Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sheena Easton: The Singles Of 1981—And A Game-Changing Year

1981 was a game-changing year in my life. As a college frosh, I discovered Billboard magazine for the first time, available free each week in the Student Union. In March, listening to "American Top 40" with Casey Kasem, I heard a new song on the countdown: "Morning Train" from a beautiful young Scottish woman named Sheena Easton. What in god's name, I wondered, was a Sheena?

That event altered the course of my life and career forever. "Morning Train" became my instant favorite, while Sheena became an outright obsession. The Billboard Hot 100 chart where "Morning Train" reached No. 1 on May 2, 1981, was tacked to my dorm room wall. Pictures of Sheena were everywhere (and still are, for that matter). And most pivotal, I began to Xerox the Hot 100 every week to see how Sheena's latest singles were progressing... pretty much memorizing the top 40 at a glance.

I was already a huge radio fan, pretending to have my own station in high school (WMOO, "Your station of sound") and making mix cassettes for my friends. By this point, I also had worked at my first job as a part-time DJ at WWOD-AM in my hometown of Lynchburg, Va.

In 1981, I also started calculating my own chart, the Taylor Top 10 (then 20, eventually up to 40 songs a week). My love for Sheena and Billboard were consuming... and in 1995 I landed the job of my dreams as Radio Editor at Billboard. Now, 30 years later, there's hardly a day that Sheena isn't still on my daily playlist (including a 367-song iTunes Sheena ComlEaston list).

Last month, I finally created a collage of Sheena's 15 LPs. And now, the singles, starting with—what else—1981.