Flashback: Top 15 singles this week in 1986

The Billboard Hot 100 for this week 28 years ago, in the edition published on April 5, 1986, was a particularly good one.  Nine of the fifteen tracks would eventually peak in the Top 3, so a lot of mid-80s classics here.

15. Starship – “Sara”

During the mid-‘80s, the ever-evolving Starship (which had very little to do with its original incarnation as Jefferson Airplane) scored three #1 singles with “We Built This City,” “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” and “Sara,” a slick ballad from their 1985 album Knee Deep in the Hoopla. This week it was #15 on its way down from #1.

14. The Rolling Stones – “Harlem Shuffle”

It’s pretty amazing to consider that a single 28 years old could be considered as one of the “newer” hits for a band, but rules go out the window when you’re talking about The Rolling Stones. “Harlem Shuffle” is a cover of an early-60s R&B number by Bob & Earl. The rock titans released it as the lead single for their critically-panned 1986 album Dirty Work. This was during a period marked by turmoil within the band (is there a period without turmoil? But it was particularly bad around this time).  Despite the terrible reviews Dirty Work received, “Harlem Shuffle” did quite well, reaching #5. 

13. Loverboy – “This Could Be the Night”

Ahh, the ubiquitous ‘80s power-ballad. There were many of them, and Loverboy’s “This Could be the Night,” the second single from their 1985 album Lovin’ Every Minute of It, is one of the better ones. It peaked at #10, following the #9 peak of the album’s title track. The Canadian rockers would score another hit power-ballad later in the year when “Heaven In Your Eyes” from the Top Gun Soundtrack reached #12.

12. Pet Shop Boys – “West End Girls”

This week in 1986, the duo of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe were on their way to scoring their only #1 single in America with “West End Girls,” from their debut album Please. The album would also yield the Top 10 hit “Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)” and two singles that were hits worldwide but failed to make the Top 40 in America: “Love Comes Quickly” and “Suburbia.” It was the beginning of a pattern that continues to this day — Pet Shop Boys’ singles do far better in Europe than America. But that wasn’t the case with “West End Girls,” which rocketed to #1 and jump-started an amazing career that is still going strong today.

11. Force MD’s – “Tender Love”

“Tender Love” was the only Top 40 hit for R&B band Force MDs. The song was written and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, former members of Prince’s protégé band The Time. The duo had a huge year in 1986 — besides “Tender Love,” they also hit #1 with a collaboration with the Human League, “Human,” and their work with Janet Jackson on her album Control was exploding with hit after hit. A beautiful ballad, “Tender Love,” from the soundtrack to the film Krush Groove, reached #10.

10. Elton John – “Nikita”

The second single and biggest hit (following his collaboration with George Michael, “Wrap Her Up”) from his album Ice on Fire, Elton John was at #10 this week with his Cold War ballad “Nikita,” down from its peak of #7. It was one of 6 Top 10 hits for Elton during the ‘80s, the biggest of which was “I Don’t Wanna Go On With You Like That” which hit #2 in 1988.

9. Robert Palmer – “Addicted to Love”

British singer Robert Palmer was in the midst of his career peak in 1986. The prior year he scored two Top 10 hits as vocalist for the Duran Duran side-project The Power Station with “Some Like it Hot” and a cover of the T. Rex classic “Get it On (Bang a Gong)”. “Addicted to Love,” known for its iconic video, became his first and only #1. He’d  follow it with a #2 hit later in the year with a cover of “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On,” a song originally recorded by Cherrelle and written by none other than the aforementioned Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.  Palmer’s last Top 10 in America was “Simply Irresistible,” which followed the formula of “Addicted to Love” and hit #2 in 1988. Sadly, Robert Palmer died of a heart attack in 2003 at the age of 54.

8. Sly Fox – “Let’s Go All The Way”

The only Top 40 hit for R&B duo Sly Fox, “Let’s Go All The Way” reached #7. Subsequent singles failed to ignite, and the duo proved short-lived, breaking up only 2 years after their one and only hit.

7. The Bangles – “Manic Monday”

Written by Prince and originally conceived for his protégé trio Appollonia 6, “Manic Monday” instead became the big breakthrough hit for California band The Bangles.  It was the first of eight Top 40 hits for the band, and would eventually reach #2. There are poor quality bootleg copies of Prince’s recording of “Manic Monday” circulating, but his version has never been officially released.  “Manic Monday” was the first single from the band’s 3rd album Different Light, which also yielded the #1 hit “Walk Like an Egyptian” later in the year.

6. INXS – “What You Need”

INXS had been scoring hits in their native Australia for 6 years by the time they scored their first American Top 10 with “What You Need,” the 2nd single from their 4th album Listen Like Thieves. The band had previously hit #30 in the U.S. with “The One Thing” in 1983, but “What You Need” was their big breakthrough. The song peaked at #5 and was one of 9 Top 40 hits for the band in the U.S.

5. Heart – “These Dreams”

Heart is known for the powerhouse vocals of Ann Wilson, but it was a track sung by her sister Nancy that earned the band their first #1 single.  “These Dreams” was written by Elton John’s lyricist partner Bernie Taupin and songwriter Martin Page, who would score a hit on his own with “In the House of Stone and Light” in 1994. “These Dreams” was the 3rd Top 10 in a row from the band’s self-titled 1985 album, following “What About Love” (#10) and “Never” (#4).  The album marked a significant comeback for the band, who had seen their commercial fortunes wane since their ‘70s heyday with “Barracuda” and “Crazy on You.” Ann Wilson wouldn’t have to wait much longer for her turn at the top. Her stunning vocal performance on “Alone” launched that song straight to #1 in 1987.

4. Atlantic Starr – “Secret Lovers”

The first Top 40 hit for R&B group Atlantic Starr, the ballad “Secret Lovers” ended up peaking at #3. They’d have two more big crossover pop hits: the #1 smash “Always” in 1987, and the #3 “Masterpiece” in 1992.

3. Prince – “Kiss”

Pausing at #3 on its way to the top is “Kiss,” Prince’ first single from this 1986 album Parade, which also spawned the singles “Mountains” (#23) and “Anotherloverholenyohead” (#63). A stripped-down funk masterpiece, “Kiss” has become one of Prince’s signature songs, and one of his five #1 hits. While “Kiss” was spending its 2 weeks at the top, his composition “Manic Monday” by The Bangles sat behind it at #2. “Kiss” was originally intended for his protégé band Mazarati, but when he heard their reworking of his original demo he was so enthralled that he snatched it back. Unfortunately, the movie for which Parade was the soundtrack, Under the Cherry Moon, was a colossal flop. Despite the appearance of Wendy Melvoin playing guitar in the racy video, “Kiss” was recorded in its entirety by Prince himself. In his infinite wisdom, Prince declines to allow his videos to be shown on YouTube, so instead we’ll show the Art of Noise/Tom Jones cover version which reached #31 in 1988.

2. John Mellencamp – “R.O.C.K. in the USA”

John Mellencamp was on a roll in 1986 — his tribute to ‘60s rock, “R.O.C.K. in the USA,” became one of his biggest hits, peaking at #2. It was the 3rd Top 10 in a row from his album Scarecrow, following “Lonely Ol’ Night” and “Small Town,” both of which reached #6.

1. Falco – “Rock Me Amadeus”

The first single from his 3rd album Falco 3, “Rock Me Amadeus” was Falco’s first Top 40 hit in the U.S. and a worldwide smash. Falco is sometimes considered a “one-hit-wonder,” despite that fact that a follow-up single from Falco 3, “Vienna Calling,” reached #18 in the U.S. and he scored numerous hits in Europe. His 1981 single “Der Kommissar” was a global smash, except for America where a cover version by the band After the Fire hit #5 in 1983. “Rock Me Amadeus” was his biggest hit and signature song, and is an iconic ‘80s classic. Unfortunately Falco died in a car accident in 1998 in the Dominican Republic. 

Music writer for Metro Weekly. Contact at cgerard@metroweekly.com.

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