It's that time in your life when summer seemed to last for six months and the school year seemed to last fourteen. And when your heart raced like crazy when you saw that girl you had a crush on from all the way across the gym. I'm talking, of course, about 1985. Let's open up the time capsule and look back on the Billboard Top 5 hits this week thirty years ago.
5. "Material Girl," by Madonna. This is still back in a time when Madonna could have hit songs in the top ten for months. This song was originally released in February and peaked at number two. By April, it was still in the top five. That was a rare feat even back then. It's a catchy number, but it's also annoying. Not the song but the fact that lazy journalists have spent the past three decades using the title to describe Madonna in interviews and blurbs and headlines. As in "The Material Girl is coming to Portland," etc. What's worse is, after she had a kid, those same cornballs started calling her "The Material Mom." That only went on for oh, wait, they're still writing that. Sigh!
4. "Nightshift," by The Commodores. Also known as "Screw you, Lionel Richie." This was the first hit by The Commodores after Richie left the band and went solo. It was written and sung by the guy who sang "Brick House" back in the 1970s, and won the band a Grammy award. It's a soulful, upbeat, toe-tapping hit that people often don't realize is actually about the tragic deaths of Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson, who both died the year before. Remember that the next time it's on the radio and you gleefully roll down the car window and happily sing into the summertime air. You're welcome.
3. "Crazy for You," by Madonna. That's twice The Virgin Mom is in the charts this week. That's an accomplishment only achieved by a handful of artists in the past fifty years. This song wasn't off Madonna's own album, but from the soundtrack to the movie Vision Quest. Remember that film? Matthew Modine was in it. In all honesty, the biggest thing to come out of that movie was this song. The 12 year-old me remembers this song playing in my head while looking across the room in math class, checking out that girl who I just knew would one day be my girlfriend. Well, she never was. But she got sloppy drunk at our high school reunion and then puked in an umbrella stand. This song was in my head as I watched that happening. Ah, young love.
2. "One More Night," by Phil Collins. As much as people talk about Madonna's reign of the charts in the 80s, we mustn't forget to pay tribute to this prince of pop. Phil Collins was all over the place in the 80s. Honestly, I get this song confused all the time with "In Too Deep," by Genesis. Both of them remind me of driving around at night when I was seventeen, wondering why that girl who would later puke at our reunion wouldn't go with me to the prom. The guy she went with wound up going to jail for stealing cars, by the way. I wrote two novels and I have a radio show. Check mate, I says.
"We are the World," by USA for Africa. Otherwise known as "I Don't Need You, Commodores," this song was written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson. It remains one of the biggest hit singles of all time, and the first-ever song to be awarded multi-platinum status. A charity song to aid with fighting famine in Africa, it featured tons of famous singers, some only in the background and some singing a line or two. It stayed at number one for weeks. It was the inspiration for countless charity songs (and parodies), but none have ever matched the success of this enormous hit. The 11-year old me wondered who the hell Bob Dylan was and why he was singing with Bruce Springsteen. This was also the closing song at numerous proms that year. Nothing is quite as effective at getting teens to leave a party.
Ward Anderson is a comedian, author and talk radio host. He can be heard weekdays on "Ward & Al" on SiriusXM's Canada Talks channel. His upcoming novel, All That's Left, will be released April 28th. He did not go to his high school prom.
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