Well crap. When I posted RFTS Vol. 37 last week I did so not realizing I had yet to post Vol. 36. So they are out of order. I apologize for the error.
Chart Week: January 30, 1988
Songs: “Push It,” Salt-N-Pepa; “Pump Up the Volume,” M/A/R/R/S
Chart Positions: #26, 11th week on the chart. Peaked at #19 the week of February 20. #25, 10th week on the chart. Peaked at #13 for three weeks in February/March.
When did my musical tastes shift away from both AT40 and the music featured on the program? As with most changes in preference, there was no zero hour – or song zero in this case – when a switch flipped and my musical journey was sent in a dramatically different direction.
But if you had to pinpoint a moment when things began to shift, I think December 1986 would be as good of a moment as any. That was when I bought both RUN-DMC’s Raising Hell and the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill AND we moved to California, where I discovered that white suburban kids weren’t listening to Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Huey Lewis, Boston, Hall & Oates, etc. but rather the Beasties, LL Cool J, and dozens of West Coast rap acts I had never heard of. I hung onto my classic pop radio sensibilities for a couple more years, but the first great shift took place in late 1986/early 1987.
It wasn’t just my tastes that were changing, though. The pop chart was changing, too. Where in the early-to-mid 1980s the Hot 100 was filled with New Wave, rock, and straight pop acts, in 1987 it began to shed those sounds and move in a more mellow direction. There were more adult contemporary and R&B influenced artists on the charts. As my likes were shifting more toward a youthful, cutting edge, hip hop direction, AT40 was skewing toward a softer sound aimed at aging Baby Boomers.
But there were two songs on the chart in early 1988 that showed I was onto something and that the charts would eventually catch up.
At #26 was Salt-N-Pepa’s infectious “Push It,” a song even people who hated rap loved. By early 1988 I was seriously into hip hop, and while I enjoyed “Push It,” I also dismissed it a bit. S-n-P was no Public Enemy, Too Short, or Ice-T. At the same time I realized the song was opening doors. There were girls dancing to it in the hallways and singing along to it in their cars. “Push It” could be the gateway track for those cuties to stop judging us affluent, suburban, white guys for listening to “Black” music. Not bad for a song that began as a B-side.
One spot higher was another pivotal track in the shifting musical landscape. M/A/R/R/S was a one-off collaboration between 4AD label mates Colourbox and A.R. Kane. Built upon no fewer than 30 samples – most notably Eric B. & Rakim’s legendary “I Know You Got Soul,” which gave this track its title – “Pump Up the Volume” became one of the first British House tracks to crack the charts in either the UK or US. It topped the pop charts in Britain, New Zealand, Holland, Italy, and Canada along with the US Dance chart. It opened the doors for a flood of House and House-derivative artists to dominate both clubs and radio through the early 1990s. “Pump Up the Volume” was the only single M/A/R/R/S ever released. It’s impact was extraordinary. I kept the cassette-single in my car for a long, long time.
Were these the songs that shifted the top 40 for good? Certainly not. The charts went several interesting and odd ways in the 1990s before hip hop finally took over in the early 2000s. But these two songs were distant, early warnings of changes to come.