Bubbling Under, 3/26/83

There was a lot of fabulous stuff hitting the pop scene in the spring of 83 that never made the Top 40.  Today and Friday, I’ll highlight some of those tracks from 3/26/83, which is this coming weekend’s featured 80s rebroadcast.  Many are pretty well-known and still in rotation on various stations today; others, maybe not so much.

The Bubbling Under section on Billboard’s Pop Singles chart is comprised of the songs that would be in slots #101-110 were such tunes officially listed. One of those ten from this week, Champaign’s “Try Again,” at #103, went on to make AT40, reaching #23. But five others that fell short of being played by Casey were very good-to-amazing and are still in my head after thirty-five years. I haven’t paid strict attention to all that many of these just-outside-the-Hot 100 lists, but this strikes me as a high percentage of high quality stuff for that range. Let’s get to it!

#109: U2, “New Year’s Day”

It would be almost a year before I purchased War in perhaps the single-most important music-buying trip of my life. I know I was hearing this song on WKQQ (then at 98.1 on the dial) during the spring of 83, though. It’s gotta be in my U2 Top 5. Peaked at #53.

#107: George Clinton, “Atomic Dog”

WLAP-FM 94.5 was the Top 40 station in Lexington at the time, but there was also a station in nearby Winchester at 100.1 on the dial (I forget its call letters) that had a more expansive playlist, including a bit of a focus on R&B/soul/funk/rap. That’s how I came across “Atomic Dog” by funkmeister George Clinton. Bow wow wow yippy yo yippy yay! Peaked at #101.

#105: Fixx, “Red Skies”

I’m thinking I learned about this one via MTV, as it got plenty of play there after the Fixx broke through later in 83. I don’t know much about their stuff outside the singles, which overall I like but still find hit or miss. “Red Skies” is one of the better ones, but not quite up there with “Stand or Fall,” “The Sign of Fire,” or “Secret Separation.” Also peaked at #101.

#104: Scandal, “Love’s Got a Line on You”

I know that Q102 in Cincinnati supported Scandal heavily in 83, playing “Love’s Got a Line on You” after I was home for the summer; I imagine they’d featured the first single, “Goodbye to You,” as well. Both are pop classics in my view and should have been big hits. This one’s almost been forgotten, though, while “Goodbye,” admittedly the catchier tune, still gets played pretty often (YouTube views: 350K for “Love’s,” over 7M for “Goodbye”). Peaked at #59, six spots higher than “Goodbye to You.”

#102: Modern English, “I Melt with You”

One of my 10 favorite 80s songs. I absolutely was hearing it and loving it that spring, certainly on 100.1 and maybe on WKQQ, too. Never saw the movie Valley Girl but I was aware this was on the soundtrack. It’s another one whose video I saw on MTV a bunch.

One of the albums that WTLX got as a freebie in the fall of 83 from Disc Jockey Records was Wire Train’s …In a Chamber. I gave it a spin or two down at the station, and was struck by how similar “I Forget It All (When I See You)” is to “I Melt With You.” There’s no way someone isn’t ripping someone else off here.

Peaked at #78 (sadly).

On Friday, several tunes in the Hot 100 on 3/26/83 that never cracked the Top 40.


American Top 40 PastBlast, 3/19/88: Debbie Gibson, “Out of the Blue”

In the great teen singer wars of 87-89 pitting Tiffany Darwish against Debbie Gibson, I was very much on Team Debbie. It’s not that I didn’t hear the appeal of “I Think We’re Alone Now” or “Could’ve Been,” but they both came pretty close to pegging the kitsch-o-meter.  There was just charm in Gibson’s hit songs though; I’m pretty sure I was aware that she was writing her own material, which likely boosted her cred with me. I enjoyed all of the first four releases from Out of the Blue, and figured she was on her way to a decade-plus-long career. It was more than a little surprising when her pop career stalled out following her second album. She has done plenty of recording, theater, and some B-grade movie acting in the time since (even co-starring in something called Mega Python vs. Gatoroid with Tiffany).

Those two are locking horns on this week’s rebroadcast, both with their third hits. The title track from Gibson’s album is at #7, headed toward #3, while Darwish has the fairly awful “I Saw Him Standing There” at #28 that would get to #7 (the original was one of my father’s very favorite songs, and I can’t cut her any slack for taking it on).

They both wound up with two #1 songs, but Debbie won the battle of Top 10 singles, 5-4 and Top 40 hits, 9-5.

On a completely unrelated note, it was right around this time in March 88 that I bought a CD player for my own (I’d been taking advantage of Jim’s since the summer). The race to build my collection started very soon thereafter. Somewhat foolishly, a number of my early purchases were albums I already had on vinyl: the first two, bought at the store the night I got the player, were Foreigner’s 4 and Al Stewart’s Time Passages. I don’t regret the latter, but I was definitely less interested in the AOR of my earlier days by this time, and getting even less so.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 3/19/77: Natalie Cole, “I’ve Got Love on My Mind”

I started paying closer attention to AT40 in March 76, after I figured out that the shows ran Sunday evenings at 6pm on 1360 WSAI. One of the songs I remember Casey playing at that time was “Inseparable,” by Natalie Cole, though just weeks later I wouldn’t have been able to say much about it other than it was a ballad. I’d also missed out on the peppy “This Will Be (an Everlasting Love)” in late 75, but became well familiar with the other pop hits she had through my middle/high school years and in her post-rehab comeback while I was in grad school.

There’s not too much that excites me from her latter period; plenty of folks were creeped out by/against the idea of her singing “Unforgettable” alongside her father’s ghost, but I thought it sounded pretty good and was a sweet tribute. As for the earlier stuff, the two I like the best are the funky “Sophisticated Lady (She’s a Different Lady)” and this week’s feature. “I’ve Got Love on My Mind” is just drop-dead gorgeous, and Natalie displays such a range of emotions and vocal stylings in singing it. It’s at #14 and got to #5, tied for her highest pop peak position (with “Pink Cadillac,” which happens to be on the 88 show also being broadcast this weekend). As much as I love Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” there’s no way it should have beaten “I’ve Got Love on My Mind” for the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance Grammy in 78 (to be honest, though, I wouldn’t have felt that way forty years ago).

Semi-interesting thing I learned this week: Natalie’s first five pop hits (and a sizable majority of the songs on her first four albums) were written by Marvin Yancy and Chuck Jackson, formerly of the Independents, who scored a modest hit with the very fine “Leaving Me” in 73. Yancy was also Cole’s first husband, from 76 to 80.

Natalie’s passing on New Year’s Eve 2015 seemed to set off a wave of musical deaths. She had talent and did some very nice work; I’m sorry her addiction issues wound up shortening her years.

American Top 40 PastBlast Redux, 6/6/87: Pseudo Echo, “Funkytown”

Before I started this blog, I posted about songs from old AT40s on Facebook, January-July 2017. I’ll be moving them here over time. This entry has been edited a little from the original.

The original version, by Lipps Inc., was #1 for four weeks, one of which was exactly seven years previous to this countdown.   The cover, by an Australian quartet, was their single splash on the US Top 40.  I liked both takes pretty well.  This version got to #6–it’s debuting here at #36.  Have to say there’s not much to the video–I’m wondering if the bass player is really a musician or just bad at play-acting.


3/10/79 and 3/1/80 Charts

Here’s an idea of what my 79 and 80 charts looked like. First up, this past weekend’s 3/10/79 show:

The names of artists who were new to the chart were known to befuddle me; I clearly didn’t always understand what Casey was saying. Here, I botched Giorgio Moroder, Sister Sledge, and Bell and James (looks like I ultimately decided James was a first, not a last name).

At the beginning of 79, I started at the bottom of page two, worked my way up and then to the front. As you can see, I inserted extras, LDDs, and archive #1 songs where they were played in the show. That regularly left blank lines at the top of the front page, as I couldn’t know how many extra songs would be played (this was especially true early in the year, before they started recapping the top three from the previous week). About halfway through the year, I began dedicating the top twenty lines of each side to the forty songs charting that week, leaving the other tunes played to live at the bottom. The only period in my chart-keeping that I consistently used cursive was March through December of 79.

And here’s 3/1/80 from the previous weekend’s 80s show:


This time I goofed up on Syreeta Wright. Ugh! (I did ace Christopher Cross, however–insert smiley emoji.) It appears I first wrote down Linda Ronstadt as singing “An American Dream.” (Did Casey mention she was doing back-up before he played it on this show? That might explain my carelessness.) I also first claimed that John Stewart sang “I’m Sorry.” Definitely was off my game…

80 was the year I used yellow legal paper (it’s more yellow in real life than it looks here). Stylistically it’s similar to the 78 charts, getting everything on one side of a sheet. I changed things up a bit at mid-year again, rearranging to allow the top 20 songs to each get their own line.

As far as predictions go, I was pretty bad in 79 and a little better in 80 (got all of the top 5 plus several others).



American Top 40 PastBlast, 3/8/86: Starship, “Sara”

There was this thing in the mid-80s in Kentucky called the Governor’s Sweet 16, a series of academic competitions broadly patterned after the state boys’ and girls’ basketball championships.* They were held in a variety of subjects, one of which was computer programming. Dr. Miller, my advisor, wound up as one of the primary organizers. In early 86, he recruited the computer science majors at Transy, including me, to help with both the regional and final competitions.

These sorts of events began being held after I’d already graduated from HS, so I’m not totally clear on how they were set up. I’m pretty sure, though, that there were four regionals held around the state, with the top four finishers advancing to the finals. I helped with two, maybe three, of them that winter. Generally we were up before dawn on Saturday morning, loading up vans with bulky PCs and the other necessary equipment. Once on site, we had to set them up and test them before competing teams arrived. During the competition itself, we were mainly gofers, and afterward, it was up to us to do everything in reverse. One of the regionals I attended—maybe at Western Kentucky University, in Bowling Green—required an overnight stay.

The finals were held at Transy, in mid-March, toward the end of spring break. Dr. Miller twisted enough of our arms to give up part of our week to come back and help (he had a way of making it hard to say no). I have this vague memory of somewhat serious glitches arising during the competition, but I assume in the end a victor was crowned. After it was over, James, Suzanne, Michelle, and I (CS majors all, three of us seniors), headed south to hike around Cumberland Falls State Park. I’m pretty sure it was on that trip that I first heard Miss Jackson sing “What Have You Done for Me Lately.”

But that’s not in the show this week. Up near the top (at #2—it’d be #1 on the following countdown), though, is a song I see myself hearing (if that makes any sense) on that foray to WKU. Seems like several of us were staying in a suite of some sort on campus. Don’t know now if it was on radio or MTV in that place, but “Sara” is in my head when I think back to it.

I’ll be somewhat contrarian here and claim I find “We Built This City” and “Sara” are both enjoyable listens (maybe guilty pleasures is more accurate). I won’t say that for much else of Starship’s output—“Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” their other #1, I know find particularly soulless. Mickey Thomas sure moved far away from singing songs like “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” and “Jane.”

*We don’t really do classifications in hoops in our commonwealth—at the end of the season all the schools in the state compete for a single trophy. One school emerges from each of sixteen Regions to play in “The Sweet 16,” which takes place over five days. Some while back, they did create a statewide, mid-season tournament for smaller schools, “The All A Classic,” to give them a greater chance at glory.

American Top 40 PastBlast, 3/10/79: Sister Sledge, “He’s the Greatest Dancer”

My 9th grade Health & PE teacher was Ms. Ryan (she was also sponsor for the cheerleaders and coach for the softball and girls’ track teams during my high school years). That spring, with the birth of her first child fast approaching, we got a long-term sub/student teacher, a young woman whose name I’ve long forgotten. What I do recall about her is the disco line dancing she taught us.

We spent a few weeks of our PE time in March and/or April on this effort; I guess it wasn’t entirely unreasonable to do as far as aerobic exercise goes (it does make me think she may have spent some of her evenings at nightclubs). I didn’t pay too much attention to the names of the dances we learned, but I know we did some variation of the thing from Saturday Night Fever (finger points and all), and it could well be we tried to tackle the Bus Stop. “YMCA” was all the rage right at this time, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we spelled that out as part of it all, too.

Spring 79 was close to the perfect time for this sort of activity. While disco music had been around for over four years at this point and had spawned many musical careers, movies like SNF and Thank God It’s Friday had catapulted it to near ubiquity. (Casey says on this show that there are 13 disco songs on it, to that point an all-time high.) It wouldn’t be long before the scene started sinking under its own weight, however.  The backlash came swiftly, and with a vengeance; Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park in Chicago was just a few months away, and soon adult contemporary, country, and even a little new wave ruled the charts. It would have been unfathomably uncool to learn those moves just a year later.

I don’t remember to which songs we boogied down, but this dynamite groove from Sister Sledge would have been an excellent choice. The four siblings (Debbie, Joni, Kim, and Kathy, who’s singing lead) from Philly caught their big break when Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic took an interest in them; their first two albums had stiffed. While “We Are Family” is forever their most-noted song, I’ve always liked this one better, even if the lyrics are an ode to superficial attraction. It’s debuting at #38, just ahead of Chic’s “I Want Your Love”—two slinky, fantastic bass lines from Edwards back-to-back!—and it got to #9. Sorry that the sound quality in the video isn’t all that good, but at least we get to see some fine moves from the era. As it turns out, today is the first anniversary of Joni’s death.

Ms. Ryan is still part of the Walton community and remains much beloved. Amazing to me to think that the baby boy she had that spring is now almost 39.