Something Going On

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(Pictured: Culture Club, 1983.)

Last February I asked if having three acts with two separate, non-double-A sided singles in the Top 40 at the same time was some kind of a record. A couple of readers quickly chimed in to say that it was not. On the chart dated May 7, 1983, there are seven acts with two hits in the 40:

—Michael Jackson with “Beat It” (#1) and “Billie Jean” (#14)
—Styx with “Mr. Roboto” (#8) and “Don’t Let It End” (#27)
—Duran Duran with “Rio” (#16) and “Hungry Like the Wolf” (#33)
—Lionel Richie with “My Love” (#17) and “You Are” (#38)
—Culture Club with “Time” (#19) and “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” (#34)
—Journey with “Separate Ways” (#21) and “Faithfully” (#23)
—Hall and Oates with “One on One” (#31) and “Family Man” (#32)

If we dip below the Top 40, we can find other pairs:

—Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band with “Even Now” (#12) and “Shame on the Moon” (#91)
—Kenny Rogers with “We’ve Got Tonight” (#36) and “All My Life” (#67)
—Frida with “I Know There’s Something Going On” (#41) and “Here We’ll Stay” (#103)
—Golden Earring with “Twilight Zone” (#43) and “The Devil Made Me Do It” (#79)
—Pat Benatar with “Looking for a Stranger” (#51) and “Little Too Late” (#100)
—Christopher Cross with “No Time for Talk” (#59) and “All Right” (#96)
—Thompson Twins with “Love on Your Side” (#72) and “Lies” (#98)

That’s 14 acts with two records on the chart at the same time. It likely has something to do with the slow-moving charts of the period, which is something we’ve discussed before.

Beyond the number of acts doubling up, there’s an argument that, early in the decade though it is, the week of May 7, 1983, represents Peak 80s, with groundbreaking records and iconic hits thick on the ground. In the Top 40, there was “Let’s Dance” and “Come on Eileen,” “She Blinded Me With Science” and “Little Red Corvette” and “Flashdance,” “Always Something There to Remind Me” and “Whirly Girl,” Def Leppard’s “Photograph” and Bryan Adams’ “Straight From the Heart.” Below the Top 40, there was New Year’s Day” by U2, Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue,” “I Eat Cannibals” by Total Coelo, “Our House” by Madness, Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day,” “Love My Way” by the Psychedelic Furs, plus “Back on the Chain Gang,” “Too Shy,” “Reap the Wild Wind,” “Mexican Radio,” “I Melt With You,” and even the Cheers theme “Where Everybody Knows Your Name.”

Although I was hearing most of these songs plenty in the spring of 1983, I was playing only a few of them on the air myself. I was music director and afternoon jock at KDTH in Dubuque, a country station. As I wrote a while back, country hits that crossed to pop were the heart of our playlist. In this week, those included Ronnie Milsap’s “Stranger in My House,” “You Can’t Run From Love” by Eddie Rabbitt, “The Closer You Get” by Alabama, and “Swingin'” by John Anderson. “Swingin'” was a rage that spring, blowing out the phone lines at KDTH on its way to #1 country and #43 on the pop chart. Most of its pop-chart action came in smaller markets; apart from WZGC in Atlanta, which had it at #1 for three weeks in March, the most famous major-market station to chart it was WLS in Chicago. “Swingin'” went to #12 in a 14-week run on the WLS survey, although I never knew anybody who actually heard it on WLS; I never did.

Listening to this stuff, and revisiting the spring of 1983 for the first time in awhile, I found myself enjoying it a lot more than I expected. I actually felt the warm glow of nostalgia, which is elusive where the 1980s are concerned. During the week of May 7, 1983, The Mrs. and I had been Mr. and Mrs. for one month. We were 23 and 22 years old. We were getting ready to move out of my crappy one-bedroom bachelor pad to a new apartment in June, the bottom quarter of an old house that’s still my favorite of all the places we ever lived. She worked for the local newspaper, which also owned KDTH. And we were figuring out, together, what our life was supposed to be, together.

Next week at this website: return with me to the spring of 1974, and enjoy some half-assed historical theorizing thereon. 

Next week on the radio: I’ll be taking over the afternoon show on Magic 98 on a regular basis, Monday through Friday from 3 til 7 US Central, at least for a while, until they find somebody they like better. You can listen here, if you care. 

5 thoughts on “Something Going On

  1. Wesley

    First, jb, break a leg as you begin your next shift. Can’t wait to hear you in action again. Second, as for your note that this is peak 80s on the Hot 100, I’d have to agree. I’d just add one more factor here: The explosion of music videos to promote these songs in America. By this time MTV was 1 1/2 years old and the hottest channel on cable for young viewers to watch, prompting copycat shows on broadcast TV everywhere. A lot of these songs remind me of their visuals as much as their aural power, which I think has helped their legacy among some of us of a certain age.

  2. Alvaro Leos

    So I guess “Swingin'” was a phantom add for WLS? So to jb all the other radio guys on there, did your stations report to the trade magazines? And if they did, how often did you report songs you weren’t actually playing?

  3. mikehagerty

    JB: Don’t be surprised if they can’t find anyone they like better. Pipes and wit are making a comeback.

    Alvaro: The stations I programmed reported. And we played what we reported. That said, paper adds were a problem—especially in the early 80s. I first noticed it around ’74, when a couple of times a year, I’d be asked to add a record “in Pluto rotation” (meaning maybe a play a day—maybe only overnights)—“just for a couple of weeks to see how it does”.

    In my last two years before I moved to news (1980-81), I was asked several times by promotion people to add records and was told “Look, you don’t have to actually play it—just add it and report it”.

    The idea was that if enough of us smaller and medium stations did that, it would fool the trades into thinking a record had momentum—maybe get it into the “Breakers” section on the back page of Radio & Records. At least one major market PD (not WLS’) was fired for the practice once corporate management found out he’d been doing it—a lot.

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