- What if you were to make a classic K-Tel-style compilation?
- What would your timeframe or theme be?
- What would your cover art look like?
- And, most importantly, what songs would be on your tracklist?
Brandon Hixson has answered these questions almost two dozen times now with his ongoing series, THE BEST ALBUMS K-TEL NEVER MADE, which he shares via YouTube. We, in turn, have shared his curations here on K-TEL KOLLECTION as well as over at THE HIDEAWAY. Brandon is not only a fellow music fan with a love for K-Tel compilations, he's a good friend of ours. And he's pledged to make even more compilations once he finishes up his Master's Degree. But for now, here are Brandon's latest entries in THE BEST ALBUMS K-TEL NEVER MADE.
The 32 tracks on the two volumes of Playlist '81 should be familiar with most Top 40 radio fans who were listening during the first six months or so of 1981, just before MTV changed the game. There are three lesser-known songs I'd like to call your attention to as you listen to Playlist '81:
- "Just So Lonely" by Get Wet breached the Top 40 on May 23, 1981, and peaked the following week at number 39. Signed by Neil Bogart, produced by Phil Ramone, and a sound honoring Sixties girl groups and Motown, I remember seeing the duo on American Bandstand and Solid Gold. Both of my parents said at the time that the song sounded like the music from their teen years. Brandon has previously featured "Just So Lonely" on his 2012 upload Billboard Lost Hits of the Early 1980's - Volume 7 as well as NightStar and Lost Hits Of The Early 1980's Volume 2.
- "Love You Like I've Never Loved Before" by John O'Banion first appeared on Casey Kasem's American Top 40 on April 18, 1981, at number 40 and four weeks later, the song peaked at number 24 for two weeks. O'Banion appeared on the same episode of American Bandstand as Get Wet, originally aired on June 20, 1981. Brandon has previously featured "Love You Like I've Never Loved Before" on Billboard Lost Hits of the Early 1980's - Volume 10.
- Jesse Winchester's "Say What" landed in the Top 40 at number 37 on May 30, 1981, before peaking for two weeks at number 32. "Say What" is one of those great end-of-the-world Key West jukebox sounding songs like "Third Rate Romance" (which Jesse recorded first!), "Margaritaville", "An American Dream" or "Don't You Write Her Off" but it gets a fraction of the airplay those tracks get. Brandon has featured "Say What" on Billboard Lost Hits of the Early 1980's - Volume 9 and NightStar. (In all, six of the songs from Playlist '81 appear on NightHeart, which we covered HERE.)
Since 1982 is my favorite year in music, Amplify '82 gets bonus points before I even push PLAY⮞. Another two-volume/double-album set like Playlist '81, Amplify '82 has thirty-two songs from 1982, the majority of which are really, really good. Three of those really, really good songs are from film soundtracks though not necessarily soundtrack albums:
- Quarterflash's "Night Shift" was lifted from the movie soundtrack album of the same name and, if you know Brandon, he's the world's biggest Quarterflash fan so of course, he's going to include a song from his favorite artist. (The video I linked to above was uploaded by Brandon.) The single spent eight weeks on the Hot 100 but only peaked at number 60. I like the song - I'm a Quarterflash fan in that I have a couple of their 45s, all of their albums and know they were originally called Seafood Mama - but the lyric "You won't ever want to see the sun/When I'm done with you" makes it sound like a saxy vampire anthem. Brandon has previously included "Night Shift" on Billboard Lost Hits of the Early 1980's - Volume 1, Night Waves '82, Billboard Lost Hits - 1982, Lost Hits of the Early 1980's - Volume 3 and Forever 80's - Volume 3.
- "Somebody's Baby" by Jackson Browne, the unofficial love theme from Fast Times At Ridgemont High, is first heard in the film when a character not yet old enough to drive sneaks out of her house for a rendezvous with a stereo salesman in a Little League baseball dugout. Despite this less-than-romantic situation, the song is filled with love, passion and that unique longing one experiences only in high school. Peaking at number 7, "Somebody's Baby" is surprisingly Jackson Browne's highest charting song on the Hot 100. "Somebody's Baby" also shows up on Brandon's The Billboard Top 100 Hits of 1982 and Night Waves '82.
- "Gloria" was the second single released from Laura Branigan's debut album, Branigan. Her take is a souped-up version of the Italian original, giving Branigan's impressive vocals a workout. "Gloria" was a huge worldwide hit and has recently come back into vogue among music supervisors thirty-five years after its initial release; it can be heard in I Tonya, an episode of Scorpion and The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. In 1983, "Gloria" was one of two songs by Laura Branigan heard in Flashdance though only "Imagination" appears on the soundtrack album. Brandon has also included "Gloria" on Billboard Top Pop Hits - 1982, Forever 80's - Volume 5 and The Billboard Top 100 Hits of 1982.