End of the Line

(Pictured: Charlie T. and Lucky Wilbury.)

After listening to the Shadoe Stevens-hosted American Top 40 show from April 8, 1989, it’s now time to see what was outside the Top 40 in that same week.

42. “Soldier of Love”/Donny Osmond. I am not sure anybody foresaw the 1989 Donny Osmond comeback; he hadn’t charted since 1977, and he hadn’t made the Top 10 since “The Twelfth of Never” in 1973. But “Soldier of Love” would go all the way to #2 on the Hot 100. The video, featuring leather-clad, lip-curling Donny intercut with hot babes dancing, is most of the 80s in four minutes.

47. “Wind Beneath My Wings”/Bette Midler. This song was hugely popular for several years after its 1989 run to #1, a period during which The Mrs. and I were wedding-reception DJs. We enjoyed it a lot; the guy who owned the equipment did the setting-up and the tearing-down, so all we had to do was show up and run the party. I felt like we were pretty good at it; my radio background made me conscious of the need to actually put on a show, instead of just segueing songs one after the other, which is what I often hear when I’m attending a DJ’d party today. But back in that day, “Wind Beneath My Wings” was a popular choice for father/daughter dances, during which Dad, reared on sock-hop music from the 60s and 70s, tried to sway along with his girl at a tempo too lugubrious for dancing. Bette’s version is the most famous, but neither the first nor the best; it should not surprise you that Lou Rawls did it very well.

54. “Let the River Run”/Carly Simon. In the early 00s, the software company I worked for adopted “Let the River Run” as some kind of anthem, and I believe they even paid Carly Simon to appear at a corporate event, or in videos, or something. I don’t remember the details. By the time that happened, I had ceased to care about anything that wasn’t my immediate responsibility, and very little about much of that.

58. “Hearts on Fire”/Steve Winwood. The Roll With It album hit #1 in the States, and the title song was a #1 single. But apart from “Roll With It” and “Don’t You Know What the Night Can Do,” the rest of the album is a blur. The songs all sound pretty much the same to me, and whenever it pops up on shuffle, I’m usually ready for it to be over long before it’s over.

62. “It’s Only Love”/Simply Red. This band’s American singles discography is feast-or-famine. They hit the Hot 100 seven times betwen 1986 and 1992. Two of those went to #1: “Holding Back the Years” in 1986 and “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” in 1989. Three other singles stalled in the 20s, and two, including “It’s Only Love,” missed the Top 40 altogether.

87. “Come Out Fighting”/Easterhouse. This band had some success in England, but by the time “Come Out Fighting” was released in the States, its original lineup was down to the lead singer alone. The song would spend four weeks on the chart, peaking at #84 despite being pretty good.

88. “Baby Baby”/Eighth Wonder. This British group was more successful in continental Europe and Japan than in either their homeland or the United States. “Cross My Heart” had run to #56 in 16 weeks on the Hot 100 earlier in 1989; “Baby Baby” would peak at #84. Both of them sound more like Madonna than Madonna.

91. “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”/Figures on a Beach. I was today years old when I learned about the existence of this cover of the Bachman-Turner Overdrive original. I think I was a marginally happier person when I didn’t know about it.

95. “End of the Line”/Traveling Wilburys. This and Roy Orbison’s “You Got It” up at #12 are outliers on this chart, throwing back to the roots of rock ‘n’ roll and the stars who built it. The balance of the hits of April 8, 1989, put a listener in 2020 much more in mind of pop music’s future than its past. I didn’t hear most of it at the time it was popular. I would learn about it in retrospect when I got out of elevator music and back into mainstream adult contemporary in 1990, but I didn’t love much of it.

The Way Up

(Pictured: Stevie Nicks in ’86.)

During the week of February 22, 1986, the Philippines’ People Power Revolution forced President Ferdinand Marcos from office in favor of Corazon Aquino. Also that week, future professional basketball player Rajan Rondo was born and hockey star Jacques Plante died. At the end of the week, Swedish prime minister Olof Palme was assassinated, a murder that remains unsolved today. Return with us now to that week to see what was happening below the Top 40 featured in a recent American Top 40 post.

43. “Goodbye Is Forever”/Arcadia. How many different Duran Duran spinoffs were there, anyway? And does anybody remember any of them now?

44. “No Easy Way Out”/Robert Tepper. The original cue sheet for the 2/22/86 AT40 show includes the text of promos Casey voiced to run the week before it aired. Two of the four promos mention potential new songs on the chart, name-checking Tepper and “No Easy Way Out,” a weird choice given that nobody outside of his family would have had the slightest idea who Robert Tepper was at that moment. “No Easy Way Out” was from the Rocky IV soundtrack, which had two singles on the chart already, “Burning Heart” by Survivor (at #9 in this week) and “Living in America” by James Brown (at #5). (The “No Easy Way Out” video wasn’t intended to be funny in 1986, but it’s hilarious now.)

51. “The Super Bowl Shuffle”/Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew. This is down from its chart peak of #41 the week before. There are only 11 listings for the song at ARSA, all but one from Chicago. WLS had the song at #1 for the week before the Super Bowl in January; their FM sister, Z95, listed it at #1 for four weeks in January and February and two more weeks in the Top 10 after that. My station’s programming syndicator never added it, but I seem to recall that we got a promo copy somehow—or maybe I went to the record store and bought it. We were in Illinois and a plurality of the students at the local state university were from the Chicago area, so we had to play it.

52. “Kiss”/Prince and the Revolution
60. “I Can’t Wait”/Stevie Nicks
These are the two highest debuts of the week. “Kiss” would hit #1. “I Can’t Wait” would eventually top out at #16, and its shiny 80s production makes it sound as dated as ragtime.

56. “Live Is Life”/Opus. “Live Is Life” is a triumph for catchy-but-brain-dead simplicity.

57. “Addicted to Love”/Robert Palmer
79. “Your Love”/The Outfield
80. “Something About You”/Level 42
95. “What Have You Done for Me Lately”/Janet Jackson
Some big, iconic hits, on the way up.

61. “Somewhere”/Barbra Streisand. On the 2/22/86 AT40, Casey took note of a new entry in the Book of Records. With The Broadway Album, Barbra had set a new record for longest time between #1 albums—22 years—breaking a mark Frank Sinatra had held since 1966.

67. “Caravan of Love”/Isley Jasper Isley
71. “Secret”/OMD
There’s a whole list of records that got on my station for only a few weeks but never entirely left my head. OMD released two of them in 1986: “Secret” and “Forever (Live and Die).” “Caravan of Love,” meanwhile, is completely in the pocket for 1986 but a nice throwback to the glory days of soul music at the same time.

75. “The Power of Love”/Jennifer Rush. A number of people have opened up the firehose on this song, including Celine Dion (who took it to #1 in 1994), Air Supply, and Laura Branigan. But this is the original, which was #1 in the UK and many other countries around the world in 1985. It would get to #57 on the Hot 100.

77. “Lying”/Peter Frampton. “Lying” was Frampton’s first Hot 100 hit since “I Can’t Stand It No More” in 1979, and would be his last one to date, although he would make what Billboard now calls its Mainstream Rock chart as late as 1994.

Thanks to social media, I have recently reconnected with my partner on the morning radio show I was doing in 1986. After I left the station at the end of the year, Mitch continued his career as a news reporter for a few years, but he eventually got out of radio and is now a teacher, author, and coach in his home state of Michigan. We were thrown into a partnership by circumstance, but we were both willing to make it work, and by the summer of 1986, we would develop some chemistry, which we did on our own, because we got no coaching or critique from anybody.

I don’t have any tapes of our show, which is almost certainly a good thing.

The Fun

(Pictured: Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.)

After looking at the American Top 40 show from the week of February 21, 1976, here’s our usual dive into what was below the Top 40 in that same week.

42. “Paloma Blanca”/George Baker Selection
58. “Let Your Love Flow”/Bellamy Brothers
59. “Fly Away”/John Denver and Olivia Newton-John
73. “Since I Fell for You”/Charlie Rich
75. “You’ll Lose a Good Thing”/Freddy Fender
94. “Texas”/Charlie Daniels Band
100. “The Call”/Anne Murray
109. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”/Terry Bradshaw
There’s quite the country smorgasbord here. “Paloma Blanca” would peak at #33 on the Billboard country chart during the week of February 28, and its country chart performance kept it bubbling just outside the Top 40 of the Hot 100 for several weeks after it had run to #26 earlier in the winter. Terry Bradshaw, whose day job was quarterbacking the Pittsburgh Steelers, made three albums between 1976 and 1981. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” which you could easily mistake for Glen Campbell, is better than it ought to be. It went to #17 on the Billboard country chart and #91 on the Hot 100. And although Denver, ONJ, Rich, and Fender were important country crossover brand names of the moment and “Let Your Love Flow” would get to #1, their popularity and influence paled in comparison to another group of stars.

47. “Good Hearted Woman”/Waylon and Willie
69. “Remember Me”/Willie Nelson
Willie’s 1975 album Red Headed Stranger and its single “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain” (which was originally backed with “Remember Me”) made a superstar of him after more than a decade as a well-kept secret. It also made the Nashville machine realize, after several years of looking the other way, that some of the industry’s more independent-minded artists were bankable after all. There followed the compilation album Wanted! The Outlaws, which featured Jessi Colter (who was Mrs. Waylon Jennings at the time) and Tompall Glaser in addition to Waylon and Willie, and it became a genre-defying smash. Wanted! The Outlaws went to #10 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and was the first country album to be certified platinum after the RIAA created that certification. (It was also one of the first albums of any sort to be issued on CD, according to Wikipedia, so who the hell knows.) “Good Hearted Woman,” which is stomp and yee-haw in the best possible way, did three weeks at #1 on the Billboard country chart and rose to #25 on the Hot 100.

(The 2013 book Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville by Michael Streissguth is strongly recommended if you’re interested in those people or this era.)

64. “Love Me Tonight”/Head East. Former Head East guitarist Mike Somerville, who wrote “Love Me Tonight” and “Never Been Any Reason,” died last week after a long illness. The callous sexism of “Love Me Tonight” is hard to get past—“It really don’t matter what your name is,” the singer says to the groupie he’s about to bed—but its easy-rockin’ vibe is hard to resist.

72. “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”/Creedence Clearwater Revival. This is four minutes of the 11-minute original found on Cosmo’s Factory, released as a single to help promote the CCR compilation Chronicle Volume 1. It would peak at #43.

78. “Locomotive Breath”/Jethro Tull. Here’s another reissue of an old song, which contains the line “the all-time winner has got him by the balls.” This wouldn’t fly on some radio stations. I have heard a version that turns it into “got him by the fun,” with a substitution of “fun” from the earlier line, “his woman and his best friend, in bed and having fun.” Points for ingenuity at least.

87. “Scotch on the Rocks”/Band of the Black Watch. In my earlier post about the hits of this week, I mentioned the large amount of novelty cheese in that season, and here’s more of it. We know little about the Band of the Black Watch, except that they were allegedly members of a Scottish military unit. I suspect that what is supposed to sound like bagpipes on “Scotch on the Rocks” isn’t really bagpipes at all, but after all this time I doubt it matters.

Further Recommended Reading: Time Is Tight: My Life, Note by Note by Booker T. Jones. Jones’ memoir jumps from year to year and incident to incident in a way that’s a little off-putting at first, but once you get used to it, the life that emerges is more impressive than the one that is described in the standard histories of Stax and Memphis. It made me feel even more fortunate to have seen Jones play live last summer.

Through a Frosted Window

(Pictured: Elton John, dressed conservatively by his standards, on Top of the Pops in 1972.)

Last week’s post about the American Top 40 show from December 16, 1972, is followed, as night follows the day, by a post about some of the bottom 60 songs on the chart in that same week.

42. “And You and I (Part 2)”/Yes
58. “Let It Rain”/Eric Clapton
71. “Woman to Woman”-“Midnight Rider”/Joe Cocker
74. “The Jean Genie”/David Bowie
75. “The Relay”/The Who
Just as the top of this week’s chart was full of great soul music, there’s lots of respectable English rock down below (and up at #20 with Jethro Tull and “Living in the Past” as well).

43. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Soul”/Grand Funk Railroad
67. “Good Time Sally”/Rare Earth
88. “One Way Out”/Allman Brothers Band
Respectable American rock, too.

45. “Why Can’t We Live Together”/Timmy Thomas
48. “Oh Babe What Would You Say”/Hurricane Smith
54. “Dancing in the Moonlight”/King Harvest
62. “The World Is a Ghetto”/War

85. “Cover of the Rolling Stone”/Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show
98. “Last Song”/Edward Bear
These songs are strongly associated in my head with the winter of 1973 and one particular image: looking out at the world through a frosted window. It’s not necessarily a school-bus window, although it could be. I heard these songs and other memorable ones every morning as the bus wound its way through the back roads of Clarno and Cadiz townships, WLS playing on the radio.

46. “Crocodile Rock”/Elton John
53. “Rocky Mountain High”/John Denver
A pair of future iconic hits on the way up. Elton was in his second week on the chart on his way to #1, Denver in his fourth on his way to #9.

52. “In Heaven There Is No Beer”/Clean Living. “In Heaven There Is No Beer” is a rock version of a song familiar to those of us who grew up in polka-band country. Back when I was doing a Top 40 morning show, I used to close my Friday shows with it.

63. “You’re a Lady”/Peter Skellern
79. “You’re a Lady”/Dawn Featuring Tony Orlando
Peter Skellern was a British singer and pianist whose success with “You’re a Lady” led to a long career in which he scored TV and radio programs, wrote for the stage, and even created some sacred choral pieces toward the end of his life. “You’re a Lady” was a #3 hit in the UK and reached #50 in the States. The Dawn cover got to #70 on the Hot 100; it was the first single from the Tie a Yellow Ribbon album, the title song of which would create an earthquake in the spring of 1973.

65. “Day and Night”/The Wackers. The liner notes to the Wackers’ album Shredder claim that members of Monty Python were on a Canadian tour and visited the studio while the album (which contains “Day and Night”) was being recorded in Montreal, but the Pythons didn’t tour Canada until 1973, so I dunno. “Day and Night” was a big hit in Canada but this was its Hot 100 peak.

68. “We Need Order”/Chi-Lites. “We Need Order” has the most confusing lyrics you’ll ever come across. I can’t figure out what the point is supposed to be, but it’s the Chi-Lites, so it sounds pretty good.

69. “Special Someone”/Heywoods. The Heywoods were from Cincinnati. They got their big break thanks to the Osmonds, who put them on as an opening act, which led to a record deal. As Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods, they would hit #1 with “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” in a couple of years. “Special Someone” had peaked at #64 during the week of December 9, 1972.

72. “Reelin’ and Rockin'”/Chuck Berry. This live version of a song Berry first recorded in 1957 was on The London Chuck Berry Sessions, and was released as the followup to “My Ding-a-Ling.” It’s immeasurably better, but it would have to be.

83. “I Just Want to Make Love to You”/Foghat
87. “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”/Slade
This chart also contains some English rockers not from the A list.

91. “You Can Do Magic”/Limmie and Family Cookin’. A group formed in Canton, Ohio, that was co-produced by Sandy Linzer, best known for a number of co-writing some Four Seasons hits, most famously “Working My Way Back to You.” Lead singer Limmie B. Good was still an adolescent when the group made its lone album, and in an era when pre-pubescent Donny Osmond and Michael Jackson became huge stars, you can’t blame a kid for trying. “You Can Do Magic” was a sizable hit in the UK but got only to #84 on the Hot 100, despite going to #1 at WKWK in Wheeling, West Virginia during Christmas week in 1972.

War and Tragedy and Prince and Bowie

(Pictured: David Bowie, avatar of humanity, on the set of Absolute Beginners, 1985.)

Last week I wrote about the American Top 40 show from December 15, 1984. Here’s some of what else was on the Hot 100 in that week. It’s an MTV glory days video-rama.

42. “I Would Die 4 U”/Prince
58. “Tonight”/David Bowie
69. “Blue Jean”/David Bowie
I started writing this post on January 10, the anniversary of David Bowie’s death. It’s been said that Bowie and Prince were the glue that kept the world from exploding, because after their deaths in 2016, everything seemed to go off the rails. Also, it seems to me that Bowie’s stature has actually increased since his death (more than Prince’s stature has), and I’ll say again what I said back then: I hope that Bowie had some idea, before he died, of how beloved he was.

50. “Method of Modern Love”/Hall and Oates. “Method of Modern Love” debuted on the Hot 100 at this relatively lofty position on December 15, 1984. It was not the highest debut of the week, however. That belonged to “I Would Die 4 U.”

45. “I Just Called to Say I Love You”/Stevie Wonder
51. “Solid”/Ashford and Simpson
62. “Hard Habit to Break”/Chicago
64. “The Heat Is On”/Glenn Frey
What was that I said in last week’s post about future pop and rock classics that would never be off the radio?

52. “Misled”/Kool and the Gang. This band had a long string of Top-20 singles in the 80s with one-word titles. “Joanna,” “Fresh,” and “Cherish” you remember. “Tonight,” “Misled,” “Emergency,” and “Victory,” not so much. Your local oldies station isn’t going to play them, but in the middle of the 80s, they were so radio-ready, and the band’s track record was so solid, that nobody was going to ignore them.

53. “Desert Moon”/Dennis DeYoung. Many of us have a place or places in our pasts that we never leave completely behind. The “Desert Moon” video scratched an itch I had in 1984 that I don’t have in precisely the same way today. (But I still have it.)

57. “Operator”/Midnight Star. I felt guilty about liking “Operator” back in 1985—it was not on-brand for my self-image at that moment— but 35 years later I un-self-consciously surrender to the groove and just get the hell down.

61. “Mistake #3″/Culture Club
72. “The War Song”/Culture Club
“The War Song” had gone to #17 in November 1984; nevertheless, I bet you don’t remember it beyond its opening lines: “War, war is stupid / And people are stupid.” There have been more stirring protest songs, and “The War Song” gets tiresome pretty fast. “Mistake #3,” which got to #33 on the Hot 100, is pleasant enough to make #33.

77. “Eat My Shorts”/Rick Dees. Dees may have been funny on the radio, but on records, he was not. “Disco Duck,” platinum-certified #1 single that it was, isn’t funny, although it desperately tried to be. The only thing funny about “Eat My Shorts” is the decision to make it in the style of an R&B love ballad. It was in its first of two weeks on the Hot 100 on December 15, 1984.

80. “Tragedy”/John Hunter. “Tragedy” is a record I’ve written about before, a lost classic, with one monster hook piled atop of another, and it deserved a far better fate than two weeks at #39, in February 1985.

88. “All Right Now”/Rod Stewart. Rod, honey, no.

95. “Sugar Don’t Bite”/Sam Harris. Competitive reality shows are thick on the ground the last two decades, but they go back to radio days, with Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts and Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour. A predecessor of the modern form was Star Search, which ran for 13 seasons, from 1983 through 1995. It was syndicated to local stations for all that time, frequently running on Saturday evenings before network primetime. Eleven of those seasons were hosted by Ed McMahon. Harris (whose “Sugar Don’t Bite” made #36 and was in its 14th and last week on the chart on 12/15/84) was the first to win the male vocalist category, although first-season vocal group winner Sawyer Brown and third-season junior female runner-up Tiffany had the best careers of the singers who came through the show.

By 1984, MTV was a big deal, and Ann and I, squarely in its demographic back then, watched it regularly. Rock videos had already developed their own grammar, and while that resulted in a certain sameness among a lot of them, it also made MTV a comfortable and familiar environment. I didn’t perceive it as competition for my radio station, not really. We were doing things they couldn’t do, every single day.

Miles Away

(Pictured: Nicolette Larson, 1979.)

Be sure to go back and read the comments on last week’s post about the American Top 40 show from December 16, 1978. Former AT40 staffer Scott Paton has favored us with stories about his contributions to that specific program and some other stuff he saw while working on AT40.

As we do, let’s look at some of what else was on the Hot 100 in that same week.

41. “Lotta Love”/Nicolette Larson. “Lotta Love” is a practically perfect record, and after it made #8 on the Hot 100 and #1 on Billboard‘s adult contemporary chart, a lot of people would have bet on Larson to become a superstar. But it didn’t work out that way despite her California country-rock cred, and she died young, only 45, in 1997. Bonus fact from Wikipedia (so who the hell knows): “In the late 1980s, she briefly dated ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic.”

42. “The Gambler”/Kenny Rogers. I did not have much use for “The Gambler” at the time it was a hit, but today I recognize how good it is. The gambler is a vividly drawn character in a vividly told story.

45. “Please Come Home for Christmas”/Eagles. I missed this last month when I wrote about Christmas songs on American Top 40, although I put an addendum in the comments of that post when I realized it. Short version: “Please Come Home for Christmas” appeared on AT40 on three January 1979 shows, undoubtedly wearing out its welcome by the last week.

47. “Hold Me, Touch Me”/Paul Stanley
61. “Radioactive”/Gene Simmons
In September 1978, the four members of KISS released solo albums on the same day, on the heels of two frenzied years of hype. It turned out to be a rather significant overreach. All four albums charted, but only Ace Frehley’s single “New York Groove” had any staying power beyond a couple of months.

53. “Home and Dry”/Gerry Rafferty
54. “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth”/Meat Loaf
Each of these was the third single from a highly successful album. “Home and Dry” is good, although there are better songs on City to City. “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” equaled the #39 Hot 100 placing of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” without being remotely as exhausting.

56. “You Needed Me”/Anne Murray. The power of “You Needed Me” is that it’s not explicitly about romantic love, which made it resonate with people in all sorts of personal relationships. It took time to build, making #1 in its 17th week on the Hot 100 and its 12th week in the Top 40 (November 4, 1978), and it spent six weeks among the nation’s Top 5.

65. “Miles Away”/Fotomaker. With Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli of the Rascals and Wally Bryson of the Raspberries, Fotomaker had plenty of ingredients for power-pop success, and the fact that they didn’t make it big wasn’t for lack of trying. They released two albums in 1978 alone. “Miles Away” was the bigger of their two chart singles, but it needed more Raspberry in it.

68. “Soul Man”/Blues Brothers. At first blush, the Blues Brothers seemed like a parody, and some people found it disrespectful. In the grooves, however, Briefcase Full of Blues is a fan’s love letter to classic R&B. If Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi seem like they want to actually be Sam and Dave, they were neither the first nor the last.

76. “Baby I’m Burnin'”/Dolly Parton. In 1978, people called this a disco record, and while it got a disco remix, the OG really isn’t that far out of step with other uptempo pop-country records of the time.

78. “Shattered”/Rolling Stones. In which the Stones summon up that good old-fashioned decadence one last time. They’d never seem quite so sleazy again.

79. “Dancin’ Shoes”/Nigel Olsson
90. “Dancin’ Shoes”/Faith Band
Olsson was Elton John’s longtime drummer. The Faith Band, from Indianapolis, was the group led by “Dancin’ Shoes” songwriter Carl Storie. Both versions debuted in this week. Olsson would get to #18; the Faith Band version, which would reach #54, is here.

83. “Shake Your Groove Thing”/Peaches and Herb
89. “I Will Survive”/Gloria Gaynor
Debuting together during that December week and soon to be inescapable.

86. “Free Me From My Freedom”-“Tie Me to a Tree (Handcuff Me)”/Bonnie Pointer. I am pretty sure I’d never heard “Free Me From My Freedom” before today, but dang, it’s tasty, even if the “handcuff me” bit comes off a little skeevy now. Whoever plays bass on it is doin’ some serious work.

In December 1978 and January 1979, the campus radio station was still running a Top 40 format. It’s where I first heard (and played) Fotomaker, the KISS solo stuff, Nicolette Larson, and the Blues Brothers, among others. Of all the facets of my education, that’s one of the most enduring.