Today I drove up to the extremely picturesque Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia for a rare opportunity to hang out for an afternoon with my friend, the fantastic photographer KayLynn Deveney. She and her parents came to Philly for a few days from Albuquerque. KayLynn and I went to lunch and she showed me some amazing new pictures she’s been working on that I’m very jazzed about. I want to write an essay about the pictures to go with the eventual book.
The drive was great — the trees are doing the orangey-golden-J. Crew thing, with accompaniment by a rosy sunset tonight. Somewhere near Havre de Grace, Md., the car radio scan button picked up Baltimore’s Jack-FM doing a blessed act of autopilot programming: It was broadcasting an old episode of “American Top 40” back when it was hosted by Casey Kasem.
Tonight they were replaying the Top 40 from the weekend of Oct. 19, 1985, and almost totally commercial-free. I listened just as he was starting with #40 (“Dare Me” by the Pointer Sisters) and kept with it until the station faded out, as I was coming down New York Avenue in Washington — up to #26 (“Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire” by David Foster), and I wound up wishing the drive would have been longer. I also wished Derba was along for the ride.
Just the other day, I was kvetching to my work buddies that there is just too goddamn much ’80s music in the air these days. We should not be hearing nearly as much as we do in our everyday lives: “Shout” by Tears for Fears in the grocery store, in the mall, on the radio, shuffled up by iPod, etc. I love ’80s music way too much to have to hear it this much.
Ah, but October 1985: That would be fall of senior year of high school for me. Right around Spook House time at the church. Football season. (Big whoop, but I was not immune to the energy around it, the drinking around it.) Rehearsals for “Harvey.” College applications. Friday nights at Lake Hefner. I know better than to romanticize it, and I think 17-year-old Hank Stuever would definitely tell you that he wasn’t nearly as happy as 41-year-old Hank Stuever thinks he was.
Oh, and can I just say, I teared up during the long-distance dedication: A kid in the Philippines asked Casey to play Neil Diamond’s “Heartlight” for his friend Hiroki in Japan. Sang along at the top of my freakin’ lungs, people.
But let’s roll the chart, shall we? I went online and looked up the rest of the show that I didn’t finish listening to… There are some songs on here that had totally been wiped clean from my mind.
40. “Dare Me” — The Pointer Sisters
39. “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” — John Parr (peaked at no. 1)
38. “C-I-T-Y” — John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. (Heinous.)
37. “One of the Living” — Tina Turner (the other song from “Beyond Thunderdome”)
36. “So In Love” — Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (Casey completely baffled by band name: “A foursome from Britain, making their American Top 40 debut, who call themselves …” Let’s not beat around it. I was So In Love wth this song. It went with my paisley dress shirt buttoned up to the top button.)
35. “Broken Wings” — Mr. Mister. It enters the chart! Many an interpretive dance to follow.
34. “Communication”– Power Station. Well, it’s no “Bang a Gong,” which is why I’d forgotten about it.
33. “Boy in the Box” — Corey Hart. Utter crap. Fame is a slip-n-slide.
32. “Don’t Lose My Number” — Phil Collins. At this point, “No Jacket Required” is growing stale on me, after so much warpy cassette deck love in the summer of ’85. I remember _always_ changing the radio when this was on, or “Take Me Home.”
31. “The Way You Do the Things You Do/My Girl” — Daryl Hall and John Oates with a couple of the Temptations. This sort of music was just DEAD TO ME when I was 17. My sense of Motown was limited to the Big Chill soundtrack, “ABC” by the Jackson 5, Soft-Cell’s remake of “Where Did Our Love Go?” at the end of “Tainted Love,” and Madonna walking back and forth in the Love Saves the Day thrift store scene in Desperately Seeking Susan to the tune of “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. Beyond that, the sound of Motown to new-wavey Hank was like shaking garlic cloves at the vampire. Motown was for the teachers lounge.
30. “Cry” — Godley and Creme. Remember the video? Ben Hollensbe and I used to make fun of it. And there’s that ridiculously pompous ending on the synthy high notes. And Casey said it peaked at, like, #13? Is that right? Too caffeinated to google it right now. Must keep going.
29. “Separate Lives” — Phil Collins and … her. (Marilyn Martin, cq.) Again, SINGING AS LOUD AS I CAN. But what a weird little bit of songwriting. “So you build that wall. (BUILD THAT WALLLLL). Yes you BUILD THAT WALL. (BUILD THA-HAT WA-HALLL!) And you. Make. It. STUH-RONGAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”
btw, Michael is now extremely glad he didn’t come on this trip.
28. “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” — Aretha Franklin. Beats me.
27. “Never” — Heart. This song makes me think of being in Jackie Temple’s Camaro. You are out of your mind if you think there’s any way she will change the station when Heart is on. Best to just sip your wine cooler and wait it out.
26. “Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire” — David Foster. At the time, this song made me think of what college was going to be like a year from now, and how romantic it would be: I’d be wearing sweaters and studying and there would be fall leaves and carillon bells, etc. Jump to 1986. Replace “sweaters” with “shorts” and “studying” with “pasting up the At-A-Glance page” and “fall leaves” with “stepping over barf in Biever Hall” and I was right!
Okay, I got home at this point and parked the car — thanks to you, Archived Robot Casey — but I’m going to fill out the rest of the AT40 for 10/19/85 for you here, to see what I missed.
25. “Freedom” — Wham. This song is a dud. But they were about to redeem themselves to me with “I’m Your Man” …
24. “Lay Your Hands” — Thompson Twins. I had more than one paisley shirt.
23. “And We Danced” — The Hooters. Janice Kusbel really pushed the Hooters on us — and Marillion, and Chicago. But in my car, my rules: English Beat, Go-Go’s, Eurythmics, Prince. (Common agreement on Tears for Fears, Yaz, INXS.)
22. “Sunset Grill” — Don Henley.
21. “You Are My Lady” — Freddie Jackson. (I call this Supercuts music. If it was an R&B ballad in the 1980s, I probably only ever heard it under duress, or while getting a haircut.)
20. “Four in the Morning (I Can’t Take it Anymore)” — Night Ranger. (Sorry, I can’t even hum it!)
19. “One Night Love Affair” — Bryan Adams. (Anyone?)
18. “Be Near Me” — ABC. Okay, not only did I have more than one paisley shirt, I also had an army-navy surplus raincoat with a brooch on the lapel. (Come on, be near me. Not on me or anything, just near me.)
17. “We Built This City” — Starship. I remember a bunch of drunk girls singing along to this at Lake Hefner one night and thinking what a bunch of dipshits. They built their city on Forenza sweaters and Bartles & Jaymes.
16. “I’m Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down” — Paul Young. (Howzitgo?)
15. “You Belong to the City” — Glenn Frey. Thus began a lot of steam coming from grates, 1985-ish to 1991-ish.
14. “Dress You Up” — Madonna. Gays, back me up on this: Remember how tricky it was, liking Madonna and keeping your closet organized and secure?
13. “Cherish” — Kool & The Gang. This song meant the dance was over and everyone was already at the after-party you weren’t invited to, but thank God your date was invited.
12. “Lovin’ Every Minute of It” — Loverboy. Very Putnam City.
11. “I’m Going Down” — Bruce Springsteen. Don’t get me started on what would happen when I would get home from school, get the mail, and see his face on the cover of Rolling Stone — again.
10. “Head Over Heels” — Tears for Fears. I used to do my homework to this album, from beginning to end. Did I ever tell you how I had to be a “single dad” to my “egg baby” in marriage class? There weren’t enough girls in the class, or that’s how I remember it.
9. “Fortress Around Your Heart” — Sting. Which brings us to Derba’s best Chi Rhoan headline ever, atop her effusive concert review: AUDIENCE STUNG.
8. “Dancing in the Street” — David Bowie and Mick Jagger. Did anyone have those yellow Reebok shoes, besides Jagger?
7. “Money for Nothing” — Dire Straits. I’m sort of glad my drive was over and I didn’t have to listen to all of these TOP HITS, because all AT40 charts culminate in the songs that were overplayed back then and are thus forever “meh” for me. Casey says it’s October ’85, and this was a big summertime hit in ’85, which means the radio stations were still playing it too much.
6. “Lonely Ol’ Night” — John Still-Cougar-Then Mellencamp: Who were these songs actually marketed for? I lived in Oklahoma, around muddy “cricks” and lakes and bugs and county-line roads and thunderclouds and li’l pink houses and all that shit, and if you wanted songs about it, YOU’D LISTEN TO COUNTRY STATIONS. He would have been much more famous in 1972 instead of 1985, back there with Jim Croce and that sort of thing. I didn’t buy his MTV sheen.
5. “Miami Vice Theme” — Jan Hammer. Didn’t wear it, didn’t watch it.
4. “Oh, Sheila” — Ready for the World. I can’t remember — did this just sound like it had something to do with the Prince syndicate, or was it just a ripoff?
3. “Part-Time Lover” — Stevie Wonder. See what I mean? Weren’t numbers 40 through 25 on this chart so much more intriguing? Even back then, this would have been dentist-office/Supercuts muzak.
2. “Saving All My Love for You” — Whitney Houston. About whom I STILL don’t give a flip. Really, in 1985, I considered the presence of songs like this on the radios around me to be like some giant vagina had fallen out of the sky and crushed the entire city. (And I hadn’t even heard “The Greatest Love of All” yet.)
1. “Take On Me” — a-ha. Loved this song in AUGUST 1985 and couldn’t stand it by October 18, 1985, so take that, Casey.
Phew. Getting all the way to No. 1 reminds me of what I used to have to do every Sunday night, about this time, in the mid-1980s, as a way to cleanse my soul of “American Top 40”:
Watch 120 Minutes on MTV, of course.