Juan Berenguer, Ray Burris and Roy Lee Jackson each recorded one hit in 1979. That makes them the kindred Met spirits of Roger Voudouris.
Unless Warner Bros. had a helluva promotions department and I missed it, Voudouris never belted out the Star Spangled Banner at Shea Stadium that decidedly unspangled season, but Roger may have unwittingly issued the anthem of our year at the bottom with “Get Used To It.” The Mets finished last in ’77 and ’78. They secured sixth in the N.L. East on May 7, 1979. Didn’t like their position? Couldn’t stomach nobody hitting more than 16 homers, nobody driving in as many as 80 runs, only Craig Swan topping 6 (yes, 6) wins? Tried not to notice how little company you had as a member of the Met patrol? Barely tolerated Richie Hebner and couldn’t fathom Sergio Ferrer, who collected one hit fewer than Berenguer, Burris, Jackson or Voudouris even though Sergio was an infielder and the others were all pitchers or singers?
Too bad, Mets fans. Get used to it.
Of course Roger Voudouris’ single (single being the 1979 Mets’ hit of choice, delivered preferably with the bases empty) had the advantage of being peppy, upbeat, uplifting, bringing a tap to my toe, a smile to my face and a hook to my head that was implanted late that spring and has yet to be removed.
There weren’t many Mets fans extant in May and June of 1979. And I’ve yet to come into contact with a sole fellow aficionado of “Get Used To It”. Voudouris was not only the embodiment of that most misunderstood pop music creature, the one-hit wonder, his hit wasn’t terribly pervasive. I’m guessing about as many people in the New York area heard it in 1979 as professed optimism that the local National League franchise was going to go on a tear any decade now.
Yes, the 1979 Mets depressed me. Everything about 1979 depressed me. We were low on energy, low on confidence, high on malaise (even if the president never used that word). I was finishing tenth grade that spring. One of the last days of school there was a nasty racial incident. I don’t remember the particulars, but we got to go home early. It was cloudy that day. Not metaphorically, but actually. May and June of 1979 were a torpor. No wonder the Mets and Pirates had to suspend play one night because fog enshrouded Shea.
Yet through the pea soup, through the gas lines, through the crisis of confidence, through the dark tunnel that led to 99 losses (a six-game winning streak at the end of September mysteriously averted a hundredth defeat) and a third consecutive last-place finish 35 long paces from Pittsburgh…through all that, there was “Get Used To It” by Roger Voudouris, a happy song for unhappy times.
I won’t pretend it’s what got me through those bleak and humid afternoons. It couldn’t have. I don’t think I heard it more than a half-dozen times while it was charting and peaking at No. 21. But it was there somewhere and I really, really, really liked it. I liked it a lot then. I kept liking it a lot. I like it so much that it ranks fifth in my personal Top 500 Songs of All-Time.
Pretty good for someone I’m betting you didn’t hear then and haven’t noticed since. To you Roger Voudouris is probably the musical equivalent of Justin Verlander — a no-hit wonder. To me, he’s…well, I wonder. I heard “Get Used To It” on American Top 40 on 99X in 1979 once a week for a few weeks. I heard it on WGBB, Freeport, while checking for any breaking news regarding our high school’s contretemps. I don’t think I ever heard it on WABC or WNBC. I don’t know where else I could have heard it while it was on the charts. And after one or two recurrent spins on Miami’s WAIA over Christmas break in 1981, I’m certain I never heard it again on any over-the-air outlet.
There was no XM 7 or Music Choice Channel 824 (on Cablevision) back in the day. I’ve heard Roger Voudouris regularly the last few years through both of these marvelous vehicles. I’ve gotten used to “Get Used To It” enough so that though it’s still a treat when it pops up, it’s no longer a shock. I no longer believe that I only imagined that this song existed.
Having withdrawn from 45-buying by high school, I missed my golden opportunity to push him into Billboard‘s Top 20. By the mid-’80s, good luck trying to track down the single or the album. Even Memory Lane Records of Baldwin, purveyor of Pele’s Greatest Hits and other musical oddities, couldn’t dredge it up until a promotional copy of the LP mysteriously appeared in a back room in 1994. Within two years, Rhino Records, bless its kitschy soul, included “Get Used To It” on its 25th and final volume of the essential (to me) Super Hits of the ’70s: Have A Nice Day series.
So I had vinyl and digital proof that there was indeed a “Get Used To It” from 1979. It still sounded peppy. Boy do I love that opening. It’s twenty seconds of pure ditty. Carnival-like, not altogether different from the calliope effect found in the No. 9 Song of All-Time. The back of Voudouris’ album cover lists only rhythm guitar and lead guitar, but I hear a little keyboard, a little percussion or maybe the magic of synthesizers. Nice combo feel. Whatever it is, it’s effective. If the whole song was just those twenty seconds, it might have made the Top 500 anyway.
The first lyrics you hear are actually a little on the lazy side. I did not know what you were about/Something called love made me wanna find out. “Something called love” is a phrase a middle-school poet gropes for when he needs an extra syllable. Who talks like that? The next line, Did not think you could ever care/But I’m outta control ’cause you’re takin’ me there is even dopier, yet in the mellow 1970s, “takin’ me there” was as good a direction as MapQuest could spit out today.
OK, so it wasn’t genius, but it got you to the doorstep of the chorus: “I couldn’t believe our love would last/It’s comin’ on stronger/comin’ on so…much…fast…ER!” Nice build, great internal rhyme. (I’m so fucking easy.) And now the chorus:
Get used to it.
‘Cause I’ll be around.
Ya better get used to…
All my love.
I don’t know what it says about me that you can make the case that at least half of my Top 10 are songs in which a guy is kind of stalking a girl. None of the others, though, is quite as straightforward as “Get Used To It.” With 28 years’ hindsight, the message of “Get used to it, ’cause I’ll be around,” is more than a little creepy. But backed by those ebullient synths and that nonthreatening California laidbackitude, I don’t think Roger Voudouris means any harm…even if he’s a persistent bugger in the very next verse:
Get used to it, don’t let me down.
You pulled me in, so don’t turn me around.
Gotta love taking the title of the song, inserting it into the chorus (standard procedure) and THEN putting it right back to work to emphasize that he’s not kidding, get used to it already yet. Besides, this relationship is obviously as much your idea, stalker object, as it is Roger’s:
You didn’t hesitate and told me just how you feel.
There ain’t no mistake, this time it’s for real.
See? SEE? Why are you leading him on? Get used to Roger calling up a great deal. Or get an unlisted number.
Sadly, nobody got used to Roger Voudouris as spring became summer and as 1979 became 1980 and as even WAIA in Miami stopped playing “Get Used To It”. He was a true one-hit wonder. Many are tagged as such, few are authentic. For example, Vanilla Ice’s is often referred to as a one-hit wonder. Uh-uh. He may not have been everybody’s cup of Ice, but he made the Top 10 twice and the Hot 100 five separate times. Later in the countdown we’ll hear from Dexys Midnight Runners. There was more to them than “Come On Eileen” even if the rest of their singles output never passed No. 86 in Billboard.
Not Voudouris. There is no evidence he ever released another single in the U.S. or that if he did that it scratched the surface of public consciousness. There is scant evidence of his recording career, period. His 1979 album “Radio Dream” (perhaps referring to his airplay prospects lacking any radio reality) yielded nothing else noteworthy or successful. There was an album that came before it that some dude on Amazon trashed. I found an article that indicates he was part of a northern California — Sacramento — music scene of sorts. And he apparently was more widely heard in Australia (hosting a TV show called, fittingly to my way of thinking, Countdown) than he was in America. He wrote and he produced for others after “Get Used To It,” but there was never a second hit. Roger Voudouris died of liver disease in August 2003 at 48.
Rhino has great liner notes as a rule but they didn’t offer much on Roger. His co-writer and producer Michael Omartian is noted for working with Christopher Cross, Peter Cetera and Michael Bolton, all stalwarts of VH1′s amusing recent countdown of the 40 Most Softsational Soft Rock Songs. I’m not surprised there’s a connection. Watching VH1 make gentle fun of those gentle songs, I wondered why Voudouris’ exemplary contribution to this genre never gained enough traction to warrant consideration in such a retrospective. Rhino called “Get Used To It” a “radio-friendly single,” but if it was so radio-friendly, why was radio so standoffish toward it? While Voudouris was takin’ it there to No. 21 in Billboard for a second consecutive week on June 23, 1979, soft rockers Randy VanWarmer, Kenny Rogers and Rex Smith were outranking him, each of them filling the spots in the Top 10 not otherwise occupied by Donna Summer.
What was so great about them that wasn’t great enough about Voudouris? Roger was snappy; they were sappy. Can’t be looks. There was no MTV then. And even if there was, Kenny Rogers? Granted, I once glimpsed a picture of Rex Smith in Us magazine and thought, without looking too closely, that he was a really hot girl, but Voudouris seemed capable of holding his own in that realm. If the cover of Radio Dream is any guide, Roger could have been the love child (or kissin’ cousin) of Jackson Browne and Rick Springfield, not to be mistaken for a really hot girl, but passable for pop purposes.
Radio definitely could have been friendlier to Roger Voudouris. More people should have had the chance to get used to or, perhaps, get sick of “Get Used To It”. Too late now (even though Barry Manilow might want to think about covering it for his inevitable next compilation of remakes). Maybe just as well. Maybe hearing it more than a handful of times would have been a turnoff. God knows that picture on the album cover is. Still, it makes you one-hit-wonder why some songs endure as Softsational and others are only you and some Aussies remember.
Roger may have understood the fleeting nature of semi-stardom better than I do. He didn’t believe “our love would last”. My affection for what he left behind, however, does.
Next Friday: Summer of contention.