A Long Afterlife

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(Pictured: Julian Lennon with Dick Clark on American Bandstand, December 1984.)

Behold the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of January 26, 1985:

1.  “Like a Virgin”/Madonna
2.  “I Want to Know What Love Is”/Foreigner
3.  “You’re the Inspiration”/Chicago
4  “Easy Lover”/Philip Bailey and Phil Collins
5.  “Careless Whisper”/Wham
6.  “All I Need”/Jack Wagner
7.  “Run to You”/Bryan Adams
8.  “The Boys of Summer”/Don Henley
9.  “Loverboy”/Billy Ocean
10. “I Would Die 4 U”/Prince

That is pretty dang solid right there. The Foreigner, Chicago, Adams, and Henley records haven’t been off the radio a single day in 33 years, and even the ones you don’t hear so much anymore had a long afterlife, if not as long as those four. Casey Kasem counted ’em down on a recent American Top 40 repeat, and it made for a mighty entertaining show. Some other notes follow:

11.  “Born in the USA”/Bruce Springsteen. That Springsteen made this sound like a patriotic anthem, with those majestic, ringing chords and shouts of “Born in the USA,” was a remarkably subversive act, especially in the middle of the Reagan 80s. As brazen as the current White House crowd is, somebody’s liable to mistake it for what it isn’t any day now, and then claim that the plain meaning of the words on the page is wrong.

13.  “Neutron Dance”/Pointer Sisters. Sweet mama “Neutron Dance” still sounds hotter than hell to me. January 1985 was early in my days as program director of a Top 40 station, and I loved hearing it on my air.

17.  “Do They Know It’s Christmas”/Band Aid. Still on the air on a month after Christmas and as welcome as stale fruitcake. This edition of AT40 aired during the same week that a gaggle of American stars assembled to record “We Are the World.”

18.  “Cool It Now” and 35. “Mr. Telephone Man”/New Edition. In 1985, hip-hop was still several years away from conquering the world, but the new jack swing of “Cool It Now” helped point the way. On the other hand, “Mr. Telephone Man,” produced by Ray Parker Jr., points in the opposite direction.

24.  “Sea of Love” and 39. “Rockin’ at Midnight”/Honeydrippers. “Sea of Love” became a Top-10 hit on sheer oddity value; “Rockin’ at Midnight” wasn’t going to match it, although it did prompt Casey to name-check Louis Jordan and other jump blues stars of the 1940s.

28.  “Valotte”/Julian Lennon. I don’t know how I missed knowing this, either back in the day or in all the years since, but according to Casey, the “Valotte” video was one of the last projects of ultra-violent film director Sam Peckinpah before his death in December 1984. Peckinpah also directed Julian’s “Too Late for Goodbyes” video.

32.  “Money Changes Everything”/Cyndi Lauper. Casey says that while several male acts have scored five Top 40 hits from a single album, Lauper becomes the first female to do so with “Money Changes Everything,” but holy smokes, it’s just awful. What Cyndi was going for with that alternately slurred and grating vocal I cannot imagine, and the production—first-generation Moog synthesizer and somebody beating the living hell out of a drum—gives me a headache.

33.  “California Girls”/David Lee Roth. This song and its iconic video became the epitome of Top 40 hipness by the early spring of 1985. I liked hearing it on my air because people thought it was cool, and if it was on my air, it made me seem cool by association. (This is precisely how you think when you’re not cool.)

36.  “Mistake No. 3″/Culture Club. Until I heard it on this show, I had almost entirely forgotten “Mistake No. 3,” a ballad after Culture Club’s long string of uptempo records. It wasn’t a big success.

38.  “In Neon”/Elton John. “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” and “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” had been big hits in 1984 and “Nikita” would do big business later in 1985. But Elton’s singles were stiffing more often than they used to, and “In Neon,” which peaked at #38, is nothing special.

While counting down the Top 10 during this show, Casey paused for a feature on 50s crooner Johnnie Ray, the first singer to top both the pop and soul charts with the same record, his 1952 hit “Cry.” Casey played a clip from the song, and as I marveled at the change in styles from 1952 to 1985, I did the math. In 1985, it was as far back to 1952 as it is from 2018 back to 1985. It doesn’t seem like styles have changed as much in the latter period of time as they did between 1952 and 1985, but perhaps you and I aren’t the ones to judge.

3 thoughts on “A Long Afterlife

  1. spinetingler

    This ATF shows exactly why I stopped listening to commercial radio in the 80s. Maybe 4 songs in there I’d ever care to hear again (and none of them in the top 10). The Honeydrippers EP was far better than it had any business being.

  2. mackdaddyg

    For some reason “All I Need” slipped by me back then. I never heard it until it showed up on some tv record offer years later. When I first heard that clip, I thought the song was from the late 70s or early 80s. I was surprised it came out in 1985.

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