American Top 40 PastBlast, 8/8/81: Rex Smith and Rachel Sweet, “Everlasting Love”

At the beginning of 82, I wrote an article that contained what thirty-six years later could be considered as prototypes for blog posts.  Entitled “10 Memorable Events of 1981 & the Songs I Associate With Them,” it’s three-plus handwritten pages about exactly that. Even though it’s written as if to someone else, I certainly never shared it with anyone.

“As you read this list and my reflections on
each item, keep in mind that these are not
necessarily the 10 most memorable events
of the year past, but 10 I could definitely
associate a song with. If I had hummed or
heard a certain song on (two occasions that
aren’t included), they would be on the list.
I just didn’t get any great impressions from
music on those days, and you can tell I place
music highly in my life from this list…”

Got pretensions, anyone?

Regardless of the quality of my efforts, this document provides fodder (though it’s overall pretty skeletal) for posts on music from 81—in fact, the “Hold on Loosely” post on the KY State FBLA Convention I wrote up in May is about one of its 10 event/song pairs (#4 in chronological order, April 26-28). This weekend matches up with another of the events (#7), though not with its song.

One of the perks of being elected an officer for our school’s FBLA chapter (I was veep) was the opportunity to attend a “Leadership Development Conference,” at the state organization’s campsite in the wilds of South-Central KY (about a two-and-a-half-hour bus/van ride for us). It was five days of sessions on such topics as learning parliamentary procedure and the duties of one’s office, motivational speakers, meetings with consultants, discussion groups on activities for school chapters, recreation time, a talent show, and two dances (I know much of this now only because I still have the program). I recall having a pretty good time and I’m assuming that our crew of officers learned stuff we were able to use back at school the following year.


Not too surprisingly, there were other folks from my part of the state in attendance, and a couple of them I met played roles in my life over the coming year. One young woman turned out to be good friends with a childhood chum of my pal Tony (there’s a decent story there, but it’s not mine to tell); a chance conversation I struck up at the track meet with our Region’s VP led to numerous phone calls and a couple of dates with her over the following year.

The song I chose to go with those days at camp? “Burnin’ for You,” by Blue Öyster Cult (don’t read anything into that).  It was all over AOR radio in early August but wouldn’t hit #40 for two months. I have to believe I heard it on the trip down and had it spinning ‘round my head during the week.

I had a dim awareness of Rachel Sweet’s existence by some point in the late 70s, though I’m not quite sure how—maybe through a piece I read in one of my father’s Stereo Review magazines? I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear anything off either of her first two albums—I guarantee you that if I’d listened to her cover of Dusty Springfield’s “Stay Awhile” when I was 14, though, I would’ve had the world’s biggest crush on her. Regardless, her name wasn’t brand new to me when she broke through a little on her duet with Rex Smith, a remake of “Everlasting Love” (debuting at #37, it’d get to #32). Even though it didn’t make my year-end review, the song does make me think of this camp—I can see myself walking across the green space between the mess hall and my cabin (could easily be a false memory).

I absolutely love this track, in spite of Smith’s mega-overperformance (his voice blends pretty well with Sweet’s, however). YMMV, but I think she just totally knocks it out of the park—my sister bought the single around this time, so I could listen to it time and again on demand. You’d think I might have looked into Sweet’s back catalog at this point, but that wouldn’t happen for more than a decade, well after a compilation was issued on CD (she does a pretty awesome version of “Shadows of the Night,” too, if you haven’t heard it). In some ways, the arc of her musical career makes me think of Tiffany’s, minus the chart success: teenage girl, big voice, manager has her do a come-hither cover (admittedly, more egregious in Sweet’s case), watches it all fade away around the time she’s twenty.  But Sweet has done rather well for herself in other parts of show business over the years.

I discovered the video for this song maybe a decade ago, and I completely dig it. Smith is so bad he’s almost funny—the look Sweet and the ‘minister’ give him at the 1:45 mark makes me think he’s not quite in on the joke. I don’t know what it says about me that I could watch it over and over.

My son is now at the same point in his life that I was at the time of this countdown: August at age 17, about to embark on the senior year of high school. Most of the time I have no idea what goes on in his head, but I can still recall how I felt then, even if I can’t remotely begin to describe it (I made oblique references to this period a couple of times in the blog’s first week). Mention virtually any month and year between 76 and 82, and not only will a mental image of the charts I kept and songs on them pop into my brain, but also a mood, an ambiance, an emotion, and often, a place (or two, or three). Each one is different. I’ve found this ability to be useful occasionally to hook in other things going on during those years (though I’m sometimes surprised–that happened then?).

August 81 takes me to that camp, but also to our basement, where I was spending plenty of time by myself, listening to both radio and albums on Dad’s stereo (Hi Infidelity definitely, maybe Long Distance Voyager, if I’d purchased it by then).  I wasn’t feeling angst over hurtling toward the last cycle of the calendar at Walton-Verona, or worry about how FBLA would go that year. Maybe what was happening was as simple as living in the moment, letting music I enjoyed wash over me.

6 thoughts on “American Top 40 PastBlast, 8/8/81: Rex Smith and Rachel Sweet, “Everlasting Love””

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