Golden Ages

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(Pictured: Kenny Loggins in the “Danger Zone” video.)

(Quick and late edit below.)

If you are a friend on Facebook or you follow me on Twitter, you probably know that I went to see the total eclipse on Monday. I drove 10 hours each way to visit friends in Kentucky. As spectacular as the eclipse itself was, sharing it with those people made it even better. I wrote about the experience for my radio station, and you can read that piece here.

I packed a bag of CDs for the trip, including a couple of American Top 40 shows from the 1980s. The summer of 1984 was a golden age for the Top 40, and the August 18, 1984, AT40 is pretty strong from top to bottom—in other words, from “Ghostbusters” to Bruce Springsteen’s second single from Born in the USA, “Cover Me,” which debuts at #40. A few notes follow:

—Slade’s “My Oh My” is at #37. Although the group’s Noddy Holder and Jim Lea take songwriting credits, “My Oh My” sounds exactly like “Let Us Break Bread Together,” a communion hymn I hear when my Lutheran relatives drag me to church.

—Fewer hits from 1984 have gone farther down the memory hole than “Alibis” by Sergio Mendes, his first major chart entry since “Never Gonna Let You Go” the year before. “Never Gonna Let You Go” has long since disappeared from radio playlists itself, although it was the distilled essence of adult radio pop in 1983.

—Casey corrects an error on an earlier broadcast, in which Silver Convention’s “Fly Robin Fly” was omitted from a list of foreign acts who had hit #1 on the soul chart. Given that “Fly Robin Fly” hit #1 on the pop chart, that strikes me as a rather big mistake. Casey blamed himself, although the researcher who actually messed it up was taken out beneath the Hollywood sign and beheaded.

Casey is hard to listen to this week. I’ve written about it before—how his 1984 delivery is extremely slow and announcer-y, often unnecessarily repetitive, every syllable carefully enunciated, pretty much the opposite of the way all of us in radio are taught to communicate, and in the aggregate annoying as hell. Casey had broken himself of this habit by August 9, 1986, the second show I took along for the ride. Although he’s still The Most Famous Voice in America, he’s not nearly so stiff and mannered.

The music mix isn’t quite as strong on the 1986 show—there are some now-forgotten records pretty far up the chart, like “Suzanne” by Journey, “All the Love in the World” by the Outfield, and “Rumors” by the Timex Social Club, and it includes one of the worst records Rod Stewart ever made, “Love Touch,” all the way up at #6. But just as the 1984 show has “When Doves Cry” and “Dancing in the Dark” and “Missing You” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and other classics, the 1986 show has its share of songs that haven’t been off the radio in over 30 years: “Sledgehammer” and “Higher Love” and “Take My Breath Away” and “Invisible Touch” and “Danger Zone.”

Someday I’m going to write about the golden age of the movie song, which the 1984-1986 period certainly is. Movies and MTV had a synergistic relationship: put a song that has nothing to do with the rest of the movie over the closing credits (like “Love Touch” in the Robert Redford movie Legal Eagles), make a video with scenes from the movie (like “Love Touch”), and everybody profits. I count at least four movie songs in the 1984 show and eight in 1986, and that’s not counting songs that were featured in movies after their chart runs were through. In the week of the 1986 show, the Top Gun soundtrack was #1 on the album chart. (Late afterthought: and Purple Rain in 1984, too.)

Coming Friday: in the summer of 1977, CBS aired a music-related TV show that few have ever seen. I watched the whole thing, and I lived to tell the tale.

5 responses

  1. Are you downloading the shows from somewhere?

    1. My radio station is a Premiere affiliate, so I rip ’em from there.

  2. IIRC, Slade’s other big Stateside hit, “Run Runaway,” also sounds a lot like some traditional toon – a hymn, or a Scottish bagpipe tune, or something.
    Perhaps Holder and Lea were at a point where looting the public domain was the best source of inspiration.

    (In the late ’70s Slade cut a version of the Hokey Pokey song — “you put your left hand in, you take your left hand out” — and released it as a single in the U.K. They didn’t go so far as to try to claim authorship, though.)

  3. 1984 was the year I left radio and one thing I distinctly remember was the creeping in of the gated drum sound, week by week as we received new records (or tapes rather for our automated system). “Almost Paradise” by the Heart/Loverboy combo was major offender.

    What’s so great about America is one can go to nearly any thrift store and find a copy of a Sergio Mendes LP, for very cheap. Picked one up yesterday for a dime, mainly for their version of “Wichita Lineman.” Sergio made great-sounding records, and yes I don’t even mind “Alibis” which our MOR station played.

  4. We drove to Idaho to experience the eclipse. We listened to AT40 from October 15, 1983, featuring Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” at #1 and the countdown from January 13, 1973, featuring Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” at #1. No road trip is complete without Classic AT40’s to listen to😀

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