(Pictured: Christopher Cross.)
Here’s more inside the American Top 40 show from September 13, 1980, which features plenty of yacht rock and other stuff both good and not so good.
We’ll pick up with Casey’s answer to a question about the first #1 album ever. It was in the March 24, 1945, edition of Billboard: Collection of Favorites by the King Cole Trio. Casey didn’t elaborate, but I will: it was a folio of four 78s that included “Sweet Lorraine,” “Embraceable You,” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” among others. Also appearing on the Best-Selling Popular Record Albums chart were Glenn Miller, Judy Garland, Tommy Dorsey, Danny Kaye, and the original cast album from Oklahoma.
Now on with the countdown:
23. “Someone That I Used to Love”/Natalie Cole. Nat King Cole’s daughter serves up the best record on the show so far. Really. “Someone That I Used to Love,” a Michael Masser/Gerry Goffin composition, might have become part of the Great American Songbook had it still been accepting new entries in 1980.
21. “Don’t Ask Me Why”/Billy Joel. Billy’s gotta Billy. This has a lovely tune, but read the lyrics. It’s essentially a string of insults, some pretty vicious, aimed at a woman who has somehow given offense by . . . being a woman.
19. “Boulevard”/Jackson Browne. Casey introduces this by telling that Phoebe Snow had finally revealed that Browne was the inspiration for her song “Poetry Man.” (Browne’s Hold Out was the #1 album in this week.)
18. “All Over the World”/ELO
17. “Xanadu”/Olivia Newton-John and ELO
As much as I love ELO, “All Over the World” sounds like all the boring parts of every record they ever made. “Xanadu” is vastly more interesting, but not enough to make me think I’ll ever need to hear it again, either.
16. “You’ll Accomp’ny Me”/Bob Seger
7. “Late in the Evening”/Paul Simon
To the extent that I care, Seger’s voice is too rough and Simon’s backing track is too spiky to be yacht rock. Am I doing this right?
12. “I’m Alright”/Kenny Loggins
9. “Another One Bites the Dust”/Queen
These are the two biggest movers on the show, Loggins up 15 and Queen up 14.
10. “Drivin’ My Life Away”/Eddie Rabbitt
8. “Lookin’ for Love”/Johnny Lee
It wasn’t just the Golden Age of Yacht Rock, it was the Urban Cowboy Era, too. “Lookin’ for Love” is #1 on the country chart in this week; Rabbitt had been #1 three weeks before. Eight more songs that would top the country chart between September 1980 and January 1981 would also become major pop hits, including three #1s: Kenny Rogers’ “Lady,” Rabbitt’s “I Love a Rainy Night,” and “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton.
LDD: “When I Need You”/Leo Sayer. This is the kind of letter Casey liked best, from a wheelchair-using former swimmer to the 17-year-old candy striper/nurse who responded to his anger and depression over the accident that paralyzed him by telling him he was better off than a lot of people in this world, before dying herself after being thrown from a horse. Because I have an irrational love for “When I Need You,” I will excuse the letter and the two minutes it took to read it, but come on.
5. “Sailing”/Christopher Cross. This gets its own entry instead of being lumped with the rest of the yacht rockers in the earlier post because it’s the most perfect example of the form, or so I have heard. But I didn’t like it in 1980, and I don’t have to like it now, either. The strings weigh it down so it kills momentum on the radio, and Cross can’t sing a lick. Without the promotional clout of a major label behind it and “Ride Like the Wind” to pave the way, it would have been sunk. (Yacht. Sunk. Hey-yo!) But it had all that going for it, plus the adult-ification of pop radio that we’ve discussed here a couple times this year.
3. “Emotional Rescue”/Rolling Stones. At #3 for a fourth week in row. After 40 years, I have decided to surrender to the weirdness of this and start liking it.
2. “All Out of Love”/Air Supply. I just typed and deleted the sentence “‘All Out of Love’ spent four years at #2.” It was four weeks, but you get the idea.
1. “Upside Down”/Diana Ross. Song lyrics can be poetry, but not all lyrics are poetry. We know how certain words and phrases fill a space or work well with the music, and not necessarily to carry any particular meaning. So it is with the repeated line “I say to thee respectfully” in “Upside Down,” which would be lame if wasn’t in the service of the funkiest thing Diana Ross ever took to #1.