Friday, October 21, 2016

CD Longbox #15

Billboard Top Dance Hits 1978 (1992)

Exclusive photo courtesy of Dirk Digglinator of the Hambonian Archives.

For more information on the brief life of the CD longbox, go visit The Legend of the Longbox.

Track listing:
Title Artist Pop Dance
Shake Your Groove Thing Peaches & Herb 5 2
MacArthur Park Suite Donna Summer 1 1
You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) Sylvester 36 1
Come Into My Heart USA-European Connection
From East to West Voyage
After Dark Pattie Brooks
If My Friends Could See Me Now Linda Clifford 54 1
Boogie Oogie Oogie A Taste of Honey 1 1
Y.M.C.A. Village People 2 2
Last Dance Donna Summer 3 1

Note: In later pressings, Chic's "Le Freak" is substituted for "Last Dance" as track 10 in the compilation.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

AT40, October 24, 1981 [Part 4 of 4]

I'm breaking down the AT40 show of October 24, 1981 track by track.  For a look at #40-31 click here, for #30-21 click here, and for #20-11 click here.

So what was I doing around the time of this AT40 episode's broadcast?  I was a sophomore in high school and according to my transcript, my schedule looked something like this:
Marching Band
Algebra II
World History
Of those six classes, five were taught by what I consider to be bad teachers - some apathetic, some incompetent, some clueless, and some D) all of the above. So I had a rough year academically, but I took the blame (you'd think after 35 years, I'd let it go already). I was also a spotlight operator for the school's fall musical production of Grease even though I was more talented than most of the cast members (you'd think after 35 years, I'd let it go already). On this particular weekend, I marched during halftime of the October 23 high school football game where Bay City defeated Wharton 24-7. If memory serves, the marching show around that time was a theme show based on the Six Flags over Texas (what? you thought Six Flags was just a theme park chain?). So we played a Spanish song, a French song, etc., ending with an arrangement of Neil Diamond's "America."  We brought out an America flag so the crowd would feel obligated to stand and applaud - a tried and true marching band method for receiving a standing ovation.

In 1981, episodes of AT40 in Houston were broadcast on Sundays from 10 AM - 2 PM so I was at church singing in the choir during the first half of the show. I would stick a C-120 into my little Panasonic radio/cassette player, hit record before I left the house, and hope for the best.

Now, on with the countdown:

#10: "I've Done Everything for You" by Rick Springfield. Springfield's third Top 40 hit is a Sammy Hagar cover that would peak at #8 during 12 weeks in the Top 40. A great pop-rock song that's got hooks for days. My sister had a cassette copy of Working Class Dog that I may or may not have taken for my own personal use.

#9:  "The Night Owls" by The Little River Band. For my rankings of Little River Band songs, click here. This song doesn't fare well in my LRB bracket, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad song. I dig the minor shuffle groove going on here. This was the group's 8th of 13 Top 40 singles. It would peak at #6 on AT40 but only manage to get to #33 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

#8:  "Hard to Say" by Dan Fogelberg. This reminds me more of James Taylor than Fogelberg, so I like it more than most Folgelberg tunes. However, I still don't consider myself a Dan Fan. That said, I can still sing along with Glenn Frey on the harmony vocals. Bonus points for hiring Tom Scott for the sax solo. This single would peak on next week's chart at #7.

Long Distance Dedication:  "Upside Down" by Diana Ross. Jeff, from Leesburg, Virginia, writes about meeting a girl on a high school field trip. You see where this is going. The long distance relationship tried to carry on through letters, but was destined to fail. Jeff vows that he broke up with the girl, as he puts it, "not because I didn't love her anymore, but because I loved her too much, too soon." I give it a big eyeroll, but at least this dedication is actually long distance, unlike the earlier LDD. And you can't do much better than this #1 hit from 1980. Ross + Chic = disco/funk gold. This is the second of three Ross appearances on this episode of AT40.

#7:  "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" by Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers.  This stalled at the #3 spot for 6 weeks before dropping here to #7. Petty's and Nicks' voices are perfectly suited to each other and when you put them together over a fantastic Benmont Tench organ part, you got a great rock song. I would think it strange that Petty would give away one of his better tunes to Nicks for her solo album, but I woulda given Stevie anything she asked for, too. Can't blame him.

Before unveiling the #6 single, Casey runs down the tops of other Billboard charts.  Here are the #1's for the week of October 24:
Am I the only one that thinks it strange that the #1 Country and R&B songs are nowhere to be found in the Top 40? "Never Been So Loved" wasn't even in the Hot 100 on October 24 while "Never Too Much" was at #52. I'm sure there's a reason for the inconsistent charting, but it probably doesn't make sense.

#6:  "Private Eyes" by Hall & Oates. If there was one act almost all the cliques in my high school could agree on, it was Hall & Oates. I loved H&O and would sing along to all the hits, just like everyone I knew. And who could resist "Private eyes <clap> they're watching you <clap, clap>" and the cheesy trench coat video?

This smash would go on top the chart for two weeks in November before ceding the #1 spot to ONJ's "Physical."

#5:  "Step by Step" by Eddie Rabbitt.  First off, why isn't this #1 on the Country chart? For the record (pun not intended), it was #18 on the Country singles chart this week but had been at #1 the week prior. Not my favorite Rabbitt tune but sawite. As a wannabe ladies man, I took Eddie's step by step instructions in the song to heart. Didn't work for me, but whatever. This one peaked right here at #5.

#4:  "For Your Eyes Only" by Sheena Easton. Ah, the lovely Sheena singing a Bond theme. The song's better than the movie. I like early Sheena just fine but prefer her later work with Prince. This movie theme was written by Bill Conti and would peak here at #4 and would only make it to #6 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

#3:  "Start Me Up" by The Rolling Stones. My second favorite Stones tune behind "Gimme Shelter," I remember this blasting from the pick-up trucks in the high school parking lot before school. In an attempt to be cool like those kids, I bought the Tattoo You album.  Good move on my part. This song, the group's 33rd(!) Top 40 hit, spent three weeks in the #2 position on the pop chart, but spent a remarkable, but unsurprising, 13 weeks atop the Rock chart.

#2:  "Endless Love" by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie. Another beautiful Richie ballad ("Oh No" was earlier at #23). I don't particularly care for this song anymore, but I can sing both duet parts if you need that sort of thing. During fall 1982, I rode with a older neighbor to marching band rehearsal each morning (band started at 7:15 AM, school started an hour later). This neighbor loved "Endless Love" endlessly and had the cassette of the movie soundtrack. So, for three months, she'd listen to the first track on side one (this song), then flip over the cassette and listen to the last track on side two (titled "Endless Love Reprise" and it was the same damn song), then back to side one, repeat ad nauseum.  Never seen the movie, btw.
Before telling us the #1 single, Casey gives us the top 5 films of 1981 (to date) as 3 of the top 4 songs are from motion picture soundtracks. Here's the list:
  1. Tarzan
  2. Arthur
  3. Stripes
  4. Superman II
  5. Raiders of the Lost Ark
Timpani roll...

#1:  "Arthur's Theme" by Christopher Cross. I loves me some Burt Bacharach plus you've got Toto as the backing band. Then add Ernie Watts on sax solo and Michael Omartian's production and what you've got is a perfect storm of smoothness. The song won the Oscar for Best Original Song as well as the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. This was the song's second of three weeks in the top spot on this chart you just know that something this smooth topped the Adult Contemporary charts, too. Never seen the movie, btw.

"Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars."

Previously, I've looked at these AT40 episodes track by track:
September 18, 1982
July 19, 1980
June 9, 1979

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

AT40, October 24, 1981 [Part 3 of 4]


I'm breaking down the AT40 show of October 24, 1981 track by track.  For an introduction and a look at #40-31, click here, for #30-21 click here.

#20:  "Just Once" by Quincy Jones feat. James Ingram. Fantastic song written by hitmakers Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, produced by Q, with soulful vocals from Ingram - I like everything about this song, from the tasty flugelhorn licks to the soaring strings. Now if only I could hear the song without it reminding me of the slap-you-in-the-face ending of the 1982 movie, The Last American Virgin. This single would later peak at #17 and would also chart on the R&B (#11) and Adult Contemporary (#7) charts. And all those chart peaks seem awfully low for such a classic ballad.

#19: "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" by Billy Joel. The live version from Songs in the Attic. Hey, didn't we already have a "Be My Baby" knock-off back at position #37? (One of the Ronettes should have covered it, maybe?) By 1981, I was such a fan of Mr. William Joel I would have bought any album he released - and that's just what I did. This song is just okay - not even in the top five tracks on that live album. It peaked at #17 on November 7.

#18: "We're in This Love Together" by Al Jarreau. Jarreau's biggest of his three Top 40 hits, peaking at #15 - not bad for a jazz vocalist. I'm a huge fan of Al's, especially his early '80s output, so this one's right in my wheelhouse. Bonus points for a sweet alto sax solo by Lon Price.

#17: "Theme from 'Hill Street Blues'" by Mike Post. Yawner. Not much to this one; not even guitar work by Larry Carlton can make it interesting. Somehow this spent 10 weeks in the Top 40, peaking at #10.

#16:  "Super Freak" by Rick James. The countdown bounces back nicely and now I'm suddenly transformed into a dancin' fool. Written in a time when "incense, wine and candles" was "such a freaky scene." Ah, the '80s. Backing vocals by the Temptations, the catchiest bass line of the year, and a funk groove capped off by a manic sax solo by Daniel LeMelle. Thumbs up.

#15:  "Here I Am" by Air Supply. The biggest mover in the countdown; up eight notches, as Casey liked to say.  It's not the best Air Supply ballad, but I quickly learned all the lyrics. Why? Because the ladies loved Air Supply and I desperately needed to become a ladies man. Alas, 'twas not to be. This single would peak at #5 and topped the Adult Contemporary chart.

#14:  "Share Your Love with Me" by Kenny Rogers. Produced by Lionel Richie with background vocals by Richie and Gladys Knight & The Pips, making it a cross between "Sail On" and "Midnight Train to Georgia." It has its moments (mainly when Gladys Knight is singing), but the sax solo doesn't fit and overall doesn't hold together for me. It would peak this week at #14 but was #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart for two weeks.

#13: "When She Was My Girl" by The Four Tops. The group's 23rd Top 40 hit, this one would top the R&B chart and peak at #11 on AT40. I like it alright. Reminds me of the stuff Smokey Robinson was putting out around this time.

#12:  "Who's Cryin' Now" by Journey. I had Escape on cassette (bought it at the same time I bought Foreigner 4) and listened the ever-lovin' crap out of it. The album's best song is "Stone in Love" but this might be the second best cut. Being a wannabe rebel, I disowned the group once everybody owned the album and I started to cultivate the music snob/hipster/contrarian/my-music-is-cooler-than-your-music persona that, unfortunately, hasn't ever left me. So I didn't buy the follow-up album, Frontiers because we had gone our separate ways (sorry, I couldn't resist). I will admit this, though: Steve Perry has a fantastic voice and Neil Schon can tear off a wicked solo when he wants to. This spent 14 weeks in the Top 40, peaking at #4.

#11:  "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You" by Bob Seger. I'm not a big Seger fan, but this is a decent cover of a Memphis soul song originally cut by Otis Clay in 1972 on Hi Records. It sho is clean for a live performance - I suspect later studio overdubs. This turned out to be one of Seger's biggest hits, reaching #5.

AT40 Archives: "Everyday People" by Sly and The Family Stone.  Casey continues to play the #1 hits of the 1960's in chronological order. This one's a Stone cold classic, pun intended. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to listen to Sly CDs for the rest of the day.

More to come...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

AT40, October 24, 1981 [Part 2 of 4]


I'm breaking down the AT40 show of October 24, 1981 track by track.  For an introduction and a look at #40-31, click here.

#30:  "He's a Liar" by Bee Gees. No memory of this one and for good reason - it's pretty bad. This was the brothers' 27th Top 40 hit and would spend only 4 weeks on AT40, peaking here at #30.

#29:  "Alien" by Atlanta Rhythm Section.  The last of the group's seven Top 40 hits, this single was peaking here at #29 this week. Sounds very much like the group's "So Into You" from 1977, but if it worked once, maybe it would work again? Not a standout track, but not bad.

Long Distance Dedication: "I Got You Babe" by Sonny & Cher. Letter from a California man, Paul, about his star-crossed teenage love affair with Tina, the girl next door whose parents hated Paul. Long story short: they had a rocky but predestined relationship and are celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary and this was the best song he could come up with for a dedication. I fail to see what is "long distance" about this dedication as the couple lives together, but it's Casey's show, so he gets to set the rules.

#28:  "Hold On Tight" by ELO.  The biggest dropper in this week's countdown; it had been #13 the previous week and peaked at #10 before that. I had the Time album and, at the time, mistakenly thought it was a decent concept album. This single didn't seem to match the rest of the album and it always seemed to me that it was tacked on to the end so they could release a hit single. It worked.

#27:  "Atlanta Lady" by Marty Balin.  Another one that I don't remember, but the former Jefferson Starship singer is bringing us some smooth adult contemporary stuff - let's check how it did on the AC chart: #11. If you like JS's "With Your Love" (and I do), you'll like this one.

An Australian listener sent in a letter to Casey asking, "What foreign female has hit #1 the most on the American charts?" Here's the top 3:
3) Petula Clark
2) Helen Reddy
1) Olivia Newton-John
#26:  "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John. What are the odds that Casey would play an ONJ song immediately following that question? (answer: no bookie would take that bet). 1981's biggest hit was at #26 on its second week in the AT40. It would lay claim to the #1 spot for ten consecutive weeks beginning November 21. Sweet, unabashed pop that bore no resemblance to disco or New Wave, this thing was huge but never gets any airplay anymore, probably because nobody wants to admit they still like it (present company excepted).

#25:  "Urgent" by Foreigner. Recorded in a strange, magic place where Foreigner can record at hit single with Thomas Dolby on keyboards and Junior Walker on sax. And legendary producer Mutt Lange makes it all work. Hooks a'plenty, it prompted me to go buy a cassette copy of 4, which got plenty of playing time in our driver's ed "Student Driver" car.

#24:  "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" by The Police. Easily my favorite tune in this week's Top 40. I never tire of hearing it. This wonderful single would peak at #3 on December 5. Think I'll hit the repeat icon a few times. Be right back...

Special Report: "National Anthem as a Hit Record"  Casey tells the story of a recording of the 1968 World Series national anthem performance by Jose Feliciano becoming a "hit," reaching #50.

#23:  "Oh No" by The Commodores. Sounds very much like "Endless Love" which we'll get to a bit later on. I'm tellin' ya: Lionel Richie can write a freakin' ballad. A perfect slow dance song. Alas, if only young Mark had a dancing partner. Enough of this pity party, let's snap out of it with...

#22:  "She's a Bad Mama Jama" by Carl Carlton.  A most excellent funk dance tune. I just can't sit still. This song was in the Top 40 for 7 weeks, peaking here at #22. I will neither confirm nor deny that I use this funky stuff as my phone ringtone assigned to my wife that usually gets results similar to this.

AT40 Archives:  "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James and The Shondells.  As Casey continues to play the #1 songs of the 1960's, he plays this song which stayed at the top spot for two weeks in February 1969.  A song that straddles the line between bizarre and catchy as all get-out, I love it.

#21: "Waiting for a Girl Like You" by Foreigner.  The follow up to Urgent (#25), in which Foreigner enters the ballad market and I say goodbye to Foreigner. I mentioned earlier that I had 4 on cassette and here's how it would usually go down:
  1. insert cassette
  2. listen to the first 3 tracks of side one
  3. eject and flip cassette when "Waiting for a Girl Like You" begins
  4. insert side 2
  5. hear "Urgent" and the rest of side two
  6. eject cassette 
  7. repeat if desired
My lack of appreciation didn't slow this track's chart action, though. It would spend 10 weeks at #2 on the Top 40, one week at #1 on the Album Rock chart, and a week at #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

More to come...

Monday, October 17, 2016

AT40, October 24, 1981 [Part 1 of 4]

Let's travel back 35 years and take a look at the American Top 40 for October 24, 1981 track by track:

As was the custom back then, Casey recaps the top three tunes from the previous week. He mentions #3, "Start Me Up" by The Rolling Stones and #2, "Endless Love" by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross before playing last week's #1: "Arthur's Theme" by Christopher Cross. Then it's on with the countdown:

#40: "Our Lips are Sealed" by The Go-Go's.  Belinda and the girls make their AT40 debut. Casey describes them simply as "an all girl band - five of 'em!" With that, me and my friends all got copies of Beauty and the Beat and I developed a strong desire to move to L.A. This single would eventually peak at #20 on December 12. #20? Wait - that can't be right, can it?

#39: "The Beach Boys Medley" by The Beach Boys.  A poorly edited medley of 8 BB tunes:
"Good Vibrations"
"Help Me, Rhonda"
"I Get Around"
"Shut You Down"
"Surfin Safari"
"Barbara Ann"
"Surfin' USA"
"Fun, Fun, Fun"
But this song is why I can't listen to "Help Me, Rhonda" without my mind automatically segueing to "I Get Around." Cursed medley! This was the single's eleventh and final week on AT40; it had reached #12 back on October 3.

#38: "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" by Diana Ross. The second of three debuts this week. Frankie Lymon took it to #6 in 1956, Diana Ross would take this version to #7. Ms. Ross appears again on the countdown later on. With all due respect to Diana, this is one of those remakes that makes me long to hear the original. The 1950s retro fad from the '70s had ended by this time - even Laverne & Shirley had moved to the '60s (and Burbank) by 1981.

#37: "You Saved My Soul" by Burton Cummings. The last debut of the week. I have absolutely no memory of this one and now that I hear I know why. Stealing the beat from "Be My Baby," this song sounds like a poor man's Jackson Browne tune. The song would stay at #37 the following week before plummeting to #60. Cummings would never crack the Top 40 again as a solo act.

#36: "The Voice" by The Moody Blues. This fantastic song had peaked at #15 on October 3, but spent 4 weeks at #1 on the Rock chart (and deservedly so).

#35: "In the Dark" by Billy Squier.  Two quality rock tracks in a row. This song was the follow-up to "The Stroke" but I like "In the Dark" much better. I must be in the minority, however, as this was the single's peak position in its brief three week run in the Top 40.

#34: "Queen of Hearts" by Juice Newton. I'm indifferent to this one - I can take it or leave it. This was the song's 19th and final week on AT40; it had peaked at #2 back on September 19. Casey plays a bit of Dave Edmunds' version before cutting to Juice Newton's single (possible because the arrangements are almost identical, just different keys). Despite the similarities, Edmunds sounds more rockabilly, where Newton's skews country. And since I'm a contrarian by nature, I'm going to say Edmunds' version is better.

#33: "Sausalito Summernight" by Diesel. Oh, yeah! This one needs to be featured on my Lost AT40 Single series. Sounds almost exactly like Steve Miller Band with a fantastically catchy chorus. Bonus points for a bass solo. Alas, this Dutch quintet qualifies for one-hit wonder status as this was the group's only song to appear on AT40. It would be in the Top 40 for 6 weeks, peaking at #25 on November 21. Far too low IMO.

#32: "I Could Never Miss You" by Lulu. Haven't heard this since '81, but I immediately recognized the verse. Not a bad little pop song. Recorded for a 1978 album, it was released in 1981 after Lulu had gained some TV exposure in the UK. This one had peaked at #18, but this was the song's last week in AT40 although it would go all the way to #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart. Lulu had 4 Top 40 tunes in the US; this ended that run which began in 1967 with the #1 smash "To Sir With Love."

#31: "The Old Songs" by Barry Manilow. Having been a Fanilow since '77, I liked this one from the get-go. Typical Manilow ballad: piano intro, add strings, add background chorus, key change before the final chorus. Formulaic and I wouldn't have it any other way. This would go on to peak at #15 in late November, but it also spent 2 weeks at #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. My mother rarely dared to purchase music for me but when she did she always chose wisely; I found a cassette of If I Should Love Again under the tree in December '81.

AT40 Archives: "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye.  At the time, Casey was counting down the #1 songs of the 1960's; here's the 189th #1 song of that decade. This smash topped the charts for 7 consecutive weeks in December '68 and January '69. It also topped the R&B chart for the same 7 weeks.

More to come...