP with his Street People era stuff on it; not too bad.

  5. I know two songs performed by John Stewart – Gold and Lost Her In The Sun – but love them both. I can still remember my younger brother singing along with the former every time it came on the radio when we were kids.

    I could probably listen to Sara on a continuous loop for six hours and still enjoy it.

  6. As for the John Stewart hits from the era…”Midnight Wind” is pretty good, too. I like that one and “Lost Her in the Sun” better than “Gold,” but I still/ thing “Gold” is a good song.

  7. Steve E

    “Gold” was the only Stewart record to get airplay in Southern California, and I’ve always enjoyed it, especially the Stevie Nicks harmony. It wasn’t until I listened to it in headphones that I could hear her whispering “California town” in tandem with Stewart’s sung line on the fourth verse.

  8. chuck carpenter

    1980 fort Dodge. I worked at the dodger carousel roller skating rink , had my gang of t, faber, rod scott, john payne, mercer pat crouse etc etc. Spent all our time working and drinking at the hayloft, pbr two bucks a pitcher.great times, the dugout, the runway, waterhole, slick sulleys johnnys, the suds factory,dirty nellies delly.what a wild time it was. I had to move cuz I knew the lifestyle i was living i would end up dead in dead mans alley

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