Learning That Life Is OK


A few days after Christmas in 1985, my dad was offered two tickets to the Giants game. It was their first home playoff game in decades, my first NFL game and it was against one of the best teams in the NFC, the 49ers. The Giants defense smothered Joe Montana & Roger Craig. It was an awesome victory on a great wintry Sunday. But since it meant we’d be driving through the city, all I cared about was the opportunity of getting the new Billboard magazine. I made my dad stop endless times on Manhattan street corners to ask newspaper salesman for a copy but to no avail. I decided right then to ask my parents for the money, gradually paying them back for that subscription. The issues started coming in the mail a few weeks later. Life would be OK.

Why am I bringing that up? Because most of these songs remind me of that time as they were in the Top 40 that day. My dad and I listened to Casey count them down on our way to the Meadowlands.

Now here’s the Top 20 from November 16th, 1985.

20. Loverboy – Lovin’ Every Minute Of It

If you close your eyes, focus and listen to this song, can you tell the difference between this and Pour Some Sugar On Me?

19. ZZ Top – Sleeping Bag

Once ZZ Top made the transition to drum machines towards a New Wave sound with Eliminator, it was interesting to see where they would take it with their new album, Afterburner. The answer? Nowhere. Hell, they even called the follow-up, Recycler.

This is on its way up to #8, matching the peak of Legs. Lyrically it’s hard to know if the song is a metaphor for condoms or an advertisement for Coleman.

18. Arcadia – Election Day

THW – Ever wonder what Duran Duran would sound like without any guitar edge or funky bass? Well then, here you go with this future Top 10. And what great timing – it was in the Top 40 during the week of Election Day here in the US. Unfortunately, there was nothing important for us to vote on.

17. Tina Turner – One Of The Living

One year ago, Tina capped off an incredible comeback with a #1. Since that time, she continued to build a successful solo career in entertainment including a starring role in the third Mad Max film, Beyond Thunderdome. This was her second single from the soundtrack and it’s two spots away from its high. It would win Tina a Best Female Rock Grammy and features one of the most hilarious sax solos I’ve ever heard.

16. Bryan Adams – One Night Love Affair

Bradams had six Top 20 hits from Reckless, such as this one dropping from #13. But so many of them sounded the same, they rarely get heard on radio anymore. One track usually covers it all.

15. David Foster – Love Theme From St. Elmo’s Fire (Instrumental)

OHW – Here’s a dude who first hit the Top 40 as the keyboardist in the band Skylark who had a #9 hit in 1973 called Wildflower. Since that time he became a well respected and successful producer, mostly with the band Chicago. This is his only Top 40 hit as a solo artist, a single released from the Brat Pack whinefest, St. Elmo’s Fire.

14. Whitney Houston – Saving All My Love For You

PD – I wonder how many couples played this at their wedding without realizing it was a cheating song. And when the line you got your family and they need you there comes up, is that when the newlyweds freeze on the dancefloor and have the DJ quickly change it to Every Breath You Take?

13. A-Ha – Take On Me

THW, PD – Who would have thought that the most enduring song in 2019 from this countdown would be Take On Me? It has been used in countless movies and TV shows and its video is approaching one billion views on YouTube. Maybe it’s the mine diamonds? [listen at your own peril]

12. Freddie Jackson – You Are My Lady

Now this is a newlywed first dance with no hidden agenda, just a lot of love and female appreciation from Mr. Freddie Jackson. It will be his biggest pop hit, currently resting at its zenith.

11. Aretha Franklin – Who’s Zoomin’ Who

I thought who’s on first. The Queen is about to get her second Top 10 hit with the title track from her 1985 LP.

10. Thompson Twins – Lay Your Hands On Me

This song was over a year old before it hit the US Top 10. How old was the song? It was recorded at the same time that Foreigner was recording I Want To Know What Love Is, which is why Tom Bailey sings backup on that track. Possibly inspired by their song, Tom and gang hired their own gospel choir for the re-recording of the album version when Nile Rodgers came onboard to produce.

9. ABC – Be Near Me

Half of this Top 10 features future, current or former #1s. This is not one of them but it’s the first Top 10 hit for ABC and a great rebound for the band. For some reason, their 1983 LP Beauty Stab bombed out. So they took some extra time to recharge, changed out some band members and voila- the biggest hit of their career, to date.

8. Heart – Never

Here’s another Holly Knight-penned track (also #17) which they will take up to #5 toning down the guitars and upping the synths chimes.

7. Mr. Mister – Broken Wings

The story goes that Richard Page, writer of this #1 hit, was sitting in a bar and someone played this song on the jukebox. The man, sitting next to Page was a few drinks in and says aloud, “Hey this song is a rip off of The Beatles’ song Blackbird. How dare they steal from the masters. Boy if I could ever meet the person who wrote this piece of crap….” wherein Richard turns to the guy and says, “What did you want to tell me?”

6. Phil Collins & Marilyn Martin – Separate Lives

This will go to #1 by the end of November. The song, written by Phil’s pal Stephen Bishop has an overblown dramatic 80s production. If you listen to Stephen sing it with just a guitar, his performance gets to the heart of that bittersweet feeling knowing someone you once loved has moved on from you when you have not.

5. Stevie Wonder – Part-Time Lover

This was Stevie’s last #1 to date with Luther Vandross on backing vocals. Another cheating song that relies on telephone signals before star 69, smartphones and do-not-call lists.

4. Tears For Fears – Head Over Heels

TFF slips from last week’s high of #3, a track from Songs From The Big Chair that I always crank when I hear it. A seemingly simple romantic song that goes incredibly south with the line it’s hard to be a man when there’s a gun in your hand. It makes you go back and ask why he wanted to be with you alone. Talk about the weather? Eh, it might be time to shout.

3. Jan Hammer – Miami Vice Theme

OHW – The man known as the synth whiz of the Mahavishnu Orchestra falls out of the top spot with the theme from Miami Vice. It’s an odd hit for an instrumental because it has no discernible melody to it. It’s all just substance and style…oh wait, now I get it.

2. Glenn Frey – You Belong To The City

Another track from the Miami Vice soundtrack and another solo track of Glenn’s that will just miss the top. If it makes him feel any better, Henley never made it this high.

1. Starship – We Built This City (1 wk at #1) 

And jumping up from #5, here’s Starship’s first #1, Jefferson or not. It’s also one of the most reviled hits from the 80s. The song truly benefitted from lots of MTV airtime. But why would a hip music channel play a song from rock dinosaurs? Because the DJ on the song was Les Garland, an executive at MTV, who then turned around and gave Grace Slick’s daughter, China Kantner a job as a VJ. Cause we built this city on favors and nepotism.


  • 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

One Reply to “Learning That Life Is OK”

  1. During one of my handful of gigs as a wedding musician, I played a wedding reception where “Saving All My Love For You” was the first dance, complete with vocals. Unbelievable as it may seem, I guess there is some portion of the pop audience that just doesn’t pay very much attention to lyrics.

    Liked by 1 person

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