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?”

First posted 12/12/2011; updated 4/20/2020.

Don’t You Want Me?

The Human League

Writer(s): Jo Callis/Philip Oakley/Philip Adrian Wright (see lyrics here)


Released: November 27, 1981


First Charted: December 5, 1981


Peak: 13 US, 14 CB, 42 HR, 3 RR, 4 AR, 1 CO, 15 UK, 11 CN, 4 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 1.78 UK, 2.93 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 90.0 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

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. MJ 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” MJ 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 Human League’s DMDB Encyclopedia entry
  • 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 and 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 Lewens, Alan (2001). Popular Song – Soundtrack of the Century. Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 151.
  • MJ Mojo Ultimate Jukebox (supplement with April 2003 issue of Mojo magazine). “The 100 Singles You Must Own”
  • SF Songfacts.com
  • 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 sweetsixteenbirthday.net

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


Awards:

Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, September 5, 1981

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

First posted 4/17/2019; updated 4/21/2020.

Tainted Love

Soft Cell

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


Released: July 17, 1981


First Charted: August 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 (in millions): -- US, 1.35 UK, 1.45 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 24.5 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

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.


Resources and Related Links:

Saturday, August 15, 1981

Lionel Richie and Diana Ross hit #1 with “Endless Love” for first of 9 weeks

First posted 7/4/2012; updated 4/20/2020.

Endless Love

Lionel Richie and Diana Ross

Writer(s): Lionel Richie (see lyrics here)


First Charted: July 4, 1981


Peak: 19 US, 19 CB, 19 HR, 15 RR, 13 AC, 17 RB, 7 UK, 16 CN, 14 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 3.0 US, 0.25 UK, 3.25 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 66.8 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

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.

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 Who 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: