Top 5: Springtime in Miami

In early March 1986, spring was coming to Macomb, Illinois.

Despite my oft-repeated wisecrack that Macomb wasn’t the ends of the earth but you could see them from there, it wasn’t a bad place to live. And by 1986, it felt a lot like home. It was not a place you’d go to find natural beauty, but in the spring, there’s something genetic in the makeup of a farm boy, even one long gone from the farm, that makes spring-kissed Illinois flatlands look attractive. When the farmers began turning the soil for the first time, it came up so black and rich that if you tossed in a handful of gravel, flowers would grow. You could smell springtime in March, and I’m not even talking about the hog farms.

I was doing the morning show at a Top-4o station that year, and for the first time in my radio career, I felt a little like a star. But if my ego started getting too big, there was always the miscellaneous petty annoyances and/or outright drudgery of my program director’s job to puncture it. And in that particular early spring, here’s some of what we were playing, from the Billboard Hot 100 dated March 8, 1986:

1. “Kyrie”/Mr. Mister (holding at 1). I’ve said before that Mr. Mister has become the punchline for bad ’80s music like Barry Manilow is the punchline for the ’70s, but I’ve never been particularly offended by “Kyrie.” And it was a great radio song, particularly in the car on a lovely spring day, driving too fast with the windows down.

14. “Rock Me Amadeus”/Falco (up from 29). The hottest record in the country that spring, and a record I hated with profound force and passion. If the Germans had won World War II, every record in the ’80s would have sounded like this. All these years later, it can still take the chrome off a trailer hitch.

16. “Russians”/Sting (holding at 16). In which Sting beats us over the head with his fears of nuclear annihilation to the accompaniment of a lugubrious string section/synthesizer brigade and makes four minutes feel like half an hour.
“I hope the Russians love their children too.” Yeah, me too, and if they do, they won’t make them listen to this sort of thing.

24. “Let’s Go All the Way”/Sly Fox (up from 30). The spring of 1986 produced a bumper crop of strange one-shots—Falco, Baltimora, the Force MDs, Robert Tepper—and a few good one-shots, like Dream Academy and Charlie Sexton, whose “Beat’s So Lonely” we didn’t play in Macomb. “Let’s Go All the Way” is somewhere between strange and awesome. One member of Sly Fox had been in Parliament, but “Let’s Go All the Way” was so unclassifiable that it appealed to fans of all genres from funk to that ’80s catch-all “new rock.” And it was so ephemeral that the duo couldn’t figure out how to do it again.

30. “Conga”/Miami Sound Machine (down from 15). Given the popularity of this tune and the TV show Miami Vice at the same time, my partner and I decided that identifying with Miami was the key to success, and so for a week or two that spring, we called ourselves “Miami Mitch” and “Miami Jim,” and we read the weather forecast for Miami every morning. We almost certainly weren’t as funny as we thought we were, and not just with the Miami thing, but in general. But we attacked the mornings with all the exuberance we could manage for two guys who had to get up at 4AM, and who made maybe $25,000 a year between us.

“Let’s Go All the Way”/Sly Fox (Surprisingly, this tune is largely out of print. It’s available on this oddly programmed import compilation, but no place else that I can find.)

7 thoughts on “Top 5: Springtime in Miami

  1. Pete

    I never cared much for Rock Me Amadeus even back then, but I do think his original German version of Der Kommissar (made popular by one hit wonder After the Fire) is a great little piece of 80s new wave.

  2. Something about that Mr. Mister song appeals to me also – could I call it a guilty pleasure, or just the plain bold fact that it’s nicely written and sung?

    As for the others – not too keen on them, but early ’86 had other tracks that hit me pretty well like ‘This Could Be The Night’ by Loverboy (OK – now that’s a guilty pleasure), the Stones’ version of ‘Harlem Shuffle’ and ‘Living In America’ by James Brown.

    Can’t say enough about you putting up mention of Charlie Sexton – I must have played the 12″ version of ‘Beats So Lonely’ so often that my turntable was probably sick of it.

  3. PG

    Just found this blog….

    “Kyrie” is a fantastic pop song, even with a somewhat embarrasing bridge. However, I gotta take issue with the putdown of “Rock Me Amadeus” and “Russians”. “Rock Me Amadeus” is infectious Europop, though deadly if exposure exceeds 3 times a day (what was happening in March of ’86, I suppose). And “Russians” is beautiful, if pretentious. But I’ll take pretentious over painfully stupid (“Let’s Go All The Way”).

  4. Shark

    “Rock Me Amadeus,” “Let’s Go All the Way,” and “Russians” really sucked…especially being played in rotation 70 minutes apart on a Top 40 station. All was notlost, though, in March of 1986…we were playing “Addicted to Love” by Robert Palmer, “No Easy Way Out” by Robert Tepper, and “Harlem Shuffle” by the Rolling Stones. (Later, we would play “One Hit to the Body” from the Rolling Stones.)

    I, too, was guilty of incorporating “Miami Vice” into my radio show. I did a short parody called “Salami Slice” which had “moronic” written all over it. Hey, all anybody ever talked about in 1986 was the latest episode of “Miami Vice.”

  5. Pingback: One Day in Your Life: January 23, 1986 | The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

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