(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.