Simply Red: Malcolm Heywood / RetnaUK
July 18, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

Back in July ’86: Rating the top 10 singles

Top 10 from the Billboard Hot 100 list for July 19, 1986

10. ”Love Touch,” Rod Stewart Stewart came into the ’80s riding the sweet #1 wave of ”Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” and spent most of the decade mucking about the Top 10 with dreck like this faux-calypso number (is that a steel drum in your pocket, or is your keyboard just happy to see me?). In my opinion, Rod the Bod wouldn’t hit his stride again until 1990’s ”Downtown Train” set him on the path to crooning the classics; still, his cocktail-soaked voice is unmistakable, and you gotta admit he at least had the hair for the times. C+

9. ”Your Wildest Dreams,” The Moody Blues Hi! We’re the Moody Blues! You might remember us as pioneers of prog rock, but by 1986 we’d already kinda broken up once, so let’s claw our way back to relevancy by taking our spacey sound and channeling it into a soupy love song that’s a little bit Beach Boys, a little bit Erasure, and a lot synthetic! The kids’ll love it! (What’s a shame: I think I really did love it, and despite the dopey production and repetitive lyrics, this song mostly just reminds me of driving to swim team practice.) B

8. ”There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry),” Billy Ocean It’s the softer side of Billy. After clobbering us with the one-two punch of ”Caribbean Queen” and ”When the Goin’ Gets Tough, the Tough Get Goin’,” he floated to #1 with this simple ballad that manages to be both perfectly generic and all Ocean. His voice slides around its upper register without a hint of effort, and thanks to his compassion, I think we really are gonna get through this bad breakup someday. I’m surprised this song doesn’t come up more at karaoke night. Maybe it needs a key change or something. B-

7. ”Glory of Love,” Peter Cetera It’s the love theme from Karate Kid Part II, people; show some respect. Remember those little two-sided drums the Okinawans rubbed between their hands and lifted in honor of Daniel-san as he took on Chozen in a fight to the death? Anyone? Just me? Okay. Anyway. Peter Cetera + overwrought lyrics = awesome. A

6. ”Who’s Johnny,” El DeBarge I’m trying to think back and figure out why I was so obsessed with this song as a kid, because it makes almost no sense. I think it’s about cheating — ”Who’s Johnny / she said / and tried to look the other way / eyes gave her away” — but listening to it now, the verses don’t really fit so much with the chorus, musically. It’s like a completely different song. I guess when you’re 11, you’re attracted to songs with repetitive, obnoxiously peppy lyrics that are easy to sing along with. Regardless: ”El” DeBarge should have stuck with the family. ”Rhythm of the Night” is a way better song. D

5. ”Holding Back The Years,” Simply Red According to Wikipedia, Simply Red were originally called the Frantic Elevators, and they formed after seeing the 1976 Sex Pistols gig that famously also inspired the Buzzcocks, Joy Division, and the Smiths to become bands. ”Holding Back the Years” was their first single, which they re-recorded to much bigger acclaim here in ’86. That’s kind of a fascinating tidbit there, isn’t it? And yet my only real concern is: Must there be one song on the countdown every week that causes me to clutch myself and cry? I keep holding on, people. I keep holding on. B+

4. ”Danger Zone,” Kenny Loggins Aw, yeah. Now this is what I’m talkin’ about, people. Let’s get on our motorcycles and rev up our engines in honor of ’80s soundtrack king Kenny Loggins, who contributed this to Top Gun. (He also put the loose in Footloose, and made sure Caddyshack was all right.) ”Danger Zone” is arguably his darkest work, with its menacing guitars and a totally hot last-minute sax solo. All movies should have a 3 minute and 30 second fighter jet montage set to songs like this. A-

3. ”Nasty,” Janet Jackson This thrashing, almost mechanical-sounding dance track was just one of many off Janet’s 1986 breakthrough Control that declared her a full-fledged grownup, self-sufficient and ready to take the power back. By lashing out at her family and her ex-husband (James DeBarge; everybody wave at spot #6), the youngest Jackson found her voice. This isn’t the best song off that album — in my opinion, that’s ”What Have You Done For Me Lately” — but it’s still a major artistic success. And no, I do not meet the qualifications to call her ”Miss Jackson.” A-

2. ”Sledgehammer,” Peter Gabriel There’s some intrigue here in the top 2! First, we’ve got Peter Gabriel, former lead singer of Genesis, who went solo and ended up making So, a pretty seminal album that steps outside the conventional pop sound of the day and sounded more like Talking Heads than Talk Talk (and, let’s not forget, gave us the #1 Song Guaranteed To Make Whitney Cry: ”In Your Eyes”). With its terrific combo of horns and Hammond organ, ”Sledgehammer” grabbed listeners who were tired of all the pap you see on this list, and its totally amazing claymation video is one of the best of all time. A

1. ”Invisible Touch,” Genesis Which brings us to the #1 slot, occupied here by… Genesis! Which is funny, because everyone moaned and groaned when Gabriel left and the band decided to let the drummer sing, but it turns out that Phil Collins was more than capable of fronting the group, so shut up, haters. Invisible Touch was their biggest selling album by far, and even though fans of the old, dark, arty Genesis probably hated it, the title track is a great pop song with all the necessary components: crisp drums, cheesy-but-not-too-cheesy keyboards, a memorable chorus, and a great key change. As well as a built-in ability to take everything it sees. Whatever that means. A

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