It’s Only Life After All

Thirty years ago today, I took a rental car south from San Jose, connected with the coastal highway at Monterey and continued down about as far as Big Sur. We’d had non-stop sun in the Bay Area the whole week, but the places I traveled that Tuesday were socked in with clouds:


You can see that the cloud cover didn’t extend far inland at all:


After turning back north, I stopped in Monterey for a while. Got to encounter a little wildlife, too:


After a good seafood dinner at a restaurant on the bay, I drove back to the hotel. A day on my own, taking in some great scenery, put me in a better frame of mind.

Watching Sportscenter in my room that evening, I learned that Dave Dravecky, the Giants’ hero just five days earlier, broke his arm throwing a pitch in the sixth inning at Montreal, ending his baseball career. A recurrence of his cancer was subsequently found; eventually his left arm and shoulder were amputated. He’s been a motivational speaker for a number of years.

What might I have heard in the car on the road that day? Let’s investigate some of the songs on the 8/12/89 Hot 100. As usual, I’m ignoring lots of tunes that just weren’t my scene (cough, hair metal, cough), but I have found a number of nuggets and oddities to remark upon.

#97: Paul Shaffer, “When the Radio Is On”
I’d completely forgotten that Shaffer released this “hip-hop/doo-wop” single featuring, among others, Will Smith, Dion, and Johnny Maestro. I don’t think Paul’s fooling anyone with that five o’clock shadow biker/rapper schtick. “When the Radio Is On” would make it only to #81 in a two-month run.

#95: Graces, “Lay Down Your Arms”
This was Charlotte Caffey’s attempt at commercial success outside of the Go-Go’s. I have the Graces’ CD Perfect View, and it’s got some pretty good songs on it. Meredith Brooks, whose song “Bitch” you couldn’t escape eight years later, was also in the group. This should have gotten higher than #56.

#70: Peter Gabriel, “In Your Eyes”
Don’t lie to me–you see John Cusack holding up his boombox in your mind’s eye when this song comes on the radio, no?

Gabriel had reached #26 in the fall of 86 with “In Your Eyes.” I suppose folks thought it could/should have done better (I know I do), so they released it again after it played such a prominent role in Say Anything…  Alas, it only made it to #41 the second time around.

#68: Robert Palmer, “Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming”
I can’t imagine who thought it was a good idea to have Bobby P cover this Jermaine/Michael groove. It’s already topped out at #60.

Just a few weeks ago I re-discovered the original version of “Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming,” sorting through a pile of cassettes containing music I’d dubbed from the radio back in the early 80s (more on that perhaps some other time); it was B-side of Jermaine’s single “Do What You Do.”

#60: Indigo Girls, “Closer to Fine”
In a rare confluence of my musical tastes with those of the buying public, there were three songs on this Hot 100 I was actively cheering on: “Oh Daddy” (#85) and “Let the Day Begin” (#75), which were discussed last week, plus the stunning “Closer to Fine,” from the Georgia-based duo Indigo Girls. Unfortunately, in the coming weeks all three would stall out in the 50s (#58, #51, and #52, respectively).

I’m a big enough fan of the Indigo Girls’ work (love their harmonies) to have made them the seed band for one of my Pandora stations. Greg’s wife Katie overlapped with Emily Saliers and Amy Ray at Emory University, outside Atlanta–I’ve never thought to ask her if she knew of a prof there with a Rasputin poster.

#58: The Cure, “Love Song”
The highest new entry on the Hot 100 this week, and by far the most successful single the Cure ever had, surprisingly hitting #2 (I mean, it’s a good song, but it hadn’t occurred to me that the folks buying singles would embrace Robert Smith and company to that extent).

#57: Beastie Boys, “Hey Ladies”
The Boys are now in the upward arc of their career, though I prefer “Whatcha Want” and “Sabotage.” Maybe it was just a little too soon to try to re-live the Saturday Night Fever era…  Got as high as #36.

#49: Eddie Murphy, “Put Your Mouth on Me”
Honestly, I don’t think I’d ever heard this until a few days ago; it hadn’t registered with me that Murphy wasn’t a one-hit wonder. This is on its way up to #27.

#47: Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston, “It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Never Gonna Be”
Another one that had already stalled at #41. Honestly, this is a pretty disappointing song, given the star power present–it’s as if Houston just didn’t want to mix it up with the Queen all that much.

#45: De La Soul, “Me Myself and I”
I’ve not listened to that much hip-hop over the years, but this is really, really good. Clever video, too, though I haven’t tried to research how LL Cool J felt about it. “Me Myself and I” had already peaked at #34.

#40: Bee Gees, “One”
They’re ba-ack! “One” was the Gibb brothers’ first Top 40 hit in six years, and their final song to go Top 10, peaking at #7.

#35: Milli Vanilli, “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You”
#32: Milli Vanilli, “Baby Don’t Forget My Number”

I didn’t play around with the dial on the radio on that day trip down the coast, keeping it tuned to a Top 40 station the whole time. That meant I got to hear a number of new/recent releases for the first time that day. One was “Girl I’m Gonna Miss You,” which became Milli Vanilli’s second #1 hit. Three others had yet to hit the chart: Madonna’s “Cherish,” Aerosmith’s “Love in an Elevator” (released as a single on this date thirty years ago), and Janet Jackson’s “Miss You Much” (which wouldn’t be available for another week).

#22: Soul II Soul, “Keep On Movin'”
Dynamite, awesome track. The British dance scene was making some fine music at this moment (see also Lisa Stansfield’s “Been Around the World”). The strings bring to mind Barry White’s 70s stuff, but “Keep On Movin'” fortunately lacks his emphasis on “come over here, baby, lay down beside me”-type mannerisms. Caron Wheeler and Jazzie B know how to bring it. Reached #11.

#18: Jeff Healey Band, “Angel Eyes”
My friends Mark H and Lana got married in November 90; they requested this song for their first dance as husband and wife. It would get to #5.

#16: Simply Red, “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”
I wasn’t a big fan of this former #1 song at the time, but I wasn’t really familiar with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ version then, either. I’ve grown to like it okay, but it was better done the first time.

#6: Paula Abdul, “Cold Hearted”
The songs in this Top 10 that I actually liked are ones I’ve already mentioned this summer (“Batdance,” and especially “So Alive”), so I’m briefly pausing here just to remind everyone again that Paula Abdul was basically unstoppable at this moment: three #1 songs, including this one, and a #3 in 89, plus another #1 in the early part of 90, all from Forever Your Girl.

#1: Richard Marx, “Right Here Waiting”
Mentioned only so that you aren’t left wondering. The second single from his sophomore release Repeat Offender (was that truth in advertising?), his third #1 song in a row, ascending to the top in just its sixth week.

Early the next morning I dropped the rental off at the airport and headed back to Cincy, the big vacation over and my fourth year of grad school on the horizon.

And with that wrapped up: I’m expecting posting to be lighter for the next three or four weeks. School’s almost back in session for me, the boy’s soon to leave for college, and there’s a major project about to go down in our house. I won’t disappear completely, but I’m thinking just maybe my energies should be focussed more in those directions for a while. Wish us well.

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