Song of the Day #3,807: ‘Urgent’ – Foreigner

I’m passingly familiar with the next featured 1981 album, Foreigner’s 4. I bought it for $5 a couple of years ago because it seemed like an album I should own.

4 was, appropriately, the rock band’s fourth album. I was going to write that it was by far their most successful, but a quick check revealed that, while this album sold 6 million copies and spent 10 weeks in Billboard’s #1 spot, their 1978 album Double Vision actually outsold it by a million.

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Song of the Day #3,806: ‘Leather and Lace’ – Stevie Nicks with Don Henley

Stevie Nicks had already enjoyed extraordinary success with Fleetwood Mac when she released her solo debut, Bella Donna, in 1981.

Nicks was on a hell of a roll at this point in her career. She joined Fleetwood Mac in 1975 (along with her writing and life partner Lindsay Buckingham) and anchored the band’s two most popular and acclaimed albums, including 1977’s Rumours, one of the top-selling albums of all-time.

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Song of the Day #3,805: ‘Crimson and Clover’ – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

The Go-Go’s set a record for sales by a female act, but they weren’t the only trailblazers in 1981. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ I Love Rock ‘n Roll sold more than 10 million copies and put its title track atop Billboard’s Hot 100 for seven weeks.

Jett released several albums with the Runaways and one solo record before forming The Blackhearts and dropping this smash hit. The album is full of crunchy guitars and sexy swagger. It’s not so much a collection of great songs as a half hour of raw, seductive girl power turned up to 11.

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Song of the Day #3,804: ‘Tom Sawyer’ – Rush

Continuing my look at some of the most celebrated albums from 1981, here’s the classic opening track of Rush’s eighth studio album, Moving Pictures.

I have to confess that I completely missed the boat on Rush. Though they released new material steadily from my infancy through my 20s, I never managed to own a Rush album or even become familiar with a Rush song. Today’s SOTD, ‘Tom Sawyer,’ is probably their best-known track, and I think I heard it for the first time this week.

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Song of the Day #3,803: ‘I Honestly Love You’ – Olivia Newton-John

In 1974, it was possible for a song as earnestly romantic as ‘I Honestly Love You’ to reach the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100. The most recent similar hit I can find is John Legend’s ‘All of Me,’ which spent some time at #1 in May of 2014.

In ’74, other love songs to reach #1 included ‘The Way We Were,’ ‘Annie’s Song’ and ‘Time in a Bottle.’ This year, Drake has occupied the top spot for 29 of 48 weeks. A different musical world, for better and worse.

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Song of the Day #3,802: ‘Finest Worksong’ – R.E.M.

‘Finest Worksong’ is the lead-off track on R.E.M.’s fifth studio album, 1987’s Document. It was the third single released, following the hits ‘The One I Love’ and ‘It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).’

The band released an album per year from 1983 through 1988, including the holy trinity of Reckoning, Fables of the Reconstruction and Life’s Rich Pageant. This record followed those career-defining releases and was a bit of a departure both sonically and thematically.

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Song of the Day #3,801: ‘Bringin’ On the Heartbreak’ – Def Leppard

I like listening to the album that came right before an artist’s landmark work. Like The Police’s Ghost in the Machine, covered earlier this week, which preceded Synchronicity. Or Fleetwood Mac, a smash in its own right, but one that lives in the shadow of its follow-up, Rumours.

Everybody knows Def Leppard’s 1983 megahit Pyromania, and 1987’s Hysteria, which pretty much matched it in sales, but you don’t hear much about 1981’s High ‘N’ Dry. At least I haven’t.

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