American Top 40 PastBlast, 9/1/84: Peter Wolf, “Lights Out”

Sometime in mid-2004 I decided it would be cool to collect all the songs from the 6/5/76 AT40 countdown, my first chart. From the get-go, for better or worse, I elected that digital format, rather than vinyl, was the way to do it. I didn’t pursue it that doggedly, but I did complete the task about eight months later. Some songs were a little tough to track down—a few seemed to have appeared only on Time-Life compilations. Others I purchased via iTunes (an iPod was our Christmas gift at the end of the year). Unsated, I picked other shows’ songs to collect: 4/18/81, 4/29/78, and 1/29/77 were among the early targets. Eventually I branched beyond October 82, the end of my charting days, looking well into my college years. At some point, I resigned myself to the obvious: I was on the lookout for all the songs that Casey played over a ten-year period, through 5/31/86, which happened to be the weekend following my college graduation.

Over the years, I discovered a number of songs had never been released on CD and weren’t ever put on iTunes or .mp3 format, either.  Virtually all of them are really obscure: at least as of a few years ago, they included “Old Fashioned Boy (You’re the One)” by Stallion, “The Clapping Song,” by Pia Zadora, “Disco Lucy” by Wilton Place Street Band, “Oh Julie” by Barry Manilow, and “Tragedy” by John Hunter.  Others may have appeared on CD at one point but were extremely difficult to find (or very pricey).  I did my best to go digital whenever I could, but those relative few remained out of reach for one reason or another. I now have a turntable that allows me to transfer easily from vinyl, so it’s all good, anyway.

By far the most well-known Top 40 song from that span which I have on vinyl only is Peter Wolf’s “Lights Out” (at #13, one shy of its peak). Long out of print before I turned my attention to it, the CD of the same name fetches well over $100 these days.  I’m more than happy to take a pass; the 45 I have is just fine.

I chased my dream in fits and starts, but managed to wrap it up in the first half of 2012, almost eight years after starting.  One of the last pieces of the puzzle was Donna Summer’s The Wanderer, which had three hard-to-find hits (it looks like it’s easier to get hold of now than six years ago).  I bought it just a few weeks before Summer died.

Turns out I’m not the only one with this sort of mania—a few months ago I caught wind of My Favorite Decade’s Megalist project, which was almost identical to what I described above. MFD was much more businesslike about the matter—he took around 3.5 years to knock it out.

It’s honestly good to know there’s at least one other out there…

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?