One on One

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(Pictured: Laura Branigan, 1982.)

Old AT40 shows often seem to me to be both very far away and very close in time. So it is with the weekend of April 9, 1983, itself, for that was the weekend The Mrs. and me became Mr. and Mrs. We didn’t hear American Top 40 that weekend, but America did, and here’s some of what was on the show.

39. “I Don’t Care Anymore”/Phil Collins
30. “Lies”/Thompson Twins
21. “Change of Heart”/Tom Petty
20. “Little Too Late”/Pat Benatar
18. “I’ve Got a Rock and Roll Heart”/Eric Clapton
13. “I Know There’s Something Going On”/Frida
8. “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)”/Journey
6. “We’ve Got Tonight”/Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton
3. “Hungry Like the Wolf”/Duran Duran
2. “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me”/Culture Club

We’ve discussed how early 80s Billboard charts hardly moved at all some weeks; in this week Casey mentions several songs that had been in the same spot for a while: four weeks for Journey, two weeks for Petty, and three weeks each for the rest of these.

38. “Some Kind of Friend”/Barry Manilow. Like him or not, you gotta admit that Barry Manilow’s arrangements gave his records their own distinctive sound—which he abandons entirely on “Some Kind of Friend” in favor of a cutting-edge-of-the-80s rock track that could be by anybody.

36. “Make Love Stay”/Dan Fogelberg. Behold some of the most dreadful rhymes in all of pop music:

Moments fleet, taste sweet within the rapture
When precious flesh is greedily consumed
But mystery’s a thing not easily captured
And once deceased, not easily exhumed

But even cannibalism and necrophilia aren’t as gross as the saxophone that’s slathered all over the record like mayonnaise.

29. “Let’s Dance”/David Bowie
28. “Overkill”/Men at Work
Both of these are debuts on the show: “Let’s Dance” is Bowie’s first Top 40 hit since 1976; “Overkill” is new on the Hot 100 in this week, making the highest debut since John Lennon’s “Imagine” came in at #20 in 1971.

26. “Solitaire”/Laura Branigan. Casey tells an amusing story about Branigan’s appearance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade the previous year. She sang her hit “Gloria” riding on a float with her name on it, but she says she told the organizers, “You’d better put ‘Gloria’ on it too, or nobody will know who I am.”

LDD: “Ships”/Barry Manilow. Casey reads a long letter from a woman who took a temp job at the circus when it came through her town and fell in love with an injured French acrobat who had fallen off the trapeze, only to have him move on after five days. If that’s not a Hallmark movie plot, my name isn’t whatever my name is.

15. “Twilight Zone”/Golden Earring
9. “Jeopardy”/Greg Kihn Band
7. “One on One”/Hall and Oates
One of these is the best record on the show (and “Jeopardy,” Casey says, is #1 on the dance and disco chart in this week). How did I not know that future Stars on 45 impresario Jaap Eggermont was the drummer in Golden Earring until they fired him for incompetence?

LDD: “Don’t You Wanna Play This Game No More”/Elton John. From a guy in Chicago to his former co-workers at a pizza restaurant in Connecticut, for whom he used to play “Don’t You Wanna Play This Game No More” on the jukebox after closing. I can’t think of a more obscure song to be featured as an LDD, with two weeks on the chart in 1980, peaking at #39. At least it’s one of those that sounds familiar even if you don’t know it.

5. “Mr. Roboto”/Styx. There is not enough of the word count left for me to talk about how much I hate this record, and the toxic self-regard that drove Styx and their label to make it and release it.

1. “Billie Jean”/Michael Jackson. It seems deeply weird that “The Girl Is Mine” was the first single from Thriller ahead of two all-time bangers like “Beat It” (on this show at #10) and “Billie Jean,” until you consider that Paul McCartney was a bigger star than Michael at the end of 1982, and it made sense from a marketing standpoint. Now, however, “The Girl Is Mine” is widely considered the worst track on the record. “Billie Jean,” on the other hand, in its sixth week at #1 here, raised the bar—not just for dance music and music video, but for pop stars themselves, and what would they have to do if they wanted to keep pace with Michael. Even Paul couldn’t do it.

I have some more AT40s from the 80s in my archive, so look for more posts along this line, especially written for those amongst the readership not as deep in the tank for the 1970s as I am.

8 thoughts on “One on One

  1. spinetingler

    . “I Know There’s Something Going On” may be the best “80s song” of the 80s.

    I’m a big Petty fan and I don’t off the top of my head remember that track.

  2. Wesley

    It occurs to me that by this time I was pretty deep into MTV (I had just turned 18, so I was playing right into their demo then), as most of these spark memories of their videos first if I know them. Based on that perspective, “Twilight Zone” and “Jeopardy” would be neck and neck as best with “One on One” a few lengths behind, using a horse race analogy.

    Anyhow, the “Make Love Stay” lyrics are truly hideous and I’m glad I was ignorant of them until now. And Barry Manilow clearly was feeling the heat from his record company to stay contemporary or get dropped, and “Some Kind of Friend” was the forced travesty that resulted.

    And I may not be as deep in the tank for the 1970s as you are, but I’m keeping pace. Still, I look forward to your other insights about AT40 1980s shows as you share them.

    1. Alvaro Leos

      My gut guess is the guy reponsible for “Some Kind of Friend” was Arista head Clive Davis. Fellow Arista artist Melissa Manchester has said she only recorded the similar “You Should Hear How She Talks About You” because Clive ordered to get a big pop hit or else. At least Manilow’s next album was a jazz effort with the likes of Mel Torme.
      So which is a more surprising chart fact: that “Thriller” took ten weeks to hit No. 1, “Jeopardy” topped the dance charts, or “Hungry Like The Wolf” topped the mainstream rock charts?

      1. Barry Manilow wrote “Some Kind Of Friend” with one of his regular lyricists, Adrienne Anderson, with who he wrote “Could It be Magic” and “Daybreak,” so it was not a suggestion from Clive. In his autobiography, Barry called “Some Kind Of Friend” his aggressive rock ‘n roll tune. While he’s known for his ballads, Barry usually threw in a rocker or two on his early albums, which gave them some variety.

  3. Mmmmm, now I want New Haven-style pizza.

    That French acrobat story is marvelous. Much better than the usual mixed-up teen whose significant other moved to Tucson and didn’t leave a forwarding address.

    I am not sure “Let’s Dance” isn’t the best song on that countdown. No, it’s not Mysterioso Weird Artsy Chameleon Bowie but it’s a fine pop single all the same.

  4. David

    I find it deeply strange but incredibly satisfying that the NBA, four years after its release, decided to use H&O’s “One on One” as the theme song to its commercials.

  5. LEO OR M EDELSTEIN

    On your side for 70s love, but need to learn more of the 80s. Seems I missed many tunes by 1) getting married, 2) having two kids, 3) changing careers and cities to radio sales (hooray, thank you WFON Don Rabbit, Neil Carey, Lola Beckmann, Wax Museum jock Marty Schibbelhut), 4) liking talk radio. More 80s tunes fine.

  6. T.

    “Billie Jean” is the only good song on this list. The rest are churned-out factory dreck. A couple of ’em come close to being passable but they all have that ugly 80’s production: mountains of electronic reverb, drums that sound like rubber hoses being slapped on a wet metal table, enough synthesizer bloops and bleeps to choke a robot.
    But “Billie Jean” could’ve been a hit in the 70’s for Smokey Robinson or the 60’s for Jackie Wilson.

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