This Week In The 80’s: I’ve Got A Pocketful of Quarters…And Slugs
March of ’82. I had just turned twelve and I’m in the sixth grade. I was just starting to discover Top 40 music (much to my parents chagrin) and it’s hard to see why when you look at the songs in this week’s Top 10. What I would consider the classis “80’s sound” is starting to break through the yacht rock, country cross-over, and AC hits that have been dominating the charts for the first couple of years of the 80’s: “Centerfold” is spending its sixth week in the top spot, Journey’s “Open Arms” (a roller rink staple for slow skate), “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” and “We Got The Beat” (in the video, Belinda Carlisle forgets to lip-synch on American Bandstand) aren’t far behind. Elsewhere on the charts we have “867-5309“, “Juke Box Hero”, “Edge of Seventeen“, and a slew of 80’s staples.
Also at twelves years old, I was addicted to video games. ADDICTED. There were video games in every gas station, grocery store and restaurant. My buddies and I knew them all quite well. If we weren’t playing video games we were trying to figure out how to play more video games. But we were broke most of the time so not only did we scrounge up every last bit of change we could find and recycle as many aluminum cans as we could find somehow we made a discovery that changed our world for months and month. What you see to the right is an metal electrical junction box.
Somehow, one of us figured out that all those round slugs you see were the same size as a quarter (probably not anymore). It was the early 80’s so there were houses and new sub-divisions being built everywhere. On an almost daily basis, we would ride our bikes to a new build site, sneak around and find these things already installed on the studs or in boxes then punch out all the slugs. We even got caught once but when the foreman found out what we were doing he showed us where the boxes were. It was awesome. We’d then roll to the nearest convenience store and walk in like kings with the ability to play games for HOURS.
Why do I tell you this story? Because this weeks #12 song (on it’s way to a peak of #9) is “Pac-man Fever” by Buckner and Garcia. This single is so popular that they eventually record an entire album of songs devoted to video games. It’s on Spotify if you want to “enjoy” that. Sadly, this song doesn’t have a video but what it does have is a performance video from the duo on the TV show, Solid Gold. And let me tell you…it’s SOLID. GOLD. (At least Buckner doesn’t forget to lip-sync like Belinda Carlisle)
Your bonus video of the week: “(Oh) Pretty Woman”, Van Halen’s cover of the Roy Orbison hit, is sitting at #30 this week. It will eventually reach a peak of #12 but, unlike many of the other songs on the charts at the time, not because it received a boost from MTV. In actuality, it was one of the first videos that MTV effectively banned. The story goes that the band had absolutely no interest in videos at the time but were eventually convinced to make one. They wanted to make it as outrageous as possible and director, Robert Lombard, obliged by enlisting two midgets and a drag queen to appear and also by making sure the band had access to their drugs and alcohol of choice. The video features David Lee Roth dressed as Napoleon, Eddie Van Halen as a cowboy, Alex Van Halen as Tarzan, and Michael Anthony a Samurai Warrior. At the end of the video, the midgets are seen holding a woman hostage, who finally flips around to reveal that “she” is a “he”. The network found the video too weird (seriously?) and controversial and only aired it a couple of times before dropping it all together.
This Week In The 80’s is a weekly look at the Top 40 charts with Eric Vardeman. His Twitter handle is @ericvardeman.