American Top 40 Flashback: October 18, 1980

The full chart from October 18, 1980: https://weeklytop40.wordpre…

How’s the chart as a whole?

We conclude our tour through the 80s with a visit to the turn of the decade. A year after Disco Demolition Night, there was still enough disco in the pipeline to keep the genre on life support. Actually, I’d go further than that– I think there was enough great disco and disco-adjacent music released in 1980 to make it sneakily one of the better years for pop singles in the rock era. There’s disco cross-pollinated with rock, pop, soul, funk, and adult contemporary (or in the case of “The Wanderer,” all of these at the same time), and it rarely sounds forced or awkward in a “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” way. That said, an oppressive gray fog is starting to creep into the picture, in the form of the easy-listening schmaltz and anonymous studio-band blandness that would dominate the next two years. But for now, we have a nice mix of disco, classic rock, singer-songwriter work with personality, and even some not-at-all-bad crossover country music. I give this week a B-plus.

Forgotten gems

#11 – Donna Summer, “The Wanderer”

This week finds Donna Summer competitng with herself– she had recently switched record labels, and her old label (Casablanca) continued to release singles from the Bad Girls album even as she debuted a new album that attempted to pivot away from disco. I love the sheer audacity of “The Wanderer,” which combines old-school rock and roll, new wave, disco and… hmm, lounge music (?) into something that sounds like nothing else on the chart.

#19 – Stevie Wonder, “Master Blaster”

Since I called Stevie out last week for the worst #1 hit of 1984, this week I’ll highlight a song that starts as a kind of awkward stab at reggae, but settles into a classic Stevie groove.

#28 – The Jacksons, “Lovely One”

This was only a normal-sized hit as opposed to a megahit, so it gets lost in the Jackson shuffle, but this is still a heck of a jam.

#37 – The Cars, “Touch and Go”

The sole Top 40 single from the Cars’ “difficult” third album is too eccentric to reach for the top of the charts. With its icy synths, extended guitar solos, and achingly lovely chorus, it almost sounds like three different songs, but it all hangs together somehow, and I hear echoes of it in the New Pornographers’ recent output.

Justly forgotten

#29 – The Larsen/Feiten Band, “Who’ll Be the Fool Tonight?”

One of the most anonymous top 30 hits of the decade– these guys don’t even have a proper Wikipedia page. Unfortunately, there would be a lot more music like this in the next two years.

#32 – Stacy Lattisaw, “Let Me Be Your Angel”

Lattisaw was only 13 when this came out, so I don’t want to be too hard on her… but it’s bad.

#15 – Robbie Dupree, “Hot Rod Hearts”

Not worth listening to, but at least it’s not a wholesale ripoff like his bigger hit.

Is the #1 song worthy?

“Another One Bites the Dust” — Absolutely. It’s the worthiest #1 we’ve heard by far.

Is there a Rick Springfield song?


Bubbling under

“You Shook Me All Night Long,” the “Dukes of Hazzard” theme.
Further down: “Private Idaho,” and a song by Burt Reynolds.

Top five

#1 – Queen, “Another One Bites the Dust”
#26 – Devo, “Whip It”
#11 – Donna Summer, “The Wanderer”
#3 – Diana Ross, “Upside Down”
#40 – Pat Benatar, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”

Honorable mention: “Lovely One,” “Drivin’ My Life Away,” “Touch and Go,” “Master Blaster,” “That Girl Could Sing,” “Woman in Love”