American Top 40 PastBlast, 8/16/86: The Blow Monkeys, “Digging Your Scene”

The vast majority of my college’s incoming class showed up Thursday morning to move in and begin being oriented to a whole new phase of their lives (first-years playing in fall sports such as football, soccer, and volleyball had trickled in over the past week or two). It’s been a few years since I’d pitched in to help new students and their families transport belongings from vehicle to dorm room, but two days ago I spent around 75 minutes in a steady rain doing just that. We have a very large group this year, possibly the biggest in the school’s history (certainly the largest out of the thirty groups who’ve entered during my time); an offer of free tuition to graduates from this county and three others is the reason behind our growth spurt this year and last. With the sudden uptick in enrollment will come a bit of a strain on resources, as many departments on campus have been downsized over the last decade after an almost as precipitous a drop in number of students hit us ten years ago. On the other hand, it’ll be great to use up excess capacity where it still exists, while on the other other hand, I know I’m glad we were able to hire a new mathematics faculty member for this year. Classes start Monday, and of course we’re doing it in-person again (masks required in indoor public spaces for at least the first three weeks). Sickness and quarantine among the student body will assuredly be a part of the landscape, but one can hope the percentage of vaccinated folks on campus trends upward quickly.

I’ve been on a college campus every fall since I was 18 years old, and seeing the new faces this time of year can make me think back to when I struck out from home. As it happens, this weekend and next, Premiere is featuring 80s shows from the two years I began new educational adventures. First up, a countdown from about a week or so before I departed for the math grad program at the University of Illinois. While I wasn’t the completely green 18-year-old of four years earlier, in some ways this was the bigger leap into the abyss–four or so hours away from the parental units, knowing absolutely no one in my new environs. I wasn’t scared, though looking back, I didn’t remotely understand how much I didn’t know about my chosen area of study or what it would take to succeed at the next level.

By August of 1986 I had begun a slow drift away from paying attention to the pop chart scene. There are a few songs on the 8/16/86 show I know now mainly from listening to these rebroadcasts: “Man Size Love” from Klymaxx, “One Step Closer to You,” by Gavin Christopher, and Madonna wannabe Regina’s “Baby Love.” But listening to the show this morning sure was a pleasant way to spend four hours, taking me back to that liminal period between my KY and IL early-20s lives.

Because I’m a list-maker at heart, I’m sharing what I think are the three best and three worst songs on this show. The lowlights come first.

#38. David Lee Roth, “Yankee Rose”
Possesses none of the joy or humor of DLR’s work with Van Halen or his EP Crazy from the Heat. And the intro to the video is cruel and awful in almost uncountably many ways.

#39. Gloria Loring and Carl Anderson, “Friends and Lovers”
My sister was a huge Days of Our Lives fan throughout the 80s, so I was well aware of Loring’s turn as Liz Chandler. Amy bought this single sometime over the summer, as well, giving me plenty of opportunity to loathe it. Just one of many 80s ballad duets that never did much for me.

#40. Peter Cetera, “Glory of Love”
Who knows why some (many) ballads turn me off? I disliked this one from the first listen. And yes, I did see The Karate Kid II that summer.

As for the good stuff…

#3. Belinda Carlisle, “Mad About You”
This placement may be in part residual from my Go-Go’s fandom, but I did pick the 45 up in real time. A classy, intelligent, upbeat love song.

#2. The Blow Monkeys, “Digging Your Scene”
I wouldn’t have placed this nearly so high 35 years ago, but “Digging Your Scene” has really grown on me in recent years–it just gets better with each listen. At the time it completely slipped by me that “So sad to see you fade away” and “I know I’ll die” were references to AIDS and its victims. This was its last week on the show, at #36, having reached #14 a couple of weeks earlier.

#1. Peter Gabriel, “Sledgehammer”
The song and video of that summer, possibly my top song for the entire year. I bought So on cassette then and listened to it quite a bit for a while.

The Blow Monkeys never made another impression on the U.S scene, though they tallied a dozen or so hits in their native UK over the course of the 80s. On this show, Casey mentioned that vocalist Dr. Robert says that if the whole music thing doesn’t work out in the end, he might just open a record store. I suppose that was never necessary; the band split between 1990 and 2007, but they’ve recorded regularly since getting back together.

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