June 23, 1984

June 26, 2011

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)
from Reckoning
(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
from 90125
(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
from 1984
(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?

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Boom! Change No One Would Have Seen Coming

October 18, 2008

Some morning, I’m going to be sitting bleary eyed on the couch, easing myself from sleep, and ESPN is going to greet me with news of the death of John Madden. When that sad day comes, there will be an outpouring of grief from several generations of American males which will rival the global mourning that followed the death of Princess Di.

I have told Paloma this and she shakes her head skeptically. However, guys my age have fathers who watched Madden at the start of his coaching career. We might even remember watching his final few Raiders’ teams before he became an announcer. My nephew and his friends play his signature video game incessantly (I have avoided it for fear I would quit my job to devote time to mastering it).

Madden is like a crazy, yet good natured, uncle to us all – which makes his crazy uncle eccentricities part of his charm – and the man who introduced us to the wonder of the turducken.

The man’s grassroots appeal makes me wonder why, if the Republicans had to nominate an old, white guy, they didn’t consider John Madden. Imagine him drawing up foreign policy using a telestrator or sending Brett Favre to be a special envoy to the Middle East. He could pull in some of the salary cap experts that NFL teams employ for his economic team.

And I’ve believed for years that if W was serious about catching bin Laden, he’d have assigned the task to the NFL.

Of course, Madden would need to have Al Michaels riding shogun as VP to keep John focused and on track (and to handle formal affairs or events which require air travel).

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin could squeeze Al Davis out of his ownership of the Oakland Raiders, move the team to Wasila, and – once Alaska secedes – the NFL would fulfill its goal of having a team outside the US. It would yield a staggering amount of cash in merchandising.

Certainly enough cash to bailout the world.

Tears For Fears – Change

Fishbone – Change

John Waite – Change

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Change Of Heart