This is not the only One Hit Wonder from a soundtrack to a film, but it might be the best one. No need to mention (but I will) that this song was featured on the soundtrack to the film St. Elmo’s Fire, the classic ‘80s film with that mega- cast (Rob Lowe, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson). This song reached #1 on the AT 40 for two weeks in September of 1985. One of my favorite bands in the ‘80s is Toto – I love their sound and musicianship. Toto began as studio musicians who played on other artist’s albums and several members of Toto play on this song: Steve Porcaro and David Paisch on keyboards with Steve Lukather on guitars (Lukather also played most of the guitars on Michael Jackson’s Thriller). Quick note that Richard Marx is one of the backing vocalists on this song as well. While the lyrics may fit the film, they are more importantly directed at Rick Hansen who was on an important journey, taking himself in his wheelchair around the work in an effort to raise awareness of spinal cord injuries. Hansen himself became paralyzed at the age of fifteen due to a car accident. Now the song takes on an inspirational twist, which makes sense with:
Play the game, you know you can’t quit until it’s won
Soldier on, only you can do what must be done
You know in some ways you’re a lot like me
You’re just a prisoner, and you’re trying to break free
The song hits inspirational heights in the memorable chorus:
I can see a new horizon underneath the blazing sky
I’ll be where the eagles flying higher and higher
Gonna be your man in motion
All I need it a pair of wheels
Take me where the future’s lying: St. Elmo’s Fire
This anthemic song becomes one of pushing yourself to succeed and to never let anything get in your way. I love the movie, but I love this song more. It is a true testament to the power and inspiration a simple song can have. “I can climb the highest mountain, cross the proudest sea / I can feel St. Elmo’s Fire burning in me.”
Lisa: You know, there’s going to be sex, drugs, rock-n-roll… chips, dips, chains, whips… You know, your basic high school orgy type of thing. I mean, uh, I’m not talking candlewax on the nipples, or witchcraft or anything like that, no, no, no. Just a couple of hundred kids running around in their underwear, acting like complete animals.
This somewhat cryptic hit reached #4 on the AT 40 in September of 1983. There has been much discussion about the meaning to the lyrics ranging from an anti nuclear protest song to a plea for safe sex. The band’s singer and lyricist, Ivan Doroschuk, says it is neither. He wrote the lyrics to this song as a protest, not to nuclear weapons, rather to club bouncers. When New Wave music was becoming popular, it began to replace disco music in many clubs. As the style of music changed, so did the style of dancing. Dancers started to perform pogoing; a form of dancing that consisted remaining upright and thrashing about (this would eventually evolve into slam dancing and yes, I had to look this up). The bouncers at the clubs that Doroschuk attended did not allow this type of dancing and kicked out anyone who insisted on dancing in this style. This now becomes a great song that is not nearly as deep as many thought it to be. Keeping the dancing style in mind, the lyrics to this song do express the natural tendencies for young people to resent and resist authority:
I say we can go where we want to
A place they will never find
And we can act like we come from out of this world
Leave the real one far behind
We can go where we want to
The night is young and so am I
We can dress real neat
From our hands to our feet
And surprise them with a victory cry
And later still:
We can act like we want to
If we don’t, nobody will
We can act real rude
And totally removed
And I can act like an imbecile
Clearly now, this song becomes a typical teenage rebellion song, a staple of rock since the ‘50s. Couple these sentiments with an infectious keyboard and we have a perfect one hit wonder. And don’t forget the intro to the album (long) version of this song:
Sss – Aaa – Fff – Eee – Ttt – Yyy
This mega international hit is a cover of a 1965 song by Gloria Jones that failed to dent the charts. In January of 1982 it entered the Billboard Hot 100 and bounced around for a while, taking nineteen weeks to reach the Top 40 and peaked at #4. This song remained on the American charts for a combined forty-three weeks! In addition it reached the top ten in fifteen European countries as well – a true definition of a hit. The song is simple and catchy (you know you vocally hit that keyboard every time you hear this song). The speaker in the song is in dire straits – his love has left him and he is struggling:
Sometime I feel I’ve got to run away
I’ve got to get away
From the pain you drive into the heart of me
The love we seem to share seems to go nowhere
And I’ve lost my life
I toss and turn, I can’t sleep at night
Then comes the heart wrenching line, “Once I ran to you, now I run from you.” He is clearly upset and cannot imagine a way out of this situation. Eventually, he accepts his pain and decides the only way out is to leave:
Don’t touch me, please, I cannot stand the way you tease
I love you though you hurt me so
Now I’m gonna pack my things and go
Lyrically, the song is devastating, but musically the song has that new wave synthesized upbeat feel to it. This creates an interesting clash – I like it. When I think of One Hit Wonders, this is typically the first song that jumps in my head. This song has proven to have some longevity, as is has been used in films and sampled in several songs in the 2000’s.
[Large corporate boardroom filled with suited executives]
Exec #1 (Graham Chapman): Item six on the agenda: “The Meaning of Life” Now uh, Harry, you’ve had some thoughts on this.
Exec #2 (Michael Palin): Yeah, I’ve had a team working on this over the past few weeks, and what we’ve come up with can be reduced to two fundamental concepts. One: People aren’t wearing enough hats. Two: Matter is energy. In the universe there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source which act upon a person’s soul. However, this “soul” does not exist ab initio as orthodox Christianity teaches; it has to be brought into existence by a process of guided self-observation. However, this is rarely achieved owing to man’s unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.
Exec #3 (Terry Jones): What was that about hats again?
Exec #2: Oh, Uh… people aren’t wearing enough.
Exec #1: Is this true?
Exec #4: Certainly. Hat sales have increased but not pari passu, as our research…
Exec #3: [Interrupting] “Not wearing enough”? enough for what purpose?
Exec #5 (Eric Idle): Can I just ask, with reference to your second point, when you say souls don’t develop because people become distracted…
[looking out window]
Exec #5: Has anyone noticed that building there before?
Hi Everybody! Robert is back for the final week of one-hit wonders. And man, what a way to wrap it up!!! Once again, the one-hit wonders of this series are artists who only had one song crack the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. Now, let’s get back to Robert as he covers an ultimate ’80s tune!
Here they are, the last five songs that I am putting on my One Hit Wonders mixtape. Five more great tunes that have been relegated and sometimes scoffed at, but still hold an important place in the hearts of ‘80s music fans everywhere. So far, there has been no particular order to these songs – I just like them – but for the final five I have saved my favorites. So sit back and once again push play in your Walkman and enjoy these songs that complete the cassette.
867-5309/ Jenny by Tommy Tutone
Many of us cannot remember a phone number any more. I can still remember my home phone number from sixth grade, but I would struggle with telling you my number today. Most us have hundreds of important phone numbers saved in our smart phones, eliminating the need to memorize them. To remember these numbers all we really need is a catch song. The title of this #4 hit from 1981 is just a phone number, but it is a number that most of us will never forget. This catchy song by the California band hit American radio with a force and that phone number has been used in prank calls ever since. The song itself is a typical early ‘80s pop rock song in the vein of early Rick Springfield. Lyrically, it has an edge of desperation:
Jenny, Jenny who can I turn to?
You give me something I can hold on to
I know you think I’m like the others before
Who saw your name and number on the wall
Jenny, I got your number
I need to make you mine
Jenny, don’t change your number
Come on everyone (you know the next part sing it with me), “8 – 6 – 7 – 5 – 3 – 0 – 9.” The man’s desperation does not quite overcome his nervousness though, as he tries to call her, but chickens out at first, “You don’t know me but you make me so happy / I tried to call you before but I lost my nerve.” Perhaps he has a bit of a problem – maybe he is stalking her – I’m not sure but he does say, “I tried my imagination but I was disturbed.” What he have here is a great song and a two pronged lesson. Guys: no matter how desperate you are, calling a number you get from a bathroom wall is probably not a great idea. Ladies: never, never, leave your phone number on a bathroom wall – you never know who will call.