Welcome back to The Fantastic 40:
My personal journal of the artists whose work dominated Billboard’s Top 40 for a calendar year between 1980 and 1991.
This time around:
When most folks talk about music of “the Eighties,” they’re not really talking about the artists who dominated the charts between 1980 and 1982…
…or, I would posit, 1988 and 1989.
Adult Top 40 “flashback cafes” and classic MTV and VH1 segments tend to zero in on the years 1983 through 1987 for a reason:
So many artists broke through with major albums and multiple airplay and sales hits, often across formats.
1984 is a great case in point.
What were the stories of 1984’s Fantastic 40?
The mega-album. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” solidified the idea (initially floated via Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours,” Jackson’s own “Off the Wall” and the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack) that a blockbuster album could almost become its own greatest hits set for that artist. 1984 made that idea explicit.
Seven of the top 10 artists in the Fantastic 40 culled their hits from one blockbuster LP.
The other three; Madonna, Culture Club and Duran Duran, pulled hits from two different collections. I’d venture to say most TNOCS regulars have at least half of these albums in their collections:
Lionel Richie’s “Can’t Slow Down,”
Cyndi Lauper’s “She’s So Unusual,”
Huey Lewis and the News’ “Sports,”
The Cars’ “Heartbeat City,”
Prince and the Revolution’s “Purple Rain,”
The Pointer Sisters’ “Breakout,”
Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer,”
and – take your pick of No. 11-13:
- Van Halen’s “1984,”
- Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A”
- or Billy Joel’s “An Innocent Man.”
(I have all but the Van Halen album.)
Lauper and Madonna dominated much of the conversation of 1984. Both explode into the top 10 of the Fantastic 40:
Madonna at No. 8
and Cyndi Lauper at No. 2.
Other names making a splash:
Billy Ocean at Number 35,
Billy Idol at Number 29,
Night Ranger at Number 27,
and and Corey Hart at Number 22.
Rick Springfield’s strong early ‘80s run comes to an end with his placement at Number 15.
Surprisingly, so do the hit streaks of Sheena Easton (30),
Laura Branigan at Number 26,
The Jacksons, buoyed by the success of Michael (and, to a lesser degree, Jermaine), make one last bid at No. 32.
…and, as a solo performer, Paul McCartney (34).
Ray Parker Jr. closes out at No. 19, and the top 10…
And the placements for Culture Club at Number 7,
and The Cars (4) turn out to be their last.
Only in 1984:
- Christine McVie’s modest solo career earns her a No. 39 spot, but she’ll be back with Fleetwood Mac.
- Same for Steve Perry (20), who spun off four hits from his solo debut before heading back to Journey.
- Yes’ rebirth leads to its No. 38 posting but no more.
- The group .38 Special, a Top 40 regular throughout the ’80s, only pulled together consecutive hits in 1984 when they ranked 36th
Sheila E. has her big moment at Number 33:
as do John Waite at Number 31,
and Dan Hartman at Number 24.
And due to unfortunate timing in the release of singles from their next album, Thompson Twins fail to return to the Fantastic 40 after 1984, when they rank 21st.
Time and again:
Elton John (14), Kenny Loggins (23), John Cougar Mellencamp (37), Daryl Hall and John Oates (17), and Rod Stewart (25) show their consistency as hitmakers.
After taking a minute, Kool and the Gang are No. 28 on the strength of two Top 20 hits.
While Chicago (16)…
and Eurythmics (18) come back for another go-around.
Solo acts are dominant:
Of 1984’s Fantastic 40, 24 are solo performers…
(…25 if you count Prince, although the “Purple Rain” soundtrack is billed to ‘Prince and the Revolution…)
Of the 24 solo stars, 9 came from previous hitmaking acts:
- Christine McVie
- Paul McCartney
- John Waite
- Dan Hartman
- Kenny Loggins
- Steve Perry
- Ray Parker Jr.
- Tina Turner
- and Lionel Richie.
(A 10th, Rod Stewart, hit Billboard’s Top40 as a solo artist just before his work with Faces charted.)
Many of the artists in this year’s Fantastic 40 will collaborate in the superstar event of 1985.
And many will return on their own as well.
to be continued…
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