Tag Archives: Fame

Today’s Top 5: September 20, 1980

We watched Ordinary People last night. It’s a film we’d both seen before, though not in decades. Diane first saw it in a movie theater not long after its Sept. 19, 1980, release and I first saw it on PRISM, a now-defunct regional premium cable channel that was popular in the Philly area at the time, about a year later. An understated and powerful movie, it won a bevy of Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Redford, in his directorial debut) and Best Supporting Actor (Hutton).

ordinarypeopleFor those unfamiliar with it, the drama delves into the dynamics of a dysfunctional family following the death of eldest son Buck (Scott Doebler), who perished in a sailing accident that youngest son Conrad (Timothy Hutton) survived. As the story opens, Conrad has recently returned from a stay at a psychiatric hospital after a failed suicide attempt; he’s racked with survivor’s guilt. Mother Beth (Mary Tyler Moore, in an Oscar-nominated performance) is emotionally distant, more concerned with appearance than addressing his (or her, for that matter) needs. Father Calvin (Donald Sutherland), on the other hand, just wants everyone to get along. As Roger Ebert put it in his review, he’s “one of those men who wants to do and feel the right things, in his own awkward way.” Enter psychiatrist Tyrone Berger (Judd Hirsch) and the down-to-earth Jeannine (Elizabeth McGovern), a girl who catches Conrad’s eye. Both, in their ways, help him overcome the guilt – one knowingly, the other not.

In other entertainment events from that September, the Dionne Warwick-hosted Solid Gold syndicated music series debuted on the 13th.

I have no memory of whether I watched it or not; likely not. If I wasn’t out at a movie – at the Hatboro Theater in downtown Hatboro or the Eric Theater in the Village Mall in Horsham – I was likely reading the Sunday newspaper while listening to the oldies on the radio, listening to music in my room and/or watching TV. (How’s that for narrowing it down?) I was 15, a high-school sophomore and serious music fanatic.

Among the album releases for the month: Kate Bush’s Never for Ever; David Bowie’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps); the Doobie Brothers’ One Step Closer; Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz; Barbra Streisand’s Guilty; Utopia’s Deface the Music; Stevie Wonder’s Hotter Than July; and Molly Hatchet’s Beatin’ the Odds.

And, with that – onward to today’s Top 5: September 20, 1980, in which I cherry pick my favorite hits from the Weekly Top 40 for the week in question…

1) Diana Ross – “Upside Down.” For the third week in a row, Diana held the top spot with this infectious song. It, like the 1980 diana album as a whole, was written and produced by Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, though the end result was not what they intended. Afraid that the original mix was too disco, which was quickly falling out if favor, Diana and engineer Russ Terrana gave the set a sleek, more pop-oriented makeover.

2) Irene Cara – “Fame.” Holding steady at No. 4 is this classic theme song. If you watched the above Solid Gold clip, you know that Irene sang (or lip-synced) it there; it’s such a great song, though, that I can’t help but share it again (And, yes, I know I’ve shared this same clip before – here, to be precise.)

3) Paul Simon – “Late in the Evening.” Clocking in at No. 7 is this classic from Paul Simon, which is one of my favorite songs by him.

4) Olivia Newton-John & Electric Light Orchestra – “Xanadu.” Just bubbling under the Top 10, at No. 12, is this, the title song to the movie musical, which was released the previous month. I saw the film at the aforementioned Eric Theater and, like most who did, didn’t find it a five-star affair. (An understatement, that.). The soundtrack, however, was darn good; I played it to death.

5) Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band – “You’ll Accompany Me.” Here’s a classic song from Michigan’s rock ’n’ roll laureate. Against the Wind, the album that it’s from, was my Album of the Year for 1980; I still think it’s great.

And, for today, a few bonuses…

6) Christopher Cross – “Sailing.” Falling from No. 5 to 15 is this Grammy Award-winning song from Christopher Cross. I imagine that this song, from Cross’ debut, would be lumped into what’s now known as “yacht rock.” Whatever. At the time, I found it a pleasant diversion that I didn’t need to own – it was played fairly often on the radio, after all. Nowadays? I often play Rumer’s version from her 2014 B-Sides & Rarities collection.

7) Olivia Newton-John – “Magic.” This classic ONJ number held the top spot for four weeks in August before beginning its downward drift. This week, it fell from No. 13 to 27.

8) Jackson Browne – “That Girl Could Sing.” Debuting on the charts this week, at No. 82, is this classic song from Hold Out, Browne’s only album to reach No. 1.

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Today’s Top 5: October 1983

IMG_5108October 31, 1983: Ronald Reagan was president, and morning in America was still a far ways away: the unemployment rate was near 10 percent for the second year in a row. Ten days earlier, the Beirut barracks bombing, which killed 299 American and French troops, had occurred; and we’d just invaded Grenada in what was seen by some as a cynical misdirection ploy and others as justified and heroic.

Movies released that month included Never Cry Wolf, Never Say Never Again, The Dead Zone and The Right Stuff. The No. 1 song was “Islands in the Stream,” a pop confection written by the Brothers Gibb and sung by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers. The best-selling novel, according to the New York Times, was James A. Michener’s Poland; and the best-selling nonfiction book was Erma Bombeck’s Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession. I’d mention TV but, honestly, it was pitiful, as this schedule shows.

I was 18, a college freshman, living at home and working as an usher at a movie theater. That last fact put money in my pocket, which gave me a modicum of freedom – as much as $3.35/hour could buy, at any rate. I’d used some of that freedom to see the Muddy Blahs (aka Moody Blues) in concert 10 days earlier; and, on this day, I exercised more of it with two purchases: Paul McCartney’s new Pipes of Peace and Neil Young’s new-to-me Decade, a three-LP compilation of his career through 1977.

For today’s Top 5: Music I Bought in October 1983.

1) Paul McCartney – “Through Our Love.” Pipes of Peace was reissued yesterday, alongside its companion album, Tug of War; and I listened to it last night for the first time in near-32 years. It’s safe to say that it’s not his best outing, but it’s also not his worst – basically a mix of leftovers from the Tug of War sessions, one piece of pure pop gloss (the MJ duet of “Say, Say, Say”) and three wondrous works: the title track, breezy “So Bad” and this, which features a tremendous melody and lyrical message. Love, in both the abstract and specific, is indeed the answer for most of life’s ills.

2) Buffalo Springfield – “Mr. Soul.” I’d gotten into Neil Young’s music just two years earlier, with the release of re*ac*tor in 1981, so was playing catchup; Decade, which is one of the best anthologies released by a still-vital artist, was a great addition. The Buffalo Springfield songs, which I’d never before heard, were a revelation; and, in two weeks time, I purchased their one-LP Retrospective.

3) Irene Cara – “Fame.” True story: a year or so ago, Diane and I tuned in the 1980 movie Fame and the songs were silent – lips moved, but we couldn’t hear what they were singing or the music, period. Yet, we kept watching, and, even without the music, the movie worked – a little long, and very much of its time, but entertaining. Anyway, to the point: I have no idea why I waited until 1983 to pick up the 45 of the movie’s theme, but I did. Perhaps I’d recently caught it on Prism, a popular premium channel in the Philly area at the time, I don’t know. But this video is interesting and fun. It was filmed in 1982, likely to cash in on the MTV craze, and mixes footage from the film with shots of Cara lip-syncing to the song on the streets of New York.

4) Sly & the Family Stone – “Everybody Is a Star.” By rights, I should be including “Little Red Corvette” from Prince’s classic 1999 here, as I bought it on cassette on the 18th, but the Purple One removed his music from YouTube a while back, so I’ll instead go with something from Sly’s Greatest Hits, originally released in 1970, which I picked up on the 15th.

5) Pat Benatar – “Love Is a Battlefield.” It’s an odd thing, music fandom. I’ve stuck with some artists (Paul and Neil, for instance) since discovering them; others, however, I’ve relegated to my personal nostalgia circuit. One example: Pat Benatar. I doubt it had much to do with her music, per se, as this single – which enjoyed a five-week run atop the pop charts – is quite good, and expands upon her stylistic motif. I.e., she wasn’t repeating herself. But it was the last single or album of hers I purchased, save for her one-CD Best Shots compilation a decade-plus later. One possible reason: this video.