What Else Do I Have To Say?

It’s getting close to the end of my review of music of 89. Part of that has been taking a peek at the Hot 100 at the midpoint of each quarter of the year (here are the reviews of 2/18, 5/13, and 8/12). There have been a number of gems, but I’ve been regularly reminded how grim things could be, too; I definitely can see why I was drifting away from the Top 40 scene. We’re completing the exercise today by taking a gander at one-fifth of the 11/11/89 chart.

100. Martika, “I Feel the Earth Move”
Bad and/or pointless remakes are a recurring theme this go-round. The idea of remaking this Carole King classic may be rooted in the success of Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” but it was neither as synthed up nor as successful (it had reached #25).

90. Tracy Chapman, “Crossroads”
The title track of Chapman’s follow-up to her critically and commercially successful debut LP. Overall it was a classic case of the sophomore slump, though it’s better than most of the crap on this chart. This was its peak.

73. White Lion, “Radar Love”
See #100 above–I don’t know if this is bad, but it sure is pointless. The public wasn’t having any of it, either, as it had already topped out at #59.

64. Tom Petty, “Free Fallin'”
Including footage of the lead actress rather meekly skateboarding the half-pipe toward the end of the video always seemed like an odd directorial choice to me, especially since they show the guys all catching air. What gives–why show that contrast?

Excluding his duet with Stevie, this is highest a Petty-sung single ever got–it’s on its way to #7.

56. Michael Bolton, “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You”
Another awful remake, this time by the song’s writer. I wasn’t a fan of the Laura Branigan version, even before I kept hearing it during a not-very-good time in my life. Bolton’s take, which went all the way to the top, sends me up a wall every time I accidentally hear it.

Bolton is almost certainly my least favorite act ever to have seen live–he opened for Heart when John, Ann, and I went to see them at Milwaukee’s Summerfest in the late 80s.

55. Madonna, “Oh Father”
Even though this broke Madonna’s streak of 16 consecutive Top 5 singles (it peaked at #20), I’m inclined to rank it among my five favorites of hers (along with “Borderline,” “Into the Groove,” “Live to Tell,” and “Like a Prayer,” if you must know). I’d guess many of us have events from our youths that shaped everything that came afterward (I know I do). Madonna makes it clear here what that was for her.

48. Eurythmics, “Don’t Ask Me Why”
Things went sideways commercially for Dave and Annie pretty quickly after their brilliant 85 release Be Yourself Tonight, scoring just two more Top 40 singles. One of them was “Don’t Ask Me Why,” which had sneaked it at #40 the previous week. I don’t know that I heard it back in 89, but it’s a keeper.

40. Tesla, “Love Song”
Mentioning this one mainly to point out it’s not the only song with this title in the Top 40–the Cure are still hanging in there at #34. To be honest, I’d always assumed this was called “Love Will Find a Way”–I didn’t care for it enough to try to disabuse myself of the mis-impression. Their other big hit was a cover of “Signs.” You probably can guess what word springs to my mind about it.

37. Technotronic, “Pump Up the Jam”
One of a few club songs from this period that really broke through, at least into my consciousness. I like “Groove Is in the Heart” and the scorching hot “Gonna Make You Sweat” (both from about a year later) better, but I definitely get why this was a big hit, climbing all the way to #2.

33. Phil Collins, “Another Day in Paradise”
The first single from Phil’s last massive seller, …But Seriously. Probably too earnest by a fair amount, yet I’ll still give him a little credit for the effort. On its way to #1, of course.

28. 2 Live Crew, “Me So Horny”
I was well aware of the controversy surrounding As Nasty As They Wanna Be at the time, but I sure didn’t hear this song much. It’d get only two spots higher, but it hung around the Hot 100 for almost five more months.

22. Poco, “Call It Love”
The third and final time Poco made the Top 40, this time after a nine ten-year absence. One of the better songs to be found on this chart, though the video’s director went a wee bit overboard with all the carefully-selected, sculpted bods–everybody is not a supermodel, especially on a hot, summer day.

18. Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville, “Don’t Know Much”
When I first saw the title of this song, I imagined it being a rocker (maybe the album’s title–Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind–encouraged that thought). If I’d paid any attention to who Linda’s duet partner was, I wouldn’t have made that mistake. “Don’t Know Much” would climb to #2 and was Ronstadt’s last Top 10 hit.

15. Young M.C., “Bust a Move”
You could not escape this song on MTV for a couple of years. Already heading down from a #7 peak, it’s another that hung around the Hot 100 for many more months. I’ll take this over either of Tone Loc’s big hits.

14. Alice Cooper, “Poison”
Alice had just two Top 40 hits in the 80s, one in 80, and this one in 89. I’m much more inclined toward “(We’re All) Clones.” Yet another one that got to #7.

13. Billy Joel, “We Didn’t Start the Fire”
The song is good enough, but I’m a huge fan of the video. Love the care taken in assembling artifacts from the 50s and 60s, and focusing on the kitchen–nerve center of the home–from those decades and beyond was a brilliant move.

My grandparents had a coffee table book, The Best of Life, featuring hundreds of photos from the first 36 years of Life magazine. I would regularly thumb through it on visits to their farmhouse; a number of the pix made quite an impression. Joel used a couple of the hardest to look at from that collection–the lynching of a black man and the execution of a Vietnamese soldier. Exploitation? Maybe, but because I knew their source, they definitely spoke to me.

9. Delfonics, “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind)”
Amazing to think that this R&B classic, one I loved from the moment I discovered it on the first K-Tel record to enter our home, made a smashing comeback almost twenty years later. Wait…you mean it’s really an utterly soulless cover from New Kids on the Block in this spot? And it peaked at #8, two spots higher than the original? Screw that.

6. B-52’s , “Love Shack”
Soon to be #3. An incredible shame that further advance was repelled by Milli Vanilli and Bad English.

2. Roxette, “Listen to Your Heart”
Last week’s #1. I’m not a big ballad guy generally, but this is pretty good, certainly tons better than what comes next.

1. Bad English, “When I See You Smile”
I’ve surveyed four charts from 89 this year, and the top songs have been by Paula Abdul, Bon Jovi, Richard Marx, and now a Frankengroup fashioned from the dessicated husks of Journey and the Babys. I like “Straight Up,” but the other three form a pretty sad lot.

Will I continue looking at Hot 100s of 30 years ago come February? My Magic 8 Ball’s response is “OUTLOOK NOT SO GOOD.” Guess we’ll know for certain in three months…

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