Kids today think music should be free, man. But you bought the album! You bought the CD! You bought the 1999 expanded edition! It's my hope that this new reissue will feature that awful super-hot remastered sound that has fans at audio discussion boards fuming over other reissues. But as someone who never bought the album in the first place, I'll just have to wait and read what the label did for this new reissue!
While in the past I pulled out all the good stuff that was often lost in the shuffle of MTV and its tight-assed cousin in rock radio, this list is about what most people heard in 1983!
If you want to think of 1983 in terms of what was actually popular then we must leer at the Billboard charts to discover what they say were the most successful songs of the year.
I'm keeping most of the very top hits in the order Billboard insists were tops but I scouted the rest of the 'Top 100' for the outer reaches of the list.
My friends, this is what was on the radio in 1983!
The Eagles were kaput, but Donald Hugh Henley turned all of 36 in 1983, so it wasn't like he was ready to move into a 55-and-over retirement village where the lawn is mowed for you and the 80-year-olds in the clubhouse tell you their rules for shuffleboard and golf. No, Henley released his first solo album in 1982 and this single hung around for another year.
24) Tell Her About It -- Billy Joel:
In 1983, Billy Joel was looking back 20-25 years to the late 1950s and early 1960s when doo-wop and soul music were popular with the youths. Joel claimed this exploration of his adolescence was due to his recent divorce and the fact that dating supermodels like Elle Macpherson and Christie Brinkley made him feel "like a teenager all over again." You mean to say all you did is dry hump in the back of your dad's car? Disappointing!
Yes, I can see the song was over two years old when it broke through to #3 on the pop charts. No, I don't want your ID. Even the album Built for Speed was a compilation of their two previous albums released in the United Kingdom. You can hear why. Rockabilly was considered too American for American audiences!
22) Mickey -- Toni Basil:
This single was initially released on February 5, 1981, according to Wikipedia, the lazy list-maker's guide to facts, but it charted throughout 1982 and 1983, since, according to another mention in Wikipedia, the single was issued in September 1982. Basil herself graduated high school in 1961, while the song itself is actually a cover of a song called "Kitty" by the U.K. band Racey, which didn't include the "you're so fine" chant that everyone loves so much. Aren't facts boring?
Yet another song initially released in 1982 that went on to, ahem, climax in 1983, "Sexual Healing" was the kind of song that made you think twice upon first hearing it. Can you sing that so blatantly in a song? As a kid, I was grossed out, but these days I'm thinking I'd like to learn more about this sexy stuff.
20) Puttin' On the Ritz -- Taco:
I can only hope that when he performs live Taco plays a ton of deep album cuts and defiantly refuses to play the hit. Highly unlikely, but I'm more into his b-sides!
Robert Orin Charles Kilroy (ROCK) of the rock opera Kilroy Was Here was put in a futuristic prison for "rock and roll misfits" by recent University of Phoenix grad Dr. Everett Righteous. Mr. Roboto, a robot prison guard who put countless hardworking Americans out of a job thanks to automation, is overpowered by Mr. Kilroy, who escapes the prison only to discover that no one cares about rock 'n' roll anymore and that his haircut is totally lame and out of place in the future's totally corporate culture. That's right, Kilroy! We're now all business even in the back!
18) Little Red Corvette -- Prince:
This was the era when the media took notice of when Prince released his records. In 1983, Prince released this track, "Delirious," "Let's Pretend We're Married" and "Automatic" from the 1983 album 1999, which when originally released on CD omitted "D.M.S.R." because, well, to hell with it!
Toto's high level of musical proficiency practically guarantees that they will overcomplicate everything they touch. Why play a G chord when you can play a Gmaj7add9 with an B root? I imagine their garage was like a corporate lab with everyone in white coats dissecting the sound for maximum performance. That said, I kinda like this one.
16) Electric Avenue -- Eddy Grant:
Anyone semi-coherent in 1983 likely remembers sitting on Amy's couch in the Stuyvesant Village waiting for Howie to come by and pick us up to buy beer, so we could get further drunk behind Dairyland. This song played in her apartment. It played in his car. I don't know if anyone liked it. It was just on. Tom didn't like it. I remember that. Do you remember?
Russ Ballard has had his songs covered by some of the greats. The Bay City Rollers covered "Cuckoo." Kiss covered "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll To You." Ace Frehley covered "New York Groove." America covered "You Can Do Magic." And Abba's Frida nailed this song with Phil Collins giving it his drum sound. It sounded great on the radio. It really did.
14) Twilight Zone -- Golden Earring:
"Radar Love" was Golden Earring's one true hit on classic rock radio until this one made it two ten years after. The band had plenty of other hits in the Netherlands and "Quiet Eyes" even broke in the US in 1986 but it was nothing like these two songs. Personally, I'm disappointed that "It's Alright, But I Admit It Could Be Better" never charted in 1969. Now that was a hit if I ever didn't hear one!
You want to know why so many kids in the 1980s didn't give a damn about David Bowie? This is why. The teenagers who loved him in the 1970s loved him for being freaky and unusual and being theirs. By 1983, it was as if Bowie was just another old rocker making overly commercial trend-following pop music that alienated all the rockers who loved the harder, freakier edge. Even a few old school Bowie fans didn't like this move to money and pleasure.
12) She Works Hard For The Money -- Donna Summer:
Unfortunately, it took her death for Donna Summer to be recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for her contributions to modern music. While there are arguments over what constitutes rock and roll, considering Madonna is in the Hall then Donna should've been a shoo-in.
The song begins with the words "Poor old Johnnie Ray, sounded sad upon the radio." To which again, artists in the 1980s looked back to the 1950s in much the same way artists today look back to their 1980s influences. Except the period between the 1950s-1980s seems far more radical than whatever's happened in these past 30 years. Unless you're into technology!
10) Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) -- The Eurythmics:
Annie Lennox's head was everywhere. I don't know that I can even imagine the song without seeing the video in my head. And I never had MTV growing up! I had to watch America's Top Ten with Casey Kasem every Saturday at noon to see what was up! How else would I know about Juice Newton and Rick Springfield?
I should hope people sing this song to you whenever you get behind the wheel. This song was disqualified from its nomination for an Academy Award because it was technically not written specifically for the film Flashdance. Sorry, Michael, there are rules the Academy has to follow or else the film industry might become corrupt!
8) Baby, Come To Me -- Patti Austin and James Ingram:
Originally released as a single in early 1982, the song made it no further than #73. However, it became the romantic theme song for Luke Spencer on the ABC soap opera General Hospital and ladies everywhere liked the song so much that the song was re-released as a single and went to #1 in early 1983. It's alway better to have TV do the job of radio! Now, if we could just get radio to start playing Sanford & Son!
At #1 for four weeks, "Maneater" became Oates & Hall's longest-running #1 hit, among the five #1 hits they had. It reached #1 on December 18, 1982 and ushered in 1983 along with a man-eating craze that left more than a few husbands in fear for their lives.
6) Total Eclipse of the Heart -- Bonnie Tyler:
If you ever think this song sounds like a Meat Loaf tune, you're not far off. It was written by Jim Steinman who was Meat Loaf's right-hand man until legal disputes messed things up. Steinman offered Meat Loaf this song but Meat's record company refused to pay, so Meat settled for the singles "Razor's Edge," "If You Really Want To" and "Midnight at the Lost and Found," none of which charted. Give that executive a raise!
The third single from Thriller, "Beat It" is the kind of undeniable pop song that to this day gets crowds moving to its beats. But please be careful, it is possible to catch a venereal disease just listening to this song. I should know.
4) Down Under -- Men At Work:
Despite being initially released in 1981, it took until January 1983 for the song to top US and UK charts up here in the northern hemisphere. You'd think the band's management would've Fed Ex'd it to us!
This song won the award that Michael Sembello's "Maniac" was denied on a technicality. It further proved that Giorgio Moroder knew what girls liked.
2) Billie Jean -- Michael Jackson:
The second single from Thriller ("The Girl Is Mine" was the weaker first single), "Billie Jean" is the kind of undeniable pop song that to this day gets crowds moving to its beats. But please be careful, it is possible to become pregnant just listening to this song. According to my sister.
Like many others, the first time I heard this song I thought it was both an instant classic and a very obvious chord progression. However, I have never attempted to play it and those who have assure me it is much harder than it sounds and not as obvious as it appears. Not that any of this matters. It's an inescapable tune that deserves to pop up every time someone is stalking someone in a movie. Or pledging their undying and very creepy eternal love. It's more atmospheric than John Denver's "Follow Me."
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