A Little Bit Hard

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(Pictured: country/pop singer Juice Newton onstage in 1981.)

What follows is a string of random observations made while listening to the American Top 40 show from May 29, 1982, which was not always easy to listen to.

The number of bland adult-contemporary records is somewhat smaller than one year earlier, although “Friends in Love” by Dionne Warwick and Johnny Mathis (#40), “When He Shines” by Sheena Easton (#32), and “Making Love” by Roberta Flack (#19) fit the bill. The country crossovers on the chart are similarly bland, unrecognizable as country apart from the names of the artists attached to them: “I Don’t Know Where to Start” by Eddie Rabbitt (#36), “Any Day Now” by Ronnie Milsap (#34), and “Always on My Mind” by Willie Nelson (#8). “Love’s Been a Little Bit Hard on Me” by Juice Newton (#26), which is not very country either, is the liveliest one of the lot.

Juice Newton got double the airplay on the 5/29/82 show: her hit from earlier in 1982, “The Sweetest Thing,” also featured in a long-distance dedication. It occurs to me that if Premiere’s modern-day producers want to cut time from the repeats, they could snip the dedication songs to a verse and a chorus. There would still be the endless letters—the one that went with “The Sweetest Thing” took at least two leaden minutes for Casey to read—but they were what made the feature popular, not the music.

There are some decent rock records sprinkled throughout: Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll” is still hanging on at #37. “Caught Up in You” by .38 Special, “When It’s Over” by Loverboy, and “Hurts So Good” by John Cougar Mellencamp make a pretty good threesome at #31, #30, and #29 respectively, and “Rosanna” by Toto (#16)  doesn’t sound like anything else on the chart. There are some solid pop tunes as well: either “Only the Lonely” by the Motels (#39) or “Man on Your Mind” by the Little River Band (#14) might be the best thing on the show, if it’s not “Did It in a Minute” by Hall and Oates (#9). Kool and the Gang’s “Get Down on It” (#10) still sounds pretty good to me, even though it basically repeats the same eight measures for three minutes, and although it doesn’t get much airplay anymore, Rick Springfield’s “Don’t Talk to Strangers” (#2) holds up fairly well.

On the other hand, there’s “The Beatles Movie Medley” (#20), the only official Beatles release never to get a CD reissue, as far as I know. It’s a stitched-together medley of seven songs heard in various Beatles films that manages to leach all the excitement out of them. (Passable-quality YouTube video here.) Queen demonstrated conclusively that they were out of ideas with “Body Language,” which is scarcely a complete song and a terrible one. But even “Body Language” (#21) is better than Dan Fogelberg’s “Run for the Roses” (#18). Details that ring false and rhymes that make you wince are sung in a plaintive whine, making “Run for the Roses” the absolute bottom of the Fogel-barrel. (It makes “Same Old Lang Syne” sound like Dylan.) Also better than “Run for the Roses”—but only by a nose—“I’ve Never Been to Me” by Charlene, which somehow holds another week at #3. Joan Jett’s bludgeoning of “Crimson and Clover” is at #17.

With “Don’t You Want Me” at #7, Casey quotes Human League’s producer Martin Rushent talking about how guitars are boring and synthesizers are the coming thing. His comments ended up quite prescient: as he suggested 34 years ago, it’s now possible to make nearly any sound you want electronically. The advance we’ve made is that keyboard-produced sound can be plausibly warm and recognizably human, something “Don’t You Want Me” is not. Neither is “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell at #33.

The Top 10 of this chart is all over the road. In addition to Kool and the Gang, Hall and Oates, Willie, Human League, Charlene, and Rick Springfield, there’s “’65 Love Affair” by Paul Davis (#6), which sounds like it should have come out in 1976, Ray Parker Jr.’s “The Other Woman” (#5), which defies classification as either a pop record or a soul record, and Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny” (#4).

The top six songs are in the same positions as the week before. The #1 song—in its third of an eventual seven-week run at the top—is “Ebony and Ivory” by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder. This record was an incredibly big deal in the spring and summer of 1982, although now all we can hear is how dated it sounds, like something from another century. Which, come to think of it, it is.

One thought on “A Little Bit Hard

  1. You didn’t like “the chance of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance,” eh?
    (Neither did I. But it sticks in my mind.)

    We are into the year or two of pop hits that I remember coming out of the old radio at my parents’ cottage in the Finger Lakes. “’65 Love Affair” seemed particularly inescapable.

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