American Top 40 PastBlast, 6/14/80: Spider, “New Romance (It’s a Mystery)”

1) When I was 16, our family took a two-week vacation to Hawaii. We went with a tour group of maybe around 30 people; Amy and I were the youngest by a fair margin. It was my first time on an airplane. On the way out, we had stops in Chicago and San Francisco, and the layover at the latter was long enough to take a quick bus tour of the city. On one of the legs—I can’t recall now if it was ORD -> SFO or SFO -> HNL—we got bumped up to first-class, still my only experience of that kind.

We visited Oahu, the Big Island, and Maui.  Some of the moments I can recall include visiting Pearl Harbor, going out on a boat for a few hours’ cruise off the Kona coast (I spent much of it listening to the 6/21/80 AT40 on the radio I’d thought to bring with me, even as Amy and I jumped into the ocean to swim next to the boat for a while), seeing Jim Nabors in concert, and valiantly attempting—but overall failing—to converse en español con una niña about my age I had met on Ka’anapali Beach (I had recently finished my second year of studying Spanish).

2) This show, if you add enough qualifiers, is notable in some sense. It’s the final Casey-hosted, non-special, non-year-end 80s show to be rebroadcast on terrestrial radio as a part of the Premiere Networks series (which started in April 2007). According to this site, there were 51 times during the 80s when a guest host filled in for CK; to date only one of those shows, that hosted by the late Gary Owens in September 81, has been offered up to stations. The 7/5/80 special (AT40 Book of Records) hasn’t seen the light of day yet, nor has the first half (#100-#51) of the 86 year-end countdown; I’d bet on the latter to crop up in December.

For the record, I count 26 regular Casey-hosted shows yet to be aired in the 70s series, plus all of the 72 and part of the 78 year-enders. They could work it out so that all were rebroadcast by the end of 2019, but I kinda expect it will bleed into 2020.

3) The penultimate show to appear for the first time was 5/16/87, which I noted last month wasn’t so much my cup of tea. The chart for 6/14/80 (the day my family departed for the 50th state) is in some ways the opposite; it’s much harder to narrow it down to a single song to feature. I’m sorely tempted to go with that clever ode to technology, “Answering Machine,” by Rupert Holmes, which debuts at #35. Instead, I chose one that unjustly peaked at only #39, here in its second and final week on the countdown.

Spider, a South African/American band with Amanda Blue on vocals, hung around for two albums but had only this one foray onto the Top 40. They had two members with notable post-Spider careers: drummer Anton Fig later joined the World’s Most Dangerous Band, and on keyboards there was Hall of Fame Songwriter Holly Knight. While there are a few crimes against humanity in and amongst her oeuvre, several of her tunes (some which she only co-wrote) land on my guilty-pleasure-to-very-very-good spectrum, including “Never,” “The Warrior,” “Love Is a Battlefield,” “Change,” and “Better Be Good to Me.” The latter two appear on Spider’s second LP.  John Waite made some changes (pun intended, I guess?) for the better IMO when he covered “Change.” I love Tina’s version of “BBGtM,” but it’s striking how very similar her arrangement is to the original.

“New Romance (It’s a Mystery)” sounds so good that it’s a mystery to me why it didn’t break out more. Maybe about a year later, I called in to a fairly new Top 40 station in Cincinnati (anyone remember WYYS—Yes 95?) to request it. The DJ expressed sympathy for my plea—she said she’d played it at her previous job in Atlanta during its run—but told me there wasn’t anything she could do to put it on the air in that spring of 81. Sigh; while I’d like to think not responding to requests is what led to a switch in formats to soft rock just a few months later, I know in reality they were simply getting eaten alive in the ratings by WKRQ.

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2 Comments

  1. I worked at an AM/FM combo in Dubuque, Iowa, from 1979 to 1983 (with one summer off). The music director of the FM fancied that he had the ears of a hitmaker, so he was quick to jump on lots of records. A lot of the time it meant playing stiffs, but now and then he picked a winner. If I’m recalling correctly, “New Romance” was one of them. He got a few gold records along the way, and occasional thank-you mentions in liner notes. I believe he was mentioned in the liner notes of the Spider album.

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