August 1, 1981 is likely now best known as the birth date of one Music Television. It’s almost a certainty that no one reading this blog watched MTV on that day, as it started out only on a few cable systems in New Jersey. I wouldn’t learn of its existence until late 1982, but like many people my age became hooked on it as soon as I gained regular access.
While by the early 80s music videos had been filmed for a good while, they still weren’t being recorded for every single released–without an outlet like MTV, they couldn’t serve as a potential driver of sales. Below might be six cases in point–at the least, there aren’t videos available today on YouTube for any of them. Another thing they all have in common is they’re by acts whose Top 40 days were unfortunately in the rear view mirror.
94. Spider, “It Didn’t Take Long”
Their one foray into Caseyland was the #39 “New Romance (It’s a Mystery),” one of my faves from late spring 1980. This ballad-y thing was a near miss, having topped out at #43 two weeks earlier. Members of Spider included drummer Anton Fig and future star songwriter Holly Knight (Between the Lines, from which “It Didn’t Take Long” came, also includes the original version of “Better Be Good to Me”).
93. The Brothers Johnson, “The Real Thing”
George and Louis had also last appeared in the Top 40 in the spring of 1980, with “Stomp.” I remember seeing 1981’s Winners in record stores at the time, but I don’t recall ever hearing “The Real Thing.” It’s a jam, well worthy of more than its #67 peak. This was their final week ever on the pop chart.
77. Pure Prairie League, “You’re Mine Tonight”
Their last Top 40 appearance, “Still Right Here in My Heart,” had been just two months earlier. This one’s a slow burner about a guy finally scoring with the woman of his dreams (who of course is seeing/married to someone else). It was soon to reach its #68 peak, and it wouldn’t be long before Vince Gill was moving on to his brighter future as a country superstar and eventually Mr. Amy Grant.
64. Randy VanWarmer, “Suzi”
I liked “Just When I Needed You Most” fairly well when it was a spring 1979 #4 hit, though I don’t really need to hear it any more these days. “Suzi” is quite a departure from that hit, cool and menacing; I’m sorry to be learning about it only now. Already falling from its #55 peak.
47. Blackfoot, “Fly Away”
This Southern rock band out of Jacksonville had two minor hits in the second half of 1979, “Highway Song” and “Train, Train.” They couldn’t quite get back to the Top 40 with nimble rocker “Fly Away,” falling two spots short of glory. Marauder is another album whose cover takes me back to those early 80s weekly visits to Recordland.
45. Gino Vanelli, “Nightwalker”
It’s a little surprising to me to realize that Vanelli never got back to the 40 after “Living Inside Myself” had bowed out a few weeks earlier. It sure wasn’t for a lack of effort throughout the rest of the 80s.
This is the second time in a row that Gino appears in a SCNP post–last time out we featured the #42 hit “Black Cars.” This time he’s experiencing an even narrower miss–next week he’ll ascend to the most heartbreaking position on the chart and stay there for two weeks. “Nightwalker” may have deserved a better fate–it’s plenty smooth and plenty enjoyable.