This week, we finally get to see the Jay Z/Will Smith–produced reboot of Annie that we did not ask for but will take anyway, because of our plucky, can-do spirit. (But, you know, we will take it cautiously. Cameron Diaz? No “We’d Like to Thank You, Herbert Hoover”? Will Stacks? It’s a tense time to be a fan of Annie.) So how’s about you and your loyal dog hop in my DeLorean GIF for a trip back to the week of May 19, 1982, when the original Aileen Quinn/Albert Finney film adaptation had its U.S. premiere? (The movie went into wide-release the following month.) Was the Billboard Top 40 as bewildering then as it is now? Maaaayyyybeeeee …
40. "I Don’t Know Where to Start," Eddie Rabbitt
Eddie Rabbitt was one of those early '80s country guys who managed to cross over onto the pop charts in those last few moments before young people began demanding dramatic, angular hairdos from their musicians (see also: Milsap, Ronnie).
39. "Tainted Love," Soft Cell
At every '80s Night at every shitty dance club, in every movie or television show that takes place in a year between 1980 and 1989, you are going to hear this song. It is as inescapable as gravity. This and "Walking on Sunshine": They don’t even remind you of the '80s anymore, they just take you back to the last Totally Awesome Flashback Friday you heard on your local Jack FM–style radio station. So how is it that I had never seen the video until just now? Click and watch Marc Almond wear a micro-toga and have a level-ten snit at a child. It’s actually weirder than I’m making it sound.
38. "Circles," Atlantic Starr
Never heard of this one, so I will turn my attention to television, where The Dukes of Hazzard had just lost their two leads Bo and Luke due to contract disputes and were about to replace them with inferior Dukes Coy and Vance, which is confusing, but not as confusing as the fact that there's a Vance Joy and a Foy Vance at the same time in music right now. I haven’t been this confused since the Duke Special/Duke Spirit/Delta Spirit clusterbomb of 2007.
37. "Hurts So Good," John Cougar
You know, I had forgotten how disgusting this video is. Hideous people with unkempt beards and tattoos their friend Wayne did for cheap, bobbing arrhythmically in a filthy diner with eggshell walls, while women dance drowsily in swimsuit bottoms and those white plastic chains your local bank uses to organize the lines for the teller windows. We needed arty British kids to come in and show us what to do with video cameras, and we needed it yesterday.
36. "Goin' Down," Greg Guidry
The song itself — a rewrite of the Eagles' "I Can’t Tell You Why," sung by a guy who may or may not have gone on to play the lead in 1985's Just One of the Guys — is unlikely to grab you, but I recommend clicking on this Solid Gold performance just to watch Marilyn McCoo serving up piping-hot lobotomized-TV-host realness. These teleprompter readings are straight Amber Waves in Boogie Nights.
35. "Caught Up in You," 38 Special
All the attractive people in the town from that John Cougar video were invited to the local dine-in Pizza Hut for the 38 Special shoot. (38 Special, meanwhile, manage to evoke a human Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem and provide as strong a case for conditioner as I have ever witnessed.)
34. "When It's Over," Loverboy
Loverboy drummer Matt Frenette: best drum faces in the business. On the twos and the fours, he looks like he is startled and appalled by his own behavior.
33. "When He Shines," Sheena Easton
This is the dullest song I have ever heard. More Solid Gold please: Here’s the first segment of their 1981 year-end countdown show. I think you will agree: This is the most motley assortment of guest stars (Andy Gibb! Wayland Flowers and Madame!) since the Star Wars "Holiday Special."
32. "Love's Been a Little Bit Hard on Me," Juice Newton
Juice was not afraid to go for the broad comedic moments in her videos. Taylor Swift seeds were being sown here.
31. "Shanghai Breezes," John Denver
Correction: This is the dullest song I have ever heard.
30. "Without You," Franke and the Knockouts
Franke and the Knockouts play the wedding band in a movie Todd Phillips hasn’t made yet. Still, bonus points for lush, lustrous chest hair.
29. "Wake Up Little Susie," Simon & Garfunkel
This is from Simon & Garfunkel’s legendary Central Park concert. I missed it, and Diana Ross’s from the following year. I did see Garth Brooks there in 1996, and after every song, when the crowd would applaud, Garth would break his end-of-song fist-in-the-air rock-star pose and look out into the audience in disbelief. Like: You’re clapping? For me? Are you sure? As though it were the first time it had ever happened. After every song. Country music is gross, you guys.
28. "Let It Whip," Dazz Band
The more sexually liberated friends of the swimsuit-bottom women from the John Cougar video spent the evening at the Roxy filming this Dazz Band clip. The Roxy is still right there on the Sunset Strip, by the way, just next door to the Rainbow, an Italian restaurant where it is still very much 1988. If you want to see a booth full of women in animal prints frantically scanning the room for Don Dokken, it's the only game in town.
27. "My Girl," Donnie Iris
Donnie was a towering nerd of rock, a slightly menacing Eugene Levy character who deserved a much bigger career. This one isn't all that hot, but go listen to "Ah! Leah!" and tell me it's not a stone classic.
26. "We Got the Beat," the Go-Go's
A couple of years ago, guitarist Kathy Valentine started writing her memoir, 140 characters at a time, on Twitter. It was fascinating, it was terrifying, it was hilarious, it was completely scrubbed from her feed because it probably made a lot of people very nervous. Kathy Valentine has done some living, people, and she is a smart and canny writer. Here's hoping she gets around to writing that book on paper.
25. "Body Language," Queen
If you're Freddie Mercury, you can sneak some pretty hot gay shit past everyone.
24. "Fantasy," Aldo Nova
You guys, I don't care what you're doing — drop everything and watch the first 1:15 of this video. Two-armed paramilitary types (and one, like, gimp?) escort Aldo Nova (who you can tell is three feet, eleven inches tall) from a helicopter to some kind of hangar/performance space, whose door they try weakly to open, before the gimp gives wee Aldo his guitar and he zaps it open with the almighty power of radio-friendly rock. Oh, also Aldo is wearing something from the "Renée Taylor in The Nanny" collection. It's like a delicious sci-fi action movie financed with Texan oil money, and I want to move all my belongings into it.
23. "Still in Saigon," Charlie Daniels Band
Not bad, but "Walking on a Thin Line" is the crucial Vietnam PTSD jam.
22. "Making Love," Roberta Flack
This is of course the title song from the ill-fated Michael Ontkean/Kate Jackson/Harry Hamlin married-guy-goes-gay event movie, which played on television late at night a year or two later, and which I snuck out of bed to watch at the lowest possible volume, one eye on the stairs lest a parent or brother find me out. In place of role models or a sense that we belonged somewhere in the world, we gay children of 1982 had to make do with simply knowing that this film existed. It was enough.
21. "Crimson and Clover," Joan Jett
If you're Joan Jett, you can sneak some pretty hot gay shit past everyone.
20. "Rosanna," Toto
I love the excitingly sexy vacant lot Toto plays this song in. Toto has always been synonymous with rawness, with danger, with urban blight.
19. "Run for the Roses," Dan Fogelberg
I choose to believe that Dan Fogelberg did not die, but instead regenerates every few years, like the Doctor in Doctor Who. Curtis Stigers, Joshua Kadison, the guy from Five for Fighting, James Blunt, Jason Mraz: All have been Fogelbergs. (As with the Doctor, it's always white dudes. I would argue that Train is in their second nonconsecutive term as our current Fogelberg.)
18. "It's Gonna Take a Miracle," Deniece Williams
WHOA. This is another video you're going to want to watch. It is imbued with the kicky spirit and lousy production values of public-access television, specifically Precious Taft's unforgettable dramatic monologue from New York's classic Stairway to Stardom. STS was pre–Star Search, except without Ed McMahon or stars or anyone who had a fucking clue what they were doing. If you have not already lost yourself down this particular rabbit hole, you are about to. But whatever; it's December, you can't be expected to work.
17. "Freeze-Frame," J. Geils Band
The last minute of this video, wherein the schlubs of the J. Geils Band coat themselves and each other in house paint and form a human pyramid, is the fetish segment HBO's Real Sex forgot to air.
16. "Man on Your Mind," Little River Band
Right around this time in 1982, Late Night With David Letterman debuted, and irony officially became a thing.
15. "Empty Garden," Elton John
This is Elton's tribute to John Lennon, who was killed 34 years ago this week. I was in a Catholic grammar school at the time, and the morning after Lennon's murder, the entire school gathered for a special assembly in the gym and the nuns gently broke the news to anyone who hadn't already heard it. The music teacher played a couple of songs, a few of the older kids shared their feelings, we acknowledged the loss together. In a Catholic grammar school in St. Louis, Missouri. Nuns are cooler than we give them credit for.
14. "I Love Rock & Roll," Joan Jett
All right, back to Stairway to Stardom. Please get a load of Horowitz & Spector's comedy classic "Boiled Chicken," an anti-diet cri de coeur howled from the eye of Jane Fonda. I don't know what I love more: the iridescent outfits or the notion that these two city gals would use the word "taters." But the thing I love most of all is that Bobbie Horowitz (the one on the right, with the mouth) kept on trucking; after Horowitz & Spector parted ways, she went solo and became a fixture on the New York cabaret scene, all while maintaining an image-consulting business called "Healthy, Wealthy and WOW!" I'm not making any of that up. Here she is at the Cornelia Street Cafe singing a song called "It Shows to Go Ya," which contains the unforgettable and irrefutable lyric "It’s bullshit to be anyone but you." I want a Bobbie Horowitz biopic and I want it now.
13. "Heat of the Moment," Asia
We were pretty literal with our videos back in 1982.
12. "Beatles Movie Medley," Beatles
We were doing a lot of this in the very early '80s. "Stars on 45," "Hooked on Classics," the "Beach Boys Medley": Readers Digest condensed versions of hits from the past, repackaged for your spending pleasure. DJ Earworm without the creativity.
11. "Always on My Mind," Willie Nelson
Still one of the purest, most heartbreaking vocal performances of all time.
10. "Get Down on It," Kool & the Gang
"Hey, Kool: Should we use a video effect that obscures each of our faces and bodies, or should we pick one that nauseates the viewer?" "Gang, I think we can do both."
9. "Did It in a Minute," Hall & Oates
Daryl Hall: dressing like a female stand-up comedian since 1982.
8. "Don’t You Want Me," Human League
Just as the '90s didn't really begin until Nevermind hit the top of the album charts, I would argue that this song's entry into the Billboard Top 10 is the official beginning of the '80s. So much of what we associate with the music and the look of the era — the synths, the pout, the pale — started right here. And either the best or worst thing about it, if you were alive during this time, was that you mostly couldn't see it. Only a lucky few had cable, and the rest of us had to hear about it. I'd bother my classmates each morning for new details, new names, anything they could recall. It was water-cooler conversation for children.
7. "Chariots of Fire," Vangelis
For Christmas 1980, in a post-Xanadu baby-gay roller-skate frenzy, I asked for and received a pair of red Nike sneaker-skates with big, fat red rubber wheels. By mid-1982, they were much too small for me, but I still squeezed my feet into them every Sunday morning to listen to Casey Kasem's "American Top 40," hoping this song would come on before we had to leave for Mass so that I could workshop the routine I'd choreographed for it. The cards were dealt pretty early in my game, is what I'm saying.
6. "’65 Love Affair," Paul Davis
This is the last song of the official Golden Age of Yacht Rock.
5. "The Other Woman," Ray Parker Jr.
There is no reason why this song should have a video that is horror-themed, but there were only so many ideas in 1982.
4. "867-5309/Jenny," Tommy Tutone
The new-wave storm was really gathering on this week's chart: Lower down are Kim Wilde"s "Kids in America," Haircut One Hundred's "Love Plus One," and the Waitress' "I Know What Boys Like," alongside Melissa Manchester, Pia Zadora, and the theme from Magnum P.I.
2. "Don't Talk to Strangers," Rick Springfield
Just watched Begin Again last weekend, and I have to wonder: Is Adam Levine going for a Reverse Springfield? He could actually pull it off; he's not bad in the movie. (Though for a large part of it, he wears a beard that makes him look like Bobbie Horowitz's rabbi.)