1980s Chart Rewind: July 25, 1987, with bonus story from Casey Kasem about Prince

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.

img_4777

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 РPoint 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.

 

Remembering Prince, 1 year after his death with my 5 favorite tracks

All the hubbub over Prince’s health last year made me think something was wrong. I worked in news for the better part of two decades in some capacity, and I had learned, especially with the advent of Twitter, who to listen to and who not to listen to as it pertained to celebrities. In this case, where there was smoke there was fire.

And less than a week later, Prince was dead.

That was a year ago, about the time I had decided to start this blog: ilove80smusic.com. However, by all accounts, Prince was the inspiration for it — not so much that his death was the inspiration for a new blog but that a new generation of listeners didn’t know jack about the Purple One’s music.

Largely that was Prince’s fault as he didn’t do the Internet.

However, much of the same could be said about 80s music in general. Of course, as a middle-aged dude, I could fall into the trap of Good Ol’ Days syndrome, suggesting that everything was better back in the 1980s than it is today, and with regard to music, I believe it to be true. 100 percent true.

On the other hand, my Boomer friends felt the same way about 1960s music.

And every generation before thinks theirs was the best.

Alas, there’s a real nostalgia going on about the 1980s, and musically I can guide you. And as it pertains to Prince, there were few people who listened to more of his music than I did. I owned every cassette back in the day and, now, most every CD. Heck, the first album I bought was “1999,” and I played the heck out of it, making sure my folks couldn’t hear or understand many of his lyrics.

Nowadays, Prince’s lyrics are subtle and tame compared to most.

Anyhoo, as we mark the one-year anniversary of Prince’s passing, I wanted to count down my five favorite Prince songs with a shout out to a couple of other tracks. Hope you enjoy, and I’d love it if you’d start following this blog on Twitter at @80sMusicBlogger or just me personally @ryanwelton.

5. Let’s Pretend We’re Married. This was the tune that made me a fan. When I bought the 1999 album and heard this track, I heard somebody clearly pushing an envelope. Today, this would be tame. In 1983, this was hyper-taboo.

4. Little Red Corvette. This was the first hit I ever heard on American Top 40. He had one other Top 40 song before this, “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” but it was this tune that introduced him to my world.

3. Controversy. The most underrated of all Prince’s songs and albums.

2. Mountains. I’m not going to get much agreement on this one, but I have always loved this track. Super funky without much chord movement.

1. Raspberry Beret. Prince went through a Beatles phase during his Paisley Park years, and this was his masterpiece. Sure, “When Doves Cry” is the song the world points to, but I’ve always felt like Prince was trolling the Beatles during this period just to show he could write as well as they could.

Of course, none of Prince’s videos are on YouTube. However, he didn’t only write for himself, and two of my favorite songs of the 1980s were tunes he penned. “Manic Monday” by The Bangles and “The Glamorous Life” by Sheila E. are master works, and what’s amazing is that Prince was adept at writing for women as he was for himself.

Enjoy, and have a great weekend.


The 10 most definitive songs of the 1980s

When I think of music in the 1980s, I think of an early part of the decade when all styles of music could hit the American charts: easy listening, country, pop, show tunes, instrumentals, you name it. The middle part of the decade saw less country and more hard rock and metal, and the latter part of the decade featured the beginnings of a form of teeny-bopper music that prevails today and mainstream rap.

I didn’t spend weeks combing through my music collection or YouTube to come up with this list, but I’ve been thinking about the 10 songs that defined the 80s. These aren’t definitive tracks in terms of social messaging or long-term influence, necessarily per se, but they’re definitive in some form or fashion, and I think so more than others.

Throughout the life of this blog, I’ll regularly put together lists and offer some reasoning for my choices. This Top 10, by the way, isn’t in any particular order. Feel free to disagree with me and add your comments, or hit me up on Twitter @ryanwelton.

I’ll start with Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” a song I chose because it introduced the world to “Thriller” in late 1982 and was a turning point for the gloved one in terms of fame. He had always been famous and talented, and I profess that “Off the Wall” was actually his best work. However, the moment Michael moonwalked to this song, he became legendary and his status rose throughout the 1980s to the point where he was referred to as the “King of Pop” by the early 1990s.

This song hit No. 1 and stayed there for seven weeks, the longest chart run Michael had at the top for his career.

My second choice for this list is Prince’s “When Doves Cry.” At some point I’ll come up with a list of his best popular work and the music you’ve never heard. This is not my favorite song, and it’s not even my favorite two or three tracks from the soundtrack to “Purple Rain.” Those would be “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Take Me With U” and “The Beautiful Ones.”

However, this was Prince’s biggest chart hit, and it cemented his status as a creative great.

Next on my list is a song that actually came out in the late 1970s but breathed most of its life in the early 1980s, and many music lovers call “The Clash” the best band to have ever lived. The influence and impact of The Clash on rock-and-roll and punk music is inarguable, and “London Calling” to me exemplifies the band’s importance in the 1980s.

Before bands like Ratt and The Scorpions and Warrant and Skid Row took over the American charts, the hardest rock and roll you’d find on the radio came from Australian band, AC/DC. However, despite the fact that the album “Back in Black” has sold 50 million copies and is the second-most popular album of all time, the song “Back in Black” only peaked at No. 37 on the American charts. The impact of this song goes beyond the success of the album. If you listen to Brian Johnson’s cadence in the song’s verse, you’ll quickly understand that he’s basically rapping. I’ve called “Back in Black” a song that is as influential and important in rap as it is in rock-and-roll.

Likewise, I challenge you to listen to NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” and not believe that they, too, could have done a kick-ass version of “Back in Black.” While Public Enemy was the cerebral rap group, NWA was both cerebral and filled with raw emotions. They channeled anger in a way that met the moment, and their influence today is to rap as The Clash’s is to punk. Ice Cube, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella and MC Ren never hit the American singles charts but they had and still have every bit the influence of their counterparts if not more.

Of course, the precursor to NWA and Public Enemy, Beastie Boys, Run DMC and beyond was a tune from the Sugarhill Gang that really brought rap to the mainstream. The song is called “Rapper’s Delight,” and like “London Calling,” it birthed itself in the late 1970s but mustered its magic in the early 1980s.

The New Wave, second British invasion era of the early 1980s was the product of groups like Heaven’s 17, Human League, Bronski Beat, Madness, Squeeze and Culture Club. However, when Duran Duran hit the charts in 1983 with “Hungry Like The Wolf,” they became the closest thing our decade had to The Beatles. That’s why they earned the moniker, the Fab Five. In all, Duran Duran had 15 Top 40 hits in America, their biggest being “The Reflex” in 1984.

However, “Hungry Like The Wolf” set the wheels in motion.

Also during that early part of the decade came a song that makes this list primarily because of its longevity and influence in modern pop culture. Journey had much bigger hits, chart-wise, than 1981’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” but with its inclusion in hit TV shows such as “Glee,” the song has become a catch-all anthem and one of the most-successful tracks in digital history. This song might have peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard charts, but I highly doubt any single song made the band more money than this one.

As for these last two, I figure I’ll have some explaining to do. For those of us who grew up in the music video era, or at least the era when MTV played videos, several videos stand out. There was Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” There were the creative works of Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” and The Cars’ “You Might Think.” There was Peter Gabriel’s outstanding video for “Sledgehammer,” and of course the video that kicked off the MTV era, “Video Killed The Radio Star,” by The Buggles.

However, a-ha’s “Take On Me” was both endearing and hyper-cutting edge. Its style underscored music video as an art form and raised the bar for every producer in the business. The song is still beloved, and the first thing people typically talk about when they talk about a-ha is the video.

And last on this list is Debbie Gibson’s “Only In My Dreams ,” which debuted on the Top 40 in June 1987 and forever changed American pop music. Before her, there had been boy bands and girl bands and young female singers, but Gibson’s debut (and Tiffany’s) paved the way for what I call the “kiddo machine,” a music industry largely dominated, at least in pop music, by teenagers and those in the early 20s.

When you consider who might have been the prototype for a Taylor Swift, my thoughts turn to Debbie Gibson. Debbie had nine Top 40 hits on the American charts, and I wouldn’t consider any one of them to be especially memorable. Not bad, just not long-lasting. However, she established the market for the type of act that exists on charts today from Selena to Demi to Taylor. She is an influence who I don’t believe is given nearly enough credit, actually.

Think about Taylor, if you will.

She first hit the American charts when she was 16-17, too. However, Swift has had an unbelievable 35 chart hits in America. Anyway, I think this list deserves a quick hat-tip to either Debbie Gibson or Tiffany, and Gibson charted first.

What did I overlook? Comment below, or tweet at me @ryanwelton.

Oh, yes: the 1980s are back 

“The 1980s are back!” Or maybe that should be, “The 1980s are back?” Really?

In reality, there probably shouldn’t be that much excitement. A statement declaring “The 1980s are back” will suffice. In many ways, this isn’t an awful development. The decade, culturally, was pretty vapid but it was sweet. It was nice. The music was synthy and rich and fun, and even in the midst of the decade’s cheesiness, the magazine Rolling Stone deemed 1984 the greatest year in pop history.

As a lover of all-things 1980s and a self-proclaimed historian of the decade’s music, I can hardly disagree. That year produced magic from Prince, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, Van Halen, Madonna, George Michael and so many more.

Aside from The Weeknd’s recent ode to “Off The Wall”-era Michael Jackson or Taylor Swift’s genuinely terrific album, “1989,” most of today’s attempts to bring 80s synth back falls short because of terrible writing. Today’s melodies are weak. The chord progressions are completely unimaginative, and the lyrics are awful.

Not that the lyrics in the 1980s were THAT great. I digress.

Beyond the music, however, there’s quite a bit of evidence that 1980s fashion is back. Not that I’m bringing back my mullet or my pegged jeans legs, but this article declare it so, and — damnit — it’s the New York Times, so I’ll take their word for it.

We would all be lucky to have movies the like of which John Hughes made, but I suspect the closest we’ll get is “Stranger Things.” Truly, we’re living in the golden age of TV.

However, the most obvious comparison to be made between today and the 1980s is the high profile that Russia has taken since the election of President Donald Trump. If one would have uttered those words in 1987, “President Donald Trump,” the laughter would have been crazy loud just as it would have been at the words, “President Ronald Reagan,” 30-plus years before that.

The big difference politically between the 1980s and today is that, back then, the tension we felt was the understanding that we could be thrown into a nuclear apocalypse with the Soviet Union at any moment. And today it’s that we’re headed toward a second civil war.

This blog won’t focus on any of that stuff. There’s too much negativity in the world as it is. However, blog marketing experts say to “blog what you know,” and I know 80’s music. So, click subscribe, like, follow or whatever the kids on WordPress do these days and follow along. I’ll recount the one-hit wonders, the near misses, foreign hits, great videos and terrible hair.

This blog will be lots of fun.

PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Dooley shared this photo via Flickr’s Creative Commons