Posts Tagged ‘Nielsen/Pearson’

Dancing Lions & Annoyed Vikings

Monday, October 4th, 2010

For thirty years now, every time I’ve heard Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust,” I’ve had this vision in my head of large men clad in Honolulu blue and silver dancing ecstatically in a stadium in Michigan.

Those men were members of the Detroit Lions football team, of course, and they were dancing to the Queen anthem after defeating the Minnesota Vikings 27-7 in the fourth game of the 1980 season at the Pontiac Silverdome. The game took place September 28 and marked only the fifth time in twenty-seven games between the two – dating back to 1967 – that the Lions had defeated the Vikings.

The Lions had once – in the 1950s – been a great NFL franchise but spent most of the 1960s and 1970s as mediocre at best. Coming into the 1980 season, however, the team’s coaches and players had what they thought were realistic aspirations of playoff glory. Either during pre-season practices or at the start of the season, the players adopted Queen’s recording – a celebration of murder by machine gun with a catchy beat and a great riff – as their talisman; I assume that they danced to the tune after winning their first home game a week before they played the Vikings. In that game, the Lions defeated the St. Louis Cardinals – as many remember, the Cardinals called St. Louis home from 1960 through 1987 – by a score of 20-7, putting their record at 3-0.

And when they defeated the Vikings the following week, going to 4-0, the Lions danced gleefully to the week’s No. 1 song. It was hard to watch as a fan back in Minnesota. And I gathered from comments I read in the newspaper the next day that it was a difficult sight for the defeated Vikings to see as they made their ways into the locker room. Such post-game behavior today would hardly draw attention; at the time, though, it seemed excessive. Even so, one could hardly blame the Lions for celebrating what they saw as a major step. It was too bad for them, however, that the victory most likely turned out to be the high point of the season.

The Lions won five more games that season and lost seven. The Vikings, who were 2-2 when they left the field of dancing Lions, won seven more games and lost five. That left the two teams tied for the Central Division title; as each team had a 5-3 record in games in the Central Division, the tiebreaker came down, I believe, to which team had the better record in games against teams in the National Conference. The Vikings were 8-4 in those games, a winning percentage of .667; the Lions were 9-5, which gave them a winning percentage in those games of .642. (Having finished last in the five-team Central Division the season before, the Lions schedule for 1980 had more conference games and was substantially easier, to be honest.) After sorting that out, the Vikings had the edge in conference play and thus won the Central Division title (for the eleventh time in thirteen years).*

Dissecting all of this after the fact, it means that the second game between the two teams decided the Central Division title. It was a November 9 meeting at Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium, an open-air stadium now gone nearly thirty years. In the days leading up to their home game with the Lions, the Vikings players were, as I recall, circumspect, saying little beyond the standard clichés. But there were a few unguarded moments when it became obvious that the sight of the exultant Lions dancing giddily on the field after that fourth game the season had rankled. One got the sense that the Vikings were planning to crash the dance party. And they did, winning 34-0.

And that’s what I think of when I hear “Another One Bites The Dust,” which was No. 1 not only during the week the Detroit Lions pissed off the Vikings with their dance but also the next week, in the chart released thirty years ago today.

So what else was in the Top Ten thirty years ago today?

“All Out Of Love” by Air Supply
“Upside Down” by Diana Ross
“Give Me The Night” by George Benson
“Drivin’ My Life Away” by Eddie Rabbitt
“Late In The Evening” by Paul Simon
“Woman In Love” by Barbra Streisand
“I’m Alright” by Kenny Loggins
“Lookin’ For Love” by Johnny Lee
“Xanadu” by Olivia Newton-John & the Electric Light Orchestra

That was an okay Top Ten. As over-familiar as “Another One Bites The Dust” became – and despite its associations with large men in blue and silver – I enjoy it when it pops up these days. I can live without the Air Supply and the Diana Ross, and “Xanadu” never meant much to me. On the other hand, the Eddie Rabbitt and Paul Simon tunes were favorites at the time and remain so. But let’s take a look at what we might find further down the Billboard Hot 100 from thirty years ago today.

At No. 31, we find what I think is a gem: “Who’ll Be The Fool Tonight” from the Larsen-Feiten Band, with a sound that’s not all that far from Boz Scaggs. The record would be at No. 29 the next two week and then begin its tumble off the chart. It was the only Top 40 hit the Larsen-Feiten Band ever had.

“That Girl Could Sing,” a tune pulled from Jackson Browne’s uneven Hold Out album, was sitting at No. 49, on its way to No. 22. Musically, I’ve always thought that “That Girl Could Sing” – along with its fellow single from Hold Out, “Boulevard” (which had peaked at No. 19 and was at No. 75 by October 4) – were musically fine but lyrically so uneven that they almost didn’t seem like they’d come from the same musician who wrote “Fountain of Sorrow” or “These Days.” And I quit paying close attention to Browne. I suppose I should catch up again.

A record that I do not ever remember hearing back in 1980 is one that I’ve seen mentioned affectionately in numerous blogs over the past three years. Maybe if I’d heard it back then, it would sum up the autumn of 1980 for me as it seems to do for so many other people. I like it plenty, but to me it’s just a good record, not a time and place. And that’s my loss, as I never noticed when the Kings’ “This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide” got to No. 56 thirty years ago this week and stayed there another week before heading off  down the chart to No. 98 before rebounding to No. 43 in mid-December. (Chart position corrected based on comment from Kings member John Picard. See comments for a link to a different – and “much more fun,” according to Picard – video.)

“If You Should Sail,” which turned out to be the only Top 40 hit for the Sacramento duo Nielsen/Pearson, was sitting at No. 69 thirty years ago. It’s a soft rock song that sounds like a thousand other records that came out at the time. It’s nice, and I imagine it sounded okay coming out of the speakers back in the autumn of 1980 as it went to No. 38. But it’s nothing I would have stormed the record store to get.

Jimmy Hall was the lead singer and harp player for Wet Willie, and in 1980, he released his first solo album, Touch You, from which the single “I’m Happy That Love Has Found You” was pulled. I don’t know about the rest of the album, but the single bears little sonic resemblance to the work that Wet Willie did. Still, the record got Hall onto the chart: On October 4, the record was at No. 79; it would peak at No. 27 right the fourth week of November.

Memphis-based singer Joyce Cobb, according to several websites, is still recording and touring widely; tomorrow, she begins a twelve-city tour in north central Europe. Thirty years ago, Cobb’s single on the Cream label, “How Glad I Am,” was in its sixth and last week in “Bubbling Under” portion of the Billboard Hot 100, never having risen above No. 107. The single was a cover of a Nancy Wilson recording that went to No. 11 in 1964. Earlier in the year, Cobb – who had once been signed by Stax Records – saw her “Dig the Gold” single peak at No. 42 in early 1980.

That’ll do it for today. I hope to be here Wednesday with the next six selections from the Ultimate Jukebox.

*I should note that the first tie-breaker for a division title is head-to-head competition. Since the Lions and the Vikings split their two games, other tie-breakers ensue. And it might have been that the next tie-breaker was points scored in those two games, rather than won-lost records in first division and then conference games. If that was the case – and I can’t find anything online this morning one way or the other – then the Vikings won that tie-breaker 41-27.