American Top 40 Flashback: August 31, 1985

The full chart:

For about the last year, I’ve developed a Sunday ritual of listening to the syndicated rebroadcasts of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 countdowns from the 70s and 80s. A list of stations that broadcast the programs can be found here ) I’ve been posting an open thread about the show on my Facebook page, and I thought I’d see if I could take the thread over here. I have a particular love for those songs that hit the top 40 but subsequently fell down our cultural memory hole: the flops, the middling follow-ups to iconic hits, and the should-be classics that don’t get airplay anymore. A word about my personal biases: I was born in 1982, so I really wasn’t around the first time these songs were released. I think my tastes are fairly eclectic, but listen mainly to a college/indie rock radio station and the rock/pop oldies station that this countdown airs on in my market, so I might not know if a song here still gets played on classic rock or rhythmic oldies-type stations, for instance.

How’s the chart overall?

If I had to define 1985 pop in a single word, it would be “spiky,” and here we get plenty of that vibe with Dead or Alive, Howard Jones, and others. 1985 is a bit of a comedown after the glory years of ’83 and ’84. This chart starts slow, has a very strong and continuously listenable middle section, and then a top-10 split about evenly between classics and stinkers. Overall, I give it a B.
Forgotten gems:

#29 – Godley and Creme, “Cry”

Probably most remembered for its video, which I believe I first encountered on “Beavis and Butt-Head.” A minimalist lyrics with epic production. This is the duo’s only top 40 hit outside of 10cc.

#11 – Phil Collins, “Don’t Lose My Number”

Yes, I’m a defender of mid-80s Phil Collins. This is the overlooked single from No Jacket Required.

#21 – DeBarge,“Who’s Holding Donna Now?”

DeBarge’s last top 40 hit made it to #6.

#25 – The Motels, “Shame”

The Motels’ third-biggest hit (peak: #21) isn’t as sublime as “Only the Lonely” but is still a welcome presence.

#16 – The Pointer Sisters, “Dare Me”

Justly forgotten:

#39 – John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, “C-I-T-Y”

Might as well be called “R-O-C-K in the C-I-T-Y.” “On the Dark Side” is pretty undeniable, as much as a Springsteen rip-off as it is, but this doesn’t manage the same trick.

#35 – Cock Robin, “When Your Heart Is Weak”

The lyric, “When your heart is weak/I’m gonna pick the lock on it” is almost as unfortunate as the band’s name. Cock Robin would continue to have success in continental Europe for a few years, but this week at #35 would be their peak on the American chart.

#38 – Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, “I Wonder If I Take You Home”

For my money, “All Cried Out” and “Head to Toe” are two of the worst top 10 hits of the decade; this song was just as incompetent but mercifully stalled out in the 30s.

Bubbling under this week:

Katrina and the Waves’ follow-up to “Walking on Sunshine,” which doesn’t suck noodles; one of those gloriously overheated Laura Branigan Euro-disco songs; Bowie and Jagger’s “Dancing in the Streets,” Oingo Boingo’s “Weird Science.”

Is the #1 song worthy?

Huey Lewis’ “Power of Love”: A qualified yes. Lewis is one of the laziest rhymers in the history of rock (here we get the immortal couplet, First time you feel it, it might make you sad/Next time you feel it it might make you mad), but here he strings together a few indelible moments. For the “all killer-no filler” version, check out Neil Cicierega’s “No Credit Card”

Is there a Rick Springfield song?



My top five: 
#10 – Dire Straits, “Money for Nothing”
#28 – a-ha, “Take On Me”
#32 – Bruce Springsteen, “Glory Days”
#23 – Madonna, “Dress You Up”
#3 – Aretha Franklin, “Freeway of Love”

Honorable mention: “Cry,” “Dare Me,” “Freedom,” “Shout,” “Don’t Lose My Number”