American Top 40 PastBlast, 9/1/79: Sniff ‘n’ the Tears, “Driver’s Seat”

I’ve strongly tended to favor songs I dug in real time for these weekend posts to this point, while also regularly opting for tunes that weren’t super popular. It’s not always this way, of course, on either count—occasionally a memory will trump a song I might like better, and I often make biggish-hit choices from countdowns that ran before I was, oh, say twelve. But the last four months of 79 are chock full of favorites that fell short of Top Ten status.

I’m just spitballing here—no promises about these eventually appearing as actual features (well, okay, you’ll very likely see some of them, and one has already posted)—but it wouldn’t be outrageous to see it shake out something along these lines (should all of these play while I’m doing this):

9/1: Sniff ‘n’ the Tears, “Driver’s Seat”
9/8: Guest-hosted, so no rebroadcast
9/15: Herman Brood and His Wild Romance, “Saturday Night”
9/22: Nick Lowe, “Cruel to Be Kind”
9/29: Also guest-hosted
10/6: Jennifer Warnes, “I Know a Heartache When I See One”
10/13: Gerry Rafferty, “Get It Right Next Time”
10/20: Ian Gomm, “Hold On”
10/27: John Stewart, “Midnight Wind”
11/3: Chris Thompson, “If You Remember Me”
11/10: Michael Johnson, “This Night Won’t Last Forever”
11/17: Kermit the Frog, “Rainbow Connection”
11/24: Cheap Trick, “Dream Police”
12/1: Daryl Hall and John Oates, “Wait for Me”
12/8: Blondie, “Dreaming”
12/15: Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star”
12/22: ?  Probably Foreigner’s “Head Games.” It’s a somewhat harder exercise as 80 dawns.

There wouldn’t be personal stories to go with every one of these, but so what? They’re all songs I’d listen to just about any time. And I might be leaving a few gems out: other possibilities include “Spooky,” by the Atlanta Rhythm Section, and Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Many of the top hits in this time frame were at best just okay IMHO, but it’s one of my real sweet spots as far as the #11-40 peakers go.

“Driver’s Seat” (#22, climbing to #15) is pretty close to the very top of the list. Even if this came on the countdown in August, the song has a cool, crisp fall evening feel to me (actually, several of those listed above stir this same reaction/sensation); I can’t hear it without being transported back in time to the end of its AT40 run. It’s another tune from a one-hit wonder that makes me question: if a band could get it this right once, how could they not have come remotely close to charting again?

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