All This Time

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(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. 

13 thoughts on “All This Time

  1. I was not expecting to be reminded of something I wanted to hear … but yes, “Deeper Shade of Soul” is a great piece of work.
    In fact, I will admit to owning (on deep discount, from a used bin) the Urban Dance Squad’s first album, Mental Floss For The Globe, which I haven’t spun in a while but which I remember as not at all bad.
    (The follow-up single “No Kid” also has a wonderful groove, but buyer beware: If you look for it on YouTube, you want the “acoustic” version, which starts with a sound something like a Dobro strung with rubber bands. A much less funky “electric” version also exists.)

  2. Wesley

    This countdown isn’t as bad as I feared, or at least your assessment of it stresses the best, jb. The live remakes medley is an inspired idea, and there are a few hits I’d forgotten that I like, including “I’ve Been Thinking About You” and “Sadeness Part I.” But man, seeing Chicago and Bad Company have their last top 40 hits with titles alone that sound generic is depressing for a 70s kid like me.

  3. Alvaro Leos

    Personally my fave of this show’s songs is either Surface’s gorgeously sentimental “The First Time” or Tevin Campbell’s Jackson5-meets-Prince “Round and Round” (which makes sense since Prince wrote and produced it).
    Lotta oddball hits, whether it’s Whitney’s national anthem, “Sadeness”, Chris Isaak’s 30 years out of time “Wicked Game”, and Gerardo’s “Rico Suave” which occupies the same “so awful it verges on brilliant” shelf as “Run Joey Run”.

  4. Jake

    This is right around when I started actively following the charts and watching MTV (at friends houses since my parents wouldn’t spring for cable for two more years). I have no recollection of the Chicago or Bad Company songs at all, but the rest are pretty well burned into my memory banks.

  5. Actually, I’ll go with “All This Time” as the best thing on the show. For a Sting song that reach the middle reaches of the top 10, it has completely vanished down the musical memory hole that has swallowed up SO MANY early ’90s hits. But, for me, this is the second-best thing Sting ever did post-Police, after “Fortress Around Your Heart.”

    1. Jake

      It is a great song. I’ve often wondered why nothing from the 1988 to about 1993 top 40 era gets regular airplay these days? I have a theory that the dominance of genres that disappeared (Freestyle and teen bubblegum) sort of created a vacuum that sucked everything but a few songs down with it.

      1. Chris Herman

        I don’t know if this is still the case now but back in the 00s, radio programmers strictly followed the rule that airplay for an artist and/or specific genre had to be limited to three songs. That’s why many songs that were big hits still got culled from radio station playlists.

        As for the AT 40 chart from March 1991, it’s further evidence of the increasing mitosisizing of popular music that’s still going on to this day. The Rock audience, for example, was subdivided among Classic Rock, Contemporary Hard Rock, Metal (which was in the process of further balkanizing into Glam, Speed, Funk, neo-Psychedelic, and Hip-Hop), and Alternative (which would break big with the release of Nirvana’s “Never Mind” and Pearl Jam’s “10” later that year). It’s not surprising if people who were around 1991 have little to no memory of a significant number of songs that were on the AT 40 chart since there wasn’t much overlap between the audiences for each niche of popular music.

  6. mackdaddyg

    Such a weird mix of songs I remember along with a bunch that I don’t recall in the least bit. I guess this was when top 40 was starting to lose its way with me.

    Having said that, I have very fond memories of “Deeper Shade of Soul.” I watched that video everytime it came on MTV during my college years. Cool song.

  7. Thanks, everybody, for your comments on this. I am told that from a research standpoint, music from the 90s tests less well than music from the 70s and 80s, even among people who grew up in the 90s. Maybe that’s got something to do with the relative familiarity of it, as Chris noted in his comment about fragmenting formats—there were simply fewer mass-appeal hits in that era, and stuff from earlier decades overshadowed them even then? Could be.

    Related development: our local oldies station (owned by Entercom) did a 90s weekend last month, and the very idea made me want to jump out my office window.

  8. mackdaddyg

    Just another follow up to “Deeper Shade of Soul.”

    It’s actually a cover/sample (not sure what you’d call it specifically) of a Ray Barretto song with the same name and hook:

    I learned this at a site that I just found out about called “The Originals Project” which lists the original versions of many songs. It’s an interesting rabbit hole:

    http://www.originalsproject.us/index_songs.html?a

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