(Pictured: the Pointer Sisters at the American Music Awards in January 1985.)
Following up on a post about the American Top 40 show from September 1, 1984, that date was the single most exciting day of my radio career: the day we switched the soft-rock FM station to Top 40. So many songs, inside the Top 40 and out of it, can still bring back that day and the days thereafter, because that’s one of the things songs can do. Here’s some of what was below the Top 40 on that date.
41. “I’m So Excited”/Pointer Sisters
71. “Jump (For My Love)”/Pointer Sisters
Four Pointer Sisters singles were released in 1984, and every one of them smokes: these two plus “Automatic,” which preceded them, and “Neutron Dance,” which followed them and ran the chart into 1985. “I’m So Excited” was on its second go-round; it had made #30 in 1982, but this remix would go all the way into the Top 10.
43. “Infatuation”/Rod Stewart
46. “Some Guys Have All the Luck”/Rod Stewart
Rod’s full strutting cocksman mode, as on “Infatuation,” is insufferable. “Some Guys Have All the Luck” is far more charming and relatable, but if I had my druthers I’d rather listen to “Mandolin Wind” again.
55. “Breakin’ . . . There’s No Stoppin’ Us”/Ollie and Jerry
95. “99 1/2″/Carole Lynn Townes
Ollie and Jerry had taken the title song from the movie Breakin’ to #1 on the dance chart and to #9 on the Hot 100 while “99 1/2” peaked at #77 on the big chart. Breakin’ isn’t as well-remembered now as the parody-worthy title of its sequel: Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo.
56. “On the Dark Side”/John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. Any resemblance to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band was probably not coincidental, from Cafferty’s echo-drenched soul shout to the presence in the band of a large, amiable sax player named Michael “Tunes” Antunes. I have mentioned that I got to interview Cafferty before a show in my small Illinois town; I also did a pre-concert phone interview with Antunes, who surprised me by coming off as a regular guy, at a time when I assumed that most rock musicians were not.
58. “The More You Live, the More You Love”/A Flock of Seagulls. I was, in general, left cold by the English bands that proliferated in the early days of MTV’s dominance. Previous singles by A Flock of Seagulls had done nothing for me until “The More You Live” came along. As I wrote in 2009, “It’s the one I’ve never been able to get out of my head. The lead guitar has a haunting urgency that’s clearly conveying something we’d better pay attention to.”
54. “The Last Time I Made Love”/Joyce Kennedy and Jeffrey Osborne
73. “Hold Me”/Teddy Pendergrass and Whitney Houston
Choose your flavor of tender, oh-so-80s R&B duet. “Hold Me” was the first hit Whitney Houston ever sang on, the summer before she released her debut album and ascended into the stratosphere. “The Last Time I Made Love” opens with a great soul-music line: “The first time I made love it wasn’t love at all.”
60. “The Only Flame in Town”/Elvis Costello and the Attractions. I have friends who are genuinely pained by the fact that I just don’t get Elvis Costello. The charm of what he’s doing eludes me. I respect his critical reputation and his body of work that spans nearly 50 years now, but I’d rather listen to quite literally anybody else.
83. “10-9-8″/Face to Face. On the morning of my radio station’s format change, I aired a series of countdown promos: “seven hours to go,” “six hours to go,” and so on, showcasing the hot hits we would be playing after we threw the switch at noon. But we were locked into a sequence provided by the company that syndicated our music, and so the first current-rotation song we played a few minutes after noon was “10-9-8.” It wasn’t exactly “Ghostbusters” or “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”
85. “On the Wings of a Nightingale”/Everly Brothers. Written by Paul McCartney and in its first week on the Hot 100, “On the Wings of a Nightingale” would peak at #50 in a 12-week run, although it made #9 on the adult-contempoary chart and even got a little country airplay.
96. “The Heart of Rock ‘n’ Roll”/Huey Lewis and the News. This was the first song we played on the new format. It was never going to be anything else.
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