On 26 January, 1980, “Takin’ It Back“ by Breathless peaked at #92.
I get the feeling that Breathless was a little bit ahead of their time. Not in that they are particularly good — “Takin’ It Back” is a pretty standard, unremarkable rockin’ arena rock song — but they’re certainly not bad, and there’s not much separating them from the other power chord, soaring guitar, generic synth sound back-up arena rock that would be all over the charts in a few years. Or even months. Breathless sounds like it’s presaging bands like The Cars, Journey, Asia, The Tubes, that 80s jocks remember fondly. For whatever reason — lack of marketing support from EMI perhaps — Breathless didn’t get much traction outside of Akron, Ohio and the immediate area; nice to have, but not exactly a springboard to fame and fortune.
We have to remember that the environment for popular music today is unusual in that it’s national, or even universal. Whatever you hear on Akron radio stations today is pretty much identical to what you’d be hearing in Seattle and Amarillo and Richmond and New York, London, Paris, Munich.. everywhere . That wasn’t true in the US until… I’m not entirely sure, but my guess is sometime in the early 90s. In the early 80s, though, you still had local hits by local bands. If you were in Ohio, you were hearing Breathless, whereas if you were in Austin, you were hearing, say, Gary Myrick. Different parts of the country had different sounds, and each regional sound had some interesting stuff going on that you could miss entirely, and some of it was good. Or maybe it wasn’t necessarily good, but it spoke to you in a way that the national music hitting the top 40 wouldn’t. It was a labor of love to find this music and to get the sense that you weren’t missing something somehow, and it’s part of that feeling that has me still finding interesting music from 20 years ago — people played for their local audience and hoped that would get them on the charts, whereas today it seems everyone is writing music to get on the charts, and whatever it is that was special to a particular artist got lost in the processing.