Snippets of 1980

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(Pictured: Linda Ronstadt with David Bowie, 1980.)

I wasn’t going to write about the American Top 40 show from May 3, 1980, partly because Music in the Key of E wrote about the same week’s chart (part 1 here, part 2 here) and it was great. Then I got done listening to the show and decided that what I want to say about it won’t overlap, so here goes.

—The recap of the previous week’s chart was a fine idea, as a way of padding the shows out to four hours, because the Top 40 stations airing the original shows would likely have played the top songs twice in that span anyhow. But with the shows running today as repeats on oldies, AC, or classic-hits stations, it doesn’t work nearly so well.

—On the subject of padding, Casey is almost done running through the #1 hits of the 70s, which he started doing when the show went to four hours in October 1978, and which he plays at the rate of three a week. He’s up to the spring of 1979 on this show and the 234th #1 hit, “Tragedy” by the Bee Gees. I count 19 more to go, which will take him well into June.

—A listener writes to ask about the most popular songs by Caribbean acts. Casey runs down a list that’s topped by Cuban bandleader Perez Prado, whose “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” was #1 in 1955, before the advent of the Hot 100. I wonder how many AT40 listeners of 1980 had heard of that song from 25 years earlier, considering that it wouldn’t have been in anybody’s oldies rotation.

—Before playing Linda Ronstadt’s cover of “Hurt So Bad,” Casey plays snippets of earlier versions by Little Anthony and the Imperials and the Lettermen. Each version has something to recommend it: I am a fan of Little Anthony’s voice and the Lettermen’s harmonies, but Linda stomps both of them.

—Before playing “Biggest Part of Me” by Ambrosia, Casey opens “the AT40 book of recipes” and tells listeners what’s in ambrosia salad. It probably wasn’t the least interesting thing I ever heard him say, but it would be in the semifinals. (Sirius/XM’s Alan Hunter also talked about ambrosia salad when he counted down this list recently, so it’s the only thing anybody can think of to say, apparently.)

—Casey follows “Biggest Part of Me” with a feature listing the biggest hits Frankie Valli ever sang on, solo and with the Four Seasons, and then he plays the biggest, “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” Subject for further examination: do we still want to hear the Four Seasons’ 60s hits today, over 50 years later? The last few times they’ve popped up on shuffle, I’ve had a strongly negative reaction to them.  I’m fine with Valli’s 70s stuff, and on some of the lesser-known 60s material. But lately, they sound dated and gimmicky in a way they never did before.

Now, some of the Top 10, in the usual style.

10. “Hold on to My Love”/Jimmy Ruffin
9. “Sexy Eyes”/Dr. Hook
I barely remembered “Hold on to My Love,” which was co-written and produced by Robin Gibb. Backed up with “Sexy Eyes,” you’ve got two records that practically no radio station played after they fell out of recurrents.

8. “I Can’t Tell You Why”/Eagles. Casey describes Joe Walsh’s record of hotel-room destruction, which he portrays as rock-star eccentricity. He closes the story by saying that Walsh may be ramping up his destructiveness after his manager gave him a chainsaw for Christmas. In the context of what we know today about Walsh’s substance-abuse problems (and our ongoing international plague of spoiled, entitled people behaving badly without being held to account), none of it is funny.

4. “With You I’m Born Again”/Billy Preston and Syreeta
3. “Lost in Love”/Air Supply
Casey calls “With You I’m Born Again” the most romantic record of the year. All I hear is the longest three minutes of the year, which sucked the life out of your favorite station then and would do the same thing today. It’s a subtle difference, but I think this is it: “With You I’m Born Again” is the sound of people telling how it feels to be in love, while “Lost in Love,” all dreamy, wondrous befuddlement, actually captures the feeling.

1 “Call Me”/Blondie. I didn’t know anybody in 1980 who liked this song, but it did six weeks at #1, so somebody did.

Go read Music in the Key of E on this week, and on other weeks too. And be sure to stop by on Monday for a new thing I have discovered that we can do, entirely by accident.

12 responses

  1. I’ve found it! The place where I can admit to liking “Lost In Love” (while still disliking most everything else Air Supply ever released as a single)!!!

  2. “do we still want to hear the Four Seasons’ 60s hits today, over 50 years later? ”

    Yes, yes we do.

  3. As for the 70s hits, I once made a 2:30 loop of just the bridge from “Who Loves You” and it was pretty rad.

  4. additionally: I liked “Call Me”, though it wasn’t the best Blondie track from that album.

  5. I remember Casey telling similar stories about Keith Moon — like the time Moon chartered a jet to take him to a Who concert he had forgotten was canceled.
    I cannot remember for sure whether Casey told them after Moon’s death, though memory says he might have.
    Another case of “eccentricity” just being excess — and fatal excess in this case.

  6. “Hold On to My Love” is indeed a quickly forgotten 45, although listening to it, I’d be hard pressed to think of any other male singer who had a previous top 10 sing it as well as Jimmy Ruffin did. He puts up a pretty good fight against a production job that seems determined to drown him in strings, a chorus and even what sounds like a doorbell at various points.

    As for “I Can’t Tell You Why,” Timothy B. Schmidt sang lead and co-wrote it with Glenn Frey and Don Henley. So why avoid talking about any of those men and focus on another group member’s destructive antics before introducing a delicate, mellower-than-mellow ballad? This wasn’t the AT40 research team’s finest hour, that’s for sure.

  7. Last week, I made a reference to your post about “Armageddon” by Prism quoting a line in the song of “Linda and Jerry in the White House,” a humorous blurb about California Governor Jerry Brown dating Linda Ronstadt. Today, you’re recalling Linda Ronstadt’s hit, “Hurt So Bad” from 1980. That was in the middle if a period of time when Linda Ronstadt could do no wrong. Hits like “You’re No Good,” “That’ll Be The Day,” “Heatwave,” “Tracks of my Tears,” and “How Do I Make You” just sounded great on the radio. I was just a young baby broadcaster at that time so, at first, I did not know about the original versions of those songs but got to know about them before too long. Then, it dawned on me…Linda Ronstadt was a thief….a SMOKIN’ HOT thief.

    1. No, not a thief. She (and producer Peter Asher, who steered her toward the covers) made a lot of additional, unexpected, late-in-the-game money for whoever owned the publishing rights on those old songs she gave new life.

      1. The Martha & the Vandellas version of “Heatwave” is pretty darn good, but Linda Ronstadt’s version of just has that “extra sizzle.” Ok, Linda wasn’t a thief. She had a knack for taking some old songs to a whole new level…and, watching her perform them made them even better.

  8. Mostly in agreement here – there are some 4 Seasons records (“Opus 17” comes to mind) that still sound great.

    Full consensus on “With You I’m Born Again.” Blech, then and now.

  9. […] beyond the Top 40 of May 3, 1980, there was […]

  10. John Gallagher | Reply

    We played Jimmy Ruffin at A/C WKSN in Jamestown, NY. K104 in Erie also played it. In fact, it ranked as #53 on the K104 Top 104 of 1980.

    At WKSN, we also played Billy Preston/Syreeta. Thank goodness we had a promo 45 otherwise the amount of noise from a stock 45 would have made it unplayable.

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