In early 1985, the shift in my musical interests, which had been evolving and changing in fits and starts for a couple years, was ongoing.
By ’85, my friends and I had our driver’s licenses, so there were more opportunities – if we could procure transportation – to make the trek into Cincinnati for music.
(of course, funding such purchases was an ongoing challenge)
Though MTV had finally made it into the homes of our small town the previous summer, not all of us had cable, so the channel was merely a piece of the puzzle in shaping our tastes.
The alternative rock of 97X – which had been broadcasting for a little more than a year – had captured my fancy, but reception of the station was often dodgy.
The stations that were available to us on the dial were mostly a mixture of Top 40 and album rock, not necessarily adventurous but far more eclectic than they would be by the time we left for college. As playlists hadn’t yet been completely whittled down, Top 40 was still a viable, if less captivating, option.
Casey Kasem’s weekly countdown of the most popular songs in the land was no longer appointment listening, but one of our town’s drugstores was now stocking Billboard magazine in the racks. I’d often peruse the latest issue.
And, twenty-six years ago this week, there were half a dozen songs that debuted on the Hot 100…
Jermaine Jackson & Pia Zadora – When The Rain Begins To Fall
from Voyage Of The Rock Aliens soundtrack (1984)
(debuted #95, peaked #54, 11 weeks on chart)
Jermaine is, of course, Tito’s brother and Pia Zadora was an ’80s b-movie actress who’d had a hit a couple years earlier with The Clapping Song which I had never heard outside of its time on American Top 40.
I seem to vaguely recall the movie Voyage Of The Rock Aliens being in theaters and I think I might have even stumbled across it late night on cable in college, but the synopsis on Wikipedia leads me to believe I’d have changed the channel swiftly.
As for the song, Tito likely shook his head over the generic dance/pop fluff of When The Rain Begins To Fall which featured lyrical puffery such as “When the rain begins to fall, you’ll ride my rainbow in the sky.”
The Manhattan Transfer – Baby Come Back To Me (The Morse Code Of Love)
from Bop Doo-Wopp (1985)
(debuted #87, peaked #83, 3 weeks on chart)
The jazz vocal quartet The Manhattan Transfer had notched a major hit several years before with the retro-styled The Boy From New York City. That song was catchy even if, at the time, it had the stink of something my parents might have listened to all over it.
The group failed to recapture that success with the similar Baby Come Back To Me, a song that I hadn’t heard before. It’s doo wop vibe still relegates it to being from my parents generation, but that’s a far more forgivable offense now and I kind of dig it.
Jermaine Stewart – The Word Is Out
from The Word Is Out (1984)
(debuted #82, peaked #41, 15 weeks on chart)
I don’t think I’ve ever heard The Word Is Out. Of course, I’ve heard it now and can’t remember it.
A year or so later, Jermaine Stewart would suggest that folks could stay dressed with the earworm We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off, a song that, even having mostly abandoned Top 40, I was familiar.
David Bowie/Pat Metheney Group – This Is Not America
from The Falcon And The Snowman soundtrack (1985)
(debuted #66, peaked #32, 12 weeks on chart)
Unlike the previous three songs, I was quite familiar with This Is Not America, David Bowie’s collaboration with the Pat Metheney Group (even though I had no idea who Metheney or his group was or what David Bowie was doing mixed up with them).
Bowie had released Tonight, his follow-up to the massive Let’s Dance, six months or so earlier to considerable hype and subsequent disappointment. This Is Not America, taken from the soundtrack to The Falcon And The Snowman – a Cold War thriller starring Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton – wasn’t a big hit, but the moody, hypnotic song was far better than anything on Tonight (aside from Loving The Alien).
Bryan Adams – Somebody
from Reckless (1984)
(debuted #59, peaked #11, 17 weeks on chart)
Bryan Adams seems to get slagged quite a bit and perhaps it’s a bit deserved for Everything I Do (I Do It For You), but prior to gifting the world with that ubiquitous track from Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood flick, the Canadian singer had a string of hit albums.
Adams was hardly reinventing fire with his straight-forward, meat-and-potatoes rock, but the stuff sounded pretty great blaring from the radio on a summer day. And Reckless had a half-dozen tracks that made the album a fixture on the radio for a good year or so including the anthemic singalong Somebody, a song that Paloma is surprisingly fond of.
Duran Duran – Save A Prayer
from Arena (1984)
(debuted #53, peaked #16, 14 weeks on chart)
Duran Duran broke in America with their second album Rio and the hits Hungry Like The Wolf and the title track. Having dug the hits, I shelled out the money for a copy of Rio and felt it money well spent.
The British quintet’s subsequent string of hit singles were hit and miss for me, though, and nothing was compelling enough to make me purchase another Duran Duran album, certainly not The Wild Boys, a new studio track which heralded the arrival of the live set Arena.
As a follow-up, the band issued a live version of Save A Prayer. The shimmering ballad had been a favorite when it first appeared on Rio and, even now, it would absolutely make the cut as one of the five or six Duran Duran songs that I’d consider essential.