1981: My Top 100 (At The Time)

As 1981 wound down, I began thinking about how to go about ranking the pop hits of the year, not only from the AT40s I’d been recording, but also based on my own charts. We’ll get to the real thing and my predictions for it in a few days; it’s all about personal opinion today.

My charts, which ostensibly reported how I felt about fifty songs each week, had just one hard-and-fast rule: all the songs in the previous week’s Top 40 had to be included. There tended to be a distinct rise-and-fall to any given song’s ride on the Harris Charts (TM pending)–no songs debuting in or falling off the chart from the top 10, and relatively few non-#1 songs spending fewer than two weeks at their peak position. I’d gone to school on years of listening to Casey.

I’d employed a points system back in 1978 (described here) to try and predict that year’s Top 100, and now, three years later, I circled back to refine it. The main change was giving 10 points’ credit for each week (so on my charts, the song at #50 got 1 + 10 = 11 points, #41 got 10 + 10 = 20 points, #3 got 48 + 10 = 58 points, etc.). I also awarded some bonus points for longevity at #1, distributed in a symmetric, stair-step fashion: for example, “I Love You,” which stayed at the top for seven straight weeks, received 60, 62, 64, 66, 64, 62, and 60 points over that period.

Anyway, on to the results. My chart year was the calendar year: 1/3 through 12/26. It appears that, in case of ties, the first tiebreaker was chart longevity, with peak position as the second tiebreaker.

It was pretty darn close at the top, with three songs running away from the rest. (Did I come up with the #1 bonus points just so the Climax Blues Band wound up first? I don’t think so, but who can say now?) It’s interesting to me that none of the four songs that finished between #5-#8 spent any time at #1. “Jessie’s Girl,” in fact, peaked at #6–the rule that kept it around as long as it stayed on the real Top 40 benefited it greatly.

Not surprisingly, favorites from the very beginning or very end of the year got hosed to a decent degree. “Suddenly” was at #5 to start the year and soon climbed to #1 for a couple of weeks, but missed out on 219 points from 1980 charts–those would have made it a contender for the year’s top 10. On the other end, “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” #1 for two weeks in mid-December, didn’t get 197 points from its 1982 chart action; “Don’t Stop Believin’,” the year’s final #1 song, fell 25 points short of even appearing here.

This being pre-personal computer days, all the compilation was lovingly done by hand, with three more pages like this. The others include plenty of songs that didn’t make the cut–I did what I could to leave no plausible song unscored.

I do have a complete set of Harris Chart data for 1982, though I never tabulated a year-end summary for it. Maybe I can write a program to help me compute scores quickly? Regardless, I’m setting a goal right now to provide the results at this time next year.

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