Happy Thanksgiving, friends! This holiday marks a few of my favorite traditions–football, gorging, and the airing of long-simmering family tension. It’s also a great time to reflect on history–the good, the bad, and the ugly. Casey Kasem’s Top 40 Countdown for Thanksgiving week of 1982 has a bit of all three.
November 20th, 1982—The Week at a Glance
Thanksgiving Day fell on November 25th that year. At the box office, summer blockbuster E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial continued to set domestic records. The Dow Jones did the same, starting the month by hitting its highest point in nine years.
Legendary New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor marked the occasion by terrorizing Detroit Lions quarterback Gary Danielson. LT scored the only touchdown in this year’s Thanksgiving Bowl, taking a 4th quarter interception 97 yards to the house.
The 56th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade featured appearances by Andy Gibb, Kermit the Frog, and Laura Branigan, who also makes an appearance on our Top 40 Countdown.
In music news, the biggest selling album of all time was less than a week from being released. Michael Jackson’s forthcoming Thriller is represented in this countdown by his unassuming duet with Paul McCartney–“The Girl Is Mine.”
It barely hints at the world-conquering impact of what was to come. But it is a fitting preview for a Top 40 that veers wildly between the untouchable and the unbearable.
Casey Kasem’s Top 40 for the Week of November 20th, 1982
Highlights from This Week’s Top 40 Countdown
Let’s start with the unbearable. Jeffrey Osborne’s “On the Wings of Love” rounds out the bottom. It’s not that easy to get through. But…but…it does capture a certain uniquely ’80s charm. Its sweeping grandeur, utter shamelessness, and high-gloss sappiness are very much representative of their time and place. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s a time and place you really wish to visit.
But you’ll wanna stick with this countdown because it starts to hit its stride in the mid-30s. The 1980s may be rightly accused of producing an absolute garbage-heap of highly disposable and badly dated music.
But Thanksgiving week of 1982 actually gives us some of the decade’s most timeless achievements. The Clash joins the MTV era with “Rock the Casbah.” Toto culturally appropriates to glorious effect on “Africa.” Men at Work perfect saxxy paranoia on “Who Can It Be Now?”
And for my money, the segment connecting ABC’s “The Look of Love,” Alan Parsons’ “Eye in the Sky,” and Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgettin’” just might be the smoothest 3-song stretch in countdown history.
Topping the charts for Thanksgiving week, 1982 was the monster movie smash, “Up Where We Belong.” The duet between Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes provided the theme for An Officer and a Gentlemen–an aeronautical romance starring Richard Gere, Debra Winger, and Academy Award-winner Louis Gossett, Jr.
Fun Facts About This Top 40 Countdown
There’s only one tune on Kasem’s November 20th countdown that is not currently available on Spotify–“You Don’t Want Me Anymore” by Steel Breeze.
Steel Breeze was the discovery of performer, producer, impresario, and all-around weird dude, Kim Fowley. He was looking for “the next Journey.” He was pretty sure Steel Breeze would be that band.
While they didn’t quite live up to this ambition, Kasem took a particular liking to the Sacramento-based power poppers. His support helped Steel Breeze reach #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “You Don’t Want Me Anymore.” It also helped that the video received heavy airplay on the fledgling MTV network.
Please don’t deprive yourself the experience of watching the video. The effects are special.
Less Fun Facts About this Top 40 Countdown
Eagles singer Don Henley lands on the countdown with his second solo single, “Dirty Laundry.” The lyrics explicitly charge the media with cynicism, corruption, and sensationalism. Henley was said to be at least partially inspired by the media coverage of his 1980 arrest “on suspicion of furnishing cocaine to a minor.”
According to a 1980 news bit, “Investigators reportedly confiscated 22 grams of cocaine, five ounces of marijuana and a quantity of Quaaludes and other drugs. Also arrested at Henley’s home were a 16-year-old girl, who was booked for prostitution, and a 15-year-old girl, who was booked for being under the influence of drugs.”
Not a good look, but apparently a good hook.
Dedications and Extras
Kasem’s Countdown always included a few bonus spins. By 1982, Kasem had established the Long Distance Dedication. Because his countdown was nationally broadcast, callers had the unique opportunity to send song dedications coast to coast.
This week’s dedications included Santana’s uncharacteristically poppy “Winning” and Journey’s slow-skate anthem, “Open Arms.”
Kasem also selected for inclusion the excellent “Midnight Confessions” by The Grass Roots, a band noted for its golden harmonies and the fleet-fingered guitar work of Creed from The Office (yes…you read that right).
The Top 40 for November 20th, 1982 in Order
- UP WHERE WE BELONG – JOE COCKER AND JENNIFER WARNES
- TRULY – LIONEL RICHIE
- HEART ATTACK – OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN
- GLORIA – LAURA BRANIGAN
- HEARTLIGHT – NEIL DIAMOND
- WHO CAN IT BE NOW – MEN AT WORK
- MICKEY – TONI BASIL
- MANEATER – HALL & OATES
- STEPPIN’ OUT – JOE JACKSON
- MUSCLES – DIANA ROSS
- JACK AND DIANE – JOHN COUGAR
- ROCK THIS TOWN – STRAY CATS
- DIRTY LAUNDRY – DON HENLEY
- THE GIRL IS MINE – MICHAEL JACKSON W/ PAUL McCARTNEY
- NOBODY – SYLVIA
- YOU DON’T WANT ME ANYMORE – STEEL BREEZE
- AMERICAN HEARTBEAT – SURVIVOR
- SOUTHERN CROSS – CROSBY, STILLS AND NASH
- SEXUAL HEALING – MARVIN GAYE
- PRESSURE – BILLY JOEL
- SHADOWS OF THE NIGHT – PAT BENETAR
- IT’S RAINING AGAIN – SUPERTRAMP
- YOU CAN DO MAGIC – AMERICA
- LOVE ME TOMORROW – CHICAGO
- I KEEP FORGETTIN’ (EVERY TIME YOU’RE Near) – MICHAEL McDONALD
- EYE IN THE SKY – THE ALAN PARSONS PROJECT
- THE LOOK OF LOVE – ABC
- HEARTBREAKER – DIONNE WARWICK
- GET CLOSER – LINDA RONSTADT
- I.G.Y. (WHAT A BEAUTIFUL WORLD) – DONALD FAGAN
- MISSING YOU – DAN FOGELBERG
- YOU AND I – EDDIE RABBITT W/ CRYSTAL GAYLE
- I’M SO EXCITED – THE POINTER SISTERS
- THE ONE YOU LOVE – GLENN FREY
- ROCK THE CASBAH – THE CLASH
- BE MY LADY – JEFFERSON STARSHIP
- AFRICA – TOTO
- LOVE COME DOWN – EVELYN KING
- A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS – TAVARES
- ON THE WINGS OF LOVE – JEFFREY OSBORNE