The Top 40 of the Top 40 of the 1980s: 30-21


December 10, 2015 by billysparrow

Well, you’ve had some time now to put your mind back together after it was completely blown by the first 10 songs of the countdown (or should that be the last 10 songs?). So you should be all ready for the next 10. There are some hot jams in this one, so put on your dancing shoes.

30. “Give It Up,” K.C. (Peaked at #18, 3/17/84)

When it comes to the songs of the 1980s, it is often difficult to separate the song from its accompanying video. Sometimes I wonder what someone who didn’t grow up watching the video for Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”  thinks about upon hearing the song. What is it like to listen to that without seeing the video in your head? Can you believe these are the things I wonder about? If you’ve read all these Top 40 posts, I’m assuming the answer is yes.

Anyway, I bring that up not because I want you to wonder about the things I wonder about. No, I bring it up because once I saw this video (which was only a few years ago; I guess “Top 40 Videos” skipped it), it was no longer possible to think about this song without conjuring up the image of the bare-bones nature of this video and, of course, K.C.’s tightly wrapped junk. I hope you choose to have this experience by watching the video. But even without the video, it’s still a catchy little number. I’d take this over any of the bigger K.C. and the Sunshine Band songs of the 1970s.

29. “Delirious,” Prince (Peaked at #8, 11/12/83)

Well, the good news is that, somehow, there’s a video for a Prince song on YouTube. The bad news is that this is the video for this song on YouTube. I’m not sure how it’s evaded Prince’s YouTube police force, but I guess I should be grateful it has, for now.

This is likely my favorite Prince song of the pre-Purple Rain days and, like the K.C. song that precedes it in the countdown, is one damn catchy tune. One can only imagine what would’ve happened if K.C. had joined the Revolution, or Prince the Sunshine Band.  It is truly a staggering thought.

28. “Someday, Someway,” Marshall Crenshaw (Peaked at #36, 9/4/82)

This one’s been moving up and down the countdown throughout the preparation process (I think it was in the Top 20 at one point), because I couldn’t figure out if I liked it enough to have it stand up to the test of time. The only thing I knew of Marshall Crenshaw growing up was his appearance in the movie (and on the soundtrack of) “La Bamba.” This song and the previous two were all ones that I almost certainly didn’t hear much or at all when they were on the radio for the first time (I have a vague memory of the K.C. song, and when I heard it for the first time in a long time a few years ago, it brought up some sort of distant listening memory), so I wasn’t sure where to place them among songs I’ve lived with for much longer.

But this is a pretty great pop song, with almost no wasted notes in it at all. So though it didn’t end up quite as high as it once was,  it’s still a good showing and it’s a song I can’t see myself growing tired of. Good for you, Marshall Crenshaw! You’re more than just the guy who played Buddy Holly for three minutes to me now.

27. “I Love a Rainy Night,” Eddie Rabbitt (Peaked at #1, 3/7/81)

This is another early 1980s song, but I definitely heard this on the radio, as my dad did a lot of listening to the AM country music station WHN, both while getting ready for work in the morning and while driving the family Ford Fairmont (which only had AM radio) with me in the backseat. And they sure played Eddie Rabbitt during his hit-making days.

Two things to note: (1) I too love a rainy night (though I was terrified of stormy nights when I was a child and (2) I find it very difficult not to snap and clap along to this one. That’s fine when I’m listening to it by myself (which, to be honest, is the situation in which one finds oneself listening to Eddie Rabbitt most often these days), but a bit more of a problem when it comes on while I’m at work. We all have our crosses to bear.

26. “Word Up,” Cameo (Peaked at #6, 12/6/86)

I guess I have accomplished a few things in my life, but perhaps the one I am most proud of is playing this song on the jukebox at a total dude bar and seeing a tough-looking guy with a shaved head sing along a few seconds later.

And who can blame him? The vocal delivery of Larry Blackmon is unmatched (Oww!). It’s hard to pick a favorite line, but I always come back to “Dial L for low.” Then again, there’s “We don’t have the time for psychological romance.” So many gems.

And while we’re talking about my life highlights (I assume you’re talking about them now, too), seeing this on the Atlantic City boardwalk is up near the top of the list.

25. “You’re a Friend of Mine,” Clarence Clemons & Jackson Browne (Peaked at #18, 1/18/86)

The video seems like a trailer for a really bad (but probably amazing in its badness) buddy movie, but you can’t take issue with the song. It is infectious and incredible, and it’s so good that it almost makes me like Jackson Browne. But I’m not there yet. I try every now and then based on this song and his friendship with Warren Zevon, but it never quite takes. Regardless of what the future holds in terms of my admiration of Browne, though (and I’m sure he loses sleep over it), he will never be the star of this song. This is the Big Man’s song. Without him, no one would care about it.

I have an odd quirk in my memory where I can remember where I was when I heard a song–not necessarily for the first time, just hearing it. And so it is with this one, as I distinctly recall listening to it in the car (I believe we must have graduated to FM by 1986) in the parking lot of my school/church either before or after the 1:15 Sunday mass. I don’t know what either you or I can do with this information, but I just thought I’d tell you. You’re welcome.

24. “You Can Call Me Al,” Paul Simon (Peaked at #23, 5/30/87)

My God, did I love this song, or, more to the point, the video. Cable had fully arrived by 1987, and I probably watched this video several hundred times that year. I learned all the words (still know them, with maybe a little prompting) and danced along with Paul and Chevy every time.

I don’t dance along with the video anymore (though I could start up again at any moment), but I do still love this song. I have no idea what he’s singing about, and I’m not sure I care to know, but you can’t knock that bass line, or that mini bass solo toward the end.

I bought the 45 for this one but eventually upgraded to the full Graceland album, which was probably one of my all-time favorite albums for a good long while. My love for it has tempered slightly with Steve Berlin’s story of how Paul Simon pretty much stole Los Lobos’ music for the record (you Google it; I’ve got countdowns to write), but regardless of any nefarious means by which it was created, it’s still a great-sounding album, easily the best solo work of Simon’s career.

23. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Is King,” ELO (Peaked at #19, 8/27/83)

In the days before wrestlers’ theme songs were crafted especially for them, they would have to use a song from out in the musical ether. Hulk Hogan adopted “Eye of the Tiger,” the Junkyard Dog came out to “Another One Bites the Dust,” and a tag team in the National Wrestling Alliance (still my NWA of choice) called the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express made their way to the ring with this song blaring over the loudspeakers. I never heard it anywhere other than during their ring entrances in the 1980s, and I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever heard it on the radio on the SiriusXM 80s on 8 countdown. But wham-a-lam-a-bam-a-lam-a, I dig this song.

I did hear this in the mid-1980s, though, because I played it on the jukebox every time we went to Van’s restaurant in Cairo, NY, on our summer family vacation. I miss that place, but this song will forever make me think of it. And the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express.

22. “The Bird,” The Time (Peaked at #36, 4/20/85)

Speaking of wrestlers’ theme songs (and rarely does a week go by when I’m not speaking of them), this served as the entrance music for Koko B. Ware, who, for some reason, brought a bird (Frankie) to the ring. I’m not sure what that was supposed to do for him. I mean, Jake the Snake’s pet snake Damien scared people and, theoretically, the British Bulldogs’ Matilda could bite people, but I’m not sure what exactly Frankie could do to intimidate an opponent. Shit on their heads, maybe?

Anyway, with or without any connection to Koko and Frankie, this song smokes. It’s another  one of those songs I could listen to nonstop for an hour and not get tired of it. In fact, let’s try that the next time we get together. It’ll be fun.

I’ve seen Morris Day and the Time in concert four times now. It’s pretty much the same show every time, but I’ll continue seeing him just to hear him play this and squawk along. And, yes, this beats “Jungle Love.” (It probably doesn’t top “Cool,” though.)

21. “When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going,” Billy Ocean (Peaked at #2, 2/15/86)

Another dude I’ll keep seeing live when he comes around is Billy Ocean. I remember passing up my first chance to see him because it conflicted with a Drive By Truckers show, thus making me the only person in the history of the world who ever agonized over a decision involving Billy Ocean and the Drive By Truckers (luckily, it was a great DBT show). I then passed up my second chance because, look, there’s a limit to what I’m willing to pay for a Billy Ocean show. But then I saw him on a bill with Maxi Priest, and I’ve seen him twice since then. A winner every time. Again, not much variety in the setlist, but if he’s singing this and a few others, I’m in. The hoo-ha-ha-ha at the beginning gets me every time.

This is one of several soundtrack songs on the countdown, though perhaps the only one where I haven’t seen the movie on whose soundtrack it appears. How’s that for some exciting trivia to wrap up this week’s installment?

So we’re halfway there (and, no, that is not a teaser that “Livin’ on a Prayer” is coming up in the next batch, or the one after that). Be sure to come back next week for the Bottom 10 of the Top 20 of the Top 40 of the Top 40 of the 1980s.


One thought on “The Top 40 of the Top 40 of the 1980s: 30-21

  1. […] (Catch up with the earlier segments of the countdown here and here.) […]

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