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Make This Whole Damn Thing Work Out


Baseball and music. Streaks and stats. I love obsessing over feats that can’t be duplicated or those that were astounding in their own right. But like a baseball player who can control their own production and may have a platform of potential games up to 162 per year for as many years as they play, a musician is relying on us, the fans, the DJs, the record stores and we can be as fickle as hell. So when I find a streak or stat in music that amazes me to this day, I take pride in sharing it, because it feels like I played a part in making it happen.

Sometimes I like to obsess further and think about streaks that don’t even exist, or ones that came so close but didn’t quite make it. I’ll share a big What If with you, a record that almost happened and if it did would never be broken. We’ll do it Casey Kasem style as if he just opened the AT Book of Records.

Which artist [almost] had the longest streak of writing or co-writing a Top 10 single in the U.S.? The answer? Paul McCartney,  who wrote or co-wrote at least one song that hit the Top 10 each year from 1964 to 1984. Except that he didn’t, because in 1972 and only during that specific year he couldn’t get a single he wrote to chart higher than #21 in the States. Hi, Hi, Hi zoomed up the chart at the end of 1972 but didn’t hit the Top 10 until 1973.

Side note: If he charted into the Top 10 in 1972 and kept the streak alive he also would have come close to extending that into 1986. I’ll explain.

In 1984, Paul hit the Top 10 with No More Lonely Nights which peaked at #6 on December 15th, dropped to #8 the following week. And during the first week of 1985, it fell out of the Top 10. Then he released another song from a soundtrack called Spies Like Us. It steadily moved up the chart in late 1985 but by the last week of the year, it was only at #24, although it would reach #7 by February 8th, 1986. And that’s a shame. [Also, Tiffany butchered the hell out of an old Beatles classic, I Saw Her (Him) Standing There and took that into the Top 10 in April of 1988.]

A couple of interesting things about that What If streak. It was kept alive twice solely by live songs, once in 1977 with Maybe I’m Amazed from Wings Over America and very oddly, the B-side to his single Coming Up from his McCartney II LP in 1980 which most folks thought sounded too weird. So stations flipped the 45 and started playing the live version of Coming Up which had been recorded live in Glasgow, Scotland during the Summer of 1979 by Wings. So there he was again with another #1 hit.

Another song that kept the What If streak alive was during a year that Paul was recovering from the death of his friend, John Lennon in late 1980. It put him in such a funk he wasn’t sure how to carry on. Some folks in Holland thought that what we all needed was a goofy disco medley of Sugar Sugar, Venus and a handful of Beatles tunes. That track by Stars on 45 would reach #1 in June of 1981. Paul would end up having written or co-written at least one #1 hit from 1980-1984 and when tallied all together they spent 17 weeks at the top.

What does this all mean to me and why am I bringing it up? It’s because Paul consistently wrote great popular music for a long period of time, which is incredibly difficult to do in the world of pop music. And sure Paul has lots of other records, and hits, money, and fame, etc. But during that time of Beatlemania, Wings, and 80s duets, there was no end to what he could do. No end.


Answered With a Question Mark


In late June of 1984, I was a volunteer at the International Games for the Disabled which were held on Long Island, NY. It was an eye-opening experience watching these physically and/or mentally challenged athletes fiercely compete and enjoy themselves, one that has stuck with me all of these years since. This was my soundtrack to that time.

20. Tonight – Kool & The Gang

The funkateers from Jersey City are back with their follow-up to the #2 hit, Joanna. This funk rock track is either about JT Taylor losing his virginity or becoming a born again Christian. Maybe both.

19. I’ll Wait – Van Halen

Trivia question: Michael McDonald co-wrote which Top 20 Van Halen hit? Yes, this one. They had trouble finishing the song, so producer Ted Templeman brought Mac in. Then after they recorded it, he decided that the track sucked, but the band wanted it included on 1984 and pushed for it to be the follow-up to Jump. It is an odd song for the band as it is almost all synths with a little bit of a whiny Eddie solo thrown in it broken up with those tacky tom fills. But it blasted out of lots of Trans Am Turbo windows that Summer.

18. Dancing In The Street – Shalamar

Five of the Top 20 songs are from soundtracks and three of them are from Footloose. This is from the Jody Watley-less trio Shalamar, who were enjoying their last trip in the Top 40, while Jody herself was planning her late 80s assault on the charts.

17. They Don’t Know – Tracey Ullman

OHW – Tracey was a TV star in England when she was approached by Stiff Records to record an album. It ended up becoming huge in the U.K. and eventually crossed over to the States where this Phil Spector meets new wave single, originally written and recorded by Kirsty MacColl became a #8 hit. Her eventual calling card was sketch comedy and she had one of the first successful shows on the Fox channel. Oh yeah, and it spun off a little cartoon called the Simpsons.

Check out the cameo by Paul McCartney in the video for this song. She would return the favor to Paul thirty years later.

16. Sister Christian – Night Ranger

When he’s not entering Will Ferrell lookalike contests, Kelly Keaggy is busy counting the money he made from this 1984 Top 5 hit that he wrote about his younger sister. I used the make fun of this song and video, especially the “motoring’ part (which sometimes sounds like mold your end) when this was popular. But I hear it now and imagine it’s my daughter who’s the one who won’t last to say, let’s play and dammit, I get choked up.

15. Authority Song – John Cougar Mellencamp

JCM’s third single from Uh-Huh is at its peak of #15. This was the album where he broke out his birth name and started the slow, painful conversion to John Mellencamp. I’m not much of a JCM fan and when I hear a song like this it sounds like preaching to me. I immediately think Johnny you’re the authority. You’re not a rebel. (Johnny Yuma was a rebel.)

14. The Longest Time – Billy Joel

I love Billy Joel but this doo-wop shtick got old real fast and continues to sound as fresh as a Where’s The Beef commercial. Although I like to go to my local supermarket with four of my buddies, find the produce manager and ask, in 5-part harmony, for the strongest lime.

13. Breakdance – Irene Cara

Irene Cara had six Top 40 hits, four of them were from soundtracks. That’s 66% of her hits. So I shall dub thee the female Kenny Loggins. [Or Kenny, the male Irene Cara.] This song is notable for marking the short time in pop culture where this dance phenomena (already at least ten years old) was popular.

12. The Reflex – Duran Duran

Nile Rodgers remixed a lame track on the Seven & the Ragged Tiger LP and gave it new life as well as D2’s first US #1 hit. I remember hearing Nile talk about how the record company heard his remix and told him it was too black for radio. I believe him and that story, but I have a hard time imagining D2 being called anything but White AF.

D2’s lyrics usually made little sense but sounded pleasant when “sung” by Simon Le Bon. These words are so obtuse that I feel like they’ll unlike some special riddle of the universe by the year 2050.

11. Head Over Heels – The Go Go’s

The opening single from their third album, Talk Show, hits a roadblock this week and will tumble down soon after. It’s a great slice power pop from a band really starting to come into their own. Unfortunately, Jane Wiedlin would leave the band within 5 months of this smash and everything would unravel from there.

10. Footloose – Kenny Loggins

Movie Kenny, I mean, the male Irene Cara is still hanging in the Top 10, a Top 10 mind you that’s a pretty solid reflection of 80s music.

9. You Might Think – The Cars

The first single from their gigantic album, Heartbeat City was a sensation on MTV, but the video looks like a dated mess now. Keyboardist Greg Hawkes is the freakiest dentist you’ll ever see but he plays a sweet Liberation in the medicine cabinet.

8. Oh, Sherrie – Steve Perry

Another classic 80s video, this one from Steve’s first solo album, Street Talk. The video premise became a classic trope in itself – videos are so ridiculous to make, so we’ll make a video about that and that will be the video about not making or making a video…Jesus, how much coke was passed around back then?

7. Love Somebody – Rick Springfield

Here’s the lead single from the soundtrack to Hard To Hold, the rarely watched Rick Springfield version of A Star is Born meets Ordinary People, which featured lots more Rick hits and songs by Graham Parker & Peter Gabriel (for real).

6. Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi’s second single from She’s So Unusual is moving up the charts and it would become her first #1 in a few weeks and a favorite of school dances in Idaho.

5. To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before – Julio Iglesias & Willie Nelson

PFK (especially if you have the write committed partner) – If you’re going to record a duet, this is the pairing you should base all other duets from. This should have been #1 for 73 weeks. It was written by songwriters Hal David & Albert Hammond and somehow was tainted recorded by Bobby Vinton in 1980. Thankfully no one but a few people at a Pickle festival in Sheboygan heard his version.

4. Hold Me Now – Thompson Twins

TT is still aggressively looking for a cuddle, even though they already peaked at #3. Next year they’d take it down a notch and ask you to simply lay your hands on them.

3. Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now) – Phil Collins

Another aggressive request, this one from a former #1 hit. I’m looking at you now, Phil and it’s pretty rough.

2. Let’s Hear It For The Boy – Deniece Williams

Written, produced and Moogstastcially played by George Duke, this would soon be the second #1 single from the Footloose soundtrack as well as Deniece’s second trip to the top.  Between this hit and her duet with Johnny Mathis on the Family Ties theme, we never got tired of hearing Niecy sing in the 80s. Sha-la-la-laaaaa.

 1. Hello – Lionel Richie (2 weeks at #1)

I think the main reason that Lionel wasn’t as big of a star as Micheal Jackson was in the 80s is the fact that most of his music skewed towards adult contemporary, even though they were huge on the pop & soul charts. I mean how electrifying is a concert going to be if it’s filled ballads? Meanwhile, Lionel is lighting his cigar with $1000 bills….


OHW – One-Hit-Wonder

NAOHW – Not A One-Hit-Wonder

PFK – Perfect for karaoke

RAR – Rite-Aid Rock

RFW – Ripped from Wikipedia

ML – Misheard lyrics

The Cool Before The Warm


What were you doing on May 19th, 1984? If you were like me you were tearing up your Strive for Five bumper stickers as the Islanders got crushed by the Edmonton Oilers and won the Stanley Cup. Thankfully I had this great music to fall back on. Spring was in the air while one of the better groups of Top 40 80s songs gathered at once, featuring some of my favorite artists. I don’t even mind some of the familiar overplayed stuff to this day.

Enough chitchat, let’s dig in.

40. Almost Paradise-Mike Reno & Ann Wilson

This is one of four singles from the Footloose soundtrack in the Top 40 this week from the biggest 80s duet partnership of the Northwest. It’s also the answer to the trivia question, Besides Hungry Eyes, name the other Top 10 soundtrack hit from the 80s co-written by Eric Carmen.

39. Eyes Without A Face-Billy Idol

I never bought into the angry punk routine that Billy would always flaunt as I always saw him as a wanna-be Jim Morrison. A song like this confirms my suspicions, especially during the Steve Stevens led bridge. I think this is the best thing he ever recorded but by the time he rereleased his live version of Mony Mony in 1987, I said au revoir.

By the way, I think I have some misheard lyrics from this one, which I will now call ML – I always thought he was talking about a gigolo cruise. Then I would wonder why a bunch of male prostitutes would want to be on a Royal Carribean boat sailing the Gulf Of Mexico fighting each other over escorts. Unless it’s a ship full of cougars.

[It’s actually gigolo pool…and that makes less sense.]

38. Who’s That Girl?-Eurythmics

Whereas Madonna would steal this title in three years from now as a “look at me” reference, Annie uses it as a term of suspicion and jealousy. The video has Annie dressed as a man kissing Annie as a woman so I guess the look at me reference applies here too.

37. Modern Day Delilah-Van Stephenson

OHW – This slice of power pop is heading towards its peak of #22 and was Van’s only Top 40 hit. But when this Van wasn’t rockin’, his bread and butter was Country music and he wrote hits for acts through the 70s, 80s & 90s for Crystal Gayle, Kenny Rogers and Restless Heart, including their #1, The Bluest Eyes In Texas. He then had Country hits as part of the trio BlackHawk throughout most of the 90s.

36. Love Will Show Us How-Christine McVie

NAOHW- The follow up to her Top 10 hit, Got A Hold On Me, was her only other Top 40 hit, on its way up to #30. The song was co-written by guitarist Todd Sharp who was also a part of Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo and played on his 1980 LP, The Visitors.

35. Stay The Night-Chicago

It really pisses me off that they didn’t include any mention of Bill Champlin in the Chicago documentary. He was a great addition and a big contributor to their success in the 80s, great keyboardist and songwriter, and he provided the grittier gruffer vocal complement to Peter Cetera whenever he released his inner Cartman.

34. My Everchanging Moods-The Style Council

OHW – First off, God bless SXM for playing the full 12” version of this song (the album version is just Paul and a piano.) This is my jam and Paul Weller is my man. Through his work leading The Jam, The Style Council and an almost thirty-year solo career, this was his only hit in the U.S. I’ll never know how this one got through but I’m so glad it did. It opened up my world to the Style Council, a band where Paul and his partner Mick Talbot mixed their love of soul with jazz, rock, bossa nova and new wave with some of Paul’s angriest, most political songs he ever wrote – the bitter with the sugar.

Read the lyrics to this Top 30 hit from 35 years ago as you wonder what’s changed since then.

33. A Fine Fine Day-Tony Carey

NAOHW – The former Rainbow and Planet P keyboardist got the first of his only two Top 40 hits with this one from his album Some Tough City. The story recalls Tony’s “Uncle Sonny” coming home from a stint doing hard time to set up a reunion, but with who? A snitch? Tony’s dad? Were they the same? Or was it Tony himself? No one knows and the song leaves it up to the imagination of the listener. (So don’t watch the video.)

32. Run Runaway-Slade

NAOHW – Slade had a long career in the UK for a decade and a half with not much to show for in the States. But after Quiet Riot covered Cum On Feel The Noize, the doors were open for the band to have some Stateside success. Unfortunately, the guys were too drunk to come up with anything very memorable and we got this instead,  with lines like I love black and white. You love black and white. Run runaway. Somehow it jigged its way up to #20. Maybe this song clicks after a few or 10 pints of Guinness or played in a mix after Jump Around and Tubthumping.

31. It’s My Life-Talk Talk

OHW, ML – To those who watched MTV as much as I did in 1984, this video was Wild Kingdom set to a New Wave dance soundtrack. To a shy kid entering his teen years, this was a personal cry for freedom and my call of rebellion. [For decades I also misheard the line in the chorus It never ends as And I’m a wreck. That didn’t help.]

When Mark Hollis passed away earlier this year, I was amazed at how many musicians gave tribute and had been influenced by his music like The Cure and The The as well as newer bands such as Xiu Xiu and Slowdive

30. It’s A Miracle-Culture Club

Knowing this song was originally titled It’s America really makes me rethink lyrics like Guns that cross the street. You never know who you might meet. Who’s in disguise?

29. You Can’t Get What You Want (Til You Know What You Want)-Joe Jackson

Another all-time favorite artist of mine. Sadly this was Joe’s final Top 40 but it’s on its way up to the Top 20. The LP, Body And Soul was recorded in a church somewhere in Manhattan, I believe, which accounts for the big open sound on this album and especially on this song. When Graham Maby slaps that bass on his solo or Gary Burke hits the snare on the offbeat you can hear it reverberate all around that room. And that horn section sounds like a Duke Ellington freight train.

28. Jump (For My Love)-Pointer Sisters

Because of the success of Van Halen’s Jump a few months earlier, The Pointer Sisters had to add (For My Love) when they released this single so that we the public would not confuse the two. I’m sure they played this a lot during those Edwin Moses hurdle montages that Summer in Los Angeles.

27. Rock You Like A Hurricane-Scorpions

When English isn’t your first language, it’s OK to rhyme am with hurricane.

26. White Horse-Laid Back

OHW – Now for a song that sounds like it’s not from around here…it’s a duo from Denmark with some electro-pop and two simple messages: it’s better to ride a white pony than a horse and only bitches get the money.

I’ve always wondered if Prince heard this song and thought I can do this, better releasing Erotic City as proof as the B-side to Let’s Go Crazy and then slyly referring to it in Sign O The Times singing about his cousin doing horse.

25. Miss Me Blind-Culture Club

Culture Club singles overlap in the Top 40 again, with this former Top 5 smash sliding on down. They would also have a new song called The War Song make the Top 20 later in the year. And then someone got on the white horse….

24. Self Control-Laura Branigan

Man, Laura loved those obscure Italian disco songs. She goes to il pozzo again for a song originally recorded by Raff and co-written by Giancarlo Bigazzi, the man behind her first big hit, Gloria. Thankfully no recordings of Whatsamatta You? have ever surfaced.

23. No More Words-Berlin

NAOHW – It’s amazing this band even existed in 1984 since singer Terri Nunn had left twice and the band officially broke up in 1981. Somehow they started over, everything clicked and they had their first hit. Of course, it helps that Giorgio Moroder was the producer. I still can’t believe they needed six people in the band to create this song.

22. Borderline-Madonna

We all know Madonna’s story. Her debut took a year to really cook and this became her second Top 40 single eventually becoming her first Top 10 in June 1984.

The producer of this track and most of Madonna’s debut was Reggie Lucas, a jazz guitarist whose first big break was playing with Miles Davis in the early to mid-70s. He met percussionist James “Juicy Fruit” Mtume in the band and their writing partnership produced hit songs for Roberta Flack (The Closer I Get To You) and Stephanie Mills (Never Knew Love Like This Before) And then came his opportunity with a spunky New York club kid transplant.

Supposedly Madonna had her boyfriend Jellybean Benitez remix some of the singles such as Holiday and Borderline because she didn’t like the album cuts, but I prefer the originals any day.

21. The Heart Of Rock & Roll-Huey Lewis & The News

And then sometimes you need a single edit, like on this Sports track which I’m sure was intentionally created for their live gigs. It starts and ends with a heartbeat (get it? the heart is still beatin’) as Huey sings about New York with its “modern music” (do you mean rap? or punk? or new wave?) and L.A. with its “hard-rockin'” music ( do you mean metal? or punk?) I’m laughing as I type this. This sounds like my dad wrote a song about the history of rock music if he only listened to Elvis.

As an aside Huey sued Ray Parker Jr. for ripping off I Want A New Drug with Ghostbusters but why didn’t Billy Joel sue Huey for ripping off It’s Still Rock N Roll To Me with this?


OHW – One-Hit-Wonder

NAOHW – Not A One-Hit-Wonder

PFK – Perfect for karaoke

RAR – Rite-Aid Rock

RFW – Ripped from Wikipedia

ML – Misheard lyrics



For The Girl Who Didn’t Sign Her Name


While you were watching Genuine Risk win the Kentucky Derby on May 3rd, 1980, these Top 20 songs would have been your soundtrack.

20. Think About Me – Fleetwood Mac

How do you follow up a smash like Rumours? Make Rumours 2? Or follow what Fleetwood Mac did – create a double album of ambitious pop that was at once bombastic as it was personal, as welcoming as it was mistrustful, as radio-friendly as it was alienating. Think About Me might not be a Top 5 Fleetwood Mac song nor a Top 5 Christine McVie track, but it was pleasant enough to make the Top 20, their tenth straight single to do so in the U.S.

19. Breakdown Dead Ahead – Boz Scaggs

After the success of Silk Degrees, Columbia Records rushed Boz in to record a follow-up which featured another strong group of Westcoast rock songs but didn’t translate into silky sales. He took his time with the next LP Middle Man and with Bill Schnee producing, returned to the Top 20 with this rolling number featuring two scorching solos by Steve Lukather.

18. Cars – Gary Numan

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to the Polymoog? There was nothing like this on pop radio in 1980 and sandwiched in between Boz and the younger Gibb, this slab of proto new wave stands out even more.

17. I Can’t Help It – Andy Gibb & Olivia Newton-John

It made sense for these fellow Australians to team up for a duet. But by the time this peaked at #12, Andy’s star was beginning its descent into an eventually early death. I like this tender piano version that Andy played on an episode of Punky Brewster.

16. Working My Way Back To You/Forgive Me, Girl – Spinners

When lead singer Philippe Wynne left the Spinners, it made the band and producer Thom Bell fidget, so much that they never found another song together to make it into the Top 40 after 1976’s The Rubberband Man. New producer Michael Zager from Ten Wheel Drive had the idea of a disco medley using Working My Way Back To You and song he had written for the band called Forgive Me Girl. It brought the group with new lead singer John Edwards all the way up to #2, held down by Pink Floyd and some flying pigs.

15. Hurt So Bad – Linda Ronstadt

Linda was on a ridiculous hot streak from 1975 to 1980. Her 1980 album Mad Love spawned two more Top 10s including her version of this oft-covered classic, originally recorded by Little Anthony & the Imperials

14. Biggest Part Of Me – Ambrosia

Alan Hunter goes on and on about how he hated his mom’s ambrosia salad while introducing this song. Dude, it doesn’t sound like she was making ambrosia. By the ingredients you listed, it sounds like crazy mom pudding. Wouldn’t be surprised if there was Meow Mix in it. Also, this Westcoast gem is moving its way up to be the biggest hit of their career.

13. Pilot Of The Airwaves – Charlie Dore

OHW – Charlie Dore may not be a household name but I bet she was loved by DJs around the world when this tribute to radio mic masters hit the charts. It’s at its peak this week.

The record companies wanted to Amercianize Charlie,  so they sent her to Nashville to turn her into a Juice Newton, who was yet to be Juice Newton. When that didn’t work they brought in the Cliff Richard production team of Alan Tarney & Bruce Welch and Nashville then tried to turn Juice Newton into Juice Newton. Success on both fronts! And although Charlie got the cliched comparisons to Joni Mitchell, her voice always reminded me of Judie Tzuke.

Charlie would write 1984 Sheena’s Easton Top 10 hit Strut.

12. Special Lady – Ray, Goodman & Brown

OHW (kinda) – Technically, the law firm of Ray, Goodman & Brown only had one Top 40 hit. But as the group, the Moments they had a few crossover hits in the 70s. To get out of a contract in 1979 they changed their name, kept recording and put up a sign in their office that said, “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.”

11. Don’t Fall In Love With A Dreamer – Kenny Rogers & Kim Carnes

Kenny’s one & only crossover single from his album, Gideon took him into the Top 10 with singer/songwriter Kim Carnes along for the ride. She and her husband wrote the entire album for Kenny and it would set Kim up for some big success in the first half of the 80s.

10. Hold On To My Love – Jimmy Ruffin

Jimmy was a Motown artist who had a few hits in the mid-60s. He was almost a Temptation but his brother David ended up filling the missing hole in the group and made history. Such is life. But Robin Gibb remembered what a great singer Jimmy was and produced his 1980 album Sunrise with its comeback single Hold On To My Love. Even though it hit the Top 10, it is sorely forgotten by most folks today.

9. Sexy Eyes – Dr. Hook

I’m not sure what’s creepier – imagining Dr. Hook in a disco leering in the dark at people dancing. Or the thought of him actually using that sexy eyes line on some unassuming chick and taking her home along while she schedules frequent visits to the clinic for shots afterward. [And when I say Dr. Hook I mean anyone in that band.]

8. I Can’t Tell You Why – Eagles

It all worked out for Timothy B. Schmit. But for a while, it seemed as if he didn’t have the best luck. He replaced Randy Meisner in the band Poco, who worked hard throughout the 70s without a true breakthrough while Randy & the Eagles became superstars. Then in 1978, with the Eagles at the height of their fame, Randy left the band only to be replaced by, you guessed it, TBS. But it lasted only one album before the band broke up. At least TBS got a bonafide hit out of it with this smooth and soulful Top 10 ballad.

Again, don’t cry a river for Tim. He was there for the reunion in 1994 and has been ever since including during those jacked up ticket prices.

7. You May Be Right – Billy Joel

Don’t pick on Billy. He’s a tough hombre. He rides his motorcycle while it’s raining. And even walked through Brooklyn in Bedford-Stuyvesant. By himself. He’s so crazy. He’s also an innocent man who didn’t start the fire. And he doesn’t care what you say anymore. It’s his life. Just don’t ask him why.

6. Fire Lake – Bob Seger

It was nice to hear a Bob Seger song that didn’t talk about how great things were in the past. JK. That’s his stock in trade, folks. Bob talks about his (or someone’s) Uncle Joe, a guy you definitely don’t want at a kid’s birthday party, who takes off on a motorcycle for some boozing, gambling and frolicking with some bronzed beauties. Poor old aunt Sara.

Don & Glenn & Tim of the Eagles are singing back up for the 2nd Top 10 appearance.

5. Another Brick In The Wall – Pink Floyd

Every time I hear this song I think of a little English kid named Liam who transferred into our class around the time this song was popular. He loved to tell us that disco sucked and that Pink Floyd was awesome. And that The Wall was the best thing that ever existed. This song, which had a light touch of disco in it, would spend a month at the top. Liam only spent three weeks at our school before he left, never to return.

4. With You, I’m Born Again – Billy Preston & Syreeta

When 1979 turned into the new decade, a whole group of careers were shut down overnight. One of them was Gabe Kaplan’s, whose hit show Welcome Back Kotter was canceled just months after his movie, Fast Break bombed at the theatres.

From the ashes of that crappy movie which also featured Knick legend, Bernard King comes this tender duet from Billy Preston & Syreeta Wright, who had been married to Stevie Wonder in the early 70s. Released six months after the movie left theatres, it traveled all the way into the Top 5.

We had this 45 in the house. My mom probably thought it was a religious thing.

3. Lost In Love – Air Supply

When the aliens come and ask you, what is soft rock, just show them this video. They will either laugh, kill you or cuddle up by a cozy fire.

2. Ride Like The Wind – Christopher Cross

If you don’t know the story it goes like this. Driving around in Texas one afternoon on a car ride to Austin, Chris decides to pop a cap and do some acid. During the ride, this whole scenario of a murderer on the run to Mexico came into his head, which he wrote down and turned into this Westcoast classic. It should have been an easy #1 for him, but it ran into the Blondie buzzsaw. BTW – that’s Chris on the guitar solo tearing it up.

And now I’m obliged to show you this.

1. Call Me – Blondie (3 Weeks at #1)

Blondie is halfway through their six week run at the top with this Giorgio Moroder producer single from American Gigolo. Blondie was the rare group at the time to have critical & commercial success as well as hip cred. And if you ever need to practice your moves ala Damone, Debbie is there for you.


OHW – One-Hit-Wonder

NAOHW – Not A One-Hit-Wonder

PFK – Perfect for karaoke

RAR – Rite-Aid Rock

RFW – Ripped from Wikipedia

No Second Chances Tonight


Countdowns from the first year of the decade always have a lot the previous decade’s carryover trends mixed with a glimpse of the future. We have a little disco, Westcoast and arena rock mixed in with punk and new wave. and as always, soft rock ballads. Here’s the first 20 of the Top 40 from May 3rd, 1980.

40. Starting Over Again-Dolly Parton

Dolly does Donna. Summer, that is. Miss Parton crosses over to the pop charts with a song written by the Queen of Disco about two people trying to move on with their lives after a divorce. OK, we need to light it up and not be so serious….

39. Let’s Get Serious – Jermaine Jackson

Maybe not. The ever-prolific Stevie Wonder gives the elder Jackson, Jermaine, the biggest hit of his career. On its way up to #9 pop, it would also spend 6 weeks at the top of the soul charts.

38. Wondering Where The Lions Are – Bruce Cockburn

OHW – It took 9 albums for Bruce to finally cross down over the Northern border into the US Top 40 with a track heading up to #21. And that album, Dancing In The Dragon’s Jaws was released the year previously. Its easy soft reggae lilt and the mention of animals make it a nice song for your part-time folk singer to strum at a kid’s gathering at the local library. Adults can find deeper meaning in the lyrics which ask the question who still has the revolutionary spirit within them.

BTW Nina Blackwood reads Bruce’s bio RFW

37. Let Me Be The Clock – Smokey Robinson

Smokey is the man. Sing me the telephone book, Smokey. Wait, not the yellow pages. Are you in the watchmaker section?

36. Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen

This former number one was the first for this quartet as it spent a month at the top. It was written by Freddie Mercury as he was trying to learn how to play guitar and compose a tribute to Elvis. He also played this song at 1985’s Live Aid on guitar even though it wasn’t part of the biopic.

35. The Seduction (Love Theme From American Gigolo)  – James Last Band

OHW – I don’t know anyone else who had this guys album in their collection let alone his catalog, but unfortunately we did. My dad tortured us with this easy listening schlager polka bullcrap every time he had friends over to party. Oh man, this shit is painful. And yet James managed a Top 20 hit in the U.S. that no one remembers or cares about. This was a cover of Giorgio Moroder’s version from the American Gigolo soundtrack.

As an aside, 1980 provided us with lots of Top 20 one-hit wonders that have just disappeared from playlists, maybe more so than any other year. There’s a bunch just in this countdown.

34. Train In Vain (Stand By Me) – The Clash

NAOHW – Hey here’s a seamless transition. Dad, take your James Last LPs and get them away from the stereo. I’m putting on London Calling.

Funny how the Clash for all of their punk leanings would finally breakthrough with a track that sounds like a bitter detour through the backwoods of Mississippi. I wonder if they were worried about alienating their punk fans by releasing it cause it’s the last track on Side four and it’s not even listed on the back cover. It would eventually reach #23 on the pop charts and #30 on the Disco charts. (don’t tell Sid)

33. Steal Away – Robbie Dupree

NAOHW – When disco was blown up in Chicago and Jimmy Carter told us to conserve our energy in July of 1979, we slowed everything down, stopped moving and filled the gap with Westcoast music (Yacht Rock to the snickerers) The groove was smooth, the funk was soft and it came in a “rock” package (aka white folks) so it was OK to play at a barbecue and not offend your racist, homophobic neighbors.

Thus Robbie soars into the Top 40 on a 22-place leap for the first of his two Top 20 hits. Also, it doesn’t hurt that it sounds like a Doobie Brothers B-side if they had let the drummer sing.

32. Fire In The Morning – Melissa Manchester

Are you a pyro in love? Melissa’s got your back with a song that lays out the perfect date plans. Get up early, start a fire and then you’ll have the rest of the day to get it on.

31. And The Beat Goes On – The Whispers

Some 70’s style disco sneaks into the countdown. The Whispers, one of a handful of artists featuring twins to make the Top 40,  took a decade-plus to have some crossover hits. This one is falling from its peak of #19.

30. Off The Wall – Michael Jackson

Quincy has two productions in the first 20. This one is the Rod Temperton title track which had become MJ’s third straight Top 10, a good streak for him at that time. Believe it or not, Karen Carpenter was offered to record this song on her first solo album in 1979, but she passed. That album was shelved until 1996.

29. The Rose – Bette Midler

PFK – As happy as I am that Bette broke out with the title track to the movie she starred in, the best use of this song is in this film.

28. I Pledge My Love – Peaches & Herb

Now that they reunited you two love birds, Peaches & Herb have a song to keep you together. Way more of a wedding song than Reunited but less memorable.

27. Heart Hotels – Dan Fogelberg

From the 1979 LP Phoenix, this song sounds so out of place to me. It’s as if Dan was struggling whether to embrace the soft rock sounds of the day and made his decision too late. It does feature some funky lyricon by Tom Scott.

All I can think of when I hear about a heart hotel are those jacuzzis in the Poconos.

26. Do Right – Paul Davis

Christian music was catching on as a niche genre in the late 780s and early 80s. A lot of artists, mostly in Nashville, were creating some very smooth pop songs to praise the Lord especially when they utilized some Westcoast vibes.

Paul decided to give thanks to Jesus with this song, not because of a DWI conviction or court-ordered Born again switch but because as he says, He gave his life for him. And now He’s hooked him up with a sweetie, hopefully not one from back in 1965.

25. Too Hot – Kool & The Gang

The door to the boogie in the jungle is finally closed shut as J.T. Taylor smooths it out for y’all. And whenever I think 2Pac may be haunting me, I sing this song:

Oh-oh its Tu-pac (Tu-pac) Tu-pac Sha-koh-ur

Gotta run for shelter, Gotta close all my doors

24. Funkytown – Lipps Inc.

OHW – Homer Simpson once said, “Lurleen, I can’t get your song out of my mind. I haven’t felt this way since “Funkytown!” Nuff said.

23. Any Way You Want It – Journey

So what? So let’s dance!

Also, a donut with no holes is a danish.

22. Brass In Pocket (I’m Special) – Pretenders

A great song from a near-perfect debut and no better way to introduce the world to Chrissie Hynde. I hear a song like this and I imagine the hell she must have (possibly, still is) put through as a strong female in the music industry. She went through some major shit in the early 80s and the fact that she survives and is still creating great music should be one of a million reasons to let the artists work and leave women alone.

21. Stomp – The Brothers Johnson

Q strikes again with a mutha of a disco burner and another Temperton co-write, this time from Louis & George Johnson. It’s traveling up the charts to its eventually high of #6.


OHW – One-Hit-Wonder

NAOHW – Not A One-Hit-Wonder

PFK – Perfect for karaoke

RAR – Rite-Aid Rock

RFW – Ripped from Wikipedia


I Found Yours, You Found Mine

i cant wait

On this past week’s Top 40 countdown from 1986, something occurred which stands a rarity as two different songs with the same title, I Can’t Wait, appeared. It started on April 5th when Nu Shooz debuted at #39 while Stevie Nicks’s song climbed into the Top 20. This continued for the full month of April before Stevie fell out of the Top 40 beginning in May as Nu Shooz continued their climb.

I did some exhaustive research could not find this ever happening again. (Full discretion – my research wasn’t as exhaustive as I reached this decade, but still couldn’t find one.) There have been instances of this happening within a calendar year, for example, The Carpenters & Murray Head both had Top 40 hits in 1971 with a song titled Superstar. And we know that over time artists have had big hits with different songs but the same title. Some examples of both songs hitting number one would be:

Venus – Frankie Avalon & Shocking Blue (Bananarama hit #1 too, but that a Shocking Blue cover)

Best Of My Love – The Eagles & The Emotions

Big Girls Don’t Cry – The Four Seasons & Fergie

Jump – Van Halen & Kris Kross

We’ve also had “opposite” songs, such as in February 1985 when Billy Ocean’s Loverboy was in the Top 40 along with Teena Marie’s Lovergirl.

But I have yet to find another instance like April 1986 and there’s probably a good reason for that. Record companies are very careful not to release a song that’s going to get confused with another artist’s. in 1981 when Sheena Easton was getting ready to release her debut song in the U.S. called 9 To 5, EMI records thought it was probably better to retitle it Morning Train so it wouldn’t get confused with Dolly Parton’s emerging hit, 9 To 5 from the film she co-starred in at the time. Both would hit #1 so it was a good strategy. What happened in April 1986 could not have been predicted and some good luck and fortune had to come to the Portland band led by Valerie Day & John Smith in order to even be at the same place in time as Stevie Nicks.

Stevie’s record company chose I Can’t Wait as the follow-up single to Talk To Me in early 1986 from her 1985 album Rock A Little. Nu Shooz original version of I Can’t Wait was recorded in late 1984, and was self-released on the band’s own label, Poolside Recordings in early 1985. The “Dutch” mix remixed by Peter Slaghuis and produced by the Drone Bros was released in the Netherlands in the Fall of 1985. No one could have expected that to take off, let alone garner the band a record contract from Atlantic Records complete with distribution and promotion. Even more surprising was how quickly the single took off after its February 1986 release and by the start of April, it was already in the Top 40 as Stevie’s song was getting ready to peak at #16. [It’s also worth noting that Nu Shooz and Stevie Nicks also spent time together on the Dance charts with Nu beating Nicks there by a full two months.]

By the way, Stevie’s song was released on Modern Records a subsidiary of, you guessed it, Atlantic Records.

Two different songs. Same title. Same time.

The Stream of Undefined Illusion


It’s like this week is frozen in time. Here are the Top 20 from Apr 26, 1986.

20. Something About You – Level 42

NAOHW – Another band led by a lead singer/bass player (Mr. Mister was the other) I was obsessed with this song when it came out. I bought the album, World Machine at a Record World in NJ during one of those monthly record label deals – check out these Mercury/Polygram/Polydor artists this month for $4.99. It made me want to jump up and sing confusion at the top of my lungs every time I was riding on a train.

I remained a fan but also dug into their back catalog which sounded nothing like this piece of polished pop. Level 42 was part of the late 70/early 80s Brit-funk movement along with bands such as Freeze,  Cool Notes and Hi-Tension. Even though most of their music was fusion based, they still had a knack for writing catchy melodies which garnered them hits in the U.K. but no crossover to the States. This Top 10 single changed all of that and they later scored an opening slot on Madonna’s tour.

This week the band’s original guitarist, Boon Gould passed away. He was a founding member and stayed with the band until 1987.

19. So Far Away – Dire Straits

The 3rd and final Top 40 from the mega-selling Brothers In Arms LP has Mark Knopfler really committing to those Dylan vocals. The band wouldn’t record another album until 1991 and it would be their last.

18. If You Leave – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

Another story whose origin was RFW (Ripped From Wikipedia) by Alan Hunter. Research department – please do some homework.

I was a big OMD fan at this point wearing 1985’s Crush down the reel nubs. So it was a no-brainer to pick up the Pretty In Pink soundtrack and I was amazed and kinda proud that they had a Top 10 hit with this song.

17. Tender Love – Force M.D.’s

OHW – Another marketing opportunity lost for Tinder – Tinder love, love so tender, pulling me close to you, baby I surrender. Ok maybe not.

Check out the video if you ever wondered what slimmed-down Rerun would look like.

16. I Think It’s Love – Jermaine Jackson

Jermaine’s last Top 40 hit, a stretch that began in 1973, occurs in a countdown where his sister, Janet makes her first appearance and begins a multi-decade streak of hits.

15. Let’s Go All The Way – Sly Fox

OHW – Not all videos were expensive to make.

14. American Storm – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band

The first Top 20 single from Like A Rock was Bob’s response to the growing drug epidemic and specifically cocaine, how it turns you numb until you don’t feel the need of life. The video is a who’s who of forgotten mid-80s actors from a movie that doesn’t exist unless of course, you’re snowblowing.

13. Bad Boy – Miami Sound Machine

Gloria Estefan kept picking at our souls one song at a time until we just couldn’t shake her out of our system. Enjoy this Cats-ripoff video in which Gloria gets cutely accosted in an alley by Rum Tum Tugger and his friends.

12. Greatest Love Of All – Whitney Houston

Sexual chocolate.


11. What You Need – INXS

The band left the recording of their Listen Like Thieves album thinking they were done. Producer Chris Thomas said they weren’t, adding ‘what you need is a hit song’. A year later What You Need is a hit song.

10. Take Me Home – Phil Collins

After delaying the No Jacket Required releases with a soundtrack detour (White Nights) and #1 duet (Separate Lives), Phil goes back to the well and releases Top 10 single number four from the former album, just enough of a bridge until the next Genesis release where he was back up at #1. It featured Sting & Peter Gabriel on backing vocals as well.

9. Your Love – The Outfield

This song is like robbing Mike Trout of a home run at the wall. The rest of their career was like the ball bouncing over their heads for a double.

8. What Have You Done For Me Lately – Janet Jackson

The nexus of R&B talents is right here – Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis & Janet Jackson.

We all grew up on Janet as Penny Woods on Good Times, Charlene on Diff’rent Strokes, and Cleo on Fame So we were ready to love her as a singer. It just took 3 albums and the right set of producers and writers to listen to what she wanted to say, who she wanted to be and gave her the control to do it. This is female empowerment at its most expressive, its most catchy and most danceable. She was only 20. Queen Bey teeters on her shoulders.

7. Rock Me Amadeus – Falco

NAOHW – Er hatte Schulden denn er trank. Doch ihn liebten alle Frauen – which means Amadeus might have been a broke-ass alcoholic but he was a straight up pimp with the ladies.

6. Harlem Shuffle – The Rolling Stones

Coasting on fumes.

5. Why Can’t This Be Love – Van Halen

The debut single with new lead singer Sammy Hagar is on its way up to #3 this week. From this point on the band would deliver solid if not outstanding music, consistent but not really noteworthy. They all got rich in the process and are probably doing Cabo Wabo shots as we speak.

4. Manic Monday – Bangles

Prince has two songs in the Top 5. Songwriter Christopher is having a good week with his first composed song performed by an all-female band who’s having their first Top 40 hit.

3. West End Girls – Pet Shop Boys

Sometimes you’re better off dead. There’s a gun in your hand and it’s pointed at your head.

Yet I don’t remember the courts calling Neil Tennant to testify after Rob Halford was done.

2. Addicted To Love – Robert Palmer

Robert Palmer had a decade long career at this point with a few Top 20 hits under his belt. For his 8th album, Riptide, he enlisted his new Power Station comrades Andy Taylor, Tony Thompson bashing those chunky drums and producer Bernard Edwards. This would be Robert’s only #1 US hit. It is also recognizable for its video, which was meant to be a satire on MTV’s blatant sexism but instead it ends up reinforcing it.

Tina Turner loves performing this song live. Check out her version on Tina Live.

1. Kiss – Prince and The Revolution (2 Weeks at #1)

Yes, Virginia, there is a God. For three weeks in the Spring of 1986 the United States of America in solidarity for the funk and all that is good in music decided together that this was the best song in the world (the world, being within our borders) Do not let the stories of Mazarati massaging nay, palpating the groove for themselves give you a Dynasty-sized attitude. Imagine them as sous-chefs for the funkiest cook this side of Lake Minnetonka.


OHW – One-Hit-Wonder

NAOHW – Not A One-Hit-Wonder

PFK – Perfect for karaoke

RAR – Rite-Aid Rock

RFW – Ripped from Wikipedia

The Broken Record Goes Round


April 26, 1986 – that must have been a beautiful Spring day here in the States. And as the flowers bloomed we were listening to some great pop songs. Let’s see what the fallout is for the first 20 of 40.

40. Tomorrow Doesn’t Matter Tonight – Starship

Starship followed up their streak of two #1s with another single from Knee Deep In The Hoopla that hit #26 and featured backing vocals by Player’s Peter Beckett & J.C. Crowley.

39. For America – Jackson Browne

Jackson’s final Top 40 hit flips the nation’s 80s jingoistic vibe on its head by asking Is America Dead? So the public had a meltdown and sent this hippie Commie pinko away.

38. Feel It Again – Honeymoon Suite

OHW – Traveling thru the door that Bryan Adams opened here’s some Canadian rock from a band formed in Niagara Falls, hence the name. They had one Top 40 here reaching #34, but had several hits in Canada, because you know, CanCon.

37. Stick Around – Julian Lennon

The fourth and final Top 40 single from Julian is on its way up to its high #32. The video features cameos from Jami Gertz, who can’t spare a square, Michael J. Fox, Joe Piscopo (can you imagine there was a time when someone thought that would be cool?) and a Playboy playmate running around like a Benny Hill sketch with Stick Around substituting for Yakety Sax.

36. These Dreams – Heart

Even if the record label didn’t present a new sexed-up version of Wilson sisters with hair teased to the moon, the songs still would have found an audience. But then again we might not have been able to witness Nancy’s fierce leg kicks on a regular basis.

35. Overjoyed – Stevie Wonder

This is a hard damn song to sing with multiple key changes and chord modulations but Stevie sings it so smoothly and effortlessly, it’s easy to forget with all his talents he is one hell of a singer.

34. Be Good To Yourself – Journey

Probably one of the least remembered Top 10 Journey songs, most likely because there was no video to go along with it. Or because it’s generic and bland.

33. Move Away – Culture Club

Even though I bought this 45 when it came out I was underwhelmed compared to their other tracks. Over time I’ve grown to like it and have enjoyed its simplicity and maturing sound. And it is was produced by Arif Mardin, so it had that going for it.

32. Never As Good As The First Time – Sade

I can’t believe this song only hit #20. I guess I should be grateful that it got played it all as most unique and sophisticated music was sent to VH1 hell. You had to listen to R&B radio to hear it on repeat as it hit #8 on those charts. They knew what was up.

31. Rough Boy – ZZ Top

The absolute worst drum intro I’ve ever heard. It sounds like a 2-year-old playing with a TR808. ZZ was raking in the bucks in the mid 80s but watering down their sound like a bartender at a wedding factory. Was this from the album Recycler cause I swear I heard that guitar solo before?

30. Secret Lovers – Atlantic Starr

Atlantic Starr’s first Top 10 single is leaking its way out of the Top 40 like a cheater in the dark. I have confirmed from a friend that this song was played at his prom. WTF?

29. I Can’t Wait – Stevie Nicks

The first of two different songs with the same title on the countdown by the only woman in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Twice.

28. Is It Love – Mr. Mister

Ricahrd Page and the gang were riding a wave of momentum after two #1s and followed it up with this Top 10 from Welcome To The Real World. I had the cassette which I wore down but for some reason was compelled to buy the 12” single as well. Maybe I couldn’t get enough of that dramatic power drum fill from Pat Mastelotto.

Currently, there is a K-pop boy band named Mr. Mr.

27. R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A. – John Cougar Mellencamp

JCM’s Salute to 60’s rock comes complete with a flute solo. Shouldn’t he have saved that for the salute to 70’s prog rock?

26. Saturday Love – Cherrelle & Alexander O’Neal

Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis were on a freakin’ roll in 1986, the year their career exploded. They’ve written three songs on this countdown and would have more by Robert Palmer & Human League as well as the Janet Jackson hit-a-thon. But this is the jam. Sung as a duet with the former lead singer of the Tiem before he pissed off Prince, this track would make the Top 30 pop and Top 10 soul.

25. All I Need Is A Miracle – Mike & The Mechanics

This has mayonnaise commercial written all over it.

24. Live To Tell – Madonna

People were jonesing hard for new Madonna material, so the leadoff single from her True Blue LP shot all the up to #1. Although she’s not the best singer in the world, I find this is her best-sung ballad, simple and understated as her delivery adds tension to cryptic lyrics.

23. I Do What I Do – John Taylor

OHW – After 1983’s Seven & the Ragged Tiger, Duran Duran members took off in so many directions it was hard to keep track of who was doing what. This single is the theme from the 9 1/2 Weeks movie soundtrack, which sounded like a hot and nasty movie, but mostly just turned me off to strawberries.

Speaking of fruit and disasters, this song was also nominated for Worst Original Song in 1986 at the annual hater’s convention called Golden Raspberries.

On another note, what the hell is wrong with Sirius XM’s music department? I’m about to go nuclear on them. They have been playing this really weak rerecorded version rather than the original for years. I can buy the track at Amazon for $1.29. SXM – ridiculously cheap and lazy.

22. I Can’t Wait – Nu Shooz

NAOHW – Man, Portland churns out the husband-wife outfits. First Quarterflash, now Nu Shooz, whose original version of this song was on their 1985 EP Tha’s Right. The single that became a hit was the result of a remix by Dutch producer Pieder Slaghuis whose version became a dance hit around Europe in late 1985, garnering the band a record contract with Atlantic Records. Nothing like an unsolicited remix to kick off your career.

21. On My Own – Patti Labelle & Michael McDonald

Taking the title to heart, Patti recorded her vocals on her own. Then writers Burt Bacharach & Carole Bayer Sager thought it should be a duet. So Michael did his vocals on his own. After this was a #1 hit, Burt & Carole split up and they were on their own.

I came up with on my own.

Now I need to evacuate my mind while I review the final 20 of the week.


OHW – One-Hit-Wonder

NAOHW – Not A One-Hit-Wonder

PFK – Perfect for karaoke

RAR – Rite-Aid Rock

RFW – Ripped from Wikipedia