American Top 40 PastBlast, 5/3/80: Gary Numan, “Cars”

I was listening to SiriusXM’s 1st Wave on my way to work Friday, and happened to catch Larry the Duck talking about a list of top new wave hits that had recently been created/discussed on their music talk station, Volume. He was kind enough to recap the top five. Having heard a decent chunk of SiriusXM’s top classic rock tracks of all time back in March, I was immediately concerned that they might make some, shall we say, suspect choices. Let’s see what we think of it, shall we?

#5. Depeche Mode, “Just Can’t Get Enough”
No shock that DM would be represented. This doesn’t necessarily feel like it should be their top-ranked song, but it did lend its name to a Rhino compilation series of new wave songs…

#4: New Order, “Blue Monday”
You knew New Order would make it, too. No gripes whatsoever with this selection.

#3: Modern English, “I Melt with You”
Well, this is a pleasant surprise—I don’t expect to see personal inner-circle HoF songs get close to the top of countdowns like this.

#2: Gary Numan, “Cars”
Numan was only 21 when “Cars” was recorded. I think of him as a one-hit wonder but he’s had a good amount of chart success in the UK and has steadily released new material over the past forty years. MTV played this quite a bit even into 84; those opening frames of Gary in slo-mo are so familiar.

#1: Soft Cell, “Tainted Love”
An all British Top 5, the top three of which are by acts that are remembered stateside for only one song. For a while this was the record-holder for most consecutive weeks (43) spent by a single on the Hot 100 (the last nine of those it was ranked between #96 and #99—shenanigans, anyone?). It’s not a terrible pick for this position.

“Cars” debuted at #48 on the initial Harris Top 50 chart, on 3/29/80. It took until the first weekend of June for it to make #1, where it stayed for two weeks. There wasn’t anything on Top 40 radio then that sounded at all like this; at year’s end, I somewhat subjectively ranked “Cars” as my #11 song of 1980. (Added: forgot to mention that “Cars” is #18 on this show and would reach #9.)

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