• Jeff South

The Countdowns No Asked For: Prologue


Later this year, COVID-19 willing, my high school graduation class will celebrate its 35th anniversary reunion. My hope is to attend this event, since I've missed the last few because, frankly, I'm not good with small talk. I dread the inevitable questions like, "What have you been up to?," "What kind of work do you do?," or "Why did you bring a penguin?" You understand the awkwardness, I'm sure.


The notion of a class reunion has me reminiscing about those halcyon days of friends, classes, events, and waking up every morning with a deep existential dread accompanied by a new zit so large its head glows like a lighthouse guiding ships to port. I remember ball games, plays, trips, weekend shenanigans (mine were tame relative to others), movies, and music. I especially remember the music.


Since I'm addicted to countdowns and I'm a nerd about the Billboard charts from about 1978-1986, I did some digging along with Crack Research Team, who is sequestered somewhere during this time of quarantine. I found a blog that lists every single weekly Billboard chart ever. I had discovered my holy grail. One night while on a business trip, I went down the rabbit hole this site offers, immersing myself in the weekly Billboard rankings. I marveled at the research and the attention to detail. I rediscovered songs I had forgotten and discovered some I'd never heard. I lost most of a night's sleep, but enjoyed a trivia high I had not experienced in quite some time.


And it gave me an idea.


I always wanted to host a countdown show. What do you want from me? I also wanted to be a game show host, a private eye, and the second baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals. One of my favorite countdowns that I listened to as teenager was the year-end top 100. Since this was before the internet and I lived in a small town that didn't get the latest music news as it was breaking, listening to that show was a real treat. I didn't know where my favorite songs were going to land. I always imagined coming up with my own lists of the top 100 songs of the school year.


Excuse me, I can hear your snickers of judgement through my computer.


Anyway, using the exemplary information provided by the good folks at top40weekly.com and other internet resources, I began compiling such lists. I researched each weekly chart from the first week of September through the last week of May in a given school year. I took note of peak chart position, weeks on the chart, cultural significance of that song in the era and its long term relevance and popularity. And, since its my list, I added a dash of personal preference. If you're looking for complete objectivity, you've come to the wrong pseudo-countdown, pal.


So, in the coming weeks/months, I will use this blog to post the 100 biggest songs of the school years 1979-80, 1980-81, 1981-82, 1982-83, 1983-84, and 1984-85. That covers my 7th grade year (when I first really started paying attention to music) through my senior year. I'll post ten songs at a time with accompanying music videos, but won't add much commentary.


This is a self-indulgent project that probably will yield me about 3 or views per post, but I don't care. The internet was designed for niche pursuits. This is mine. I hope you'll follow along and share. To give you a bit of a taste of what's to come, I did a bit of quick analysis of my 6th grade year when I was a dorky pre-teen who was trying to determine my own tastes in a household that played everything from traditional country and bluegrass to easy listening to hard rock and pop. Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, and The Carpenters were played as often as Styx, Journey, Molly Hatchet, and AC/DC with a little Waylon Jennings, George Jones, and Loretta Lynn thrown in. Disco was riding high and I thought Donna Summer was just about the most beautiful woman I had seen. So, I give you:


THE TOP 10 SONGS OF THE 1978-79 SCHOOL YEAR:


10. "MacArthur Park," Donna Summer



9. "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," Neil Diamond & Barbra Steisand


8. "Heart of Glass," Blondie



7. "Kiss You All Over," Exile



6. "Tragedy," Bee Gees



5. "What A Fool Believes," The Doobie Brothers




4. "I Will Survive," Gloria Gaynor



3. "Reunited," Peaches & Herb




2. "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy," Rod Stewart




1. "Le Freak," Chic



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