(Above: me, representing AM radio, circa 1985-86.)
In some ways, the Summer of ’85 was my last truly carefree summer. I know I’ve made a similar argument about 1988 in another piece, as that was the last time I had had a summer vacation at all until leaving the world of radio for teaching. But the summer of 1985 was the one that preceded my senior year of high school, and – thinking back on it – there was absolutely nothing to worry about at all. The college admissions game had yet to start. I had a job, sure – a low-stakes job pumping gas at a full-service Mobil station in Tinley Park, Illinois that cost me exactly no sleep over the prospects of advancement. (Aside: remember full-serve gas stations? We charged an extra 40 cents per gallon, and for that you got me cleaning your windshield and offering to look under the hood to check your oil.) No, that summer was about driving around, hanging out with friends, and listening to music.
I was – and still am – a musical anomaly. My musical taste has always run well-behind the current day’s offerings. But even in 1985 – perhaps especially then – I knew that if I was to have any sort of luck talking to girls, I’d probably better know what was popular then as opposed to twenty years before. The irony now is that there’s an awful lot on this chart that I’d turn up really loudly as the “retro” channel played it today.
To the charts we go. Among the highlights:
100. The Hooters – “All You Zombies.” Guilty pleasure alert right out of the gate: I like this one. Hell, I liked the Hooters debut album. Earlier that spring “And We Danced” was a huge hit. A friend misheard the opening lyric as “She was the B-side baby of ‘A Hard Day’s Night.'” That, of course, is “I Should Have Known Better,” making the phrase a great way to describe dating regret. I’d like to see it make a comeback.
93. Cheap Trick – “Tonight It’s You.” Making its debut this week, it would stall out at #44. It’s still a great record.
91. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Make It Better (Forget About Me).” A great track off of the Southern Accents LP, and another one that missed the Top 40. Earlier that summer we had seen Petty and ‘Til Tuesday in concert, and this was a showstopper.
82. Billy Crystal – “You Look Marvelous.” An SNL catchphrase turned into a record. This was real.
80. Godley and Creme – “Cry.” One of the neatest records ever made, in my opinion. It’s just gaining steam at this point and will eventually make it up to #16. Its inclusion in an episode of Miami Vice didn’t hurt things any. (Years later I’d learn that these guys were in 10cc and were therefore not “new.”)
79. a-ha – “Take On Me.” Yes, a video can make a song go to #1. This is Exhibit A.
77. Robert Plant – “Little By Little.” Man, there’s some great rock on this chart, and this one DID make the Top 40.
73. Gino Vannelli – “Black Cars.” Hear me now: if I get back on campus radio this fall and do an 80s show, this one’s airing the first day. This is a fantastic song to play very loudly while driving. Come to think of it, most of my cars have been black, and they do look better in the shade. Another great song that just missed the 40.
68. Weird Al Yankovic – “Like a Surgeon.” This isn’t even his best work, and it charted.
66. Katrina and the Waves – “Walking on Sunshine.” It depresses me that they use this now to sell prescriptions to me, thinking that I am old or something. During this particular summer I may have danced to this record while standing on the table in the frontroom of my parents’ house. *May* have.
60. The Beach Boys – “Getcha Back.” Not one of their biggest hits, but it’s still pretty decent.
57. Tears For Fears – “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.” In May of 1985 our friend Janet died suddenly. When we were pulling out of church after the funeral mass, WLS started playing this song. It is the one inescapable memory that I have tied to this record, and I cannot separate the events, no matter how hard I try. Irony is a cruel mother sometimes.
53. Ratt – “Lay It Down.” “Ratt? What kind of crap is that?”
46. Prince – “Pop Life.” In that summer my friend Bill was dating a girl named Joni. We often hung out at her house, and the cassette of Around the World in a Day was on repeat most of the time. This is a song you don’t hear much anymore, but I will always stop on it when I hear it. (I think I once backsold it in college simply saying “Throw the bum out.”)
41. Howard Jones – “Life In One Day.” This is a catchy earworm that will be in your head all day. You’re welcome.
Breaking into the Top 40:
38. Madonna – “Angel.” This is on the way down the charts. While we didn’t get to see her in concert, we did go to see Desperately Seeking Susan at the theaters, which gave radio that insufferably catchy “Into the Groove.” This also would have been around the time that pictures of a younger, less shaven Madonna made their way into Penthouse, and we may have discussed these at length.
31. Billy Joel – “You’re Only Human.” Normally in the 80s when rock and roll and suicide were in the same discussion, it had to do with metal music and backwards masking. Here we have a video that seems to be serving as a sort of suicide prevention PSA. I also haven’t heard this song in years.
27. Cyndi Lauper – “Goonies R Good Enough.” Another guilty pleasure – both the film and the song.
23. Bryan Adams – “Summer of ’69.” Bryan was ten years old in 1969. None of the things in this song happened to him. But, it’s still a very memorable tale about lost youth. We certainly had no idea then that one day we’d be in our late 40s reminiscing about driving around in a crappy Chevy.
20. Dead Or Alive – “You Spin Me Round.” The sort of video that made your parents ask you “what the hell is that?”
15. Paul Hardcastle – “19.” It’s hard to make a statement about PTSD and the treatment of veterans danceable, but damned if Hardcastle didn’t manage to do it. The real vocal star on this is narrator Peter Thomas, who passed away last year. It was tough not to sing along with “D-d-d-destruction!”
13. Phil Collins – “Sussudio.” I so loathed this song that, in my locker, hung a cartoon from National Lampoon magazine featuring a guy brandishing a shotgun, pounding on a door, saying “I’ll give you fucking Sussudio.” I wish I still had it.
12. ‘Til Tuesday – “Voices Carry.” I already covered this one here.
10. The Power Station – “Get It On.” Sometimes, remakes point us towards the real thing. That’s what happened here (and with “Smokin’ In the Boys’ Room,” which I left off). I ended up with Marc Bolan and Brownsville Station LPs, and was better off for it.
7. Prince – “Raspberry Beret.” I will still always sing along with this song, sometimes in the voice of Bob Dylan. One day at lunch a bunch of us wondered what it would sound like if Dylan did an album of contemporary covers. I think Steve Perry’s “Oh Sherrie” was the highlight, but this one would have been awesome.
4. Duran Duran – “A View To a Kill.” Fight starter: this is one of the best Bond movie theme songs. There. I said it.
And, at number one for the first time: Paul Young, “Every Time You Go Away.” It’s the standard formula end-of-summer-breakup-song-that-sells-a-bunch (see Glass Tiger and Breathe). As a sixteen year old, I’d have gotten up to turn this off. Now? It would just take me a little longer to do it. That is, if I decided to, since the musical time trip is a little nicer now.