15 December 2005

Summer Memories '81

Tonight, come with me back in time, to the week of July 5-11, 1981. It was my first summer with a driver’s license, and I had the immense thrill of being in a car, often by myself, with complete control of the most important component in that automobile: the radio.

1981 was a mixed bag of music. The post-disco hangover was still looming, country acts were all over the place like roaches on a filthy kitchen countertop (Urban Cowboy, after all, was the movie hit of the previous year), but there were a few roses amidst the thorns. Let’s take a look at some of what Casey Kasem played on American Top 40 this nice Summer week in ‘81:

40) TWO HEARTS / Stephanie Mills & Teddy Pendergrass
A marvelous, underrated R&B single. But I never got to hear it much. At the time, I was living in Cape Girardeau, Mo., probably the whitest radio market in America – the top-40 stations were (and I can only trust still are) very skittish about adding black records. To a small extent, I didn’t mind; my tastes largely leaned toward the Midwest “arena rock” very popular in the area at that time, and my years in southeast Missouri (1978-82) turned me into a lifelong classic rock ‘n’ roller.

But I still had my love of ‘70s soul honed and developed thanks to Johnny Weber, overnight soul jock at dysfunctional Tupelo top-40 station WTUP — “The Top Dawg.” That love remained within my Pink Floyd, Beatles, and Blue Oyster Cult-centric music diet ... so hearing “Two Hearts” was a refreshing change of pace.

And it took an early August weekend in Tupelo before I heard "Two Hearts" for the first time — on WTUP, no less.

38) DOUBLE DUTCH BUS / Frankie Smith
Oh shizzit, Cape radio didn’t let this 45 past the lobby, either. For some twisted reason, I like it. I avehay onay deaiay hyway.

37) URGENT / Foreigner
The first single release from their album entitled 4, one of my top “high school memories” LPs. “Juke Box Hero” alone takes me back, although I could do without “Waiting for a Girl Like You.”

Remember the cover? That thing is known as an "academy leader countdown."

36) I LOVE YOU / Climax Blues Band
Sweet, with occasional gusts to saccharine. In other words, it's going for the Sweet 'n' Low packets. Word to Seraphim: If ever a man had it all / It would have to be me / And ooooooooooh, I love youuuuuuuuu!

34) A LIFE OF ILLUSION / Joe Walsh
One of Walsh's coolest songs. Truly an unappreciated masterpiece, probably even better than his 1978 classic “Life’s Been Good.”

33) IN THE AIR TONIGHT / Phil Collins
I can no longer hear this song without picturing the ‘bumper’ on VH-1 Classic, with the teenager in his bedroom listening to it on a small tape recorder, sitting on his bed, drumsticks in hand, with throw pillows in front of him ... just waiting for that orgasmic drum crescendo!

32) THERE'S NO GETTING OVER ME / Ronnie Milsap
31) IT'S NOW OR NEVER / John Schneider
1981 meant one thing: buttloads of COUNTRY CROSSOVERS! [cue “horror screams”]. There were a total of SEVEN on this list, alone. 1981 also meant a trashing of the 1960 Elvis workhorse by none other than Bo Duke. Why didn’t Luke roll up Bo’s window on the General Lee ... oh never mind, I’ve been watching too much Family Guy.

30) STRONGER THAN BEFORE / Carol Bayer Sager
A forgotten song. Very sweet uptempo ballad about a desperate woman trying to win back her man. Please take me back, I’ll do anything for you. You’re the light inside of me, I’ll take you anywhere you ever want to be.

Until you DO take me back, then I'll start treating you like whale vomit again. C'mon, Charlie Brown, I'm holding the football........

29) DON'T LET HIM GO / REO Speedwagon
Hi-Infidelity was another staple of the high school album shelf. Whenever I hear R-E-O’s last single, “Take it on the Run”, I still think back to cruising Broadway with girlfriend Paula, her head on my shoulder and legs hanging out the passenger window. “Don’t Let Him Go”, however, takes me back to one of the high school hubs: the skating rink!

Never mind that I couldn’t skate worth a couple dozen craps.

28) THE STROKE / Billy Squier
Two words: yeah, baby!! Of this list, it’s far and away my favorite. First time I heard it was in June, weeks before its debut on the top 40. I was on the way to picking up my younger brother from baseball practice (I don’t know who was happier to see me get a driver’s license – myself or Mom!).

The radio was on KYMO in nearby East Prairie, Mo. That little 500-watt AM coffeepot was a kick-ass rocker back in the day. And on the way to Capaha Park early that Summer evening, KYMO dropped the needle on “The Stroke.” And hearing it through the station's well-engineered highly compressed audio, it sounded beautiful. I damn hear had a Stroke. :-)

27) TOUCH ME WHEN WE'RE DANCING / The Carpenters
Casey went straight from Squier into The Carpenters. No commercial, no buffer, no nothing. Pugsley Addams couldn’t have fashioned a more spectacular train wreck.

Never mind that Karen’s request here is more than ludicrous; how could you touch her when you couldn’t bloody see her. “Now, Karen, don’t be shy. Come out from behind that fencepost.”

25) FOOL IN LOVE WITH YOU / Jim Photoglo
With a last name like that, I’d have considered marrying a woman named Jones or Smith and taking hers. I don’t think “Fool” got much higher than this. Which, no doubt, is why Delilah doesn’t go near it. From the record label to the milk carton — I think Mr. Photoglo is still playing this song in the lounge of that Congress Inn which closed about 20 years ago.

23) WHAT ARE WE DOING IN LOVE? / Kenny Rogers & Dottie West
Kenny, the roaster’s beeping — your chicken’s done and the customers are waiting. What are you doing still recording songs. I’ll just drop into your restaurant and see what condition your chicken’s conditions are in. Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah.

22) IS IT YOU / Lee Ritenour
A couple steps’ removed from Easy Listening Hell. It would be a jerky segue going into something more hard-rocking, like The Carpenters.

21) QUEEN OF HEARTS / Juice Newton
Wiz, my friend and partner-in-crime back in Cape, did a funny parody of this song with his younger brother, both singing off-key, “Playing With the Five of Diamonds.”

I’ll take the joker instead ... and go off the board for Famous Stupid Country Crossover Hits, Jack.

20) TIME / Alan Parsons Project
First time I heard this record, I was headed back to school from a dermatologist appointment where he sprayed liquid nitrogen on a couple of warts I had on my hand. As I thought, “this is a nice song, quite different from ‘Games People Play’”, I was shaking and flapping my hand all around, because brother that nitrogen hurt like the much-fabled “maternal fornicator.”

19) MODERN GIRL / Sheena Easton
“Na, na, na-na-na, she’s a modern girl.” Guess she was now above taking morning trains, but was still not ready to allow her man to venture into her suga— ummm, anyway, moving right along...

18) WINNING / Santana
I’m winning. I’m winning. I’m winning. I’m winning. I’m winning. I’m winning. I’m winning. I’m winning. I’m winning. I’m winning. Who needs to Google lyrics when you have ol’ Talmadge?

14) AMERICA / Neil Diamond
File under “Lee Greenwood” Now trotted out every Fourth of July, or other occasions when a right-winger wants to say “America stands for freedom, but all people who disagree with me and my president should be beat up, jailed and deported.”

13) HEARTS / Marty Balin
Why, isn’t that Grace Slick over there in the corner just laughing her ass off?

10) SLOW HAND / The Pointer Sisters
Just jam it in, then move around faster than you can say Neutron Dance.

9) I DON'T NEED YOU / Kenny Rogers
...or your stupid chicken.

8) BELIEVE IT OR NOT / Joey Scarbury
I can’t stand this song. The TV show wasn’t much to write home about, either. Guy in superhero costume who loses the manual and f(BLEEP)ks up the landings. It was funny the first couple of episodes. Then it got really old fast.

7) MEDLEY / Stars on 45
The record that started all those (BLEEP)damned medleys. “Hooked on Swing”, “Hooked on The Classics”, “Hooked on Country”, “Hooked on Phonics”, “Hooked on Blogs”, “Hooked on Talmadge Stretching a Joke Too Far”

I used to like bumping the turntable up a notch ... “The stars on 78, gee whiz aren’t they great....” Ahhhhh, youth!

6) ELVIRA / The Oak Ridge Boys
With whatzisname, whose bass voice makes Barry White sound like Frankie Valli.

4) JESSIE'S GIRL / Rick Springfield
I’m not gonna diss on Rick. The couch isn’t too comfy to sleep on.

3) THE ONE THAT YOU LOVE / Air Supply
Delilah probably keeps her “personal massage assistant” handy when she plays it. Yeah, both this record AND your little steely dan.

2) ALL THOSE YEARS AGO / George Harrison
Rumor had it that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, both uncredited, helped out. I’m sure it didn’t exactly hinder it being a smash. A nice record which brings back a sweet pocket of time on my life's travels.

And, for the eighth straight week, the #1 hit was:

BETTE DAVIS EYES / Kim Carnes

Way overplayed in its day, but let’s be serious – one could do MUCH worse in 1981.

Coming soon, a look back at November 1974. This ought to be fun .... maybe?

Ciao for niao.

— Talmadge “Keep your stars on the ground and keep reaching for your feet” Gleck

4 comments:

nettiemac said...

Okay, some opining:

40) TWO HEARTS / Stephanie Mills & Teddy Pendergrass
As you can imagine, not much airplay around here...

38) DOUBLE DUTCH BUS / Frankie Smith
Four letters for ya: W-H-Y-Z, 1070AM, the home of G'ville soul. The only place on the dial you could hear this (or #40, I'm presuming).

37) URGENT / Foreigner
Ahhhhhhh! Loved the "4" LP.

36) I LOVE YOU / Climax Blues Band
Another sweet one I like.

34) A LIFE OF ILLUSION / Joe Walsh
I don't remember the airplay at the time on this one (probably Rock 101 carried more of it than my fave, 107 ("Hit after Hit") WANS. But I have heard it many times in the ensuing years, and love love love it. I love the mariachi horns....

33) IN THE AIR TONIGHT / Phil Collins
Earns an immediate dial-turn (okay, push of the button) from me. B2AC.

32) THERE'S NO GETTING OVER ME / Ronnie Milsap
31) IT'S NOW OR NEVER / John Schneider

Love Ronnie. Absolutely love Ronnie. I remember Bo's version of this. Serviceable, but not memorable. Don't tell my brother, who is a John Schneider fan.

30) STRONGER THAN BEFORE / Carol Bayer Sager
Vague memories of this one. Did she sing this one on "Solid Gold" one week?

29) DON'T LET HIM GO / REO Speedwagon
Man... one I had forgotten all about!

28) THE STROKE / Billy Squier
This is on my 1981 compilation, you know.... :-)

27) TOUCH ME WHEN WE'RE DANCING / The Carpenters
No special thrill to this one, but no bad memories either.

25) FOOL IN LOVE WITH YOU / Jim Photoglo
With a last name like that, I’d have considered marrying a woman named Jones or Smith and taking hers.

No way! That's such a cool name, I'd keep it.
But for the life of me, I can't recall this song....

23) WHAT ARE WE DOING IN LOVE? / Kenny Rogers & Dottie West
I actually liked this song. It beats all hell out of "Lucille" or #9 below.

22) IS IT YOU / Lee Ritenour
Another one I like (and is on my 1981 compilation). Of course, had I known this and Chuck Mangione's "Feels So Good" would lead to the crap of Kenny G.....

21) QUEEN OF HEARTS / Juice Newton
I can take it or leave it....

20) TIME / Alan Parsons Project
Still one of my favorites (and on the '81 CD).

19) MODERN GIRL / Sheena Easton
Blech. I'll take "For Your Eyes Only" over this one. (Of course, I also have a thing for Bond themes....)

18) WINNING / Santana
I love this one. Always have. One of my friends really liked this song, and if ever a person needed a positive theme song for her life, she did. And in spite of many obstacles in her life, she is a winner. So every time I hear it (and guess where it appears? :D), I think of her. Can't get any better than that.

14) AMERICA / Neil Diamond
I'd rather hear this one 4000 times more than Lee Greenwood!! But my favorite track off "Jazz Singer" is "Love on the Rocks"....

13) HEARTS / Marty Balin
Yeah, Gracie may be laughing, but I still like the song.

10) SLOW HAND / The Pointer Sisters
Speaking of bad country crossovers, ol' Conway's version can't hold a candle to theirs. Theirs is mood-enhancing. His is mood-breaking. Vomiting isn't sexy!

9) I DON'T NEED YOU / Kenny Rogers
See previous Kenny Rogers comment. And what a creepy song anyway!

8) BELIEVE IT OR NOT / Joey Scarbury
Another one that I can take or leave. I don't mind hearing it but I'm not going out of my way to have it.

7) MEDLEY / Stars on 45
Okay. Guilty confession: I like this one. Brings back good memories of some camping trips with my family.

6) ELVIRA / The Oak Ridge Boys
With whatzisname, whose bass voice makes Barry White sound like Frankie Valli.

Richard Sterben. Fabulous bass. Not my favorite song by them by any stretch -- give me "Little Things" or "Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight" (composed by Rodney Crowell, who has awesome songs).

4) JESSIE'S GIRL / Rick Springfield
I’m not gonna diss on Rick. The couch isn’t too comfy to sleep on.

I'm with Seraphim on this one -- damn straight! Dr. Noah effin' ROCKS!

3) THE ONE THAT YOU LOVE / Air Supply
SNORK! little steely dan!
Air Supply takes up 50% of the space on the JBFH.

2) ALL THOSE YEARS AGO / George Harrison
RIP, George. Where the hell are Paul and Ringo with tributes to YOU? At least you did the right thing.

1) BETTE DAVIS EYES / Kim Carnes
GAAAAAAAAAAAAAKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!

Talmadge G. said...

Well. Seems Mr. Photoglo is still in the music biz -- www.jimphotoglo.com

The two pop hits he had ("We Were Meant to be Lovers" - 1980, and 1981's "Fool in Love") actually were okay, considering, but there was something about that name. The vision which always popped into my head was that of a camera with a kryptonite-like glow inside. "Say cheese!" "NO, LEX LUTHOR, GET THAT PENTAX AWAY FROM ME!!!"

Agreed, the mariachi horns MAKES that Joe Walsh song. I played it more than a few times on TOTR.

I wouldn't be surprised if Bayer-Sager sang "Stronger" on Solid Gold. SG was really good about spotlighting those mid-charting songs, the ones that got airplay and sales, but not necessarily ten-bell smash hits.

"Is It You" was all over the so-called "adult contemporary" station in Cape, and I liked it okay. It was only later that I realized what else Ritenour did that I began dissing the record. Agreed, this was proto-Kenny G.

I like Santana's "Winning", as it came out at a time when I'd (finally) landed a girlfriend, for me a milestone of emergence from a personal hell (a/k/a 8th-9th grade). Dunno why I started raggin' on the repetitious hook; it just struck me that way when I was listening to that AT40.

It's also the same reason I cannot dislike "Bette Davis Eyes" - first time I heard it was on my first date with aforementioned g/f. See "milestone", above.

"Slow Hand" - I had to take another shower after being reminded of Twitty's version.

"Stars on 45" - It was neat in its own way. But not only did I [gulp!] buy the single -- that Summer, I actually [throat-stretching GULP!!!] bought .... the ...... al ... bum ......

What's more, I still .... [gulped down my tongue] .... have .... it ...

That might be because I've been afraid to trade it at a used record store; it would force me to admit I actually HAD it! :-)

-TG

bolivar said...

Did you think that you could get away without some input from me? I didn't think so...

(40). TWO HEARTS / Mills & Pendergrass
Cool song - love Teddy's voice!

(39). No #39??

(38). DOUBLE DUTCH BUS / Frankie Smith
Heard this at the skating rink - it's OK.

(37). URGENT / Foreigner
That sax solo is worth the price of the "4" LP alone.

(36). I LOVE YOU / Climax Blues Band
In 1976, these guys "Couldn't Get It Right". Now they love you? Strange, but I liked the band and this song anyway.

(35). No #35 either, I see...

(34). A LIFE OF ILLUSION / Joe Walsh
Great song, but not my favorite. That vote goes to "The Confessor", "ILBTs", & the James Gang's "Tend My Garden". All the guys in my school knew the words to "ILBTs" - gee, wonder why.

(33). IN THE AIR TONIGHT / Phil Collins
Loved it when I first heard it - can't stand it now.

(32). THERE'S NO GETTING OVER ME / Ronnie Milsap
One great song in his career: "What a Difference You've Made in My Life". The rest I can take or leave.

(31). IT'S NOW OR NEVER / John Schneider
On the plus side, it beats Andy Gibb & Victoria Principal desecrating "All I Have to Do is Dream". On the negative side, I know the King is rolling in his grave.

(30). STRONGER THAN BEFORE / Carole Bayer Sager
Fair-to-middling singer, great songwriter, but nothing for Carole King to get worried about.

(29). DON'T LET HIM GO / REO Speedwagon
One of my faves on this list. Still, I prefer "Keep On Loving You". A ton of memories connected with that song.

(28). THE STROKE / Billy Squier
Another of my faves. I saw Billy in 1984 with Ratt as the opening act, & he blew Ratt away. Hell of a show.

(27). TOUCH ME WHEN WE'RE DANCING / The Carpenters
Uh, no thanks.

(26). What happened to #26??

(25). FOOL IN LOVE WITH YOU / Jim Photoglo
As much as I am familiar with all types of music, I have never heard of this one. Must have been pretty insignificant.

(24). Oops!!

(23). WHAT ARE WE DOING IN LOVE / Kenny Rogers & Dottie West
I prefer their first hit, "Every Time Two Fools Collide". That song was actually autobiographical, because every time they collided, we get dreck like this.

(22). IS IT YOU / Lee Ritenour
OK song, but, in reference to Nettiemac's post, I infinitely prefer "Feels So Good".

(21). OUEEN OF HEARTS / Juice Newton
I prefer this over her horrid take of "Angel of the Morning" (which, in my opinion, is a crummy song anyway). Still, I prefer Motorhead's "Ace of Spades", Styx's "Queen of Spades", Dylan's "Jack of Diamonds", and AC/DC's "The Jack".

(20). TIME / Alan Parsons Project
A great song from one of my all-time favorite bands.

(19). MODERN GIRL / Sheena Easton
I agree 100% with Nettiemac on this one. Besides, in two years, we would be introduced to the "Material Girl", so this is pretty extinct anyway.

(18). WINNING / Santana
Great, great song. I love to hear Carlos play. Even when he puts out subpar material (read: his latest), all of it is worth hearing if not owning.

(17)-(15). Was Menudo here?

(14). AMERICA / Neil Diamond
All critics are just too hard on Neil. He has written some of the greatest songs of all time, & this is one of his best. I could listen to Neil all day - as a matter of fact, I am sure I have at one time or another. His new album is the best thing he has put out in 20, maybe 30, years.

(13). HEARTS / Marty Balin
OK, this song is wretched, but I have to ask Talmadge: did Gracie ever have a top-40 solo hit? So, who is really laughing? Anyway, I prefer Hot Tuna to Gracie or Marty during their Jefferson Starship days.

(12) & (11). Lot of holes on this list. Kind of like the CIA.

(10). SLOW HAND / Pointer Sisters
This song is not about Clapton. It still remains my favorite Pointer Sisters song - and they had a lot of good ones.

(9). I DON'T NEED YOU / Kenny Rogers
It is sad how a man has sold millions & millions of records, and yet has put his stamp on maybe 3 or 4 songs that are actually listenable over a 40+ year career. And this definitely ain't one of them.

(8). BELIEVE IT OR NOT / Joey Scarbury
The less said about this song, the better.

(7). MEDLEY / Stars on 45
This opened up the floodgates. Add two notches for influencing "Hooked on Classics" (which I like). Dock all notches for being responsible for Jive Bunny & the Mastermixers.

(6). ELVIRA / Oak Ridge Boys
I love Elvira, the Mistress of the Dark. Oh, this song is not about her? Well then, I hate this song. "Thank God for Kids" is their only great song. Pure dreck for the rest.

(5). More holes...

(4). JESSIE'S GIRL / Rick Springfield
OK, I am not - repeat not - a fan of the returning Dr. Noah Drake. However, this is one time he got it RIGHT. This is a perfect pop song, & one of my faves on this list. So sue me.

(3). THE ONE THAT YOU LOVE / Air Supply
Excuse me while I hurl.

(2). ALL THOSE YEARS AGO / George Harrison
Once again, great song, but not my favorite Harrison song. I prefer this to about 90% of Paul McCartney's solo catalog.

(1). BETTE DAVIS EYES / Kim Carnes
Terrible song. Kim recorded a couple of duets with Kenny Rogers (see above), so that ought to tell you something.

Does this mean I have to sleep on the couch now?

Talmadge G. said...

The missing songs have been censored and sanitized for your protection. Didn't you see the paper strip around the commode lid??

Actually, those AT40 entries are long and unwieldy enough as they are; I cut back on those other songs which had a neutral effect on me - neither good nor bad.

Just you people wait. Right now I'm in the middle of JULY 1979. That'll show you.

-Talmadge "No, Bolivar, you can have the guest room bed" Gleck