Greetings and welcome to CHART ATTACK!, the long-defunct-but-now-resurrected series where we take a look back at a Billboard Top 10 chart from yesteryear, and try to remember what we loved about these songs in the first place. Let’s get started with the Hot 100 Top 10 from February 1, 1986, aka “Not Our Best Single, Not Our Worst Single.”

10. Go Home — Stevie Wonder

9. Walk of Life — Dire Straits

8. Spies Like Us — Paul McCartney

7. When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going — Billy Ocean

6. My Hometown — Bruce Springsteen

5. Say You, Say Me — Lionel Richie

4. Talk to Me — Stevie Nicks

3. I’m Your Man — Wham!

2. Burning Heart — Survivor

1. That’s What Friends Are For — Dionne & Friends

 

10. Go Home — Stevie Wonder

Kicking off “Not Our Best, Not Our Worst” week is good ol’ Stevie. I started a new tradition this year on New Year’s Day: I played all of Stevie’s “classic” catalogue back-to-back, from Music of My Mind to Songs in the Key of Life. I highly recommend this; it’s a great way to start off a new year. Suffice it to say, this song was not played.

Peaking right here at #10 and vanishing the next week, it’s not that “Go Home” is a bad song at all. It’s got some fun synthy-bassy stuff going on throughout, but it’s a little too repetitive for my tastes. And no matter how many times I listen to it, I can’t remember a single lyric other than “She only wanted to be close to me.” So, y’know. It’s fine. Not his best, not his worst. You can hear a slightly funkier version via his 1983 (two years earlier!) Saturday Night Live performance, but ultimately the best version of this song is within the legendary 1985 Grammy Synthesizer Showdown. Now this is a clip I could watch over and over again (not to say that I have, except I totally have).

9. Walk of Life — Dire Straits

 Which version of the “Walk of Life” video do you prefer, dear reader? Is it the US sports bloopers version?

Or is it the UK street busker version?

I don’t know about you but I prefer the lyric version, which has allowed me to finally understand Mark Knopfler (from a lyric perspective. I’m not saying I’ve gotten into his head or something). Apparently in the first chorus, he’s singing “He do the song about the sweet lovin’ woman, he do the song about the knife,” before he gets to the part about the walk of life. Never knew that. Did you? In any case, “Walk of Life” peaked at #7 the week prior, and they were never seen within the Top 40 again. But at least they left the charts doing the walk. The walk of life. I don’t know what the walk of life is. I don’t think it matters. What matters are catchy keyboard riffs and sports bloopers.

8. Spies Like Us — Paul McCartney

Ooof. Let’s put this in the “Not Their Best, But Certainly Damn Close to Their Worst” category. Here’s what I want to know: to whom exactly did Paul McCartney owe a favor? Though he had nothing to do with this film, somehow my money’s on Lorne Michaels.

Someday, it might be fun to put together a list of soundtrack songs specifically constructed to reference the movie they’re from, and then highlight the most awful of the bunch. This would have to be up there as one of the most blatant. Though Paul seems to be having fun in this video (and it’s always nice to see him behind the drums), I’m having a hard time taking my brain back to 1986 and imagining a time where anyone found this video (or Dan Aykroyd’s “dancing”) to be even remotely entertaining. From the lyrics to the synth-horns, this song is pretty abysmal. And yet it peaked at #7! You crazy, 1986! Fun fact: the BBC couldn’t play this video due to it sucking featuring non-musicians (Aykroyd and Chevy Chase) miming the playing of instruments, which was against British labour rules at the time. You lucky, England!

7. When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going — Billy Ocean

Hey, it’s our second song-from-a-soundtrack this week! This one comes from The Jewel of the Nile, the sequel to 1984’s Romancing the Stone. Do you remember this video? I do, and I absolutely loved it at the time. Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito and Michael Douglas doing background “dancing” and vocals in white tuxedos? YES PLEASE. I would love to see a video of Michael Douglas watching this back in any year after 2010.

 

Watching this back now, I still don’t have any issues with this song. The video is dated, but doesn’t feel forced (like “Spies Like Us”). It’s just fun. And like “Spies Like Us,” this video also was banned from the BBC due to the actors’ appearances. Attempts to find a European version of this video have been unsuccessful, though I did spend a nice twenty minutes down the Billy Ocean rabbit hole, which is a funny phrase.

6. My Hometown — Bruce Springsteen

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. What, don’t believe me? It’s Bruce’s only song to go #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts. I rest my case. Peaking here at #6, this was the final and seventh Top 10-charting single off of Born in the U.S.A., a record Bruce only shares with two Jacksons: Michael for Thriller and Janet for Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814.

Forget all that. How do I get my hands on Roy Bittan’s sweater?

5. Say You, Say Me — Lionel Richie

I’ll be honest: I’ve written about “Say You, Say Me” before. I covered it in a CHART ATTACK! over eight years ago. Since you probably don’t remember reading it (I barely remember writing it), I’m going to include what I wrote then, as my feelings haven’t changed since 2008.

Anybody who has read my writing before knows I’m a big, no-irony-intended-whatsoever fan of Lionel Richie. My mom eagerly brought home Lionel Richie and Can’t Slow Down almost immediately after release and we raced those records over to the turntable. However, I have to be honest: this is just not one of Lionel’s strongest moments. In fact, I could even make a pretty good list here.

Jason Hare’s Reasons Why “Say You, Say Me” Is, Ultimately, an Awkward Song

1) The title and corresponding chorus. Seriously.

Say you, say me
Say it together
That’s the way it should be
Say you, say me
Say it for always
Naturally

This is ridiculous. No, it’s more than ridiculous. It’s stupid ridiculous. Am I supposed to actually say “you” and “me” after you implore me to do so? And when you say “say it together,” do I say a) “say you, say me,” b) “you me,” or c) “it together”? And most importantly, why am I saying any of this in the first place?

2) Unless you bought the single, you were out of luck. Lionel recorded the song, which entered the charts in November of ’85, for inclusion on the White Nights soundtrack; it was actually considered the theme song to the movie. (My mom, coincidentally, was also a big Baryshnikov fan.) However, though “Say You, Say Me” was made available as a single, Motown refused to allow it to be included on the movie’s soundtrack — if anybody was going to buy an album with Lionel on it, goddammit, it was going to be Can’t Slow Down. Lionel and Motown eventually put the song on his Dancing on the Ceiling album, which was released in the summer of ’86.

3) What the hell’s up with the middle section? For about ten seconds, just before the three-minute mark, the song becomes an up-tempo ditty, then goes back to being a ballad. I’ve never understood this. It’s not only the tempo that doesn’t make sense; the chords don’t really make sense either. I personally think Lionel had two separate songs lying around and thought, “I’m Lionel Richie, assholes. Watch me make this work.”

4) “I had a dream. I had an awesome dream.” Bad use of the word “awesome.”

5) A young Fergie inexplicably sang it to a clown. Clowns don’t usually give me nightmares, but after finding this clip I haven’t been able to sleep.

4. Talk to Me — Stevie Nicks

Man. None more ’80s, huh? Those drums. Those production values. That hair! The tremendous hill of cocaine hiding right behind the camera! (You can’t see this in the video, but trust me, it’s there. 1986, remember?) Here’s the video. Think back to a time when the MTV world premiere of this video was a big deal.

We established in a previous CHART ATTACK! that this song was written by Chas Sandford, who also wrote/co-wrote John Waite’s “Missing You” and Chicago’s “What Kind of Man Would I Be.” (Makes sense now, right?) There are some other things I now know about Chas that I didn’t before: he will sometimes still perform some of the songs he has written or produced, he has luxurious hair, and it doesn’t take too much effort to find his phone number on the internet. I’ve made a conscious decision to not call him, because if you followed our Mellowmas exploits at all, you know what could end up happening. I do not want to end up in a situation where I unexpectedly audition for Chas Sandford. If you’d like to hear him sing and play guitar, or just want to admire his hair, have at.

What were we talking about? Oh, right. Stevie Nicks. Not her best, not her worst. Moving on.

3. I’m Your Man — Wham!

I was (and am) a huge George Michael fan. Not much to say about him that hasn’t already been said — and if there is, I’ll save it for a George solo entry down the road. As for “I’m Your Man,” it actually is one of their best: it’s among the strongest songs in the Wham! canon (and yes, I did just say “Wham! canon”). Once George went solo, it was pretty clear there were really only three songs from his past that he wanted to keep with him: “Everything She Wants,” “A Different Corner” and this one. (He said he never really connected with “Careless Whisper.”) So that says something. It’s just a super-solid pop song with a killer hook. What I will say is that I don’t understand any of the efforts to embellish this song that have happened since its release. I’m talking about three things, mainly:

  1. “I’m Your Man (Extended Simulation),” from the 12″ single (which I owned, along with the 45). I’ve cued up this YouTube video to the part that makes no sense to me.
  2. “I’m Your Man ’96,” from the “Fastlove” single (and later included on If You Were There: The Best of Wham!) which is clever in terms of its reimagining but still feels wholly unnecessary.
  3. The extended cut (intro/outro) of the video, which feels like it’s supposed to be funny but kind of isn’t (and I can’t understand what they’re saying for the first 45 seconds anyway).

But these are, in reality, light criticisms. I really do love this song. Okay, just one more criticism: why does Andrew even pretend to play guitar in this video? I guess he didn’t have much else to do. He could have been the weird guy in the back rolling the tambourine on his arm (is this a percussion thing I don’t know about?).

2. Burning Heart — Survivor

Look, I don’t really feel qualified to talk about Survivor in a world where I know (and love) Matt Wardlaw. (Whereas I have no problem talking about Bruce Springsteen despite knowing (and tolerating) Dave Lifton.) You should go read Matt’s interview with Dave Bickler on his departure from the band. I can’t say this is their best or their worst as I know the same Survivor songs most of you do (assuming you don’t write for Popdose, in which case you probably know all of them). This is a pretty killer song (not sung by Bickler, but by the late Jimi Jamison), and maybe the best song about the Cold War. At least that’s what I thought before I saw this fascinating Wikipedia entry on songs about the Cold War. I think some of these inclusions are stretching it a little, don’t you think?

Come to think of it, this was a really strong week for soundtrack songs, with four of them being easily identifiable from movies. You can watch the all-Survivor video below, but if you really want to sate that unquenchable thirst, you probably want to just watch the all-Rocky IV version.

Ultimately, “Burning Heart” peaked here at #2. I can’t imagine the boys in the band were thrilled about being held from the top spot by…

1. That’s What Friends Are For — Dionne and Friends

So I mentioned just above that this was a strong week for soundtrack songs. And of course what you’re all thinking now is: “Wait a second — isn’t this song originally from 1982’s Night Shift, starring Michael Keaton, Shelley Long and Henry Winkler?”

No, of course you weren’t thinking that. But it’s still true. And Rod Stewart recorded it! Poorly, I might add! (Ignore the comment that says “Rod’s delivery, combined with the movie it was tied to, makes this version, THE version. Period.”)

“That’s What Friends Are For” is actually one of five songs written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager for Night Shift. Rod insisted on producing this one, and Bacharach/Sager weren’t too pleased about it, especially since the song went nowhere (the record company thought it was too “soft” for Stewart, which in retrospect is pretty funny when you think about it). Fast-forward three years, after Bacharach and Dionne Warwick had made amends (she had sued him in the ’70s) and he and Sager were commissioned to produce some music for our favorite Psychic Friend. They remembered this song, and though she originally recorded it as a straight duet with Stevie Wonder, Dionne eventually added Gladys Knight and Elton John to the mix as well. All the proceeds went to AmFar, and the quartet recorded this video, if you can remember (see what I did there?):

The best/worst thing that came out of me writing CHART ATTACK! this week was that shortly after emerging unscathed from the Billy Ocean rabbit hole, I fell down the “That’s What Friends Are For” rabbit hole. Seriously. Here’s what I’ve found:

Don’t get me wrong, there are more: this is just when I decided to stop, because I realized that I had a problem. I can’t force you to watch any of these, dear readers; I can just hope that the song is stuck in your head now. You’re welcome!

And with that, we’re at the end of February 1, 1986! Thanks for reading, and see you next month for more chart-attackin’!