When I want to be really terrified by how quickly time seems to pass and how much things change, I do some basic arithmetic, which is all I’m really capable of doing.
The albums in the Billboard Top 10 for this week in 1985 were released twenty-six years ago. I, in the year 2011, have the images of my summer as a nine-year old to look back to. Sometimes a song from one of these albums is vivid enough that I can remember the specific circumstances of one of the times that I heard it.
I was at Tiki Pool. I was at Miller Park for one of my or my older brother’s baseball games. I was in my mother’s car on the way to my friend Travis’ house. (The two locations that I mentioned are both in my hometown of Lancaster, Ohio.)
Now, how about those who were in 1985 the age that I am now? My mother, for example. (Okay, she was actually one year younger then than I am now, but close enough.) What did she have to look back to from 1959, which was twenty-six years prior to 1985?
Although I am a die-hard history buff, I will not go into specifics. My point is that 1959 was probably as familiar to my mother in 1985 as 1985 is to me in 2011. Being able to hold twenty-six years of my life in my mind is quite sobering. Once that number of years pass again, it will be 2037, and I will be four years away from thanking President Lyndon Baines Johnson for signing Medicare into law.
I am approximately 100% certain that not one of my fellow Dig interns was born in or prior to 1985. However, I am at least 90% sure that each of them would recognize the names of the artists who were in the Top 10 in the week of July 13 of that year.
Surprisingly, the band Tears For Fears, who had the #1 album (Songs From the Big Chair), would probably be one of the less familiar names to these young-uns. But surely they would have heard at least one of the three major hit singles from the album: “Everybody Want To Rule the World,” “Shout” and “Head Over Heels.”
Two other band names also might not ring a bell to folks who can’t enjoy a Sierra Nevada without running afoul of the law, but the names of their lead singers probably will. Wham!, whose former #1 album Make It Big was #8 this week, was fronted by George Michael. Annie Lennox sang lead for Eurythmics, who had the #10 album, Be Yourself Tonight.
(If I may digress, knowing who a lead singer is does not necessarily mean knowing that the singer used to be in a band, let along the name of that band. Several years ago, I was walking near Fenway Park with my now-wife and one of her younger roommates. The Police were performing at Fenway that night. “Yep, that’s Sting’s voice,” I said. “Oh, is he opening for The Police?” asked the roommate. To her credit, she did feel kind of silly for asking.)
Finally, there is a good chance that the twentysomethings who surround me at the Dig office will not have seen the movie Beverly Hills Cop or any of its sequels. The soundtrack to that flick, one of the first R-rated ones that I remember seeing, was #5.
That album had also peaked at #1, as had all but one of the remaining albums that filled out the Top 10 this week more than two-and-a-half decades ago: No Jacket Required by Phil Collins (#2), Around the World in a Day by Prince (#3), Reckless by Bryan Adams (#4), Born In the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen (#6), and Like A Virgin by Madonna (#9).
The one album that I have not yet mentioned occupied the #7 spot on the July 13, 1985 Billboard Top 200. It was the eponymous album by a supergroup called The Power Station.
I know, “supergroup” sounds like an odd way to describe a band that had only two hits and whom very few people remember by name. But the word simply refers to a band whose members had been successful in other musical ventures.
In the case of The Power Station, the unrelated Andy and John Taylor were members of Duran Duran. Drummer Tony Thompson had been with the hugely popular 70s disco band Chic. Singer Robert Palmer had been moderately successful in the music biz for quite a while, but had become ubiquitous in the mid-80s thanks to a series of fetching and oft-imitated videos.
After four years of massive success, the members of Duran Duran must of felt artistically stifled by the limits of MTV-ready pop music. The three other members of Duran Duran formed a side project called Arcadia the same year. That band recorded one album and had a hit with “Election Day.”
Meanwhile, The Power Station’s big hit was “Some Like It Hot.” Or, as I thought that he was saying, “Sunlight Get Hot,” which could be interpreted as a plea by Robert Palmer for the temperature to rise, or as a lesson in meteorology delivered in slightly broken English.
The band also did a cover of the T. Rex classic “Bang A Gong (Get It On),” which they for some reason decided to title “Get It On (Bang A Gong).” Both songs were accompanied by the type of hypersexual videos that one had come to expect from the Taylors’ other band.
It is not clear to me how these songs represent any sort of satisfying spreading of artistic wings for the members of Duran Duran. Perhaps that is why they got back together--minus Roger and Andy Taylor, also not related--in 1986. They recorded three more albums, each of which was arguably more of a dud than the one recorded by each of the side projects. (Duran Duran enjoyed a bit an artistic and commercial rebirth with a 1993 self-titled album, which featured “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone.”)
As disposable as The Power Station may have been, I ain’t complainin’. The nine-year-old who I was loved it back then, and my inner nine-year-old still does.
See my previous This Week In Billboard columns and other music reviews here. Follow me on Twitter, @blakeSmaddux.