Right Now

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(Pictured: Mariah Carey on MTV Unplugged 30 years ago today, if we can trust the Getty Images caption.)

The March 14, 1992, American Top 40 show I wrote about last week was from an era when the show used Billboard‘s Hot 100 Airplay chart as opposed to the regular Hot 100 (although they didn’t announce that on this particular show). Compared to the actual Hot 100 from the same week, there are some differences. Certain songs riding high on the Airplay chart were not doing nearly so well on the Hot 100. (The opposite was also true.) One example is “Make It Happen” by Mariah Carey, at #8 on Airplay while it sat at #20 on the Hot 100 in its fourth week on.

I didn’t have room for this observation in my earlier post, but I think “Make It Happen” is one of Mariah Carey’s greatest performances. I have always found her technically impressive but emotionally reserved—she rarely sounds spontaneous to me, like she’s always conscious of the fact that she’s putting on a performance, and I might even go so far as to say “curating a brand.” But on “Make It Happen” she cuts loose, and it feels real in a way that her records often do not.

What else is there to see on the Hot 100?

19. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”/Nirvana
37. “Too Legit to Quit”/MC Hammer
58. “Right Now”/Van Halen
63. “Live and Learn”/Joe Public

66. “Addams Groove”/Hammer
69. “Do Not Pass Me By”/Hammer
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Too Legit to Quit” were both missing from the Top 40 of the Airplay chart in this week. We were reaching the end of Peak Hammer (newly rechristened without the “MC,” a term that became uncool with remarkable speed, if you recall); the outgoing “Addams Groove” was the last of his five Top Tens. “Right Now” might represent Peak Van Hagar, although that’s probably due more to its famous video, which is far more memorable than the song itself. “Live and Learn” is in the Top 40 on the Airplay chart in this week, but it’s also in its first week on the regular Hot 100, making the week’s highest debut at #63.

44. “Stars”/Simply Red. This was my favorite song of the moment in the spring of 1992. The album of the same name is still in my all-time Top 10.

49. “Pride (In the Name of Love)”/Clivilles and Cole
51. “You Showed Me”/Salt ‘n Pepa

66. “Live and Let Die”/Guns ‘n Roses
Salt ‘n Pepa’s version of the Turtles’ “You Showed Me” was in the Top 40 of the Airplay chart in this week. They didn’t cover it as much as they sampled it, but as long as Gene Clark and Jim McGuinn got paid, I’m not mad about it. (Clark and McGuinn wrote it while they were still struggling folkies, and the Byrds would demo it but never finish it.) Other covers hitting in this week include “Pride,” which is not terrible, although probably not necessary either. Clivilles and Cole had taken “Gonna Make You Sweat” to #1 a year earlier as C + C Music Factory. And it’s not fair to compare anybody to Paul McCartney, even to one of his lesser hits, but GnR’s faithful-yet-lumbering cover of “Live and Let Die” is also unnecessary.

52. “Can’t Cry Hard Enough”/Williams Brothers. That’s Andy and David Williams, nephews of easy listening superstar Andy Williams. Eighteen years before, they appeared in an episode of The Partridge Family during its final season, playing a new act Reuben is managing, but they refuse to perform until they get a date with Laurie. Their version of “What’s Your Name,” originally recorded by Don and Juan in 1962, scraped into the Hot 100 a few months later, in the summer of 1974. But it didn’t result in teen-idoldom for Andy and David; although they made two albums at the time, they wouldn’t make another until 1987. “Can’t Cry Hard Enough” just missed the Billboard Top 40 although it made it to #29 in Cash Box; it rose to #11 on Billboard‘s adult-contemporary chart, and I played it on the radio a few times.

73. “Thought I’d Died and Gone to Heaven”/Bryan Adams
74. “There Will Never Be Another Tonight”/Bryan Adams
Like a number of artists on this chart, Bryan Adams is doubling (or tripling) up. Here in 2022, he released a new album just last week; it would be nice to think that adult-contemporary radio might play it, considering how much other Bryan Adams music is still in heavy rotations, but I’m not expecting it.

Thanks to all for the discourse on my earlier post about the 3/14/92 American Top 40. We are collectively making each other smarter, and in a world as dumb as this one, that’s no small thing.

4 thoughts on “Right Now

  1. “Can’t Cry Hard Enough” was one of my favorite singles of the day. The self-titled album from whence it came was all right, but their followup (and final record), 1993’s Harmony Hotel, has some gorgeous moments, the close-enough-for-Christmas ballad “Silver” in particular. (Notice the photo of the other Williams Brothers, the gospel group, where Andy and David should be, as well as the Roth-era shot for “Right Now”.)

    Favorite on the 100? Gotta go with “Move Any Mountain” (#46). It was big in clubs as an import (under its original title, “Pro>gen”) for at least a year before domestic release; your narrator duly brought home the CD single the day it hit our bins. And even if the “MC” designation fell out of favor, “Boom! I Got Your Boyfriend” (#68) is eternal.

  2. porky

    The Turtles’ “You Showed Me” was also sampled by De La Soul on “Transmitting Live From Mars,” a 1 minute and 12 second song. Turtles’ members sued the band and won a 1.7 million dollar settlement.

    An album called “Preflyte” was released with “You Showed Me” and other early Byrds songs. Some have called them demos but I’ve read they were actually practice sessions of these tunes, trying to hone their sound in the studio. Of course the industry, looking for “fresh blood” to release, put the album out when the group got famous. It’s probably my favorite album of theirs.

  3. Wesley

    Leaving Mariah Carey aside (which I’m happy to do, but I won’t belabor this), there’s some good stuff. “Live and Learn” is what a Gen Xer like me trying to be hip would call a “banger,” and of course “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is an all-time classic. On the other side, I think (MC) Hammer hastened his already fairly short career by doing “Addams Family Groove,” a rap novelty if there ever was one. The same thing happened to Will Smith’s musical career a few years later with the Wild Wild West theme thing or whatever it was called, but he was fortunate enough to have an acting career to fall back on.

  4. Alvaro Leos

    We could spend pages on the importance of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” but i’ll keep it shortish:
    –It topped Billboard’s Single Sales chart and went Top 10 on the Hot 100 and Radio & Records charts. Yet it didn’t spend a single week on “American Top 40” because it never got past No. 41 on the airplay charts.
    –It’s the most played song on rock radio…for the 2010s. Amazingly enough, EVERY one of the top 10 most played songs on rock radio is from the 1990s. (Nirvana has four of them.)

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