With all that’s been going on, I’ve been a little off my game with my Friday Five posts. Let’s play some catch up and focus in on five top five hits from June-July 1982.
It was a big year for me. I turned 10 years old in May 1982 and that school year——with the help of my parents, who drove me to the recycling center——I started recycling newspaper. That made me enough money to buy two things that year: a brand-new Atari 5200 that summer and, in the early part of the year, a portable Toshiba radio with a built-in cassette deck.
That Toshiba might be one of the most important things I ever bought. I had already joined Colombia House, a “record club” where you got about 12 albums for one penny in exchange for agreeing to buy another five or so at “full price.” With my new Toshiba my preference switched from vinyl to cassette tapes.
I also started making tapes of my favorite songs recorded from the radio. That was the best thing about my Toshiba and the reason I most wanted to buy it. Before I got it, I had to sit there listening to one or more stations non-stop just hoping that my favorite song would come on. With my Toshiba, I started recording those songs as they came on, giving me the ability to listen to them whenever I wanted.
It was a big time for me. I knew what I liked and what I liked also started to change with both my record club membership and the hits of the time. Most of these songs were on at least one of my homemade cassette tapes.
5. “Ebony and Ivory” by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
In some ways time hasn’t been as kind to this hit as you’d expect. Despite the fact that it’s recorded by two musical legends and sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks between May and June 1982, it’s not a song that gets much replay on “oldies” radio today. I think some of that is about the message of the song, something that seems a little trite and basic to our present ears. The sentiment——rooted in a kind of optimistic and uncomplicated idea of race racial oppression, and whiteness——doesn’t hold up well. Maybe the same can be said for the sound. The synthetic melody feels like 1982, and not always in a good way. That said, it was a massive hit record for two major musical figures. To give you some perspective, it was Paul’s biggest hit record of his post-Beatles career and, even without that qualifier, it was his second biggest hit of all time, second only to the juggernaut of “Hey Jude.” I suppose that enough makes it deserve some recognition. For me, in 1982 there was no musical artist for whom I had more reverence and respect than the great Stevie Wonder. He made it legit for me.
4. “Don’t You Want Me Baby” by the Human League
When “Ebony and Ivory” was ruling the pop charts, this synthpop song broke into the top ten. By the end of June it peaked at #2 before hitting the top spot for three weeks in July. None of that captures the fullness of its popularity. It was the biggest single of the year on the UK charts and one of the break through songs in the US for the electronic sound that came to characterize the new wave pop of the 80s. It was also always on the radio. As a kid, I remember liking it but also finding it weird and different, from the lyrics to the sound.
3. “Rosanna” by Toto
Toto might be one of the most famous “studio bands” in history. The guys knew their craft well and made their mark as a studio musicians on a number of other people’s albums. By 1978, they had formed as their own band. 1982 was their peak year. Their album Toto IV was their biggest ever, catapulted to success on the heels of two chart toppers (including this single). Some of the guys were among a group of musicians who played on Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and so this was a big year for them for other reasons, too. I was an okay fan of this hit, which peaked at #2 in June and July, kept out of the top spot by the #5 and #1 song on this week’s list. But I wasn’t a huge fan of it. My appreciation grew with time. When drummer Jeff Porcaro died in 1992 (he was only 38), the stream of drummers who sang his praises elevated my appreciation of the song. Porcaro knew what he was doing, and he was skilled at doing it. While the song hasn’t had the renaissance of their other hit “Africa” it’s a great rock song, with a killer beat, and appealing vocal work by Bobby Kimball and Steve Lukather. It won the 1982 Grammy for record of the year.
2. “Hurts So Good” by John Cougar
I didn’t have to try and record this song from the radio. It was the first vinyl album I bought at full price for my Columbia House record club. I don’t remember why I decided to buy the album, but over the summer of 1982 it grew on me. John Cougar had a sound I liked and his lyrics——sentimental and filled with character and imagery——was made of the stuff I would later become obsessed with via writers like John Prine, Tom Waits, and Townes Van Zandt. The song peaked at #2 on the Hot 100; his follow-up single “Jack and Diane” hit the top spot later that fall.
1. “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
If there was a song I bought my Toshiba radio for, it was this hit by Survivor. I recorded this song from radio play more times than any other in a quest to get the full song without any voice interruption from the DJ. It wasn’t too hard that summer, since the song was ubiquitous. It was the song from the movie Rocky III, which my 10-year-old self thought just might be the best movie ever made. I saw the movie in May when it was released, and my obsession with the song started immediately after. I’d sing it at the top of my lungs though, to this day, I’m not sure about half of the lyrics. It was the band’s biggest hit. It reigned at #1 for six weeks starting in July and going into August. I still think of Sylvester Stallone and Mr. T every time I hear it. The opening guitar work might just be the musical equivalent of testosterone.