(Pictured: Tina Turner in 1984.)
The mid-80s are Casey Kasem’s Imperial Period. American Top 40 is on hundreds of radio stations coast to coast and around the world, and Casey possesses The Most Famous Voice in America, even if, in his early 50s, he sometimes sounds like a friendly but out-of-touch dad trying to relate to his teenage daughter by telling her something he read in a magazine. Here’s some of what he was telling about on the show from September 1, 1984.
37. “There Goes My Baby”/Donna Summer
33. “I Just Called to Say I Love You”/Stevie Wonder
Casey does a feature on the Drifters’ “There Goes My Baby,” the first record of the rock ‘n’ roll era with strings, and he talks about Stevie’s 1973 car wreck and coma. Each of them is fine although they both go on too long, and they come awfully close together. Casey plays only nine songs in the first hour of the show.
32. “Panama”/Van Halen
26. “We’re Not Gonna Take It”/Twisted Sister
Exhibits A and B for what can happen when people take pop music too seriously. Twisted Sister wasn’t going to single-handedly corrupt American youth no matter what the Parents Music Resource Council claimed. Meanwhile, David Lee Roth’s hilariously stupid monologue in the middle of “Panama” (“I can barely see the road from the heat comin’ off”) makes me think that Van Halen was basically a novelty act that happened to include a generationally great guitarist. It’s as if Charlie Parker played in the Spike Jones Orchestra.
29. “Dancing in the Dark”/Bruce Springsteen
22. “Cover Me”/Bruce Springsteen
20. “Dynamite”/Jermaine Jackson
18. “State of Shock”/Jacksons
8. “Let’s Go Crazy”/Prince
5. “When Doves Cry”/Prince
Casey notes that three acts have two songs on the survey, crediting Jermaine for his return to the Jacksons on “Torture.” (He’s not on “State of Shock.”)
25. “Sad Songs (Say So Much)”/Elton John. Casey says Elton has hit the Top 40 for 15 consecutive years since 1970, trailing only Elvis, who did it for 22 years. Elton’s streak would eventually reach 30.
24. “Sexy Girl”/Glenn Frey. A man should not call a grown woman a girl, unless she’s his daughter. So that’s one strike against this record. And if Frey’s girl really is a girl, under the age of 18, that’s strike two. Strike three is repeating the phrase “sexy girl” maybe 50 times (estimate) in three minutes as if he were doing aversion therapy.
LDD: “Greatest American Hero (Believe It or Not)”/Joey Scarbury. Casey takes nearly two minutes to read a letter from a 17-year-old boy about four older women he used to work with at a toy store. The letter implies that they helped him grow up; unfortunately, it doesn’t say that they turned him into a man. Now that would be a letter worth reading.
17. “Rock Me Tonite”/Billy Squier
11. “The Warrior”/Scandal
10. “If Ever You’re in My Arms Again”/Peabo Bryson
One of these is the best record on the show, if it isn’t “Sad Songs (Say So Much),” or the one of the top two songs below.
13. “Lights Out”/Peter Wolf. Casey introduces this by correcting his previous week’s list of solo acts whose names are also animal names (“from Adam Ant to Eddie Rabbitt,” he says, which is making me cringe even without hearing it) to include Ronnie Dove.
9. “If This Is It”/Huey Lewis and the News. Which baseball fan Casey introduces by telling that Lewis and band sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the recent major league all-star game, and helpfully reports that the National League won the game 3-1.
7. “Sunglasses at Night/Corey Hart. Which Casey introduces with a story about aspiring songwriter Hart losing $200 while seated next to Carly Simon at a blackjack table. He hoped to sell her one of his songs. She hoped he was a better songwriter than blackjack player.
LDD: “Heartlight”/Neil Diamond. From a schoolteacher to her little brother, who was befriended by late New York Yankees catcher Thurman Munson, although what that’s got to do with the letter beyond name-dropping I couldn’t tell. A complete waste of time.
4. “Ghostbusters”/Ray Parker Jr. Down to #4 after three weeks at #1. Ghostbusters was still #2 at the box office after a whole summer in theaters, and the only people who hadn’t seen it by Labor Day weekend were either in monasteries, nursing homes, or jail.
2. “Missing You”/John Waite
1. “What’s Love Got to Do With It”/Tina Turner
Thirty-seven years on, I’m still playing “What’s Love Got to Do With It” on my radio shows maybe twice a week. When 80s music finally starts falling out of style, these two records, perfect in every way, will be among the last to go.