Hello, everybody! I’ll be honest with you — this chart kind of stinks. I mean, it’s not “wretched,” but I wouldn’t say it’s “good by any stretch of the imagination,” either. But you know what? I open my Billboard book, close my eyes, point to a chart, and deal with what’s in front of me. (Except when I delegate it to other writers.) Anyway, prepare to get your new jack swing on as we attack August 19, 1989!
10. So Alive — Love and Rockets Amazon iTunes
9. Secret Rendezvous — Karyn White Amazon iTunes
8. Batdance — Prince Amazon iTunes
7. I Like It — Dino Amazon
6. Hangin’ Tough – New Kids on the Block Amazon iTunes
5. Once Bitten Twice Shy — Great White Amazon iTunes
4. Don’t Wanna Lose You — Gloria Estefan Amazon iTunes
3. Cold Hearted — Paula Abdul Amazon iTunes
2. On Our Own — Bobby Brown Amazon iTunes
1. Right Here Waiting — Richard Marx Amazon iTunes
10. So Alive — Love and Rockets
Well, this is an odd way to start our week, isn’t it? If you’re confused, imagine what L&R members Daniel Ash, Kevin Haskins, and David J were thinking. As three of the four founding members of Bauhaus, none of these guys had ever experienced anything close to a hit on the U.S. pop charts; as far as I know, no single from Bauhaus has ever come close to cracking the Hot 100. Love and Rockets kind of owed this success to the fourth member of Bauhaus, Peter Murphy: The band initially broke up in 1983, but it wasn’t too long before they discussed getting back together. A rehearsal was planned, but Murphy never showed; the trio rehearsed anyway, and Love and Rockets was born.
They released three albums before Love and Rockets brought them their unexpected success. Their only other dent on the Hot 100 was “No Big Deal” from the same album, peaking at #82. Although the group broke up in ’99, they’ve gotten back together in recent years, playing at Coachella in April and Lollapalooza earlier this month.
9. Secret Rendezvous — Karyn White
All hail our first new jack swing track of the week! (Have you ever read the Wikipedia entry on “new jack swing”? Fascinating.) It’s not that there’s anything specifically wrong with “Secret Rendezvous,” other than the fact that it kind of sounds like everything else topping the charts around the late ’80s: Bobby Brown, Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson, etc. Now that I’ve heard it again I remember it, but it certainly didn’t leave any long-lasting impression.
Check out the video, everybody. The scaffolding is on loan from Paula Abdul’s “Cold Hearted” video, the chairs from Janet Jackson’s “Miss You Much” video, and the outfit from, well, just about every Debbie Gibson video. I honestly think this is the first time I’ve ever seen Karyn White in my life. And something about her dancing makes me feel uncomfortable. I think it’s because the director came up with a list of every popular dance move at the time and made her do them all in a row.
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8. Batdance — Prince (download)
I’ve always found “Batdance” strangely appealing. I remember buying the 45 back in 1989 after hearing it on the radio. I dig the overall chaos of the song as well as the, uh, Princeness that takes over at the two-and-a-half-minute mark. Oh, and I love when Prince says “Keep bustin’.” That’s just about all the brilliant commentary I have for this song, but thankfully Popdose’s own Matthew Bolin has not only taken apart “Batdance” but the entire Batman soundtrack album as part of his When Good Music Happens to Bad People series. I’ll offer the song up for download just because … well, I guess I like to tempt fate. Here’s the video, too, likely to be taken down any minute now.
7. I Like It — Dino
I was all set to make some smart-ass comments about Dino being a one-name, one-hit wonder like Snow, Nena, and Pele, but as it turns out, Dino (full name: Dino Esposito; unrelated to Bean) did pretty well for himself in the late ’80s and early ’90s: five singles in the Top 40 between ’89 and ’93. One of them, “Romeo,” reached #5, but I don’t remember it at all. However, I have many memories of hearing “I Like It” on the radio during the summer of ’89. I have to admit I’m not quite clear on where the lines of new jack swing begin and end, but I think this song fits in the genre.
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(I agree with the YouTube comments that mention Dino’s passing resemblance to Jim Carrey.)
Before he embarked on a singing career, Dino was a popular DJ, both in clubs and on the radio — he eventually became the music director at Las Vegas station KCEP. “I Like It” received a significant boost in popularity when he toured as the opening act for our next group …
6. Hangin’ Tough – New Kids on the Block
There are many things that could be said about this awful, awful song — Jon mentioned a number of them in his excellent Popdose post — but right now, there’s only one thing I’m thinking about.
That’s right: the guy who was called in to do another day of session work, and once he saw the lyrics and structure of the song decided that even he had standards and should turn it down, but he really needed the money and was two months behind on his car payments and so he took the job and went into the studio and almost walked out when he saw these five Beantown d-bags acting like they were from the street, promising to put everybody in a trance with their funky song, but then he remembered that he really just wanted to pay off the Camry so he could stop borrowing money from his mother, so he sat down and listened to the song for hours on end, enough to the point where he eventually thought “Y’know, this really isn’t that bad,” and wound up laying down some tasty licks on the track, especially at the end as the boys repeated their “whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh … hangin’ tough,” and he went home singing the song to himself, and paid off the Camry, and yet to this day, when people ask him, “So, what are some of the more popular songs you’ve been a part of?,” he still won’t admit to a soul that he played on ‘Hangin’ Tough.”
I couldn’t help but wonder how the newly reformed NKOTB would go about singing these lyrics during their upcoming tour, so I ventured over to the YouTube to check out a clip of them doing an old-skool NKOTB medley on Today. Imagine my non-surprise when they only sang the “whoa, oh, oh, oh, oh” part. I don’t think that shit’s gonna fly when the tour starts in the fall, boys! We’re all expecting to get on the floor and do the New Kids dance. Just saying.
Uh-oh. Look out, everybody! It’s time for a …
So in writing the above, I was trying to figure out whether I should have called it The Today Show or just Today, so I went to Wikipedia to find out (you can kind of style it either way), and then found out that Today is the third-longest-running American television series ever, so then I went to find out what I could find at the number one and two slots (it doesn’t matter for the purposes of this non sequitur). Then I saw that Romper Room was up there at 41 years, so I went to the Wiki page for Romper Room, where I found this interesting tidbit surrounding one of the hosts:
In 1962, the hostess of the Phoenix franchise of Romper Room linked her own name with that of the ongoing controversies over abortion. Sherri Finkbine, known to television viewers as “Miss Sherri,” sought hospital approval for abortion on the ground that she had been taking thalidomide and believed her child would be born deformed. Being a community-minded woman, Finkbine made a public announcement about the dangers of thalidomide.
The hospital refused to allow an abortion, apparently because of her announcement and its own fear of publicity. Finkbine traveled to Sweden for the abortion. Upon completion, it was confirmed that the fetus had no legs and only one arm.
The incident became a made-for-TV movie in 1992, A Private Matter, with Sissy Spacek as Finkbine.
Sorry, I just had to share that. Thanks for reading! This has been a …
5. Once Bitten Twice Shy — Great White (download)
Are you still reeling from that non sequitur? No legs and only one arm!
Poor Jack Russell, lead singer of Great White. For starters, he’s named after a dog. And while he did enjoy a modicum of success in the late ’80s with Great White (including this Ian Hunter cover, which peaked at #5), it was all over in just a decade. Russell disbanded Great White in 2001, only to rename his new band “Jack Russell’s Great White” a year later due to lack of interest from the public. Of course, the band sadly gained notoriety following the tragedy at the Station in Rhode Island in 2003, at which point I think they just gave up and went back to using “Great White” as their name. Russell went into rehab for “medical reasons” in 2005 (his ex-wife caught him smoking crack in the laundry room). He also had a facelift, which was inexplicably considered “news.” But cheer up, everybody! The original members of Great White triumphantly reunited in 2007. Where to stage their big comeback concert, you ask? Madison Square Garden? Red Rocks? Knott’s Berry Farm?
Great White reunited at a benefit to save the seals.
So who garners more sympathy — the NKOTB guitarist, Jack Russell, or the baby with no legs and one arm? Tough call, right?
4. Don’t Wanna Lose You — Gloria Estefan
What, another Gloria Estefan ballad? This ranks fourth in what I consider to be the Bland Gloria Estefan Ballad Canon (the others: “Words Get in the Way,” “Can’t Stay Away From You,” “Anything for You,” “Here We Are,” “Cuts Both Ways,” and, of course, “Bitches Ain’t Shit”). I can’t really think of anything to say about this song, other than it can be considered her first solo #1 — Estefan had dropped “Miami Sound Machine” as a band name by 1988. I mean, right now, I thought I was singing “Don’t Wanna Lose You” to myself, but I was actually singing “Anything for You.” And here’s the messed-up part: I did this back in March. Same song, too — “Anything for You,” which is odd, because “Words Get in the Way” is still my favorite.
I never want to talk about Gloria Estefan again.
3. Cold Hearted — Paula Abdul
Say what you want about Paula Abdul, but this video is pretty hot. The choreography, editing, and direction is fantastic. This is yet another late-’80s hit directed by David Fincher, who actually directed most of the videos from Forever Your Girl. (We’ll forgive you for directing “Opposites Attract,” David.)
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“Cold Hearted” (ooh ahh, ooh ahh) eventually topped the chart, knocking “Right Here Waiting” from the peak spot — and although it only remained at #1 for a week, it held strong in the top ten for a good two months.
Is “Cold Hearted” new jack swing? I’m all new jack swinged out. Hopefully there’s no more yet to come.
2. On Our Own — Bobby Brown (download)
Well, I guess it’s no surprise, since Bobby Brown was one of the kings of new jack swing, and “On Our Own” was penned by the exact same three people who wrote “Secret Rendezvous”: L.A. Reid, Babyface, and Daryl Simmons. It’s also no surprise that “On Our Own” was a big hit for Brown; the single, included on the soundtrack to Ghostbusters II, was released hot on the heels of Brown’s #3 hit “Every Little Step,” from his blockbuster album Don’t Be Cruel, and it’s essentially the same damn song. Of course, “Every Little Step” doesn’t feature a Ghostbusters-themed midsong rap, which, while terrible, remains in my head, presumably until I die. Seriously, I remember every single word, and I’m ashamed. The last few lines are the worst: “Found out about Vigo, the master of evil / Try to battle my boys? That’s not legal!” I’m disgusted with myself, as well as perplexed as to why battling the Ghostbusters would be considered illegal.
The video for the song, like the movie, was a pale imitation of the original, featuring cameos from lame celebrities reacting to absolutely nothing in front of them. Wait a minute … are those the Ramones at the 2:17 mark? Holy crap! The Ramones and Bobby Brown … together at last!
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1. Right Here Waiting — Richard Marx
Not that this will surprise anybody, but I’m totally seeing Richard Marx again later this month. My friend Amy found tickets on a discount website that usually offers tickets for tribute acts. Tribute acts and Richard Marx, that is. Sad for him, but good for me. Yes, I’m taking my mom. It’s her birthday present. (Thanks, Amy!)
Speaking of birthdays, for my birthday Jeff bought me an authentic Richard Marx shirt from the Repeat Offender tour in ’89. (Thanks for feeding my lameness, Jeff!) I wore it at my last Acoustic ’80s gig and then played “Right Here Waiting.” (Never mind, buddy, I’m doing it on my own!) Sounds utterly pathetic, right? I actually don’t think it was half bad. Everybody sang the last chorus on their own, and I didn’t even have to guilt them into doing it — they just sang it. I don’t know if everybody was thinking about their senior prom or what, but I was relieved.
Anyhow, a little about “Right Here Waiting”: of Marx’s 14 top-20 singles, this one is easily his best-selling and most popular. I’m relatively certain he could’ve released this one song and retired on its success alone. It was his third consecutive chart topper, it’s been covered by a million artists (who could forget your touching rendition, William Hung?), and it consistently remained in the top 15 on the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Recurrents chart from 2000 to 2003. (I didn’t even know that such a chart existed until this very moment.) Is the song cheesy? Yeah. Overplayed? Sure. Ultimately a good song? I’m voting yes. But you guys know I’m biased. And now you know the truth: forget the NKOTB guitarist, Jack Russell, and the no-legged, one-armed baby. I garner the most sympathy this week, don’t I, for my continued love of Richard Marx?
So that’s our week in August from damn near 20 years ago! Don’t blame me, I didn’t put the songs there. (Well, maybe the Richard Marx one.) Have no fear, though: we’ll be covering the early ’70s on our next edition of CHART ATTACK! Thanks for reading!