August 29, 2005

Music in '81

I caught this meme on Red's site - rate the music of the year you graduated from high school.

Red, I'm sure, has no idea how lucky she was she graduated from high school in 1985 (the year I got out of college). While music improved a lot between 1979 (the year I got my first radio job) and the beginning of the Reagan years, it's really incredible how much influence the DIY, punk, wave and especially the melding of white and black music had on music four years later.

(The idea, of course, is to go to Music Outfitters, enter the year you got out of high school in the search box, copy and paste it into a blog post or wherever, cross out the ones you don't like, bold the ones you do, and underline your favorite.

The scary part is, if I were doing Sheila's list, it'd be a LOT harder.

So here's the top 100 of 1981:

1. Bette Davis Eyes, Kim Carnes
2. Endless Love, Diana Ross and Lionel Richie
3. Lady, Kenny Rogers
4. (Just Like) Starting Over, John Lennon
5. Jessie's Girl, Rick Springfield
6. Celebration, Kool and The Gang
7. Kiss On My List, Daryl Hall and John Oates
8. I Love A Rainy Night, Eddie Rabbitt
9. 9 To 5, Dolly Parton
10. Keep On Loving You, REO Speedwagon
11. Theme From "Greatest American Hero", Joey Scarbury
12. Morning Train (Nine To Five), Sheena Easton
13. Being With You, Smokey Robinson
14. Queen Of Hearts, Juice Newton
15. Rapture, Blondie
16. A Woman Needs Love, Ray Parker Jr. and Raydio
17. The Tide Is High, Blondie
18. Just The Two Of Us, Grover Washington Jr.
19. Slow Hand, Pointer Sisters
20. I Love You, Climax Blues Band
21. Woman, John Lennon
22. Sukiyaki, A Taste Of Honey
23. The Winner Takes It All, Abba
24. Medley, Stars On 45
25. Angel Of The Morning, Juice Newton
26.Love On The Rocks, Neil Diamond
27. Every Woman In The World, Air Supply
28. The One That You Love, Air Supply
29. Guilty, Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb
30. The Best Of Times, Styx
31. Elvira, Oak Ridge Boys
32. Take It On The Run, REO Speedwagon
33. No Gettin' Over Me, Ronnie Milsap
34. Living Outside Myself, Gino Vannelli
35. Woman In Love, Barbra Streisand

36. Boy From New York City, Manhattan Transfer
37. Urgent, Foreigner
38. Passion, Rod Stewart
39. Lady (You Bring Me Up), Commodores
40. Crying, Don Mclean
41. Hearts, Marty Balin
42. It's My Turn, Diana Ross

43. You Make My Dreams, Daryl Hall and John Oates
44. I Don't Need You, Kenny Rogers
45. How 'Bout Us, Champaign

46. Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Pat Benatar
47. The Breakup Song, Greg Kihn Band
48. Time, Alan Parsons Project
49. Hungry Heart, Bruce Springsteen
50. Sweetheart, Franke and The Knockouts
51. Someone's Knockin', Terri Gibbs
52. More Than I Can Say, Leo Sayer
53. Together, Tierra
54. Too Much Time On My Hands, Styx
55. What Are We Doin' In Love, Dottie West
56. Who's Crying Now, Journey
57. De Do Do Do, De Da Da, Police
58. This Little Girl, Gary U.S. Bonds
59. Stop Draggin' My Heart Around, Stevie Nicks With Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
60. Giving It Up For Your Love, Delbert McClinton
61. A Little In Love, Cliff Richard
62. America, Neil Diamond
63. Ain't Even Done With The Night, John Cougar
64. Arthur's Theme, Christopher Cross
65. Another One Bites The Dust, Queen
66. Games People Play, Alan Parsons Project
67. I Can't Stand It, Eric Clapton
68. While You See A Chance, Steve Winwood
69. Master Blaster, Stevie Wonder
70. Hello Again, Neil Diamond
71. Don't Stand So Close To Me, Police
72. Hey Nineteen, Steely Dan
73. I Ain't Gonna Stand For It, Stevie Wonder
74. All Those Years Ago, George Harrison
75. Step By Step, Eddie Rabbitt
76. The Stroke, Billy Squier (an intensely guilty pleasure)
77. Feels So Right, Alabama
78. Sweet Baby, Stanley Clarke and George Duke
79. Same Old Lang Syne, Dan Fogelberg
80. Cool Love, Pablo Cruise
81. Hold On Tight, ELO
82. It's Now Or Never, John Schneider
83. Treat Me Right, Pat Benatar
84. Winning, Santana
85. What Kind Of Fool, Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb
86. Watching The Wheels, John Lennon
87. Tell It Like It Is, Heart
88. Smoky Mountain Rain, Ronnie Milsap
89. I Made It Through The Rain, Barry Manilow
90.You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin', Daryl Hall and John Oates
91. Suddenly, Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard
92. For Your Eyes Only, Sheena Easton
93. The Beach Boys Medley, Beach Boys
94. Whip It, Devo
95. Modern Girl, Sheena Easton
96. Really Wanna Know You, Gary Wright
97. Seven Year Ache, Rosanne Cash
98. I'm Coming Out, Diana Ross
99. Miss Sun, Boz Scaggs
100. Time Is Time, Andy Gibb (also intensely guilty)

1981 was kind of the last year of the Seventies; Barbra Streisand has three entries in the charts (which was, if I recall, more than she had the rest of her career), disco is still a factor (Diana Ross, Barry Gibb), the last dribbles of the Country Pop fad of the late seventies (Alabama, Eddie Rabbit, Juice Newton, Kenny Rogers, Ronnie Milsap) are oozing through the year, and the last gasps of gloppy seventies-style pop-rock (Styx, Pablo Cruise, Marty Balin, Grover Washington) polluted the airwaves.

The nouveau regime was also present, both the genuine article (Devo, the Police) and a bunch of seventies staples who applied the style like a form of musical plastic surgery (Kim Carnes' "Betty Davis Eyes" slathered on synths and synthclaps like Norma Desmond trowelling on pan makeup, Andy Gibb's "Time Is Time" sounded gloriously uncomfortable, First British Invasion holdover Cliff Richard was surprisingly good, and of course Rick Springfield and Pat Benetar).

Two years earlier, Barbra Streisand was on the cover of Rolling Stone, and Dire Straits, the Cars and the Police were breezy incongruities on the Top Forty. Two years later, U2, the Alarm, Big Country, the Clash, Thomas Dolby, INXS, the Pretenders, Madness and a vast slew of wave, post-punk and do-it-yourself synth pop dominated the charts, and the likes of Streisand, Carly Simon and Gary Wright vanished to the novelty circuit.

It was also the last year that John Mellencamp completely, irredeemably sucked, as well as the last year where there were as many Bruce Springsteen covers on the charts as songs by Bruce himself ("Hungry Heart", Gary U.S. Bonds' wonderful "This Little Girl")

I'd forgotten that Roseanne Cash's gorgeous "Seven Year Ache" was that old - or that Alan Parsons' dreary "Time" was that young...

Highlights and lowlights:

  • I remember thinking "There's no way Styx can get worse than Paradise Theater". We were, of course, three years away from "Mr. Roboto".
  • Being the year after John Lennon was murdered (or "assassinated", as Rolling Stone kept saying), you couldn't escape him. Unfortunately, I didn't like Lennon's post-Beatles catalog then, I like it less now, and even then Double Fantasy was a dismal record. It surprises me how many Lennon singles there are on the charts; they all sounded the same to me back then; I think I started singing "Woman", I'd finish with "Watching the Wheels"...
  • I know what you're thinking; Mitch, you punk leviathan you, picked Steve Friggin' Winwood's "While You See A Chance" as your favorite song of the year? You betcha. Partly because it was a cool song, partly because it fluidly mixed old keyboards (Hammond B-3, Rhodes Piano) with electronic keys (the synth sax and horn parts), and partly because it was an epochal moment. I was about to ask a major crushgrrl out to prom; I put it off a few minutes - during which time one of my best friends asked her. That song still roils through my mind when I'm pondering an borderline-impulsive move.
I envy all you damn kids who graduated in 1982 or '83. Now there were some years in music!

(On the other hand, I pity anyone who got out of school in 1979, 1989, 1994 or 2001...)

Posted by Mitch at August 29, 2005 04:09 AM | TrackBack

Well...I got out in '73 and didn't like ANY of the crap on that list (with a few exceptions...Elton John, John Denver (yes, really...I grew up right in the thick of the places he sang about in "Rocky Mountain High"). They didn't play Led Zeppelin, Neil Young or the Allman Brothers on the radio. "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" was #1 on the list and it just got worse and worse from there (well, how could it?)!

Posted by: Colleen at August 29, 2005 07:07 AM

Dude, check out 1977. I'd have to say scratch out the first two dozen or so "songs." It was bad enough listening to them the first time.

Posted by: nathan bissonette at August 29, 2005 09:29 AM

Mitch, 1982 was a good year for music; unfortunately, very little of it made it to the twin cities airwaves. I highlight a better list for 1982,

Posted by: bill at August 29, 2005 10:19 AM

So we only actually played 2 contemporary songs?

BLITZ forever!

Posted by: fingers at August 29, 2005 10:43 AM


Yep! Well, there were a few that weren't on the chart - "Living After Midnight" was '81, but never got on the Top100 for some reason.

I bet if we trolled through '78-'80 we'd find a few more.

But only a few.

Posted by: Mitch at August 29, 2005 11:18 AM

1990 was a dead year, I didn't realize it at the time, if it wasn't for Tesla I couldn't pick a favorite. Honestly just dead; there was no U2 or REM, Tom Petty had lost his edge and there isn't a single album with any of the top 100 songs that I still listen to occassionally. The Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson, Madonna domination is suffocating.

Posted by: Matt at August 29, 2005 03:43 PM

Thanks for the pity Mitch. I'm usually pretty averse to that but when it comes to most of the pop music of 1979, speaks for itself.

Posted by: Dave E at August 29, 2005 07:34 PM

Thanks Mitch, I thought I'd better jump in the game being a long time music nut. Check the post at I was one of those you mentioned from 1983... Like you said it was a good year. Hey there's always going to be slop, but all in all, there was a hell of a lot of great material looking back on 1983. I would go so far to say it was a great year or point in time for music, seeing at once the maturity of Punk, New Wave and DIY, the evolution of disco and funk into message-rap and a new phase of sexy/peppy R&B with Marvin Gaye leading the way. On the downside, country was at a the nadir of both soul and quality. But metal was screaming to be heard, and not just hair bands either, though they did not rate well on either of the below lists, Metallica, Thin Lizzy, Motorhead and Blue Oyster Cult to name a few.

Posted by: Derek at August 30, 2005 11:18 PM
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