Originally written October 30, 2013.
What’s up, loyal readers? It ain’t really the weekend until you get your Top 10 Flashback, so let’s get this weekend started!
Looking at what we’ve done so far, I noticed we haven’t looked back at 1982 yet. Let’s correct that this week. I hope you don’t mind indulging me; we’re going to look at my hometown’s brand new hit music station, Hot Hits 96.3 WHYT Detroit (a/k/a 96 Now), which had just picked up the format in September ’82. “Hot Hits” was a prefab format that was used in many markets around this time; WHYT was pretty much identical to WBBM-FM 96.3 in Chicago and WCAU-FM 98.1 in Philadelphia; in fact, all these stations sounded the same, despite attempts to localize them. You could think of it as a reboot for Top 40 radio – back to polished, professional, fast-talking announcers pounding out the hits with tight, classic formatics. They didn’t even call it Top 40 any more – the new term was CHR, or contemporary hit radio. You can hear airchecks of various Hot Hits stations, including one of WHYT from December ’82, here:
Listen to that WHYT aircheck – aside from the back-to-back jingles and miniscule playlist, this format was excellent. Listen to the professionalism and energy here, as opposed to today’s CHR, which coasts on manufactured Gen Y attitude. (Come to think of it, so does today’s rock radio.) Even if the music was shitty, WHYT and its ilk still sounded great. I always wished some of that energy and polish could have rubbed off onto rock radio. The rock stations had better music, but Top 40/CHR was better radio. (I pretty much got my wish years later when Z-Rock came to town. Now that was a fun, cool, energetic rock format.)
I had to fudge this one a little because WHYT’s survey only had nine songs, which was pretty much the station’s entire playlist. For #10, I went to the Billboard Hot 100 and picked the highest ranking song not on this list. Survey dated November 4, 1982.
Here we go!
#10 (#3 Billboard):
Olivia Newton-John – Heart Attack
You regular readers know how I feel about ON-J’s music. If you’re new to T10FB, well, let’s just say I don’t really care much for it. Yeah, that’s it. Pathetic attempt at being trendy.
Gap Band – You Dropped A Bomb On Me
Another one of those songs that drunk middle-aged women request at wedding receptions. I understand – I’m tired as hell of the song, but I cannot deny its funky goodness. Fun fact: This was the first song played by WHYT when they changed format from what had been WJR-FM, one of the many stations on the FM dial that played all elevator music, all the time. Imagine, say, being in the dentist’s chair, under the influence of sleepy gas, office radio tuned to the soothing sounds of WJR-FM, dentist fires up the drill, then you hear this:
Talk about dropping a bomb.
Neil Diamond – Heartlight
A hit only because it was used in “E.T.” I have lots of respect for Neil Diamond, but gawd, what a wimpy song.
Baby Come To Me – Patti Austin & James Ingram
Another lackluster R&B love ballad from Mr. Ingram and a random female duet partner. He’s a fine singer, but the material is just so…lacking. “One Hundred Ways” is a far superior song.
John Cougar (Mellencamp) – Jack & Diane
This one reached classic status some years ago. I always thought it was OK.
Steve Miller Band – Abracadabra
Steve Miller was one of my favorite artists of the 70’s. His music was hip, happy, and cosmic. He had a great string of hits from 1973-1977, most of which are in heavy rotation on classic rock radio today.
Then he made this.
Laura Branigan – Gloria
I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but Laura Branigan should never have been allowed access to a recording studio. In case I’m being too subtle, I HATE THIS FUCKING SONG with every fiber of my being. You know how CD audio has 44,100 samples per second? I hate every one of those samples. All 10,143,000 of them.
Men At Work – Who Can it Be Now?
Good song. I prefer “Down Under,” but this works.
Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes – Up Where We Belong
Another movie song. You’d think I wouldn’t like this one, but I actually do. It’s got a little substance. And even though it’s kind of a chick flick, “An Officer and a Gentleman” is a modern-day classic, and deservedly so.
All right, here’s the song Detroit’s Hot Hits, 96 Now, WHYT played every 45 minutes this week in 1982:
Not great, but not terrible. It just is.
Well, this one turned out to be a disappointment. 1982 was a rather significant year in music; we just happened to catch it on a bad week. Tune in again next week and we’ll try again.