Prism, “Don’t Let Him Know,” #39, 3/13/82
Another Canadian rock band that never quite made it big in the United States (see Chilliwack, Triumph, April Wine, etc.). This was the third of their four hits on the Billboard American chart, and their only one to break top 40 (albeit just barely). This song was written by Bryan Adams (who was also starting on his own career) and Jim Vallance, who had been the group’s drummer back in the 1970s. Prism’s still around today, with the usual mix of some members from the glory days and some new guys. They’re scheduled to play in Saskatoon this month, if you happen to be in the area.
Sammy Hagar, “I’ll Fall in Love Again,” #43, 3/13/82
Fourth solo chart hit for Sammy Hagar, not counting his time spent as the lead singer of Montrose, and clearly not counting Van Halen, as he was a few years away from joining that band. This didn’t make top 40, but between this, “There’s Only One Way to Rock,” and his remake of “Piece of My Heart,” the parent album, Standing Hampton, went platinum. This one also went to #2 on the rock charts (a separate chart Billboard started in 1979 to measure songs album oriented rock stations played, which included songs not necessarily released on 45 rpm singles).
Larry Carlton, “Sleepwalk,” #74, 3/13/82
Longtime smooth/fusion jazz guitarist has been in a group (five years with The Crusaders in the 1970s), appeared as a guest on lots of records (those are his solos on Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me,” Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne,” and Mike Post’s “Theme From Hill Street Blues,” among others), and has had a solo career for over 30 years. Here’s his one solo chart record – a remake of the old Santo & Johnny instrumental that hit #1 in 1959. He’s touring now, so keep an eye out in your area.
Gino Vannelli, “The Longer You Wait,” #89, 3/13/82
This is a weird story. Gino Vannelli is a Canadian singer/songwriter (with a truly massive head of hair) who had released six albums on A&M Records in the 1970s, with only occasional midchart success in the States until a track from Brother to Brother, “I Just Wanna Stop,” hit the top 10 in 1978. In 1981, Gino moved over to Arista Records – I’m not sure whether he had already decided to leave the label before “I Just Wanna Stop” hit, or the decision was made later on (a few Adult Contemporary artists on A&M, including The Captain and Tennille, expressed dissatisfaction over the label’s change of direction in the late 1970s to more contemporary rock acts). His first album with Arista, Nightwalker, yielded another top 10 hit with “Living inside Myself” in that spring, and the title track just missed the top 40 that summer. Flash forward to March 1982, and this song, which wasn’t on Nightwalker, makes an appearance, so the assumption was it would be the lead single for a new Gino Vannelli album. It stalls out well below his usual standard, and then… nothing. For three and a half years. In the early 1980s, Stevie Wonder could do that, but almost no other artists – especially if the lead single to a presumably forthcoming album had been released. (The only possible exception to that rule I can think of is Dan Fogelberg releasing “Same Old Lang Syne” about 10 months ahead of The Innocent Age’s appearance, but that was because the album changed from a single to a double, and Dan was furiously recording the rest of it.)
From what I can gather (and remember, internet bulletin boards can be inaccurate), Gino and Arista label head Clive Davis butted heads over the direction of the next album – Gino wanted to go in one direction, Clive another. I’m not sure whether “The Longer You Wait” reflected Gino’s vision or Clive Davis’, but since the song charted so poorly, the end result was putting everything on hold until Gino’s Arista contract either ended or was terminated (his next album, Black Cars, came out in the late summer of 1985 on another label). One thing that is inaccurate on the bulletin boards is the occasional note that “The Longer You Wait” was “unreleased” – which isn’t possible, obviously, if it charted in Billboard (at the time, any song on the Billboard Hot 100 had to be released as a 45 RPM; that’s no longer the case today, of course).
I did read in The Rolling Stone Record Guide about Gino’s “temperamental self-image” – whether that was a tossoff line from the reviewer or based in fact, it’s likely Herb Alpert, president at A&M Records (Gino’s former label) and a recording artist himself, was far more easygoing than the more demanding Davis. (Maybe Kelly Clarkson has a few thoughts on working with Clive Davis – I’ll have to find out.) In any case, the end result was Gino’s U.S. career hitting a brick wall – he put three more songs on the Billboard pop charts in the late ‘80s, but never made it to the top 40.
GQ, “Sad Girl,” #93, 3/13/82
Bronx-based four-man (later three) group that had two pretty big hits in 1979 with “Disco Nights (Rock-Freak)” and “I Do Love You” waited too long between their first and second albums, and then made the mistake of pushing “Sitting in the Park” as the lead single (it sounded almost identical as “I Do Love You,” not surprising since both were remakes of 1960s-era Billy Stewart tunes). “Sad Girl,” from their third album, Face to Face, tried to reverse this trend, but barely scraped onto the Billboard charts, and that was it for their recording career, aside from a 1999 tribute LP to Marvin Gaye and, yes, Billy Stewart.
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll,” #1, 3/20/82
Former guitarist and singer with the breakthrough all-female band The Runaways in the 1970s, Jett spent a few years in the wilderness before forming her own band, the Blackhearts, and her own label, Blackheart Records. A few early albums did nothing, but she did attract the attention of Neil Bogart, who had begun his own independent label, Boardwalk Records, after leaving Casablanca Records (Kiss, Donna Summer, The Village People) in 1979. Boardwalk was already up and running with minor hits by Harry Chapin, Tierra, and Ringo Starr, but Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” was a smash from the start, climbing to number one in just a few weeks on the charts. It remains her signature song 30 years later.
Stevie Wonder, “That Girl,” #4, 3/20/82
After knocking out 1980’s Hotter Than July less than a year after his double-album opus The Secret Life of Plants (the only Stevie album released between 1972’s Talking Book and 1987’s Characters that I don’t own), Stevie Wonder fell back into a methodical method of putting out new material (his next full studio album wouldn’t arrive until 1985, unless you count The Woman in Red soundtrack). So in early 1982, he released a double album, Original Musiquarium Volume I, of greatest hits spanning from 1972 to 1980, with four new songs (one on each side – vinyl, remember?) to bring in those who already had those studio albums. (To me, this was a great introduction, and a nice bookend to his anthology of early hits, which Motown allowed to slide out of print right after it was released.) “That Girl” was the lead single, and it’s a solid midtempo funk number.
Oak Ridge Boys, “Bobbie Sue,” #12, 3/20/82
The Oak Ridge Boys, as the name of a musical act, have been around since the late 1940s. All those years, and they’ve made the U.S. pop top 40 exactly twice – in 1981 with “Elvira,” and the following year with this near-carbon copy. It never did anything for me, but I don’t think 19-year-olds from Jersey were the target audience. Believe it or not, the same four singers are still touring today.
Rod Stewart, “Tonight I’m Yours (Don’t Hurt Me),” #20, 3/20/82
Second hit off the album of the same name for Stewart, after “Young Turks” hit the top 10 in late 1981. This one sounds like the LP is being played at 45 RPM (kids, Google it), and combined with the subject matter (which fits Stewart’s love-‘em-and-leave-‘em musical persona), makes it utterly disposable. I bought this album on vinyl when it was remaindered on the basis of an unusually strong Rolling Stone review (and a fondness for his remake of Ace’s “How Long,” which will be listed here in a few weeks); my mistake.
Cliff Richard, “Daddy’s Home”, #23, 3/20/82
Sir Cliff’s last top 40 hit in the states (he’s an icon in the UK) is a remake of the old Shep & The Limelites hit that was a successor to “A Thousand Miles Away” (and the songwriter/singer, James Sheppard, continued the tale about him and his girl through a bunch more songs). As for Cliff’s version, it was done live (note the crowd noise at the end), and almost seemed like an afterthought on his Wired for Sound album; it may well have been one.
Smokey Robinson, “Tell Me Tomorrow,” #33, 3/20/82
Seventeenth Hot 100 hit for Smokey (and that doesn’t count goodness knows how many hits he had with the Miracles), and it’s a good one that should have charted a lot higher. A midtempo song of a night of passion with questions of what will happen the next day – think Herb Alpert’s “Rise” without the trumpet. This one made it to #3 on the R&B chart; don’t know why it didn’t do better at Top 40 radio.
Irene Cara, “Anyone Can See,” #42, 3/20/82
First single off Cara’s solo album of the same name, but not her first hit, of course – she made the top 20 twice in 1980 with two songs from the Fame soundtrack: the title track and the ballad “Out Here on My Own.” This one’s a ballad too, but it didn’t do nearly as well. Part of the blame could go to her label Network Records, a struggling subsidiary of Elektra (they would close up shop in a couple of years), or handing the producer’s reins to Ron Dante, a couple of years after his work with Barry Manilow had become passé. This just came back into print after a long layoff – Cara, who’s been in show business forever (she was one of the original Electric Company kids, and first appeared on Broadway at age nine) and is still playing live dates, has managed to have eight chart hits, including five top 20s, without rating a greatest hits set.
Anne Murray, “Another Sleepless Night,” #44, 3/20/82
Anne Murray really had a lot of hit records back in the day. This was her 25th single to make Billboard’s Hot 100, but also her 16th to go to #1 on the Canadian Country chart, and 20th #1 on Canada’s adult contemporary chart. Weirdly, some of her hits are hard to find nowadays – Capitol Records has done a pretty lousy job of keeping her studio albums in print (more are available for download, but not from all online stores), and since she’s rerecorded some of her biggest hits in the last few years, you may not get what you think you’re getting.
Sneaker, “Don’t Let Me In,” #63, 3/20/82
The band that hit with “More Than Just the Two of Us” in late 1981 comes back here with a song that sounds a little like Steel y Dan on an off day. This is because Walter Becker and Donald Fagen actually wrote the song and donated it to the band (Sneaker’s name was actually taken from the Dan’s song “Bad Sneakers”). Their last Hot 100 hit; they would release a second album in late 1982 with no chart hits, and then would go their separate ways. And we get Merv Griffin in the video!
Bryan Adams, “Lonely Nights,” #84, 3/20/82
Not lonely enough. Ubiquitous singer-songwriter in the ‘80s and ‘90s had his first chart hit in the states here. From the album You Want It – You Got It, which was originally going to be called Bryan Adams Hasn’t Heard of You Either. Who would have known record label executives (in this case, A&M Records) don’t have a sense of humor? If label president Herb Alpert was really going to be kind to record buyers, he would have kept putting models covered in shaving cream on album covers like on his album Whipped Cream & Other Delights. (Great video, by the way.)
Buckner & Garcia, “Pac-Man Fever,” #9, 3/27/82
Despite the names, this is not a one-off single from the All-Star first baseman that let the ball go through his legs in the 1986 World Series and the Grateful Dead guitarist. (Although wouldn’t that have been a cool album?) Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia were songwriters and singers who had done novelty songs in the past (their “Merry Christmas in the NFL,” under the name Willis the Guard and Vigorish, hit #82 in late 1980), but struck gold with their ode to a video game craze (and surely all of you remember Pac-Man, right?). This song was charming for a bit, but at 3:43, it’s way too long for a novelty song – an unnecessary guitar solo, and there’s no need to name-check all the ghosts. Still, it gives the game (and its successors) a footnote in history – no one’s written a song for MLB13. Garcia died in 2011, but Buckner placed “Wreck It, Wreck It Ralph” onto the soundtrack of that 2012 Disney movie.
Bob & Doug McKenzie, “Take Off,” #16, 3/27/82
Oh, it just keeps getting better. Bob and Doug McKenzie were characters created for SCTV (Second City Television) by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas – the program, a parody of television shows and stations (especially those with low budgets) was taped in Toronto, and the Great White North segment featuring the McKenzie brothers was created after Canadian Broadcasting Company officials asked for two minutes of Canada-specific content for the show. (They didn’t expect this mostly ad-libbed bit would dwarf the parent show’s popularity.) Moranis and Thomas spun their creation off into an album with this single (with Geddy Lee from Rush on vocals – this song would chart higher in the States than any song he did with that band), a movie (Strange Brew), and a few other projects. And, at two minutes and 20 seconds long, it’s a short and sweet novelty song.
Neil Diamond, “On the Way to the Sky,” #27, 3/27/82
Turgid ballad that served as the title track to Diamond’s 1981 LP, as well as the follow-up to “Yesterday’s Songs.” Co-written by Diamond and Carole Bayer Sager, who would combine with Sager’s then-husband Burt Bacharach to write half the songs on Diamond’s next LP, Heartlight. This one’s pretty disposable, but it did manage to make On the Way to the Sky one of Diamond’s few studio LPs on Columbia with more than one top 40 hit.
Barbra Streisand, “Memory,” #52, 3/27/82
Who let the Cats out? Streisand’s second single release from Memories gained its fame from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s long-running stage show Cats. Give Streisand credit for being ahead of the curve on this one, however, as Cats hadn’t yet opened in the United States when she recorded the song in late 1981 – it was strictly based on London at that point in time. There have been dozens of versions of this song released commercially, but only two have hit the singles charts: this one and Barry Manilow’s take, which hit #39 a year later.
Survivor, “Summer Nights,” #62, 3/27/82
Second single from the band’s second LP, Premonition, which stopped short of the peak of 1981’s “Poor Man’s Son.” (Here’s a thought – if you’re going to release a song called “Summer Nights,” why do so in the dead of winter?) Survivor was still struggling to make the big time at this point, but their encounter with Rocky Balboa was just around the corner.
Fred Parris & The Five Satins, “Memories of Days Gone By,” #71, 3/27/82
And speaking of survivors, Fred Parris founded the Five Satins back in 1954 – they’re the ones who did “In the Still of the Night (I’ll Remember),” one of the first hits of the rock era, and one of the very first doo-wop songs. This song serves as a medley of sorts, incorporating other songs from the 1950s as well as “In the Still of the Night.” Except for Parris, none of the original five guys are on this recording, but it’s nice to know that Parris maintained control of the name. I don’t believe he’s making many appearances today (the man’s got to be close to 80 years old at least), but still, nice career, huh?