(Pictured: Kool and the Gang looking very kool indeed.)
The American Top 40 show from March 1, 1980, was a recent weekend repeat, and when I loaded it up recently, I wasn’t expecting anything all that great. But it turned out to be a lot better than I thought it would be.
40. “Fire Lake”/Bob Seger
39. “I Thank You”/ZZ Top
It started out great, that’s for sure.
37. “Kiss Me in the Rain”/Barbra Streisand
36. “With You I’m Born Again”/Billy Preston and Syreeta
35. “Let Me Go Love”/Nicolette Larson with Michael McDonald
But it got pretty dire there for a while.
34. “Three Times in Love”/Tommy James. I adore “Three Times in Love” beyond any ability I have to explain why.
33. “Off the Wall”/Michael Jackson. You have probably forgotten about “Off the Wall,” despite the fact that it eventually hit the Top 10. You have also forgotten that “Thriller” is about half a rewrite of it.
30. “Don’t Do Me Like That”/Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
29. “Fool in the Rain”/Led Zeppelin
28. “Heartbreaker”/Pat Benatar
I am no fan of Pat Benatar, and from the very beginning. Her bad-ass rocker chick image came off as phony as a three-dollar bill to me—but “Heartbreaker” sounded OK on AT40 this week.
27. “99”/Toto. Casey mentions that people think this song is about Barbara Feldon’s character on Get Smart. That strikes me as unlikely, as Get Smart had been off the air for nearly 10 years in early 1980. It certainly never occurred to me, or anybody else I knew back then.
19. “Refugee”/Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Before playing this song, Casey answers a listener letter about albums debuting at #1, and botches it badly. It’s happened three times to date, he says: Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy in 1975, Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life in 1976, and Elton again with Rock of the Westies in 1977. Wrong: Rock of the Westies was also in 1975, just five months after Captain Fantastic. And it was Elton’s third #1 album of the year, counting the greatest hits disc that came out late in 1974, so pushing it to 1977 drastically underplays just what Elton accomplished in his greatest year.
17. “September Morn”/Neil Diamond. Although KDTH, where I worked in the winter of 1980, was mostly a country station, it mixed in some adult-contemporary records throughout the day. “September Morn” takes me back to long hours in that studio and the feeling that I had arrived, even though I had barely begun the journey.
16. “Him”/Rupert Holmes. “What’s she gonna do about him? / She’s gonna have to do without him / Or do without me.” It’s easy to hear “Him” as the story of the couple in “Escape,” drifted apart again after their reunion in the bar, and as another iteration of the pop cheese Holmes was so very good at creating (which would reach its peak of perfection with the gimmicky “Answering Machine” later in 1980). But not only that: “Him” was all over the radio at the time when The Mrs., not yet The Mrs., was trying to choose between the guy she started dating when she first got to college the previous fall and a certain up-and-coming radio DJ she liked too.
(I didn’t have any feelings about Holmes’ record one way or another. She hated it.)
13. “Too Hot”/Kool and the Gang. In which the Gang’s roots as a jazz group show up like never before, or since. “Too Hot” has a swing you don’t learn any other way.
12. “Daydream Believer”/Anne Murray. The year 1979 was the best Anne Murray ever had. “I Just Fall in Love Again,” “Shadows in the Moonlight” and “Broken Hearted Me” went #1 on adult contemporary and country that year; “Daydream Believer” was #1 AC (on the first chart of 1980) and went #3 country. Oddly enough, all except “Shadows in the Moonlight” peaked at #12 on the Hot 100. And if you ever knew any of them in the first place, you probably can’t remember any of them now.
6. “On the Radio”/Donna Summer. Like “Off the Wall,” it’s a forgotten single by a big star.
5. “Desire”/Andy Gibb. Casey says “Desire,” the sixth straight Top-10 hit for Andy, sounds like another #1 hit. It wasn’t; it would peak at #4. And not only that—it was Andy Gibb’s last Top-10 hit.
1. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”/Queen. In the second of what would be four weeks at #1. We had been playing this song on the campus radio station for months, and we were sick of it. The best thing we could say about it by March was that at least it runs only 2:42.