You guys, not for nothing, but in my humble opinion, 1986 was a totally kick-ass year for music. As I listen to the Top 100 for the year overall, I find myself skipping over only a few of them. (I happen to like "Words Get In The Way," okay? Shut up!)
I wasn’t going to attack this chart, since Matthew did such a fantastic job of attacking 1986 just last month, but I couldn’t help it. I hope you like 1986, because I have a funny feeling it may replace 1988 as my favorite year of the ’80s. Why don’t you decide for yourself whether it’s a year worthy of attacking, as we take a look back at April 12, 1986!
10. Tender Love – Force M.D.’s iTunes
9. Harlem Shuffle – Rolling Stones Amazon iTunes
8. West End Girls – Pet Shop Boys Amazon iTunes
7. Let’s Go All The Way – Sly Fox iTunes
6. Addicted To Love – Robert Palmer Amazon iTunes
5. What You Need – INXS Amazon iTunes
4. R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A. (A Salute To 60’s Rock) – John Cougar Mellencamp Amazon iTunes
3. Manic Monday – Bangles Amazon iTunes
2. Kiss – Prince And The Revolution Amazon iTunes
1. Rock Me Amadeus – Falco Amazon iTunes
10. Tender Love – Force M.D.’s (download)
See, here’s a song that I’m not quite sure could exist today. I don’t know about you, but when I hear the name "Force M.D.’s," I’m thinkin’ gangsta. Right? It just sounds like a tough name. Then they come out with this gentle thing – dare I say, the Mellow Gold of 1986 – and nobody knows what to think. The only thing I’m sure of is that these guys would most likely get their asses kicked for this song in 2007.
Force M.D.’s, at least according to the Wikipedia, were "recognized by their street attitude."
Apparently, Force M.D.’s lived on Dumpster Clothing Street.
"Tender Love" was written by none other than Janet Jackson’s hitmakers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The group did have one further success – a #1 on the R&B charts a year later – but "Tender Love" was the one and only time they’d make any significant impact on the Hot 100. It should be noted that only one week prior, "Secret Lovers" had spent its last week in the Top 10 at #3. I can’t even imagine the chart wussiness that would have ensued had these two groups shared a Top 10.
Still, when hearing this song – specifically the piano part – I can’t help but smile, and feel a wave of nostalgia wash over me. I don’t know what it’s for, as I was 8 at the time. What the hell did I have to be nostalgic about – that I apparently didn’t know how to comb my hair? (Still haven’t learned this lesson.)
"M.D.," by the way, stood for "Musical Diversity." I still hold out hope that, one day, a proctology practice will open up by the name of "Force M.D.’s."
9. Harlem Shuffle – Rolling Stones
With songs like "Let’s Go All The Way" and "Rock Me Amadeus" appearing this week, I find it incredible that the Stones were responsible for the dumbest tune on the chart.
(Disclaimer: I’ve never been a Rolling Stones fan. I think at some point, most people are forced to make a choice between The Who and the Stones, and I went with The Who. I think I made the right choice. We may have less living members, but at least our lead singer doesn’t look like an inside-out cat.)
"Harlem Shuffle" is a cover of the song originally performed by the R&B duo Bob & Earl in 1963. Apparently it was a favorite of Keith Richards’, and he had been running through the song in the studio with Ron Wood and Bobby Womack while waiting for Jagger to show up. Jagger dug the groove, recorded his vocals, and a shitty hit (which I suppose we can just refer to as a "shit") was born. Womack’s on backing vocals, as is Tom Waits and Patty Scialfa, to which I say "if you say so."
And the video! Oh, the stupid, stupid video![youtube]hOkIU8BCxgU[/youtube]
I suppose it’s too late for me to start asking "why?" about anything having to do with this song. But I’ll ask anyway: why? Why the animated images? Why is Mick Jagger dressed for a guest spot on Miami Vice? (Obvious answer: because it’s 1986.) Even the band looks like they’re regretting the entire thing. I mean, Charlie Watts never looks excited, I know, but he actually looks like he’d rather be playing drums for Paul Anka than be stuck in this ridiculous video. And you wanna know the stupidest thing of all? This was nominated for Best Group Video Of The Year at the MTV VMAs in 1986, which just goes to show you that MTV was still apparently grasping at straws five years after their debut.
So yeah, I don’t get the video. Especially the cartoons. However, if you think it looks a little Ren-and-Stimpy-ish, you’re right: the animation was directed by John Kricfalusi, future R&S creator.
8. West End Girls – Pet Shop Boys
I always felt that Pet Shop Boys were one of the few groups that got the whole synthesizer domination thing absolutely right in the ’80s. There’s not a genuine acoustic instrument to be found on this track, and it’s okay with me. (In case anybody’s curious.) The keyboard bass part is awesome, especially when it provides the main riff in the chorus.
This was the band’s second attempt at the song; the first version had been recorded in 1984 at a faster tempo, and was only a minor hit for the duo, reaching #1 in Belgium and appearing in dance clubs in other European territories. Re-recorded under producer Stephen Hague (who went on to produce many other European acts…oh, and David Mead) and released in 1986, the song reached #1 in May, and became Pet Shop Boys’ first smash hit. The song itself deals with the class differences between the two sides of London, and takes its inspiration from Grandmaster Flash’s "The Message."
7. Let’s Go All The Way – Sly Fox (download)
Question 1: Sly WHO, now?
Question 2: When Sly Fox (a duo, not an actual person) performed this song live, do you think they broke the audience up into two parts?:
"Okay! Everybody on the left – you sing ‘zhung zhung!’ And you on the right! Let me hear you sing ‘zinny ninny!’ Okay, let’s bring it all together! Oh, this is awkward. I knew we shouldn’t have taken this slot opening for Wham!"
There’s really not much to say about this stupid (but not as stupid as "Harlem Shuffle," thank you very much) song. There’s something going on in the lyrics – something about the depression surrounding urban life and politics, I think – but they lose me with the "let’s go all the way" chorus, which seemingly has nothing to do with anything in the verses. Someone on Songfacts says that "this is about someone with a humdrum existence seeking escape through casual sex." I’m calling bullshit on that one.
I think that’s just about all I’m going to spend on this song. I don’t hate it, I don’t love it, but if I try to think about these lyrics any further, my brain’s going to explode. More on "Let’s Go All The Way" over at The 80s Rule!
6. Addicted To Love – Robert Palmer
I’ll be honest – I’m one of those d-bags that doesn’t know Robert Palmer past his ’80s babe-video songs. (And this is even with reading Jeff’s absolutely brilliant three part guide.) So I can’t look at "Addicted To Love" as a part of his overall career and decide whether it stands up to the rest. But given that this is a Chart Attack!, maybe I shouldn’t be doing so, anyway. In 1986, this was a fantastic, crunchy, original song that deserved to be the hit that drove Palmer to the next level of success. There’s more I could say about "Addicted To Love," but don’t you agree that the Week In Rock Roundtable can do it so much better?
5. What You Need – INXS
The very first hit for the band, I don’t think anybody can deny the infectious joy of "What You Need," which in my mind pretty much set the template for another INXS hit, "New Sensation." I haven’t followed INXS in their 2.0 phase, and I was less of a fan by the time their story turned tragic, so I don’t find myself wistful or nostalgic for this period in their career; all I think about the fact that this was a great way for the band to make their initial mark on the charts. Not to spend too much time quoting other sources, but whoever wrote the Wikipedia entry for "What You Need" hit it right on the nose:
The arrangement was spacious and the parts of the individual instruments simple, allowing them all to interlock easily — from the electronic drums and driving, rumbling bass line to the spare chordal strokes of the guitars and the stylish saxophone. During the chorus, the guitars suddenly kick up the intensity, hitting ringing power chords as the drums pound harder behind them. After the second chorus, there is also a breakdown in which Michael Hutchence chants the title over a drumbeat with effects layered over his voice; the guitar enters and plays a down-and-dirty single-note riff before returning to the verse figure.
Like nearly every great pop single, "What You Need" is tightly constructed, with no wasted space or unnecessary repetition anywhere. Even though INXS would prove themselves a terrific pop outfit many times over the next few years, "What You Need" remains one of their most infectious numbers.
4. R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A. (A Salute To 60’s Rock) – John Cougar Mellencamp
Remember back in #10 when I talked about bands getting their asses kicked? Next in line for an ass-kicking after Force M.D.’s is John Cougar Mellencamp. I’m not such a big fan of his, either. No, I don’t care that he finally sold out by giving his mediocre song "Our Country" to Chevy, and I only care a little that he took Peter Sagal a little too seriously when guesting on Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! a few weeks ago. (I don’t like anybody messing with my favorite podcast.) So why is he getting an ass-kicking?
1) For the parentheses. Whose stupid fucking idea was this? Were these necessary? It makes the song sound less like a rock and roll single and more like a segment on the Miss America broadcast. I will admit, though, that I didn’t know what the hell this song was about until I read them. And neither did you – go ahead, name one lyric that’s not the chorus and that one part where they scream "they were rockin’!" (And in reference to that one, I always thought they were giving a shout-out to Little Rock.)
2) For the chords. Really, John? This is the best you could come up with? What shall I sing over your chords – "What I Like About You" or "Cherry, Cherry?" Your pick.
3) For the device. I’m not a big fan of songs that spend more than maybe 7 seconds specifically referring to other people or things that they love by name. "R.O.C.K. in the whatever" mentions (deep breath) Frankie Lyman, Bobby Fuller, Mitch Ryder, (hey, what about the Detroit Wheels, asshole?), Jackie Wilson, the Shangri-Las, the Young Rascals, Martha Reeves, and let’s don’t forget James Brown. The song is no better than any other song that pulls this shit: "Vogue," "We Didn’t Start The Fire," "The Heart Of Rock And Roll," "Land Of 1000 Dances," etc. In fact, it’s worse. Why? See #1.
Flute solo. Ocarina solo!
I have a terrible feeling that John Mellencamp is literally going to hunt me down and kill me.
3. Manic Monday – Bangles
Just last week I was talking about Bangles songs I’d rather listen to instead of "Eternal Flame." Here’s one of them: a really pretty, catchy song, written by His Purpleness. I really adore it; it’s terribly girly but it’s never bothered me (in case you haven’t noticed, I, too, am terribly girly).
So yes, Prince wrote this song, although it wasn’t originally intended for The Bangles; it was first given to Apollonia for the album he was working on with her in late 1983 and early 1984, Apollonia 6. However, at some point, Prince must have decided Apollonia wasn’t worth any good material. In addition to pulling "Manic Monday" (which was included on cassette pre-releases of Apollonia 6), he also took away "The Glamorous Life" (which was actually written about Apollonia) and "Take Me With U," which was used on Purple Rain. Daaaaamn! When Prince got the hots for Susanna Hoffs, he wooed her the best way he knew how:
he locked her in a bathroom he gave her this song for her band. I hope Hoffs put out, as Prince gave the band their very first hit.
A rough, scratchy version of the Apollonia version is out there on the Internet – and wouldn’t you know it, I have it.
Apollonia with Prince – Manic Monday (download)
I’m pretty thankful we wound up with the Bangles version.
Here’s something else you may not know about this song: did you know that the line in the bridge is "Doesn’t it matter that I have to feed the both of us – employment’s down?" I never would have known that in a million years had Mike not looked it up when he had to play it for a gig. Even now, I’m a bit doubtful.
2. Kiss – Prince And The Revolution
Here’s what I love: I love a week in which Prince can have two songs in the Top 10, and there’s absolutely no similarity between them at all. (However, try singing "Manic Monday" over "1999" and you’ll realize that even Prince plagiarized himself every so often.)
Gawd, I love this song. Overplayed as it is, I love this song. I wish I could sing this song. Okay, let me get specific: I wish I could sing this song well. I can sing it now, but it’s not pretty.
"Kiss" is just a perfect slab of funk. There’s not a thing wrong with it. Prince just happened to make all the right choices: to sing almost completely in his 100% effeminate falsetto (even his screech at the end is perfect); to know exactly when to venture into his lower register; to find a chunky drum beat; and to know just how to use that wah pedal.
Believe it or not, I was more familiar with the Tom Jones/Art Of Noise version – I remember buying it on 45 at the time. It was also, embarrassingly enough, the first time I had ever heard Tom Jones.
1. Rock Me Amadeus – Falco
So over the course of this week, I’ve been listening to the Top 10 on my iPod. "Rock Me Amadeus" comes on and I’m all "YES! I LOVE THIS SONG!" Instantly, I’m taken back to the summer I first heard this song, I’m remembering playing it on a mix cassette over and over again, rocking out to it and trying to memorize the spoken-word Mozart chronology in the middle. I’m full of all sorts of excitement and nostalgia.
Then I hear the version I have and realize two things:
1) Wait a minute…this guy’s speaking GERMAN!
2) There’s no spoken-word part in here at all!
I figured I was going to have to come on here and tell you guys how stupid I was, how I must have dreamed the whole thing and you were there and you were there and oh Auntie Em, there’s no place like jasonhare.com…and then I realized that apparently the version I remember is the "Salieri Mix," which eliminates all of the German and does add in a spoken-word chronology. In English.
So nevermind. And God bless America!Still, I believe Falco’s success was based on the original German single, which is an impressive feat (let’s give it up for him and Nena, mentioned by Kurt in Chart Attack! #22). "Rock Me Amadeus" eventually hit #1 before Americans realized, "hey, this song is boring – instead, let’s write parodies about it for the next 20 years!" Seriously, there should be some law against parodying this song too many times, or at least a statute of limitations – like maybe we could have stopped after 1989. Although Falco was the first person to record and release "Der Kommissar," we’re still going to consider him a one-hit wonder – the version we know and love is a cover by After The Fire. Falco died in 1998, when…oh wait, I should probably say it in a format suited to the Salieri Mix:
IN 1998, FALCO DIED AFTER COLLIDING WITH A BUS WHILE DRIVING HIS MITSUBISHI PAJERO. Amadeus, Amadeus! Amadeus, Amadeus Amadeus!Amadeus, Amadeus Amadeus! Oh-oh-oh-Amadeus!
I’m going to hell.
That’s all for this week! Thanks so much for stopping by – and see you next week for another CHART ATTACK!