(Pictured: Kevin Cronin and Gary Richrath of REO Speedwagon, on stage at Live Aid in 1985. You forgot they played that show, didn’t you?)
I have written before about how off-putting I find Casey Kasem’s style on AT40 shows from the middle of the 1980s. He speaks at a noticeably slow pace, as if he’s always trying to stretch, and rather than just talking to the audience, he sounds like he’s announcing at them. He’s doing both on the show from February 23, 1985, but the music is good enough to make up for it, as we discovered in an earlier installment. More of the songs, with links to videos, are on the flip.
26. “Operator”/Midnight Star. “Operator” is not a hip-hop or rap record, but it seems to me to point the way toward those genres, which would take a hold on R&B within a few years that they have yet to relinquish. But I could be completely wrong.
25. “Rockin’ at Midnight”/Honeydrippers. If “Operator” pointed R&B’s way forward, “Rockin’ at Midnight” pointed to where R&B had come from, the jump-blues tradition of Louis Jordan, Wynonie Harris and suchlike, from 35 years before.
21. “Relax”/Frankie Goes to Hollywood. This record’s explicit lyrics got it banned by both the BBC and Top of the Pops before it hit in the States, but what offended me most about “Relax” was that it is, as the British might say, shite.
19. “You’re the Inspiration”/Chicago
15. “The Boys of Summer”/Don Henley
7. “The Heat Is On”/Glenn Frey
5. “I Want to Know What Love Is”/Foreigner You can say this about nearly every week of the 70s and 80s, but it was especially striking in this week: just how many iconic records were on the radio at the same time, songs that would stay on the air more-or-less continuously for 31 years and counting.
13. “Misled”/Kool and the Gang. On the opposite side of iconic, there’s Kool and the Gang’s string of singles with one-word titles released between 1984 and 1986 (“Joanna,” “Tonight,” “Fresh,” “Cherish,” “Emergency,” “Victory”), all of which sounded great on the radio but many of which were interchangeable. I could not have sung you a single line of “Misled” before I heard it the other day, and now that it’s been a few days, I can’t do it again.
11. “The Old Man Down the Road”/John Fogerty. Sounding like it could have been on “Cosmo’s Factory,” this has one of my all-time favorite videos.
10. “Sugar Walls”/Sheena Easton. See #21. “Sugar Walls” is is supposed to be sexy, I guess, although it’s built around a metaphor that only seems sexy if you’re 13 years old.
8. “California Girls”/David Lee Roth. Roth’s career makes a lot more sense if you think of him as a comedian instead of a singer. The video for “California Girls” is one of the most famous ever made.
6. “Neutron Dance”/Pointer Sisters. Classic Hollywood/MTV synergy in the video: the Pointers play sexy usherettes at a theater showing Beverly Hills Cop, where Bronson Pinchot (who played a different character in the movie) plays their boss. Video aside, “Neutron Dance” is a rager that sounded insanely great on the radio, and still does.
4. “Can’t Fight This Feeling”/REO Speedwagon. Some records you hear for the first time and think, “Sweet mama that’s awful, and it’s going to be an enormous hit.” “Can’t Fight This Feeling” was one of them. The video includes Kevin Cronin looking blankly into the middle distance as he sings, as if he’s thinking, “Sweet mama this is awful, but I’m going to have to sing it for the next 40 years.”
2. “Loverboy”/Billy Ocean. The riff on “Loverboy” will never make anybody’s list of best rock riffs, but it should.
1. “Careless Whisper”/Wham. Some records you hear for the first time and think, “That’s going straight to #1.” “Careless Whisper” was in its second week at the top on February 23, 1985, would stay for one more (knocked out by “Can’t Fight This Feeling”), and end up as Billboard‘s #1 single for all of 1985.
Programming Note: On Friday, for The 1976 Project, I’ll reboot one of my favorite posts in the history of this blog.