Welcome to a look at the Fantastic 40 – the artists whose work dominated Billboard’s Top 40 for each calendar year between 1980 and 1991.
Like many TNOCS folks, I dutifully listened to “American Top 40,” just about every week between late 1974, when I stumbled upon it, and 1991 (a few years after Casey Kasem stepped down from the show he co-created, and went on to his own rival countdown).
I would keep handwritten copies of Billboard’s Top 40 in folders and, at year’s end, develop a list of the top artists.
The method was simple: Count the number of weeks in the Top 40 for each hit by artist, and total them.
Ties were broken by the number of songs charted. An artist who earned 20 weeks with one particularly hot song ranked below an artist whose multiple songs combined for 20 weeks on the chart.
Superstar collaborations were treated as their own act, not split among the collaborators.
So, in 1980, Kim Carnes would have received points for “More Love,” while the points given to “Don’t Fall in Love With a Dreamer” went to Kenny Rogers and Kim Carnes.
As a result, Kim didn’t make the Top 40 of1980 as a solo act. She’ll get her time soon, though.
Recently, I came across my old notebooks.
Now that I owned Joel Whitburn’s decade-long Hot 100 books, I didn’t need to keep them.
And feeling more practical and less sentimental these days about the amount of stuff in the house, I tossed them…
…But not without keeping the Year-End Artists’ lists. They reveal new ways of looking at the artists who dominated a decade. From time to time, we’ll dive into these lists and see what they tell us about the particular year.
What were the stories of 1980’s Fantastic 40?
• The trend: Soft rock.
From Number 40, Barry Manilow…
To Number 1, Billy Joel…
…the mainstays of “Mix” radio stations are well represented.
Cliff Richard (19), Ambrosia (20), Rupert Holmes (21) and the Dirt Band (27) have their best chart year ever.
Some artists buck the trend: Pink Floyd, via the monster “Another Brick in the Wall,” ranks No. 37.
And with three hits led by the year’s No. 1 song, “Call Me,” Blondie comes in at No. 15.
• New names:
Say hello to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (29), Irene Cara (23), and Pat Benatar (12). Petty and Benatar break through without much help from AC radio (although today their hits would easily fit in at most stations).
And two acts that will not let up for the first three years of the decade: Air Supply (2) and Christopher Cross (3).
• Final bows:
The Eagles, on the verge of breaking up, place No. 22.
But 1980 also was the last year Jermaine Jackson would place among the 40 hottest artists, though he did have several Top 40 singles through 1986.
The Spinners shine at No. 9 before burning out their chart run.
Other surprises: Electric Light Orchestra (28), Dr. Hook (17)…
And: two of the year’s Top 10 artists – Boz Scaggs (outpacing his “Silk Degrees” run at No. 10)…
and, shockingly: Queen (6).
Yes, if I’d kept track just a few more years, they would have returned via their perennial rhapsody.
• Only in 1980:
Alas, Robbie Dupree (14), we never got to know you better.
• Women on the move:
In addition to Cara and Benatar, Olivia Newton-John, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Linda Ronstadt, Donna Summer and Diana Ross all earn spots among the Top 40 artists. All will return to the Fantastic 40, although in the case of Streisand and Ronstadt, through duets.
• Time and again:
Several artists are just getting going: Eddie Rabbitt (33), Dan Fogelberg (25), Kenny Loggins (18), Kool and the Gang (16), Daryl Hall and John Oates (24).
Though he won’t be the powerhouse he was in the ’70s, Elton John (36) will return.
As will Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band (7).
And if anyone thought Michael Jackson was hot at No. 5 for 1980:
… just wait …
Let the author know that you liked their article with a “Green Thumb” Upvote!