Welcome back to another edition of CHART ATTACK! You may have noticed that these posts tend to cover the music of the mid-to-late ’80s. The reason is simply that I’m most familiar with these years in terms of the songs on the Top 10, and I find that the early ’80s charts tend to cross-over to Mellow Gold territory. Still, we’ve covered every year of the ’80s so far but one, so it seems only fair that we see what was happening on December 5, 1981!
10. Start Me Up – The Rolling Stones Amazon iTunes
9. Why Do Fools Fall In Love – Diana Ross Amazon iTunes
8. Young Turks – Rod Stewart Amazon iTunes
7. Let’s Groove – Earth, Wind & Fire Amazon iTunes
6. Private Eyes – Daryl Hall & John Oates Amazon iTunes
5. Here I Am – Air Supply Amazon iTunes
4. Oh No – Commodores Amazon iTunes
3. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic – The Police Amazon iTunes
2. Waiting For A Girl Like You – Foreigner Amazon iTunes
1. Physical – Olivia Newton-John Amazon iTunes
10. Start Me Up – The Rolling Stones Although included on their 1981 album Tattoo You, "Start Me Up" was recorded back in 1977, reportedly on the same day that "Miss You" was recorded. Both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were convinced the song was meant to be a reggae tune, but after countless unsuccessful takes, ditched the track. Musician and assistant Chris Kimsey, who was working on Tattoo You, reached back into the archives to see if there was any material for the album. Somewhere in the middle of the reggae takes, he found a straight-ahead rock version. All that was needed were some overdubs, both musical and vocal, and the number was complete.
This was the last week that "Start Me Up" would sit in the Top 10. It peaked at #2, held off the top by that damn Christopher Cross and his witty theme about Arthur. Still, I doubt there are many places in the world where the opening "Start Me Up" riff remains unrecognizable.
9. Why Do Fools Fall In Love – Diana Ross After the success of solo tracks such as "I’m Coming Out" and "Upside Down" (which we covered in Chart Attack! #7), Diana Ross made the controversial move away from the label that had made her a star. She left Motown for a reported $20 million contract with RCA Records, releasing this cover of the song by Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers as her first single. It peaked at #7, and for many, became the definitive version of the song. To be honest with you, I’m not even sure if I can recall hearing the Lymon version at all. I think I always assumed it was a Supremes song.
8. Young Turks – Rod Stewart The lyrics to this song never actually mention "young turks." The mention "young hearts" instead. "Young Turks" which actually has a much different meaning, was a slang English phrase for rebellious teenagers. The music to the song was written by Carmine Appice and Duane Hitchings. Armed with synths and a drum machine, they presented the completed backing to Stewart, who wrote the lyrics. They tell the story of two teenagers who run away to be together and then, in the last line, the girl (Patti) gives birth to a ten-pound baby boy, and then it’s just a repeat of the chorus. So we never know if there’s some kind of lesson to be learned here or something. Rod is either being vague or stupid.
"Young Turks" received heavy airplay on MTV, thanks to Rod having a number of prepared videos at MTV’s launch only 4 months’ prior. Gangs dance in the street, Rod and his bandmembers wear bandanas around their necks (when was this a good idea, people?), and MTV plays its first video featuring breakdancing. Watch it here.
7. Let’s Groove – Earth, Wind & Fire (download) Seriously, how do you not love this song? Although not their highest-charting pop single ("Shining Star" was a #1), "Let’s Groove" remains the band’s biggest hit, topping the R&B charts for a then record-breaking 11 weeks. It was also their last pop hit. I could say more, but the song speaks for itself. Enjoy.
6. Private Eyes – Daryl Hall & John Oates
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, we can move on. "Private Eyes" was part of the Daryl Hall & John Oates "comeback" of the early 1980s, solidifed by the success of the album prior to this one, Voices. The single became their third #1, and their fourth single to sell over a million copies. (It also dissed The Stones and hopped right over them to knock Christopher Cross off the top spot.) H&O remained on fire for the next 4 years.
5. Here I Am (Just When I Thought I Was Over You) – Air Supply Gotta love the parentheses. Actually, I have no idea why they didn’t just can "Here I Am" in the title altogether. See, this is where we start leaning towards Mellow Gold status. Their fifth hit to reach the Top Five, this song happened smack in the middle of a two-year assault on the US charts, beginning in May 1980 and ending in September 1982. Every single made the Top Five. You remember when it was cool to be this wussy, right?
4. Oh No – Commodores (download) See, now here’s a song that needed some parentheses. "Oh No (Lionel Please Don’t Go)," for example. It’s not that The Commodores weren’t producing non-Richie hits at the time. There was "Lady (You Bring Me Up)," and then there was…uh…huh. I guess that was the only real non-Richie hit since "Brick House" in ’77. Every other song to make an impact on the charts was a Richie-penned ballad. So the writing was clearly on the wall. You all know I’m a big Richie fan, so yes, I really do like this song. Nevermind that the piano, and key, is so similar to all of Richie’s other ballads. The man writes an unbelievable hook. The Commodores would have one more hit in "Nightshift" in 1985 – their only hit without Richie.
3. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic – The Police Like "Start Me Up," this song had origins in the mid-70s – Sting wrote it in 1976 and performed with his pre-Police band, Strontium 90 (which was essentially the Police plus another bassist). It was somewhat of a departure from the ska singles the Police had been successful with in the past, and went on to win an Ivor Novello award for Best Pop Song. It’s been covered numerous times, most notably by Shawn Colvin (switching the gender), and Sting himself has shown an affinity for his own line of "it’s a big enough umbrella but it’s always me who ends up getting wet," which shows up in The Police song "O My God" and the Sting solo tune "Seven Days."
2. Waiting For A Girl Like You – Foreigner Oh, the whine! THE WHINE! Whatever, I’m not going to bash it, it works for this song. Taken from their fourth album, uh, 4, the song spent a record-breaking 10 weeks at #2 (most of it behind our #1 hit today). Most people would find this song typical of Foreigner, but remember that by this point, most of Foreigner’s hits – nine in the Top 20 – had been upbeat rockers. "Waiting" was their first power ballad hit, from an album co-produced by "Mutt" Lange. (All makes sense now, right?)
1. Physical – Olivia Newton-John There’s no real way for me to describe how huge "Physical" was at this point in time. I imagine some of you who were there remember, and are bristling right now. "Physical" was quite different from any previously-released single by Newton-John. It was poppier, not sappy at all, and was actually censored or banned from many radio stations because of its explicit content. Nevertheless, "Physical" was an unbelievable chart performer. It hit #1 two weeks prior to this one, and remained there for 10 weeks – making it the #1 song of 1982, and the most successful pop song on the Hot 100 during the 1980s, period. At the time, the only song that had spent more time at #1 was "Hound Dog." Newton-John first heard the song as it was about to be offered to Rod Stewart (frighteningly enough, it probably would have worked for him). Before the release, she became quite nervous about the song’s sexual theme, afraid that it would tarnish the image the public had grown to love – thus the aerobic-themed video was born, in an attempt to change the song’s focus to exercise instead of sex. Obviously, she had nothing to worry about!
And that’ll do it for another week of CHART ATTACK! See you next week! And be sure to come back on Monday for a holiday surprise…