Matt Knight

Matt Knight

Matt Knight

Music is subjective. Someone’s favorite song might be one that is absolutely despised by someone else.

In addition to my afternoon show on-air, I’m also the Program Director here at 100.1 WJRZ and with that comes the fun task of swapping songs in and out each week so that we continue to provide variety with some “oh crap” moments where you hear a tune you might not have heard in a long time.

Now, keep in mind that we are a HITS station…meaning that we always will play the biggest hits from the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s. Taking those undeniable hits out of the equation, here are the top 10 songs (in no particular order) that I crank up every time I hear them in the studio.

  • "Lovely Day" - Bill Withers (1977)

    Backstory: From Bill Withers’s 1977 album Menagerie and released as a single in late 1977, “Lovely Day” peaked at number 6 on the Billboard R&B chart and at number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US in early 1978. Withers holds a sustained note towards the end which, at 18 seconds long, is one of the longest ever recorded on an American pop song.

    Why It Made This List: This is one of the most positive songs ever recorded and elaborates on a man’s love for his woman. How can you resist lyrics like, “Then I look at you, And the world’s alright with me. Just one look at you, And I know it’s gonna be a lovely day.”

  • "Throwing It All Away" - Genesis (1986)

    Backstory: “Throwing It All Away” is from the 1986 album Invisible Touch by Genesis. It was the second single from the album  reaching No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the US, it also went to No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart in October 1986 and the Album Rock Tracks chart in August 1986. Billboard called it a “dance ballad” that sounds a lot like a cheerier version of Collins’ earlier single “Take Me Home” and it “could have easily fitted on his solo albums.” This love song featured heartfelt vocals, a simple piano accompaniment, and Mike Rutherford’s trademark rhythm guitar, plus a very catchy chorus. Nothing striking, but all the elements came together nicely and adult contemporary radio stations played it extensively.

    Why It Made This List: Honestly all of the critiques of the song above are some of the same reasons why this is one of my favorite Genesis songs. This song has an interesting juxtaposition where musically it’s kind of upbeat, but these lyrics are quite poetic and sad. I think we’ve all been in this situation in life before, right?

  • "Superstition" - Stevie Wonder (1972)

    Backstory: “Superstition” was released on October 24, 1972 as the lead single from Stevie Wonder’s 15th studio album, Talking Book. The lyrics describe popular superstitions and their negative effects. “Superstition” reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1973 and on the soul singles chart. It was his first #1 single since “Fingertips, Pt. 2” in 1963. In November 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the song number 74 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. At the 16th Grammy Awards, the song earned Wonder two Grammys: “Best Rhythm & Blues Song” and “Best R&B Vocal Performance Male.”

    Why It Made This List: Because it’s a JAM! Between the clavinet, and Moog synthesizer with a mid-tempo beat…this is a song that I find myself just bopping to anytime it comes on. The funk is definitely brought with this one.

  • "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" - Tears for Fears (1985)

    Backstory: The song was released on Feb. 25, 1985  as the third single from the band’s second album, Songs from the Big Chair. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” details the desire humans have for control and power and center on themes of corruption. Along with “Shout”, it is one of the band’s signature songs. An international success, the song peaked at #2 in Ireland, Australia, & United Kingdom and at #1 in Canada, New Zealand, and on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Cashbox. The song was a “last-minute” addition during recording sessions of Songs from the Big Chair. The decision to include the song in the album came after Roland Orzabal played two chords on his acoustic guitar. It was recorded in two weeks and added as the final track on the album.

    Why It Made This List: There are some songs that just define a decade to me and this is definitely one of them. This is peak 1980’s music and it’s a timeless song that will never get old to me.

  • "The Chain" - Fleetwood Mac (1977)

    Backstory: “The Chain” was released from Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 album Rumours. It is the only song from the album with writing credits for all five members (Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood.) “The Chain” has become a staple of the band’s live shows, typically the opening song. Stevie Nicks had written the lyrics separately and thought they would be a good match; she and Christine McVie did some reworking to create the first section of the tune. Nicks’ lyrics referenced the breakup of her relationship with Buckingham, a theme of many of Nicks’ and Buckingham’s lyrics on Rumours.

    Why It Made This List: A song that begins with soft guitar riffs ends with a wall of sound that basically makes this a tale of two songs. Add in the powerful vocals of Stevie Nicks with Christine McVie’s harmonies and you’ve got one of the best Fleetwood Mac songs ever recorded.

  • "Dance Hall Days" - Wang Chung (1983)

    Backstory: “Dance Hall Days” was released as a single in 1982 when the band was called Huang Chung, then it was re-recorded and re-released a year later in 1983 for the studio album Points on the Curve. In the US, it peaked at #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and went to number one on the Dance Club Songs chart.

    Why It Made This List: “Dance Hall Days” is certainly a nostalgic song, and in the lyrics it evokes the happy days when the subject of the song spent days and evenings in dance halls. It’s actually a partial autobiographical song because the father of Wang Chung leader Jack Hues played in ballrooms when his son was a child. Jack, who in turn started playing, had followed and accompanied him often and they had also played together. Plus, that saxophone…right?

  • "Three Little Birds" - Bob Marley & the Wailers (1977)

    Backstory: The fourth track from the album Exodus was released as a single in 1980. It is one of Bob Marley’s most popular songs and has often been thought to be named “Don’t Worry About a Thing” or “Every Little Thing is Gonna Be Alright”, because of the prominent and repeated use of these phrases in the chorus. The source of Marley’s inspiration for the lyrics of “Three Little Birds” remains disputed. They are partly inspired by birds that Marley was fond of that used to fly and sit next to his home. Tony Gilbert, a long time friend of Marley, was present at the time he was writing the song and elaborated, “Bob got inspired by a lot of things around him, he observed life. I remember the three little birds. They were pretty birds, canaries, who would come by the windowsill at Hope Road.” However, three female singers from the reggae group I Threes who did shows with Marley claim it is a reference to them. I Threes member Marcia Griffiths remarked, “After the song was written, Bob would always refer to us as the Three Little Birds. After a show, there would be an encore, sometimes people even wanted us to go back onstage four times. Bob would still want to go back and he would say, ‘What is my Three Little Birds saying?'”

    Why It Made This List: A song with very few different lyrics, this is another of those “positive vibes” songs. How can you not feel good when you hear Bob sing, “Rise up this mornin’. Smile with the risin’ sun. Three little birds, pitched by my doorstep. Singin’ sweet songs of melodies pure and true. Sayin’, “this is my message to you, whoo-hoo.”

  • "What You Need" - INXS (1985)

    Backstory: The lead track off their 1985 album Listen Like Thieves. “What You Need” was the second single after “This Time” and was the band’s first American Top 10 hit, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. After the album was recorded and ready to be given to the record label for inspection, producer Chris Thomas was worried that the album didn’t have a “hit”. As Andrew Farriss recalled in a 2005 interview; “‘What You Need’ is another example of a huge hit that essentially took no time at all. We’d already finished the Listen Like Thieves album but Chris Thomas told us there was still no “hit”. We left the studio that night knowing we had one day left and we had to deliver “a hit”. Talk about pressure. The band’s performance on that track is amazing. We absolutely nailed it.”

    Why It Made This List: Andrew Farriss is right. They NAILED it with “What You Need.” This is a song that you turn up louder in your headphones any time its on. I know I do.

  • "Off The Wall" - Michael Jackson (1980)

    Backstory: Written by Rod Temperton, produced by Quincy Jones and released as as the album’s third single on February 2, 1980, the song was first offered to Karen Carpenter while she was working on her first solo album but she turned it down. Lyrically, the song is about getting over troubles. The song became Michael Jackson’s third top 10 single from Off the Wall. It peaked at #10 on the Pop Singles Chart and at #5 on the Billboard Soul Singles Chart.

    Why It Made This List: Listen to this song at the end of a long, stressful day with an open mind. If you can’t get yourself into a better frame of mind after hearing the lyrics of “Off The Wall”, maybe just sleep it off and call it a day.

  • "Drive" - The Cars (1984)

    Backstory: From their fifth studio album Heartbeat City, it was released on July 23, 1984 as the album’s third single. Written by Ric Ocasek, the track was sung by bassist Benjamin Orr. Upon its release, “Drive” became the Cars’ highest-charting single in the United States where it peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Adult Contemporary chart. The song is most associated with Live Aid, where it was performed by Benjamin Orr during the Philadelphia event. The song was also used as the background music to a montage of clips depicting the contemporaneous Ethiopian famine during the London event, which was introduced by David Bowie.

    Why It Made This List: Ric Ocasek certainly changed it up from the previous two singles from Heartbeat City (“You Might Think” & “Magic”) and needed Benjamin Orr’s vocals to allow “Drive” to stand out as one of the best ballads of the decade. One of the bands more melancholy songs, this is written from the perspective of a guy who’s watching a woman (whom he presumably used to date) “going down the tubes,” trying to get her to take a hard look at what’s going on in her life. A powerful song for sure.

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