Thursday, December 31, 1981

My Personal Top 100 Songs (pre-1982)

Updated 12/1/2018.

I was 15 in the summer of 1982 and was pretty enthralled with the popular music of the day. When my local top 40 radio station did a countdown of their all-time songs, I decided to emulate the list and make my own. It turned into my own weekly countdown list which I maintained all through high school, college, and even into my young adult years. I consider it ground zero for my fascination with charts.

Here are my top 100 songs from before 1982. While this list was created many years later, it is designed to reflect my tastes at that time.

1. Styx “Babe” (1979)
2. Styx “Reneage” (1978)
3. Styx “The Best of Times” (1981)
4. Pink Floyd “Another Brick in the Wall Part II” (1979)
5. Olivia Newton-John “Magic” (1980)
6. Chic “Le Freak” (1978)
7. Journey “Open Arms” (1981)
8. Foreigner “Waiting for a Girl Like You” (1981)
9. Air Supply “Lost in Love” (1980)
10. Soft Cell “Tainted Love” (1981)

11. Styx “Come Sail Away” (1977)
12. Kenny Rogers “Coward of the County” (1979)
13. Blondie “Heart of Glass” (1978)
14. Neil Diamond “America” (1981)
15. Billy Joel “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” (1980)
16. John Williams “Star Wars” (1977)
17. The Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (1963)
18. Debby Boone “You Light Up My Life” (1977)
19. Kermit “The Rainbow Connection” (1979)
20. REO Speedwagon “Keep on Loving You” (1980)

21. Barry Manilow “I Write the Songs” (1975)
22. Andrea McCardle “Tomorrow” (1977)
23. Eagles “Heartache Tonight” (1979)
24. Olivia Newton-John “Physical” (1981)
25. Little River Band “Lonesome Loser” (1979)
26. Kool & the Gang “Ladies Night” (1979)
27. Little River Band “Cool Change” (1979)
28. Billy Joel “Just the Way You Are” (1977)
29. Harry Chapin “Cat’s in the Cradle” (1974)
30. Climax Blues Band “I Love You” (1980)

31. Kenny Rogers “The Gambler” (1978)
32. Foreigner “Hot Blooded” (1978)
33. Supertramp “The Logical Song” (1979)
34. Blondie “Dreaming” (1979)
35. Eagles “I Can’t Tell You Why” (1979)
36. Queen “Another One Bites the Dust” (1980)
37. Rupert Holmes “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” (1979)
38. Air Supply “American Hearts” (1980)
39. Blondie “Call Me” (1980)
40. Kool & the Gang “Celebration” (1980)

41. Charlie Dore “Pilot of the Airwaves” (1979)
42. Kenny Rogers “Lady” (1980)
43. Foreigner “Juke Box Hero” (1981)
44. Journey “Who’s Crying Now” (1981)
45. Neil Diamond “Love on the Rocks” (1980)
46. Queen “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” (1979)
47. Supertramp “Take the Long Way Home” (1979)
48. Foreigner “Double Vision” (1978)
49. Queen “We Will Rock You” (1977)
50. Queen “We Are the Champions” (1977)

51. Commodores “Three Times a Lady” (1978)
52. Electric Light Orchestra “Don’t Bring Me Down” (1979)
53. Sister Sledge “We Are Family” (1979)
54. Gloria Gaynor “I Will Survive” (1978)
55. Nick Lowe “Cruel to Be Kind” (1979)
56. Sniff ‘N’ the Tears “Driver’s Seat” (1979)
57. Eddie Rabbitt “I Love a Rainy Night” (1980)
58. Dolly Parton “9 to 5” (1980)
59. Journey “Don’t Stop Believin’” (1981)
60. Kansas “Dust in the Wind” (1977)

61. Olivia Newton-John with Electric Light Orchestra “Xanada” (1980)
62. Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive” (1977)
63. Charlie Daniels Band “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” (1979)
64. Kansas “Carry on Wayward Son” (1976)
65. J. Geils Band “Centerfold” (1981)
66. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts “I Love Rock and Roll” (1981)
67. Lionel Richie & Diana Ross “Endless Love” (1981)
68. Kim Carnes “Bette Davis Eyes” (1981)
69. Styx “Too Much Time on My Hands” (1981)
70. Billy Joel “You May Be Right” (1980)

71. Dirt Band with Linda Ronstadt “An American Dream” (1979)
72. Paul McCartney & Wings “Silly Love Songs” (1976)
73. Barry Manilow “Copacabana (At the Copa)” (1978)
74. Village People “Y.M.C.A.” (1978)
75. Commodores “Still” (1979)
76. John Denver “Take Me Home, Country Roads” (1972)
77. The Beatles “All My Loving” (1963)
78. REO Speedwagon “Ridin’ the Storm Out (live)” (1977)
79. Rush “Tom Sawyer” (1981)
80. Blondie “Shayla” (1979)

81. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band “Against the Wind” (1980)
82. Foreigner “Urgent” (1981)
83. The Cars “Shake It Up” (1981)
84. Eagles “Take It Easy” (1972)
85. Pratt & McClain “Happy Days” (1976)
86. Van McCoy “The Hustle” (1975)
87. Chicago “If You Leave Me Now” (1976)
88. John Denver “Rocky Mountain High” (1972)
89. Hues Corporation “Rock the Boat” (1974)
90. Stars on 45 “Medley I” (1981)

91. The Beatles “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” (1967)
92. Willie Nelson “On the Road Again” (1980)
93. The Human League “Don’t You Want Me” (1981)
94. The Beatles “With a Little Help from My Friends” (1967)
95. KC & the Sunshine Band “Please Don’t Go” (1979)
96. Waylon Jennings “Just Good Ol’ Boys (Theme from The Dukes of Hazzard)” (1980)
97. John Denver “Sunshine on My Shoulders” (1971)
98. Paul McCartney & Wings “My Love” (1973)
99. Gerry Rafferty “Baker Street” (1978)
100. Rick Springfield “Jessie’s Girl” (1981)

Saturday, December 12, 1981

The Human League hit #1 in the UK with “Don’t You Want Me?”: December 12, 1981

Originally posted December 12, 2011.

When recording parent album Dare!, the Human League considered their adherence to a “strict policy of synth-only sounds” LW to be very cutting edge and a much needed break from the “archaic and antique” use of guitars. SF The song, “Don’t You Want Me?,” provided a synthesizer riff as memorable as any guitar lick, TB quieting critics who condemned the instrumental tool as bland. MUJ Marc Almond of Soft Cell went so far as to call the song “the greatest record of all time.” KL He wasn’t alone in his love for the song; it moved over 1.4 million copies in the UK to become the biggest seller of 1981. SF

In the US, the song was the first English synthesizer chart-topper, BR1 effectively launching a second British invasion, the first being helmed by the Beatles in 1964. KL That second influx of British music owed much to the launch of MTV. UK bands comprised a large chunk of the fledging music channel’s initial library, thanks to a prevalence of video shows in Europe. SF While the Human League were frequently lumped in with British New Romantic acts KL like Duran Duran, Culture Club, and Adam Ant, they really had more of a post-punk energy and were more likely to use Kraftwerk as a musical reference point. LW

The song sports a “consciously cheesy boy-girl duologue” MUJ between Phil Oakley and the two female singers. That and his “emotion-free style of his singing” LW alongside a funky melodic bass line made the song a classic. LW

Oakley has stated that an article in a woman’s magazine inspired the song SF and that it is “not a love song but about power politics between two people.” SF Interestingly, Oakley had decided that the group needed women who could dance and sing backup vocals BR1 and so, as suggested in the song, he found them in a cocktail bar and “turned them into something new.” LW Apparently their look took precedence over all else since the pair could neither sing nor dance. CR

Resources and Related Links:
  • the DMDB page for “Don’t You Want Me?”
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 556.
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 627.
  • KL Jon Kutner/Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 276.
  • LW Alan Lewens (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 151.
  • MUJ Mojo Ultimate Jukebox (supplement with April 2003 issue of Mojo magazine). “The 100 Singles You Must Own”.
  • SF
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 193.

Saturday, November 21, 1981

Olivia Newton-John hits #1 with “Physical” for first of 10 weeks

Originally posted October 3, 2012.

image from

When Olivia Newton-John took the role of Sandy in 1978’s movie version of Grease, it was clear she was looking to change her clean-cut, “good-girl image,” SF considering her character’s transformation “from virginal to vamp.” BB100 Still, “the longtime girl-next-door singer” BB100 had doubts about releasing “Physical”, SF a song “loaded with sexual innuendo.” BB100 Her managers convinced her the song would be a huge hit. SF

Still, lyrics like “There’s nothing left to talk about/ Unless it’s horizontally” got the song banned by some radio stations. At adult contemporary radio the song stalled at #29, but it took off at pop radio. In fact, the controversy probably helped the song toward becoming the biggest hit of 1981 WHC and of Olivia’s career. A Billboard magazine survey even named it the sexiest song of all-time. SF

A video heightened the controversy with what was then considered risqué, but would be tame by today’s standards. JA The video played off the aerobics movement of the day, practically becoming the theme song for the exercise trend. SF Olivia worked out in the gym with out-of-shape men who transformed into body-builder physiques. The end of the video, which suggested the men were gay and consequently immune to Olivia’s advances, was often cut when aired on MTV. WK It still picked up the Grammy for Video of the Year.

The song also was received by some critics with less than an enthusiastic response. AOL Radio’s Matthew Wilkening said, “An entire generation’s leg-warmered, pastel spandex shame is laid bare in just under four minutes.” WK He ranked it one of the 100 worst songs ever. WK


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Saturday, September 5, 1981

Soft Cell hit #1 in the UK with “Tainted Love”

First posted 4/17/2019.

Tainted Love

Soft Cell

Writer(s): Ed Cobb (see lyrics here)

Released: 7/17/1981

First Charted: 8/1/1981

Peak: 8 US, 7 CB, 58 HR, 7 RR, 12 AR, 12 UK, 13 CN, 13 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales *: -- US, 1.35 UK, 1.45 world (includes US + UK)

Radio Airplay *: --

Video Airplay *: 24.5

Streaming *: --

* in millions


While most people know this song because of Soft Cell, it actually originated in the mid-‘60s. Ed Cobb, a former member of the U.S. group the Four Preps, wrote the song about toxic relationships. He told Blender magazine, “I had a lover for whom you could say wasn’t a good individual. I tried to go into her head and write a song from her standpoint.” SF

The resulting song was recorded by American R&B singer Gloria Jones and released as the B-side of her 1965 single “My Bad Boy’s Comin’ Home.” While the song didn’t take off at the time, it found an audience years later when Richard Searling, a club DJ, picked up a copy of the song in Philadelphia in 1973. He began playing it during his sets at Va Va’s, a popular club in Bolton, England. The song found life again and Jones re-recorded it in 1976. SF

The duo of Dave Ball and Marc Almond formed Soft Cell in 1979 and, at Ball’s suggestion, recorded the song to use as an encore for their shows. KL “It was a novelty to have an electronic synthesizer band doing a soul song.” KL Soft Cell’s record label wanted them to record the song, but add bass, guitar, and drums. As Almond said, though, “We wanted to be a guitarless band…We were looked on as rubbish, but we had the last laugh.” KL

Indeed. In their native UK, Soft Cell’s recording of “Tainted Love” became the best-selling single of 1981. WK The song didn’t chart in the U.S. until the following year. By the summer of 1982, it reached #8 and before its run was done, it had accumulated a then record-breaking 43 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. WK The DMDB ranks the song as one of the top 5 new wave/college rock songs of all-time.

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Saturday, August 8, 1981

Journey Charts with Escape: August 8, 1981

Originally posted August 8, 2011.

Journey’s ‘Escape’-era lineup, left to right:
Jonathan Cain, Ross Vallory, Neal Schon, Steve Perry, Steve Smith

1981 was the year of arena rock. REO Speedwagon, Styx, Foreigner, and Journey had all been around since at least the mid-‘70s and amassed huge followings, but peaked that year with the only #1 albums of their careers. All four albums marked the groups’ biggest selling studio efforts and were supported by at least two top ten hits each. All four make the Dave’s Music Database lists of top 1000 albums of all time and Top 100 Classic Rock Albums, although Foreigner makes the latter with its debut and not 1981’s Foreigner 4.

All four groups were savaged by critics. Their power ballads were mocked and their proclivity toward radio-friendly rock wasn’t taken seriously. All four bands have been eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a decade; none are in.

Of the four kings of arena rock, however, Journey may be laughing the hardest in the critics’ faces. In the last five years, their song “Don’t Stop Believin’”, had a surprising resurgence when it was used in the finale of television’s The Sopranos. Then it also served as the springboard for Glee, giving that television franchise a #4 hit with the first of their many covers which would dethrone Elvis Presley for most chart hits in Billboard Hot 100 history. Read more about that in my Pop Matters column, Is Glee the New Elvis, Really?

Of course, the song did just fine the first time around. It was one of three top-ten, million-selling singles from Escape, sandwiched in between power ballads “Who’s Crying Now” and “Open Arms”. However, the revival of the song in the digital age has now lifted it to 2.9 million in sales worldwide. Journey’s new-found success lifted them to their loftiest heights in years – their 2008 album Revelation went top five and platinum in the U.S.

As for the original album’s success, it marked the debut of Jonathan Cain as the group’s new keyboardist. He also co-wrote every song on the album, CR which had a lot to do with the group’s boosted commercial appeal. The “heartfelt songwriting and sturdy musicianship” MD has “a way of rekindling the innocence of youthful romance and the rebelliousness of growing up.” MD

Of course, Journey also retained some of the best qualities from pre-Escape days, namely “Neal Schon’s grand yet palatable guitar playing” MD and “the passionate, wide-ranged vocals of Steve Perry, who is the true lifeblood of this album, and this band.” MD

Escape also makes the NARM/Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of Definite 200 Albums and Kerrang! magazine’s best-of list.

Click photo for more about the album.

Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, August 1, 1981

MTV went on the air: August 1, 1981

Originally posted August 1, 2012.

image from

MTV, or Music Television, launched on cable television on August 1, 1981. While today the station has become known for a slew of reality-based programming targeted toward teens, the “M” in “MTV” truly stood for music in the beginning. The station became required viewing for teens wanting to be up on the latest videos and music news.

That first broadcast was only available to parts of New Jersey. The initial format consisted of crude promotional videos and concert footage with music similar to a Top 40 radio format. Thanks to a need for lots of content, the early years of MTV broke lots of new artists and made for fertile creative ground for pioneers of music video.

Here were the first 10 videos, along with the VJ (video jockey) chatter and commercials, as aired on MTV:

The Launch of MTV

1. Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star”

2. Pat Benatar “You Better Run”
3. Rod Stewart “She Won’t Dance with Me”

4. The Who “You Better You Bet”

5. Ph.D “Little Susie’s on the Up”
6. Cliff Richard “We Don’t Talk Anymore”

7. Pretenders “Brass in Pocket”
8. Todd Rundgren “Time Heals”
9. REO Speedwagon “Take It on the Run” (with original technical difficulties included)

10. Styx “Rockin’ the Paradise”
11. Robin Lane & the Chartbusters “When Things Go Wrong”

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Saturday, July 4, 1981

Lionel Richie and Diana Ross debuted with “Endless Love”: July 4, 1981

Originally posted July 4, 2012.

image from

This content is taken from the The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, available at as a standard book or ebook!

In 2002, Richie told Billboard magazine, “When I put out ‘Endless Love’…during the days of disco, the reaction was, ‘Are you nuts?’” BB100 However, this unforgettable ballad from the completely forgettable Brooke Shields and Tom Cruise movie of the same name was the biggest hit Motown had up to that time, not to mention the biggest soundtrack single and most successful duet. BR1

It was also the most successful song of both their careers. This was no small task – between them, they contributed to 54 #1 songs on Billboard magazine’s pop, R&B, and adult contemporary (AC) charts. However, this song found the pair at very different stages of their careers. Ross spent the ‘60s fronting the Supremes, racking up 12 #1 pop hits and 8 #1’s on the R&B chart. When she went solo in the ‘70s, she hit the top of the R&B and AC charts five and three times respectively. However, “Endless Love” was her final Motown single WK and her last of six #1 pop hits.

Endless Love

Richie was also a Motown stalwart, but just launching his solo career. With the Commodores, he landed atop the pop charts twice, the R&B charts six times, and the adult contemporary chart once. “Endless Love” was Richie’s first time atop the pop, R&B, and AC charts – charts he’d top five, five, and eleven times respectively. As a songwriter, he had the top song of 1980 with Kenny Rogers’ “Lady.” WHC

Recording was no easy task. Richie hadn’t written the song as a duet, but there was a push to get Diana on the song. Since Richie couldn’t sing in her key, he had to make up her part in the studio. SF Their busy schedules meant they finally met up in Reno, Nevada at 3:30 in the morning after Ross had performed at Lake Tahoe. An hour and a half later, they had the song on tape. BR1 Good thing – it was due to go out the next day for use in the movie. SF

Ross also recorded a solo version on her Why Do Fools Fall in Love? album WK and in 1994, it became Luther Vandross’ biggest hit when he and Mariah Carey reached #2 on the pop charts in the U.S. and top 5 in the U.K.


Resources and Related Links:

Thursday, July 2, 1981

Foreigner released 4: July 2, 1981

Originally posted July 2, 2012.

“Over the course of their first three late-‘70s albums, Foreigner had firmly established themselves (along with Journey and Styx) as one of the top AOR bands of the era. But the band was still looking for that grand slam of a record which would push them to the very top of the heap. 1981’s 4 would be that album.” AMG To this day, it “remains Foreigner’s career peak.” AMG

“Guitarist and all-around mastermind Mick Jones found both the catalyst to achieve this and his perfect musical soul mate” AMG “in producer Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange — fresh off his massive success with AC/DC’s Back in Black.” AMG “Lange’s legendary, obsessive attention to detail and Jones’ highly disciplined guitar heroics (which he never allowed to get in the way of a great song) resulted in a collaboration of unprecedented, sparkling efficiency where not a single note is wasted.” AMG

“Vocalist Lou Gramm does his part, delivering a dazzling performance which confirmed his status as one of the finest voices of his generation.” AMG “With the departures of second guitarist Ian McDonald and keyboardist Al Greenwood, Foreigner became a quartet for the first time” CDU and all the album’s songs were written by Jones and/or Gramm. WK Session musicians were also brought in, among them Thomas Dolby, WK who went on to have a top 5 hit with “She Blinded Me with Science,” and Junior Walker. He played the “signature saxophone solo” AMG on “the surprisingly funky Urgent [which] proved to be one of the band's most memorable and uncharacteristic smash hits.” AMG


Nightlife, Woman in Black, Don’t Let Go, and “the 50’s-tinged LuanneAMG are all “energetic, nearly flawless melodic rockers.” AMG “With Juke Box Hero, the band somehow managed to create both a mainstream hit single and a highly unique-sounding track, alternating heavy metal guitar riffing, chorused vocals, and one of the ultimate ‘wanna be a rock star’ lyrics.” AMG

Juke Box Hero

“As for the mandatory power ballad, the band also reached unparalleled heights with Waiting for a Girl Like You. One of the decade’s most successful cross-genre tear-jerkers, it has since become a staple of soft rock radio and completely eclipsed the album’s other very lovely ballad, Girl on the Moon, in the process.” AMG

Waiting for a Girl Like You

Also of note – the original album title and cover. The originally titled Silent Partners was to sport a cover from “renowned art studio Hipgnosis.” WK The band rejected “a black & white image of a young man in bed with a pair of binoculars looming overhead,” WK deeming it “too homosexual.” WK Bob Defrin designed the new cover, “modeled after an old fashioned film leader.” WK


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Saturday, June 20, 1981

6/20/1981: Squeeze charted with “Tempted”

First posted 12/24/2019.



Writer(s): Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook (see lyrics here)

Released: July 10, 1981

First Charted: June 20, 1981

Peak: 49 US, 50 CB, 52 HR, 8 AR, 41 UK, 45 CN, 95 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales *: -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US + UK)

Radio Airplay *: --

Video Airplay *: 5.12

Streaming *: --

* in millions


When I was in college in the mid-‘80s, I developed a habit of raiding people’s music collections. At times, I’d walk out of their dorm rooms with a handful of cassettes (yep – I lived through the days before CDs or mp3s existed) minutes after I’d met them. One of my roommates’s friends got me to finally open up to harder-edged fare like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Rush that I’d steered away from in high school. However, I also discovered the sound that comes closest to my tastes – college rock.

Before Nirvana and Pearl Jam ushered in the grunge movement and subsequent mainstreaming of alternative rock, the genre was marked by bands like U2, R.E.M., INXS, The Cure, and Depeche Mode when they were still niche bands. My greatest discovery, though, was Squeeze. A friend’s girlfriend had a copy of the band’s 45’s and Under compilation. It made me a lifelong fan of the band.

The song missed the top 40 in the UK and USA. In the UK, the band had landed seven songs in the top 40, including three top-five hits. In the USA, the loftiest heights for the band came with their 1987 album Babylon and On and its top 40 singles “Hourglass” and “853-5937.” However, the band is probably best known for the song “Tempted,” from their 1981 album East Side Story, aided in part by its use in commercials for Burger King and Heineken and its use in the 1994 movie Reality Bites.

Ironically, it isn’t Chris Difford or Glenn Tilbrook – the band’s staples throughout their 40-year history – who take the lead on the song. No, it’s sung by Paul Carrack, a musical journeyman who also sang with Ace (“How Long”) and Mike + the Mechanics (“Silent Running,” “The Living Years”). He served as the keyboardist on East Side Story and served as the lead vocalist on one song – the one that arguably became the band’s signature hit. Tilbrook does, however, trade a few lines in the second verse with Elvis Costello, who co-produced the track. WK

Chris Difford wrote the lyrics while in a cab. As he said, “I just wrote down what I saw and how I felt as we wormed our way through the traffic. I also must have anticipated a good time on tour as the chorus suggests.” SF Glenn Tilbrook said “it was a sort of breakthrough song for us…It was when we grew up, really, as a band.” SF

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Saturday, May 16, 1981

“Bette Davis Eyes” hits #1 for the first of 9 weeks

image from

Kim Carnes “Bette Davis Eyes”

Writer(s): Jackie DeShannon, Donna Weiss (see lyrics here)

First charted: 3/28/1981

Peak: 19 US, 15 AC, 5 AR, 10 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US and UK)

Radio Airplay (in millions): 2.0 Video Airplay (in millions): 42.6

Review: Sometimes it takes a strange mix of ingredients to make a hit song. In this case, take a memorable keyboard synth line, a female singer whose raspy voice leads some to mistaken her as Rod Stewart, SF and a song with mysterious lyrics referencing an iconic movie star known for bugged-out eyes due to a disorder which causes an overproduction of the thyroid. SF

Songwriter Donna Weiss says part of this song’s inspiration came from a Bette Davis movie – she thinks it was Jezebel – but has remained mum about any further inspiration than that. BR1-543 She wrote the lyrics while Jackie DeShannon, whose “What the World Needs Now Is Now” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” were both top tens, wrote most of the music. BR1-543

DeShannon recorded a honky-tonk version of the song for her 1975 album New Arrangement. When Carnes was given the song, she wasn’t convinced it had hit potential. BR1-543 However, when her synthesizer player, Bill Cuomo, reworked the track into a new-wavish pop song, Carnes was sold. So was the record buying public – it hit #1 in 31 countries WK and topped 1981’s year-end Hot 100 in the U.S. HT100

Among the song’s fans was Davis herself. She wrote letters to Carnes and the songwriters to thank them for being made “part of modern times.” BR1-543 Weiss says that Davis shared that because of the song “her grandson looked up to her and respected her” BR1-543 because it was cool that she’d had a song written about her.

Resources and Related Links:

Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


Saturday, April 4, 1981

Styx hit #1 with Paradise Theater: April 4, 1981

First posted 2/19/2011; updated 12/30/2019.

Paradise Theater


Buy Here:

Released: January 19, 1981

Peak: 13 US, 8 UK, 12 CN

Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, -- UK, 4.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: classic arena rock

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.)

  1. A.D. 1928 [1:07]
  2. Rockin' the Paradise (DeYoung/Shaw/Young) [3:35] (3/21/81, 8 AR)
  3. Too Much Time on My Hands (Shaw) [4:31] (3/21/81, 2 AR, #9 US)
  4. Nothing Ever Goes as Planned [4:46] (7/11/81, 54 US)
  5. The Best of Times [4:17] (1/24/81, 3 US, 16 AR, 26 AC, 42 UK)
  6. Lonely People [5:22]
  7. She Cares (Shaw) [4:18]
  8. Snowblind (DeYoung/Young) [4:48] (3/21/81, 22 AR)
  9. Half-Penny, Two-Penny (Brandle/Young) [4:34]
  10. A.D. 1958 [2:31]
  11. State Street Sadie [:27]
Tracks written by Dennis DeYoung unless otherwise noted.

Total Running Time: 41:02

The Players:

  • Dennis DeYoung (vocals, keyboards)
  • Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitar)
  • James “JY” Young (vocals, guitar)
  • Chuck Panozzo (bass)
  • John Panozzo (drums/percussion)


3.972 out of 5.00 (average of 17 ratings)

Quotable:”Styx’s greatest commercial triumph…and…one of the best examples of the convergence between progressive rock and AOR” – Ed Rivadavia, All Music Guide


About the Album:

“There are certain genres that it's tres stylish to bash unceasingly…One…is the late-seventies/early-eighties genre of arena rock, where musical alchemy mixed progressive rock with monster arena concerts. Journey, REO Speedwagon, Cheap Trick, Kansas -- lotta bands paid the rent with this stuff, and yes, some of it's drivel. But you know what? Some of it’s pretty tasty. Paradise Theater falls in the latter category.” DE

“After successfully establishing themselves as one of America's best commercial progressive rock bands of the late '70s with albums like The Grand Illusion and Pieces of Eight,” ER Styx turned out the “uneven Cornerstone album,” ER which, despite its “mediocrity…propel[ed] the band to their highest point, so far, of commercial success, so there were a lot of eyes looking at the follow-up.” DW

With Cornerstone, ”Styx had taken a dubious step towards pop overkill with singer Dennis DeYoung’s ultra-schmaltzy ballad ‘Babe.’…The number one single would sew the seeds of disaster for the group by pitching DeYoung’s increasingly mainstream ambitions against” ER “the more hard-hitting approach of” CD “Tommy Shaw and James ‘JY’ Young.” ER

However, “Paradise Theater seemed to represent the best of both worlds” ER “as the rift…hadn’t yet wreaked havoc.” CD Paradise Theater “seemed to satisfy both of the band's camps with its return to complex hard rock” ER favored by “purists Shaw and JY,” ER “while sparing no amount of [the] pomp and grandeur” ER favored by DeYoung. The album also “contains some of the best songs Styx would ever write.” DE

The album’s “loose concept about the roaring ‘20s heyday” ER “focused on something concrete” PH – “the condemnation and destruction of the Paradise Theater, a famous showplace in the band’s hometown of Chicago” DD “is used as an allegory for America’s decline in the late seventies.” DE

Starting out with the same melody as ‘The Best of Times,’” PH opening cut A.D. 1928 is “subdued yet oddly humorous.” PH “The lyrics of this track begin with ‘Tonight’s the night we’ll make history / As sure as dogs can fly.’ In other words, it’s not likely.” PH The song “which features a lonely DeYoung on piano and vocals introducing the album’s recurring musical theme.” PH

This launches into Rockin’ the Paradise, “which blasts this disc into full force.” DW It is “one of the group’s most effective rockers and most substantial group efforts.” CD as it offers “the listener…what Styx has always been known for – driving rock and roll.” PH It is also “one of the few songs written by all three of the band’s composers.” CD

“Shaw brings his pop sensibilities to the fore on the ridiculously catchy (and hugely successful) Too Much Time on My Hands, whose synth bass hook became part of the pop pantheon” CD and “figures among Shaw’s finest singles ever.” ER

“DeYoung proves his mettle as a balladeer once again” CD on lead single The Best of Times. The song “is more about the theatre than a relationship, as one would think on first listen.” PH However, some would say that “it suffers from trying to be two things and not really succeeding at either.” PH It “relies on cliches like ‘I feel so helpless like a boat against the tide’ until the sappy meter goes off the chart with ‘I know if the world turned upside down/ you’d always be around.’” PH Still, “with its deliberate, marching rhythm, …somehow it just works.” ER

DeYoung, stuck close to the overall storyline” ER with numbers like ‘The Best of Times’ and Nothing Ever Goes as Planned The latter, along with Lonely People, feature "great horn part[s] provided by the Hangalator Horn Section.” DE

Shaw tried “to resist thematic restrictions” ER on songs like ‘Hands’ and She Cares, but the results “are still delightful.” DE

“JY, the band’s third songwriter (and resident peacekeeper) is only slightly more cooperative with the Paradise Theater concept. His edgier compositions include the desolate tale of drug addiction” ER on “the Young/Shaw-sung Snowblind [which] finds the boys getting downright bluesy” CD JY’s efforts “snarl and tear at your emotions,” DE finding the band “dipping into a Led Zeppelin-ish haze…powered by a guitar solo that sets up the ripping conclusion.” PH

JY also contributes “the rollicking opus Half-Penny, Two-Penny,” ER his “best since ‘Miss America’” DW from 1977’s The Grand Illusion. The song “infuses a graphic depiction of inner city decadence with a final, small glimmer of hope and redemption.” ER

It “leads straight into the album’s beautiful saxophone-led epilogue, A.D. 1958,” ER which “leaves the Paradise Theatre condemned.” PH The song “once again reveals MC DeYoung alone at his piano,” ER reprising the tune that opens the album and is the core of “The Best of Times.”

Paradise Theater would become Styx's greatest commercial triumph; and [is] one of the best examples of the convergence between progressive rock and AOR which typified the sound of the era's top groups (Journey, Kansas, etc.)…Paradise Theater was truly the best of times.” ER “Styx was never this good before; Styx would never be this good again…Paradise Theater was Styx's high-water mark, and one of the greatest albums in rock history.” DE


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