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CHART ATTACK! #9: 11/21/87

Greetings from Albany, where I’m spending my post-Thanksgiving turkey hangover with my in-laws and preparing to lay down on the couch and watch TV all freaking day.  Hope you’re doing something similar, but definitely take the time to check out what was happening the week ending November 21, 1987! (Unfortunately, because I only have access to a very, very old computer, there won’t be any workable links to Amazon or iTunes this week.)

10.  Faith – George Michael
9.  I’ve Been In Love Before – Cutting Crew
8.  Little Lies – Fleetwood Mac
7.  Should’ve Known Better – Richard Marx
6.  Breakout – Swing Out Sister
5.  Brilliant Disguise – Bruce Springsteen
4.  I Think We’re Alone Now – Tiffany
3.  Heaven Is A Place On Earth – Belinda Carlisle
2.  (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life – Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
1.  Mony Mony "Live" – Billy Idol

10.  Faith – George Michael  On November 21st, "Faith" entered the Top 10 and remained there for the better part of two months, including three weeks at #1.  Certainly the track’s success was aided by its iconic video, featuring Michael shaking his ass, miming guitar (not very well, I might add), and wearing those shiny sunglasses.  (If you look closely, you can see the production crew in their reflection.)

I guess you’d qualify "Faith" as a rock-ish song, yet musically and production-wise, it’s not like any other song on the album.  Faith the album was released only one week prior, and this was its second single, since "I Want Your Sex" had been released as part of the Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack over the summer.  I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the tremendous impact the album had on the charts, and I’d be surprised if we didn’t cover further singles from this massively successful album in future editions.

The opening organ that leads into the track, by the way, is a re-worked chorus of the Wham! song "Freedom." 

9.  I’ve Been In Love Before – Cutting Crew (download)
  Let’s go ahead and offer this one for download and dedicate it to Jefito, who featured not only featured a fantastic Cutting Crew post last week, but admitted he hated himself for liking this song.  Don’t be so ashamed, Jeff.  It’s a good song.  Yeah, it’s drenched in synths, but the vocal is really quite pretty.  Nice bass line and guitars, too, other than the slightly out-of-tune acoustic guitar in the middle break.

There’s not much more to say about Cutting Crew, especially when compared to Jeff’s post.  "I’ve Been In Love Before" spent two weeks here at #9, and then, no more.

8.  Little Lies – Fleetwood Mac 
Speaking of synthesizer-drenched songs…I suppose no self-respecting fan of the Fleetwood Mac of the 1970s (or, hell, the 1960s) should cop to liking this song.  But fuck ’em.  I do.  I love Christine McVie’s voice, I love that they had a hit without Stevie Nicks warbling lead, and there’s something irresistable to me about the 80s production in which this track is wrapped.  "Little Lies," a co-write between McVie and her then-husband Eddie Quintela, was the biggest hit from Tango In The Night, reaching #4.

7.  Should’ve Known Better – Richard Marx  It’s funny.  I can write about all this Mellow Gold music that I’m embarrassed to admit that I dig, and people are quick to come to my defense and admit they like it too.

Nobody EVER agrees with me when I say Richard Marx is a really good, talented musician.

That’s okay.  Screw you all.  I’m confident in this.  I’ll go with you when you say his mullet sucked, that he was a pretty boy and that "Right Here Waiting" has become terribly annoying.  However, my mom is a big fan, so I’m one of the few that’s heard his recent output and seen him live over the past few years.  I’m not saying he’s brilliant, but I’m saying he’s a great guitarist, a strong performer, and knows how to write a great hook for a pop song.

"Should’ve Known Better," however, was released back when Richard Marx was actually popular, and you didn’t sound too lame if you said you had his self-titled debut.   You would have been in pretty good company, actually, as Marx was already a well-respected musician and writer on albums by Lionel Richie (he sings backup on "Running With The Night," and "All Night Long"), Madonna, Kenny Rogers, Julio Iglesias, and his debut album features Joe Walsh, Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit.  It was the second single, and eventually reached #3.  Marx is also the first solo artist to have his first seven singles reach the Top 5.  Laugh now, but he was shit-hot then, and I’m telling you, he’s still an impressive musician and performer.

6.  Breakout – Swing Out Sister (download)
  It’s been a while since we’ve featured a true one-hit wonder on Chart Attack!, but "Breakout" definitely qualifies.  Although it peaked here at #6, it earned the band a Grammy nomination.  Wikipedia defines the band as "sophisti-pop."  I hadn’t heard the term before, but they lump Johnny Hates Jazz, Sade, Simply Red and Basia in the same category, so I suppose it makes sense.  The single featured jazz-infused chords and harmonies, as well as strings and horns.  The band is still together and are quite popular in Japan.

5.  Brilliant Disguise – Bruce Springsteen
  Here’s what I remember.  I remember the country going Boss-crazy over "Dancing In The Dark."  And "Glory Days."  And "Goin’ Down."  Etc.  I remember everybody buying the Live 1975-1985 box set, hungry for new Bruce.  I remember the radio stations in my area (Z100 and WPLJ) doing huge promotions for his long-awaited follow-up, Tunnel Of Love.  Lots of teasers featuring 10 seconds of the chorus of the first single, etc.  And then, the album is released, along with the first single, "Brilliant Disguise."  The single debuts at #40, one of the highest debuts of the year, and eventually reaches #5 this week.  But the general attitude of people hearing it is "huh?"  Maybe it’s a warped perception, and I was only 10 at the time, but I remember the dark, introspective quality of the single simply not living up to the hype.

I’m not picking on Bruce Springsteen for not writing another "Glory Days."  The man has always deserved kudos for doing what he wants to do, critical judgment be damned.  Nor am I saying that "Brilliant Disguise" isn’t a good song.  But that’s definitely not Max Weinberg on drums (if there’s anybody on drums at all – sounds like a machine to me), and there’s nothing to fist-pump or sing at the local bar, and that’s why it was such a let-down to the public in 1987.  Am I off-base?  Thoughts?

4.  I Think We’re Alone Now – Tiffany  Who doesn’t love a week where Tiffany and The Boss are sitting side-by-side?  The first single off of her self-titled debut, this cover of a song by Tommy James & the Shondells was undoubtedly helped by a brilliant marketing campaign: over the summer of 1987, Tiffany spent her summer weekends in malls across the country, performing free shows for shoppers.  The concept was new at the time, and generated much interest from the media – enough so that the video for "I Think We’re Alone Now" was mainly footage from her mall performances.

"I Think We’re Alone Now" was #1 for two weeks prior to this one, and was knocked off by Billy Idol’s cover of "Mony Mony," originally by…Tommy James & the Shondells.

3.  Heaven Is A Place On Earth – Belinda Carlisle 
Here’s something I bet you don’t know about this song.  I read an interview in a 1988 issue of Smash Hits where Carlisle let it slip that Bon Jovi was suing her for copyright infringement.  Apparently the Bon Jovi team felt the chorus of "Heaven Is A Place On Earth" was just a little too close to the chorus of "You Give Love A Bad Name."  (Okay, I can kind of hear it, but come on.)  I’ve only found one reference to this lawsuit online, so clearly I’m not making it up.

Either way, this single was a huge success for Carlisle, topping the charts and becoming her first #1 as a solo artist.  The video for the track was directed by Diane Keaton, which, for some reason, I remember being a big deal at the time.  Personally, I think most Belinda Carlisle songs are instant earworms, but I’ll forgive her in this case because she’s really hot.  I mean, she’s still hot.  Since we’re discussing both of them here, I’ll tell you that I’ve seen both hers and Tiffany’s spreads in Playboy, and Carlisle wins by a country mile.  My wife will back me up here.

2.  (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life – Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes 
You may not be lame like me, and perhaps you haven’t seen the E! True Hollywood Story for Dirty Dancing, so I’ll fill you in: nobody expected the movie to be a hit, and certainly nobody expected the song to be a hit either.  The song has an interesting background: it was written by Franke Previte, who had a top 10 with his band Franke & The Knckouts in 1981.  Previte was asked by his friend Jimmy Ienner, executive producer of the soundtrack, to put his plans for a solo album aside and compose a song that the two main characters could use for dancing the mamba mambo.  It would be used for the film’s climax, and therefore, needed to have a steady, gradual build.  Ienner loved Previte’s result but refused to let him sing it: he wanted Medley and Warnes.  Warnes signed on immediately, but Medley needed convincing.  Ienner eventually wore him down, and the duet between the two became the soundtrack’s biggest success: it reached #1 the week after this one, earned a Grammy and an Oscar, and yet you STILL change the station whenever it comes on.  Shame on you!  To be fair, though, this song was the "Kokomo" of 1987: you just couldn’t get it out of your head, and you probably found yourself singing it a few times even though you’d never admit it to another living soul.  So you are forgiven.

By the way, Previte wrote "Hungry Eyes," and Ienner’s company also represented The Raspberries and Eric Carmen, so there’s the answer to your next question.

1.  Mony Mony "Live" – Billy Idol  As mentioned before, this was a surprisingly good week for Tommy James & the Shondells.  Idol had been playing "Mony Mony" for years; he actually released it as a single off of his 1981 solo debut Don’t Stop, but it failed to chart at all.  Why did it finally become a hit single?  I imagine it was largely due to the live video, which was placed into heavy, heavy rotation on MTV.  Actually, I think I even remember seeing it on the music video program that Nickelodeon had at the time, Nick Rocks – that is, of course, with one tiny little scene removed:


Check at 2:50, when Billy goes up to his female keyboardist and gropes her ass.  It’s not the ass-groping that bothers me, it’s her reaction.  Remember the "Mr. Plow" episode of The Simpsons where Homer goes to the car show, and there’s the hot girl modeling the car, and every guy comes up and attempts to be witty by saying, "Do YOU come with the car?" and she goes, "Oh, you!  (giggle)"?  That’s what the keyboardist is doing.  "Oh, Billy, you’re so wild!  I can’t WAIT to slap you with a sexual harassment lawsuit!" 

And on that note, does anybody recall how the little "get laid get fucked" chant got introduced into the song?  I swear I have NEVER been to a party in my life where people didn’t do the chant.  The best part is watching the older people do it, even though they have no clue what’s being said.

And that brings us to the end of yet another CHART ATTACK!  Hope you all enjoyed your holiday and have a great weekend!  See you next week!

  • Tunnel of Love was such a relief to me.  I hated the anthemic Bruce, and it seemd like the anthems were getting increasingly simple-minded ober time.  Mellencamp took shit for being a cut-rate Springsteen, but by "Glory Days" there sure didn’t seem to be much difference between their level of accomplishment.  Anyway, Nebraska was my favorite Springsteen album, so Tunnel of Love was close enough for me to enjoy.  "Brilliant Disguise" may have disappointed people, but I think "One Step Up" has become one of his standards.

    I love Christine McVie, but "Little Lies" has that tinkly up-up-up, down-down-down hook that sounds like children’s music to me.

    I have never heard that "Mony Mony" chant.

  • Also, are Bon Jovi fucking insane?  The resemblance between those two songs is … well, "I guess I can hear it" is probably not going to fly in court.  Now, Badfinger’s "Day After Day" and Joe Jackson’s "Steppin’ Out", that might make a judge sit up and notice.

  • Matt

    It’s "Day After Day" and "Breaking Us in Two", and I think Joe’s always been pretty honest about the lift. The one that always made me laugh was when Huey Lewis sued Ray Parker Jr. for the similiarities between "I Want a New Drug" and "Ghostbusters"… when Huey’s first big hit, "Do You Believe in Love" is such an obvious rip of ELO’s "Sweet Talkin’ Woman"!

  • Ack, head no work this morning.  I thought "Steppin’ Out," corrected myself, then typed "Steppin’ Out."  Argh.

  • jb

    I wouldn’t call Swing Out Sister a one-hit wonder for “Breakout”–because I remember playing the label off of their version of “Am I The Same Girl” on the radio in the early 90s.

    And the Tommy James version of “Mony Mony” stomps Billy Idol’s–no contest.

  • Mom

    I know nobody will care what an old Mom thinks, but you rock for loving the music I love, and it’s great going to concerts together. Who else could you go with and not be embarrassed at being there. Love you lots for being you.

  • Jason, it was Bon Jovi’s "Livin’ On A Prayer" that sounds like "Heaven Is a Place on Earth," not "You Give Love a Bad Name." And I think they do sound somewhat similar…

  • See that, guys?  My mommy loves me.  (I can’t believe she reads through this stuff.)

    Dave – while they may sound similar, the I’m almost positive the lawsuit was between "Heaven" and "Bad Name," unless you can find me proof it was between "Heaven" and "Prayer?"  (heh.)

  • jb – right you are about "Am I The Same Girl."  Although I tend to base these things on the Hot 100 charts, where it peaked at #48, it did go to #1 on the AC charts.

  • Funny, the first time I heard "Heaven Is a Place on Earth," I remember thinking that the chorus sounded eerily similar to that of "Livin’ on a Prayer." But I guess it’s just me. I don’t hear any similarity at all between "Heaven…" and "You Give Love a Bad Name."By the way, Swing Out Sister had a second top 40 hit with "Twilight World," in 1987 or 1988. Good tune, too.

  • Jon

    Why no download of Tiffany’s I think we’re alone now? i love that song!!

  • BD

    I stupidly gave away my copy of Tunnel of Love years ago, and I’m going back now to download Brilliant Disguise and the titletrack.Sure, it’s not Max drumming. But Springsteen does understated relationship songs as well has he does anthemic sociopolitical "rise up and get the hell out of Jersey, then come back and rebuild it when it decays" songs. Little Lies fits so neatly in the Fleetwood Mac catalog. At one time, I thought it would be the last single they released, and that seemed appropriate — Christine as the calming voice, with little snippets of Stevie and Lindsey sniping in the background. It was missing Lindsey’s terrific guitar runs (the reunion performance showed just how good he really is), but that’s about it.I hate Tommy James and the Shondells. I can’t put my finger on it, though I’ll admit I don’t like much pre-Beatles rock. (Not literally "pre-Beatles" in the chronological sense, but music that bears no influence of the melodic emphasis and experimentation the Fab Four brought to the form.)No, I haven’t heard the Mony Mony chant, either.A guy who ran a fun pop culture quiz online would rake his readers over the coals if anyone DARED suggest that Belinda Carlisle was anything other than a knockout. People would come in and grip, "ewww … she’s too fat," and he would lay down the law. He was right.

  • Robert

    Belinda’s Playboy spread was definitely better than Tiffany’s, but I never found Tiffany that attractive. Tiffany, however, wasn’t as airbrushed in her spread as Belinda was, from what I remember. Belinda’s pictures looked like they’d been painted.

    I’ve never heard that “Mony Mony” chant either. Maybe it’s a regional thing. I grew up in the south.

    Now that I think about it, don’t “Living on a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name” have similar-sounding choruses? If so, then Bon Jovi ripped themselves off on consecutive singles from the same album.

    Add Danny Wilson, the one-hit wonder behind “Mary’s Prayer,” one of the best songs of the ’80s, to the sophisti-pop genre.

    One thing I like about the music blogs I’ve discovered since the summer are the opportunities to hear music from my childhood with fresh ears. For instance, I wouldn’t have given “I’ve Been in Love Before” a second chance before now. And believe me, I have no desire to travel back in time to the fall of 1987, when I was in sixth grade and not enjoying life too much. I was way too tense at age 12. I would only travel back in time to tell my younger self, “Loosen the fuck up!”

    Finally, Richard Marx … umm … to each his own, I guess. I did like “Don’t Mean Nothin'” briefly in the summer of ’87, but that was it. I’m sure he’s a nice guy. And that counts for something in this world, sir, so rock on!

  • woofpop

    Oh No! Bad flashback to ’87 and going to Miami Metro Zoo not knowing that Richard Marx was in concert that day. I’m sure that the Lemurs liked "Don’t Mean Nothing"…
    Danny Wilson.. nice one! That record was great..

  • Steve

    Richard Marx…I’ll stick up for you and mom.  He was an awesome guitarist.  Way back when MTV was MTV, his video of "Have Mercy" just blew me away.  It was a concert video of the song and they had a dueling guitars solo at the end that was fantastic.  I went out and bought the CD right after seeing the video.
    Bruce Springsteen…I am a huge Springsteen fan and at the time Tunnel of Love was released,  I loved Born to Run, loved Asbury Park, loved Born in the USA.  And I absolutely HATED Nebraska, and Darkness.  I think the darkness of the latter two didn’t jive with what I loved about his other work.  So, naturally, I hated Tunnel of Love.  Too dark, too introspective.  But now that I’m an old codger, I think Tunnel of Love is freaking brilliant and Brilliant Disguise has to be one of his best songs.

  • Jane

    Yeah, like Steve, I really liked Richard Marx’s videos. Does anyone else remember this — weren’t there multiple versions of his “Hazard” video showing on MTV or VH-1? Different chapters to the story? I think at the time it was a big deal to do that sort of thing.
    And, just something goofy to make note of, I am pretty sure that his wife Cynthia Rhodes was featured in his “Don’t Mean Nothin’ ” video, and also co-starred in Dirty Dancing … so I guess that’s a sort of 6 degrees of separation between the artists for Number 7 and Number 2 on this chart.

  • Actually, according to Richard, there’s only one version of the "Hazard" video – read about it in an amusing article on Chicagoist.

    And yes, Cynthia Rhodes was in "Don’t Mean Nothin" and was also in Dirty Dancing.  She also played "Rosanna" in the Toto video.

  • Jane

    Thank you — that’s a funny piece.

  • Robert

    She was "Rosanna" too?  Wow.  I can’t exactly remember what she looked like right now.  Janet Jones, Wayne Gretzky’s wife and the star of "American Anthem," keeps popping in my head instead.  Wasn’t the soundtrack of "American Anthem" supposed to be huge in the summer of ’86?  But it wasn’t, was it?  I remember Andy Taylor had a song on it.  And the movie was produced by the guys who produced "Purple Rain," so the soundtrack was supposed to be huge.  But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.

  • Jane

    I never thought about it before, but, yeah, they DO look a lot alike. Um, should confess, I liked the Andy Taylor song — Take it Easy — but I never heard it on the radio. I saw the video a lot. It was a crappy video, but it was on a lot. Very 80s looking.

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