This is not the best chart, despite my love for 1982 pop. As we were moving into mid-1982, new wave hadn’t quite caught fire yet in the US (though notice the Human League sneaking closer to the top, the first clear sign, with Soft Cell about the crack the top 20 as well), and the disco boom was 2+ years bust, which left primarily super soft adult contemporary balladry and AOR as the main components of top 40 radio. Programmers were still by and large scared of R&B thanks to “disco sucks,” save a title here or there, so the hits of ’82 were very, very Caucasian. And a little uninspiring.
1 1 EBONY AND IVORY –•– Paul McCartney with Stevie Wonder (Columbia)-10 (5 weeks at #1) — Like a mouthful of dish detergent.
2 2 DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS –•– Rick Springfield (RCA)-15 (2) — One of the greatest lyrics of all time, don’t argue with me, is “Did you fall at first sight/Or did you need a shove?” It doesn’t hurt that it’s set to Rick’s smoothest pop-rock groove ever. It’s always saddened me that this couldn’t get to #1 (stopped by the atrocity above it); this is so much better than “Jessie’s Girl,” the one that did go the distance. Also, always worth repeating one of the most surprising chart stats of the ’80s: Springfield had 17 top 40 hits. 17.
3 6 DON’T YOU WANT ME –•– The Human League (A&M)-15 (3) — Casey Kasem, announcing this as the #8 single of 1982 on the American Top 40 year-end countdown: “More new wave music hit the charts in 1982 than in previous years — and this is the biggest new wave hit of the year. It’s by the English band from Sheffield whose members all play the same kind of instrument,” he says bemusedly, “synthesizers!” That said, the only other new wave record to make the entire year-end top 100 was down at #21 below. That also said, these two records were, in the US, on the true crest of the wave. We had no idea what was coming. “Don’t You Want Me” is so well-written that it’s never burned for me a bit. A truly genius pop record from a band who made quite a few of them.
4 5 THE OTHER WOMAN –•– Ray Parker Jr. (Arista)-13 (4) — He was great at yacht soul, and he was also great at what I call AOR&B. RPJ could rock up his R&B like no one else at the time — it helps that his primary instrument was the guitar, which he could play the fuck out of — and nothing exemplifies it like “The Other Woman.” Lyrically, this is an only-in-the-early-’80s record: the opening lines of the first verse are “I’m just an average guy/I fool around a little on the side.” Good to know, Ray! And it turns out, this time he fell in love with his “other woman.” Well, I mean, you get what you pay for, right? <laughing> But seriously, this is a killer little single, maybe his best, and it sounds so awesomely 1982.
5 7 ALWAYS ON MY MIND –•– Willie Nelson (Columbia)-15 (5) — Amazing that this song, originally an Elvis record, has been remade in two fairly definitive versions, being of course this one and the 1987 take by the Pet Shop Boys. And they couldn’t be more different. Willie’s version is one of the prettiest of his singles, delicately produced, and his voice (always an incredible instrument) sounds just lovely.
6 8 HEAT OF THE MOMENT –•– Asia (Geffen)-9 (6) — Did you know that the #1 album of 1982 was Asia? The late ’70s and early ’80s were monster years for AOR, and British prog supergroup Asia rode the fuck outta that wave. Even without a #1 single — this made it to #4, while follow-up “Only Time Will Tell” crept to #17 — their eponymous debut spent nine weeks atop the Billboard 200 across May, June, and July of ’82. By and large the album succeeds at distilling the poppiest elements of prog (its members had logged time in Yes, Kimg Crimson, and ELP) into slick radio-friendly rock. As both a fan of early ’80s AOR and a decided non-fan of prog rock, I approve of this heartily. And “Heat of the Moment” is also a snappy little pop-rock record.
7 10 ROSANNA –•– Toto (Columbia)-9 (7) — The first cassette I ever owned was Toto IV, gifted to me by one of my best friends on my 12th birthday (Dec ’82). This was its first single, which got stuck at #2 for five weeks, and while it’s definitely classic yacht rock, it’s by no means the best single from the album (that would be third single “Africa,” their first and only #1).
8 11 CRIMSON AND CLOVER –•– Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (Boardwalk)-7 (8) — I’ve never cared for Tommy James and the Shondells, and not even Joan Jett could change that.
9 4 867-5309/JENNY –•– Tommy Tutone (Columbia)-21 (4) — Bar-band rockers who got lucky.
10 12 IT’S GONNA TAKE A MIRACLE –•– Deniece Williams (ARC)-11 (10) — This is a cover of a minor 1965 single by the Royalettes, but to my ears Williams’ version has always read very ’50s; it’s also gorgeous and stately.
11 3 I’VE NEVER BEEN TO ME –•– Charlene (Motown)-18 (3) — One of the most gloriously, epically bad top 10 records of all time. It’s supersoft pop on par (this ain’t a compliment) with “You Light Up My Life,” completed note-perfectly by one of the most ridiculous sets of lyrics in history (to wit: “I’ve been to Georgia and California/And anywhere I could run/I took the hand of a preacher man/And we made love in the sun … I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me”). A karaoke classic, and one whose lyrics I quote all the time — weirdly, especially with my Mom. I think that her “appreciation” of this song in ’82 was one of my first clear signals that she had a sense of humor.
12 17 BODY LANGUAGE –•– Queen (Elektra)-7 (12) — Speaking of ridiculous… If you didn’t know without a doubt that Freddie Mercury was gay after hearing this song, you weren’t paying attention. Also, I love that he finally got Queen to go full-on synth funk on this absurd song. In fact, I love everything about “Body Language.”
13 16 MAKING LOVE –•– Roberta Flack (Atlantic)-15 (13) — Somehow, a Robert Flack theme from a film about a man discovering that he prefers men to women — starring Harry Hamlin, in 1982, and I cannot emphasize these points enough — made it into the top 15. It’s a Bachrach/Bayer Sager song (with Bruce Roberts), and sounds like it. I kinda love the overly soft synths: I mean, my god, this is not that far away from bathhouse new age music, if you think about it.
14 14 MAN ON YOUR MIND –•– The Little River Band (Capitol)-11 (14) — LRB had 13 top 40 singles in the US. 13, stretching from ’75 to ’83! This one, at its chart peak, was the third consecutive US top 40 hit from their ’81 album Time Exposure, their only album to do so. It was also their next-to-last top 20 single, and I suspect the reason is a simple one: they were not very good at videos. Really not very good.
15 18 LOVE’S BEEN A LITTLE BIT HARD ON ME –•– Juice Newton (Capitol)-6 (15) — Speaking of videos, you should watch this one immediately, because it’s so wonderfully cheesy, and knows it. Juice Newton was the queen of country-pop crossover in the early ’80s, and this one interestingly was a much bigger pop (#7) than country (#30) hit. It’s also a cracking little single, uptempo and entertaining as hell.
16 19 LET IT WHIP –•– The Dazz Band (Motown)-8 (16) — A precious few R&B records broke through in ’82, one of the biggest being this #1 R&B (5 weeks)/#5 pop smash by the former jazz fusioners the Dazz Band. They themselves didn’t really have much personality, but this one shot sure did.
17 20 HURTS SO GOOD –•– John Cougar (Riva)-8 (17) — When I took a look at the career of the great John Mellencamp last week, I ranked this his 6th-best single, largely because of how damn tough this record sounds. Credit mostly Kenny Aronoff‘s drumming and Don Gehman’s smart production.
18 9 ’65 LOVE AFFAIR –•– Paul Davis (Arista)-16 (6) — I love this stupid song, which hearkens to the days “when rock’n’roll was simple and clear,” yet does so with silly early ’80s pop production (including lots of synthetic handclaps).
19 13 EMPTY GARDEN (Hey Hey Johnny) –•– Elton John (Geffen)-13 (13) — Only John/Taupin could work such an awkward word as “flagstones” into a hit record. I find this a bit overproduced and a bit maudlin, but considering it’s John’s tribute to his late friend John Lennon, it’s hard to find too much fault.
20 24 CAUGHT UP IN YOU –•– 38 Special (A&M)-7 (20) — These wild-eyed southern boys first hit top 10 pop paydirt (#10), and #1 on the AOR chart, with this single from their most successful album, Special Forces. They did so by wedding their southern rock grit with slick arena-ready AOR production, with a songwriting assist from, I kid you not, Survivor’s Jim Peterik. I’m not sure southern rock has ever been so tidily distilled into popcraft as right here.
21 29 TAINTED LOVE –•– Soft Cell (Sire)-22 (21) — Soft Cell’s Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret is a stunning album, basically made in a tiny studio by just Dave Ball (playing everything) and Marc Almond (singing), with Mike Thorne behind the boards, understanding that the best thing he could do was as little as possible in this case. Not only will I argue that much of the roots of electroclash can be found here, I will also never not be amazed that their sleazy little Northern Soul cover topped the charts basically all over the world, and even made the US top 10 (in a slow climb that helped it, at the time, shatter the record for the longest stay on the Hot 100, at 43 weeks). What a brilliant single.
22 15 DID IT IN A MINUTE –•– Daryl Hall and John Oates (RCA)-13 (9) — One of their more rockin’ Imperial Phase hits, even being led by electric piano, the third and final top 10 single from Private Eyes is no patch on its predecessors (the title track and “I Can’t Go For That,” both #1 singles), but is likely better than you recall.
23 21 RUN FOR THE ROSES –•– Dan Fogelberg (Full Moon)-11 (18) — Fogelberg was capable of great AC/pop records with a dash of folk, and bathetic ones, too. This falls into the latter category.
24 26 WITHOUT YOU (Not Another Lonely Night) –•– Frankie and the Knockouts (Millenium)-11 (24) — I’m quite the stan for their 1981 #10 single “Sweetheart,” but I had to look this one up; I’m not sure I’d ever heard it before. At its chart peak, their third and final top 40 record is completely nondescript 1982 pop-rock.
25 31 ANY DAY NOW –•– Ronnie Milsap (RCA)-7 (25) — If Juice Newton was the post-Dolly country crossover queen, then Milsap was the post-Kenny king. This Chuck Jackson cover is, of course, anchored by Milsap’s sterling piano and beautiful vocals. On its way to #14 pop, but it made it to #1 on both the country and AC (5 weeks!) charts.
26 28 WHEN IT’S OVER –•– Loverboy (with Nancy Nash) (Columbia)-10 (26) –I always misread this as “with Niecy Nash,” which would make this slog of a power ballad better.
27 33 TAKE ME DOWN –•– Alabama (RCA)-4 (27) — Alabama were the biggest country act of the ’80s, notching, and this is not a typo, 21 consecutive #1 country singles. This was the seventh in that run, also their third (and final) top 20 pop single. It sounds like country because everything Alabama touched sounds country, but in reality, this is southern soft-rock more than it’s country — which helps explain its crossover performance.
28 32 PLAY THE GAME TONIGHT –•– Kansas (Kirshner)-6 (28) — Just as in ’91/’92 the charts saw the last gasps of hair metal gods gracing the top 40, in ’82/’83 the bloated corpses of ’70s prog-AOR giants were still roaming the land, looking for entrance into the charts one last time. I mean, look at these guys: talk about having faces for radio.
29 34 ONLY THE LONELY –•– The Motels (Capitol)-8 (29) — Martha Davis had this peculiar, almost-catch in her voice, that made it stand out from any other female singer of the era. Credit producer Val Garay for the atmospheric sound of most of their hits, and for knowing just when to include a sax solo.
30 30 WHEN HE SHINES –•– Sheena Easton (EMI-America)-11 (30) — Just as mawkish as “Butterfly Kisses.”
31 35 BREAK IT UP –•– Foreigner (Atlantic)-5 (31) — The follow-up to the all-time longest-running #2 record ever, “Waiting for a Girl Like You” (since tied with Missy Elliott’s “Work It”), they were clearly trying to prove again that they could, y’know, rock. But this thuds rather than rocks, and accordingly only made it to #26. Way to wreck all that hitmaking goodwill, guys. [2nd song on this countdown I had to look up.]
32 23 FANTASY –•– Aldo Nova (Portrait)-12 (23) — Top comment on this song’s video on YouTube: “You may be COOL, but you’ll never be ALDO NOVA stepping out of a helicopter under armed guard wearing a leopard skin body suit with cowboy boots COOL.” I mean, what else can you say?
33 37 FORGET ME NOTS –•– Patrice Rushen (Elektra)-7 (33) — Funny that while Rushen is known as a pianist, this song is known more than anything for its epic, supreme, all-time-classic (cf. “Fastlove”) bassline.
34 49 STILL THEY RIDE –•– Journey (Columbia)-4 (34) — Like Foreigner above them, Journey were on the fourth single from a mega-selling album, and also following up a #2 hit ballad (in their case, “Open Arms”). Unlike Foreigner, this has scope — and Steve Perry. And made it to #19.
35 36 I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO START –•– Eddie Rabbitt (Elektra)-10 (35) A schlocky #2 country single that got no further on the pop chart that might’ve benefitted from a more lush, AC production. [3rd song on this countdown I had to look up.]
36 40 PERSONALLY –•– Karla Bonoff (Columbia)-7 (36) — She can’t mail it in. She can’t phone it in. She can’t send it in. Because what great songwriter and one-off hitmaker Karla Bonoff has to give you is SEX.
37 41 AFTER THE GLITTER FADES –•– Stevie Nicks (Modern)-5 (37) — Foreigner, Journey, and Stevie Nicks were all closing out the single cycles on huge 1981 rock albums with fourth singles, all of which (relatively) underperformed. One of the most country-sounding entries in Nicks’ catalog, this actually made it to #70 on the country chart!
38 38 FRIENDS IN LOVE –•– Dionne Warwick and Johnny Mathis (Arista)-9 (38) — There’s Adult Contemporary, and then there’s Adult Contemporary, if you get my meaning. Trust me, don’t put yourself through this.
39 39 MURPHY’S LAW –•– Cheri (Venture)-10 (39) — Now, here’s a fucking diamond in the rough, a gem I only discovered a couple of weeks ago, thanks to of all things, Chromeo’s 2009 volume of the DJ-Kicks series. Their mix concentrates mostly on forgotten/neglected early ’80s new wave/funk gems, a lot of them Canadian. That includes this one-shot from a Quebecois female duo who made it into the US R&B top 5 thanks to (in all likelihood) a funny pitched-up voice on the chorus, a loping bassline, and a clever conceit (15 years before “Ironic,” I might add). The vocals coo, and the groove never quits. Seek this out, because it’s beyond awesome.
40 43 HOPE YOU LOVE ME LIKE YOU SAY YOU DO –•– Huey Lewis and the News (Chrysalis)-5 (40) — Talk about a bar band that got lucky.