6/18/15

FLASHBACK: America's Top 10 June 21, 1981

The Summer of 1981 was the last one I spent in Rantoul, Illinois.  (Specifically on Chanute Air Force Base, where my father was stationed.)  I had just finished my freshman year at Rantoul Township High School and after a disastrous year spent pursuing football dreams as a Golden Eagle and subsequently breaking my right wrist for the third time in my life and being told that it might not ever heal correctly, I vowed to have nothing but fun that Summer.  Fun meant listening to music and seeking out the females of the species at the base swimming pool and roller rink.  By riding my trusty orange ten speed to and from both of these places repeatedly, I managed to lose all of the bulk I had built up to play football. My seeking out of females gradually turned into what many courts today would consider stalking as I learned the daily routines of three different girls and tried to always be where they were.
More than any other album that Summer, local boys REO Speedwagon (originally formed in Champaign, just 18 miles away) and their album Hi Infidelity soundtracked my days and nights.  I may have on occasion followed the girls as they walked back to their respective homes which is not easy on a bright orange bike that tended to skip gears loudly as I shifted.  Though I was a huge fan and avid listener of American Top 40, I don't remember watching America's Top 10 until after we had arrived in Tucson in early September but I could be wrong.  Our Flashback benefactor burtiscurtis09 first shared the edit of this week's episode on YouTube way back in November 2009.


Pop Spotlight Song of the Week [click to watch video]


Album Spotlight Song of the Week [click to watch video]


Soul Spotlight Song of the Week [click to watch video]

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BONUS CHARTS and SPOTIFY PLAYLISTS

There are some fine early 80s R&B albums in the Top 10 of the Soul LPs chart (Shalamar and Ray Parker Jr) as well some funk standouts (The Clark/Duke Project and Rick James) but my favorite is The Dude featuring Quincy Jones and friends like James Ingram, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Patti Austin and Herbie Hancock... to name just a few.  Sure, in hindsight it was the blueprint for Thriller but back at the time it was just a fantastic listen.  And still is.

You know ol' HERC is a classic honky-tonk jukebox country fan but is there any less country of a song than Barbara Mandrell's "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool"?  It's a middle of the road adult contemporary song with a 10 second George Jones cameo near the end.  The whole Top 10 and pretty much all 100 Hot Country Singles this week was just sad for those of us who were truly country when country wasn't cool which I'm guessing means before Urban Cowboy came out the year before.  It certainly ain't any more country than Mandrell's effort but my favorite song on the list is Alabama's slow jam "Feels So Right".


Despite reports to the contrary, disco music was still throbbing in 1981 though its time on Top 40 radio had passed.  As such, maybe the majority of the songs on the Top 10 of the Disco Top 100 chart are new to you.  If so, I'd recommend Fantasy's "(Hey Who's Gotta) Funky Song" as a starting point but there really are no weak tracks.


Unlike the Hot Country Singles chart, the Top 10 of the Hot Country LPs chart has plenty of my favorite artists and some of their best albums.  Greatest Hits by Kenny Rogers is a solid singles compilation though some of my favorite Rogers tunes were still to come.  And Juice Newton's Juice is damn near impeccable as well but my favorite album on the list is Rosanne Cash's Seven Year Ache, the second in an incredible run of six albums that effectively changed country music in ways that are still being heard today.  Produced by her then-hubby Rodney Crowell, the couple called the album "punktry" and in aditiion to topping the Hot Country LPs chart, it spun off three Number One Hot Country Singles as well.  This one sounds as fresh today as it did back then.


Purely from a me at age 15 standpoint, the Top 10 of the Canada Singles chart as tabulated by the CBC was better suited to my own persoanl musical tastes thatn it's US Billboard counterpart.  The addition of songs by Petty, Styx, REO and Springsteen Gary U.S. Bonds make all the diiference in the world.  The rock n roll throwback that is "This Little Girl" has been a favorite since I first heard it on WLS.  The tribute to early Sixties sax rock is all swagger and a joy to sing at the top of your lungs as if it were Dion's "Runaround Sue" or "Lovers Who Wander".  When Bonds and his touring band performed the song on Fridays late on May 15, 1981, I remember being riveted but looking back and listening nearly thrity-five years, the band lacked the polished power of Bruce and his E Street Band.


The Top 10 of the Canada Albums chart as reported by CBC features many of the same albums that were in the US Albums Top 10.  Two exceptions were The Monks Suspended Animation, which has to be heard to be appreciated and even then you might not like it (let me know) and Long Distance Voyager from the Moody Blues.  The latter was my constant cassette companion (along with Hall & Oates Voices and another tape) as we drove from Illinois to Disney World and then over to Arizona, where Tucson was our final destination.


It should come as no surprise the entirety of the Top 10 of the Rock Albums chart has a special place in my library.  (Unfortunately, two of the albums are missing from Spotify's catalog.  Guesses?)  I know the first two songs on Jefferson Starship's Modern Times album better than just about any other song in their long and storied career.  Santana's "Winning" is one of my Top 3 fave songs from Carlos and Co.  Billy Squier's debut album still gets me rocking as does Van Halen's great "lost" album Fair Warning.  If I had to choose a favorite, I'd have to go with the number 1 album that week, Petty's Hard Promises simply based on the opening three track salvo and one of my late-night out by the pool staples "A Woman In Love (It's Not Me)" in particular.


Which brings us once again to the Top Tracks chart aka My Favorite Songs back then for all intents and purposes.  While most of these songs were getting airplay on WLS out of Chicago, I only heard others on the great sounding FM station WLRW out of Champaign.  They are all still huge on my personal jukebox.  Check the videos below for a tiny fraction of some of my all-time favorite songs that happened to be on the Top Tracks chart the week of June 20, 1981.











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