Howdy, everybody! It’s CHART ATTACK! time once again!, What can I tell you about this week? Well, at least three of our artists owe their chart success to MTV. Four of our artists are from Europe, and strangely enough, three are from Michigan. And I’d say that just over 50% of today’s songs still hold up today, but I’ll leave you to make that decision for yourself. Let’s jump into October 5, 1985!
10. Part-Time Lover — Stevie Wonder Amazon iTunes
9. Dancing in the Street — Mick Jagger and David Bowie Amazon iTunes
8. Lonely Ol’ Night — John Cougar Mellencamp Amazon iTunes
7. Freedom — Wham! Amazon iTunes
6. Saving All My Love for You — Whitney Houston Amazon iTunes
5. Dress You Up — Madonna Amazon iTunes
4. Take On Me — a-ha Amazon iTunes
3. Oh Sheila — Ready for the World Amazon iTunes
2. Cherish — Kool & the Gang Amazon iTunes
1. Money for Nothing — Dire Straits Amazon iTunes
10. Part-Time Lover — Stevie Wonder
I am slowly working my way through the entirety of Stevie’s discography. I’m extremely familiar with everything he released from 1971 through 1976, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you remember that Stevie Wonder’s a prolific, musical genius and released six albums (including a double album) within that period. Anyway, so far, I’ve made it as far as 1980’s Hotter Than July, which is actually a phenomenal record. This means I have another record or two until I get to In Square Circle, which is where you’ll find “Part-Time Lover.” Any thoughts on the album, readers? If it’s no good, let me know; I ignored all the people who said Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants was a piece o’ crap and boy, do I regret it now.
But I digress. I like this song. No, it’s not going to hold a candle to anything Stevie released in the ’70s, but to hold any of these songs to that standard is completely pointless, and besides, this is a catchy pop song. “Undercover passion on the run” is a great phrase. Also, I love the story: he’s cheating on her, but (gasp!) she’s cheating on him too! SNAP! “Part-Time Lover” reached #1 on the Pop, R&B, Dance and Adult Contemporary charts, making Stevie the first artist to accomplish such a feat.
Here’s the music video, featuring Stevie groovin’ in a club meant for people who can’t really dance. Also, for the first part of the video, he’s in a triangle for some reason.
I saw Stevie live three times this past year. He played “I Just Called to Say I Love You” at two of the shows, and at all three, he let “Ribbon in the Sky” drag on for 20 minutes. Not once did he play “Part-Time Lover.” I feel slightly jilted, but still, if Stevie comes to your town, run, don’t walk.
9. Dancing in the Street — Mick Jagger and David Bowie
Remember in early 1990, when Angela Bowie made the rounds on the talk show circuit and dished details about finding Mick and David in bed together, naked? And remember how it was this big, salacious bombshell? Anybody who found that news shocking obviously never saw the “Dancing in the Street” video.
I don’t care if you think you remember the video from the ’80s and don’t need to watch it again. Watch it again. Watch the way these men come thisclose to sucking face. Watch how Bowie does Rockette-worthy kicks. Watch how Jagger does … well, the same shit he always does, honestly. I can’t imagine that, even in 1985, anybody watched this video and thought, “Hey! Cool!” That being said, I distinctly remember going to a local talent show as a kid and watching two teenagers lip-synch to this song, imitating many of the moves from the video. They were football players, too. It’s probably better that my snarky heckling skills weren’t fully polished back then, as they would have kicked my ass.
Here are some interesting facts about this version, none of which justify it: Jagger and Bowie recorded this song as part of the Live Aid charity movement — the video was shown twice during the concert. Twice. That’s approximately eight more minutes we could have given to Spandau Ballet.
Oh, and by the way, “Dancing in the Street” was their second choice of songs to cover. Their first? “One Love” by Bob Marley & The Wailers. A chill just ran up my spine.
8. Lonely Ol’ Night — John Cougar Mellencamp (download)
Mellencamp has had a good run on the Billboard charts, although he’s been wildly inconsistent since the mid ’80s. 1985’s Scarecrow perhaps represented his best success on the charts: “Lonely Ol’ Night,” the lead-off single, reached #6, and two other singles from the album made the Top 10.
I don’t have much to say about John Cougar Mellencamp. I just find him kind of boring. If I hear one of his songs, I won’t turn it off, but at the same time, I don’t own any of his albums (and don’t plan to buy any). That being said, this is a pretty good song — certainly better in my book than “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. (A Salute to ’60s Rock)” which, as I believe I’ve said before, sucks.
7. Freedom — Wham! (download)
Love “Freedom.” Love it. You might know by now that I was a pretty big Wham! fan back in the day, and I remember special-ordering the 12″ of “Freedom” from my local record store. (The 12″ features the “Long Mix,” which, as Matthew Bolin mentioned earlier this year, is pretty lame.) Mike and I worked on “Freedom” last year for our Acoustic ’80s project and I gotta tell ya: this song is actually relatively complicated musically, and it’s also a bitch and a half to sing. So I’ll give props where props are due: way to go, George Michael. (You didn’t think they were going to Ridgeley, did you?) On another note: It took me years to figure this out, but you can hear the chorus to “Freedom,” as played on a church organ, at the very opening of “Faith.”
Here’s the video for “Freedom,” which consists of clips from Wham!’s historical trip to China. The footage is taken from the documentary Wham! In China: Foreign Skies, which is awesome if you’re a fan of China, and not so much if you’re a fan of Wham!.
6. Saving All My Love for You — Whitney Houston
This video makes me kind of sad.
Not because of Whitney’s huge hair or her dress or even a pre-spray-on-tan Kenny Rogers. I’m sad because man, did Whitney knock this song out of the park. Not only is her vocal spot-on, but she looks beautiful and by this point in her career had gained a bit of the stage presence that was missing in her very early performances. When she comes up to accept her Grammy for this very song, she has such an innocence about her, and it just makes me sad to think of, well, anything after this moment, I guess. Damn you, Bobby Brown. You ruin everything for everybody.
“Saving All My Love for You” is actually a cover. Co-written by the legendary Gerry Goffin and Michael Masser, the song was originally released by Marilyn McCoo in 1978. It was Houston’s version that topped the charts, however, making it to the Top 10 in a matter of weeks after its release, and earning Houston her first #1, as well as her first Grammy and American Music Award. And although Goffin is obviously better known for his work with Carole King, when it comes to charting singles, this one is his biggest hit. Meanwhile, this song doesn’t even reach the Top 10 of Houston’s biggest chart successes.
5. Dress You Up — Madonna
The last charting single from Like A Virgin, “Dress You Up” peaked here at #5 and became Madonna’s seventh single to reach the Top 10. Mildly interesting is the fact that such a successful single was not included on her greatest hits compilation The Immaculate Collection. A bit more interesting is that the song was remixed in 2004 for inclusion on Madonna’s Re-Invention Tour, but was dropped because she couldn’t learn the guitar chords. (You can hear the remix here.) Most interesting to me is that the PMRC (remember them?) included “Dress You Up” as part of their “Filthy Fifteen,” a list of the songs the group found most offensive. I’m not positive, but this may be the only time you’ll find a Madonna song listed alongside W.A.S.P.’s “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast).”
4. Take On Me — a-ha
I was about to mention a-ha as being perhaps one of the biggest one-hit wonders of the ’80s, but in fact, they did have another single that made it as far as #20: “The Sun Always Shines on TV,” which is actually pretty awesome. And even if they hadn’t had that second hit, I’d be wrong anyway: “Take on Me” only topped the charts for a week.
The song has quite a varied history. It began life as “Lesson One,” a demo recorded by the group in ’83. The song was catchy enough to help them secure their management team. It morphed into “Take on Me” and, in much different form, was released as a single in 1984. This is the best version I could find:
Take on Me (1984 release) (download)
It was accompanied by a lackluster video and tanked completely. The band re-cut the song with producer Alan Tarney, which resulted in the version we all know and love — and it tanked as well! It wasn’t until their US label Warner opted to drop about $100,000 on an innovative video utilizing a technique known as rotoscoping. The rest is pretty much history, and clearly I don’t need to include the video here because you all know it by heart. The success of the video no doubt led them to the top of the charts; additionally, they won six MTV Video Music Awards and were nominated for Best Video at the American Music Awards. Hell, even “The Sun Always Shines on TV” was nominated in a few categories at the VMAs, and although it barely broke the Top 20 here, it actually out-performed “Take on Me” in the UK. So let’s watch that video instead, shall we?
3. Oh Sheila — Ready for the World
As a kid, I was really confused when I saw the video for “Oh Sheila.” See, at this point in my life, the only Sheilas I knew were girls from temple with big hair. Were these guys singing to a Jewish girl? Also, to this day, I remain confused about the lead singer’s pronunciation of the word “Sheila” in the opening (sounds like “Shayla”). I figured he must have been from England. Nope! Flint, Michigan. What’s up with that? “Oh Sheila” was a pretty massive hit for the band, reaching the top spot on both the Hot 100, R&B and Dance charts all at once — the first band ever to do so. Ready for the World had a #9 hit with “Love You Down”, but that was pretty much it for them. One of their greatest hits compilations is actually called Oh Sheila: Ready for the World’s Greatest Hits. I love it! Whenever you have to name your greatest hits compilations after your greatest hit, you know you’re in trouble.
Do you want to know why writing takes me so long? It’s because I just spent nine minutes watching a drummer give instruction on how to play “Oh Sheila.” I’m duly impressed with his technique — he uses one kit to play what was most likely recorded on multiple drum tracks — but perhaps I could have just skipped to the end.
2. Cherish — Kool & the Gang
I’m pretty sure we had this album — Emergency — in our house growing up. No doubt my mother purchased it because of songs like “Cherish” and “Fresh.” If I knew then what I know now, I would have put on “Jungle Boogie” and scared the hell out of her. I’m extremely surprised that “Cherish” peaked here at #2. In fact, Kool & the Gang have only had one #1 hit (you guessed it, “Celebration”).
Here’s a video from a performance in Japan. Unfortunately, it only goes to prove how uncomfortable this period in the band’s history must have been for everybody but “J.T.” Taylor. Watch as most of the other members of the band are reduced to choreography they must have figured out on their own. (If not, I hope the choreographer was executed shortly after this concert.) Also, note how this song simply doesn’t work live. As with every performance, though, you can see the gears in J.T.’s head turn as he figures out exactly how much poon he’s going to get at the end of the night.
(And for this entry, I wasted three minutes watching a classical guitarist interpret “Cherish.”)
1. Money for Nothing — Dire Straits
Knopfler wrote “Money for Nothing” from the point of the working man watching music celebrities on MTV, and says he actually wrote the song while in the appliance store, with some of the lyrics being direct quotations — but did you know that the song is actually about MÃ¶tley CrÃ¼e? I mean, I don’t think Knopfler’s ever said this, but Nikki Sixx has, and who are you to argue with Nikki Sixx? I didn’t think so.
Although Dire Straits had always been moderately popular in the U.S. (and more so in the U.K.), I imagine the success of this song must have really confused the hell out of the band. Apparently the iconic video and the famous opening line were enough to get the public to overlook the fact that the original song is over eight minutes long, and that Knopfler uses the word “faggot” three times.
“Money for Nothing” credits Mark Knopfler and Sting as co-writers; it’s been said that Sting demanded a writing credit for his “I want my MTV” line that sounds so similar to “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” but I think the other story floating around — that Sting’s publishing company demanded the credit and Sting was embarrassed by it — seems much more plausible.
Not that you need to see the video again, but just in case:
Whenever I think of “Money for Nothing,” I think of Neil Young’s ’89 video for “This Note’s for You,” which was initially banned by MTV, as the company stated they didn’t play any songs that mentioned their company, positive or negative. Clearly someone reminded them of “Money for Nothing,” and the song was not only put into rotation, but won Best Video of the Year — much like “Money for Nothing” did three years earlier.
And that brings us to the end of another edition of CHART ATTACK! Thanks so much for reading!