OK, so, after quite a lot of thought and a comment by a reader, I’ve decided that the original plan was a bit too ambitious. So I’m reformatting. Instead of doing an entire page on each song that hit the Hot 100 in the 80s — an endeavor that could last more than four times as long as the 80s themselves — I’m going to do an overview of each week with a paragraph on each of the lesser songs, and then do a page on each of the more interesting songs. I’m finding it’s rare that I have more than two paragraphs to say about many of these songs anyway, and I want to get to the more interesting stuff as quickly as possible. Still, I’m going to try to stick to the original format as much as possible, albeit in a condensed form. The same links to videos, the same headers featuring lyrics from the songs when possible, and the same level of snarkiness. The only downside is that these overview pages are going to be a bear to construct. Here’s the first one.
Thirteen songs peaked on 2 February 1980. The following I’ve already talked about:
- “I Call Your Name” by Switch, #83
- “Holdin’ on for Dear Love” by Lobo, #75
- “I’m Alive” by Gamma, #60
- “Glide” by Pleasure, #55
- “Can We Still Be Friends” by Robert Palmer, #52, and
- “Dig the Gold” by Joyce Cobb, #42
So here’s what the rest of the week looked like:
They’re a dozen for a dime
Peaking at #41, just outside the hit zone, is “Lonely Eyes” by Robert John, who clearly has a thing for eyes, because his previous hit was “Sad Eyes” which made it to #1 in 1979. “Lonely Eyes” is superficially triumphal, but it’s about a woman who hangs out at bars or discos and slinks from one one-night-stand to another. The delivery, with its gentle lope and weepy violins, takes up a fitting tone, both danceable and world-weary. This is the kind of music sung by a singer and played by musicians who have seen too many nights, just like that emotionally isolated woman, driven by habit or need, underappreciated for their talents. The irony that this song didn’t quite score a hit only underscores the sweet sadness of the song. This is a pleasant surprise for me.
It was one of those nights
Then we have a compelling guitar riff backed by a suitably funky pace, and I think that we may have something special… until I realize it’s the perfectly nonsense “Last Train to London” by The Electric Light Orchestra (#39). It baffles me how anyone took the grating falsetto vocals (“I really want tonight to last forever!”) that epitomized disco seriously, particularly when they’re delivering totally uninspired lyrics (“I really want to be with you!”). There are the requisite violin bursts and then what would be an utterly boring keyboard solo if it weren’t for the fact that it’s some sort of broken-glass orchestra noise they’re using, presaging how dance is going to merge with new wave soon. There’s a last train to London, I’m not sure if he gets on it or stays with the girl he’s singing to, but I am sure I don’t much care.
I’m caring, sharing everything I’ve got
I somehow missed that Santana put out albums in the 80s, but given how uninspiring “You Know That I Love You” (#35) is, perhaps that’s not surprising. There’s nothing here to suggest that this is the same musician who made “Oye Como Va” and “Black Magic Woman” the epitome of Latin rock. How did Santana get so… uncool? This is a lame, uninspired song that isn’t even worthy of being a fifth single off of a Cheap Trick album. This was the only single off of Santana’s Marathon album, and that’s probably a good thing.
Please can I see you every day
Speaking of Cheap Trick, here they are with “Voices” (#32), which is about as close to a stalker song as you can get without actually being a stalker song. I don’t normally like Cheap Trick because they feel sort of superficial and smarmy, making themselves out to be tougher than they are, but really just sounding like a light-weight Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. On this song it works, though, because the desperation of the protagonist goes well with that mock-tough, mock-sweet tone. This guy is at one and the same time begging his girl to love him and trying to convince her by stating as fact that she does indeed love him. Those voices in her ear should be telling her to back away slowly, but until Bon Jovi comes along, these guys and Journey are about the best you were going to get in the arena rock category, so I guess you have to make the most of it.
I like what you like
We’re not going to hear much from The O’Jays in the 1980s. Their hey-day was the 60s and 70s, and there’s not going to be much room for the molasses-rich soul vocals they were soaking their records in. This is a shame because even when they’re singing scary lyrics like “don’t you ever think about leaving”, like they do here on “Forever Mine” (#28), they sound so dignified and smooth, like scarlet velvet. And the passion with which he sings about how she exceeds all the loves he’s had in the past makes you feel it, you know, that she is something special. I don’t know that the singer and the object of his affection are made for each other the way he says, but the song makes you want to think that they are.
I kept the feelings to myself
Another classic band we’re not going to see much of again is Foghat, whose clumsily titled “Third Time Lucky (First Time I Was a Fool)” hit #23. I kind of wish they’d go into the details of the three loves this guy is singing about — once bitten, twice shy, third time lucky. In the lyrics, the first time sounds like he’s a jerk, writing to her that he’d never forget her and now he can’t remember his name. Maybe being a fool is treating her so badly. But that doesn’t sound like he’s been bitten, but rather that he was doing the biting. Whatever, I’m sure she’s fine. Then the second time he’s too shy to act on his feelings, which is indeed a disaster… unless you’re a stalker like the guy in the Cheap Trick song, in which case maybe it’s better you keep your distance. I mean, really, this week guys in the charts really come off as jerks: stalkers, creepy seducers, and this guy who thinks that somehow he’s the victim of two love affairs, one of which didn’t happen and the other of which was his own insensitive fault.
And then there’s “I Want to Be Your Lover” by Prince at #11, which I’ll cover on its own. And that’s an overview of 2 February 1980.