WKRQ’s Top 102 of 1981

January 1, 1982 was a Friday. I was a senior in high school, and I spent the day listening to WKRQ, Cincinnati’s Q102, recording their annual countdown of the Top 102 hits of the year just past. Four years ago, I posted the 1982 list, and two years ago, the 1979 countdown appeared here. This is the third and final such sheet I have; I don’t know now why I didn’t write things down on 1/1/81. I’m not surprised at all by the song at #1.

Here are the songs that Q102 played a-plenty then which didn’t make the Top 40 nationally during 1981 (one did in 1982).

#101. Pat Benatar, “Hell Is for Children”
I heard an AT40 show this fall–10/20/84–where a portion of “Hell Is for Children” was played as a Long Distance Dedication from someone who had grown up in an abusive home. On 1/1/82, we were still more than five years away from Suzanne Vega’s “Luka” and “What’s the Matter Here?” by 10,000 Maniacs settling into the musical landscape.

#97. Foreigner, “Juke Box Hero”
Wouldn’t be released as a single until January 21, but was an early favorite album cut from 4. About a decade or so ago, my next-door neighbors’ young nephew thought it was called “Juice Box Hero” (and why wouldn’t he?).

#79. McGuffey Lane, “Long Time Lovin’ You”
I’ve noted before that Cincinnati radio stepped up and promoted area bands during my years of dutiful listening (I’m sure that was true all over the country); we’ve really lost something with the iHeart-ification of the airwaves. McGuffey Lane got its start in southeastern Ohio; “Long Time Lovin’ You” had reached #85 on the Hot 100 in February.

#73. Don Felder, “Heavy Metal”
An almost-Top 40 hit, as it climbed to #43 in October. The phrase “Take a ride, ride, ride…” certainly sucks me back in time. Another song from the Heavy Metal soundtrack, Devo’s cover of “Working in the Coal Mine,” peaked at #43 the week after Felder had been there.

#41. Russ Mason, “Prep Rap”
I have no idea how widespread an impact on the national psyche “Prep Rap” made in 1981–there’s precious little about it, and basically nothing about its composer, Russ Mason, on the web. The narrator is, as you’d expect, a very white, rather wealthy Northeastern WASP. There are some funny/clever lines, but forty years later the attempts at braggadocio tend to fall flat, at least to these ears.

“Prep Rap” was released on Nemperor, the same CBS affiliate that housed Steve Forbert at the time. It sure was a big thing on Q102 for several weeks and I’ll admit to taping it off the radio at some point during its moment in the sun.

#26. Styx, “A.D. 1928/Rockin’ the Paradise”
You can see that the two big hits from Paradise Theater rank even higher than this; it wouldn’t surprise me if it was the top-selling rock album in Cincinnati for the year (my sister contributed to the cause). Not sure if I ever figured out a way to distinguish “A.D. 1928” from “The Best of Times” in their first five seconds.

How can I not expose the broader world to the exploits of Biffy McAdoo and company? It is a cultural time capsule of sorts, but fair warning: I promise you won’t be able to un-hear it.

And here’s Styx as a chaser.

Wishing everyone the best in 2022.

2 thoughts on “WKRQ’s Top 102 of 1981”

  1. I think I remember seeing Russ Mason perform “Prep Rap” on the Tomorrow show with Tom Snyder back in the day. Also appearing on that episode was Weird Al Yankovic, who performed “Another One Rides The Bus”.


    1. Q102 also played “Another One Rides the Bus” fair amount during this period–I’m a bit surprised it didn’t make this year-end survey.

      Thanks for reading, and for letting me know about the appearance on Snyder–maybe that will re-surface someday.


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