As my personal, week-long wake listening to the E Street Band winds down, I thought that I’d pull up the Billboard Hot 100 for a corresponding week from a year in the early ’80s and examine the songs that were debuts.
Twenty-seven years ago this week, I was undoubtedly pushing the durability of the cassette of Born In The U.S.A. that I’d had for two weeks to the limit.
(much of that wear and tear occurring on side two’s opening salvo of No Surrender and Bobby Jean)
Over the previous year, I had begun to move away from Top 40 when it came to the radio, spending more time locked into the album rock stations and – when the reception was good enough – one of the first few alternative rock outlets in the country.
But, despite my broadening musical horizons, I was still quite aware of most of the songs that were hits. So, here are the songs which debuted on the Hot 100 during the week of June 23, 1984…
(with a tip of the chapeau to whiteray at Echoes In The Wind )
R.E.M. – So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry)
(debuted #95, peaked #78, 5 weeks on chart)
I’m not sure if I had heard R.E.M. in 1984. I know that I knew the name as their debut album Murmur had gotten a lot of press a year earlier and my buddy Bosco was an early champion of the band.
Perhaps I’d heard them during the nine months that I’d been listening to 97X, but I doubt that the offbeat Georgians would have resonated with me at the time. Over the next several years, though, I tentatively became a fan of R.E.M. and, by the time I got to college, I was devoted.
(because, in 1986, that was the law)
But R.E.M. became a band whose each new release – through 1998’s Up – was an immediate purchase. The jangly, mysterious So. Central Rain (I’m Sorry) has long been a must on any R.E.M. compilation and I’ve always loved the lyric “Go build yourself another dream, this choice isn’t mine.”
John Waite – Missing You
from No Brakes
(debuted #89, peaked #1, 24 weeks on chart)
I vividly remember the first time I heard John Waite’s Missing You. My buddy Beej and I had met a couple of girls from another high school who had come cruising in our town (which drew kids from many nearby towns for just that purpose).
Beej had gone off with the one girl and I had spent the evening hanging with Tina, driving about in Kathy’s Chevette when, at some point, a song I didn’t recognize came on the radio. The song simply stood out and, within thirty seconds, the hypnotic melody had me hooked.
Tina and I would see each other a few more times over the summer, but Missing You would become one of the biggest hits of the year and one of the more enduring pop songs of the ’80s.
Johnny Mathis – Simple
from A Special Part Of Me
(debuted #88, peaked #81, 8 weeks on chart)
Aside from duets with Dionne Warwick and Deniece Williams (with whom he had a #1 hit with in 1978 with Too Much, Too Little, Too Late) crooner Johnny Mathis hadn’t had a Top 40 hit since 1962.
I knew some of Mathis’ music from hearing my mom playing it on occasion while growing up, but I had never heard Simple. It’s not a bad song and I could hear it being played on light pop stations at the time beside the latest from Al Jarreau.
However, ever since viewing the controversial Home episode of The X-Files, I can’t think of Johnny Mathis and not recall the use of his song Wonderful, Wonderful during one of the most disturbing murder scenes I’ve ever seen.
Yes – It Can Happen
(debuted #85, peaked #51, 7 weeks on chart)
Even though Yes had their heydey in the ’70s and were split by the time I really started paying attention, I was familiar with the band beyond the radio stuff as my buddy Streuss was a big fan.
(I recall his ongoing search for a copy of their Tormato album)
Then 90125 brought the reunited band to a new audience aided by the production of Trevor Horn and MTV. I think most of us owned a copy at the time and, though I’m still a bit burned out on Owner Of A Lonely Heart, songs like Leave It, Our Song, and the shimmering It Can Happen (complete with sitar) sound pretty good a quarter century on.
Lionel Richie – Stuck On You
from Can’t Slow Down
(debuted #72, peaked #3, 19 weeks on chart)
Somewhere, I read a piece lamenting the diminished communal experience of terrestrial radio which noted that, in 1984, whether you liked the man’s music or not, we all lived through the string of hits by Lionel Richie together.
Van Halen – Panama
(debuted #52, peaked #13, 15 weeks on chart)
Panama immediately makes me think of MTV as the channel finally became available in our town in 1984. That summer, I must have seen the video for the song several hundred times (and we didn’t even have cable). I’d go over to my friend Beej’s house, we’d turn on MTV, and – more often than not – we’d hear the drone of the airplane that opened the video before the band crashed into the song.
What odds would you have gotten in Vegas that a year later, the original Van Halen – experiencing their greatest commercial success with 1984 – would be no more?