Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 13

Chart Week: September 7, 1985
Songs: “We Don’t Need Another Hero” – Tina Turner
“Power of Love” – Huey Lewis & The News
“St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” – John Pass
Chart Positions: Numbers three through one.


This edition is a little meta. It’s not about the songs I’ve selected, or even the original countdown. Rather, it’s a celebration of my love of all things countdown and ‘80s music trivia related. I’ve been waiting for this one for awhile!

This week, I ask you not to jump into your time machines and set a course for 1985, but rather 2002. Turns out this countdown was the first legacy American Top 40 I ever heard.

Labor Day weekend of 2002 S and I along with three other couples headed up to Ames, IA to watch a college football game and have a little fun. Much fun was indeed had.

On our drive back to Kansas City on Sunday morning, S was suffering a little. As we approached Des Moines, she demanded that I find a place that had Diet Coke and greasy breakfast food as quick as possible. Which, in 2002, was kind of easier said than done, as we didn’t have smartphones with updated maps that could show us quickly where the nearest Shoney’s or Bob Evans was.

Anyway, we procured some caffeine, eggs, potatoes, and cheese and continued our journey. I decided to slide through the FM dial to see what interesting music I could find. Suddenly I heard Casey Kasem’s voice, in prime, mid–80s form. What was this, some bizarre portal back to the radio of my youth? Or just a station in the middle of Iowa playing 17-year-old radio shows? I got very excited.

Leading into the commercial break before the final four songs of the week, Casey offered a teaser that the top three songs all came from movie soundtracks. Here was the challenge I needed to keep me energized on the road! I quickly thought back to the summer of 1985 and what movies were out then. Back to the Future was the first to come to mind. Hmm, what else was out then that had big songs? I was pretty sure St. Elmo’s Fire had been released by then, but wasn’t 100% sure it had been out long enough for a song from its soundtrack to reach the top three.

At this point, S noticed I was being very quiet and had an intense look on my face while I drove.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

I paused a moment or two, then laughed and said, “I got it! Back to the Future, St. Elmo’s Fire, and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome!”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Didn’t you hear? The top three songs on this countdown are all from movie soundtracks! Those are the three movies and the songs are “Power of Love,” “St. Elmo’s Fire,” and “We Don’t Need Another Hero!” I was giddy, grinning and bouncing in my seat, eager for the commercial break to end so I could see if I was right or wrong.

S stared at me for several moments. We had been engaged for a little over four months. If you asked her today, and she was being honest, I bet should would admit that she was reconsidering spending the rest of her life with me at that moment.

When AT40 returned, Aretha Franklin’s “Freeway of Love” checked in at number four. Tension was high, at least with me. I think S was snoozing again in her seat. Sure enough, Tina Turner, Huey Lewis & The News, and John Parr rounded out the top of the countdown. I pumped my fist and looked at S, who rolled her eyes, adjusted in her seat, and tried to go back to sleep.

Brilliance is so often unappreciated.

Again, this was 2002. Had it been a decade later, I likely would have texted my fellow brothers and sisters in music to let them know of my discovery and memory, as I knew they would give this moment the reverence it deserved.

Over the next few years I’d hear an old AT40 here and there, usually while traveling. In the mid–00s a station here in Indy began carrying them briefly. The shows disappeared for a few years before I found them again right around the time L was born, on the station that continues to play them to this day. I’ve spent countless lazy Sunday mornings walking around the house with a tiny radio tuned to 105.7 so I can follow as Casey counts them down.

And S still rolls her eyes at me.


Also worth noting, this was a big week at the bottom of the charts. The following songs debuted on the Hot 100: “Part-Time Lover,” Stevie Wonder; “Miami Vice Theme,” Jan Hammer; and “We Built This City,” Starship. All three songs hit #1 later in the year. Two of them are really shitty. The best new song of the week, though, was Scritti Politti’s “Perfect Way.” Sadly it only peaked at #11.


Oh, and you will hear more about this week’s countdown on Friday…