How do hits from Heart and Huey Lewis hold up more than 20 years later? Whitney Pastorek gives 'em another listen

By Whitney Pastorek
Updated August 21, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT
Ann and Nancy Wilson: Paul Natkin/

This week in 1985: Rating the top 10 singles

Billboard‘s Top 10 Singles for the week of Aug. 24, 1985

Note before we begin: Sorry about last week’s mangled trivia question, kids. The question was ”name a generic rock band with a bald lead singer (besides Vertical Horizon) who made the pop charts in 2000,” and the answer I was looking for was ”Fuel.” But then I realized they didn’t hit the pop charts until 2001, and all of you realized that there are a shocking number of generic rock bands with bald lead singers out there. So we’re all winners! This week’s countdown is goin’ out to Jake, who rang in first with ”Live” and requested 1985; I’ll try to be less incompetent with the trivia from now on.

10. ”What About Love,” Heart
Crap. I think I played this song too loud. My computer speaker is buzzing. Anyway. Love. What about it, indeed. This isn’t my favorite Heart song — that would be ”Alone,” especially when belted by my coworker Jennifer Armstrong — but it’s damn close. It’s the ending that I like the best, with Ann busting it out on the WOO-hoo-hoos; either that or I like the beginning, which is a score written for a smoke machine if I’ve ever heard one. But let’s be honest, people: It’s the message that truly speaks to me. How often in life do we find that the love we’re sending ain’t making it through to someone’s heart? Sigh. All too often, I’m afraid. Hug someone today, friends. Share it with them. Wait. Not in a creepy way. Boundaries, boundaries. Okay. A-

9. ”Everytime You Go Away,” Paul Young
According to my good friend Wikipedia, this song is notable for containing a ”mondegreen” — ”the accidental mishearing of a phrase such that it acquires new meaning.” First of all, ”mondegreen” is a word? And secondly, they list the ”mondegreen” (I remain skeptical) as ”You take a piece of meat with you.” Um… Dear good friend Wikipedia: Are you on crack? Why in the hell would any of us think that every time our loved one goes away, they take a piece of freakin’ meat with them? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard, and it does a serious disservice to Mr. Young and his tender ballad. I think it’s hard to argue with the quality of this one-hit-wonder and the myriad of synth effects it employs (banjo! vox! is that a sleigh bell?) And please don’t yell at me for calling Paul Young a one-hit-wonder: ”Oh Girl” is a piece of treacly crap and you know it. B+

8. ”If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,” Sting
Okay. I bought Dream of the Blue Turtles on vinyl the day it came out, mostly on the strength of ”Synchronicity II,” which I loved because it talked about the Loch Ness monster and I was really into dinosaurs at the time. Don’t ask. Anyway. I immediately transferred Sting’s first solo album here to a cassette, put something on the other side (though I can’t remember what right now, and it’s driving me bonkers; might have been the Footloose soundtrack), and stuck that cassette in my bright yellow Sony Sports Walkman. Then, I boarded my bike — a cherry-red Schwinn 10-speed that I bought with my very own money — and set out to ride in circles around the neighborhood. But we’re supposed to be talking about the music. Um. I do still enjoy Branford Marsalis’s saxophone, but honestly, the ”free-free” mantra bugs me just a bit these days. Let’s put it this way: It is no ”Fortress Around Your Heart.” B-

7. ”Summer of ’69,” Bryan Adams
I’m in a very contrary mood today, I know, but all I can think about this one is, ”Dude, I wish ‘Run To You’ was playing right now.” Look, you can’t go wrong with this song, really, unless you’re afraid to let yourself be happy. It’s a big rocker written by a Canadian about a summer of (heh-heh) sex. It’s got one of the best first lyrics of all time, so everyone knows all the words (but I bet you don’t know the third verse as well as you think you do). So what’s the problem? Well… it’s sort of white bread, isn’t it? It suffers from being overplayed for over 20 years — and not unlike ”Jack & Diane” — you’re happy when you hear it, you’re not gonna spend the time or energy to put something else on, but it’s not like you get that surge of ”OHMYGODILOVETHISSONG” the minute that first guitar riff chucks in. And the bridge is kinda weak. Or is that just me? Have I offended Canada again? B-

6. ”We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome),” Tina Turner
Now here’s a song I haven’t heard enough of lately… and wow, talk about your mondegreens: I have spent the past two decades truly believing the last line of the chorus was ”All we want is what the younger ones can know.” So, that’s like really wrong. It’s ”All we want is life beyond the Thunderdome,” which, had I ever thought about it, makes a whole lot more sense. But there’s a good chance I’ve never thought about it. And since I’m supposed to be giving these songs ”another listen,” I’m going to be honest: This song was a lot cooler when I was 10 and used to stand on top of the slide in my backyard and belt it out (using, apparently, very wrong words). Now it seems sort of sluggish. Tina’s voice is great in the chorus, but in the middle it just sort of putt-putts along. Also it has a children’s chorus, and you all know how I feel about letting kids muck about in my rock n’ roll. Maybe it’s better with the video… YES! The earrings and the shirtless saxophone player make everything okay! B

5. ”Freeway of Love,” Aretha Franklin
Oh, holy crap. I am going to hell. I thought this was a Pointer Sisters song. I also thought it was called ”Pink Cadillac.” Wow. A‘s all around. That’s just embarrassing. Let’s not speak of this again.

4. ”St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion),” John Parr
Man, it is SHAMEFUL, given the incident above, that I not only know every word to this song, but ”John Parr” was never in question. [shaking head] ANYHOO. This song makes me want to stand on mountaintops and profess my love to Dale Beaverman. It’s bombastic, it’s kind of unnecessary, and has very little to do with the actual content of the movie St. Elmo’s Fire — a movie that’s basically about a bunch of relatively spoiled white people rising above tragedies and limitations that they have inflicted upon themselves by overspending, doing cocaine, or letting dickhead guys push them around/being dickhead guys — but yet I love it so. Do you not love it so? I feel like going to the gym now. B+

3. ”Never Surrender,” Corey Hart
If you ever wondered, ”What’s behind the sunglasses that you wear at night, Corey Hart?” the answer is, apparently: a big, red, beating heart that will never let you surrender, even if the night is cold and dark. Don’t worry: You can see, you can see light! Ooh, this song gives me the tingles (even though ”you can see, you can see light” is so obviously a rip-off of ”so I can, so I can”). What is it about really empoweringly cheesy music that cuts to the heart of pre-adolescents, giving them a sense of purpose they might otherwise lack? Was I being oppressed at school? Most certainly — and this song gave me the strength to rise above! And in that moment when the female voice rises to carry the harmony a third above Corey’s on the chorus, might that not be my voice, rising, harmonizing? Might I not be given such power, such enduring hope in the face of my oppressors? Might I not stand at my desk in the fifth-grade wing of Bunker Hill Elementary School, lift my chin and declare, No! No one can take away my right to fight!? It is!! It is me! We don’t need another hero!! A

2. ”Shout,” Tears for Fears
Ooh, Tears for Fears. Your songs came from the big chair! No question: the best part of this song is the bridge, when it sort of sounds like the big chair rolls into a steelworking factory. Just to keep today’s theme alive: I always did like ”Everybody Wants To Rule the World” better. One time I got into a big fight with someone who tried to tell me that ”Everybody Wants to Rule the World” was a Depeche Mode song. That person was obviously insane. Whatevs. I think ”Shout” succeeds because it meets several of the criteria: repetitive chorus that children can remember easily; wacky sound effects (seriously, how can you not love the little ”dingdingding-dongdongdong” thing in the background?); and a certain ambiguously empowering meaning to the lyrics. We love ambiguity with our empowerment, since that allows us to apply it to any situation. I think this song was really big at swim meets for some reason. B+

1. ”The Power of Love,” Huey Lewis and the News
Why… is that Back to the Future that I hear? Man, they just don’t make movie soundtracks like this anymore. I addressed that point a little bit when I did 1984 (and again in 1998), but seriously — what’s the last song from a movie that hit it huge? (That Snakes on a Plane song doesn’t count.) (Because no one actually likes that song, they’re just pretending to.) (On their blog.) This track is classic HL: It’s the solid bar-band sound of the News backing up lyrics that are neither flowery nor macho, with just a smidge of possibly-faux horn section thrown in to remind us that we’re Americans. Scary but true: My favorite album from the ’80s actually might be Fore! And before you get all screechy at me for admitting that, I want you to read this. Come back when you’re done. I’ll wait.

Now. By posting that amazingly well-written story, I do not mean to imply that I am in any way developmentally disabled (although there are those who would argue differently), but rather that Huey’s music transcends boundaries. It changes lives, people. Much like Heart, he understands the power of love. Can you feel it? You don’t even need a credit card to ride that train! A-