- Where Everybody Knows Your Name – Gary Portnoy, released April 1983, Pop #83, AC #28. I don’t think I ever heard this on the radio so I had no idea it had a life beyond the Cheers TV series. This one is the odd song that I’ve never heard on the radio yet I’ve heard too much of it. It’s not a bad song; to my ears its got an early ‘70s vibe to it, maybe that was the point.
- Solitaire – Laura Branigan, released April 1983, Pop #7, AC #16, Dance #28. This song never did much for me. While the accompaniment is driving in a “Michael Bay soundtrack” kind of way, the melodies aren’t very interesting.
- Overkill – Men At Work, released April 1983, Pop #3, AC #6, Mainstream Rock #3. A great song that got a lot of playing time in my car in 1983. Of course, I would sing along and when Colin Hay sings the last verse up an octave, I would try to keep up with often hilarious results. Love the guitar solo. My top pick for this playlist. I’d also argue that Cargo was a better album than Business As Usual, but that’s a debate for another time and place.
- That’s Love – Jim Capaldi, released April 1983, Pop #28, AC #3. I was unfamiliar with this song, but it sounds like Steve Winwood. I just looked up the song on wikipedia and sure enough, Winwood’s hand is all over it, including soloing and production duties. Good enough soft rock to make the kid seek out the album it came from, Fierce Heart.
- All This Love – DeBarge, released May 1983, Pop #17, AC #1, R&B #5. This is a fantastic song with hooks everywhere you turn. Great acoustic guitar solo from Jose Feliciano, lots of soft background vocal harmony, electric piano, smooth strings and subtle horn parts - this has all the makings of a soft rock hit.
- My Boyfriend’s Back – Melissa Manchester, released May 1983, Pop did not chart, AC #33. I would imagine the record company executive that gave this the green light didn’t have a very long career in the industry. Almost unlistenable. I need The Angels to save me.
- The Closer You Get – Alabama, released May 1983, Pop #38, AC #9, Country #1. The vocals are the only thing country about this one. I’d like to hear a full-on soft rock version (for instructions on how to do that, see the above DeBarge song). Does the strange whooshing sound on the snare drum bother anyone else?
- Don’t Let It End – Styx, released May 1983, Pop #6, AC #13. By the time this song came out, I was way too cool for Styx (they lost my allegiance with the inane "Mr. Roboto"). However, this Dennis DeYoung mid-tempo ballad is as good as all his other mid-tempo ballads. Reminds me of a slightly sped-up "Babe". Tommy Shaw contributes a nice solo which is surprising since he and DeYoung weren’t on speaking terms by this time.
- Come Dancing – The Kinks, released June 1983, Pop #6, AC #16, Mainstream Rock #17. I never liked this one on principle. The Kinks are about power pop, not soft rock. It’s not a bad song, but I want my Kinks to rock some "Lola", "You Really Got Me", "Destroyer", etc.
- All Time High – Rita Coolidge, released June 1983, Pop #36, AC #1. Meh. Only slightly better than the James Bond movie it comes from, Octopussy.
- Take Me To Heart – Quarterflash, released July 1983, Pop #14, AC #28, Mainstream Rock #6. I like the “Jessie’s Girl” accompaniment in the verse before moving to the Pat Benatar chorus. The downside to this song (and all the other Quarterflash songs I’ve heard) is the horrid saxophone tone.
- Blame It On Love – Smokey Robinson and Barbara Mitchell, released July 1983, Pop #48, AC #5, R&B #35. Never heard this one before. Not quite up to Smokey’s usual standards, this one is trying too hard to imitate Quincy Jones’ "Just Once".
HERC (lower left) selected the songs based on their performance on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart and availability via Spotify. The legendary "soft rock kid" (lower right) provides the commentary.
Both photos are from 8th grade circa 1979-1980.