February 3, 1984, was a Friday. The top movie at the box office that weekend would be Terms of Endearment, although the highest-grossing new movie was Reckless, starring Aidan Quinn and Daryl Hannah. The Challenger blasted off on the 10th mission in shuttle-program history. The child abuse scandal at the McMartin Preschool in California broke when a Los Angeles TV station filed the first major report on the story. Van Halen played a concert in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Kiss played in San Bernardino, California. On TV that night were new episodes of Matt Houston, Dallas, and The Dukes of Hazzard. And when you turned the radio on that day, here’s some of what you heard, with chart numbers from Cash Box:
3. “Karma Chameleon”/Culture Club. (rising) After we got used to the idea of Boy George, it was easier to notice that Culture Club made good records that could stand alone as records, not just as the soundtrack for videos.
9. “The Curly Shuffle”/Jump n’ the Saddle Band. (peak) This well-known Chicago-area band had been touring for years and playing this song, which they self-recorded in 1983. When Atlantic Records picked it up nationally, they didn’t care about the band’s history–they merely wanted more of the same, and asked them to write a followup about the Marx Brothers. When the band refused, the record company ordered them to record the old Benny Bell novelty “Shaving Cream,” which they did–but they wrote a new verse that insulted the record company. From there, it was a short bus-ride back to Chicago.
12. “Think of Laura”/Christopher Cross. (rising) A dishwatery and dull record that nevertheless became a smash thanks to its being featured on General Hospital. The Mrs. and I had just recently moved to a new town and she hadn’t found a job yet, so she was watching GH professionally at that moment.
13. “Holiday”/Madonna. (rising) Hmm, who’s this new girl? Better keep an eye on her. She might become a star.
20. “An Innocent Man”/Billy Joel. (rising) Title song, and one of six singles, from a terrific album. Not quite as legendary as The Stranger, but a bit less burned-out today.
22. “Nobody Told Me”/John Lennon. (rising) The first single from Milk and Honey, recorded during the same sessions that produced Double Fantasy, this is easily a better tune than any of the singles from Double Fantasy.
47. “Almost Over You”/Sheena Easton. (rising) A lovely and underrated ballad from Easton, who would, later in 1984, pull an Olivia Newton-John-like transformation into a virginally slutty pop tart.
57. “Islands in the Stream”/Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. (falling) Rogers followed his collaboration with Lionel Richie by collaborating with Barry Gibb, who had slicked this up into a Number One song.
70. “Synchronicity II”/The Police. (falling) One of the unlikeliest singles of all time: “Many miles away, something crawls to the surface of a dark Scottish loch.”
77. “Somebody’s Watching Me”/Rockwell. (debut) Rockwell was Berry Gordy’s son, who signed to Motown without his father’s knowledge, saying he wanted to make it on his own. So he probably shouldn’t have invited Michael and Jermaine Jackson to sing with him on his first single–because Michael’s appearance, at the white-hottest moment of his cultural relevance, was what made it a smash.