Do That Again

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(Pictured: Bob Seger, 1980.)

I think I have stumbled into a new feature for this website of mine. American Top 40 represents only part of any given week’s record chart. Billboard ranked 60 other songs each week—more if you count Bubbling Under the Hot 100. Since I’ve written about a couple of those “bottom 60s” already, why not make it a thing?

So: beyond the Top 40 of May 3, 1980, there was this:

43. “It’s Hard to Be Humble”/Mac Davis. In the spring of 1980, I had been doing weekends at KDTH in Dubuque, Iowa, for about a year. “It’s Hard to Be Humble” was a big country hit (#10) and a popular request at KDTH. Radio jocks get sick of hearing most records long before listeners do, but novelties like this one burn out even faster.

53. “Coming Up (live)”/Paul McCartney
54. “Against the Wind”/Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band
65. “Little Jeannie”/Elton John
76. “Theme From New York New York“/Frank Sinatra
These were the four optional extras provided to AT40 affiliates with the 5/3/80 show, and the latter three were the highest-debuting singles on the Hot 100 that week. Nobody remembers now (including me, who had to Google it) that New York, New York was a 1977 Martin Scorsese film starring Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro, and that Liza, not Frank, sings the song in the movie.

55. “Solitaire”/Peter McIan
61. “New Romance (It’s a Mystery)”/Spider
The FM side of KDTH, D93, was a Top-40 station programmed by a guy with adventuresome taste in music. He got some gold records for being on certain songs early, but played a lot of stiffs, too. “Solitaire” was in the hot rotation on D93 for many, many weeks in the spring and early summer of 1980. Although it never cracked the Billboard Top 40, it’s pretty good, and it got McIan a spot on American Bandstand. “New Romance” is heavy bordering on lumbering, and far less memorable. Spider lead singer Holly Knight would end up in the Songwriters Hall of Fame after writing hits for Tina Turner, Aerosmith, Pat Benatar and others. Drummer Anton Fig is best-known for being part of Paul Shaffer’s band on David Letterman’s late-night shows, and as a session musician with practically everybody.

68. “Rock Lobster”/B-52s. In the spring of 1980, I was wrapping up my sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and my first semester as program director of the campus radio station, WSUP. While I am sure a lot of college radio stations were on “Rock Lobster” that spring, I don’t recall that we were. We were far more interested in playing the superstars we heard on our favorite “real” radio stations, and not so much in music discovery.

73. “Let Me Be”/Korona. This band was led by Bruce Blackmon of Starbuck, and is sometimes referred to as “Starbuck under another name.” “Let Me Be” isn’t quite as slick as Starbuck’s stuff, and is not quite as good.

84. “Stay in Time”/Off Broadway
85. “It’s Not a Wonder”/Little River Band
87. “Midnight Rendezvous”/Babys
These were all favorites at WSUP as school got close to letting out, and all great records to crank while driving your car on a warm spring day. “Stay in Time” famously rose to #9 at WLS in Chicago during a 19-week run on the station’s chart, far outperforming its Hot 100 numbers, a peak of #51 and seven weeks on. “It’s Not a Wonder,” a live single from the album Backstage Pass, also peaked at #51. “Midnight Rendezvous” was the second smokin’-hot Babys single that spring, following the more successful “Back on My Feet Again,” which was also a college fave.

91. “Three Times in Love”/Tommy James. This was on its way out of the Hot 100 after topping out at #19, and is a record we have dug around here since always.

100. “Borrowed Time”/Styx. I have told this story before, but it’s worth repeating. When my pal Shark and I worked at WXXQ in Freeport, Illinois, in the summer of 1980, he sometimes hung out with me on the night shift, even though he’d have to be back for the morning show at 6AM. Shark adored “Borrowed Time,” and one night he did an acrobatic air-guitar routine while I was playing it. The station was located on a high floor of an office building, and one wall was all windows. When the song ended, the phone rang, and a guy who had been watching from a building across the street asked, “Hey man, when are you gonna do that again?”

9 responses

  1. I don’t recall hearing three of these songs before: “Solitaire,” “Stay in Time,” and “Let Me Be.” Maybe it’s an artifact of regional differences in what got play on the radio when the songs were by new artists? (I could easily have just not paid close attention, too.) I’ll want to listen again to the first two of those for sure, though I can say after one listen that “Let Me Be” is better than “Everybody Be Dancin’.”

    Agree that the LRB and Babys songs are both magnificent and wish they’d done better. I like the Spider tune much better than you do.

  2. “…Nobody remembers now…that New York, New York was a 1977 Martin Scorsese film…”

    I remember. Mainly because I went to see “Star Wars” in May of ’77 with some friends, and we immediately proclaimed it one of the greatest movies we’d ever seen. The next day, we decided to see another film — “New York, New York” — and, sorry, it was a little too avant-garde for us at the time. We proclaimed it one of the worst films ever seen. (Wonder if that was because we were still under the “Star Wars” spell?)

  3. John Gallagher | Reply

    Some ramblings:

    Was really surprised that Korona is available on iTunes on one of those Lost Hits collections, allbeit in it’s LP length. The 45 faded about 10 seconds earlier. That said, I don’t remember the song.

    I think Peter McIan might have been played on K104 in Erie, PA in 1980 ( I would work for them 3 years later.) But, it didn’t appear on their Top 104 of 1980.

    Strange how there are songs from Styx that I have no recollection of. Borrowed Time is one I don’t even remember. They had several forgettable songs scattered through their hit run including this one.

  4. I remember playing “Stay in Time” in college. Quality tune.

  5. Obviously Liza remembers.

  6. “Midnight Rendezvous” was really a great song and should’ve gotten more airplay. I never knew one of the last lines in the song (as it fades) had a vulgar exclamation until I read the lyrics not long ago. John Waite sure has had a very successful career fronting The Babys, a solo career, and Bad English.

    “Borrowed Time” by Styx…I still kinda like it. The air guitar thing is way beyond the rear view mirror.

  7. The New York Yankees used to alternate “New York, New York” versions, sometimes using Liza’s version, sometimes using Frank’s. The tradition ultimately became that the Frank Sinatra version was played if Yankees won and the Liza Minnelli version was played if they lost, but Liza became a little miffed. In 2001, she apparently told them to play her version after a win, or not play it at all. After this, the Yankees opted to play the Sinatra version after every game, regardless of the outcome.

  8. We have Robert De Niro to thank for “New York, New York.” According to songwriters Kander and Ebb, De Niro loathed the first song the duo created for the theme of the movie, so they took a second shot and created a song that eventually would become a standard and finish #31 in the American Film Institute’s 2004 special of the greatest movie tunes of all time, 100 Years, 100 Songs. Incredibly — or maybe not so surprisingly — “New York, New York” failed to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song in 1977, shut out by the forgotten likes of “Candle on the Water” from Pete’s Dragon, “Someone’s Waiting for You” from The Rescuers and “He/She Danced with Me” (no, not an early transgender tune) from The Slipper and the Rose. The eventual winner to our eternal regret was the theme song to You Light Up My Life.

  9. I attended a preview screening of ‘New York, New York’ only because it was a perk from the record distributor I was working for. All I remember of it was that there was some dancing and that it was in color. ‘The Wizard Of Oz’ did a much better job of both, in spite of its part-time usage of the latter.

    The main perk from the job was entitlement to promo copies of any of the releases on the labels the firm distributed, including United Artists. I didn’t even keep a soundtrack LP from the film, let alone the Liza Minnelli 45 of the title song. The one other preview screening I took from the job proved to be far, far away, a better investment of time: ‘Star Wars’.

    The single version of “Midnight Rendezvous” was clean, unlike the LP track.

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