Flashback Sunday: American Top 40, April 26, 1980

Counting down the hits from 40 years ago, from “Meh” to “Yeah!”

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Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” video (Photo: YouTube)

Forty years ago today, I was nearly three months away from beginning a tradition that would define my formative 1980s. Every Sunday afternoon after church, from 1pm to 4pm, I was glued to my radio, listening to Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” countdown.

At the end of my first episode, which was for the Billboard Hot 100 week ending July 19, 1980, Billy Joel’s chart-topping “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” succeeded Paul McCartney’s “Coming Up” at number one. The latter had debuted at number 73 on the Hot 100 for the week ending April 26, which turns 40 today.

Casey Kasem’s America’s Top 10 TV show the week after my first American Top 40 radio countdown.

To celebrate, rather than counting down the hits from April 26, 1980 in ascending order of popularity like Casey did 40 years ago, I’m counting them down, from my least favorite that week to my favorite. (Don’t hate me because of my weakness for yacht rock.) Now, on with the countdown!

40. “Fire in the Morning” Melissa Manchester 32/ 33/ 32 (That week/ Previous week/ Peak)
This “Fire” just can’t beat the heat of “Don’t Cry Out Loud” and “Midnight Blue,” and Manchester doesn’t sound like she’s even trying. “You Should Hear How She Talks About You” couldn’t have come fast enough.

39. “The Seduction (Love Theme)” (from American Gigolo) The James Last Band 40/ — / 28
Unless it was a TV theme (Dallas!) or a massive hit (“Chariots of Fire”), top 40-charting ’80s instrumentals (thankfully rare) generally were not unforgettable. With all due respect to Giorgio Moroder (who wrote it), I forgot this one before it was even over.

38. “Set Me Free” Utopia 36/ 27/ 27
How is it possible that this and not 1977’s “Love Is the Answer” was the Todd Rundgren-led band’s only Top 40 single?

37. “Pilot of the Airwaves” Charlie Dore 15/ 17/ 13
I don’t know anything about Dore (who’s a woman, by the way) or her single, although it went all the way to number 13. I do know, however, that four years later, her co-composition “Strut" became a number-seven hit for Sheena Easton.

36. “Hold On to My Love” Jimmy Ruffin 14/ 12/ 10
Another high-charting single I don’t remember, co-written and co-produced by Bee Gee Robin Gibb. “Help Me!” — Gibb’s duet with future Shakespear’s Sister Marcy Levy (aka Marcella Detroit), a follow-up Gibb/Blue Weaver co-composition/production that hit number 50 several months later — was far more deserving of top 10 status.

35. “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” Queen 27/ 15/ 1
I get what the veteran art-rock band was trying to do, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

34. “I Pledge My Love” Peaches and Herb 19/ 20/ 19
Unfortunately, the retro-’50s Happy Days/Sha Na Na effect of the ’70s was still rippling through pop music in 1980 (see Queen above).

33. “Do Right” Paul Davis 31/ 35/ 23
If you thought the guy who sang “I Go Crazy” was a one-hit wonder, you were so wrong, but there were far better and bigger top 40 singles (“Cool Night” and “’65 Love Affair”) to come.

32. “Call Me (from American Gigolo)” Blondie 1/ 1/ 1
Confession time: “Heart of Glass” aside, I probably love Blondie a lot less than I should, and I still can’t believe this was the band’s biggest hit and Billboard’s number-one song of 1980.

31. “Only a Lonely Heart Sees” Felix Cavaliere 37/ 36/ 36
Sung by a future Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee (as a founding member of The Young Rascals), this song was in its third top 40 week, and clearly not graduating out of the 30s. No big loss.

30. “Sexy Eyes” Doctor Hook 10/ 13/ 5
Dr. Hook always created the illusion (to me) of being a part-time act, though they had a solid run of hit singles, of which this was the biggest one. The epitome of a singles band (not one of their studio LPs ever made it to the top 40 of Billboard’s top 200 album chart), the band seemed to vanish after the early ’80s.

29. “Special Lady” Ray, Goodman and Brown” 5/ 5/ 5
R&B hits didn’t go Top 10 pop with any regularity back in 1980, so I’m not sure what was so special about “Lady” to make it a rare exception to the general rule. Formerly The Moments (of “Love on a Two-Way Street” fame), the trio proved you could switch names mid-game, well past halftime, and still score a touchdown.

28. “The Rose” (from The Rose) Bette Midler 39/ — / 3
Preferable to “Wind Beneath My Wings,” but Bette wouldn’t really grab me with one of her hits until “From a Distance” a decade later.

27. “Hurt So Bad” Linda Ronstadt 18/ 23/ 8
Decent enough, but it’s mostly about Ronstadt’s impossible vocal acrobatics.

26. “Another Brick in the Wall” Pink Floyd 3/ 2/ 1
Maybe it was the bookworm in me, but at 10, I couldn’t fully get behind a song with the refrain “We don’t need no education.” Not only was it heretical but ungrammatical, too. Tsk tsk.

25. “Anyway You Want It” Journey 23/ 26/ 23
Escape was still one year away, and so was my interest in the band.

24. “Off the Wall” Michael Jackson 16/ 10/ 10
It’s better than I remember it being but no match for “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.”

23. “You May Be Right” Billy Joel 12/ 9/ 7
I’ve always loved him in rock & roll mode. This was the first Billy Joel song that I actually knew as a Billy Joel song, though I may have heard it first on the TV commercials for The Chipmunk’s Chipmunk Punk that same year. His previous top 10s, “Just the Way You Are” and “My Life,” were just songs by some singer that I heard everywhere — in cars, in malls, and as the theme music to Bosom Buddies.

22. “And the Beat Goes On” The Whispers 28/ 19/ 19
I love The Whispers now, but at the time, it really was all about The Brothers Johnson for me.

21. “Breakdown Dead Ahead” Boz Scaggs 26/ 30/ 15
Like the good Dr. (Hook), Boz always seemed to be merely moonlighting as a singer. After three more Top 20 hits in 1980, he wouldn’t release another single until 1988’s “Heart of Mine.”

20. “Funkytown” Lipps Inc 29/ 37/ 1
Of all the songs that hit number one in 1980, I might have considered this to be the one least likely to be covered mid-decade by an Australian band (Pseudo Echo) and sent back into the Top 10.

19. “Him” Rupert Holmes 34/ 21/ 6
As rebound follow-ups credited to an artist you probably thought was a one-hit wonder — via 1979’s chart-topping “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” — go, one can do so much worse than “Him.”

18. “Train in Vain” The Clash 38/ — / 23
I never realized until this very moment that whenever I think of this song, I don’t think of the Clash’s original, the first of the seminal British punk band’s two U.S. Top 40 hits, but of Annie Lennox’s churchified remake from her 1995 covers album, Medusa.

17. “Brass in Pocket” Pretenders 25/ 29/ 14
It’s hard to believe that despite releasing such fantastic singles as “Stop Your Sobbing,” “Kid,” and “Talk of the Town,” Pretenders only managed this one trip to the U.S. Top 40 before “Back on the Chain Gang” in 1982.

16. “Stomp!” The Brothers Johnson 24/ 28/ 7
I’m a sucker for an exclamation point in a song title — a point (!!!) that Shania Twain would drive home again and again years later!!!

15. “Lost in Love” Air Supply 6/ 6/ 3
My first-ever favorite band (before I discovered Duran Duran, my second group love), although “Making Love Out of Nothing At All” and the spacey intro to “Sweet Dreams” aside, I don’t love Air Supply’s singles today as much as I did circa 1980 to 1983.

14. “Too Hot” Kool and the Gang 14/ 11/ 5
A highlight of one of my first K-tel compilations, it oozed sex (even to a virginal 10-year-old) but was still so elegant and classy.

13. “I Can’t Tell You Why” The Eagles 8/ 8/ 8
I remember hearing this on the radio all the time at the time and thinking it was the most eerie-beautiful thing ever. And I’ve always been a sucker for a gorgeous, moody outro.

12. “Biggest Part of Me” Ambrosia 17/ 24/ 3
Along with Dr. Hook’s “Sexy Eyes,” the final stand of the Sound of the Seventies. This has “soft rock circa 1978” written all over it. It’s no “How Much I Feel” (Ambrosia’s actual 1978 hit), but then, what is?

11. “With You I’m Born Again” Billy Preston and Syreeta 4/ 4/ 4
It’s sort of cloying, almost psychedelic, and as soon as Syreeta Wright opens her mouth, nighttime magical.

10. “The Second Time Around” Shalamar 35/ 31/ 8
I can’t listen to this song, or think about it, without imagining Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel dancing along on Soul Train or American Bandstand. I’d venture out on a limb and say Shalamar may have been the first act whose moves were equally integral, paving the way for Michael Jackson to moonwalk his way to iconhood.

9. “Heart Hotels” Dan Fogelberg 33/ 40/ 21
A career highlight by an early ’80s pleasure that was hardly guilty, one who, from this follow-up to his biggest hit (“Longer,” dreadful) to 1983’s “Make Love Stay” (heartbreaking, especially that key change near the end) made nary a questionable peep in Billboard’s top 40.

8. “How Do I Make You” Linda Ronstadt 30/ 18/ 10
The queen of country-rock gets The Knack. She spent three weeks at number 10 with this new-wavey hit, making it a rare single from that era (along with Paul McCartney’s “Take It Away” and Diana Ross’s “Muscles”) to spend more than two weeks at the edge of the top 10.

7. “I Can’t Help It” Andy Gibb and Olivia Newton-John 21/ 32/ 11
I was so jealous of the youngest brother Gibb because he got to sing with my number-one pop crush at the time, which goes to show how different things were then.

6. “Fire Lake” Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band 7/ 7/ 6
Words to live by. And I still do.

5. “Ride Like the Wind” Christopher Cross 2/ 3/ 2
I’m sure “Sailing,” the Grammy-winning (Record and Song of the Year) number-one was the first thing I ever heard from him, but this was actually Cross’s debut single. According to his Wikipedia entry, he wrote “Wind” while he was tripping on acid, which makes me love it a little more.

4. “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer” Kenny Rogers and Kim Carnes 13/ 16/ 4
I absolutely hated this song in 1980 when it was number three for the third time on Billboard’s country singles chart behind Ronnie Milsap’s “My Heart” and Don Williams’ “Good Ole Boys Like Me.” I’m not sure whether my eventual 180 is due to nostalgia or my changing taste in middle age, but today it’s one of my all-time favorite duets.

3. “Think About Me” Fleetwood Mac 20/ 22/ 20
It wasn’t the giant radio hit its Tusk predecessor, “Sara,” was, but it remains my second- or third-favorite Fleetwood Mac single, after “Tusk” and, if I’m in a particularly late-’80s mood, “Big Love.”

2. “Cars” Gary Numan 22/ 25/ 9
This week in 1980, I was country when country was just becoming cool. I thought I was the hippest 10 year old on the planet for loving “the song with the robot feel” (according to Casey, who also dubbed Numan “the mechanical man”). It still sounds like nothing that came before it, with it, or in the 40 years since.

1. “Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me Girl (Medley)” The Spinners 11/ 9/ 2
As bridges between ’70s disco and early ’80s roller-rink soul go, it doesn’t get better than The Spinners’ biggest hit that wasn’t a 1974 number-one collaboration with Dionne Warwick called “Then Came You.” This was the pinnacle of a chart career full of creative and commercial high points. Dear Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Get with the program!

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa” https://rb.gy/3mthoj

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