Billboard #1s for the Week Ending May 31, 1986

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 Greatest Love of All Whitney Houston 3
R & B On My Own Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald 3
Country Whoever’s In New England Reba McEntire 1
Adult Contemporary Live to Tell Madonna 1
Rock Sledgehammer Peter Gabriel 1
Album Whitney Houston Whitney Houston 10

GabrielSledgehammerGenesisITouchThis week sees Genesis begin its complicated chart dominance. After becoming a trio — Tony Banks, Phil Collins, and Mike Rutherford — in 1977, they slowly began breaking into the Top 40, managing their first Top 10 with That’s All from their 12th album. In the meantime, Collins launched a successful solo career, including four #1 pop hits by mid-86. This week the lead single and title track from their 13th album, Invisible Touch, blasted onto the Hot 100 at #45.

The band’s first lead singer, Peter Gabriel, departed for a solo career in 1974. He had some success in the UK and managed one minor hit in the States. The lead single from his fifth album propelled him to stardom. With a solid dance beat and an innovative video, Sledgehammer caught on quickly, entering the Hot 100 on May 10 and becoming Gabriel’s second Top 40 this week, moving from #51 to #39. That put the singer and his old band on the charts with only six positions between them.

The songs paced each other up the charts, with Invisible Touch finally overtaking Sledgehammer when they both entered the Top 10 on June 28. Three weeks later, Genesis notched their first #1 and Gabriel eased up to #2. The following week, Gabriel took over the top, the only time in chart history that a former lead singer has replaced his band at #1. Gabriel managed a few more sizable hits while Genesis became surprising chart champs, logging five Top Five singles from Invisible Touch.

Regarding that complicated dominance I mentioned: This week finds FIVE Genesis-related acts in the Top 50, all of which would share the Top 40 the following week. GTR, featuring former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett, moved from #43 to #40 on their way to #14 with When the Heart Rules the Mind. Phil Collins was wrapping up his successful run of hits from No Jacket Required, with Take Me Home — the fourth single — dropping from its #7 peak to #16. Mike Rutherford’s side project Mike + the Mechanics moved their second single from #10 to #6, getting ready to peak at #5 the following week.

That’s a pretty remarkable chart collection, something no band other than the Beatles (at the height of their early-70s solo careers) has even come close to. That Genesis pulled it off nearly 20 years after they formed is quite a feat.

Song of the Day, May 27: It’s All Your Fault by P!nk

PinkFaultToday’s song is a standout in a powerful dance pop career. As she recorded her fifth album, P!nk was in a dark space. Her career hand bounced up and down, ranging from a string of Top 10 singles to a trio that barely scratched the charts, and her marriage was on the skids. She took that energy and created a smart, emotional dance rock masterpiece, Funhouse.

One of the album’s finest moments is It’s All Your Fault. Ironically titled, the driving rock track reflects on the singer’s complicity in the romantic drama. Edgy and dark, it’s also beautiful, with P!nk’s amazing vocal matching the surging beat in intensity.

It’s all your fault, you called me beautiful
You turned me out and now I can’t turn back
I hold my breath because you were perfect
But I’m running out of air and it’s not fair

Enjoy this powerful song today.

Song of the Day, May 26: Cold Wind to Valhalla by Jethro Tull

TullColdWindToday’s song comes from Jethro Tull’s transitional album Minstrel In the Gallery. After starting as a blues band, the group evolved into a distinctive progressive rock unit. On their eighth album, they began exploring folk rock elements, an approach that would feature prominently on later releases. The album features a mix of hard rock and acoustic folk rock. Cold Wind to Valhalla bridges the two. Anthemic and evocative, it summons up images of Norse legends. Band leader Ian Anderson mixes tempos and vocal styles, delighting in a celebration of the mysterious.

Enjoy this great song today.

Song of the Day, May 25: Sorrow Floats by Voice of the Beehive

VoBSorrowToday’s song is a splendid reflection on substance abuse. Voice of the Beehive mixed gorgeous pop with smart lyrics on their powerful debut album Let It Bee. One of the standouts is Sorrow Floats. The Belland sisters sing about a friend who is having trouble coping with life. Only 22, she “feels her life is through” and uses excessive drinking as a crutch. Sympathetic but frustrated, firm but kind, they offer a pair of stern questions with a stinging observation.

Don’t you ever get sick of feeling sick about it ?
Don’t you ever get sick of feeling sick without it ?
Sorrow floats

Enjoy this powerful song today.

Song of the Day, May 24: Velas by Quincy Jones with Toots Thielemans

TootsVelasToday’s song joins two jazz legends in the midst of a dance-pop album. When Qunicy Jones formed his own Qwest label, he owed A&M one last disc. He assembled a talented group and recorded The Dude, a fun album that shows off Q’s pop smarts at their finest. Track eight is a nod to his jazz roots, featuring a lovely performance from another stalwart.

Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor Thielemans was born in Belgium in 1922. He began his career as a guitarist, going by the name “Toots”, working with a dizzying array of performers including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Dinah Washington, as well as Jones. He began playing harmonica in the late 50s, then began experimenting with whistling. His 1962 track Bluesette is a masterpiece of jazz whistling. He has also worked as a studio musician with dozens of pop artists (notably on Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man), increasingly known for harmonica and whistling. He was styled Baron Thielmans in 2001 by the King of Belgium in recognition of his contributions to music.

Jones called up his old friend to play on Velas, a lovely instrumental written by  Ivan Lins and Vitor Martins. Thielemans recorded guitar, harmonica, and whistling in Belgium, then sent the tapes to Jones. The producer mixed them with contributions from his stellar studio band for The Dude. The result is a gentle, smart track, with lovely contributions that are classic Thielemans.

Enjoy this beautiful song today.

Song of the Day, May 23: Solo by Sandy Denny

DennyWaltzSoloToday’s song is a wonderful reflection on independence. After leaving Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny launched a solo career, with a mixed bag debut and a stunning second release. Her third effort, Like An Old Fashioned Waltz, is a bit of a disappointment, with husband Trevor Lucas’ production muddying the sound.

One track is a standout in Denny’s rich catalog, however. Solo features some nice observations, recognizing that in the end we all must own our lives. Denny observed in an interview, that it’s

A song which depicts, I think, that knowledge we all have inside, which is, that nobody can live your life for you. But at the same time, let’s try to help one another, all the same.

She also makes a fun jab at her own folk diva reputation with the line “I’ve always kept a unicorn and I never sing out of tune.” The whole package is stirring and elegant, a fine musical moment.

Enjoy this great song today.

Billboard #1s for the Week Ending May 24, 1986

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 Greatest Love of All Whitney Houston 2
R & B On My Own Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald 2
Country Tomb of the Unknown Love Kenny Rogers 1
Adult Contemporary Greatest Love of All Whitney Houston 5
Rock Like A Rock Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band 2
Album Whitney Houston Whitney Houston 9

AnthonyCampWhatILikeThis week sees a dance band notch their biggest hit. Producer and composer Anthony Malloy had charted once with electro-boogie outfit Temper, hitting #1 on the Dance chart and scraping onto the R&B. When Temper dissolved, he gathered another set of musicians, forming Anthony and the Camp.

Their debut single, What I Like, entered the Dance chart on April 12, 1986. This week, its seventh on the chart, it began a three-week run as the #1 Dance track. That made it the biggest Dance #1 of the year, but the Camp quickly faded. They managed one more Dance Top 10 and dented the lower end of the R&B charts with What I Like, then disappeared.

Song of the Day, May 20: Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

QueenBohoRhapToday’s song is the defining moment of a classic band. Queen’s A Night At the Opera features great contributions by all the band members. Singer Freddie Mercury began crafting Bohemian Rhapsody early in his career and finally found the right muse while working on Opera. The song is a stunning mix of genres, from a simple piano-and-vocal opening to a hard rock guitar solo to richly layered vocals. With no chorus and a running time of nearly six minutes, the track known as “Fred’s Thing” became a radio staple and a chart champ.

Queen spent over three weeks recording the song, overdubbing so many times that eighth-generations tapes were used in the final mix. The chorale vocal took multiple ten-hour days, blending Mercury, May, and Taylor’s voices into a powerful harmonic blast. By contrast, May’s solo was a single track, laid down once.

Despite concerns that radio wouldn’t touch it, EMI released the song as the album’s first single. It rocketed to the top of the UK chart, spending an amazing nine weeks at #1. It also became Queen’s first US Top Ten, peaking at #9. Re-released after featuring on the Wayne’s World soundtrack in 1992, it did even better, going all the way to #2. (Jump by Kriss Kross kept the band from logging a third US #1.)

Enjoy this magnificent classic track today.

Song of the Day, May 19: Borderline by Madonna

MadonnaBorderlineToday’s song is the first Top Ten by a chart powerhouse. When Madonna hooked up with producer Reggie Lucas for her debut album, she brought in three of her own compositions. Lucas helped her track down a few other songs and offered her one of his own, Borderline. They recorded it, but Madonna was never happy with Lucas’ arrangement of the track, finding it cluttered. Lucas left the project, and Madonna asked her boyfriend, Jellybean Benitez, to re-mix the song.

Despite the rough start, the result is amazing. A powerful song of romantic frustration, it features one of the singer’s best vocals. Musically more complex than the rest of the album, Borderline introduced the smart, rich dance music that Madonna pioneered. The second Hot 100 single from the album, it peaked at #10 in an impressive 30-week run, breaking the singer into the Top 10, a place she would remain for her next 17 singles.

Enjoy this dance-pop masterpiece today.

Song of the Day, May 18: When Will We Be Married? by the Waterboys

WaterboysFishermanMarriedToday’s song is a charming traditional moment on a folk-rock delight. When Karl Wallinger left the Waterboys, band leader Mike Scott took advantage of the transition to rethink the band. Inspired by the traditional music of Ireland, he built on the anthemic rock of the band’s first three albums, bringing in a large new lineup with fiddles and other acoustic instruments. The result, Fisherman’s Blues, is a magnificent blend of the old and the new.

A standout track is the lone traditional song, When Will We Be Married? A delightful song of romantic frustration and impatience, it’s a fun romp. Scott sings to his beloved, Molly, who has cast her eye at many a man. He’s ready for her to settle down, and asks her to set a date. His delivery is charming, urgent and clear, as the band support him with jaunty abandon.

Enjoy this fun song today.

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