Note from Jason: Welcome to our second week of guest Chart Attack! posts, written by some of our favorite music bloggers. Today’s post is by the one and only Kurt of Kurt’s Krap, home of many awesome music posts, and the location of the new WEEK IN ROCK series that’s just taking the Internet by storm! Please make Kurt feel at home, won’t you, and let’s see how he tackles the week of March 10, 1984!
10. Karma Chameleon – Culture Club Amazon iTunes
9. Footloose – Kenny Loggins Amazon iTunes
8. Here Comes The Rain Again – Eurythmics Amazon iTunes
7. I Want A New Drug – Huey Lewis and the News Amazon iTunes
6. Nobody Told Me – John Lennon Amazon
5. Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell Amazon iTunes
4. Thriller – Michael Jackson Amazon iTunes
3. 99 Luftballons – Nena Amazon iTunes
2. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper Amazon
1. Jump – Van Halen Amazon iTunes
When Jason announced that he was looking for a few guest “chart attackers”, being the music/chart geek I am, I jumped at the chance. In fact, if he hadn’t already beaten me to the punch, I would most likely have done something similar for my blog.
I grew up faithfully following the Billboard charts and buying every Joel Whitburn book I could get my hands on. Not a Sunday would go by that I wouldn’t sit glued to the radio, listening to Casey Kasem run down the hits. It amazes me that if I now look at a current top 10 chart, I barely recognize a single tune, which shows either how really out of touch I am or how awful pop music has become. I leave that for you to decide.
By sheer coincidence, Jason sent me this particular week to attack, which is roughly two months before I graduated high school. So, these songs probably hit a little closer to home than most, just for the period of my own life they reflect.
Unless you grew up in this era, you just wouldn’t understand the appeal most of these songs still have. It was such a care free time to be alive and the music certainly reflected it. As I turned the corner on 40, I still listen to so much music from this decade, not out of nostalgia but because they still hold up as good pop tunes. I’m betting that’s something that won’t be said of “London Bridge” or “Sexy Back.”
Before you delve in and read, take a quick second or two to scan the chart itself. Simply classic. There’s nary a song on here that hasn’t become part of the pop culture collective: through commercials, movies and television, or even being sampled for hip-hop.
10. Karma Chameleon – Culture Club Um, er, uh…hmm. OK. I HATED the first four singles that Culture Club released. I could spend my entire time here speaking of my sheer hatred of songs like “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” (Good God yes!) or the overwhelming wussiness that was “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” (complete with Prince-like short form spelling). But, I’d like Jason to call on me again in the future, so I’ll stick to the topic at hand. “Karma karma karma karma karma chameleon.” Oh God, I will so regret this, but…I actually like this song. In the same way you just cannot resist “Walking On Sunshine,” this is another catchy, toe-tapping goody that not only will I not turn off when it plays on the radio…I will actually notch the volume up a few. Though the lyrics are some of the most unintentionally ironic I ever heard:
I’m a man without conviction
I’m a man who doesn’t know
How to sell a contradiction
You come and go
I don’t even know what the hell that means, but a guy who looks like the Boy (George that is) going “I’m a man” multiple times in a song, all the while dressed like a Jewish hausfrau just gives me the giggles. And yes, I am still that immature. According to the Boy, “the song is about the terrible fear of alienation that people have, the fear of standing up for one thing. It’s about trying to suck up to everybody. Basically, if you aren’t true, if you don’t act like you feel, then you get karma-justice, that’s nature’s way of paying you back.” Again, all this from a man who dresses like a woman. In 1984, America didn’t care and its catchiness helped make it the biggest song of their career, going Gold and spending 3 weeks in February at number one.
9. Footloose – Kenny Loggins I have yet to figure out how Kenny went from sensitive 70’s balladeer to King of the 80’s Soundtracks. Gone went the acoustic guitars and in came lots and lots of overproduced synths and bombast. Unfortunately, unless the song was somehow tied into a movie, poor Kenny couldn’t buy a hit to save his life. So this schlock, along with possibly the most overproduced song of the decade this side of Mutt Lange…Top Gun’s “Danger Zone”…made Kenny a household name. Written by the movie’s screenwriter, Dean Pitchford, all you really need to know about either can be found in the chorus:
Loose, footloose – Kick off your Sunday shoes
Please, Louise – Pull me offa my knees
Jack, get back – C’mon before we crack
Lose your blues – Everybody cut footloose
And really, I ask you, who among us can even hear this song without visions of Kevin Bacon dancing inside a barn?
I think the less said here about the song or the movie, the better.
8. Here Comes The Rain Again – Eurythmics (download) I’m rarely at a loss for words, especially in the written form. But, I have NO idea what to say here. It’s a great song from an act who is probably more respected now than they were 20 years ago. Along with hits from OMD and Spandau Ballet it’s probably the finest and catchiest synth-driven top 10 tune of the decade. I wish I had more to say, but then I’d just be making stuff up. (For the future: making stuff up is not only acceptable, but encouraged. – JH)
7. I Want A New Drug – Huey Lewis and the News Just because the 80’s were carefree doesn’t mean that we didn’t own up to our share of stupidity. Somehow, because this tune had the word “drug” in the title, those who don’t like to think for themselves immediately thought this was a tune glorifying drug use, rather than using their brain for a second and realizing the euphemism involved (women, for those still giving it some thought). Probably the most rocking tune Huey and his News recorded, it was also one of their catchiest (and in a catalog filled with catchy hits, that is actually quite an accomplishment). In fact, the song was so catchy that Ray Parker Jr. copped the melody line for his own hit, “Ghostbusters,” leading Huey to sue for this infringement and eventually settle out of court. I would also like to take this opportunity and state for the record that I miss actual horn sections in pop music.
6. Nobody Told Me – John Lennon (download) Even in death, Lennon would continue to release songs that were thousands of times better than most of what passed for pop music. Initially written for Ringo Starr, after Lennon’s tragic death, Starr just didn’t have the heart to release it and instead, Yoko Ono polished up John’s demo for the posthumous Milk And Honey album. It’s really quite a shame because it would have been the first time in nearly 10 years that all four of the Beatles would have appeared together on a song. I so want to say “cash grab” but this song is just too good. Alas, it was the last time John Lennon would appear in the top 10. The Beatles, though, would crack it again with "Free As A Bird" in 1995.
5. Somebody’s Watching Me – Rockwell Has there ever been an artist more ironically named than Rockwell? He didn’t exactly rock, and if he did, he really didn’t do it all that well. Har har…anyways, this song is admittedly kind of catchy, but that’s probably because of Michael Jackson singing the chorus (which really IS the only good part of the song). It can’t possibly be for the faux-British accent on Kenny Gordy’s rap/sing verses. It’s like listening to Madonna interview Tina Turner. Thankfully, the one and only hit Rockwell would ever have.
4. Thriller – Michael Jackson Anyone can write a Christmas tune and have it played on your local lite-FM for the month of December (sometimes, even by accident…just ask Savatage, erm, Trans Siberian Orchestra). But I ask you, how many songs can you name that have become synonymous with Halloween? We’ve got the “Monster Mash.” Um, there’s uh…well, maybe…right. Well, yes, we also have “Thriller.” One of a seven top 10 hits from the album of the same name, I dare any act today to pull off something like that. It was truly a cross-genre smash, with songs charting on the pop, dance, R&B and even rock charts (never mind Eddie Van Halen on “Beat It,” who knew that Toto was basically the backing band for this whole album?).. Again, another feat not likely to be duplicated anytime soon. At 29 million sales and still counting, it may have been displaced by the Eagles’ “Greatest Hits” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” as the all-time sales leader, but I highly doubt it will slip any further. This song, to my knowledge, is the only time actor Vincent Price ever appeared on a Billboard music chart. In a move that’s actually quite mind boggling in retrospect, Vincent decided to choose a lump sum payment of $20,000 rather than a percentage of album sales for his rap. I must admit, knowing everything that we know now (erm, allegedly) about Jacko, I have a hard time listening to any of his music which is too bad because the bottom line was: “Thriller” (both song and album) was among THE finest pop music ever made.
3. 99 Luftballons – Nena I’m German and even I will be the first to admit that Germany’s contributions to the latter day musical landscape are laughable at best. We’ve got the Scorpions and Nena (and of course, some really odd fixation with Herr Hasselhoff). Maybe Falco too, if you want to blur that Austrian/Germany border. Inexplicably, not one…but two songs sung entirely in German charted in the 80’s: Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” and “99 Luftballons”. Oddly, Nena would release an English version of this tune that managed to sound even sillier than had they just left it in its native German (and 99 “air” balloons somehow became 99 “red” balloons in the process). Every time I hear this song now, two things spring to mind: Nena’s arm pit hair and this hysterical dancing scene from Scrubs:[youtube]V-hM2yVxdjQ[/youtube]
Like “Karma Chameleon,” it’s irresistible in that “Walking On Sunshine” way, but it doesn’t mean the song is any good. Then again, many of the best pop ear worms are bad. Weird.
2. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper As I wound my way through the 80’s, I learned to appreciate a lot of different kinds of music. And, being a ‘tween in the late 70’s, I also developed a healthy appreciation of top 40 pop music. I can admit to liking certain songs by say, oh, Barry Manilow or even Leif Garrett. But, there are a handful of songs that I reserve for my own private hell. Along with “Mickey” and “Walk Like An Egyptian” is this ditty. These three songs (and you can throw Cyndi’s own “She Bop” in there too) make me want to jab sharp objects into my ear drums, hoping the coagulating blood will block the incoming sounds. It’s really quite the shame because when you take away the goofiness that she exuded (and don’t even get me going on her connection to wrestling!), Cyndi would go on to record a lot of great music that would never get the respect it deserved, all because people looked at her like some sort of female Pee Wee Herman. Interestingly enough, this tune was penned by Philly musician Robert Hazard who had an early 80’s MTV semi-hit, “Escalator Of Life,” suddenly making the lyrics take on a really weird life of its own.
1. Jump – Van Halen In the early 80’s, Van Halen was THE rock band. I can still remember the rock heads in computer class having endless discussions about who was the better guitarist: Eddie Van Halen or Rainbow’s Ritchie Blackmore (hey, we didn’t have the Internet back then!). After the relative disappointment that was Diver Down, Van Halen needed to knock one out of the park. And we all waited for this first single, to hear what sort of heroics Eddie had up his guitar sleeve. Wait, here it comes…wha? WTF is that? A keyboard? Surely this is a joke. Is this the new Duran Duran? Yes, those were the general first reactions to this tune. Weird now to think, isn’t it? I mean, seriously, this is a fantastic pop song (maybe one of the best ever) and in retrospect, that IS one of the coolest keyboard riffs of all time. It had a sort of deep fullness to it that really hasn’t been duplicated since. I guess all our worries were for naught as the next two singles were “Hot For Teacher” and “Panama”…both pretty hard rocking tracks to chart in this time period. It’s somewhat depressing to hear this song now, as the band has once again self-destructed in another reunion attempt. It’s enough to make you yearn for Gary Cherone.
Well, my time here is done. Rock on wit yo bad selves…
Thanks so much, Kurt, for a fantastic entry – and probably the only one that will ever utilize the phrase "coagulating blood." Don’t forget to visit Kurt’s Krap to read some terrific music posts, including the continuing saga of Kurt v. RIAA! See you next week for our third guest-written CHART ATTACK!