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SERIES RETURN: Episode 1 Of Chuck Small’s “Who Sings It ? – The 80s“

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Back in the winter, I wrote about CDs I created from random hits and near-hits of the 1970s, which I called Who Sings It?

The point was: Whether a song was truly from a one-hit wonder, or just from someone whose name was on the tip of your tongue, you were likely to ask that question.

The response was strong, so I figured I’d wait awhile and then review the next set from the 1980s.

Unlike the ’70s collections, these are a little more disciplined: sticking to a calendar year (or academic year) at a time. (There will be one final set that bounces around, collecting stray songs untouched by earlier volumes, as I found songs I’d wanted to convert to digital to put on my iPod back in the aughts.)

We start with 1980, when I was a high school junior. The first two tracks are as pivotal as any for which one might ask, “Who Sings It?”


For track one, the better question is “Who Raps It?”

The Sugarhill Gang became the first official act to hit Billboard’s Top 40 with a rap song, “Rapper’s Delight.”

  • Debuting the same week as “Rapper’s Delight” on the Hot 100 was The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” later known as the song that would mark the premiere of MTV in 1981.

Incidentally, both of these songs debuted in November 1979. But I think it’s safe to say no one thinks of either “Rapper’s Delight” or “Video Killed the Radio Star” as ’70s songs.

Although my music tastes lean toward Top 40 and adult contemporary, the 1980s ushered in a wave of power pop/rock that brought more energy to offset my ballad-heavy playlists.

This go-around, that genre is represented by:

  • Chicago pop/rockers Off Broadway, who hit No. 51 on the Hot 100 in April 1980 with “Stay in Time.”
  • England’s Gary Numan, who had his monster moment with “Cars” that summer

And Rocky Burnette, son of early rocker Johnny Burnette, who went Top 20 with “Tired of Toein’ the Line.”

By this time, disco was supposedly dead.

  • But don’t tell that to either Lipps Inc…
  • …or The S.O.S. Band, both of whom had huge hits with songs that would pack any dance floor. “Funkytown” went all the way to the top in May, while “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” hit Number 3 in August.

Some of the bigger names who might still generate the question “Who Is That ? …”

Billy Preston had success in the ’70s with both instrumentals (“Space Race,” “Outa-Space”) and vocals (“Nothing from Nothing,” “Will It Go Round in Circles?”.)

  • He had his final Top 40 pop hit in 1980: “With You I’m Born Again,” his sleepy duet with Syreeta that took almost six months to hit its Hot 100 peak in the spring.

Country singer and nightclub owner Mickey Gilley, whose bar became the site for Urban Cowboy, earned a Top 40 hit from that movie’s soundtrack with his rendition of the Ben E. King chestnut “Stand by Me.”

As with the previous series, I’ll share Spotify collections of these tracks as well as YouTube links for the tracks that are unavailable on Spotify.

Charlie Dore’s classic “Pilot of the Airwaves” is only on Spotify in a re-recording. Here’s a link to the original.

And Spotify doesn’t have the lone Top 40 solo hit for Felix Cavaliere, the former lead singer for the Rascals. Only a Lonely Heart Sees” hit Number 36 in April.

With a delightful 80's reboot of his awesome memory-jogging series, Contributing Author <a href="https://tnocs.com/user/cstolliver/?profiletab=posts"><b> <u>Chuck Small</B></u></a> is back with this inaugural return episode to help us recall... <i> Who sang that ? </I

Here’s the Spotify set:

You know the drill! Which ones do you like? Hate?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

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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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Virgindog
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Virgindog
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May 28, 2024 9:36 am

I didn’t remember “Pilot Of The Airwaves” or “Stay In Time” at all, but now I’m going to have “Tired Of Towin’ The Line” in my head all day. Thanks, Chuck!

rollerboogie
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May 28, 2024 10:18 am
Reply to  Virgindog

Stay in Time was not a huge presence nationally, but in Chicago, it was played a lot on top 40 and was a big hit as far as we were concerned.

rollerboogie
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May 28, 2024 10:20 am

Trivia Question” With You I’m Born Again was from the soundtrack of what Gabe Kaplan movie?

rollerboogie
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rollerboogie
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May 28, 2024 1:07 pm
Reply to  cstolliver

Yes,indeed, because nothing says raunchy basketball comedy like a syrupy love ballad.

mt58
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May 28, 2024 11:01 am
Reply to  rollerboogie

Get Kotter?

rollerboogie
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May 28, 2024 1:06 pm
Reply to  mt58

Nice try!

cappiethedog
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May 29, 2024 4:11 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh is great time capsule stuff. Fast Break is an underrated sports movie, in my opinion.

Becky Hammon is a finalist for the Lakers job.

Show some courage, L.A. front office.

(Holy cow. Stockard Channing was 34 in Grease.)

stobgopper
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May 28, 2024 2:16 pm

‘Pilot of the Airwaves’ is an underrated gem. Apple Music also lost the rights to the original, so there’s a big hole in my 1980 playlist. And yes, ‘Take Your Time (Do It Right)’ takes its time and does it correctly.

mt58
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May 28, 2024 2:41 pm
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LinkCrawford
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May 30, 2024 12:01 pm
Reply to  stobgopper

For me, “Pilot of the Airwaves” is a 9 or 10. A frequent flyer in my playlists.

Ozmoe
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May 28, 2024 4:59 pm

The oddest thing about “With You I’m Born Again” is how poorly it did on the R&B/soul/Black whatever you call it chart. Didn’t even crack the top 80 there. And yeah, I totally forgot that it was from a soundtrack.

Pauly Steyreen
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May 28, 2024 5:57 pm

For a change, I actually knew maybe 5 of these instead of 1 or 2. I had no idea Mickey Gilley covered “Stand by Me” — I don’t know why I find that somewhere between hilarious and incomprehensible.

When I had some level of retention, I would devour these bits of trivia, but my mind is like a coarse sieve now. I’m lucky to remember why I entered a room these days…

Aaron3000
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June 1, 2024 8:10 pm
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

Hilarious and incomprehensible, you say? How about Muhammad Ali giving it a try:

https://youtu.be/rnhaBsdWqWw?si=OqtVizOrxA5_amf2

blu_cheez
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May 28, 2024 7:51 pm

OK – recalled several of these, but forgot how great “Pilot Of The Airwaves” is.

cappiethedog
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May 29, 2024 4:05 pm

I forgot that I once knew “Pilot of the Airwaves”. If I heard it on my own, I’d probably draw a blank as to the musical artist’s identity, and by default, go with Juice Newton, even though I’d know it wasn’t Juice Newton.

Pretty great paean to the radio, second only to “Radio Ga Ga”.

The Buggles proclaimed the deejay dead in 1979, but I remember our regional radio personalities as recent as 1986. Trevor Horn was the oracle. Freddie Mercury was the reporter.

Dar Williams wrote an inspired song called “FM Radio” about a NYC-based deejay name Allison Steele, who went by the name of “Nightbird”. It’s an elegy, but it’s upbeat, a celebration of old school media.

One radio station’s selling point is: “Less talk, more music,” which is a tactful way of saying that we don’t have the budget to hire humans.

LinkCrawford
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May 30, 2024 12:03 pm

So much good music here, Chuck! Makes up for the fact that you included “Tired of Toein’ the Line”, a song I really don’t like.  😀 

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