Real Love

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(Pictured: Amy Holland, who has been Mrs. Michael McDonald since 1983.)

I have had my issues with American Top 40 shows from 1980 in the past, but what the hell, let’s take a bash at another one. It’s from September 13, 1980.

Casey starts the show by thanking last week’s fill-in, Australian personality Gordon Elliott, who would later become a fixture on American TV by producing various cooking and talk shows and hosting his own. After a recap of the previous week’s top three, it’s on with the countdown—which, among other things, represents a sort of high-water mark for a particular style.

40. “Who’ll Be the Fool Tonight”/Larsen-Feiten Band
39. “First Time Love”/Livingston Taylor
38. “How Do I Survive”/Amy Holland
29. “Look What You’ve Done to Me”/Boz Scaggs
28. “Real Love”/Doobie Brothers
20. “Hot Rod Hearts”/Robbie Dupree
14. “You’re the Only Woman”/Ambrosia
11. “Into the Night”/Benny Mardones
6. “Give Me the Night”/George Benson

I like a lot of yacht rock, but I don’t care for the term “yacht rock” itself. A lot of the people who use it, up to and including Sirius/XM on Yacht Rock Radio, do so to demean or belittle a certain group of artists and a musical style, as if it had been quaint and vaguely cheesy even in 1980 but we poor benighted simpletons weren’t able to tell. Holier-than-thou postmodern hipness makes me tired. Americans have difficulty correctly remembering stuff that happened six months ago; we misunderstand the world of 1980 as profoundly as we misunderstand the Middle Ages.

27. “He’s So Shy”/Pointer Sisters
26. “Never Knew Love Like This Before”/Stephanie Mills
15. “One in a Million You”/Larry Graham
While a white dude such as I needs to tread lightly around this topic, and I could be completely wrong, isn’t there an argument that the yacht rock canon is kinda racist? To the extent that I care about it, I’m struck by just how white it is. There’s a lightly rhythmic feel to a lot of it, but not so much that you’d call it funky. “Give Me the Night” represents the far extreme of yacht-rock funkitude, so George Benson may be the exception that proves the rule. I suspect you’d get some debate about whether the Pointers, Stephanie, and Larry Graham are yacht—and might that be due to their obviously black voices? But if you strip the vocals and listen only to the backing tracks, they’re clearly on the boat. In fact, if you strip the vocals from “He’s So Shy,” it becomes “What a Fool Believes.”

36. “More Love”/Kim Carnes. Casey introduces this with a tic that drives me nuts: “Kim Carnes is the biggest dropper in the countdown this week, tumbling 22 notches from #14 to #36. Kim Carnes, with “‘More Love’,” repeating her name as if we wouldn’t be able to remember it from literally five seconds before.

Casey opens the AT40 Book of Records to find which act had the most Top-10 hits in a calendar year. Jimmy Dorsey and the Beatles tied for third place with 11; Bing Crosby once had 12. The leader: Glenn Miller, who hit the Top 10 15 times in 1942 alone. That record has since been smashed by Drake, who has 25 Top 10s—but to climb back up on a hill I would die on, such achievements during the streaming-and-download era cannot be directly compared to the era when you had to put on pants, go to a store, and buy a piece of plastic.

35. “You’re Supposed to Keep Your Love for Me”/Jermaine Jackson. Before listening to this show, I’d never heard “You’re Supposed to Keep Your Love for Me,” or even heard of it. It’s a Stevie Wonder production that did four weeks in the Top 40, peaking at #34.

EXTRA: “Moody River”/Pat Boone
EXTRA: “Quarter to Three”/Gary U.S. Bonds
EXTRA: “Tossin’ and Turnin'”/Bobby Lewis
Casey is playing all of the #1 songs of the 60s, like ’em or not. “Quarter to Three” and “Tossin’ and Turnin'” rock harder than all but a couple of the hits on this week’s chart.

30. “How Does It Feel to Be Back”/Hall and Oates. Repeating myself here: as many iconic songs as Voices contained, “How Does It Feel to Be Back,” the first single, is still the best thing on it.

LDD: “You Are So Beautiful”/Joe Cocker. With a letter from Dawn in Davenport, Iowa, to Fred (“both my fiance and my very special friend”) in South Korea. The letter is standard-issue I-miss-the-father-of-my-baby junk. For chrissakes, Dawn, buy a damn airmail stamp, write to Fred yourself, and spare us.

25. “Jesse”/Carly Simon Is this yacht? I’m about an hour-and-a-half into the show and I’m losing interest in the basic premise of this post. So I’ll stop here and pick it up again on Monday.

10 thoughts on “Real Love

  1. mikehagerty

    First: So odd that Boz’ “Look What You’ve Done to Me” is Yacht Rock, but is from the soundtrack of “Urban Cowboy”.

    Sequel idea after seeing huge 3/4 ton pickup trucks in the driveways and Trump 2020 signs on the lawns of my upper-middle class neighborhood: “Suburban Redneck”.

    Totally agree about the derogatory-ness of the term, JB. I rarely listen to SiriusXM, but my wife and I were in an area with no cell service, which killed streaming, so I punched up the Yacht Rock channel. The imaging they use sounds as though they think you’re an idiot for listening and liking it.

    This was Top 40, 1980, which is why MTV and CHR, 1982-ish, were a big damn deal.

    1. Gary Omaha

      ” The imaging they use sounds as though they think you’re an idiot for listening and liking it.”

      Yes. Not unlike how they sometimes have handled the voicetrack on 70s on 7, too, IMHO. But fine, I’m generally there for the music, not the hosts, except for a few standouts on 60s on 6.

  2. Wesley

    The thing that gets me about the Kim Carnes entry is the “biggest dropper in the countdown this week” part. As much as a chart geek as I was and am, this stat has no impact with me. Of course a song will drop down after peaking, and of course some songs on their way down drop off even quicker below the top 40. Just tell me the song, the singer, and where it fell from last week. I listen to AT40 to see what songs are coming up, rarely what ones are going down.

  3. John Gallagher

    Hot Rod Hearts (and Steal Away) are regularly aired on Yacht Rock and the Bridge on SiriusXM.

    I’ve never understood why the Hall & Oates track disappeared so quickly. It’s disappointing chart position certainly didn’t help, but You Make My Dreams, Kiss On My List and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ ended up being the most played tracks on the album.

  4. So far in this countdown, there is not a lot of stuff that REALLY rocks. 1980 featured songs like “This Beat Goes On/Switching’ To Glide” by The Kings, “Turn Me Loose” by Loverboy, and (more funky than rock) “Emotional Rescue” by the Rolling Stones. Top 40 music in 1980 was really dominated by Adult Contemporary. I think Program Directors and Music Directors on the radio took note of that, and in 1981, stations sounded more Adult Contemporary during the day and more Album Oriented Rock at night.
    BTW, whether it’s somewhat funky (“Lowdown”), soft rock, (“Look What You’ve Done To Me”), or downright rockin’ (“Breakdown Dead Ahead”) Boz Scaggs sounds great on the radio in any format.

    1. JP

      As the seventies came to a close, I know a lot of people were expecting New Wave to take over the charts right away, after the success of Blondie, Joe Jackson and others.

      Judging from this chart, that wouldn’t be happening anytime soon. It’s like the hit parade picked up where it left off from before SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER,

      1. mikehagerty

        This is mostly radio’s fault. Smart-aleck AC programmers like…um…me…at the time had spent the last four or five years eroding Top 40 stations’ adult female ratings by playing most of what they played and some deeper gold. With AOR stations taking the young adult males, Top 40 was left with mostly teen demographics. General Managers finally realized that the sales picture was looking ugly and demanded emphasis on 25-54 year olds.

        The music was there, had they wanted to rock. In fact, this was a period in which they could have differentiated themselves from both AC and AOR with a playlist that shared a lot less with each format.

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