Episode 2 Of Chuck Small’s “Who Sings It ?” — 1980-1981

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Am I…

A “yacht rock” fan?

I don’t know that I need a captain’s hat.

But I’ll settle for a baseball cap. And for this collection – in my hearing aids.

When it comes to the “Who Sings It?” tunes from 1980-81, which I know as senior year of high school, a good chunk falls within the later-invented faux genre of ‘yacht rock.’

On the “Yacht or Nyacht?” scale, nine of these 22 songs are considered yacht rock.

Anything earning above a 50 average from the four “Yacht Rock” hosts earned the designation “Yacht.”

And those earning less than 50 are “Nyacht.”)

From highest to lowest:

  • Nielsen/Pearson’s “If You Should Sail”: 91.25
  • Larsen-Feiten Band’s “Who’ll Be the Fool Tonight”: 91
  • Amy Holland’s “How Do I Survive”: 87.85
  • John O’Banion’s “Love You Like I Never Loved Before”: 81.5
  • Jimmy Hall’s “I’m Happy That Love Has Found You”: 81
  • Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Withers’ “Just the Two of Us”: 71.75
  • Stanley Clarke and George Duke’s “Sweet Baby”*: 61.25
  • Joey Scarbury’s “Theme from “The Greatest American Hero” (Believe It or Not)”: 56.25
  • Carole Bayer Sager’s “Stronger Than Before”: 55

*Yes, that’s the correct title, unlike what I mistyped in the credits for this collection.

Of that set of performers, only a few could be considered moderately to well known:

Carole Bayer Sager is better known as a songwriter, both with one-time husband Burt Bacharach (“That’s What Friends Are For”) and other collaborators such as Melissa Manchester (“Midnight Blue”).

The two “smooth jazz” duos are better known within R&B and jazz – except for Withers, whose “Lean On Me,” “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Use Me,” and “Lovely Day” remain both R&B and pop standards.

Like Bayer Sager, Jim Steinman is primarily known as a songwriter and producer.

He helmed such hits as Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” and Meat Loaf’s “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).” But unlike Bayer Sager, Steinman did not sing the lead vocals on his one Top 40 hit as a performer.

The credit there goes to Rory Dodd, the same man whose “Turn around, bright eyes” would kick off Tyler’s chart-topper.

“Everlasting Love” is among the compositions that show up in the most versions on my iPod.

In addition to Carl Carlton’s killer version from 1974, there’s…

…The Robert Knight original from 1967…

U2’s 1989 outtake…

… and Gloria Estefan’s 1995 remake.

This one, from Rex Smith and Rachel Sweet, is a bit gloopy…

But hearing it takes me back to high school in a minute, so there’s that.

No YouTube links needed this time…

as all the Spotify tracks are the original recordings:

Which ones do you like? Hate?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

Let the author know that you liked their article with a “Green Thumb” Upvote! 

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Chuck Small

Journalist-turned-high school counselor. Happily ensconced in Raleigh, N.C., with hubby of 31 years (9 legal).

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LinkCrawford
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LinkCrawford
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June 11, 2024 6:46 am

I’ve learned some of these songs (like the Larsen-Felton Band song) over the years from listening to old AT40 shows, but I love that there are still songs from this era that are “new” to me. I just wonder if the stations I listened to back then just didn’t have them in their playlists, or maybe they just didn’t register with me.

Phylum of Alexandria
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June 11, 2024 7:41 am

I know who sings “Whip It!” Very proud moment.

I don’t know too many other songs, though Al Green does a mean Will Smith cover.

I am not too big on yacht rock, but I’d survive a boat ride with Amy Holland.

Last edited 1 month ago by Phylum of Alexandria
rollerboogie
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June 11, 2024 8:31 am

I only knew 6 of these songs by name, but I knew the artist on all but one of them. This is usually my meat era, so that’s a low number. I’m listening to some of the tracks I don’t know to see if there are more I know, but just not from the title. Sweet Baby sounds familiar, but it may be because the piano part on the chorus is reminiscent of a number of songs from that era. Ah, I recognize Seven Year Ache, though I wouldn’t have identified the artist. Good song. Together sounds like a holdover from the Disco era.

I know it’s a made up genre, but I have always loved the concept of Yacht Rock and for the most part, I abide by the Yacht vs Nyacht website when determining whether something fits and was pleased to see it mentioned. In its hey-day, there were a lot of people claiming certain songs qualified that to me just didn’t have that sound at all and radio stations attempting to expand the definition to include any adult contemporary from the late 70s and early 80s. I part ways with the chart when the song qualifies by having certain musicians playing on it, but to me doesn’t sound yacht-y at all, such as the tracks from Thriller that made the cut.

I love that Whip It is here. Kind of comes in out of nowhere, hinting that dominant sounds will soon be changing, just like it did in real time.

Last edited 1 month ago by rollerboogie
mt58
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June 11, 2024 8:13 am

Style points to Captain Chuck for duly, noting that “yacht rock” is a faux genre.

It bothers me more than it should. I think the reason that gets under my skin is the fact that it feels like corporate speak.

I can almost picture the marketing meeting in my head, where people are throwing out names of “what are we gonna call this thing so that we can make some money off of it?“

The people running the website that Chuck talked about, are no doubt, great folks and passionate music fans; I’m not grinding an axe with them. It’s the whole idea that anything 20° right of starboard that was popular in the mid to late 70s gets lumped into a contrived category.

And yes, I see what I just did there. Score one for the marketing team: they got me.

rollerboogie
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June 11, 2024 8:48 am
Reply to  mt58

I get it. It sounded suspect to me initially, but it helped to know that it didn’t come from corporate at all, but came from those passionate fans you mentioned. They loved those artists so much that they made a web series where they all play the parts of various musicians from that era, in a fictional version of their lives. In that sense, it came about more organically and not commercially motivated. To me, the image of a yacht just really sums up the whole aesthetic of the smooth sound of that era. I can’t help but love it.

mt58
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June 11, 2024 9:06 am
Reply to  rollerboogie

I’m probably in the top 3% of Steely Dan fans, and I like 95% of the music from that era that I mentioned. It just feels a little bit hijacked that it all got lumped into one category that never really existed until 30 years after the fact.

Of course, when someone invokes “the Laurel Canyon sound“, I don’t have the same reaction. So as usual, it’s probably just me.
Carry on, Commodores.

rollerboogie
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June 11, 2024 9:24 am
Reply to  mt58

When you put it that way, it makes sense to me. There can be something off-putting about people too young to even remember it in real time defining a category of music that we grew up with and knew. It doesn’t bother me personally, but I do disagree with them on Steely Dan. That band had a dark, seamy underbelly that the other bands simply did not, and though they all drew from jazz, Steely Dan was way more complex about it and to me does not sound like the other groups represented. I consider that band formative in my music upbringing, but I am not in the 3% category of fandom likely. I can see why that alone would irk someone who is.

Pauly Steyreen
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June 11, 2024 9:58 am
Reply to  mt58

We were doomed when Sailing by Christopher Cross hit #1.

Virgindog
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June 11, 2024 9:07 am

I was into punk and new wave at the time so I don’t know many of these songs but here’s some trivia: Jimmy Hall was the lead singer of Wet Willie, best known for “Keep On Smiling” but check out their southern funk on “Grits Ain’t Groceries.”

https://youtu.be/He9NfDbE4uk

lovethisconcept
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June 13, 2024 6:46 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Jimmy played with Jeff Beck some, too. He played clubs around Nashville for years. I believe that he is still at it.

Virgindog
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June 13, 2024 7:06 pm

He is! He’s playing Saturday in East Nashville. Looks like he has some dates in Ohio coming up, too.

https://www.jimmyhall.com/shows

Pauly Steyreen
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June 11, 2024 9:56 am

I put Terri Gibbs’ Somebody’s Knockin’ on my year-end mixtape a couple of years ago. And Roseanne Cash’s Seven Year Ache is an all-timer. I have a lot of nostalgia for country music from this era. I was too young to have my own taste in music yet and growing up in Kentucky, it was the soundtrack of my life. You could throw Alabama, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard into this box as well… And don’t forget Waylon Jennings and The Dukes of Hazard theme (or Luckenbach, Texas). Reaching back a few years earlier, from the early 70’s to the early 90’s was peak country in my estimation. By the time Garth Brooks came around, things started tilting a bit too homogenized for my taste. (Nothing against Garth himself who had several greats, but the overall country tenor was losing its edge big time.)

Pauly Steyreen
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June 11, 2024 11:00 am
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

I grew up in a small town in Kentucky. One set of grandparents lived right out our back door, and my other grandparents lived in a different Kentucky small town about an hour and a half away (in Muhlenberg County). Every summer since I was 5, I would spend a week in the summer with my Muhlenberg County grandparents. I’d go to their church’s vacation bible school, go swimming at the public pool nearly every day and generally get spoiled for a week.

Well, the summer when I was 6, Somebody’s Knockin’ was all over the radio, and I was always excited when it came on. I’d ask my grandparents to turn it up, and I’d sing along. It seems dangerous when you’re 6 to be singing about the devil. But Somebody’s Knockin’ was my 1981 Song of the Summer, hands down.

Well, a few months later for my birthday, my grandfather wanted to surprise me, so he bought me Terri Gibbs’ album — on 8-track! Somehow, seeing the image below on the 8-track really messed me up. The red background, the sunglasses and the bowtie, and a woman singing about the devil. I was convinced this woman WAS the devil and this song was trying to turn me away from being a good Christian (thank you Southern Baptist upbringing!). So I cried. I know my grandfather was trying to give me a nice surprise, but I couldn’t feel anything but dirty and guilty for liking that song. I don’t think I listened to the album even once; I didn’t even bring it home (well, we didn’t have an 8-track player at home, so it presumably would have had to live at my grandparents’ house regardless). Somewhat ironically, Terri Gibbs transitioned from country to contemporary Christian music later in her career, even securing a Grammy nomination as a CCM artist.

I eventually learned some valuable lessons here. 1) Even if she were the devil, Terri Gibbs is awesome. I rediscovered Somebody’s Knockin’ a couple of years ago and it’s all good. No residual mortal fear, I’m happy to report. And 2) Mrs. Pauly and I chose not to raise the Teen with any religious teachings. He’s free to explore any religion (or none at all) when he’s at an age to make those decisions for himself. Hopefully he’ll turn out a bit less messed up than I was.

TerriGibbs
Phylum of Alexandria
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June 11, 2024 2:37 pm
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

Cool that your grandparents were in league with the Devil!

Pauly Steyreen
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June 11, 2024 3:42 pm

A former director of the federal agency I work for — a guy in his 60’s — recently confided in me his love for Tupac. You never know where coolness may lurk.

Zeusaphone
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June 11, 2024 11:39 am

1980 pop always makes me think Steve Forbert. Heard this song a zillion times that year but the radio station never wanted to say who it was by. It was years later before I found the answer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCU2Y1QR95Y

JJ Live At Leeds
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June 11, 2024 12:14 pm

I’ve got some listening to do. The Atlantic divergence is strong in this selection. There’s precisely 3 songs that I know: Devo, Grover & Bill and Jim Steinman.

Well, make it 4 songs with Everlasting Love but I know it through Love Affair’s 1967 UK #1. The label says Love Affair at least, turns out the only band member present is the singer with session musicians replacing the band.

Aside from those 4 songs, there’s only a handful of the remaining acts that I’ve even heard of. As far as I can tell only 2 of these songs in the versions by the listed artists even reached the UK top 40 and both of them just scraped into the mid 30s; Grover & Bill and Rex & Rachel.

Yacht rock didn’t perform too well here. It had stiff competition from home grown punk / post punk / new wave / new romantics. There just wasn’t the space for it to make a big impact.

Ozmoe
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June 11, 2024 11:54 pm

A lot of your selections are pretty meh to me, as were a lot of top 40 hits to me post-disco and pre-MTV. Having said that, Precious to Me and Just Between You and Me are two songs I could hear in rotation every day and not get tired of them. I like Together and Everlasting Love too, but not the versions presented here. The ones by the Intruders and Carl Carlton respectively are my favorites.

Ozmoe
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June 12, 2024 7:51 am
Reply to  cstolliver

Yes, I guess I mostly say nyo to it  😁 

Virgindog
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June 13, 2024 10:25 pm
Reply to  Ozmoe

So… you’re casting a nyet?

mt58
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June 13, 2024 10:58 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Yakov Smirnoff has entered the chat.

cappiethedog
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June 18, 2024 2:18 am

If DEVO walked on four legs, it would be my spirit animal. Yeah, you guessed it. I watched Fight Club again. “Weird Al’ Yankovic’s “Dare to Be Stupid” is pitch-perfect. With different lyrics, it would’ve fit perfectly on Oh, No! It’s Devo!. (Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil wrote the liner notes for the reissue.) Yankovic, however, misunderstood DEVO, like, I guess, how Dr. Demento misunderstood “Short People”. Sure, they’re wearing what looks like flower pots on their heads, and when I was a kid, the “flower pots”(energy domes) as headgear was what caught my eye, but there was a darkness that’s not readily apparent. “Whip It”, I think, has the exact same subtext as Timbuk 3’s “The Future’s So Bright…” I bought Freedom of Choice on vinyl, and then, cassette.

Love: “Somebody’s Knockin”: Growing up in a monoculture, there was no self-awareness as to genre. If it was on Billboard, it was a hit; not a rock hit, or country hit, or soul hit. A hit.

Hate: n/a

All the songs conjure some image or feeling, even the unfamiliar ones. I don’t know how to hate a song, or a specific sound, from childhood.

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