Somewhere during this time, I became obsessed with Billboard magazine. It wasn’t easy to buy one anywhere near where I lived. I had to go to the local library and they were usually behind a week, sometimes maybe two. During an architecture class I took in junior high, we had a substitute for a week, and somehow it came up during our musical discussions that her brother worked for Billboard. In the next class, she brought in a stack of back issues. I spent the next few weeks reading them from cover to cover over and over. That was it. I was going to get a subscription. I needed one. Even though it was going to cost over $100, I was gonna figure out a way to swing it.
Here’s the first twenty of the 40 biggest hits from November 16th, 1985.
40. Dire Straits – Walk Of Life
This will be the second Top 10 hit from the multi-platinum Brothers In Arms LP. And it comes with two videos – one which is a band performance and one with sports bloopers. The latter was played to many a baseball crowd’s delights, especially if your stadium had a Jumbotron.
39. John Cougar Mellencamp – Lonely Ol’ Night
PD – JCM is pulling a deuce off the Top 40 deck. This is a former Top 10 hit for him, while his next one enters at #36.
38. The Cars – Tonight She Comes
Initially intended for a Ric Ocasek solo album, it was instead recorded by the Cars and included on their first great Hits compilation. It’s about as straightforward a pop song as you’ll ever hear from them, and it will drive itself up to #7.
37. Starpoint – Object Of My Desire
OHW – It wouldn’t be too long in the 80s before producers made all dance music. But until then, here’s the Maryland sextet with a single from their seventh album, which finally crossed over into the Top 40. It will flat line at #25.
36. John Cougar Mellencamp – Small Town
He’s from a small town, lives in one, gonna die in one. And that’s OK with him. In reality, he has multiple homes, so who knows where he’s gonna die. And wouldn’t you know it? He married an L.A. doll and took her to his small town.
35. Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill
OHW – Kate’s one and only US Top 40 will run up and stop at #30. This song just grabs me by the chest and flings me around like a trailer ina hurricane until I end up on some island far from where I started.
For those like me who think she should be in the RARHOF, it will never happen. But it absolutely should. Here are a few fun facts about Kate:
- She had a #1 hit in England with a song she wrote called Wuthering Heights. She was only 19.
- She only performed on one tour back in 1979, in which she created all of the costumes, dance choreography, and set design. It necessitated her crew to rig a wireless mic for performance before they even existed.
- She was one of the first musicians to record with a Fairlight Synthesizer, which cost at the time over $10000.
- She influenced almost an entire generation of singer/songwriters that came after her, not just Tori Amos. Prince and Johnny Rotten were publicly big fans of hers as well.
- She is incredibly kick-ass.
34. Ray Parker Jr. – Girls Are More Fun
For those of you who weren’t sure if Ray Parker was homophobic, look no further than this song. Granted, most of us were still trying to understand how to be accepting towards the gay community as well as what AIDS was, but most of us weren’t trying to make money from our ignorance. This was his last Top 40 hit.
33. Elton John – Wrap Her Up
And then there’s the flip side, where we have two guys still trying to put uphold a straight male image, even to the extreme where they treat women as gifts that you buy. We’ll blame those stupid lyrics on Bernie Taupin, who was too coked out to be worth a damn by this time. [spoiler alert – he has another poorly worded tune further up the charts].
At least it sounds like George Michael & Elton are having fun, especially as they do a call out to some of the great ladies of the day. George gets two callbacks – one for Doris Day, who he mentions in Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and Kiki Dee, who sang Don’t Go Breaking My Heart with Elton in 1976. And she sings back up on this song too. Elton gets a nice callback with Billie Jean King. He wrote Philadelphia Freedom with her tennis team in mind and tribute to.
Probably no one in the US knew who Samantha Fox was, and that’s a dubious callout, George. The full group of ladies is mentioned on the album version and might be the only song ever to include shout outs to Linda Lovelace, Superwoman, and Nancy Reagan.
32. Lionel Richie – Say You Say Me
RAR – You know, I had a dream once. An awesome one. But it’s probably too explicit to talk about, though it did include playing games in the dark. This single from the film White Nights, which will not be on the soundtrack for some reason, will spend a month at #1 and win a Best Song Oscar.
31. Eurythmics & Aretha Franklin – Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves
PFK – This will be the first of three duets that Aretha will record with White British artists and have success within the 80s. It was offered to Tina Turner, who was unavailable, so the Queen graced the song with her presence instead. It also features three Heartbreakers as the band – Mike Campbell, Stan Lynch & Benmont Tench. And it will strut its way up to #18 as well as top out at #9 in the UK.
30. The Hooters – And We Danced
Coming off of a Live Aid performance watched by millions, The Hooters finally started to have some chart success as their first Top 40 single is doing the Carlton all the way up to #21.
29. Ready For The World – Oh Sheila
PD – I think it’s hilarious that people used to or still think this former #1 is a Prince song. Do you believe in a million years he would write a lyric such as I want to di a di da li, a di da li da loo? Prince burped songs like this out daily, and he probably didn’t even record most of them.
28. Sting – Fortress Around Your Heart
Gordo is about to have another Top 10 with this track from The Dream Of Blue Turtles, supposedly inspired by the breakup of his first marriage. It’s also one of my favorites of his. Sting has had a longer second marriage, presumably because he’s learned to touch her during sex.
He’s a hard man to find. But not hard enough.
27. Paul Young – I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down
Paul’s playhouse is tumbling down the charts after a high of #13. His 80s re-working of the Ann Peebles Hi-Records recording is very different from the original. Graham Parker & the Rumour also recorded a version on their 1977 LP, Stick To Me. The UK band Stone Foundation recorded it earlier this year as a duet with Graham Parker with Paul Weller on piano. I love em all!
26. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – So In Love
OMD finally crosses into the Top 40 with the first of four US hits for them, though it’s at its peak this week. The song’s success paved the way for the band to record a song for the next John Hughes movie called Pretty In Pink. If You Leave became their biggest charting hit.
I wore out the album Crush, on my Walkman. I even tried to pass off Woman III as my own in poetry class until some new wave punk outed me. At least he had good taste. Also, the song 88 Seconds in Greensboro is worth a revisit during our current political climate.
25. Scritti Politti – Perfect Way
OHW – More synth-pop that deserves its post, so one is forthcoming.
24. Eddie Murphy – Party All The Time
THW – Scoff all you want at this Rick James-produced hit. If this recording session never happens, then neither does this.
23. Klymaxx – I Miss You
RAR – Klymaxx was the first all-female, all African-American band to play their own instruments to hit the Top 40. That they did it with a sappy ballad from their fourth album is not the point. It’s just amazing that it happened at all. Don’t think so? Name the second band to achieve this feat.
22. Simple Minds – Alive & Kicking
Here’s another group who benefitted from a John Hughes movie soundtrack. They used it to springboard them into further prosperity. The first single from Once Upon A Time, another cassette I wore down to the nubs, is climbing up to a #3 zenith. Also, it’s pronounced sample moynds.
21. Olivia Newton-John – Soul Kiss
Livvy took four years to record a studio follow-up to her Physical LP. If you thought that album was forward, this one is like soft porn. Did the album come with a cigarette for afterward? This will be her last Top 40 hit.
Fun fact: Katey Sagal, at the time, still trying to pursue a music career, sings back up. Within a year and a half from this song’s peak, she’ll begin a ten-year career playing Peg Bundy on Married…With Children.
- OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
- THW – Two-Hit-Wonder
- ML – Misheard Lyrics
- PD – Previously Discussed
- PFK – Perfect for Karaoke
- RAR – Rite-Aid Rock
- SXMFU – A Sirius XM mistake
- STA – Second Time Around