I thought I was done with these 80s Top 40 countdowns. But we’re never done, are we? More than that, sitting on the couch hearing these songs in context brought me back to a particular place I tucked deep down somewhere somehow. I don’t know how, especially with my disdain for late 80s Pop radio, and I’m not a good enough writer to put it in words. But it hits enough of a sweet spot that I’m compelled to try.
So here’s the bottom of the Top 40 from January 14th, 1989. [Aside: This was the last week that Casey was in between shows as his Casey’s Top 40 would start next week. So Shadoe “Uff da” Stevens does the original honors here.]
40. Duran Duran – I Don’t Want Your Love
The further the band got away from Duranamania, the more I became a fan. By their 1988 album Big Thing, I was driven to see them live based on the album and this single, which has already peaked at #4. They were whittled down to just Simon, Nick, and John, and by 1990 and their next release Liberty, they wouldn’t hit the Top 40 at all. It’s one of my favorite albums of theirs.
39. Cheap Trick – Ghost Town
RAR – Finally, Cheap Trick had radio’s attention in the late 80s, and they had 4 Top hits between 1988 and 1990. This Diane Warren-penned ballad was the lowest placing of the four, spooking its way down from a #33 high.
38. Robbie Nevil – Back On Holiday
After a successful 1986/87 debut, Robbie’s back with the first single from his new LP, A Place Like This. I thought it was a better album, but the public did not agree with this 45 being the only hit, topping out at #34. Lenny Pickett plays the sax riff. Robbie had one more Top 40 hit in 1991 before going on Top 40 sabbatical.
37. New Kids On The Block – You Got It (The Right Stuff)
PD – This song is here to remind you that nothing’s perfect. In fact, it will always be rigged against you to suck.
36. When In Rome – The Promise
OHW – I caught you a delicious bass. Now let’s play some tetherball.
35. The Boys – Dial My Heart
THW – The Boys were four brothers who never scaled the heights of the Jackson 5, barely even the Sylvers. The first of their two Top 40 hits will hit #1 Soul and was written by Babyface, LA Reid, and Daryl Simmons, who also have songs by Sheena Easton & Karyn White on the charts. Their call will be answered at #13 before getting hung up on.
34. Breathe – How Can I Fall
RAR – Ladies, if you pour your heart out to a guy and you get “how can I fall when you just don’t give me reasons at all?” in response, kick him in the nuts.
33. U2 – Angel Of Harlem
And now for something completely different…here’s U2 in full R&B mode with the Memphis Horns and the Edge playing entire chords. With its references to Lady Day, Miles Davis & John Coltrane, and radio station WBLS, Bono pays homage to the jazz and R&B that he heard when he first visited the US. It is also not lost on me that the band member on their Harlem music tribute’s 45 sleeve is Adam Clayton.
32. Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians – What I Am
OHW – When this future Top 10 came out in late 1988, it sounded so good on the radio. Edie’s sweet voice cut through all the processed bullshit that was being churned out at that time. Sure it gets mocked for sounding like Popeye’s credo come to life, but it pre-dated all of the hippie-inspired 90s rock that has not held up as well as this does.
31. The Art Of Noise featuring Tom Jones – Kiss
THW – Tom Jones was still doing his Vegas in the 80s when the Art of Noise caught him one night and saw him do a version of Prince’s Kiss. Inspired by the thought of pairing with him, they recorded this cover for their upcoming Best Of collection, whose breakdown includes snippets of some of their 80s singles. I also dig that Steely Dan sample of Do It Again for the last verse. I wonder what Fagen and Becker thought when they heard that. It’s resting at its zenith this week.
30. Rick Astley – She Wants To Dance With Me
This will be Rick’s Fourth Top 10 single in a row. Will somebody stop this him? Maybe this guy can.
29. Will To Power – Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley
THW – I hate to use the word wreck when describing anything related to Skynyrd, but Jesus, this is a disaster. And it went to #1. The female vocals are an exercise on how white sing without soul and the male vocals are done by this guy. It’s as if the packed all of the remaining members of Skynyrd into a Convair C-240 and forced them to relive the night of October 20, 1977. Yeah, it’s that bad.
28. Information Society – Walking Away
We start our four-song alliteration set with the second big hit from Information Society’s debut featuring more Star Trek samples from Scotty and Captain Kirk. It will hit #9, and the band will only beam up one more Top 40 hit in 1992. The band missed out on a good collaboration package called the Wrath Of Chaka Khan – an album of Rufus covers.
27. Eddie Money – Walk On Water
After an almost stretch of trying to have consistent success, Eddie starting cranking out hit after hit. Nothing that bad, but nothing spectacular. they just existed, making Money money, with a life doomed to casino elevator speakers.
26. Maxi Priest – Wild World
RAR – After the surprise rise to UB40’s 1983 single Red Red Wine to #1, radio programmers were looking for another token reggae hit, something that sounds like the islands but glossy like candy. This is why we have Maxi Priest covering a Cat Stevens hit, a nice inoffensive dentist office jam, sitting at #26 after peaking last week one spot higher. Jah love!
25. Guns N Roses – Welcome To The Jungle
This is just a hunch, but I don’t think Axl Rose would make a good nurse.
24. Sheena Easton – The Lover In Me
PD – Sheena’s on the upswing with the second-biggest American hit of her career, a future #2, and the biggest during her Prince-corrupted-me period.
23. Samantha Fox – I Want To Have Some Fun
PFK – The song starts off “Don’t you know it’s hard to keep a good woman down?
But then again, maybe that could be fun.” Hooray for woman’s lib. Sam parlayed a topless model career as a sixteen-year-old (yes, you read that correctly) into three US Top 10 hits in the late 80s. Produced by Full Force, whose credits somehow only list busty female singers, it will top out at #8.
22. Tone Loc – Wild Thing
THW, PD – This will be the most successful single record by a hip-hop artist when Tone hits #2 next month. Biggest doesn’t always mean best.
21. Paula Abdul -Straight Up
PD – Paula is dancing up the charts with her first Top 40 hit and the beginning of three #1s in a row. That’ll make Aresnio smile.
20. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – Little Liar
Here’s a forgotten Top 20 gem from Joan Jett that she co-wrote with Desmond Child. I don’t remember radio playing it a lot back then, but I really dig it, and I’ll take this 100 times over the song the NFL ruined. It will be her eighth Top 40 hit (counting the Barbusters), moving up only one more notch.
- OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
- THW – Two-Hit-Wonder
- PD – Previously Discussed
- PFK – Perfect for Karaoke
- RAR – Rite-Aid Rock
- STA – Second Time Around
- SXMFU – Sirius XM Mistake