Blast it… I missed one

I thought I’d finished with the first week of 1980, and going over my spreadsheet, I noticed I skipped a peak song.  Regardless, I’ll do a wrap-up of this first week, and then go back and pick up a foreigner tune.

So, the first week of 1980 was about as rocky as I thought it would be; a couple gems in The Police and M, a few pleasant surprises, and a whole lot of drivel in the form of ballads and disco nonsense.  And this has taken me several months, much longer than I had expected.  The good news is that because this was the first week in the year, I had to cover a lot more songs than I otherwise would have, because I was catching a lot on their way down from a 1979 peak.  The bad news is that the next week of 1980 still has 14 songs for me to cover, and it looks like the gem-to-dross ratio is going to be about the same.  So, nose to the grindstone, here comes some Foreigner….

So… what just happened?

My last post was the first of the “Meanwhile…” series, in which I admit I give up on top 40 radio and highlight a band that NEVER had a single in the Hot 100.  The reason is simple:  there was a lot of good music in the 80s that didn’t get proper attention at the time and may still be languishing in obscurity.  And, frankly, it’s kind of surprising to realize that a lot of those great singles that populate 80s compilations albums, or those incredibly important genre-defining performers never actually had a hit, or even something approaching a hit.  There won’t be a lot of Meanwhile, because too many would defeat the purpose of the blog, but I’ll do them occasionally to show my admiration for and express my rage about what we weren’t listening to in the 80s.

The Internet has failed me

On 5 January 1980, “I Still Have Dreams” by Richie Furay was at #87. 

The Internet has failed me.  I’m not sure how this has happened, but despite all the resources available on the Internet, I can’t find a copy of “I Still Have Dreams” by Richie Furay.  It’s not on Youtube, there isn’t an article about it on Wikipedia, and copies of the cd cost upward of $50, which is more than I’m willing to spend for one blog entry.  Somehow the Internet passed this song by; I can find songs by obscure German goth bands (like “All That I Wanted” by Belfegore), and I can find music by Ricky Gervaise before he was Ricky Gervaise (“Bitter Heart” by Seona Dancing), but I can’t find a minor hit by the guy who did “Ooh Ooh Child”.  What has the world come to?

It makes me feel like it’s 1994 again.  In 1994, the Internet was an information wild west:  all sorts of things were out there, but all sorts of things weren’t out there and when you went out in search of information, you never knew what you would find, if you would find anything at all.  Downloading music was taking life into your own hands:  you’d go to a file sharing site, and if you were lucky there was something — anything — you found interesting, and then you had to hope that whatever it was wouldn’t destroy your computer.  There was the thrill of discovery and the tense anticipation as you listened to the whole track to find that it wasn’t corrupted or wasn’t some horrible remix.  Now, most any song is available from Amazon for $0.89 to $1.99 (though not quite everything; I keep a list of songs I can’t find, “Bitter Heart” by Seona Dancing included).  Of course being able to find nearly anything legally is a good thing — it’s true of books and other media as well as music — but the thrill of the hunt is gone.  So now, when I want/need to find a minor hit and it’s not available, I don’t take it as a challenge any more.  Instead, I shrug my shoulders and move on to the next track.  Some of the romance of the Internet is dead.

The big idea

I recently read two news articles about social science research, each of which came to a different conclusion.  In the first, the scientists involved did a lot of analysis of popular music — looking at the top 40 singles of each year — and determined that there were three major musical revolutions since 1950, when the music that was popular changed dramatically from year to year.  These three changes happened in 1964, 1983, and 1991.  The other article argued that popular music in the 1980s was incredibly boring because the top 40 singles all sounded the same.

They’re both right.

And I’m going to venture to explain why, one single at a time, from 1 January 1980 to 31 December 1989, every song to appear on Billboard’s top 100 chart.  In each of my entries to this blog I’ll talk about what was right and what was wrong about music in the 1980s.  Along the way, I’ll talk about each performer from ABBA to ZZ Top, I’ll talk about lyrics, be they sublime or inane, I’ll talk about genres from punk to easy listening, I’ll talk occasionally about what was going on at the time or tidbits from my own life, and every so often, I’ll talk about what the US wasn’t listening to.  At times it’s going to be totally awesome and at other times it’s going to be totally lame, but most of all, it’s going to be fun.

So, let’s rock.