School’s out for winter: The Billboard Hot 100 for December 15, 1984 (and what we probably listened to instead)


(Above: I was clearly enjoying my junior year of high school and in no hurry to go on break.)

Friday, December 14, 1984 was the last day of school before the Christmas break began. If I remember correctly, we got out early from school that day, and a bunch of us went to Dave-we-called-Fritz’s house, listened to records, and made plans for what was supposed to be the best winter break ever. If I remember right, it was pretty good: we got together at my house for New Year’s Eve, and – having discovered beer about a month before – had a good time ringing in 1985.

Back to the records part: what would we have been listening to over break? A few things come to mind.

Various Dylan albums. I had yet to get my copy of Blonde on Blonde, but I recall that Fritz had a vinyl copy of Another Side of Bob Dylan, which I only had on cassette. I am sure that that was on at his house, and likely something by the Beatles. I vaguely recall a trip over break to Second Hand Tunes in Chicago, so we would also have been spinning whatever 45s we had found there.

Phil Spector’s Christmas Album (Apple records). I first heard these tracks explained on Bob Stroud’s Sunday radio show on WLUP on the 23rd. I was out driving around with my friend Bill, doing a small amount of Christmas shopping. I decided I needed those songs. I was in luck on that next trip to Second Hand in finding a copy of the Apple reissue of A Christmas Gift For You. It’s been in my Christmas playlist ever since.

-Modern Christmas records. MTV’s responsible for stuff like Billy Squier’s “Christmas is the Time To Say I Love You” and – more laughably – Daryl Hall and John Oates’ version of “Jingle Bell Rock.” Given our Beatles thing/Fritz’s John Lennon appreciation, we were more likely making copies of “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” on cassette and passing them around.

What were the popular kids listening to instead? Let’s see what was on the charts that were to be issued the next day.  (Note: A lot of the songs overlap with the October 6 chart, which I wrote about here. I’ll spotlight different ones in this post.)

87. John Parr – “Naughty Naughty.” This is debuting this week. It was on WMET all the time, and when I became program director of WERV in Aurora in 2001, it was on there all the time.

80. John Hunter – “Tragedy.” It’s on its way up the chart this week.  It’s also on the 1984 mix tape I made years later, but I don’t recall it at the time, though it was probably on WMET.

69. David Bowie – “Blue Jean.” There was some sophomoric joke made by high school juniors at the time about “jizzing in blue jeans.” I’ll save you from the details.

67. Scandal featuring Patty Smyth – “Hands Tied.” Surprisingly, I didn’t buy this 45, since I was all about Patty Smyth at that stage.

48. Roger Hodgson – “Had a Dream (Sleeping With the Enemy).” We loved this record. I vividly recall riding around in Bill’s Mustang with this on full blast, adding a spirited “Yeah!” along with Roger at the beginning of the track. When I think of high school, it’s the images like this that I hang on to.

47. Elton John – “In Neon.” I can’t remember the last time I heard this song, and something needs to be done about that.


(I should get back to the countdown.)

43. Frankie Goes To Hollywood – “Two Tribes.” Who doesn’t love a song about nuclear war at the holidays? Fa la la la laaa….

OK, into the Top 40 we go:

38. Rick Springfield – “Bruce.” I refuse to believe that anyone ever confused him with Springsteen, at least not after the music started.

37. Wham! – “Careless Whisper.” It debuts today. The world-famous sax solo was introduced to us this week in 1984. Nothing else will top that, right?

33. U2 – “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Also bought this 45, and then later a bootleg of U2 playing in Chicago in 1984. This is at its peak.

31. Toto – “Stranger In Town.” This is another one I recall hearing on the radio a lot in Chicago, and then also later added to WERV. You don’t hear it enough. I’ll trade this for thirty iterations of “Africa.”

29. Don Henley – “The Boys of Summer.” This remains, quite possibly, my all-time favorite music video. I thought there was something haunting about the guy with the pained memories of youth with the film running behind him. Now that I’m older, I get it.

22. The Cars – “Hello Again.” I definitely had a copy of Heartbeat City, as did every kid in the suburbs.

18. Huey Lewis and the News – “Walking on a Thin Line.” This is another song I remember from riding around in Bill’s car, except I think it was my friend John shouting “Don’t you know me I’m the boy next door” out the window to some unsuspecting pedestrian. We did a lot of things like that, and now, when I see kids do it, I think “Bunch of jerks.”

14. Jack Wagner – “All I Need.”  Note to 80s programmers: you can skip this one. Same for #6, which is Paul McCartney’s “No More Lonely Nights.” (This top 10 is starting pretty soft.)

12. Julian Lennon – “Valotte.” This was a top ten record, and you never hear it anymore. Note to 80s programmers: throw it in.

5. The Honeydrippers – “Sea of Love.” In keeping with my appreciation for oldies as a fifteen year old, I immediately bought this 45 when it came out. I didn’t find Phil Phillips until much later.

4. Chaka Khan – “I Feel For You.” I feel like this was on the radio every eight minutes. Dude, she’s not gonna let you rub her, or whatever you’re saying.

3. Madonna – “Like a Virgin.” After she rolled around half-naked on MTV, they decided to release “Like a Virgin” as a single, and Madonna had her first #1 record. Did I have a copy? Of course. Did I play the cover by the Lords of the New Church in college? Of course.

2. Duran Duran – “Wild Boys.” I recall explaining, politely, to Fritz’ younger sister that Bob Dylan was more enjoyable to listen to than Duran Duran. In high school that’s what’s know as “advancing a minority position.”

And, at #1 this week, it’s Daryl Hall and John Oates – “Out of Touch.” I skipped over #50 “Method of Modern Love,” but there was no skipping over these guys through the mid-80s.

The countdown photo at the top came from the back of one of my high school notebooks, which I saved. Inside there’s just about everything from the time, including occasional class notes. It’s interesting to flip through and find the occasional lyric scrawled in a margin, or even in the middle of class notes from pre-calculus. In a few pages I’ve found Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman” and Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.” Oh, and there’s Wham! in there too, lest you think it’s a sort of time capsule. Hell, one page has single lines from songs stacked up as a sort of contest. It’s as if someone should have pulled me aside and said “Have you thought about working with music in some way?”