(Pictured: Wendy Wilson, Chynna Phillips, and Carnie Wilson.)
In the summer of 1990, I was doing adult-contemporary radio and had stopped listening to the Top 40 at all, so the American Top 40 show from August 4, 1990, hosted by Shadoe Stevens, contains a lot of music I’m not very familiar with. I usually listen to these shows in the car a little bit at a time and then write up my impressions afterward. This time, I decided to do a real-time live blog.
40. “Tic-Tac-Toe”/Kyper. The cue sheet for the show says that “Tic-Tac-Toe” contains content that “may be unacceptable for your station,” and offers instructions on how to seamlessly edit the song out of the show. You could also edit it because it’s awful.
A promo leading into a commercial break mentions that AT40 is provided to stations on CD and plugs Sony CD technology; the cue sheet says (punctuation theirs), “American Top 40 uses ‘hit disc CDs’ provided by Century 21 Programming, Inc.”
37. “Tonight”/New Kids on the Block
3o. “Step by Step/New Kids on the Block
Shadoe says he thinks “Tonight” sounds a bit like the Beatles, which is one way to describe it. I was thinking “mishmash of tempos and styles that would scare off a prog-rock band.” At least the former #1 “Step by Step” knows what it wants to be and sticks to it.
35. “Love and Emotion”/Stevie B. I am three segments into this show and the bass beats are wearing me out. It’s like being thrashed with a rubber hose.
33. “Poison”/Bell Biv Devoe. A few weeks back, Shadoe said that BBD was one of two acts who’d hit #1 on the black singles chart in two different configurations (BBD and New Edition) and that the only other acts to do the same were Parliament and Funkadelic. But a listener wrote in to say that members of Parliament and Funkadelic had also hit #1 black with Bootsy’s Rubber Band, and that the trio Isley-Jasper-Isley had all been to #1 black as members of the Isley Brothers. That’s a pretty good bit of research by a random listener, and a rather big fail for the AT40 research team to miss it.
32. “I Didn’t Want to Need You”/Heart. In which Ann and Nancy have to screech to be heard over guitars that are too loud and a rhythm section that is administering another rubber-hose beating.
31. “Pure”/Lightning Seeds. I am not sure if “Pure” is actually good, but compared to the rest of this hour it’s Mozart.
29. “Across the River”/Bruce Hornsby and the Range. It’s refreshing to hear some halfway-ambitious music for adults after an hour of mostly brainless product.
27. “Banned in the USA”/2 Live Crew. Based on Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” with his permission, “Banned in the USA” is 2 Live Crew’s response to the widespread censorship of their album Nasty As They Wanna Be. Shadoe had to play this crud for seven weeks.
23. “Release Me”/Wilson Phillips. “Release Me,” on the other hand, is fantastic. That “Hold On” (also on the show at #39) gets so much airplay 30 years later and this doesn’t ain’t right.
21. “Don’t Go Away Mad”/Motley Crue. By this point, I’m ready for every record to be terrible, so it’s a mild shock that this isn’t.
19. “Have You Seen Her”/MC Hammer. This cover of the Chi-Lites’ 1971 hit is one of the best things on the show, partly because the source material is so good, but also because it feels to me like Hammer legitimately respects it.
17. “Epic”/Faith No More. Given the rest of the stuff on this show, I get the appeal of a rap/metal hybrid, but I don’t condone it.
Shadoe flashes back to the Top Five from the same week in 1982: “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Hold Me,” Steve Miller’s “Abracadabra,” “Hurts So Good,” and “Eye of the Tiger.” And I have a new degree of respect for all of ’em.
13. “Hanky Panky”/Madonna. I’m out. I can’t listen to any more of this junk. Seriously, this is the worst AT40 I’ve ever heard.
The last hour has a couple of bits of interest, however. There’s Michael Bolton (“When I’m Back on My Feet Again”), who in 1990 had just embarked on a four-year streak during which he had six Top 10s on the Hot 100 and 12 AC Top 10s, including eight #1s. And it has Mariah Carey hitting #1 with “Vision of Love,” her first hit single and the opening act of a career that has featured 19 Hot 100 #1 hits to date.
Thank you for coming as far as we got on this journey. We may do something like it again, but probably not soon.