The Fantastic 40 – Episode 5: Top-40 Chart Domination for 1984

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Welcome back to The Fantastic 40:

My personal journal of the artists whose work dominated Billboard’s Top 40 for a calendar year between 1980 and 1991.

This time around:

When most folks talk about music of “the Eighties,” they’re not really talking about the artists who dominated the charts between 1980 and 1982…

…or, I would posit, 1988 and 1989.

Adult Top 40 “flashback cafes” and classic MTV and VH1 segments tend to zero in on the years 1983 through 1987 for a reason:

So many artists broke through with major albums and multiple airplay and sales hits, often across formats.

1984 is a great case in point.

What were the stories of 1984’s Fantastic 40?


The trend:

The mega-album. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” solidified the idea (initially floated via Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours,” Jackson’s own “Off the Wall” and the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack) that a blockbuster album could almost become its own greatest hits set for that artist. 1984 made that idea explicit.

Seven of the top 10 artists in the Fantastic 40 culled their hits from one blockbuster LP.

The other three; Madonna, Culture Club and Duran Duran, pulled hits from two different collections. I’d venture to say most TNOCS regulars have at least half of these albums in their collections:

Lionel Richie’s “Can’t Slow Down,”

Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual,”

Huey Lewis and the News’ “Sports,”

The Cars’ “Heartbeat City,”

Prince and the Revolution’s “Purple Rain,”

The Pointer Sisters’ Breakout,”

Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer,”

and – take your pick of No. 11-13:

  • Van Halen’s “1984,”
  • Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A”
  • or Billy Joel’s “An Innocent Man.”

(I have all but the Van Halen album.)


New names:

Lauper and Madonna dominated much of the conversation of 1984. Both explode into the top 10 of the Fantastic 40:

Madonna at No. 8

and Cyndi Lauper at No. 2.

Other names making a splash:

Billy Ocean at Number 35,

Billy Idol at Number 29,

Night Ranger at Number 27,

and and Corey Hart at Number 22.


Final bows:

Rick Springfield’s strong early ‘80s run comes to an end with his placement at Number 15.

Surprisingly, so do the hit streaks of Sheena Easton (30),

Laura Branigan at Number 26,

The Jacksons, buoyed by the success of Michael (and, to a lesser degree, Jermaine), make one last bid at No. 32.

…and, as a solo performer, Paul McCartney (34).

Ray Parker Jr. closes out at No. 19, and the top 10…

And the placements for Culture Club at Number 7,

and The Cars (4) turn out to be their last.


Only in 1984:

  • Christine McVie’s modest solo career earns her a No. 39 spot, but she’ll be back with Fleetwood Mac.
  • Same for Steve Perry (20), who spun off four hits from his solo debut before heading back to Journey.
  • Yes’ rebirth leads to its No. 38 posting but no more.
  • The group .38 Special, a Top 40 regular throughout the ’80s, only pulled together consecutive hits in 1984 when they ranked 36th

Sheila E. has her big moment at Number 33:

as do John Waite at Number 31,

and Dan Hartman at Number 24.

And due to unfortunate timing in the release of singles from their next album, Thompson Twins fail to return to the Fantastic 40 after 1984, when they rank 21st.


Time and again:

Elton John (14), Kenny Loggins (23), John Cougar Mellencamp (37), Daryl Hall and John Oates (17), and Rod Stewart (25) show their consistency as hitmakers.

After taking a minute, Kool and the Gang are No. 28 on the strength of two Top 20 hits.

While Chicago (16)…

and Eurythmics (18) come back for another go-around.


Solo acts are dominant:

Of 1984’s Fantastic 40, 24 are solo performers…

(…25 if you count Prince, although the “Purple Rain” soundtrack is billed to ‘Prince and the Revolution…)

Of the 24 solo stars, 9 came from previous hitmaking acts:

  • Christine McVie
  • Paul McCartney
  • John Waite
  • Dan Hartman
  • Kenny Loggins
  • Steve Perry
  • Ray Parker Jr.
  • Tina Turner
  • and Lionel Richie.

(A 10th, Rod Stewart, hit Billboard’s Top40 as a solo artist just before his work with Faces charted.)

Many of the artists in this year’s Fantastic 40 will collaborate in the superstar event of 1985.

And many will return on their own as well.

to be continued…

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Chuck Small

Journalist-turned-high school counselor. Happily ensconced in Raleigh, N.C., with hubby of 31 years (9 legal).

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JJ Live At Leeds
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September 26, 2023 5:49 am

This weeks ‘who are you?’ watch turns up another couple of new names for me. I thought as we reached peak 80s that the abundance of huge names might block the way but there’s still room for a few geographically challenged careers.

Step forward Night Ranger and .38 Special, neither of whom have any UK chart entries, not even in the lower reaches.

Also achieving that distinction is Corey Hart but I have at least heard of him. Thanks largely to mentions of him in comments over at the mothership and from watching time travelling comedy Future Man in which his music is revered by one of the dissidents from the apocalyptic future.

rollerboogie
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September 26, 2023 8:35 am

In talking with my wife, who grew up in Poland, we discovered quickly that certain things popular in the U.S. did not make it to Poland, and one of them was U.S.-born mainstream rock from the late 70s and early 80s, such as the bands you mentioned. It sounds like the U.K. was similar. Perhaps the same was true for much if not all of Europe, though I don’t know that for sure. All I know is that when I realized my wife had no idea who Styx was, that got the wheels turning.

Last edited 8 months ago by rollerboogie
JJ Live At Leeds
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September 26, 2023 9:19 am
Reply to  rollerboogie

I think there’s something in that. Based on these and the acts from previous years I haven’t heard of they seem to be mainstream rock or country. As a vast generalisation I would say Germany / Scandinavia was more open to rock music.

I have heard of Styx. They managed a solitary top 40 single here with Babe.

rollerboogie
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September 26, 2023 10:11 am

Of course it had to be Babe.

dutchg8r
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September 26, 2023 2:16 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

Hold up –

You and VDog each married a Polish woman??? Were you aware of that before today?!

rollerboogie
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September 26, 2023 4:30 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

Yes, it has come up over at the mothership.

Virgindog
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September 26, 2023 4:57 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

Yes, but not the same Polish woman. As far as I know.

Last edited 8 months ago by Bill Bois
rollerboogie
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September 26, 2023 5:27 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Yes, an important point to make.

LinkCrawford
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September 26, 2023 9:09 pm

Night Ranger’s biggest hit “Sister Christian” may have only reached #5, but it seemed bigger than life. The perfect blend of hard rock and pop for this 14-year old. Absolutely amazing to think that the youth of England weren’t interested.

Phylum of Alexandria
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September 26, 2023 8:14 am

At some point in the 80s, the pop production trend shifted from generally clean and sharp to a fuller, lusher, more cavernous and crowded sound. I think that the trend is just starting to bear out in these hits, but there’s still plenty of songs with room to breathe.

“Eyes Without a Face” and “Here Comes the Rain Again” being some of my favorite songs in terms of production. Lush, with restraint!

Virgindog
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September 26, 2023 9:30 am

Like you, Chuck, I’m missing only one of those top albums, but mine is Lionel Ritchie’s “Can’t Slow Down.” However, I accumulated them all long after the fact. In 1984, my high rotation albums were “Never Again” by Discharge, “Land Of The Lost” by The Freeze, and “Nkulueko” by Bluttat. It was the peak of my punk years so I was a little out of touch with the mainstream. Thanks for reminding me how great The Cars were!

dutchg8r
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September 26, 2023 9:55 am

You know, those of us who literally grew up on 80s music are often dismissed as not knowing any better, because that’s all we were ever exposed to. But c’mon, look at that list of artists! The song’s! The albums that are instantly recognizable by their album title! Damn. That’s some stellar talent there, with so many iconic songs.

I’ve always held the belief that if anyone says they don’t like Huey Lewis and the News, I want nothing to do with them; walk the other direction away from them quickly. 😆

Napoleon of Birds
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September 26, 2023 10:01 am
Reply to  dutchg8r

The dividing line for me is between Sports and Fore! I like most everything before that line and really only I Know What I Like after it.

rollerboogie
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September 26, 2023 10:07 am
Reply to  dutchg8r

For years, a great deal of music considered iconic 80s pop was derided by the masses (with me among them at times), particularly cynical Gen-Xers that followed. There has been a massive cultural shift over the years, as people are reevaluating, really listening and seeing the value that was always there. Some of it has to do with the fact that pop music in general is not being judged from a rockist viewpoint as much as it was.

I can’t say I feel any better about Huey Lewis, perhaps worse, but George Michael? I wrote him off as a pretty face for years, and though I have repented in the comment section in the past, I cannot ever be sufficiently humbled as to how far off I was about him. Perhaps those two things cancel each other out and you don’t have to walk away from me quite as quickly.

Last edited 8 months ago by rollerboogie
Phylum of Alexandria
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September 26, 2023 10:14 am
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I love how this old clip shows how much more relatable and authentic George Michael came off, compared to the more mannered and labored sensibilities of Morrissey.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqu78vIDbHw

rollerboogie
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September 26, 2023 10:21 am

I love this. Great find. I do like how George is coming off here. That host is great. His opening monologue tells me all I need to know about the difference between popular music here and in the U.K, and perhaps culture in general. I don’t recall us having a mainstream show that featured this kind of deep, thoughtful and honest (sometimes brutal) discussion about music and film here. If so, I missed it. Siskel and Ebert, I guess, on the film side.

Last edited 8 months ago by rollerboogie
dutchg8r
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September 26, 2023 10:36 am

Lol, this is a legendary clip among George Michael fans with his Joy Division critique up against grumpy Morrissey.

George had an insatiable desire to study and appreciate music history and chart history throughout his childhood, so by the time Wham! got popular he already had the knowledge of a well seasoned music industry veteran. Which always threw media off that this 20 year old pretty boy had much more of a clue about things than they did, and my goodness did that make them angry.

JJ Live At Leeds
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September 26, 2023 11:29 am

Morrissey doing his best to prove he’s a humourless troll. Even when he starts off positive about Everythjng But The Girl he rounds it off with how terrible the single is. Despite the public image at the time of Morrissey as the darling of the alternative scene and George as the good looking but empty pop star it’s George that comes off so much more considered in his opinions and a three dimensional likeable person.

Some impressive hair between George and Morrissey and even Tony Blackburn with his lego man cut.

Quite the diverse panel. Looking forward to more of the same the following week with Billy Bragg, Tom Robinson and the outlier Noddy Holder.

LinkCrawford
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September 26, 2023 9:11 pm

Morrissey comes across as loveable as ever 😛

dutchg8r
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September 26, 2023 10:15 am
Reply to  rollerboogie

Oh no rb, anyone willing to admit to they were wrong for ever dismissing George Michael’s talent gets automatic Friend For Life status from me. 😁

One less person I have to convince after 35+ years of defending George to the nth degree. (See – my pics of my teendom bedroom in my last article I wrote on here at tnocs.com… https://tnocs.com/rip-workplace-domicile/)

Last edited 8 months ago by dutchg8r
Virgindog
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September 26, 2023 11:52 am
Reply to  rollerboogie

This. This and what dutchg8r said above are what I was trying to say earlier. We got so hipper-than-thou at points and so immersed in our own little niche that we missed out on some really cool stuff.

That’s the great thing about records, though. The great ones, as the cliché goes, stand the test of time. They still sound great.

Phylum of Alexandria
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September 26, 2023 10:10 am
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I think you’ve made a friend:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvBAEp3Znn4

dutchg8r
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September 26, 2023 10:51 am

Its hysterical how Huey Lewis is forever associated with American Psycho. Huey had a gem of a guest appearance on “The Blacklist” a few years back; he was a running inside joke on the show as well. It was great – such a bonkers reference.

I just could never understand how one could not like that group. It’s like saying sure, I’m an American, but I hate bbq’s and apple pie. How can someone not like Huey Lewis and the News??!! 🙃

Last edited 8 months ago by dutchg8r
LinkCrawford
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September 26, 2023 9:15 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

Pardon. Did you say you hate apple pie? Have you had good homemade apple pie?

I LOVE pie, but I will never eat restaurant or store-bought apple pie. Other fruit pies are pretty good at stores/restaurants, but canned apple filling is the worst.

But homemade is just…mmmmmmm.

dutchg8r
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September 27, 2023 12:15 am
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Welcome to Twin Peaks, Agent Cooper!

Aaron3000
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September 27, 2023 2:13 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

My wife tells a childhood story of how she had bought a Huey Lewis poster, but accidentally left it at a fast food restaurant and never saw it again. This past Christmas I went on eBay and bought this for her, which now hangs in the garage. (Fun game: try to identify who each of the non-Huey members could be. L-R we got Michael J. Fox’s coworker in Secret of My Success, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Dana Carvey. Still working on the two guys on the other end.)

Aaron3000
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September 27, 2023 2:17 pm
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Hmm, won’t let me attach my photo. It’s the same poster in this link (no, I didn’t pay 60 bucks for mine).

https://www.etsy.com/listing/1001797704/rare-original-vintage-1984-huey-lewis?ref=share_v4_lx

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September 26, 2023 9:59 am

Well done. This year is of particular interest to me in that it illustrates very clearly why the music of my high school years (fall of 79-spring of ’83) was difficult to define and pinpoint in terms of one general vibe, trend or style, something I talked about in my recent post. As you said, the 80s had a imperial phase in terms of pop music, one of the most dominant ever arguably, and this right here is in the thick of it. By the time I graduated, it was just getting started with Thriller, but then the floodgates opened with the artists you mentioned today.

Last edited 8 months ago by rollerboogie
Ozmoe
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September 28, 2023 10:04 pm
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It’s interesting you mention this, rollerboogie, because I too had my high school years from the fall of 1979 through spring of 1983 and am getting ready for my 40th (!!!) class reunion in October. The organizers have asked us to request our favorites from the time to play during the event, and I’m like, “Geez, that’s kind of a fallow period.” It’s mostly stuff that’s either overplayed (Celebration, Physical, Another One Bites the Dust–which I like, but still …) or forgotten or God help me, Yacht Rock (Sailing, The Pina Colada Song, you know the usual suspects).

It’s around the time we graduated that US pop music went into a different stratosphere into being what we call the “80s sound.” Indeed, I remember doing a double take when Casey Kasem was counting down the top hits of the decade and the Captain and Tennille’s “Do That To Me One More Time” made the top 10. It sounded so unlike even the mellow hits of 1983-85 like “Hello” and “One More Night” that you would’ve thought it was a hit 10 years before them rather than just 5.

rollerboogie
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September 28, 2023 10:59 pm
Reply to  Ozmoe

Exactly.
Enjoy your reunion! I just had mine earlier this month. It was sparsely attended but I had some great conversations with the guys that were there, including on the topic of music.

Low4
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September 26, 2023 10:52 am

Time and memory–very strange. In my mind, this music is all from a couple of years earlier, about 80-81. Just goes to show.

Time and memory–very strange.

dutchg8r
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September 26, 2023 12:25 pm
Reply to  Low4

But at least you do recall them – no copy/paste here!!! 😉

Low4
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September 26, 2023 4:00 pm
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Well, I hope I re . . . where was I?

lovethisconcept
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September 26, 2023 11:37 am

Having so much fun with this series. It is fun to compare what was popular at the time with what is still played today from this era.

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September 26, 2023 5:54 pm

This was the year I graduated high school, so of course I know all these songs and artists like the back of my hand. The speed at which the Thompson Twins sold out was one of my first great musical disappointments.

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September 27, 2023 3:40 pm

Pipes of Peace is a very Lennon-esque-sounding title. “Bobby Jean”, if I recall correctly, is a coded song about friendship, Bruce Springsteen bidding adieu to Steve Van Zandt, when he left the E Street Band at the height of apartheid awareness. That’s how I interpret “So Bad”, Paul McCartney saying goodbye to his friend, like he’s competing with Yoko Ono for John Lennon’s love.

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September 28, 2023 3:59 pm

Me, reading these articles:

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