Welcome back to CHART ATTACK!, all new for 2009! This year we’ll be doing much like we’ve done in the past: ripping apart Billboard Top 10 charts for years ranging from the early ’70s to the early ’90s. You know the drill: some of ’em are going to be great; some will be abysmal; some will feature way too many appearances by stupid Andy Gibb. (Not this week — just his brothers.)

This week, we’re looking at early 1983, a fairly diverse week featuring punk, pop, R&B, adult contemporary and whatever category you want to stick “Dirty Laundry” into. Also, here are a few of the odd words you’ll find in this week’s chart: Sharif, Serengeti, she-cat, and Vegemite. We’re also featuring three songs that, in some way or another, essentially were given a second chance on the charts this week.  Which ones?  Stay tuned as we attack January 15, 1983!

10.  Heartbreaker — Dionne Warwick Amazon iTunes
9. Rock the Casbah — The Clash Amazon iTunes
8. Baby, Come to Me — Patti Austin (with James Ingram) Amazon iTunes
7. Africa — Toto Amazon iTunes
6. Mickey — Toni Basil Amazon iTunes
5. Sexual Healing — Marvin Gaye Amazon iTunes
4. Maneater — Daryl Hall & John Oates Amazon iTunes
3. Dirty Laundry — Don Henley Amazon
2. The Girl is Mine — Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney Amazon iTunes
1. Down Under — Men at Work Amazon iTunes

10. Heartbreaker — Dionne Warwick (download)

“Africa” holds my spot for the best song on this relatively solid Top 10, but “Heartbreaker” is in second place.  It has very little to do with Dionne Warwick; while her vocal is fine, I think I’d also be okay with a number of other female vocalists singing. It’s more about the chorus, which is not only unmistakably catchy but contains just the right amount of Bee Gees — the fantastic backing vocals with none of the ridiculous falsetto wailing that Barry prefers to use at every turn.  And once again we have to give credit to Mr. Gibb for wisely handing out his songs to other vocalists at a time when the Bee Gees were certainly less welcome on the charts.  This one wasn’t initially his idea, though: in ’82, Barry had planned on collaborating with a few different female vocalists for an album he was working on, but Clive Davis asked him if he’d write an album of material for Warwick.  He did so, and though Warwick didn’t really care for “Heartbreaker,” she recorded it anyway — and it wound up being her biggest solo hit of the decade.  I can’t believe I love “Heartbreaker” more than Dionne Warwick.  Anyway, the Bee Gees eventually recorded their own version in 2002:

The original demo can also be found on YouTube (or on iTunes).  Beware, though: Barry sings the whole thing utilizing the aforementioned falsetto wailing.

9. Rock the Casbah — The Clash

One can only imagine what Joe Strummer thought about spending time in the Top 10 next to Dionne Warwick. Even worse, only a few weeks later he’d wind up stuck next to Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle. The Clash’s Top 40 singles were far and few between — we’re talking this one and “Train in Vain (Stand By Me).” (“Should I Stay or Should I Go” reached #45.)

“Rock the Casbah” was born out of a piano part composed by drummer Topper Headon, and it’s Headon who plays bass, drums and piano on the track. The origins of the lyrics have been disputed, but the story I’ve heard the most is that Strummer was inspired by a news report of Iranians being flogged for owning disco music. I don’t see why that’s so wrong.

8. Baby, Come to Me — Patti Austin (with James Ingram) (download)

Before I talk about this song any more, I just want to put it out there that Michael McDonald sings backing vocals on this track, which is a crime.  He should be singing the lead vocal.  Not that there’s anything really wrong with James Ingram (although I wish he’d stop yelling at me in song), but if you’ve got McD in the studio, why not give him what he deserves?  It’s just not right, and stop telling me to get over it.

Written by Heatwave member/unlikely white musician Rod Temperton and produced by Quincy Jones at a time when both were red-hot (following their collaboration on Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall), you’d think this was a shoo-in for the top of the charts.  Actually, the song bombed when it was released as a single from Austin’s 1981 album.  However, in late 1982, General Hospital decided to use the song in a pivotal scene between Luke and his new love interest, and audiences began calling ABC instantly to find out the song’s origin.  The song was re-released, and reached #1 by mid-February.

There’s a great clip on YouTube of Ingram and Austin singing this song together in the early ’80s (most notable for Ingram’s giant afro), but I kind of like this clip from a Quincy Jones tribute in the late ’90s.

James Ingram cracks my shit up.  But just like that, here comes something to wipe the smile off my face. I dare you to listen!

7. Africa — Toto

There are really no words to describe how much I love this song.  Not lyrically.  Musically.  Lyrically, I have no idea what the hell they’re talking about or what intercontinental drug-laced adventure led to a line like “sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.”  (Side note: most people who love this song — not Popdose readers, of course — have absolutely no idea this lyric is even part of “Africa.”  Mention it the next time the song comes on at a bar, and, well…don’t, actually.  You’ll look like a douche.  Trust me.)  Nobody really knows all the words, nobody knows what any of it means, and nobody cares — that’s just how solid this song is from a musical standpoint.  Toto’s rhythm section was always killer (God knows these guys got enough studio time in the ’70s and ’80s), but they were just exceptional in this instance.

6. Mickey — Toni Basil

“Mickey” is song #2 to get a second chance on the Billboard Top 10 — actually, a third: “Mickey” was originally released by the band Racey in 1979, sung by a male and titled “Kitty.”  The original is reminiscent of “My Sharona,” which makes sense: both songs were produced by Mike Chapman.  Here, take a listen.

Racey — Kitty (download)

Basil changed the gender of the song and renamed it after a crush of hers, none other than — I’m not kidding — Micky Dolenz, with whom she had worked as a choreographer and dancer on the set of the Monkee movie Head. Basil also came up with the whole cheerleader concept, from the opening chants to the video.  The video was released in 1980, but didn’t fare well in America, as MTV was still a year away from inception;  however, the song reached #2 in the UK and #1 in Australia, and once MTV came around, the song gained popularity through import sales.  KIQQ in Los Angeles started playing the song, and Chrysalis re-released it in the fall of ’82.  It took a good three months, but “Mickey” eventually topped the charts in late December.  Pretty cool story, huh?

5. Sexual Healing — Marvin Gaye

“Sexual Healing,” while a wonderful song, always loses a little bit for me when I’m reminded that it was inspired by Gaye’s collection of cartoon pornography.  Author David Ritz was interviewing Marvin one day when he noticed the collection and told Gaye he needed “sexual healing.”  Gaye asked Ritz to write down a poem including those words, which he did; Gaye added lyrics and, with the help of his keyboardist Odell Brown, came up with this song.  Ritz was not given credit as a writer, though he was thanked in the liner notes; he sued for a songwriter credit, which broke the friendship between the two, and eventually won after Gaye’s death.  “Sexual Healing” was Gaye’s first hit since ’77’s “Got To Give It Up,” and won Gaye Grammy Awards for Best R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Instrumental Performance (for, I guess, the instrumental version).

Every time I hear this song, I make a mental note to hover over my wife early one morning and start whispering “wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up,” but then when push comes to shove, I’m just too chicken to do it.  She’s really not a morning person.

4. Maneater — Daryl Hall & John Oates

I grabbed a live version of this song from a bootleg entitled “Acoustic Power Tour 1991,” featured on Ye Olde Jefitoblog a couple of years ago; it is, quite possibly, the worst version of the song I’ve ever heard — and that’s including the “Maneater (Extended Club Mix),” which I also have.  The main reason it sucks is because Daryl Hall just hates to do a faithful-to-the-album vocal live.  He just has the horrible need to change enunciation, notes, the whole thing, and I wish someone would kick him in the face.  I’m not even going to post the version for you here; I’ve listened to it a few times since Acoustic ’80s is currently working on our cover of it, and I wish I could erase it from my brain.

Now that I’ve said all that, I’ll say that the actual original version of “Maneater” is pretty damn awesome.  Fantastic hook, and great sax solo.  One of the other things I love about the song is how it fits in with the other H&O singles that reached the Top 10 in the early-to-mid ’80s; it doesn’t.  None of the songs from this period (“Kiss On My List,” “Private Eyes,” “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do),” “One on One,” etc) really sound alike at all.

Oates supposedly started this one, writing a chorus inspired by Kelly LeBrock — but I’m sure if you ask Hall, he’ll tell you that Oates is nothing but a stupid hack and he did all the heavy lifting.  The video, as with many of the songs on this week’s chart, greatly aided the song’s radio play.  I’d like to include the video here, but instead I’ll include a news interview filmed during this time, featuring a young Kathie Lee Gifford.  Near the end, she asks the (awful) question, “If you were to write a song about your relationship, what would the title of the song be?”  I was praying Hall was going to respond with “Fags,” but he doesn’t.  Oh well.

3. Dirty Laundry — Don Henley

Kick ’em when they’re up! Kick ’em when they’re down! Kick ’em when they’re up! Kick ’em when they’re down! But enough about how Henley treats Don Felder. (Zing!) This is another one of those Henley “let me tell you a thing or two about the state of our world today” songs (there are, like, five of ’em on Time Out of Eden), and, in general, I hate those songs. This one isn’t horrible — I like the line “it’s interesting when people die” and I can’t deny that it’s catchy — but it’s probably my least favorite on the chart. This one was co-written by Danny Kortchmar, and features Timothy B. Schmit on bass, Joe Walsh on the first guitar solo, and Toto’s Steve Lukather on the second guitar solo and Jeff Porcaro on drums. No wonder every time the Eagles play this song, Glenn Frey looks like he wants to kick Henley in the teeth: there’s nothing for him to do on stage other than chant “kick ’em when they’re up!” etc, ad nauseum. But Felder gets his revenge, I’m sure, when he makes Henley contribute on “Smuggler’s Blues.”

2. The Girl is Mine — Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney

When “The Girl is Mine” was released, nobody had any idea Thriller would become the biggest-selling album of the decade. It was released as the lead-off single because a high-profile duet such as this one practically guaranteed airplay at the time.  Even with Macca’s involvement, the single peaked here at #2.  It reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, a feat Michael didn’t repeat until he released the lead-off single from Bad, “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” — also a duet.

What’s the better Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney duet?  The charts favor “Say, Say, Say,” which topped the charts for six weeks at the end of 1983 and beginning of 1984. While I think “Say, Say, Say” is the better song, I find “The Girl is Mine” to be the better duet.  I’m a fan of any song that includes spoken word from Michael Jackson.  It’s like whatever point he’s trying to make with his vocal is completely negated by his dialogue.  Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that Michael is indeed a lover, not a fighter, but do I believe he’d win in a fight with Paul?  Not for a second.  If you have one of the recent Thriller reissues, you’ve heard this, but here’s a snippet from the Michael Jackson/Vincent Price recording session.

Scary as all hell, right?

Shit, I hope I’m not covering “Thriller” this year. This was my best material.

1. Down Under — Men at Work

…And here’s our third song given a second chance on the charts!  The original version of “Down Under” was released in 1980 as the B-side to another single, “Keypunch Operator,” which was eventually re-worked into a hit single for Sade. (Not true.) The original version only contained flute and guitar, but the band’s producer re-worked the song to give it a more commercial, reggae/ska feel. The flute part, by the way, is fashioned after “Kookaburra,” an Australian children’s rhyme.

The new version, combined with the fact that they had a fantastic video at a time when MTV didn’t have many inventive videos to play, went all the way to the top of the charts, surrendering only to “Africa” for one week (intercontinental battle, y’all!) before returning to the #1 spot. And while I still can’t tell you what they’re talking about in “Africa,” here’s what they’re talking about in “Down Under,” courtesy of Songfacts.

Fried out Kombi: broken down van
Head full of Zombie: stoned
Vegemite sandwich: fermented yeast spread

And of course, here’s the video that helped “Down Under” become the band’s second #1, following “Who Can It Be Now?”:

And that brings us to the end of another week!  Not so bad, huh?  We’ll see how we fare next time when we look at 1977!  See you then!