Looking at the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Charts from twenty-five years ago, the year 1988 if my math is correct, shows a very different kind of chart action. The year has 53 weeks, due to the last week sneaking in as December 31, but the #1 top slot is held by 33 different songs throughout the year, with Steve Winwood’s “Roll With It” holding the top slot for four entire weeks. Compare that to 2013.
In 2013, there have been only 11 #1 hits as of the Week of November 2, with Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell’s “Blurred Lines” hanging there for 12 weeks while Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” is the only song to hold the #1 spot for one week. “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz hits #1 in two separate streaks of four and two, interrupted by Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” for five weeks!
Listed below is the song/ artist and (# of weeks at #1) beginning with January and ending with December and then those ingenious comments that readers unanimously say are the true reason they enjoy these articles and for which I am paid beyond handsomely, more like sublime prettiness.
33) Faith — George Michael (1): The one week designation is misleading. “Faith” had been #1 for three previous weeks in December 1987. Had George not split the years, he would’ve either tied Bon Jovi’s four week streak in 1987 for “Livin’ On A Prayer” or Steve Winwood’s four week dominance with “Roll With It” in 1988. “Faith” turned out to be the best-selling single of 1988 anyhow!
32) So Emotional — Whitney Houston (1): As the third single from her second album, the imaginatively titled Whitney, it was still quite a feat to land so many hits from a single album. This song was written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly who also wrote the #1 hits “Like A Virgin” for Madonna, “True Colors” for Cyndi Lauper, “Alone” for Heart and “Eternal Flame” for the Bangles.
31) Got My Mind Set On You — George Harrison (1): Of all the records George Harrison made, I can’t say I expected this to be such a big hit. But 1988 was a strange kind of year. MTV played nerf metal and veteran rock ’n’ rollers were often adrift. The Grateful Dead went pop. Neil Young couldn’t get comfortable. Bob Dylan was struggling and Jeff Lynne turned out to be doing them all a favor!
30) The Way You Make Me Feel — Michael Jackson (1): Despite Michael Jackson’s pop world dominance, not all of his hits had the lasting power of his others. Scoring a handful of #1 hits for just a few weeks at a time was his way of falling out of favor. What do you mean you haven’t sold 25 million copies? Why only an ‘A’ and not an ‘A+’? Shut up, DAD!
29) Need You Tonight — INXS (1): Australian bands approached music differently from those in North America. The notes rotated in the opposite direction.
28) Could’ve Been — Tiffany (2): That Tiffany Renee Darwish appears to have grown up reasonably OK means far more than any silly little Lois Blaisch hit single, though I’m sure Ms. Blaisch is a lovely woman and the clientele of the Hungry Tiger Restaurant in Thousand Oaks, California enjoyed her regular performances! (Lois, you need your own Wikipedia page!)
27) Seasons Change— Expose (1): It’s a well-known fact in internet-land that the only people who read the entries in the middle of an article are the people looking to find something wrong with it! For those who like facts, this ballad was the most successful single of Expose’s career, despite not being completely representative of their sound. For those who don’t care about facts? This song could eat a horse!
26) Father Figure — George Michael (2): Had there been 3-D printers back when this song was popular, entrepreneurs everywhere would be selling ‘Father Figurines’ to the masses!
25) Never Gonna Give You Up — Rick Astley (2): Who hasn’t been rickrolled at some point in their life and secretly loved it? Arguably, the best song of the 1980s.
24) Man in the Mirror — Michael Jackson (2): If you weren’t a Michael Jackson fan in the 1980s — hard to imagine, I know — top 40 radio often felt like a worse hell than the other commercial stations on the dial. Unless you disliked “Night Moves” even more.
23) Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car — Billy Ocean (2): Back in 1988, it wasn’t an automatic gimme that your songs could be sold to car companies to put them in their commercials. You had to do quite a bit of the work yourself. AC/DC fans should be horrified to learn that the man who produced Highway to Hell and Back in Black also produced this on his way to Shania Twain. And Billy Ocean fans should be horrified in reverse!
22) Where Do Broken Hearts Go — Whitney Houston (2): This was back when Whitney was still working hard to get where she was going. I think she was paid by the note.
21) Wishing Well — Terence Trent D’Arby (1): There was a time when TTD’A told people his debut album was the most important album since Sgt. Pepper’s. Years later, D’Arby told people he watched D’Arby die in his dreams in 1995 and be reborn as Sananda Maltreya, whose chart positions have been worse than Chris Gaines’ and Prince when he was an unpronounceable symbol. Anybody seen that Cat Stevens dude?
20) Anything For You — Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine (2): I just saw Gloria Estefan on the cover of AARP Magazine and it made me sad.
19) One More Try — George Michael (3): I got an idea. You write the caption for this one.
18) Together Forever — Rick Astley (1): It often felt like once the music industry heard a hit from you, they believed you had more hits in you. Audiences, too. Until one day they realize they don’t like you anymore. No wonder so many artists become bitter and/or confused. I thought we had a relationship!
17) Foolish Beat — Debbie Gibson (1): As young men, we often made fun of Debbie Gibson for being so wholesome or so mainstream, but I’m willing to bet had many of us met Ms. Gibson in real life and she had taken a shine to us, we’d take back all those mean words and try to turn her onto the Replacements and really wreck her career!
16) Dirty Diana — Michael Jackson (1): When people tell me they liked the 1980s better than the 1990s, I wish they were writing this blog!
15) The Flame — Cheap Trick (2): This is why pop charts are so weird. “Surrender” should’ve been the national anthem and have done better than #62. At least “I Want You To Want Me” went to #7, though it took a second time as a live version. “Dream Police” went only to #26. But “Everything Works If You Let It” stopped at #44 and “If You Want My Love” stalled at #45. “She’s Tight”? #65! Then 1988 rolled around and the Lap of Luxury album made them important for one last time.
14) Hold On To The Nights — Richard Marx (1): I remember getting into an argument with someone in 1991 that Richard Marx was not an unknown artist and that he was not ‘cutting edge.’ I should’ve just agreed and sang the praises of Bruce Hornsby while I was at it. You can’t win.
13) Roll With It — Steve Winwood (4): Steve Winwood was not someone I would’ve put down as having a huge second act to his career. Had I realized how important keyboard sequencing would become in the MIDI era of music, I would’ve rethought that one and given him, Alan Price and Matthew Fisher the green light.
12) Monkey — George Michael (2): George Michael sure had a heckuva year in 1988. It must’ve been that beard that screamed ‘rebel’ in the fresh-faced ‘80s. He did have the beard then, right?
11) Sweet Child o’ Mine — Guns N’ Roses (2): I completely understood hard rock fans going nuts over this. Sure, it was a ballad, but the rockers were getting airplay, too. What I didn’t get were the critics in their 30s and 40s who began attaching themselves to the band’s fortunes as if by acknowledging a band with a #1 single was somehow akin to discovering the band when they were playing clubs. Proving you’re still relevant is a tricky business. I’m really into this twerkin’ stuff!
10) Don’t Worry Be Happy — Bobby McFerrin (2): I was glad to hear this bugged Chuck D even more than it bugged me.
9) Love Bites — Def Leppard (1): As someone who liked their first two albums, I didn’t understand the constant life-sucking exercises that went into making a wild and crazy hard rock record in the mid-1980s. You want anarchy? Take a number, kid. Get in line.
8) Red Red Wine — UB40 (1): Pop music really doesn’t like anything to come close to being authentic. So, Def Leppard qualify as heavy metal and UB40 are pure blood reggae. If you like folk music? You might like…
7) A Groovy Kind of Love — Phil Collins (2): British folkie Phil Collins really kept the times a-changin’ with this take on Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sager’s classic 1965 hit for the Mindbenders. Like another great folkie named Phil, Collins should’ve done more Elvis Presley covers to save rock ’n’ roll.
6) Kokomo — The Beach Boys (1): Just as 1988 was the year for George Harrison and Steve Winwood, it was time for the Beach Boys to have that big hit out of nowhere. Written by such non-creepy dudes as John “Father Knows Best” Phillips and Mike Love, along with former Candice Bergen boy-toy Terry Melcher and flower-wearin’ San Franciscan Scott McKenzie, “Kokomo” went on to be performed on the TV show Full House! Were the Reagan Years really coming to an end?
5) Wild, Wild West — The Escape Club (1): According to the fact authorities at Wikipedia, The Escape Club are the only British band to have a #1 in the US, while not charting at all in the UK. Do you have any idea how hard that is to do?
4) Bad Medicine — Bon Jovi (2): I grew up in New Jersey, so I can resent them as much as I like. Like many of Bo-Jo’s hits, Desmond Child helped write “Bad Medicine,” just as he’s helped other fine musical acts such as Animotion, Michael Bolton, Chynna Phillips, Roxette, Hanson, Ricky Martin, Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken and Lindsay Lohan.
3) Baby I Love Your Way / Freebird Medley — Will to Power (1): I’ve never understood what “Baby I Love Your Way” has to do with “Freebird,” but I suppose linking it to “Stairway to Heaven” would be seen as “too obvious” and “too ambitious.”
2) Look Away -- Chicago (2): Chicago is a wonderful town, even if the Cubs never win the World Series and deep dish pizza is fundamentally wrong by east coast standards. Their Second City comedy association has bred many famous comedians and their 1950s blues scene remains their musical high point. The 1968 Democratic Convention, not so much.
1) Every Rose Has Its Thorn — Poison (2): This prickly ballad took the #1 slot for the week of December 31 and hung on for the first week of 1989, making it a multi-year hit! Can I go now?