Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Rhino's Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the '80s series

One day in the late summer of 1994, I was browsing through CDs at the Sound Warehouse location at the corner of Hwy 281 & Bitters in San Antonio.  I had recently attended my ten-year high school reunion and music from the early '80s was running through my head a lot. So when the teenage kids behind the counter played "867-5309/Jenny" followed by "Vacation" by the Go-Go's and Zappa's "Valley Girl," it naturally caught my ear, so I walked over and asked what they were playing.  After a heavy sigh and an eyeroll, the salesgirl smacked her gum and directed me to this series, of which the first five volumes had recently been released.  I bought Volume 5 (pictured above) and that started my love affair with this series.  I eventually picked up all the discs; for my thoughts on every song on every compilation in the series, check out my posts over at The CD Project.  The compilation CDs are out of print these days, so if you see a copy in a used bin, be sure to pick it up.  I heartily endorse the whole series.

I sure do miss this place

Anyhoo, even thought the series is first-rate, I've always questioned the title that Rhino chose:
  • The 1981 Depeche Mode song "Just Can't Get Enough" is nowhere to be found on any compilation,
  • Not all songs are New Wave (e.g., Corey Hart's "Sunglasses at Night," Murray Head singing the show tune "One Night in Bangkok," Musical Youth's "Pass the Dutchie," etc.),
  • Not all songs are from the '80s (that one doesn't bother me much - New Wave music didn't suddenly start January 1, 1980.  I usually think of New Wave starting in 1978.  If you need a more specific date, I offer up June 6, 1978 - the release date of the Cars' self-titled debut album.)
  • Not all of the songs are what I would consider "hits" and that's what I wanted to take a closer look at today.
Each of the 15 volumes contained 16 tracks for a total of 240 tracks.  Of those 240, how many made the Top 40 in the US?  In other words, how many of these tracks would have appeared on Casey Kasem's AT40 show?  For those of you that are more inclusive, I'll also include numbers from the the US Hot 100.  (Disclaimer: the author acknowledges that a song's US chart position is not directly relational to its quality.)

VolumeYearsHot 100 Top 40
1983-1985   11      10   

Totals126 74

So, of the 240 singles presented in the series, 53% appeared in the US Hot 100, and 31% cracked the Top 40.  New Wave "Hits"?  Draw your own conclusion.  As one might guess, the UK chart numbers would be much higher - maybe we'll look at those another time.


  1. Many, many acts can conceivably be defined as "New Wave" in style, if not in substance... I think that's probably what Rhino was going for with the Corey Harts of the world.

  2. HERC ain't about to get hung up on labels - his favorite record stores have always been the ones that simply alphabetized their inventory rather than broke it down by genre. There's just something about seeing Beastie Boys next to Beatles next to Beethoven that warms his wittle heart. And despite everything that is wrong with the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame, the induction of hip-hop, rap, pop, reggae and disco artists is a beautiful thing.

    The UK Charts, whether those of the Ofiical Chart Company or NME, would be awesome and welcome as well as relevant. HERC is a huge fan of both charts.

  3. Gotta agree with Herc. Nothing more challenging than trying to figure out where a store has decided to put a particular artist/band. I too would prefer direct alphabetizing rather than genre labeling.

  4. My only complaint (for now) is, How in the hell could they have left off of the compilation one of the songs that DEFINED “New Wave” in the eighties, GIRLS LIKE ME by Bonnie Hayes and the Wild Combo?!?