Ah HA! I see you have returned. You cannot resist the CHART ATTACK!, can you? No. You cannot. I didn’t think so. You need to know exactly what was happening the week of November 16, 1985. I understand. I’m here for you.
10. Lay Your Hands On Me – Thompson Twins Amazon iTunes
9. Be Near Me – ABC Amazon iTunes
8. Never – Heart Amazon iTunes
7. Broken Wings – Mr. Mister Amazon iTunes
6. Separate Lives – Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin Amazon iTunes
5. Part-Time Lover – Stevie Wonder Amazon iTunes
4. Head Over Heels – Tears For Fears Amazon iTunes
3. Miami Vice Theme – Jan Hammer Amazon iTunes
2. You Belong To The City – Glenn Frey Amazon
1. We Built This City – Starship Amazon iTunes
10. Lay Your Hands On Me – Thompson Twins It’s not like the Thompson Twins were truly that big in America, despite the massive success of “Hold Me Now,” but they were nearing the end of their relevancy with “Lay Your Hands On Me.” I don’t know about you, but I’d be hard-pressed to really remember anything about this song other than the chorus. The opening of the song (similar to the bridge), musically, has little in common with the verses, which sound pretty much like both “Hold Me Now” and “Doctor! Doctor!” The song is pretty much forgettable from my point of view. One more hit after this (“King For A Day”), and that was it. Bassist Joe Leeway quit soon afterwards and became a hypnotherapist (?), leaving The Thompson Twins actually down to two.
9. Be Near Me – ABC (download) With its catchy chorus, “Be Near Me” marked ABC’s Top 10 debut on the US charts, although they had also had strong success with their first single “The Look Of Love,” thanks to strong exposure on MTV. Existing somewhere in the space between New Romantic and New Age, the band had already undergone dramatic personnel changes, including two members quitting and two members being added purely for dramatic and visual effects (neither could sing or play any instruments). A dance remix of the song was mainly responsible for the song reaching as high as #9.
8. Never – Heart Is it just me, or does it feel like we’ve covered “Never” before? Perhaps it’s because, as Carlos astutely mentioned in Chart Attack #1, the song was written by Holly Knight, who also wrote songs like “The Warrior,” “Love Is A Battlefield,” “Better Be Good To Me,” and a million more. “Never” was the second single from Heart’s self-titled LP in 1985, preceded by “What About Love.” Both songs were played constantly on MTV, and as a result, “Never” eventually reached #4 and became Heart’s highest-charting single at the time. It was also the first time Heart could boast to having two consecutive singles reach the Top Ten. They broke the record with their next hit, “These Dreams.”
“Never” was indicative of the general sound of Heart – the abandonment of their rock sound for radio-friendly pop – but it resulted in great success for the band. As much as I like “Never,” it pains me to hear that awful keyboard sound, especially in the song’s defining riff, which would sound just fine on a guitar.
7. Broken Wings – Mr. Mister I remember hearing “Broken Wings” when it was first released, and all I remember thinking is, “this guy whines too much.” I still feel the same way. Inspired by a book of the same name by Kahlil Gibran, “Broken Wings” began its ascent to the top of the charts while Mr. Mister opened for Don Henley, and hit #1 as they were the opening act for Tina Turner. As popular as this song has remained over the years, I’ve still felt it’s way inferior to their other #1 hit, “Kyrie.” It’s drenched in synthesizers, and again, the chorus is just whiny. But it seems to be one of those inescapable, enduring radio staples. I usually just switch the station.
6. Separate Lives – Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin As any Mellow Gold-loving wuss will tell you, “Separate Lives” isn’t a Phil Collins original. Nope, it’s written by our good buddy Stephen Bishop! Bish, as you’ll know from reading Scraps’ comment in Mellow Gold 6, had a bit part in Animal House as the guitarist who gets his acoustic smashed by John Belushi. On the set of the movie, Bishop met actress Karen Allen, and the two began a four-year relationship. When the relationship finally ended, Bishop wanted us all to know how he felt. And so he wrote “Separate Lives,” which was selected for inclusion on the White Nights soundtrack.
Recorded by Collins and Marilyn Martin, the song hit #1 two weeks after this one, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. In a way, this was Bish’s second nomination (the first being, of course, for “It Might Be You”), but the first for which he could take writing credit. He lost, however, to another song from the same movie, “Say You, Say Me.” (I love Lionel Richie!)
There’s something to be said for the acoustic Bishop version. It’s relatively gentle. No synths. Just guitar. I like it. Here it is, from his album Blue Guitars (produced by Andrew Gold, y’all!) (Thanks, Jefito!)
Stephen Bishop – Separate Lives (bonus download)
5. Part-Time Lover – Stevie Wonder (download) Stevie’s later work tends to get automatically lumped in with dreck like “I Just Called To Say I Love You,” but it’s unfair to say that the man lost his touch altogether. Although he has yet to record an album as cohesive and powerful as his mid-70s output, he still has written some strong singles. “Part-Time Lover” is one of the good ones off of In Square Circle. (“Overjoyed” is another.) A strong bassline is the anchor for this track, and let me ask you – have you ever listened to the lyrics? For a long time, I just sang along with the chorus, and when I finally took a second to listen to to the words, I realized there’s actually a story there – one person cheating on another, then finding out that they’re being cheated on as well. I don’t know where I’m going with this. In any case, “Part-Time Lover” was the first track ever to reach #1 on four different charts: Pop, Dance/Disco, R&B and Adult Contemporary. I wasn’t sure if I was going to put this one up for download this week, but Mike insisted upon it. So blame him if you don’t like it.
4. Head Over Heels – Tears For Fears If you were to ask me now, my answer might be different, but as a kid, “Head Over Heels” was my favorite Tears For Fears song. Let’s face it: the other two major singles off of Songs From The Big Chair, “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” and “Shout” were frickin’ downers. (At the age of 8, I didn’t care that they were probably better musically.) Although this single was the only of the three not to hit #1, for me, it was the most enjoyable of the bunch. Plus, it had a great video, featuring a librarian, an Orthodox Jew, a keyboardist thinking he’s way more badass than he really is, a chimpanzee, and Roland Orzabal initially looking so tormented that he comes off as slightly retarded. The only problem is you keep expecting the librarian to let her hair down, or take off her clothes, or something, and she never does. Dammit.
3. Miami Vice Theme – Jan Hammer One of two instrumental television themes EVER to reach #1 (you can take a stab at the other one, but it’s a toughie), “Miami Vice Theme” was the creation of Czechoslovakian composer and multi-instrumentalist Jan Hammer, who had previously been a member of the successful Mahavishnu Orchestra in the mid-70s. Hammer was brought on board to score each episode of the show, and the Theme was the first track he played to creator Michael Mann. The song was a huge success, spending 12 weeks on the chart, earning two Grammy Awards, and eventually returning to the Billboard charts 11 years later – based on the success of the movie, “Miami Vice Theme” reached #7 on the Adult Contemporary chart in August 2006.
2. You Belong To The City – Glenn Frey It’s a Miami Vice week here at Chart Attack! The powerful combination of this song and Jan Hammer’s theme propelled the soundtrack to the top of the charts for almost three months, and up until this year, was the most successful TV soundtrack of all time. (Disney’s High School Musical now holds the record.) 1985 was a good year for Frey – also peaking #2 this year was “The Heat Is On,” from Beverly Hills Cop. Come to think of it, all of Frey’s top 10 hits were from 1985, and all were from soundtracks – “Smuggler’s Blues” also had a place on the Miami Vice soundtrack album.
1. We Built This City – Starship Honestly, I don’t know where to start. Let’s start with the ulcers Grace Slick must have had when she realized that this soul-sucking piece of dreck had just become the biggest hit any incarnation of her band had ever achieved. Yeah, let’s start there. And let’s continue by noting two of the four writers it took to compose this freaking song: Martin Page (“In The House Of Stone And Light”) and Bernie Taupin (“I Used To Write Good Songs”). Page wrote the music, Taupin wrote the lyrics, and presented it to Starship’s producers, Dennis Lambert and Peter Wolf (no, not THAT Peter Wolf), who did a few re-writes, and voila. This was Taupin’s first hit without Elton.; His second was later the next year, “These Dreams” by Heart, also a co-write with Page.
Really, I shouldn’t write anything else about “We Built This City.” It has an excellent Wikipedia page, and I suggest you read it. I specifically love the quote from Craig Marks, the editor of Blender: “It purports to be anti-commercial but reeks of ’80s corporate-rock commercialism. It’s a real reflection of what practically killed rock music in the ’80s.”
But there is something more to say. Specifically, there’s a line in this song that needs to be addressed. I have asked Michael, my bandmate and author of the excellent Down With Snark!, to write something on this matter, as he’s much more passionate about it than I am. So, without further ado, I present:
“Marconi Plays The Mamba”
OK, the reason that Jason has turned this portion of the weekly snarkfest over to me, is that long before the establishment of this blog, before Plagiarist, around the time Starship guitarist Craig Chaquico started releasing his indescribably lame acoustic jazz solo albums, I have been complaining about this song. More accurately, this line in particular:
“Marconi plays the Mamba. Listen to the radio.”
For my money, this is the second dumbest line of the 80s (trailing only “Now I’m walking again, to the beat of a drum, and I’m counting the steps to the door of your heart.” The Finns should not be allowed to skate by because of the relative high quality of their other material. That line SUCKS. I mean that line is “Girl You Know It’s True” level shitty. But I digress).
This line, more than any other, is evidence that when the irrestible lyrical force of Bernie Taupin collides with the immovable object of…the guy who wrote King of Wishful Thinking…well, it’s ugly.
Since the second part of the line is “listen to the radio” we can only assume that “Marconi” refers to Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, who is usually credited with inventing the radio (truthfully he patented the radio, which is probably more important). So, the Italian inventor of the radio, who died in 1937, “plays the mamba.”
What does this mean? My best guess, at what they wanted it to mean, is that Marconi was playing “the mamba” on his new invention, the radio. This (vaguely) ties into (I guess) modern listeners of the radio “building this city” (by listening?) on rock and roll. So (maybe) they are trying (unsuccessfully) to make a (stupid, ill conceived) reference to the long and proud tradition of listening to music on the radio, which helps to…build cities.
You see where I’m going right? As every fan of Dancing With the Stars, Lou Bega (there have to be a few) or the Kill Bill movies is aware, the MAMBO, is a musical style/dance/something that could be played on the radio. Although MAMBA has over time, gained additional meanings and can now refer to either (1) the self ascribed nickname of LA Lakers shooting guard and aquitted rape suspect Kobe Bryant or (2) a fictional tall blonde assassin with lovely cheekbones, at the time Taupin/Page created their masterpiece, a Mamba was a snake.
You can’t play a snake on the radio. Mambo does not equal Mamba, and I don’t think they can get away with the old “creative mispronunciation for scansion/rhyming purposes” gambit here.
My point? Even if they got their nouns right, this is a stupid line. The fact that they misplaced a musical style with a posionous reptile and hoped no one would notice. What can one say?
Brilliant. Thank you, Mike. While I suspect readers may take you to task for thinking that Crowded House is responsible for the absolute dumbest line in the ’80s (have you forgotten “Too Shy?” “You Spin Me Round?” “Kyrie elaison down the road that I must travel?” et al), you have once again proven why you should be writing Chart Attack!, not me. This seems like as good a place as any to end our analysis of such a terrible song.
And with that, we’ve reached the end of yet another CHART ATTACK! Enjoy the downloads, and as always, thanks for reading and posting. See you soon!