Hi, everyone! I’m totally stoked about the chart I’m covering. So many good things. Of course, I wish “Hello” was on this list, but that will have to wait until 1984. Considering that I spent this particular week in history learning to square-dance for my kindergarten graduation, you’d think I wouldn’t know any of the songs below, but you’d be wrong, my friends: I am a true child of the ’80s! Also, my older cousin gave me mono that summer, meaning I was indoors most of the time, so my grandmother got cable so I could watch the Disney Channel, but I just watched MTV and Color Sounds (remember Color Sounds?) for a solid month instead. Thanks, Grandma!
Alright – let’s attack the chart from May 28, 1983!
10. Straight From the Heart — Bryan Adams Amazon iTunes
9. My Love — Lionel Richie Amazon iTunes
8. Time (Clock of the Heart) — Culture Club Amazon iTunes
7. Solitaire — Laura Branigan Amazon iTunes
6. Little Red Corvette — Prince Amazon iTunes
5. She Blinded Me With Science — Thomas Dolby Amazon iTunes
4. Overkill — Men at Work Amazon iTunes
3. Beat It — Michael Jackson Amazon iTunes
2. Let’s Dance — David Bowie Amazon iTunes
1. Flashdance … What A Feeling — Irene Cara Amazon iTunes
10. Straight From the Heart — Bryan Adams
Okay, considering I sat in front of a television for the better part of my formative years, you’d think I would know this song, but the only Bryan Adams song I know is the one from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. What can I say? I preferred that my male singers be sexually ambiguous in 1983.
This was Mr. Adams’s (Mr. Order of British Columbia, if you’re nasty) first foray into the top ten on the Billboard charts, but “Straight From the Heart” doesn’t do much for me, and the video is pretty wretched — not early-’80s video-technology bad, but just plain bad. Now, I’m sure that if this was the first song I ever slow-danced to I’d feel differently about it, but it’s so plinky and repetitive. And it totally can’t get with “Make It Last Forever” by Keith Sweat (which was my first slow dance, by the way).
Bryan is kind of an awesome dude, though. He’s a total Renaissance man and a huge social activist, but I’m not about to spout his resumÃ©, so check out his Wiki page. That’s what I did.
Sometimes I read YouTube comments to see how far humanity has spiraled, and one in particular caught my eye: “someone said he is the god i love him and he is my favorit singer but we cant say he is the god coz god cant be humain so think about it.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself.
9. My Love — Lionel Richie
As I stated earlier, I was pretty bummed out that “Hello” wasn’t on this list; I have plenty to say about that song. Asking a blind girl “Is it me you’re looking for?” — always keeping it classy, that Lionel.
After being a total funkmeister with the Commodores in the late ’70s, Lionel made the leap to solo artist in 1982. Well, he actually had a hit with Diana Ross (though I never call her anything but Miss Ross) in ’81 with “Endless Love,” but he released his first solo album in ’82, entitled … Lionel Richie. In addition to keeping it classy, Lionel keeps it simple. By the by, do you think it’s weird that Lionel looks younger now than he did back then?
“My Love” is typical early-’80s Lionel Richie; the chorus reminds me of “Easy,” which was a far superior song. In fact, “My Love” is “Truly,” which is “Still,” which is “Lady.” Actually, I take that back — “Lady” kicks ass, people. If you were into tinkling pianos, swelling accompaniment, and sugary sweet lyrics, this is pretty good stuff.
8. Time (Clock of the Heart) — Culture Club
Full disclosure: I was Boy George for Halloween one year. Yes, I am black, and yes, I am a girl, but for one magic moment in October 1986 I was George O’Dowd. Something about that transvestite just tugged at the heartstrings, you know? Especially after watching Culture Club’s episode of Behind the Music.
Man, Behind the Music was groundbreaking, was it not? I learned some stuff that, looking back, should’ve been pretty damn obvious. But an affair between Boy George and Jon Moss, the drummer? Dude, not in a million years! And knowing that George wrote all those hits because of their relationship? Shut your mouth! And he was a heroin addict too?!
Okay, maybe he gave us some clues.
I like “Time.” George had a soulful, almost elegant voice, and I loved the R&B instrumentation, plus the lyrics almost made sense for once. Alas, George, like most gay men I know and love, is too deep for me.
Culture Club kind of imploded in 1986 after George and Jon broke up and he went on a little heroin bender. They reunited in 1998, and they tried to reunite again in 2006, but George was totally not having it.
7. Solitaire — Laura Branigan (download)
The beginning of this song sounds like the beginning of an ’80s sitcom, the camera panning over the city before we settle on the house where our favorite television family lives. “Solitaire” is a reworking of a French song of the same name, and according to Wikipedia, “The song’s rangy melody and dramatic refrain appealed to Branigan and producers, who extended the original arrangement to revolve back to one last refrain, giving Branigan a triumphant, sustained final note in keeping with the new lyrics by Diane Warren (!), which have Branigan turning the tables on a neglectful lover and getting on with a life she had put on hold for him. The note is a mere two seconds shy of the world record for longest note held by a female singer in a hit pop song, which is held by Donna Summer in ‘Dim All The Lights.'” Yes, people, Laura Branigan is responsible for unleashing Diane Warren on an unsuspecting public: the English translation of “Solitaire” was Warren’s first major hit.
“Solitaire” entered the Billboard Hot 100 the same week Branigan’s “Gloria” fell off the charts, and became the singer’s fastest-rising single, peaking at #7. It was the first single from Branigan 2, not to be confused with her first album, Branigan. I used to really like “Solitaire” as a kid. (I was six years old — what did I know?) I really thought she was talking about playing solitaire, which I had just learned how to play. I thought she was singing to me!
Unfortunately, Branigan left us too soon — she died in 2004 at the age of 47.
6. Little Red Corvette — Prince
Ah, Prince Rogers Nelson. He can be a little polarizing. He’s eccentric, but what genius isn’t? A little litigious, too: he doesn’t like his stuff on YouTube, which is a bummer. Fortunately, I have most of his songs on my trusty little iPod, so I can hear this little ditty whenever I want.
“Little Red Corvette” is one of Prince’s best-known songs, and a defining point in his rise to superstar status. It was his biggest hit at the time and his first to reach top-ten status in the U.S., as well as his first single to reach greater success on the pop chart than on the R&B chart. The song was featured on his 1999 double album, which was about one album too long. It must be hard to have music coming out of your pores and the desire to create all the time; sometimes it can lead to your songs being too damn long for their own good. (Remember when 1999 seemed so far away? And 2000 seemed, like, really far away? I’m still waiting for my flying car and my robot housekeeper. The Roomba doesn’t cut it, dammit.)
The early ’80s was when Prince was still really dirty, and it was fun reading his liner notes back then, even though he would substitute a drawing of an eye for the pronoun “I” — I was kindergarten age at the time, but I still thought that move was pretentious. Of course, Prince is a Jehovah’s Witness now, so we won’t be hearing versions of “Darling Nikki” or “Head” in concert anytime soon, yet Lionel Richie can sing “My Love” whenever he wants? I call shenanigans!
5. She Blinded Me With Science — Thomas Dolby (download)
According to his Wikipedia page, this song was actually Thomas Dolby’s least favorite. Also, even though it peaked at #5 over here, it didn’t even crack the Top 40 in the UK. I thought that was pretty interesting. What was really interesting was that Magnus Pyke, the old scientist dude who shouts “Science!” in the song, had to live that down for the rest of his life. People would just walk up to him and yell “Science!” That visual is just hilarious to me.
Dolby has worked with other acts over the years, notably Def Leppard; he appeared on Pyromania in 1983 using the alias “Booker T. Boffin.” He’s done a lot of other stuff that’s notable, but none of it’s seedy or cocaine- or hooker-related, things that would force an automatic dissertation for me. (Mobb Deep sampled “She Blinded Me With Science” a few years ago; I’m sure they’ve done some seedy, hooker-related things.) Dolby’s been pretty successful with music technology, and we’ll leave it at that. Want more? Read his frickin’ Wiki page!
What dawned on me just now is that Dolby is truly the only one-hit wonder on this list. VH1 even named “She Blinded Me” #20 on its list of the 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders, which really underscores the kickassedness of this week in chart history.
4. Overkill — Men at Work
Sigh. I miss the ’80s. You could have wonky eyes that do whatever the hell they want and still have a successful career on MTV. Colin Hay’s somersaulting eyeballs aside, Men at Work had some really good songs, which I’m sure contributed to their success. Unfortunately, they weren’t together very long — they broke up in 1985, after two members left the band. They tour in various incarnations now, and Hay and his eyes have appeared in several movies and TV shows, including JAG and Scrubs.
You know why they broke up, don’t you? They won the Best New Artist Grammy. It’s cursed, people — cursed! “That’s just a myth,” you say. But is it? Where is Lauryn Hill these days? Beautiful, socially conscious, talented Lauryn Hill?
And what about Christopher Cross? Milli Vanilli? The Carpenters? Yes, Christina Aguilera seems to have beat the curse, but she had to pay a hefty penance in assless chaps, dear friends. Here’s the lesson: if you win Best New Artist, you either don’t have any more success, you break up, you go crazy, or you wear assless chaps. I don’t make the rules. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Right, Starland Vocal Band?
3. Beat It — Michael Jackson
This is actually the song on the list that I dreaded writing about. Not because it’s not kickass. It is. (Yet I’m pretty sure my five-year-old son knows more about gang life than MJ ever did.) I dreaded it because I honestly don’t know if I can do “Beat It” justice. It’s really that good. From the opening gong to the solo guitar riff by Eddie Van Halen, the song is a perfect slice of pop. But I’m biased — I loved Michael Jackson when I was a child. I was going to marry him. I sent him fan letters on tablet paper at his address at Hayvenhurst in Encino, California. So there.
Words cannot express how much I loved Michael in 1983. Thriller was the first album I ever owned. I listened to it constantly. I knew all the words. I had posters, the MJ doll, several T-shirts, even a purse with his image on the front. When he sang “The Lady in My Life,” he was singing to me. I imagined us rocking on the porch when we were old and gray — him with a gray Jheri Curl, me with gray pigtails. When he performed on the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever special — four days after my birthday, no less – I took a picture of the TV. True story. My parents still have the picture. I was so lame.
So what happened? Was it the allegations of abuse? The gradual changing of his face? When did I fall out of love with Michael? December 2, 1983, to be exact — the world premiere of the video for “Thriller.”
Now, I have several slightly older friends who love this video, know all the choreography, and think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. I do not share these sentiments. “Thriller” is freaking scary, and Michael Jackson traumatized me beyond belief. (Yes, at 31 years old, I can still say that.) If you ask anyone who knows me well what I hate, they’ll tell you: peanut butter and zombies. I don’t do the walking undead; that, my friends, is a deal breaker for me. Sadly, Michael didn’t keep his end of the deal, which probably worked out for the best — I certainly don’t see us on the rocking porch together anymore.
“Beat It” was the third single released from Thriller; it won Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. Eddie Van Halen recorded his part while Michael was in another studio nearby recording overdubs on “Billie Jean.” According to one story, a technician who was unaware Eddie was beginning a take knocked on the studio door, entered, and quickly closed it when he realized his error. Afterward, Michael and producer Quincy Jones decided to use that take — you can totally hear the knock on the door just before Eddie’s guitar solo (it’s about two minutes and 45 seconds into the song).
I’ve taken up so much time revisiting childhood trauma that I didn’t even get to talk about the video — how was this John Landis-directed “short film” ever considered hardcore? Embedding is disabled, so you’ll have to mosey on over to YouTube to watch it.
2. Let’s Dance — David Bowie (download)
I think David Bowie is pretty damn foxy. I’ve already expressed a fondness for fey, sexually ambiguous guys, so you would think I’d be all over Ziggy Stardust. But I also like eyebrows, so I actually preferred Bowie during the early ’80s. I also liked his Young Americans Thin White Duke persona, but he was a little too skinny for my tastes in general. Probably all of that (alleged) cocaine use. Also, his hair reminded me of Max Headroom back then.
So, Bowie hooked up with Nile Rodgers to produce the Let’s Dance album, which was his most commercially successful to date. I love Nile Rodgers. I know some people hate disco, blah blah blah, but I really think Chic went beyond disco. They were so freaking funky, and I loves the funk. (I’m not even joking. I was so sad when Rick James died.) Bowie had already experimented with “plastic soul” on Young Americans, so Let’s Dance wasn’t entirely a departure for him. And it totally paid off. The title track was Bowie’s fastest-selling single at the time, entering the UK singles chart at #5 on its first week of release, reaching #1 the following week, and staying at the top of the chart for two weeks. “Let’s Dance” then topped the Hot 100, making it Bowie’s first single to reach number one on both sides of the Atlantic. It narrowly missed topping the Australian pop chart, peaking at #2.
Bowie looks so yum in that weird-ass video. Stevie Ray Vaughn played on “Let’s Dance” but didn’t appear in the video; legend has it he was pissed when he saw Bowie pantomiming his part.
1. Flashdance … What a Feeling — Irene Cara
Flashdance … hmmm. I remember wanting to wear my sweatshirt like Jennifer Beals even though I didn’t see the entire movie until I was an adult. I also remember liking “Maniac” a lot better than “Flashdance … What a Feeling.” I wanted to dance like I’d never danced before. That song had urgency, man. She’s a maniac!
Back to the #1 song and its impressive stats: in addition to topping the Hot 100 and earning a platinum record in 1983, “Flashdance … What a Feeling” won both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song in 1984. The word “flashdance” is never used in the lyrics, which always confused me. Giorgio Moroder, that guy who produced Donna Summer’s greatest hits and scored a number of very popular movies, including Brian De Palma’s remake of Scarface, wrote and produced “Flashdance.” I bet he rolls around in his piles of money just for the hell of it.
But let’s get to the good stuff. Looking back, Flashdance blew. Not in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way, like The Legend of Billie Jean. No, this movie blows in a blows-major-donkey-balls kind of way. As a kid, I thought Jennifer Beals did all of her own dancing. I didn’t realize it was a dude and some random French lady! (They danced their asses off, by the way. That’s a lot of flipping and breaking.)
Below is the video. Make a game of it: drink each time you can obviously tell it’s not Jennifer Beals dancing. I’d join you, but fetal alcohol syndrome is a bitch, and I want my unborn son to learn the greatness of Pabst Blue Ribbon on his own.
Now, I know some people hold Flashdance sacred, so if you want to talk trash about Just One of the Guys, I’ll be okay. But remember, Joyce Hyser is awesome, and you really shouldn’t say anything bad about her.
So, the song. It’s cool — lots of synthesizers and Irene Cara’s awesome voice. But what I really like is that it spawned this knockoff:
Apple? How lame is this? They had that totally awesome Big Brother-inspired commercial in 1984 that Ridley Scott directed, so that somewhat makes up for this atrocity. “We are Apple!” Hee. But the best knockoff? The too-good-for-this-planet “Flashbeagle.” Check out Franklin breakin’!
Is it bad that I actually prefer “Flashbeagle” to “Flashdance … What a Feeling”? Feel free to send me hate mail!
Thanks for putting up with me this week, Jason — I’ve had a blast!
Let’s give it up to Keilani, y’all, for kicking this chart’s ass this week — and I’m with you all the way on “Flashbeagle.” Thanks so much for reading, and we’ll see you soon for another edition of CHART ATTACK!