American Top 40 Flashback: September 4, 1982

American Top 40 – September 4, 1982 – Here’s the link to the full chart.

How’s the chart as a whole?

Along with 1981, 1982 has the feel of a transitional year, with disco finally dead as a doornail and MTV not yet a dominant cultural force. What’s fascinating to me in this chart is the tension between retro and futuristic sounds, with some of the retro reaching back before the British Invasion. On the one hand, we have Gary US Bonds, Marshall Crenshaw and “American Music,” and on the other we have Kim Wilde, A Flock of Seagulls and “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy.” I consider ’82 one of the weaker years of the decade, and this is a fairly mediocre countdown (at least it’s much better than my birth chart, ugh ). I give this week a C.

Forgotten gems:

#36 – Marshall Crenshaw, “Someday, Someway”

I had heard this and some other subsequent Crenshaw singles on my local indie-alternative radio station in the 90s, and it came as a pleasant surprise that Crenshaw had a brief visit to the pop top forty. It surprised me even more that he made it there before Elvis Costello did.

#12 – Donna Summer, “Love Is In Control”

Donna trades Giorgio Moroder for Quincy Jones to try and shake off some of that disco stink, and while the album wasn’t a huge hit, I find this single to be an effervescent joy.

#6 – Melissa Manchester, “You Should Hear How She Talks About You” 

Well, if the Pointer Sisters didn’t want to do something bouncy and sassy this week, I’m glad somebody picked up the slack.

Justly forgotten:

#34 – Frank and Moon Unit Zappa, “Valley Girl” 

I respect Zappa, but this is an excruciating endurance test for me. Heck, I’d rather listen to “#Selfie,” which possibly drew some inspiration from this ‘song’– at least it’s a minute and a half shorter.

#16 – The Pointer Sisters, “American Music”

This one goes in the retro column. I’ve come to appreciate the Pointer Sisters quite a bit listening to these old charts, but this is overly sentimental, and worse, lacks personality.

#40 – Paul Davis, “Love or Let Me Be Lonely”

A cover of a 1970 song by the Friends of Distinction that was never a classic to begin with, with a jarring transition from soulful verses to Fifth Dimension-style sunshine pop. This would peak here at #40.

#26 – Billy Idol, “Hot in the City”

It’s hard to believe that “Hot Child in the City” and “Hot in the City” were released just four years apart; the cultural gap feels huge. But the songs do have some similarities.

#27 – Jermaine Jackson, “Let Me Tickle Your Fancy”

Starts off a lot like Natalie Cole’s “Pink Cadillac,” which raised my hopes, but the vocoder chorus falls flat. Jermaine should listen to the Donna Summer song above.

#6 – Air Supply, “Even the Nights Are Better”

I have a soft spot for the Jim Steinman-penned cheese of “Making Love Out of Nothing At All,” but nobody needs to hear this song ever again. I’m no fan of 80s Chicago, but “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” is at least a well-crafted tune. 1982 audiences must have tired of this song pretty quickly too, because it made a stunning drop completely out of the top 40 from the #6 position two weeks later.

Is the #1 worthy?

No. “Abracadabra” has the same lazy rhyming as last week’s Huey Lewis #1, but lacks that song’s musical dynamism.

Is there a Rick Springfield song?

No, we are in a six-week gap between charting singles.

Bubbling under:

“You Dropped a Bomb on Me,” “Workin’ for a Livin’,” “Planet Rock,” “Should I Stay or Should I Go?,” “Mickey”

Top five:

#19 – The Motels, “Only the Lonely”

One of my favorite songs of this year actually plays on the retro/futurist tension, marrying the spirit of Roy Orbison’s 1960 classic to icy synthesizers.

#39 – Laura Branigan, “Gloria”

#14 – The Alan Parsons Project, “Eye in the Sky” 

My first exposure to the Alan Parsons Project as a kid came from the use of the instrumental “Sirius” in the introduction of the most awesome basketball team ever assembled– unfortunately, I had no idea who did the song. My proper introduction came when a well-meaning teacher played my class songs from “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” during a lesson on Edgar Allen Poe. I thought they were fairly lame compared to the actual Poe stories. It would take a while before I caught on to the cool elegance of APP’s 80s singles.

#25 – Kim Wilde, “Kids in America”
#15 – Men at Work, “Who Can It Be Now?”

Honorable mention: “Love Is in Control,” “Someday, Someway,” “Somebody’s Baby,” “Vacation,” “You Should Hear How She Talks About You”