The nerdity that is my obsession with 1980s music and the charts that measured its songs, singers and bands knows only faint bounds. The later we went into the decade, the less I liked, and 1987 was near the end of my run as a devoted listener of “American Top 40” with Casey Kasem.
By devoted, I mean that I listened every week as it came on with no exceptions. I listened by myself with pen and paper, like somebody with a deeper issue. I even put together my own Top 40 rankings each week and kept them on a chart, and there are many people from my young past who can attest to this. I’m sure I’ll tell these stories a billion times as I develop this blog, but I wanted to start this week’s post with a story — a story you’ve heard before about the late, great Prince Rogers Nelson.
It’s a different take on the story you’ve heard came from Charlie Murphy on The Chappelle Show.
However, the version I’m about to tell you came from Casey Kasem on the AT40 (American Top 40) countdown the week of July 25, 1987.
He was introducing Whitney Houston’s hit, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” and he spoke of its producer, Narada Michael Walden. Among many albums, he produced most of Whitney’s biggest LPs. Walden was working on “Whitney,” when a messenger stopped by to deliver a note.
Meet me at the basketball court.
Of course, it was Prince — and he was joined by Morris Day from The Time. They wanted to play “21,” the game where every person plays for themselves, and whoever gets to 21 first wins. Well, Prince won 21-16-13 — and he was wearing six-inch heels!
And that’s a story told on American Top 40 nearly 17 years before Charlie Murphy told it on The Chappelle Show.
The rest of this blog post is a recap of that week’s countdown, complete with notes from me and embedded videos. Stay a few minutes, and wander back in time, listening to songs you haven’t thought about in ages. If you enjoy this post and have a week from the 1980s you’d like me to feature, mention it in a comment below.
American Top 40: July 25, 1987
40. Dionne Warwick & Jeffrey Osborne – Love Power (Debut)
Did you know that on this week in 1987, the final Top 40 hits for Dionne Warwick and Jeffrey Osborne debuted? Of course, it’s possible that they could have another hit, but I’m kind of doubting it in a world filled with bubble gum pop and rap. Alas, this song would almost hit the Top 10, peaking at No. 12. It was written by the legendary Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager.
39. Outfield – Since You’ve Been Gone (Debut)
38. Cutting Crew – One For The Mockingbird (40-38)
The follow up to their No. 1 smash, “I Just Died In Your Arms,” this was always my preferred tune from the Crew. Side note: We’ve got two crews in this week’s countdown, a Crew and a Crue.
37. Smokey Robinson – Just To See Her (27-37)
36. Wang Chung – Hypnotize Me (Debut)
This is one of my favorite songs of the 80s, from the movie Innerspace starring Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan and Martin Short. I never saw it, but I own the album “Mosaic,” and I revere this song. Seriously. I will fight you over Wang Chung: one of the underrated groups of the 80s.
35. Living In A Box – Living In A Box (Debut)
Ridiculous lyrics, but this one is a seriously silly little song but some definite pre-Astley blue-eyed soul here, no?
34. Dan Hill & Vonda Shepard – Can’t We Try (Debut)
Canadian Dan Hill was 33 when this song hit it big, 10 years after he reached No. 3 with “Sometimes When We Touch.” This tune was Dan’s second and final appearance in the Top 40, and it was the first and only one for Shepard, who would gain fame 10 years after through the show Ally McBeal.
This entire album was terrific (photo of my cassette as proof of ownership) with tunes liked “Conscience” and “Carmelia,” and especially “Every Boys Fantasy,” this week’s first ‘I Love 80s Music’ extra!
And now for “Can’t We Try,” which debuted at 34.
33. Atlantic Starr – Always (32-33)
32. Starship – It’s Not Over (‘Til It’s Over) (34-32)
Did you know that this was Starship’s final Top 10 hit and their second-to-last Top 40 tune? I never liked it, but the sound was quintessential ’87.
31. Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam – Head To Toe (18-31)
Lisa Velez first appeared on the Top 40 two years before this smash with the tune, “I Wonder If I Take You Home,” and it was fantastic. For my money, it was the best thing she ever released. However, this track was the first of two consecutive No. 1s for the New York native.
30. Los Lobos – La Bamba (36-30)
29. Bryan Adams – Heart’s On Fire (30-29)
I’ll dig a little deep for this one, but listen to Tom Petty’s “Change Of Heart” and then listen to this tune. It’s not a copy, but they’re definitely compositional cousins.
28. Bruce Hornsby & The Range – Every Little Kiss (16-28)
From one of the best albums of the entire decade, Bruce Hornsby’s third hit has probably been his most covered. A quick did you know? Hornsby played keys for Sheena Easton before breaking it big on his own.
27. Fleetwood Mac – Seven Wonders (31-27)
26. Madonna – Who’s That Girl (33-26)
25. Al Jarreau – Moonlighting (23-25)
It makes me a cringe a little to note that I’m as old as the late, great Al Jarreau was when he hit it big with the TV theme to “Moonlighting.” Also, this was Jarreau’s third and final Top 40 hit.
24. Steve Winwood – Back In The High Life Again (25-24)
23. Whispers – Rock Steady (26-23)
22. Richard Marx – Don’t Mean Nothing (28-22)
This was the first of Marx’s 14 Top 40 hits.
21. Debbie Gibson – Only In My Dreams (24-21)
And this was the first of Gibson’s 9 Top 40 hits.
20. Surface – Happy (Even)
19. Kenny G – Songbird (11-19)
Yes. Kenny G made the Top 40. Six times on his own and several more times as a featured artist with others.
18. Klymaxx – I’d Still Say Yes (19-18)
If you’ll allow me to be a big ol’ softie, I’ve always loved this song, the last of Klymaxx’s three Top 40 hits.
17. Janet Jackson – The Pleasure Principle (Even)
16. Robbie Nevil – Wot’s It To Ya (21-16)
Robbie Nevil is a writer’s writer, a craftsman of the pop hook. Best known for the smash,”C’est La Vie,” the American native reminds me a ton of Brit Nik Kershaw. “Wot’s It To Ya” was one of two Top 10 hits for Nevil.
15. Suzanne Vega – Luka (22-15)
The whole “second floor” joke will never fade away from this song, which eventually reached No. 3. However, I’d submit that it was a terrific piece of late 80s songwriting, in the spirit of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.”
14. Jets – Cross My Broken Heart (15-14)
13. Nylons – Kiss Him Goodbye (14-13)
I owned this 45, and at some point, I was probably convinced that they sang “Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego?” They weren’t. That was Rockapella.
And this was Toronto’s own Nylons.
12. Motley Crue – Girls, Girls, Girls (13-12)
The other crew in this countdown is a Crue, and this track likely holds the record for being introduced most times with the words, “And now welcome to the stage …”
11. Pseudo Echo – Funkytown (6-11)
I’m not sure why anybody thought “Funkytown” needed to be remade only seven years after Lipps Inc. took it all the way to the top, but Pseudo Echo rode that wave all the way to a peak position of No. 6.
10. Exposé – Point Of No Return (5-10)
9. The System – Don’t Disturb This Groove (4-9)
This was quite simply one of the best tracks of the entire decade, and it was the duo’s only Top 40 hit.
8. T’Pau – Heart And Soul (12-8)
7. Crowded House – Something So Strong (8-7)
This was the second and final hit for Crowded House, but it was really the swan song in the States for Neil Finn, the brilliant lead singer of Crowded House. Before CH, he was the face and voice of a group called Split Enz, which peaked at No. 50 with a fabulous track called “I Got You.” Learn something new every day, right?
Another I Love 80s Music extra!
And now for “Something So Strong.”
6. Gloria Estefan – Rhythm Is Gonna Get You (10-6)
5. George Michael – I Want Your Sex (9-5)
The title to this track was so racy that Casey Kasem wouldn’t even say it in this week’s episode. He just said, “And here’s George Michael.” Seriously. Not sure how Casey would navigate 2018.
4. Whitney Houston – I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) (3-4)
3. U2 – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (7-3)
This was the third Top 40 hit for U2, and it was the band’s second consecutive chart-topper from the album “The Joshua Tree.” U2 has had 16 Top 40 hits in the United States thus far.
2. Bob Seger – Shakedown (Even)
Would you believe that “Shakedown” from Beverly Hills Cop II was Seger’s biggest charting hit? It was his only No. 1.
1. Heart – Alone (Even)
This Billy Steinberg, Tom Kelly composition turned out to be Heart’s biggest hit, spending three weeks at No. 1. However, three years before Ann and Nancy Wilson took it to the top, John Stamos sang it on a sitcom. With odd foreign subtitles and all, from a CBS sitcom called “Dreams” that lasted five episodes, here’s Stamos and Valerie Stevenson singing, “Alone.”
Your final I Love 80s Music extra! For this week anyway:
And here’s Heart’s vastly superior version! OK, that’s it for this week. Check me out next week for another deep dive into a Top 40 pop chart from the wonderful world of the 1980s.