I said before that 1985 was a great Summer, but this one comes close. This July 9th, 1983 countdown is tattooed in my mind. I remember having to go to a boring relative’s house and all I did for hours on end was sitting on a lounge chair with a borrowed radio listening to Z100 which was a new Top station in New York. I tuned out the adults as they played just about every song in this Top 40.
40. Champaign – Try Again
THW – Champaign popped the cork on another Top 40 hit this time reaching only #23. It’s spending its last week in the Top 40 before it goes flat.
39. E.L.O. – Rock & Roll Is King
Since the Moody Blues were trying to sound like ELO, Jeff Lynne decided to move the band in different musical directions with this track sounding like electronic rockabilly, even as they added a violin solo. It will clank its way up to #19 in a handful of weeks.
38. David Bowie – China Girl
This is the first of two Bowie tracks from his Let’s Dance LP, which let all the New Romantics know who was truly in charge. Drawing on his mid-70s Soul phase, he refocused his soulful efforts and with Nile Rodgers producing, came up with the biggest selling album of his career. He also introduced New Wavers to blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn who plays the guitar solo on this Bowie/Iggy Pop co-write. And it gave Bowie consecutive Top 10 singles.
37. Journey – Faithfully
Is this the power ballad to top all other power ballads? Or is this just the soundtrack to a mulleted wedding reception?
36. Billy Idol – White Wedding
For such an iconic 80s song you would have thought it would have peaked higher than #36. But we were only just getting used to that sneer.
35. The Hollies – Stop In The Name Of Love
In 1983, The Hollies reunited with Graham Nash. Hooray! Then they released this unnecessary cover of a Supremes chart-topper. Boo! It still made it up to #29. Graham Nash and/or The Hollies never sniffed the Top 40 again.
34. Def Leppard – Rock Of Ages
The second single from Pyromania enters the Top 40 on its way to #16. Not sure why Joe Elliot added the lines “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” during the intro. Not sure if Neil Young was cool with it either. And then imagine the detective who picked up Kurt Cobain’s suicide note only to wonder if he was a big Def Leppard fan.
33. Naked Eyes – Always Something There To Remind Me
1983 was the year that you could see traces of 1960s (read: Baby Boomer) nostalgia trending in the mainstream. The Big Chill was just two months from opening in theatres and we just heard the Graham Nash-led Hollies doing a Motown cover. Now here comes the duo Naked Eyes with a Bacharach/David cover first recorded by Dionne Warwick and later charted by Lou Johnson in 1964. The first Top 40 version was by R.B. Greaves in 1970 but this one was the most successful and it already hit its peak at #8 a few weeks ago.
32. Men At Work – It’s A Mistake
It was going to be an impossible task to follow up their debut, Business As Usual, but the Australian quintet led by Colin Hay was up for the task. Even if it wasn’t as financially successful as the first album, I feel that Cargo was definitely a more consistent and pleasurable offering. This ode to the folly of war and the growing possibility of a nuclear accident will be the band’s second Top 10 hit from that album eventually hitting #6. [Chernobyl was less than three years away.]
31. David Bowie – Let’s Dance
As much as you’d like to credit Bowie with creating this masterful piece of dance pop, all props have to go to Nile Rodgers who found an upbeat funk song inside a Bowie’s dark folk rock. And what a masterstroke to add those aaahs during the intro that build that song up into a frenzy. Damn, Nile’s good! It was David’s second #1 single.
Nile also used that stereo phase guitar trick on the title track to Chic’s 1983 album Believer.
30. The Fixx – Saved By Zero
The highest-debuting song in the Top 40 and the anthem for all computer programmers during Y2K.
29. Quarterflash – Take Me To Heart
Quarterflash’s first single from their new album, Take Another Picture, will be their third and final Top 20 single. As of today, Marv & Rindy Ross are still together playing live and releasing albums.
28. Human League – (Keep Feeling) Fascination
The New Wave version of Sly & the Family Stone, down to Phil Oakey’s hey-heyey-hey-heys copping Larry Graham’s deep bass bottom. I was obsessed with this one during that Summer and loved singing it in pools underwater for some reason. It will be the band’s second Top 10 hit reaching #8. And if you find that synth lick annoying, go pound sand.
27. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Roll Me Away
Bob decides to look forward for once and writes a kick ass biker tune about an adventure to find peace away from the chaos. And if sounds like a Springsteen-y, it might be because of Roy Bittan’s piano playing. It was the third Top 40 hit from The Distance and it’s sitting at its peak this week.
26. A Flock Of Seagulls – Wishing (If I Had a Photograph Of You)
Another one resting at its zenith, and its the third and final Top 40 hit from the stylishly coiffed English quartet and one of Jules Winfield’s favorite bands.
25. Michael Sembello – Maniac
THW – This is the first of two songs from the Flashdance soundtrack and will also be its second #1. The soundtrack garnered him a Grammy and he was also nominated for an Oscar. Not bad for a throwaway tune about a horror movie slasher. [He had to change those lyrics to fit with someone repetitively thumping in legwarmers.]
Alright enough of Maniac, check out Michael’s far superior guitar work with Stevie Wonder.
24. Michael Jackson – Beat It
What else can be said about this classic? Here’s one. The famous bong-bong intro was taken from a demo record for the Synclavier II released by New England Digital in 1981.
RFW – Also the Big 80s Countdown reads this verbatim from Wikipedia: The engineers were shocked during the recording of Van Halen’s solo to discover that the sound of his guitar had caused the monitor speaker in the control room to catch fire, causing one to exclaim, “This must be really good!”
23. Loverboy – Hot Girls In Love
PFK – Mike Reno and the boys are turning on the heat moving up 12 spots to an eventual #11 high. And don’t tell me these guys didn’t write some great lyrics. Check this out:
She likes her tapes on ten and it’s the same as her anatomy.
She’s on a rainbow cruise, all the way to my room.
Yeah! Awesome. Are you not amped up? Actually, I think I’d rather have a hot girl in lust but to each his own.
22. Bryan Adams – Cuts Like A Knife
Another big mover for Bry – the title track to his 1983 album would slice all the way up to #15. This makes me want to get wet and dive into an empty pool.
Cuts like a knife, but it feels so right. That has to be Bryan’s epitaph one day.
21. Rick Springfield – Affair Of The Heart
A former Top 10 from Dr. Noah Drake and the first single from his ninth album, Living In Oz. I have a vinyl copy of this album and I found this fan club mailer inside. The yearly fan club fee was $6.
OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
THW – Two-Hit-Wonder
ML – Misheard Lyrics
PFK – Perfect for Karaoke
RFW – Ripped from Wikipedia
STA – Second Time Around