Ranking #40 singles, U.S. edition: 1979-1989

This was fun: a decade’s worth of famous and not-famous songs that never crossed beyond the chart’s most agonizing position. My top ranker had it particularly bad: because it peaked on the first week of January 1988 when the charts froze for the new year, Casey Kasem never said “The Cure” or “Friday I’m in Love” aloud.

But this list compiles perfidy. Frightened of Black people singing over beats, the early Reagan-era radio programmers were responsible for confining two consecutive (!) tolerable Rick James songs to this menial position. A few years earlier, under different circumstances, a recent Grammy winner for 1975’s Album of the Year watched his follow-up to a #1 falter. Genesis, Evelyn King, the Buggles, and a terrible Alice Cooper new wave accommodation also fizzled. I don’t get “Video Killed The Radio Star” other than for historicity.

You want novelty? Laura Branigan’s forgotten, splendidly titled “Spanish Eddie” (call me Cuban Alfred), Real Life’s 1984 vocoder-drenched follow-up to the twice-released dance classic “Send Me an Angel,” and Boy George’s solo debut. Wonder what happened to them.

The Hague

Simple Minds – See The Light


Boy George – Live My Life
The Communards – Don’t Leave Me This Way
Willie Nelson – Let It Be Me
Diana Ross – So Close
Night Ranger – Don’t Tell Me You Love Me
Ratt – Lay It Down
Stacy Lattisaw – Miracles
Andy Gibb – Me (Without You)
Joyce Kennedy And Jeffery Osbourne – The Last Time I Made Love
Sonny Charles – Put it in a Magazine

Sound, Solid

The Buggles – Video Killed The Radio Star
Evelyn King – I’m in Love
Donna Summer – Who Do You Think You’re Foolin’
Alice Cooper – Clones (We Are)
Genesis – Man on the Corner
Steve Perry – Strung Out
Rainbow – Stone Cold
Real Life – Catch Me I’m Falling
Stephanie Mills and Teddy Pendergrass – Two Hearts
Barbra Streisand – The Way He Makes Me Feel

Good to Great

The Cure – Just Like Heaven
Rick James – Give It To Me Baby
Con Funk Shun – Too Tight
Blue Öyster Cult – Burnin’ for You
Rick James – Cold Blooded
Eurythmics – Don’t Ask Me Why
Laura Branigan – Spanish Eddie
Rickie Lee Jones – Young Blood
Paul Simon – One-Trick Pony

2 thoughts on “Ranking #40 singles, U.S. edition: 1979-1989

  1. I remember being pissed off in 1985 the best Branigan single I’d heard so far was practically shunted. When I learn the lyrics many years after the bothersome turned directly to rage. And I’ve never been fan of castanets of any type in songs. But, of course, this is the exception.
    I still can’t catch what the swirling synth riff that provides the background reminds me of… Limahl?

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