(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?”