I Hear the Sound I Have to Follow

Embed from Getty Images

(Pictured: participants in Hands Across America try to span the Arizona desert on May 25, 1986.)

After listening to the American Top 40 show from April 26, 1986, earlier this week, here’s the usual look into the Bottom 60 of the same week to see what’s interesting.

44. “Crush on You”/The Jets. “Crush on You” takes four minutes to do not very much, but it was the first of five Top-10 hits the Jets would score in the next two years.

48. “Nothin’ at All”/Heart. Heart’s mid-80s comeback had so far consisted entirely of bombast: “What About Love,” “Never,” and “These Dreams.” “Nothin’ at All” was more like the rockin’ Heart of old. It would make the Top 10 like the others, but it didn’t get much radio play after it dropped off the charts. The video looks great, although much of the budget seems to have gone for hair styling, flowing scarves, and animal wrangling.

49. “Right Between the Eyes”/Wax. In 1981, singer, songwriter, and session man Andrew Gold (best known for the singles “Lonely Boy” and “Thank You for Being a Friend”) was invited to record with 10cc as the group worked to finish an album. Later, he was extended a formal invitation to join the band. He didn’t, but a couple of years later, he and Graham Gouldman, longtime 10cc member and a prolific songwriter, formed Wax, which recorded three studio albums in the late 80s and a fourth a decade later. “Right Between the Eyes” sounds great, and the video is directly in the mid-80s pocket, with Gold and Gouldman performing in front of random whimsical images, intercut with a pretty dancing girl and clips from silent movies and old TV shows.

57. “A Different Corner”/George Michael. This was the highest-debuting record on the Hot 100 in this week, and was the first single George Michael released under his own name, although two records credited to Wham would hit the American charts later in 1986. Your average adult-contemporary or oldies radio station is gonna play “Faith” 100 times before they play “A Different Corner” once, which don’t seem right.

69. “Hands Across America”/Voices of America. In retrospect, this seems like an incredibly strange thing: an attempt to create a human chain stretching  through 16 states from coast to coast to raise money to fight hunger in the United States. But at the time, a year after Live Aid and “We Are the World,” it had great appeal, and USA for Africa was instrumental in organizing it. It was announced with a Super Bowl TV ad in January, and on May 25, 1986, nearly five million people were said to have participated, including President and Mrs. Reagan. About $15 million supposedly went to charity, a lot of it from corporate sponsors, but it could have been more if people had actually paid the participation fee USA for Africa sought.

My radio station was involved in our local event, although I can’t recall many specifics. We were on the national route, but we couldn’t form hands across our own town, let alone join up with anyone else. Playing “Hands Across America” on our air was easier. It’s a power ballad featuring a couple of anonymous singers doing the leads backed by the New Jersey Mass Choir, with several members of Toto handling the instruments. It got a celebrity-studded video but didn’t have much radio appeal, topping out at #65 during the week of May 17.

There’s going to be an attempt to make a virtual human chain on social media for the 35th anniversary of Hands Across America on Tuesday, May 25 of this year, as a benefit to help the homeless. It will not have a song.

77. “Tuff Enuff”/Fabulous Thunderbirds
79. “Bop”/Dan Seals
Amidst all the English haircuts, proto-hip-hop records, and gated reverb came a blues-rock band from Texas with a highly unlikely hit, which would eventually make #10, and a #1 country hit by the erstwhile England Dan, which had stalled just outside the Top 40.

81. “Your Wildest Dreams”/Moody Blues. The Moodys had charted singles right along during the first half of the 80s and would continue to do so after 1986, but “Your Wildest Dreams” became the third and last Top 10 hit of their career, joining “Go Now” and “Nights in White Satin.” The video is one of my two or three favorites of all time, about the hold that love, memory, and music have on us, a subject that always has been directly in my wheelhouse: “When the music plays / I hear the sound / I have to follow.”

7 thoughts on “I Hear the Sound I Have to Follow

  1. ” . . . the hold that love, memory, and music have on us, a subject that always has been directly in my wheelhouse: ‘When the music plays / I hear the sound / I have to follow.’”

    My wheelhouse, too, as you know well. I, too, love the record and the video.

  2. spinetingler

    I was definitely not listening to commercial radio at this time, so all of these except the excellent Tough Enough, er, sorry Tuff Enuff may as well have never existed for me. We had TE on college radio as soon as it came out.

  3. Mind mildly blown: I just now found out (or was reminded) that “Your Wildest Dreams” was produced by Tony Visconti, best known to me for his collaborations with David Bowie on some of Bowie’s artier records.

  4. Alvaro Leos

    While we’re talking Country No.1’s this was the week Randy Travis’ “On The Other Hand” was released, a record that with it’s hardcore country sound would largely drive pop-country tracks off the charts and begin the “New Traditionlist” era.

  5. mikehagerty

    Amen on “A Different Corner”‘s relative lack of airplay.

    I was with a TV station (the ABC affiliate in Phoenix) that went all-in on “Hands Across America” and, having arrived just a month before, I got stuck with being out in the middle of God-knows-where (much of the state fits that description, I know) along an interstate highway putting together a piece that simply was going to look, feel and sound just like the other nine reporters stories from other parts of the state on that night’s news.

    Just the picture above gives me a dull ache around the temples.

  6. Wesley

    8 million-plus views on YouTube for “Right Between the Eyes” is rather astonishing given the song’s relatively poor performance in the US and UK, where it failed to go no higher than number 60. However, it did make number one in Spain and hit the top 30 in Ireland and the Netherlands, so that could help, although as I recall it had a pretty good run on MTV during a time when that channel actually played videos, which is probably its biggest factor for popularity. Along with a solid sound by all involved and Gold and Gouldman being photogenic, I’d add.

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