Is this really your real phone number?

SwitchWe’ve finally made it out of January of 1980, folks!

On 2 February, 1980, “I Call Your Name” by Switch peaked at #83.

In 1963, Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons released “Walk Like a Man“, which, in the grand scheme of things is a pretty good song.  It’s message is undermined a bit by the fact that Frankie Valli, while singing about how he’ll walk like a man, is failing to sing like a man, what with his amazing piercing falsetto.  He’s a good singer, don’t get me wrong, and the falsetto works for songs like “Ragdoll” and “Dawn”; it’s just that for “Walk Like a Man” there’s an inherent — and I assume unintended — irony that I can’t imagine people didn’t pick up on.

So, now we have Switch.  These guys are a one-hit wonder, hitting #38 in 1978 with “There’ll Never Be”, and they kept trying until 1984 to score another hit, but never managed.  “I Call Your Name” was the last time they even hit the lower reaches of the Hot 100, peaking at #83.  And it’s got that same inadvertent irony as “Walk Like a Man”.  The song starts with an earnest voiceover, starting with “I used to think about immature things”, said by a guy who sounds like he’s in sixth grade.  Listening to him muse about how he’s gotten past worrying about whether his girl loves him, it’s hard not to snicker when he says, as if it’s a revelation, “I’m a man now!”

Just like if a country has to tell you in its name that it’s a democracy it probably isn’t, if you have to state you’re a man in a song, there’s probably a good argument that you aren’t.

Part of the problem is also that Switch was coming to prominence in the waning days of disco.  There’s really nothing too wrong with the lyrics to this song — some of them are actually pretty good — and I bet if the Jackson Five had performed this in 1974, it would have been a big hit.  But for a struggling soul band to try to claw its way up to the top on saccharine-cute disco in 1979 was a tall order.  And, sure, for every pretty good lyric (“Although I love the sunshine, I’ll still accept the rain”) there’s a turn of phrase that makes you wonder if the writers actually speak English in their normal lives.  “Doggone”?  Who says “doggone” in any seriousness?  Maybe “I Call Your Name” is deliberately ironic, and so successful that it’s indistinguishable from a clumsily penned sincere song…. I suppose it’s possible, but I doubt it.  I mean… who conducts an experiment in irony for over 7 minutes of valuable radio air time?

That’s more than I should ask

H&OWaitForMe.pngOn 26 January, 1980, “Wait For Me” by Hall & Oates peaked at #18.

I’ll admit that Hall & Oates is often a guilty pleasure for me.  It may be because I lived in Philadelphia for a while — one usually picks up on the local popular culture and adopts it as one’s own — but by the time I was in Philly, Hall & Oates were no longer dominating the local charts, let alone the national ones. It may be because so much of their music sounds the same, and two of Hall & Oates’s biggest hits were on the radio when I was first absorbing music that was new (more of that when we get to 1982).  It may be because they are musically inoffensive, yet often more intelligent than their peers.  I can’t explain it.

And “Wait For Me” doesn’t help me explain it.  This is about as pedestrian as a pop song can get without actually pandering to its audience; right down to the insipid la-la-las, this song is doing everything it can to be musical margarine; it doesn’t add all that much to your environment and it won’t stick to your ribs, but it sure helps everything go down more smoothly.  So, is it great?  No.  Is it OK?  Sure. Did it deserve to go to #18?  Heck no!  But it’s fair filler between actually good singles in the Hall & Oates catalogue, even if it means we have to wait until mid-1981 to actually hear those.