Saturday, November 08, 2014

Billboard Top 40 (1982)

A Facebook thread of awe and ridicule in equal measured turned into the most fun I've had on memory lane in a while.

Here is a playlist of the Billboard Top 40 songs from 32 years ago this week.

I think that most people without any recollection of 1982 (anyone younger than me, more or less) won't recognize hardly any of these videos.  It's right on the edge between the era of videos as previews to get you excited for buying the album, and videos as Hollywood min-movies and cultural touchstones in their own right.  Once 1983 rolled around, videos were about beautiful people racing through exotic locales and intricately choreographed dance performances, which helped submerge the careers of the less telegenic, hone their chops in the studio bands (e.g. Toto, America, Alan Parsons Project, Supertramp).

This also happened to be right around the time that I first developed a concept of what it meant to be a music fan.  At first you just absorb the music you hear in the environment around you, and eventually you develop a filter and find ways to seek out and buy the stuff you really like.  That means I have vivid memories about some of these songs even though I didn't particularly like them.  Examples: Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, "Up Where We Belong" (ughhhh) and Men at Work, "Who Can It Be Now?" (I could go through life very well without hearing a Men At Work song ever again).

Here you'll find campy classics ("Gloria"), campy classics that have somehow gotten better with time ("Eye in the Sky"), and Olivia Newton-John's "Heart Attack", which I (and most of humanity) haven't heard in thirty years.  Every music fan needs to experience the humbling, where has the time gone feeling of hearing a hit song for the first time in decades.  I'd forgotten about the completely out of place sax solo in the song's final seconds, the strange "Poltergeist"-like FX, and the ... giant dried condoms hanging from the ceiling of ONJ's bedroom.

My favourite song in this chart is easily Fleetwood Mac's "Gypsy".  Stevie dancing in front of the mirror (swoon), the 20's dance scene, the pixie dust jam session on the cliff tops, everything about the song and video is mesmerizing even thirty years later.  And it was supposedly the most expensive video ever made until "Thriller" (although I cannot find a reliable source for this).  Why don't people ever mention "Gypsy" as one of the best videos of the 80's?  Because they should.

The video comes off almost like a Stevie Nicks solo project, as the rest of the band is relegated to supporting characters in what for me will always be Stevie's signature FM song (sorry "Dreams", and "Sara", take a back seat).  It wasn't the first single from "Mirage", that was "Hold Me", which makes sense because it does sound a lot more like a "Fleetwood Mac are back and making commercial pop!" single than "Gypsy".  But Stevie was coming off the huge success of her solo album and easily had the star power to justify her "own" obscenely expensive signature video.    

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