1980-73: Toto, “99”

So here it is- the first song in our journey with a title consisting of numbers. I did a quick scan of the over 4,200 songs that appeared on the Billboard HOT 100 in the ’80s and found that only a dozen have titles that do not include letters. Of those twelve, only four consist of just numbers, and nothing else. No dashes, no fractions, no slashes. There’s “17,” “19,” “1999” and this one.

“99” reached #26 in 1980. Growing up I certainly recall listening to some project which included this song and I’d like to say I owned this album, but I’d be lying- in more ways than one.

It was actually my brother who owned the album. And therein lies a second lie. He owned the 8-track of this project, not the album. For whatever reason this 8-track (and a few others that he owned) was kept in the living room cabinet with all the 8-tracks my parents owned. So here I am looking trough 8-track cassettes of Barbra Streisand, Elvis and the soundtrack to Fiddler on the Roof and I come across a generic looking, typewriter printed label stuck onto an 8-track cassette. It included this song as well as a few others from Toto’s second album titled “Hydra.” However, it also included a few songs from their first, self-titled, album. I’ve done the research and cannot find online any indication that this project existed.

It was a bootleg.

I should’ve know something was up. To this day I vividly remember listening to this “project” with a pair of huge over-the-ear headphones and, due to the extremely poor quality of the cartridge,  hearing other songs in the background bleeding over to the current track when a song would fade.

Memorable lyric: “I never knew it would work out. No one to blame. You know I love you 99”


1980-72: Robert Palmer, “Can We Still Be Friends?”

Okay, I’m gonna do it. I’m calling him out. Robert Palmer is the “King of Covers.” As we will see during this journey we call 198x, you will come to agree with me that Mr. Palmer is just a big copycat. Several of Palmer’s HOT 100 entries in the ’80s are remakes of other’s people’s already tried and tested songs.

“Can We Still Be Friends?” (a top 40 song for Todd Rundgren in 1978) was one of Palmer’s ten HOT 100 entries in the ’80s. It reached #52 in 1979 and was on the way down the charts in January 1980, so it receives an official peak of #72 for the ’80s. There’s no denying this is Robert Palmer. The vocal arrangement, backing vocals and phrasing are classic Palmer.










Memorable lyric: “It’s a strange, sad affair. Sometimes seems that we just don’t care. Don’t waste time feeling hurt. We’ve been through hell together.”

1980-71: Earth, Wind and Fire, “Star”

Okay, let’s not confuse this one with “Shining Star,” Earth, Wind and Fire’s huge 1975 #1 smash. Released off their 1979 album I Am, “Star” rose to #64 and joined the list of their eleven HOT 100 entries for during the ’80s. “Eleven? Not bad,” you might say. Well, unfortunately only two of those eleven songs made the top 40 (see songs 1981-303 and 1983-19). The solo careers of Phillip Bailey and founder Maurice White didn’t fare much better. (Granted Bailey’s duet with Phil Collins is the exception!)

As a kid I can’t say I remember this one. On the other hand I do recall hearing Earth, Wind and Fire on the radio a lot and labeling them as the R&B version of the Bee Gees, a huge influence of mine. I always thought it was unfair that the Gibb brothers were made fun of for using their high falsetto voices when EWF did the same but were praised for theirs. Hmmm…..

Memorable lyric: “Believing there’s a star for everyone makes it easier to recall that together for the children of the world there’s a star smiling for us all.”

1980-70: Leif Garrett, “Memorize Your Number”

By the time the ’80s rolled around it would seem Leif Garrett was ready to call it quits. Well, at least his fans did. He falls into the same category as Andy Gibb and Rex Smith: fairly successful solo artists that were pinned up on every schoolgirl’s bedroom wall in the late ’70s, only to be replaced in the early ’80s with those of Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise and Duran Duran.

Garrett appeared on the HOT 100 three times in the ’80s with this song peaking the highest (#60). Compare that to his three top 40 singles in the ’70s which includes his most successful “I Was Made for Dancing.”

These days I see Mr. Garrett on pretty much every “World’s Most Dangerous…” or “World’s Most Stupid…” home video countdown show.

Memorable lyric: “Before you move in with me and move out a year from now don’t forget that I told you it’s perfect, but you spoiled it somehow.”

1980-69: John Cougar, “I Need a Lover”

To many ’80s music fans’ surprise John Cougar had a few hit singles prior to singing a little ditty about how good it hurts or about a guy named Jack and girlfriend Diane. He actually had three HOT 100 releases before then, and this one was the first of them all.

“I Need a Lover” has that classic John Cougar sound, and in the verses has some melodic hints of his future hit “Cherry Bomb” (see #1987-324) but with a more rock and roll sound. It was originally recorded for Cougar’s 1978 album A Biography but since the record was not made available in the states it did not have a chance to chart. The song did so good overseas (it was a #1 song in Australia!), it was placed on Cougar’s second album and made it to #28 in 1979. The song was on its way down the HOT 100 chart and sitting at #69 the first week of the new decade, so that becomes its official ’80s peak.

Cougar, who eventually took on his real surname of Mellencamp a few years later, has not only appeared on the HOT 100 as “John Cougar,” “John Cougar Mellencamp” and “John Mellencamp,” but also wet by “Johnny Cougar” on the aforementioned A Biography album.

Memorable lyric: “Well I’m not wiped out by this poolroom life I’m livin’. I’m gonna quit this job and go to school and head back home.”

1980-68: Peter Brown, “Stargazer”

Not a bad song. Not a bad song at all. Just didn’t seem to catch on, peaking only at #59 in early 1980.

Brown had a little bit of chart success in the ’70s singing a few songs on his own, including the fairly popular “Do You Wanna Get Funky with Me?” but found massive success as one of the songwriters of Madonna’s “Material Girl” (see 1985-33).

Every time I hear this song I expect it to segue right into Gary Wright’s 1975 classic “Dream  Weaver.” Take a listen and you’ll understand.

Memorable lyric: “You gotta believe in something. You gotta have a dream. You gotta believe in someone and crazy as it seems you always believed in me.”

1980-67: Dan Fogelberg, “Longer”

The man can write one heck of a song. Here’s a beautiful ballad about a man who has been in love with someone “longer than there have been fishes in the ocean” and will be forever.

It was such a simple message with a great melody and was known to many as “that song with the flugelhorn.” It was a staple on adult contemporary radio throughout the ’80s and ended up on pretty much every love song mix-tape I assembled.

A shout out to my chorus from Milton High School: this was one of the songs we would blare in the bus on the way back from off-site concerts and competitions.

“Longer” was Fogelberg’s first top 10 song, almost going all the way to the top, but ended up peaking at #2 in 1980. It was the most successful song of his career, and most successful of the twelve songs he placed in the HOT 100 in the ’80s.

Memorable lyric: “I’ll bring fire in the winters. You’ll send showers in the springs. We’ll fly through the falls and summers with love on our wings.”