Friday, July 17, 1981

Journey “Who’s Crying Now” charted

Who’s Crying Now


Writer(s): Jonathan Cain, Steve Perry (see lyrics here)

First Charted: July 17, 1981

Peak: 4 US, 3 CB, 3 HR, 11 RR, 14 AC, 1 CL, 4 AR, 46 UK, 3 CN, 65 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 43.0 video, 36.3 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Journey began in 1973 as an offshoot of Santana. In just five years they evolved from a more progressive-rock-leaning band to a staple at album rock, thanks to hits such as “Lights,” “Wheel in the Sky,” “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” and “Any Way You Want It.” The latter two gave the band their first sniffs at the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 and the latter propelled Journey to the top 10 of the album chart with Departure.

Even though their star was clearly on the rise, the success of their 1981 album Escape pushed the group into unexpected blockbuster category. “Who’s Crying Now,” the lead single from the album, gave Journey a #4 hit and it was followed by two more top-10 hits with “Don’t Stop Believin’” and “Open Arms.”

Billboard magazine called “Who’s Crying Now” “one of Journey’s strongest and classiest records” and “one of the most appealing love songs” of 1981. WK The song showcases Steve Perry’s “passionate, wide-ranged vocals” AMG and “vocal riffs highly reminiscent of Sam Cooke.” WK The song explores “the ups and downs of a relationship.” AMG

Steve Perry wrote the chorus while driving from Bakersfield to San Francisco. He headed to keyboardist Jonathan Cain’s house and hummed the song to him. Cain then helped with the piano part SF and verses. WK Cain, who was previously a member of the Babys, had just become a member of Journey in 1980, replacing Gregg Rolie on keyboards.


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First posted 7/6/2022; last updated 7/12/2022.

Saturday, July 11, 1981

The Specials’ “Ghost Town” hit #1 in the UK

Ghost Town

The Specials

Writer(s): Jerry Dammers (see lyrics here)

Released: June 12, 1981

First Charted: June 20, 1981

Peak: 17 CL, 2 CO, 13 UK, 68 AU, 10 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 22.2 video, 38.33 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The Specials formed in England in 1977. They presented a unique mix of ska and punk which clicked with British audiences. From 1979 to 1981, The Specials landed seven consecutive top-10 hits, including the #1 hits “Too Much Too Young” in 1980 and “Ghost Town” in 1981. “Ghost Town” came at a time that the ska-punk scene was starting to wane. The song, however, showed a willingness on The Specials’ part to embrace new sounds. It was “a downbeat, doom-laden, politically-fired track” XFM which demonstrated the band’s openness to “exploring genres such as new wave, lounge – even muzak.” XFM

“Jerry Dammers’ keyboards are eerily atmospheric throughout and a chanting vocal provides a damning appraisal of inner-city life.” XFM The song grew out of a difficult time in the UK marked by riots sparked by race relations, a police raid, and unemployment. Dammers told Mojo magazine “In Liverpool, all the shops were shuttered up, everything was closing down. In Glasgow there were little old ladies on the street selling their household goods – it was clear something was wrong.” KL

There was unrest amongst the band as well. This was the last single released by the original seven members. WK Right before “Ghost Town” topped the charts, Neville Staples, Lynval Golding, and Terry Hall resigned from the band. Dammers continued with Horace Panter, John Bradbury, and new lead singer Rhoda Dakur, who’d formerly been with the Bodysnatchers. Under the band’s original name of The Special A.K.A., they continued to chart, but only reached the top 10 once more with “Free Nelson Mandela” in 1984.

In the UK music press, “Ghost Town” was hailed “as a major piece of popular social commentary.” WK It was named “Single of the Year” by Melody Maker, NME, and Sounds – the three top weekly UK magazines at the time. All Music Guide’s Michael Waynick called “Ghost Town” the band’s “crowning achievement.” AMG


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for The Specials
  • AMG All Music Guide review by Michael Waynick
  • 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 271.
  • WK Wikipedia
  • XFM Mike Walsh (editor) (2010). The XFM Top 1000 Songs of All Time. Elliott & Thompson Limited: London, England. Page 394.

First posted 10/13/2021; last updated 9/26/2022.

Wednesday, July 8, 1981

R.E.M. released “Radio Free Europe”

Radio Free Europe


Writer(s): Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe (see lyrics here)

Released: July 8, 1981

First Charted: May 21, 1983

Peak: 78 US, 25 AR, 1 CO, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 4.55 video, 20.38 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

R.E.M. formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1980. They released their debut single, “Radio Free Europe,” in 1981 on the independent record label Hib-Tone. Lead singer Michael Stipe said in 1983 that most of their early songs “didn’t have any words. I just got up and howled and hollered a lot.” SF He said he intentionally wanted the lyrics to be difficult to decipher because he hadn’t written words yet, even telling New Musical Express in 1988 that the lyrics were “complete babbling.” WK The song’s hard-to-understand lyrics became a trademark of early R.E.M. and their “DIY energy came across lound and clear.” RS

The title refers to a radio network operated by the government of the United States and broadcasted in Europe and the Middle East. The intent was to promote democracy and freedom, but R.E.M. thought it could easily cross the line into propaganda. SF Author Dave Thompson says the song is about “cold war politicking” DT but author Paul Williams asserts that this “is a song about music, the flow of music, the excitement in the fact that it just keeps coming.” PW

Rob Sheffield said the song “brought a fresh sense of mischief and excitement to the rock scene.” RS It “marks the point when post-punk turned into alternative rock,” TB combining traditional and avant-garde elements into something mysterious and yet radio friendly.” TB Jeff Tweedy of Wilco said “it was disorienting and intoxicating to have new music that felt somehow old.” JT The National Recording Registry noted the song for establishing “the pattern for later indie rock releases by breaking through on college radio in the face of mainstream radio’s general indifference.” WK Drummer Bill Berry said “college radio and major city club scenes embraced the song and expanded our audience…The additional revenue made it possible to logically pursue this wild musical endeavor. I dare not contemplate what our fate would have been had this song not appeared when it did.” SF

The song’s success led to a deal with I.R.S. Records in 1982. The band re-recorded the song for Murmur, their 1983 debut album. The newer version featured a slower tempo and some slightly different lyrics. It gave R.E.M. its first taste of chart success, reaching #78 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #25 on the album rock chart. The band didn’t like it as well as the original, saying of the Hib-Tone recording that it “crushes the other one like a grape.” WK


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First posted 10/9/2021; last updated 6/18/2024.

Monday, July 6, 1981

Pat Benatar's Precious Time released

First posted 9/20/2020.

Precious Time

Pat Benatar

Released: July 6, 1981

Peak: 11 US, 30 UK, 2 CN, 8 AU

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 2.3 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: classic rock


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Promises in the Dark (Neil Giraldo, Benatar) [4:48] (9/25/81, 38 US, 16 AR, 6 CL, 31 CN)
  2. Fire and Ice (Tom Kelly, Scott St. Clair Sheets, Benatar) [3:19] (7/6/81, 17 US, 2 AR, 4 CN, 30 AU)
  3. Just Like Me (Rick Dey, Roger Hart, Terry Melcher) [3:30] (7/18/81, 15 AR)
  4. Precious Time (Billy Steinberg) [6:03] (44 CL)
  5. It’s a Tuff Life (Giraldo) [3:17]
  6. Take It Anyway You Want It (Martin Briley, Giraldo) [2:49] (7/25/81, 32 AR)
  7. Evil Genius (Giraldo, Benatar) [4:34]
  8. Hard to Believe (Giraldo, Myron Grombacher) [3:26]
  9. Helter Skelter (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) [3:50] (46 CL)

Total Running Time: 35:30


3.490 out of 5.00 (average of 6 ratings)

About the Album:

After the success of her second album, Crimes of Passion, it was hard to imagine her doing better on the next outing. While she didn’t match the 5 million in sales of that album, Precious Time still sold 2 million copies and accomplished one feat its predecessor didn’t – it reached #1.

The album didn’t produce as big a hit as “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” Benatar’s top-10 hit from Passion, but she did notch another top-20 hit with Fire and Ice. The song also landed her a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance, a prize she took home the year before for the Passion album.

The follow-up single, Promises in the Dark, was a top-40 hit. The song was written by Benatar with Neil Giraldo, her guitarist and future husband. The album also produced a couple of covers which garnered minor airplay on album rock radio. Just Like Me was originally a #11 hit for Paul Revere & the Raiders in 1965 and Helter Skelter was originally a cut from the Beatles’ self-titled 1968 album commonly known as The White Album.

The title cut was written by Billy Steinberg, who formed a songwriting partnership with Tom Kelly (who’d co-written “Fire and Ice”) in the ‘80s and helmed #1 hits for Madonna (“Like a Virgin,” 1984), Cyndi Lauper (“True Colors,” 1986), Whitney Houston (“So Emotional,” 1987), Heart (“Alone,” 1987), and the Bangles (“Eternal Flame,” 1989).

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Saturday, July 4, 1981

On This Day in Music (1831): “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” first performed

My Country ‘Tis of Thee (aka “America”)

Samuel Francis Smith (words), traditional (music)

Writer(s): Samuel Francis Smith (words), traditional (music) (see lyrics here)

First Performed: July 4, 1831

First Charted: July 8, 1893 (Jules Levy)

Peak: 13 PM (Levy) (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 10.46 video, -- streaming

Awards (Smith):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Jules Levy):

Awards (Marian Anderson):

About the Song:

The story of “patriotic song that would serve as an unofficial national anthem for nearly one-hundred years” GL has a background dating until at least 1740. That’s when a British singer-composer named Henry Carey composed the words and music for a song called “God Save Great George the King.” However, it is likely the tune was based on a pre-existing melody. LC Sources from the seventeenth century suggest it could be originally by English composer John Bull or French court composer Jean-Baptiste Lully. LC It has been tied to 17th-century British composer Henry Purcell and German composer George Frideric Handel. SH It might even come from a Swiss military hymn. LC It has potentially been traced back to folk melodies from the early 1600s. SH

The song “God Save the King” gained popularity in 1745 after Dr. Thomas Arne arranged it for a performance at the Drury Lane Theater on September 28 of that year. The intent was to show support for King George II after his General John Cope was defeated in battle at Prestonpans. LC

The melody became the Danish national anthem in the 1790s – a mouthful of a title in “A Song to be Sung by the Danish Subjects at the Fete of their King, to the Melody of the English Hymn.” It would become the national anthem for at least six more countries as well, including Britain as “God Save the Queen” and Prussia as “Hail to Thee in the Victor’s Wreath.” LC

In the United States, the melody from “God Save the King” was printed in 1761 as “Whitefield’s Tune” in Urania, a collection of church music gathered by James Lyon and printed by William Bradford. LC The song was adapted to “God Save the United States” and sung at George Washington’s inauguration in April 1789. SH The song was familiar to members of the Lewis and Clark expedition from 1803 to 1806 as “God Keep America.” LC

In 1831, organist and composer Lowell Mason presented some German school music books to Samuel Francis Smith, a student at Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. Mason, who has been called the father of American music education, SH asked Smith to translate the German or write new lyrics for the songs. He wrote “America,” which came to be known as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” set to the melody of “God Bless Our Native Land.” GL He chose it because it sounded patriotic, but he had no idea the song used the same melody as the British anthem. SH It was performed at a children’s concert in Boston at the Park Street Church on July 4, 1831. It was then published in 1832 in Mason’s collection The Choir, or Union Collection of Church Music. TY2

The song has only charted once. Jules Levy took it to #1 in 1893. A 1939 version by Marian Anderson was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It has also been covered by George Gaskin (1899), John Philip Sousa’s Band (1905), George Alexander (1905), the Columbia Mixed Double Quartet (1916), and Louis Gravieure (1917). TY2


First posted 8/31/2023.