Beyond Radio is the place where music discovery and music nostalgia collide. It is your one-stop source for playlists, music charts, remembrances and recommendations. Our Podcast and music therapy playlists combine elements of nostalgia and discovery, while my blog entries reflect on our musical past through the lens of my personal charts from decades past. I weave a story that includes the connection between artists, chart facts and personal anecdotes that hopefully conjure a connection to the soundtrack of your own life. The current charts and playlists are updated monthly or bi-monthly (bi-weekly for the BR250) and are curated based on a passionate audience that produce their own personal charts weekly.
Part 1, Big albums, Dabbling in Alternate Styles and Six Degrees of Toto and Paul Shaffer
Billy Joel/Sometimes A Fantasy (1)
This was the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college and the music landscape was changing. Having moved from New Jersey to Boston in the fall of ’79 I discovered 3 essential things in my music life. Used record stores, small local clubs with live music in a thriving music town, and a different kind of radio palette than I was used to from NYC radio. Of course, the Pop, Dance, and late 70’s AOR bands were all part of it but 3 radio stations were offering a wider mix of rock music; WBCN, WCOZ, and the very local WLYN which would morph into the influential 80s’/90s’ station WFNX.
My personal chart was becoming more diverse because of this and expanded to 200 songs per week on the week of Oct. 21, 1979 (my #1 song that week was “The Main Event” by Barbra Streisand). With so many songs my chart was becoming slower moving so by the beginning of 1980 it might take a song 5 months to reach the top of my chart. In the years since my chart has become much faster paced. To illustrate the point, the top 10 from my original chart for the week of Aug. 3 had 7 songs that had peaked at radio in March, April, and May. Here they are:
2 DAN FOGELBERG Heart Hotels my
3 BOZ SCAGGS Breakdown Dead Ahead my
4 BILLY JOEL You May Be Right ap
5 J. GEILS BAND Come Back mr
6 THE CLASH Train In Vain (Stand By Me) my
8 CHRISTOPHER CROSS Ride Like The Wind ap
9 J. GEILS BAND Love Stinks my
I started creating an updated chart for each week from that period last fall when I began working on the retro personal charts for the website. These move more like my current charts do so the music is much timelier to the date. And certainly, my view of songs has changed with quite a number of songs that never charted for me back then that have become favorites making impact, and conversely, some songs that did well with my 19-year-old self have fallen out of favor.
There were quite a few huge albums that generated 6 or more songs on my chart back then. Ones like “The Wall” and “Against The Wind” I will cover in other posts. The above list features 4 artists whose albums were huge for me at the time. Billy Joel’s “Glass Houses” was one where all 10 songs from it charted for me. Clearly, Joel was a holdover of my NYC radio days. Being a Long Island guy, he was ubiquitous.
Even with that, he had become an international superstar and this album was a departure in style for him. He incorporated a rockier New Wave edge to a bulk of the album, definitely a thing at that moment in time. New Wave and Punk had been slowly rising in popularity in the late 70s’ (much quicker in the UK than the States). The #1 song of 1979 was “My Sharona” by The Knack and M’s “Pop Musik” was another Pop #1. It was typical for artists to jump on stylistic bandwagons as their careers progressed with varying results. ’79 was still early in the process as the next closest songs with that influence on Billboard’s Hot 100 were ‘Let’s Go” by the Cars which peaked at #14 and “Driver’s Seat” by Sniff ‘N The Tears, reaching #15.
It was perfect timing for Joel because he achieved his 1st Hot 100 #1 with “It’s Still Rock ‘N Roll To Me”. It spent 2 weeks at the top and fell to #2 this week in 1980. This is one that did not hold up for me. It reached #9 on my chart 40 years ago but couldn’t rise above #70 this time around. This was true of the 1st single as well but to a lesser extent. “You May Be Right” reached #17 on the 2020 version of my chart, while it spent 3 weeks at #1 back then.
“Sometimes A Fantasy”, the 4th single from the album is one of the most New-Wavey of the songs on the album and it holds up nicely for me, reaching the summit in both 1980 and now. The song about phone sex actually hit #1 on Feb. 8, 1981, on the old charts but struggled to reach the Hot 100 top 40, finally topping out at #36. The actual #1 on the original Aug. 3 chart was another from the album, “Close To The Borderline” (20), and still made it into my top 5 now. It has a nice staccato guitar lick and a somewhat affected vocal by Joel. He received the Grammy for Male Rock Vocal Performance for the album.
The ballad “Through The Long Night” (148) is a stunning example of a fall from grace. It was #2 on my chart at the beginning of October that year and is struggling to stay in the top 150 right now. The Latin-tinged “Don’t Ask Me Why” became a #1 Adult Contemporary song in the fall and was released as the 3rd single at the end of July. It too may have a hard time making inroads now.
A song that should do equally as well as the 1st time around is “All For Leyna” (debut-81) which made it to #9. Another more up-tempo tune. plus more piano-driven, this was released as a single in Europe and hit #40 in the UK and #16 in Spain. Here it was the B-side of ‘Fantasy’.
Another major artist who took the New Wave direction on her 1980 album “Mad Love” was Linda Ronstadt. She was nominated for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance at the Grammys in 1981 for the 1st single “How Do I Make You”, a Hot 100 #10 that, according to the songwriter Billy Steinberg, was influenced by “My Sharona”. She lost to Pat Benatar (who won the award 4 years in a row between ’81- ‘84. Both ladies had a hard time recreating their original luster on my chart. ‘Make You’ and Benatar’s “You Better Run” (122) made my top 10 last time out. Neither made the top 30 this time. I did not know that this song was a remake, done by the Garfield, NJ (right across the river from my hometown of Passaic) band the Rascals. It was the follow-up to their #1 song “Good Lovin’” and reached #20 in 1966. It fared better than Benatar’s version which only reached #42.