If a chart could be said to be “peak ’83,” it might well be this one. One iconic song after another, along with a few, er, ringers, as you can hear, as you “take it to the nth degree.”
1 1 BABY, COME TO ME –•– Patti Austin with James Ingram (Qwest)-24 (2 weeks at #1) (1) — Rod Temperton with the words and music, Quincy Jones behind the boards, and a pair of fucking superlative voices in Austin and Ingram equals a perfect pop/soul ballad. This is all so good it doesn’t even need the gravy that’s some low-in-the-mix backing vocals on the chorus from Michael McDonald! And Q’s about to replace himself at the top… (see #4).
2 3 SHAME ON THE MOON –•– Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band (Capitol)-11 (2) — Written by Rodney Crowell! A bit less energy than I’d like, but not a bad take, and it plays to Seger’s strengths. His biggest hit until the delightful/appalling “Shakedown,” his only #1, four years later. And there’s one Seger himself wrote down at #9!
3 4 STRAY CAT STRUT –•– The Stray Cats (EMI-America)-10 (3) — Brian Setzer brought not one deservedly-dead genre back to life, but two: rockabilly with his Stray Cats, and swing as a solo artist in the ’90s. I’m not sure which is worse, or why America seems so enamored of him.
4 6 BILLIE JEAN –•– Michael Jackson (Epic)-6 (4) — (see #1) …with this legendary record. It’s funny to recall today that this was Thriller‘s second single, its leadoff being the you’d-think-it-would-hit-#1 Paul McCartney duet “The Girl Is Mine.” But for whatever reason/s (perhaps its utter and complete slushiness, saith the pop critic behind the keyboard?), its fate was three weeks at #2, behind “Maneater” (see #30) for a week and, urp, “Down Under” (see #8) for two. This opened on the Hot 100 at #47 during “Girl”‘s final week in the runner-up slot, and started its upward trajectory going 47-37-27-23 before revving up and leaping to #6 the following week; from there it landed here and then hit the top the next week, spending seven weeks at #1. And had it not been for a certain band of British ragamuffins (see #31), MJ would’ve replaced himself atop the chart, as “Beat It” (debuting at #78 this week) was just one week short. “Billie Jean,” of course, is masterful pop, written and sung by a peak-of-his-powers Jackson and produced by a peak-of-his-powers Quincy Jones.
5 8 DO YOU REALLY WANT TO HURT ME –•– Culture Club (Virgin)-13 (5) — I’m generally no fan of lovers rock, but this hits on each and every cylinder, thanks (of course) in largest part to the perfect, delicate voice of Boy George.
6 9 HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF –•– Duran Duran (Harvest)-10 (6) — That arpeggiated synth riff (bow down before Nick Rhodes), Roger Taylor’s pounding drums, Simon LeBon’s louche vocal: they all combine to add up to a sum much greater than its parts. And what masterful production!
7 7 YOU AND I –•– Eddie Rabbitt with Crystal Gayle (Elektra)-21 (7) — David Malloy sure could produce some smooth country-pop. He was one of the go-to guys for both Rabbitt and Kenny Rogers, and this is easily one of his best. Rabbitt and Gayle sound superb together, almost frictionless.
8 2 DOWN UNDER –•– Men At Work (Columbia)-17 (1) — “Who Can It Be Now?,” sure, but this string of Aussie clichés, not so much, thanks. But goddamn: Business As Usual was knocked off the top of the album chart this very week (by Thriller), after an astounding 15 weeks ruling the roost.
9 21 WE’VE GOT TONIGHT –•– Kenny Rogers & Sheena Easton (Liberty)-5 (9) — Their voices a little leather & lace, the song a little dull. Made it to #1 country.
10 13 PASS THE DUTCHIE –•– Musical Youth (MCA)-12 (10) — Kidz Bop Reggae!
11 19 BACK ON THE CHAIN GANG –•– The Pretenders (Sire)-12 (11) — It’s not just Chrissie Hynde, it’s that perfectly chiming guitar, too.
12 12 GOODY TWO SHOES –•– Adam Ant (Epic)-16 (12) — When your single features 3/5 of Adam and the Ants, that’s basically what you’re gonna get. That’s a good thing. This is “Antmusic” made more palatable for the mainstream market (whether intentionally or not).
13 14 YOUR LOVE IS DRIVING ME CRAZY –•– Sammy Hagar (Geffen)-12 (13) — Perfectly slick.
14 18 YOU ARE –•– Lionel Richie (Motown)-7 (14) — Following up the #1 “Truly,” this ups the tempo substantially and went #1 AC ( weeks!), #2 R&B (stuck only behind “Billie Jean”) and #4 pop, and to my ears is quite an improvement. I especially like the farty keyboard lines.
15 15 HEART TO HEART –•– Kenny Loggins (Columbia)-14 (15) –“Heart to Heart”‘s chart journey from the start of ’83 to this point: 22-20-17-16-15-15-15-15-15, no joke. That’s five consecutive weeks at #15. Ah, payola! But goddamn what a song, forever my favorite by Loggins, a perfect yacht rock single. (And the second-highest-ranked on the official Yachtski Scale!)
16 16 ALL RIGHT –•– Christopher Cross (Warner Brothers)-6 (16) — Fun fact: the same week that “Billie Jean” debuted at #47, this debuted at #28. Which makes some sense, coming off both Cross’s monumentally successful (and Grammy-sweeping) debut album and “Arthur’s Theme.” But while “Billie Jean” went on to spend almost two months at #1, this didn’t even crack the top 10. Poor Chris Cross; he deserved better. “All Right” features some ebulliently sparkly Michael Omartian production and a great vocal from Cross.
17 17 ALLENTOWN –•– Billy Joel (Columbia)-14 (17) — The early ’80s were a prime time for producers, and Phil Ramone made Joel’s Nylon Curtain sound marvelous. I’m no fan of Joel, but this one’s not a bad album at all, and the piano-driven “Allentown,” an elegy for the middle class, absolutely works.
18 20 TWILIGHT ZONE –•– Golden Earring (21 Records)-14 (18) — The kind of schlocky AOR that was endemic to northern Europe at the time.
19 5 AFRICA –•– Toto (Columbia)-18 (1) — YMMV, but I think it’s perfect yacht rock.
20 22 SEPARATE WAYS (Worlds Apart) –•– Journey (Columbia)-4 (20) — YMMV, but I think it’s perfect AOR.
21 24 ONE ON ONE –•– Daryl Hall & John Oates (RCA)-5 (21) — I love the soft synthy-ness of this; my favorite of their ’80s ballads. On its way to the top 10 of both pop and R&B.
22 10 YOU CAN’T HURRY LOVE –•– Phil Collins (Atlantic)-17 (10) — A perfectly serviceable cover of a Supremes staple, with someone singing who’s not as good a singer as Diana Ross. Easy enough.
23 27 BREAKING US IN TWO –•– Joe Jackson (A&M)-7 (23) — I vastly prefer pop Joe Jackson to pub Joe Jackson. This is a beautifully aching ballad anchored by a samba metronome (not precisely, but you know what I mean) and Jackson’s own piano, and I will never tire of it.
24 34 MR. ROBOTO –•– Styx (A&M)-3 (24) — You can find this entertaining, but you really can’t try to tell me it’s any good. Because this is some hot garbage.
25 32 I KNOW THERE’S SOMETHING GOING ON –•– Frida (Atlantic)-17 (25) — Credit Phil Collins, who produced (I love the way he gives the track such space, and the way he mixes Frida’s vocal to sound almost sinister) and plays those WAY-up-in-the-mix drums. Also credit Frida for knowing how to coax something different from her voice.
26 28 ON THE LOOSE –•– Saga (Portrait)-13 (26) — A perfect, perfectly cheesy new wave/AOR blend, like cheddar mixed with American for max meltiness. From Canada, of course.
27 33 FALL IN LOVE WITH ME –•– Earth, Wind & Fire (Columbia)-6 (27) — On its way to #17, this was the end of the line for EWF on the pop chart, their last-ever top 40 pop single. One of the 1970s’ biggest bands in any genre found the going far tougher in the ’80s (well, after 1981’s “Let’s Groove,” a #3 pop/8 weeks #1 R&B colossus), though they did make four more visits to the R&B top 10 through 1990 (including the 1987 #1 R&B smash “System of Survival” and its #3 follow-up, “Thinking of You”). Apart from some slight production touches, “Fall in Love” isn’t all that different from most of what EWF has spent the last, oh, seven years doing, which I suspect was their chart problem; the nature of hit music in the ’80s was passing them by. That and the fact that R&B crossovers were becoming much fewer and further between, post-disco years. Personally, I find this record invigorating, its horns ebullient, its guitar solo kinda rippin’. And of course, those stacked vocals.
28 11 THE OTHER GUY –•– Little River Band (Capitol)-15 (11) — LRB had done, and could do, better. This positively plods.
29 23 SEXUAL HEALING –•– Marvin Gaye (Columbia)-18 (3) — I mean, it’s one of the greatest records of the ’80s — what more do you need to know? Its backbone, arguably, is the Roland 808, not that that matters a whit without Gaye’s perfect vocal and lyrics. “Healing” spent 10 weeks atop the R&B chart — the longest such run since 1962 — and four weeks at #3 pop, which is a little amazing when you think about it. I was in 7th grade at the time of this chart, having recently turned 12, and was in the throes of my first true obsession with pop music; I remember hearing this song on the radio a lot in its moment, surprising because it was (for its era, at least for the radio) so racy. But its titillation factor undoubtedly played a large factor in its success.
30 25 MANEATER –•– Daryl Hall & John Oates (RCA)-20 (1) — Nasty in the best way, pop in the best way, seductive in the best way. You’re in bed with “Maneater” right now and didn’t even realize it.
31 42 COME ON EILEEN –•– Dexys Midnight Runners (Mercury)-6 (31) — This is one where I bet it wouldn’t be as annoyingly cloying if I hadn’t heard it thousands on thousands of times since 1983. But I have.
32 40 I’VE GOT A ROCK N’ ROLL HEART –•– Eric Clapton (Duck)-5 (32) — My favorite Slowhand is laid back-but-not-uncaring Slowhand. i.e., this. Clapton attempting to figure out what to do about the ’80s is fascinating to watch.
33 37 THE WOMAN IN ME –•– Donna Summer (Geffen)-11 (33) — Nothing about this, one of the most limp Quincy Jones productions ever, rings true — especially not that horrific spoken-word intro, which sounds like something out of a bad Braodway musical.
34 39 DREAMIN’ IS EASY –•– Steel Breeze (RCA)-7 (34) — Fun fact: Steel Breeze’s debut album was the last album produced by Kim Fowley. Un-fun: this song, like a mouthful of cold oatmeal.
35 35 I’M ALIVE –•– Neil Diamond (Columbia)-7 (35) — Neil’s mostly trying to sell this David Foster co-write; he fails. (Ergo, it didn’t make any higher than this on the chart, and likely only made it this far because it was following up the E.T.-inspired smash “Heartlight.”)
36 36 THE CLAPPING SONG –•– Pia Zadora (Elektra)-12 (36) — Yes, this is a thing that actually happened, I assume its top 40 appearance (this was its peak) thanks to some radio MD palm-greasing, though I can neither confirm nor deny that of course. Especially considering that on this week’s MTV playlist, as appeared in Billboard, this was nowhere to be found. And there was a video. Oh, was there a video. At the time, Zadora was known (such as it was) for being an ingenue with a rich husband, who many thought helped “buy” her 1982 New Star of the Year Golden Globe award for Butterfly. This remake of a 1965 top 10 single by Shirley Ellis sounds like a bad, early ’80s (fittingly) Broadway-via-Vegas take on “African” music, and is completely ridiculous, astoundingly bad, and at the same time actually somewhat entertaining, in a very “so bad it’s almost good” way. It was, not surprisingly, Zadora’s only US top 40 hit, but her Jermaine Jackson duet from ’84/’85 did hit #1 in Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. All nations known for their superb musical taste.
37 41 MY KIND OF LADY –•– Supertramp (A&M)-5 (37) — Because you know what everyone wants to hear Supertramp sing? Love songs.
38 38 TIED UP –•– Olivia Newton-John (MCA)-7 (38) — I sincerely wonder if part of the reason for this single’s underperformance — it was following up the #3 smash “Heart Attack” — was its horrendous video (above). Someone was paid to say “Yes, this looks great!” I can’t emphasize that enough, I really can’t. Though to be fair, the song, which I personally enjoy, is an odd throwaway. I love ONJ’s early ’80s attempts at a marriage of new wave and soft pop.
39 45 POISON ARROW –•– ABC (Mercury)-5 (39) — The Lexicon of Love is one of my all-time top five albums, all the evidence you ever need that Trevor Horn was a genius behind the boards and Martin Fry was a genius behind the microphone. This follow-up to “The Look of Love (Part 1)” may — I’m not saying is, I’m saying may — be even better than its predecessor. It certainly sounded like the future to a midwestern preteen in early 1983. This is as state of the fucking art as new wave/pop ever got.
40 43 DON’T TELL ME YOU LOVE ME –•– Night Ranger (Boardwalk)-7 (40) — Their first top 40 hit, at its peak — though it did hit #4 on the AOR chart. “Sister Christian” was over a year away. This is easily their most rocking (or, “rocking” — YMMV) single, and I don’t mind it one bit.