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

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