American Top 40 Flashback: September 26, 1981

The full chart:

How’s the chart as a whole?

I regret wasting that F on last week’s chart from 1986. While that chart was full of tacky, disposable music, much of it was at least peppy and listenable. 1981, on the other hand, sees classic rock, easy listening, quiet storm and country fuse into a dismal blob that lacks style or personality. The connective tissue that holds this chart together is sickly and diseased. Heck, I’d gladly take a Stacey Q or Nu Shooz this week. Notwithstanding a few highlights– which we mostly miss this week– 1981 is my least favorite year of the decade on the American pop charts. This week gets an F, and I’m upgrading last week’s chart to a D-plus.

Forgotten gems

#26 – Rick Springfield, “I’ve Done Everything For You”

There really aren’t a lot of contenders for the forgotten gems category this week– the songs worth hearing have largely endured. I suppose Rick Springfield’s follow-up to “Jessie’s Girl” counts, though I still hear it every once in a while. Springfield speeds up Sammy Hagar’s original and adds some early rock-n-roll guitar flair. The singer is still an asshole, but it’s a little easier to ignore that than it is in Hagar’s version.

#22 – Balance, “Breaking Away”

Context is everything. This isn’t a particularly good song– it repeats the title phrase twenty-three times, by my count– but its brightness and energy stand out on this chart. Balance’s follow-up single hit #58, then the band got caught in a record label shuffle and disappeared.

#22 – Lulu, “I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do)”

This song was actually recorded in 1978, and sounds a little bit out of step with the times, which is really not a bad thing this week. This is a solid disco-soul song with a strong vocal performance, and I like it far better than Lulu’s biggest hit, “To Sir With Love,” the #1 single of 1968 in the US.

#30 – The Four Tops, “When She Was My Girl”

OK, I don’t even enjoy these “gems” very much. Here the Four Tops wrestle with the blandly synthesized sound of 1981, and escape with their dignity intact.

Justly forgotten

#34 – The Afternoon Delights, “General Hospi-tale”

A rap recapping the plot of “General Hospital.” Surely this hip-hop thing is a fad that will never last, right? One of the weirdest things to hit the top forty this decade.

#28 – Kim Carnes, “Draw of the Cards”

This must have come as a profound disappointment to anyone who loved “Bette Davis Eyes” (as I do).

#35 – Carl Carlton, “She’s a Bad Mama Jama”

Carlton’s leering sounds postively generic next to Rick James, or the obvious antecedent, “Brick House.”

Is the #1 worthy?

“Endless Love” – No. Lionel Richie drags Diana Ross down into easy listening hell… and the top of the 1981 charts.

Bubbling under

The theme from “Hill Street Blues,” Blue Oyster Cult’s “Burnin’ For You,” “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” and “My Girl” by Chilliwack, which I’d much rather be writing about in the forgotten gems section than the songs above.

Is there a Rick Springfield song?

There are two Rick Springfield songs.

Top five

#23 – Rick James, “Super Freak”
#18 – Hall and Oates, “Private Eyes”
#4 – Foreigner, “Urgent”
#3 – Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”
#12 – The Pointer Sisters, “Slow Hand”

Honorable mention: “The Breakup Song,” “Start Me Up,” “I’ve Done Everything For You,” “When She Was My Girl,” “Jessie’s Girl”