(Pictured: young Mariah Carey shows off.)
Last summer, by reader request, I wrote about an American Top 40 show from the Shadoe Stevens era. It didn’t go well. But I decided to risk another one, from the weekend of March 9, 1991. Notes follow.
39. “Chasin’ the Wind”/Chicago
20. “If You Needed Somebody”/Bad Company
The last Top 40 hit to date for both of these 70s superstars, but with power ballads this generic, does it matter whose name is on them?
36. “Cry for Help”/Rick Astley. After several dance records that wasted Astley’s incredible voice, here’s a song that finally does it justice. Why “Cry for Help” hasn’t been on the air continuously these last 30 years like other, lesser 90s hits, smarter people than I will have to explain.
33. “Baby Baby”/Amy Grant. Making its chart debut this week, this was one gigantic earworm in 1991, and now that I’ve heard it again, it still is.
32. “The Star-Spangled Banner”/Whitney Houston
LDD: “I’ll Be Loving You Forever”/New Kids on the Block
5. “Show Me the Way”/Styx
This show aired about a week after the Gulf War cease-fire, which ended a weird period in American psychohistory. Do you remember it? During those six weeks of war, we tried like hell to cleanse ourselves of Vietnam, not just the shame of having lost, but the fear that we hadn’t supported the Vietnam troops in a way they deserved. Even as jaded a liberal as I got caught up in it. “The Star-Spangled Banner” is Whitney’s famous Super Bowl XXV rendition, performed nine days after the war began, and it’s the record she was born to make. The LDD is from a girl on a stateside military base to her father in Saudi Arabia. And although Shadoe didn’t play it, there was a “Desert Storm mix” of “Show Me the Way,” which was sappy inspirational horseshit, but which also blew out the phones at radio stations like mine.
Observation: the imaging package AT40 was using at this time, jingles and music beds, is hideous.
28. “Deeper Shade of Soul”/Urban Dance Squad
25. “I’ll Do 4U”/Father MC
I’d never heard either of these before. “Deeper Shade of Soul” is really good, throwing back to the 60s with genuine respect. “I’ll Do 4U” is built on a sample of Cheryl Lynn’s 1979 disco hit “Got to Be Real,” and I liked it too.
23. “Sadeness Part 1″/Enigma. Shadoe reports on how “Sadeness Part 1,” which mixes religious chants with modern beats, has been condemned by churches across Europe. It’s a weird association, but it reminds me of “Jungle Fever,” the 1972 hit by the Chakachas: a mix of mostly unintelligible vocal sounds with an insistent rhythm track that’s on the cutting edge of the moment.
Shadoe plays a montage of the top five songs during this week in 1985: Madonna’s “Material Girl,” David Lee Roth’s “California Girls,” “The Heat Is On” by Glenn Frey, “Careless Whisper” by Wham, and the #1 song, “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon. So much 80s.
18. “I’ve Been Thinking About You”/Londonbeat
11. “Get Here”/Oleta Adams
10. “Wicked Game”/Chris Isaak
One of these is the best record on the show, unless it’s “Cry for Help” or “Deeper Shade of Soul.”
17. “Iesha”/Another Bad Creation. This, on the other hand, is the worst, badly rapped and/or sung over a beat constructed by somebody with no concept of Western rhythmic structures, but Shadoe introduces it by saying, “the hits just keep on comin’,” so I’ll allow it.
16. “Signs”/Tesla. A live remake of the Five Man Electrical Band hit, which Shadoe introduces with a medley of other live remakes that hit the Top 40: the Blues Brothers’ “Soul Man,” “I Do” by the J. Geils Band, the Hall and Oates 1986 Motown medley, George Benson’s “On Broadway,” Tom Petty’s “Needles and Pins” (extra points for digging up that one), Billy Idol’s “Mony Mony,” and “War” by Bruce Springsteen.
6. “All This Time”/Sting. Introduced with a long soundbite from Sting himself talking about why he didn’t package his new CD in a longbox. The “digipak” Sting touts in the clip had been around since the mid-80s, but record stores preferred the longbox because it fit in existing record racks.
1. “Someday”/Mariah Carey. Andy Gibb hit #1 with his first three singles in 1977 and 1978. With “Someday,” Mariah becomes the first woman to do it. Thirty years later, Mariah Carey has left Andy Gibb and everybody else in the dust with #1 hits in four different decades (thanks to the return of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” spilling into last January). No one has ever done that before.
Thanks to Adam, who sent me links to some Shadoe shows last summer. There are others, so we’ll do this again sometime.