This week’s playlist is 5 songs that made it to the Billboard top 5 in August 1985.
That said, a few non-1985 things deserve mention today. August 15-18 marks the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Today——August 16th——is the day Santana played, which is epic in so many ways. I loved learning about Woodstock in my teen years and was blown away by the film when I saw it on the 20th anniversary of the legendary music festival.
Today is also the 42nd anniversary of the death of Elvis. It’s always been a day for me to remember the actual day (unlike Woodstock, I was alive for that). Elvis was only 42 when he died, so in about eight months he will have been dead longer than he was alive.
But today is about 1985. So here are some songs that drip, scream, and ooze that glorious year.
5. “Freeway of Love” by Aretha Franklin
The Queen of Soul even had some hits in the 1980s! This was her last #1 single——it topped the the R&B charts for the entire month of August. It even reached the #3 spot on the Hot 100, where she’d hit #7 later in the year with “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” Aside from the greatest American singer on the mic, this hit features swinging sax by Clarence Clemons.
4. “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits
As iconic a song of the 80s video era as there ever was. With vocal assistance from Sting (“I want my MTV…”) and one of the most memorable guitar licks of the 80s, the song was the biggest pop success for a rock band that had been making a name for themselves in the UK since the 70s. The original song and video (below) even features a taste of the homophobic masculinity of a lot of rock. (The “faggot” verse was cut from later airings and radio play.) It hit #1 on the rock charts for three weeks in August ’85 and did the same in late September on the Hot 100.
3. “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & the News
This hit single was from the soundtrack to the even bigger hit of a film Back to the Future released that same summer. It preceded “Money for Nothing” at the #1 spot on the rock charts (it was #1 for two weeks in July) and stayed in the top 5 there for most of August——the same month it topped the Hot 100 for two weeks. It was the first time the Bay Area rockers topped the US pop charts.
2. “Saving All My Love for You” by Whitney Houston
It peaked at #2 on the R&B charts in mid-August and then dropped to #3 by the end of the month, only to hit the top spot in the first week of September. It would do the same on the Hot 100, but not until October. The second single from her debut album, Houston was just at the start of a career of hits. For my money, this is one of her best and one of my favorites. The song was part of the plot of an episode of the TV show Silver Spoons——the show starring Ricky Schroder——on which she also guest starred. That was one of my shows, but it’s the story of the song (told through the vantage point of “the other woman”) and her vocals that stuck with me even then.
1. “Shout” by Tears for Fears
I put this song at the top of my list specifically because I never really liked it. That’s because at the same time, the song was hard not to hear on Top 40 radio. It was on all the time! And that means I had to think about how much I didn’t like the song frequently, which means it’s a big part of my 1985. When I hear the song today, I don’t change the channel. It’s an alright song (kind of basic but undeniably catchy) that really deserves respect for being a part of most people’s version of 1985. It was #1 on the Hot 100 for three weeks, just before Huey Lewis.