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Episode 3 Of Chuck Small’s “Who Sings It ?” — 1981-1982

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The third installment in this series takes us to 1981-82:

The academic year when I was a freshman at Indiana University in Bloomington.

I guess it’s fitting that the first track is titled “Breaking Away,” even if it has nothing to do with the movie filmed a couple of years earlier on that campus.

This “Breaking Away” is by a New York City group called Balance. It was their only Top 40 hit, a distinction shared by 11 other artists in this set.

Not for lack of trying, though:

Chris Christian, an adult contemporary (and, yes, contemporary Christian) singer, only hit the Top 40 with “I Want You, I Need You,” but he did return to the Hot 100 in a duet coming up in a future installment.

Balance, Bertie Higgins and LeRoux also had other Hot 100 hits, but Casey Kasem never counted them down.

A couple of the acts in this set were much bigger in their native Canada.

Vancouver’s Chilliwack recorded more than a dozen albums, but in the U.S., only two tracks from the LP Wanna Be a Star made the Top 40. The bigger of the two was “My Girl,” subtitled “Gone, Gone, Gone.”

Another Vancouver band, Prism, released eight studio albums and three live albums, but only clicked once in the U.S., with “Don’t Let Him Know” in 1982.

MTV played a role in a chart oddity associated with another track, the Tarney-Spencer Band’s “No Time to Lose.”

The song was first released in 1979 and peaked at No. 84 as Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” topped the charts. The group broke up, and co-leader Alan Tarney became better known as producer of Cliff Richard’s string of early ’80s hits.

But when MTV premiered in 1981, it played the video for “No Time to Lose,” igniting new interest and a re-entry on the Hot 100.

Its second chart run was as brief as its first, but it earned a new peak of No. 74 a year and a half after its first crack.

At the same time, Chicago’s WLS hopped on the song. Its 16-week chart run was double its combined Hot 100 history, and it peaked on WLS at No. 24.

“No Time to Lose” is one of three songs unavailable on Spotify; its YouTube version is here:

The other two are “More Than Just the Two of Us,” the sole Top 40 hit for the group Sneaker…

… and Greg Guidry’s moment in the Top 20 sun, “Goin’ Down”

Sneaker’s and Guidry’s songs were prime examples of an adult contemporary sound that had been popular in 1980 through mid-1982 but was on its way out by year’s end. Sprightlier pop/rock was on the rise, and some of it had attitude, as evidenced in the last three songs in this set.

The Waitresses’ “I Know What Boys Like” and the Frank and Moon Unit Zappa collaboration “Valley Girl” both hit the Hot 100, with the latter making AT40.

Josie Cotton’s “Johnny, Are You Queer?” – perhaps because of its controversial subject matter – settled for a No. 38 peak on the Billboard dance charts.

Here’s the Spotify playlist for this set:

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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rollerboogie
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June 18, 2024 8:26 am

I knew 10 of the songs on the playlist. Chris Christian was firmly entrenched in Christian Contemporary, starting with his on point name, and I had no idea he crossed over into the top 40. That sort of thing was very rare for a CCM artist, before Amy Grant really went for it in 1985 with the Unguarded album. I have definitely heard the song before. In another CCM connection, I have never actually heard a LeRoux song until today, but I knew who they were. One of their band members, Jeff Pollard is the one who talked to Kerry Livgren about Jesus, which led to his conversion experience and a big shake up with Kansas.

Valley Girl got lots of airplay and explains so much about the early 80s, for better or for worse, and led to the valley culture entering into popular culture.

As a Chicagoan, I do remember “No Time to Lose” getting played quite a bit on WLS. It’s a solid song that I always liked.

Last edited 25 days ago by rollerboogie
Phylum of Alexandria
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June 18, 2024 8:44 am
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Balance kind of sounds like CCM to me, but maybe that’s because Steve Camp was ripping their sound.

rollerboogie
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June 18, 2024 9:02 am

Interesting. The bulk of the CCM artists were aping the sounds of the day, so yes, musically the lines could get blurred. I have an entire playlist of Christian Yacht Rock, to prove the point.

LinkCrawford
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June 18, 2024 10:44 am
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I have a buddy that was VERY into Kansas in High School and followed Kerry and his Christian Band AD. Interesting trivia to put together there.

rollerboogie
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June 18, 2024 12:02 pm
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I also really liked AD and had a couple of their albums. They weren’t quite as preachy as some of the other bands, and though much more pop oriented than peak Kansas, some of their stuff was musically more innovative than what was alongside it at the time.

Phylum of Alexandria
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June 18, 2024 8:43 am

Again, the ones I know, I really know well. And once again, Will Smith lends a helping hand.

Crazy that “Johnny Are You Queer?” was a single that charted.

It seems that the Go-Gos reworked an early song by the edge lord punk group Fear (called “Fetch me One More Beer”), turning it more into a precursor for “Youre So Gay.” And then Josie Cotton recorded it.

The times they have changed.

JJ Live At Leeds
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June 18, 2024 9:35 am

Just as big a gap in US / UK tastes as last week. Soft Cell, Vangelis and Patrice Rushen have the only songs to bother the UK top 40, though at least this week they were all big hits.

The influence of TNOCS is evident as there’s Bertie Higgins, Tommy Tutone and Dazz Band that I’ve heard of thanks to previous mentions here or at SG.

I recognise I Know What Boys Like thanks to the mid 90s Shampoo cover. Shampoo were a precursor to the Spice Girls, who ended up completely eclipsing them having ‘borrowed’ Shampoo’s Girl Power slogan.

https://youtu.be/H6h2rZ3bo4Q?feature=shared

Phylum of Alexandria
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June 18, 2024 9:50 am

I knew it via interpolated sample:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDyODm-s4p8

Virgindog
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June 18, 2024 10:06 am

The Waitresses and Josie Cotton got lots of college radio airplay in Boston, and Soft Cell, Tommy Tutone, and the Zappas were all over commercial radio, but I can’t say I’m familiar with any of the rest. Between this and JJ’s novelty songs, I’m going to have a busy listening day. Thanks, Chuck!

LinkCrawford
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June 18, 2024 10:42 am

I think you buried the lead, Chuck. “Sausalito Summernight” is one of my favorite songs of the 80s, period. It was my most played song on my iTunes account one year in the late 20-teens.
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I was surprised that I actually knew “No Time To Lose”, but I don’t remember from where. But you taught me a bit of trivia. I LOVE the production sound of those early 80s Cliff Richards songs and I knew the name Tarney from those records, but didn’t know he had his own band. Sadly: not on apple music.

I definitely know “Goin’ Down” by Greg Guidry, a nice slice of Michael McDonald-like yacht rock. Also, sadly, not on apple music.

I knew 12 of these songs and liked several others in this batch. Feels like I’m 11 years old again!

Last edited 25 days ago by LinkCrawford
rollerboogie
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June 18, 2024 12:05 pm
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I remember that Greg Guidry too, but just barely. Now that you’ve mentioned Michael McDonald, I am now unable to listen to this song and not picture him singing it instead.

Pauly Steyreen
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June 18, 2024 1:12 pm

I knew 7 of these…

I feel like Chris Christian’s song was almost Meatloaf’s “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”

stobgopper
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June 18, 2024 7:29 pm

Memories, memories, Chuck. Chilliwack lurks somewhere in my 45s collection. Ship Arriving Too Late To Save a Drowning Witch is likewise buried in the LP dross pile. And (Louisiana’s) Leroux is fixed in my mind due to their ’78 hit, ‘New Orleans Ladies.’ With that, this dinosaur bows out.

cappiethedog
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June 25, 2024 8:58 pm

I’m not a huge fan of the “guitar hero”, that guy who really knows how to shred. But as a Queen aficionado, I admire Brian May, who just happens to be one of those masters of their craft. To put it this way: I came for the songwriting and stayed for the guitar pyrotechnics.

I like Dweezil Zappa. Why do I like Dweezil Zappa, when to this day, I haven’t done the Frank Zappa deep-dive. It’s because I saw the music video for “Let’s Talk About It” on MTV. Do you remember it? It features a Moon Unit Zappa lead vocal*. In my mind, that’s a lost song. I love that song so much. So I bought his debut album Having a Bad Day. For the longest time, it was the only album I owned that was contemporaneous with the hair metal movement. I think it’s the lone example of alternative hair-metal.

“Valley Girl” is great, too. There was a Hawaiian parody called “Palolo Valley Girls”. Some oceanic regional comedy has crossover potential. This is not it.

Synopsis: Two Samoan girls living in the projects are ashamed by the prospect of their classmates seeing them shop at Goodwill will their mother.

Night of the Comet is actually better than the Martha Coolidge film of the same name, but unfortunately, there is a slur.

*Dweezil gives his sister a second star-turn, “You Can’t Ruin Me”, which comes across as Leslie Gore in spandex.

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