Billy Joel is another excellent song writer from the ‘80s who hit with songs like Uptown Girl, Tell Her About It, and later in the decade We Didn’t Start the Fire. In 1982 he released Allentown, and while it only reached #17 on the Billboard weekly charts (but #47 on the year end charts), this song packs an enormous punch. Joel describes life in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a typical coal mining town whose residents are dependent upon that coal and working in those mines for a living. The young people in Allentown are becoming restless because the life that they were promised is not coming to fruition. Their parents and teachers all promised them a comfortable life working with coal, but it is not happening:
Well we’re living here in Allentown
And they’re closing all the factories down
Out in Bethlehem they’re killing time
Filling out forms
Standing in line
It is becoming harder and harder for these young people to stay in a town that is economically dying. This now becomes a metaphor for the working class in the Northeastern United States. This area once had an industry that was booming and could easily support those who were willing to work for it. Now, times are changing and, while the will to work is still there, the money is not.
Well we’re waiting here in Allentown
For the Pennsylvania we never found
For the promises our teachers gave . . .
So the graduations hang on the wall
But they never really helped us at all
No they never taught us what was real
Ever since the first time I heard this song, these lyrics have stick with me and still stand out today:
Every child has a pretty good shot
To get at least as far as their old man got
But something happened on the way to that place
They threw an American flag in our face
Billy Joel is trying to draw attention to a part of the country that is dying. An industry that was once vital to American life is now being left behind; those who are being left behind are suffering, caught in a situation not of their own making and not knowing what to do, caught in a trap of, as they see it, lies.
Welcome back to this week’s Top 40 countdown. If you missed the previous songs, you can go back and check out songs 40-31 and 30-21. At this point in time, MTV was still in its infancy, as it just debuted 2 1/2 months ago. Some artists already threw their hat in the ring, and filmed music videos. Others were not yet ready to embrace this medium. So, this is a very interesting and transitional time. Now, let’s Return to the week ending October 17, 1981, and continue the countdown.
As far as I’m concerned, you can’t go wrong with Billy Joel. This song was originally released in 1976 on his Turnstiles album. But, it didn’t have success until it was released on Joel’s live album, Songs in the Attic.
Another fun fact: Billy Joel confirmed that he wrote the song with Ronnie Spector and The Ronettes song “Be My Baby” in mind. Because of this, Ronnie Spector recorded her own cover version of “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” in 1977 with the E Street Band, soon after Joel released his first recording of the song on Turnstiles.
During this part of the decade, there were a lot of country-crossover hits. But, now we have a jazz-crossover hit! This is a song I would never have listened to back when it was released, but absolutely love it now. This song came off of Al Jarreau’s Breakin’ Away album, which was his most popular album, spending two years on the Billboard 200. it also won Jarreau the Grammy Award in 1982 Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male.
This isn’t exactly one of Kenny Rogers’ most well known songs. But, it did reach number 14 on the Hot 100 and 5 in the US Country charts. It was off of his album Share Your Love, which was produced by Lionel Richie.
This was the first single released off of ELO’s 1981 album, Time, and became an international hit. I’m not sure if I would have heard of this song if it wasn’t featured in The Coffee Achievers TV commercials….
Well, if you’re gonna follow-up “Jessie’s Girl”, this is the way to do it. Rick Springfield proved he was here to stay with this Sammy Hagar penned tune. Just like “Jessie’s Girl”, this rocker came off of Rick Springfield’s 1981 international breakout album Working Class Dog, and would reach up to #9 on the charts.
I’m not sure what the U.S. presidential debate fact-checkers would say, but I believe that this is where the rage of the ’80s sax solo began. This was the first single released from Foreigner’s classic 4 album. The album was produced by “Mutt” Lange. The then-unknown Thomas Dolby played synthesizer on some tracks on the album, including this song. And the aforementioned sax solo was performed by by Motown great Junior Walker.
That wraps up today’s list of songs. So far, this has been a pretty solid week. And the best is yet to come! So come back Friday to see what the Top 10 was this week in 1981. And as usual, I would love to hear your thoughts on this countdown. See ya Friday!
Hi Everybody! Time to continue the countdown. If you missed the previous 10 songs, you can still check them out. This countdown doesn’t have the awesome songs we heard last week. But, there are many songs here that we never hear on the radio. So, let’s Return to the week ending May 24, 1980, and continue the countdown.
I love this medley by The Spinners. “Cupid” is the classic Sam Cooke tune. Hardcore Journey fans may know that Sam Cooke was a huge influence on Steve Perry’s sound. So, I love Sam Cooke. I am not familiar with the other song, “I’ve Loved You a Long Time” by Michael Zagar. I can’t find that song online. It looks like he is mainly known for a disco song called “Let’s All Chant“. The Spinners did a great job integrating the two songs together.
James Last was a German composer. This song, which is the love theme to the Richard Gere film, American Gigolo, is an instrumental jazz tune. So, if you have a hankering for some instrumental jazz, then this song is for you. I kind of like this.
This title track from Jermaine Jackson’s 1980 album was Jermaine’s first #1 R&B hit. The song was produced by Stevie Wonder, who also has some vocals on this song. It was Billboard’s #1 Soul hit for the entire year of 1980, beating out brother Michael’s platinum-certified mega-hit “Rock With You” which was #2 for the year.
This classic tune by The Clash was their final single released from their 1979 album, London Calling. The words “stand by me” dominate the chorus. However, the song was titled “Train in Vain (Stand By Me)” so us dummies wouldn’t get it confused with the Ben E. King hit.
This is Billy Joel’s second entry on the countdown this week. This is a classic, fun, rock song, which famously begins with sound of glass breaking (probably from the “glass house” of the album title).
This nice ballad came off of Dan Fogelberg’s sixth studio album, Phoenix, from 1979. That album also gave us the classic Fogelberg hit, “Longer“.
That wraps up today’s list of songs. Let me know what you think of this week’s countdown. I can tell you that it is going to keep getting better and better. I am familiar with all of them. They are all very good, yet you don’t hear them on the radio. So, please come back tomorrow and check them out.
Welcome back to a new week of the Top 40! In preparation for the upcoming new Star Wars movie, last week we covered the Top 40 from the weekend that Return of the Jedi was released – May 1983. Now, we’re working our way back through more Star Wars movies. This week, we will check out the Top 40 from the weekend that The Empire Strikes Back opened. The Empire Strikes Back was released on May 21, 1980. So, we will see what was topping the charts the week ending May 24, 1980. As is the case with most people, The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite of the series. I normally march to the beat of my own drum, and don’t go along with the masses. But, that is not the case here. I was 9 years old when this was released (I would turn 10 in September), so I was still collecting Star Wars figures and playsets. At this time, I was also really into collecting baseball cards. When The Empire Strikes Back came out, I also collected all the trading cards for the movie. I read all the Star Wars books I could get my hands on. The movie was also showing at a local movie theater, which only cost $1. So, I saw this movie many, many times in the theater. I had written about my Star Wars story in previous articles and will be reposting them during Star Wars week. So, let’s get to the music. I did not get my hopes up with the quality of songs at this time in the ’80s. But man, there was no need for concern! There are several songs that I never heard of until today. But, there is going to be some really great stuff too! So, let’s Return to the week ending May 21, 1980, and begin the countdown!
Not a bad way to start a countdown! This is the anthem for anybody that has had their heart broken. Instead of a slow song that makes you cry, this is a great rocker that makes you stand up and pump your fist in the air. A year from now, The J. Geils Band would be releasing their classic Freeze Frame album. This song has the same style as the songs from that album.
This is a song I had never heard before. This is the total opposite from the previous song. This is a quiet storm ballad perfect for some sexy time. If you play this song in the bedroom, then you won’t need to worry about what the J. Geils Band says about love.
Oh yeah! There’s nothing like some classic Billy Joel! This is one of those songs that you think, “Do I really need to listen to this again for the bazillionth time?” Then the song starts, and the answer is “Yes”. And as I get older, I can relate to this song more and more.
My parents were Barry Manilow fans, so I grew up listening to his music. They had an 8-track of a concert of his. I would get bored, but there was a part of the show, that I enjoyed, where he sings all the commercial jingles that he had written. I had never heard of this song before. After listening to this, I’m thinking that maybe I had heard it, but just zoned out. What am I writing about, now? Oh yeah, “I Don’t Want to Walk Without You”. This song was published in 1941, and became a #1 hit for Harry James and his orchestra in 1942. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Sorry, whenever I hear there is a song by somebody “and his orchestra”, I fall asleep instantly, only to wake up from nightmares of seeing Lawrence Welk on my grandparents’ TV. The only good thing about this song is that after it was over, the much better “Could it Be Magic” autoplayed.
Here is another song I had never heard before. It’s not bad, but not great either. I haven’t been missing anything all these years. This band does have that classic late ’70s/early ’80s rock band sound. It’s a little bit of a slow rocker, but the guitar work in this song is really good.
It’s been a while since I’ve said this, but this is one of those songs that did not look familiar to me. But, as soon as it hit the chorus, I remembered it. This may have been on a previous countdown I covered. That is Vince Gill on lead vocals. Not a bad song at all by this country rock group.
Bernadette Peters can do it all! In a career that has spanned 5 decades so far, she has starred in musical theater, films and television, as well as performing in solo concerts and recordings. I think I may have first seen her on the original Muppet Show. I believe she is mainly known for being a Broadway star. This song sounds like it could be a ballad from a Broadway Show. She has a really good voice. I kind of like this one.
And we go back to an R&B ballad. This song could have just as easily been released in the ’60s or ’70s. It appeared on Smoky Robinson’s 1980 album Warm Thoughts. This is another song on this countdown that’s not great, but not too bad either.
Well, that wraps up today’s list of songs. Let me know what you think. And let me know if you have any fond memories of The Empire Strikes Back. I think the countdown may continue on Wednesday. Tomorrow is going to be a crazy day. So, it will be posted either tomorrow night or sometime Wednesday.
Welcome back to this week’s Top 40 Countdown! If you missed yesterday’s songs, you can always go ahead and check them out. There were some classics songs yesterday, and we get more of the same today. What were you doing this week in 1984? I was heading down the home stretch of junior high school, and getting ready for high school. Cable TV was still new in our area. I had my MTV for less than a year at this point. So, there were a lot of changes and transitions at this point in my life. And by this point, music had pretty much transitioned from the soft pop and disco sound of the late ’70s/early ’80s to the classic ’80s sound. Let’s continue the countdown, and see what was popluar this week of April 14, 1984…
We begin today’s list of songs with a pleasant surprise for me. I had never heard of Tony Carey before. It turns out that he was the keyboard player for the rock band Rainbow for a short time in the mid-to-late ’70s. After he left Rainbow, Carey embarked on a solo career. That career did not exactly take off, but he had a pretty good hit with this song.
This fun, doo-wop song was the fourth single released from Billy Joel’s classic album, An Innocent Man. A lot of his songs from that album got overplayed, but this was one that I never really grew tired of. I also enjoyed the video. It did fool me though. I had never known, until in recent years, that it is actually Billy Joel singing all the lead and backing vocals on this track.
This is classic ’80s! It was an anti-war protest song by the band from Germany. The original German version was such a huge success that an English version was also created (“99 Red Balloons“). I believe that the German version still got most of the airplay in the U.S. One thing I know for sure is that “Captain Kirk” are about the only words I understand in either version.
Dan Fogelberg is best known for his soft rock hits in the early ’80s (“Longer“, “Leader of the Band“, and “Same Old Lang Syne“). But this was my introduction to him, and it is my favorite of all his songs. I always just felt that this was a bright, upbeat tune.
This is an interesting song and video by the prog-rock band, Yes. There is nothing wrong with your screen. The video was shot upside down, and was one of the first music videos to use computer-generated imagery.
This is a classic by John Cougar Mellencamp. This is off of his 1983 album, Uh-Huh, which was the first album in which he used his real last name, going from being known as John Cougar to John Cougar Mellencamp.
We’ll take a break for a minute, and check out a song that debuted this week. This one is “Don’t Waste Your Time” by the R&B duo of Yarbrough & Peoples. I had never heard this song before. It’s not a bad song. But, I chose it so you could check out a V-E-R-Y young Ice-T towards the beginning of the video, driving the Mercedes.
We’ll finish up today’s list with a cool song and video. The video tells it’s story through a comic book. Alan Parsons was known as being more prog-rock, but this song has more of a pop-rock Wall of Sound style. Yet another ’80s classic.
I hope you guys are enjoying this week’s countdown. Let me know what you think so far, as we are halfway through. Tomorrow, we will be back to continue the countdown, and we will have Long Distance Dedication.
Welcome back to this week’s Countdown! If you missed the first 10 songs yesterday, you can go ahead and check them out. Some of these songs bring back memories. At this time in 1985, I was in the second half of my freshman year of high school. I enjoyed making new friends in high school, but did not do too well in classes. While I was struggling with my studies, there were some awesome songs to lean back on and use as an escape. Let’s enjoy some of this music now, by Returning to the week ending March 9, and move on with the countdown.
How about we start the countdown today with a little funk?!? The Time, led by Morris Day, was a pop-funk band which was put together by Prince. You can definitely hear the influence in this song. Not long after this, Morris Day left, and went on to a solo career. They would reunite and break up several more times over the years. Currently, they are known as The Original 7ven.
Oh boy, I’m torn on this song now. Before I started the Springsteen project (a.k.a. “Who’s the Boss?”), I would have said that a song with the word “Fire” in the title needs to have screaming in it.
[Possible Spoiler Alert: This song may or may not be on the Live 1975-85 album I’m reviewing right now. And I may or may not express that sentiment as my initial reaction on said review]
But, as I become a Springsteen student, I am beginning to like this song more each time I listen to it. I may not be on fire about this song, but I am warming up to it. What can I say? I guess what I’m trying to say is, if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!
With this song, the Commodores finally showed that it may be possible to move on without Lionel Richie. It was their first hit after Richie went solo. “Nightshift” was written by the lead singer at that time, Walter Orange, (along with with Dennis Lambert and Franne Golde). It was a tribute to soul/R&B singers Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye, who both died in 1984. The Commodores won a Grammy Award in 1985 for Best Vocal R&B Performance by a Duo/Group for this song.
The husband and wife songwriting-production team of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson had their biggest hit, as performers, with this song. It would go on to peak at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.
What a great rocking song! This was John Parr’s first hit in the U.S. In 1985, he and his band, The Business, toured with Toto. At the end of the tour, he was approached by super-producer David Foster, who requested Parr to record a song for the film “St. Elmo’s Fire“. And the rest is history.
This hit came off of one of my favorite albums of the ’80s – Vital Signs. This wasn’t my favorite song from the album though. I feel that this song did get overplayed. But, years removed, I do enjoy hearing this once in a while.
We wrap up the countdown today with an interesting song. “Save a Prayer” was released in the U.K. in August of 1982 from the album, Rio. It had not been released in the U.S. as a single. The video did get play on MTV, though. Then in 1985, a special U.S. version of the song was cut with the live version from the Arena album on the flip side. This live version hit the charts, and climbed all the way up to #16.
Well, that’s the end of the countdown for today. I hope you’re enjoying this week’s songs so far. They are just going to keep on getting better! So, please come back tomorrow as we continue the countdown.