One wonders if the hits of yesterday can possibly be as bad as the dreadful chart toppers of today. I'm on a mission to find out. Looking at the top ten charts for a particular week is an eye-opener. I've made the point in a previous post, but most weekly top ten singles are utterly forgettable. Take the week of February 6, 1982, for example. Only one of the top ten immediately conjures a melody in my head. A few of the others have somewhat familiar titles, but the songs themselves are mysteries. The rest I've never in my life heard of.
Thus, as this experiment goes, I will review each song as if this is the first time I've heard it (which in some cases is true). Please note that since these singles are forty years old, finding performance videos will be hit or miss.
#10 ~ Diamonds In The Stars ~ Ray Price
Love the singer. The recording? Not so much. This may have been a decent country song with the proper arrangement. I prefer fiddles to violins and I prefer country to Jimmy Webb-style country pop. The song itself is inoffensive, though not terribly original. There's a fine line between "a little sophistication" (take, for example, a song like Burning Memories) and "a little too much". This is an entirely forgettable track; one that I wouldn't listen to again.
MY RATING: B- (points for the singer)
#9 ~ Midnight Rodeo ~ Leon Everette
This singer is so unfamiliar to me I looked up his discography, and I do not recognize a single one of his tracks. I'm not a fan of his voice, nor of the song. It's got that kick drum beat that seems to be prevalent in songs of the era, one that adds no nuance to the song. It's straightforward and dull. It might have gone over well on the dance floor just before closing time. From the YouTube comments this was apparently considered "racy" for its time. Meh.
MY RATING: C-
#8 ~ I Just Came Home To Count The Memories ~ John Anderson
The singer has a unique, very appealing country voice. A country ballad should ramp up the emotion when the chorus hits, and this one does. The song itself is so-so, but the singer saves it. I wouldn't purchase this single, but it's solid, as country ballads go.
MY RATING: B
#7 ~ Shine ~ Waylon Jennings
While I definitely like the singer, it seems that all his hits have approximately the same melody; only the lyrics change. But if you find a winning formula, I guess why change it? I could listen to any Jennings hit and hear, in essence, the exact same song, so no, I wouldn't buy it. Like the Anderson track above, the singer saves this one.
MY RATING: B-
#6 ~ You're The Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had ~ Ed Bruce
The singer has a presence, reminiscent of Gordon Lightfoot to a degree. The chorus saves the song. It's a singalong and sticks in your head after you've heard it. And that's what good songs should do. Though it's not a track I'd lay down money for, it's solid.
MY RATING: B
#5 ~ Watchin' Girls Go By ~ Ronnie McDowell
It must have been easy to memorize the lyrics. Not sure what this is. Never trust a country singer who can't or won't play guitar. That only leads to embarrassing "dancing". It's unfair of me to base my ranking on a video, though, so I'll just say that the song is imminently forgettable. I've already forgotten it! There is really nothing to recommend this track.
MY RATING: D
#4 ~ Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good ~ Don Williams
Original message, pleasing melody, wonderful arrangement, comforting vocals ~ this seems like a track that will stand the test of time. There's a bit of gossamer that distinguishes a great song from most any of the ones referenced above. A guy named Dave Hanner wrote it and he has an interesting life, documented on his website (check it out). This is my top hit of the week.
MY RATING: A
#3 ~ Only One You ~ T.G. Sheppard
I probably shouldn't like this one, but I kind of do. Not every country song has to follow the same formula. And yes, he's a microphone-holder, but at least he's not "dancing". It seems to me, judging by his previous hits, that this singer has a keen ear for what works, or at least what works for him. A good track is really a melding of singer and song. I wouldn't buy this, but I give Sheppard props for staying true to himself.
MY RATING: B+
#2 ~ Someone Could Lose A Heart Tonight ~ Eddie Rabbitt
This is a disappointing effort from an artist who can do much, so much better. One wonders what he was thinking when he recorded this. This track is utterly forgettable and mercifully so. I didn't expect this one to be the worst on my top ten list, considering that I love the singer. But it is; it truly is.
MY RATING: D (and that's being generous)
#1 ~ Lonely Nights ~ Mickey Gilley
If I heard this for the first time on my car radio, I'd change the station out of boredom. Somebody obviously talked Mickey into abandoning his signature piano and adopting a Casio keyboard. I hate this. I hate Eddie Rabbitt's song for different reasons, but at least his is ambitious. This is paint-by-number pap.
MY RATING: D-
It's actually serendipitous that from the top ten chart of February 6, 1982 I found one rare gem. So 1982's chart was only nominally better than 2022's. That kind of shoots down my theory that country music has gone to hell. Oh, it has, but it's eye-opening to know that the sum total of country music was always crap. Don't be deceived by the Haggards and the Yoakams. Those are the ones we choose to remember. To save our musical sanity.
This experiment is a valuable wake-up.