As a lifelong Mets fan, one of the best things about the Summer of 86 was watching them beat up on teams, figurately and literally, for the first time. I had always followed the team through the year and they usually sucked hard. 1985 was a lot of fun, but 86 was another level. And I had no idea what awaited me in October. Each day I would turn the game on in the living room and go outside between innings with the radio blaring, so roughly 17 or 18 times. I’m sure the radio was playing some version of this Top 20 from August 2nd, 1986. [also, by this time the Mets were up 17 games in the division.]
20. Moody Blues – Your Wildest Dreams
This prog-rock ensemble slimmed the core group down to a quartet and posted their first Top 10 hit since Nights in White Satin in 1972. The timing must have been right for some 60s nostalgia. Of course, the band played into that as well with their video. [Look for keyboardist Patrick Moraz in the flashback hippie scenes of the band. He didn’t join until 1978.]
19. Lionel Richie – Dancing On The Ceiling
The perfect song for your coked-up Yuppie party. It’s just sad that it’s Lionel doing it. “You’re once…..twice….three times in rehab….”
18. Michael McDonald – Sweet Freedom
Another track from Running Scared – this will take Michael into the Top 10, but will unfairly be his last Top 40 hit. For a guy who’s presence and iconic voice are so representative of an era, it’s still hard to believe that radio would just turn their back on him. He continues to record a lot of great music. And this song sounds awesome live.
This was and still is one of my 86 faves. I just love that build up from the second verse into the chorus. Well, at least he left on a high note with a fun video to boot, although I just can’t imagine him as an ex-Chicago cop.
17. Jeffrey Osborne – You Should Be Mine (The Woo Woo Song)
Can you woo woo woo? Can I? Is woo woo woo the quiet storm version of yada yada yada? Then yes, I probably can.
16. Wham! – The Edge Of Heaven
When I saw Eddie Murphy’s Raw the following year and he made fun of white people dancing, I could never copy exactly how he did that. All I needed to do was put this track on. My body can’t dance any other way to Wham!. I could do the Carlton all day to it.
15. Bananarama – Venus
This UK female trio has their second Top 40 with a cover of the #1 1970 hit from the Dutch group the Shocking Blue, Actually it also hit #1 in 1981 as part of Stars on 45. So when Bananarama eventually take this to the top, that would be three. Throw in Frankie Avalon’s smash, Venus (different song) and now that four #1 Venuses. Or is it Veni?
14. Blow Monkeys – Digging Your Scene
OHW – Fitting somewhere in between the UK Soul-Jazz scene and quirky NEw Wave, the Blow Monkeys popped through in 86 with this track that’s peaking this week. Another fave of mine at the time.
When I actually read the lyrics, I realized that I misunderstood them as they were delivered in Dr. Robert’s smooth cabaret-style. How did I miss a chorus that goes “tell me why am I digging your scene? I know I’ll die.“? They introduced a world where people had friends dying of a disease at a rapid rate that no one knew how to cure or at least slow down. To be an AIDS survivor most likely meant you were also an AIDS griever. That’s not even to mention the social stigma of homosexuality and its burden of fear that most troglodytes needlessly ramped up.
13. Timex Social Club – Rumors
OHW – It was kind of wild in 1986 for a proto-hip-hop track on an independent West Coast label to hit the pop Top 10 as well as #1 on the Soul charts. I bought this 12″ back in the day. And I know this is considered to be early new jack, but this song sounds so dated, especially the lyrics. Hiding behind the “rumors’ premise they start to spread new ones that I hadn’t heard, such as Tina Turner being a slut and Susan Anton being a dominatrix. Susan Anton? Were these guys binge-watching Cannonball Run II?
The producers ended up having more success. Jay King broke up the band and reformed it as Club Nouveau, who had a #1 hit with a cover of Bill Withers’ Lean On Me. Denzil Foster teamed up with his buddy Thomas McElroy and had a bunch of 90s new jack hits with En Vogue, Tony Toni Tone, and Alexander O’Neal, to name a few.
12. Steve Winwood – Higher Love
Steve with a little help from Chaka Khan & Nile Rodgers is having his biggest hit in over five years with the lead single from Back In The High Life LP. But he will take it higher, reaching #1 in a few weeks. It’s interesting how many veteran artists in their late 30’s were having huge pop hits in the mid to late 80s. And there’s a bunch of them in this Top 20.
11. Billy Joel – Modern Woman
Billy isn’t taking his own advice and telling her about it. Instead, he’s telling us all about all of the anxiety living with a “modern” woman, like for one, they don’t put up with any bullshit. Dude, you were way out of your league with Brinkley. You should have broken it off after An Innocent Man. Instead we have to sit through irritating Woody Allen fits of paranoia set to unimaginative loops of white boy synth-funk. It’s a mess. You will never recover. Go fishing.
Also found on the soundtrack to another mess, Ruthless People.
10. Pet Shop Boys – Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots Of Money)
Imagine two rednecks plotting and scheming about getting rich in the middle of the day as they watch Jerry Springer. Now lay that on a musical bed of synths and drum machines. Voila!
PSB followed up the massive success of West End Girls with this, another Top 10 single from Please, which is at its resting place this week.
9. Jermaine Stewart – We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off
THW – Tips for having a good time
- Dance all night
- Party all night
- Drink some cherry wine
Getting naked: optional
8. Janet Jackson – Nasty
We all consider Thriller an important album because it unified all walks of life as everyone had a copy. But for some reason, no one discusses Janet’s Control album in the manner and I’m sure we all know why. The big difference between the two albums is that Control had to be made. It was important that it existed, that a female African-American R&B performer was telling other women to respect themselves, be strong and lead your life that you want to not the way someone thinks it should be.
Fun fact: Way before Dennis Franz was showing his nasty butt on ABC, he was poorly dancing and lipsynching in this video.
7. Rod Stewart – Love Touch
There are 9 songs from soundtracks on this countdown. This one is from the movie Legal Eagles, a much-hyped little-seen Robert Redford/ Debra Winger romantic comedy. This was written by Device buddies Holly Knight & Gene Black. Couldn’t they have come up with something better and less skeevy than Rod singing ooh you’re gonna get a big love touch? This is sexual harassment dressed up like a pop song, the Blurred Lines of 1986.
6. Belinda Carlisle – Mad About You
When the Go-Gos exploded, Belinda was out to prove that she was no disposable pop star. She had charm. She had charisma. She was here to stay. She signed to IRS and turned to one of the biggest producers in the biz, Michael Lloyd, the man responsible for making Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garrett and the Osmonds into stars.
The song will hit #3 and features a guitar solo by the artist at #24.
5. Genesis – Invisible Touch
So to recap, we have had:
Mike Rutherford – #38, Phil Collins – #37, Steve Hackett – #32. We now have Mike, Phil & Tony Banks. And at #2, we’ll have Peter Gabriel. That’s all of the members of Genesis in the Top 40 this week except Anthony Phillips. [Technically they were a few others in the 60s, but they pretty much quit music.]
4. Madonna – Papa Don’t Preach
Because Madonna was so popular in the mainstream for so long, it’s easy to forget what a punk she was. She had no problem standing up to authority, especially male and telling them that their thinking was misguided. And no one could be such a thorn in the side of the Catholic church than her, except for the Boston Globe. This song, which was actually written by Westcoast singer-songwriter Brian Elliot, is about a young girl who bravely tells her dad that’s she pregnant. And even though she knows he’s going to be upset, she’s keeping it. That’s hardcore for a pop song.
Even though preach is in the title, Madonna does anything but and delivers such a sincere tender vocal reading of these lyrics. Casting tough yet tender actor Danny Aiello as the dad in the video was a brilliant touch. And I still see women rocking Madonna’s look today.
3. Kenny Loggins – Danger Zone
Movie Kenny takes the long dramatic highway to the danger zone, just missing out on another #1. Another single from the soundtrack to Top Gun will rise to the top instead.
2. Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer
Who would have guessed that Peter Gabriel could have a #1 single in the US? But he did, for one glorious week at the end of July in 1986. I still don’t believe it’s about sex.
1. Peter Cetera – Glory Of Love (Theme From The Karate Kid Part II)
The week that Peter replaced Peter, the first time artists with the same first name switched spots at the top. I made note of that and sent a letter into American Top 40. They sent me an awesome reply letter back on AT40 letterhead. I proudly showed my parents. They laughed. I am clearly adopted.
OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
THW – Two-Hit-Wonder
ML – Misheard Lyrics
PFK – Perfect for Karaoke
RAR – Rite-Aid Rock
RFW – Ripped from Wikipedia
STA – Second Time Around