Hi, everybody! This week’s CHART ATTACK! takes us back a whopping 22 years, and wow, do I feel old, considering I remember hearing just about every single one of these songs on the radio when they first came out. The songs this week aren’t that bad, actually, but as you’ll soon see, almost all of them are linked together in…well…just about the worst way possible. Stay tuned as we review the Top 10 from April 11, 1987!
10.Á‚ The Finer Things — Steve Winwood Amazon iTunes
9. Let’s Go! — Wang Chung Amazon iTunes
8. Midnight Blue — Lou Gramm Amazon iTunes
7. Sign ‘O’ the Times — Prince Amazon iTunes
6. Come Go With Me — ExposÁƒ© Amazon iTunes
5. Don’t Dream It’s Over — Crowded House Amazon iTunes
4. Tonight, Tonight, Tonight — Genesis Amazon iTunes
3. I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) — Aretha Franklin and George Michael Amazon iTunes
2. Lean on Me — Club Nouveau Amazon iTunes
1. Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now — Starship Amazon iTunes
10. The Finer Things — Steve Winwood
“The Finer Things” is just one of the many collaborations between Winwood and his writing partner for most of the ’80s, Will Jennings. Jennings co-wrote almost all of Winwood’s hits, including “While You See a Chance,” which clearly inspired the opening of this song — all synths, baby! I’m usually anti-synth, but if it’s Steve Winwood, I’m okay with it. “The Finer Things” was the second biggest hit from Back in the High Life, peaking at #8.
Jennings, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is quite the accomplished songwriter: in addition to his work with Winwood, he wrote/co-wrote songs such as “Tears in Heaven,” “Up Where We Belong” and “My Heart Will Go On.” There’s a nice interview with him over at Songfacts.
9. Let’s Go! — Wang Chung (download)
I had no idea I had ever heard this song before until I reached the chorus, although to be fair, it’s not like I can really remember the verses of “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” either. While this song did make it to the Top 10 (peaking here at #9), it wasn’t a strong enough hit to make the overall Hot 100 for 1987. I do like this mention of the song over at Wikipedia, though (emphasis mine): “The single was a hit for Wang Chung in the United States, and it provided the band with their second (and so far, last) top-10 hit.” Isn’t that cute? Who knows, everybody — Wang Chung may be making a comeback! Simple Minds, you’re on deck!
Not much to say about “Let’s Go!” — It follows the same format as their previous hit: stupid lyrics, catchy chorus. But, uh, hey: if you liked Kids Incorporated, this should be a happy day for you. They covered it!
8. Midnight Blue — Lou Gramm
I remember what my father said. He said, “Son, life is simple. It’s either cherry red, or midnight blue.”
What the hell does that mean? Is that really the best advice you got from your father? ‘Cause that’s shitty advice. Really shitty advice. It’s just unhelpful. Is there some double entendre I’m missing here?
That being said, I like this song. First of all, it’s from a period in time when Lou Gramm could sing the phone book and kick ass doing it. Second of all, I give credit to anybody who can take three words and make it a “chorus.” (“Midnight,” “blue,” and “ohhhh.”) Lou’s singing it in a lower key these days, and don’t even think that I’m going to make a joke about that or about his weight gain, because the last time I did, I got (deservedly) taken to task for not knowing that both are apparently results of him having a brain tumor. (Fun fact: one of the fans was Dw. Dunphy. I hate that guy.)
Y’know who used to cover “Midnight Blue” shortly after its release? R.E.M. Admit it, you never would have guessed that in a million years.
7. Sign ‘O’ the Times — Prince
This is a fantastic Prince song (which I can’t share with you because, though he may rock, he still remains a possessive d-bag). His writing on this song reminds of some of the social commentary Stevie Wonder used on songs like “Living for the City” or “Village Ghettoland.” I don’t have much more to say about it, really — great vocals, great music, really short musician.
Did you like Kids Incorporated? If so, guess what? No, I’m just kidding. Can you imagine the kids of Kids Incorporated taking that line about “doing horse” literally? I’m picturing a smiling little bastard riding a pony.
Ugh, as much as I love this song, I’m depressed now. I blame it on the content of this song and this recurring theme we have with Kids Incorporated.
6. Come Go With Me — ExposÁƒ© (download)
Whew! ExposÁƒ© are here to save the day and make me feel better! Have I mentioned I love all of ExposÁƒ©’s hits? I do. I love “Come Go With Me” specifically because the first 45 seconds feature three distinct sections that all feature some sort of synth riff, and they actually manage to include real electric guitar and percussion as well. ExposÁƒ© totally exceeded all my expectations in under a minute. Here’s hoping DJ D graces us with an ExposÁƒ©, um, exposÁƒ© sometime soon.
You guys aren’t going to believe me, but this song was on Kids Incorporated! Kids Incorporated, everybody!
5. Don’t Dream It’s Over — Crowded House
Hey, Kids Incorporated fans! More good news! Is this ruining your Friday as much as it’s ruining mine?
Thankfully, Neil Finn can pull me out of just about any bad mood I’m in. I feel lame being this simplistic about it, but Crowded House songs are just pretty. That’s the best word I can think of to describe it. A song like this, or “Better Be Home Soon” or “Fall at Your Feet” or…I could go on and on.
Of course, being an FM-centric child of the ’80s, this was the only song I knew by Crowded House for quite a long time. Peaking at #2, it remains the band’s highest-charting single in the U.S. — and most countries, actually. All but Canada. Seriously. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” went to #1 in Canada, and Canada only.
The song won the MTV Video Music Award in 1987 for Best New Artist. Here they are accepting their award from Downtown Julie Brown and performing their #1 Canadian smash hit!
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4. Tonight, Tonight, Tonight — Genesis (download)
I can be as prog-rock nerdy about Genesis as the next guy — I wore out my vinyl copy of Selling England by the Pound after playing “Firth of Fifth” too many times — but I do love the pop turn they took in the ’80s. And I love “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight,” manly because of the three-note motif that pervades the song (it’s at its most interesting during the choruses, where you can barely hear it) and because of Phil Collins’ voice. Sure, we can mock Phil Collins until the cows come home, but have you ever tried to sing a Phil Collins song? Like, really sing the shit out of it the way he does? I know I can’t do it. Granted, he can’t either these days, but on ’80s Genesis songs, like this one and “Mama,” he sounded phenomenal. I’d kill to sing like this.
The version I’ve included for download here is the original version, which is almost 9 minutes long. If you have a Genesis greatest hits collection, chances are you have the edited version.
Here’s Genesis performing the song (long version) on the Invisible Touch Tour. Collins doesn’t consistently hit all the high notes, but he sure as hell goes for ’em. This is a great performance. I’m totally going out and buying this DVD.
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3. I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) — Aretha Franklin and George Michael
As usual, we all have to take a second and bow down to Clive Davis. It was his idea to have Aretha and George duet on this song. Actually, it was his idea for the song to be a duet at all; the demo only featured one artist, co-writer Simon Climie of British pop duo Climie Fisher. (Is this who I have to blame for the stupid parentheses?) Fisher had pitched the song to Tina Turner as well, but Davis chimed in and, well, you don’t say no to Clive Davis. Unless you’re Kelly Clarkson, and we all know how that turned out. I love this song — I think it’s a fantastic duet and the two voices are perfect together, though I don’t know if I’ve ever heard such a long ad-lib-to-fade before.
The song was a massive hit for both artists — it was George Michael’s third consecutive solo single to hit #1 in both the US and the UK (although, technically, “Careless Whisper” was credited to “Wham! Featuring George Michael” in America), and would you believe that this song is the only #1 hit Aretha Franklin has ever had in the UK? It’s true.
By the way, this song was also covered during the 1987 season of Kids Incorporated, but I can’t find the clip. You guys got lucky this time. Actually, you get doubly lucky, because guess who covered this one in a totally awesome way?
Michael McDonald — I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) (download)
2. Lean on Me — Club Nouveau
Although Bill Withers’ 1972 single has been covered by kick-ass artists such as Michael Bolton, Al Jarreau, Anne Murray and Limp Bizkit, only Club Nouveau were able to take the cover to #1 — one of the handful of times a song has reached the top of the charts by more than one artist. I don’t have a problem with Club Nouveau’s cover of “Lean On Me,” (other than that whole “we be jammin'” part), but it does seem a little wrong that it was their version that won a Grammy for Best R&B Song in 1987. I suppose the song couldn’t have won it in 1972, though, since that award went to…Bill Withers. (“Ain’t No Sunshine.”)
Club Nouveau was formed by Jay King, the former producer for Timex Social Club. King had worked tirelessly to produce and promote their song “Rumors.” Once the song finally found success (it reached #8 in 1986), the band signed with a different producer, and King was out of a job. He formed Club Nouveau out of necessity — dude was broke! — with a few other producers he had previously worked with, and they were the ones who suggested the Withers cover.
And yes, folks. It’s true — Kids Incorporated pissed all over this one too. Their version doesn’t really sound much like Club Nouveau’s, but I’m not sure it would have been included on their television show had it not been for the song’s resurgence. For better or worse, here it is.
1. Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now — Starship
Yes, it hit #1 — the third #1 hit for Starship. Yes, it sold a bazillion copies. Yes, for a while it made Grace Slick the oldest female singer to have a #1 single in the US (until Cher graced us with “Believe”). Yes, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. But if you gave me the space and time, I believe I could come up with a pretty solid thesis on why “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” is one of the suckiest songs in the world. Here’s my abbreviated version.
Just a Sampling of Reasons Why “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” is one of the Suckiest Songs in the World
1. It was the first #1 single for Diane Warren. She co-wrote this one with Albert Hammond. Without “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” who knows if we ever would have gotten “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” So if we really, really think about this, we can blame Starship for Steven Tyler’s botox. Think about it.
2. It was the theme song to Mannequin. I admit that I liked this film when I was 10 years old. But unlike many other guilty pleasures from that point in my life, I am truly ashamed of this one now. And Warren and Hammond were supposedly inspired to write this song after watching the movie.
3. Look out, Phil Spector! The producer, Narada Michael Walden (responsible for about half of Whitney Houston’s early hits and # 3 above) had this to say about hearing the demo version:
It was really good, big and broad. It had a lot of echo on it. Immediately, I thought of Phil Spector. [I thought] this is my big chance to impress the world with my Phil Spector imitation. So I said, ‘I’ll do it.’… We got great drum sounds on my Simmons kit: all electric drum sounds. I really think those sounds helped make that record a hit.
Yes, friends. He just compared himself to Phil Spector. With his production on “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”
5. Starship doesn’t even play on it. Maybe this is a good thing, I don’t know. But Starship was on tour at the time that the track was being recorded, so as intimated above, Walden hired session musicians. Slick and Mickey Thomas (I hate you, Mickey Thomas) recorded their vocals later, and Craig Chaquico did the awful guitar solo that I mercifully cut off in #4. But that’s it. It can barely be called a Starship song. Which, again, may not be a bad thing.
So that’s five reasons right there. Don’t think I can’t come up with more, people. I can. I’ll just leave you with these final thoughts: Slick and Thomas were not the first artists under consideration to sing this duet. First suggestion? John Parr (“St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)”) and Laura Branigan. Second suggestion? Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald. I’m not making this up. The only good thing about Slick and Thomas singing this song is that when Slick sings “Let ’em say we’re crazy,” you really believe her, because, well, she’s a mess of crazy.
And I’ll give them this: the video is kind of awesome in that horrible ’80s way. You should really watch it. It’s one of those videos where they try to meld with the movie, with disastrous/hilarious results. I really get the feeling that Slick and Thomas hated each other, and they only thing they bonded over was wanting to kick the shit out of Meshach Taylor at the very end.
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You guys are never going to guess who covered this song. Yup, that’s right! Fucking Kids Incorporated! You’re welcome!
So let’s reflect, folks. We’ve learned a lot this week. We’ve learned that Winwood’s writing partner is extremely grateful for Celine Dion. We’ve learned that I can’t get away with making fun of Lou Gramm’s weight. We’ve learned that I inexplicably love ExposÁƒ©, and that Starship doesn’t just suck, they suuuuuuuck. But what’s the biggest thing we’ve learned? That the producers of Kids Incorporated really had their ears glued to the radios this month, as 70% of this chart was represented on that god-awful show. So, my friends, take these lessons with you through the weekend, and we’ll see you in a couple of weeks for another edition of CHART ATTACK! Thanks for reading!