Sometimes when writing a blog, a recurring theme emerges. My blog about final Top 40 hits showed that the early 1990's were a pivotal point for many established groups experiencing their final top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. And then, my blog about the Top 10 hits from May 26, 1990, also showed that 1990 was the end of the road for many artists and groups who had been charting well on the Billboard Hot 100 since the 1970's.
This blog also has the years of 1989 in 1990 as a focal point, but that wasn’t the original intent. I started with the intent of a blog on songs that only charted on the Top 10 of the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart without appearing on the Billboard Hot 100 at all. In my research, I quickly discovered that one of the commonalities about most of the songs was that they charted in either 1989 or 1990. And, these were songs by artists and groups who had previously experienced much success on the Billboard Hot 100, but suddenly were seeing their songs charting only on the Adult Contemporary, also commonly referred to as the “soft rock” music chart. So, without further ado let’s delve in to 10 songs that hit the Top 10 on the weekly AC charts, without crossing over to the Billboard Hot 100.
Promises by Basia. This light and airy jazz tune, featuring Basia’s distinctive voice and style, debuted on the AC chart in March 1989 and danced up to the Number Eight spot. Basia’s music always seems more at home on the Adult Contemporary charts, but several of her earlier tunes did cross over to the Billboard Hot 100, including Time and Tide, which went to Number 26 in 1988. When it comes to fabulous music, Basia delivers on her promises!
Unborn Heart by Dan Hill. Warning: This song is a tearjerker! Such a touching song from a father’s perspective when he finds out he’s going to have a baby. Might be just the perfect song to add to your upcoming Father’s Day soundtrack. Dan Hill’s smooth and warm vocals work so perfectly with the sensitive lyrics. Some artists probably wouldn’t be able to carry off the touching lyrics so well, but it’s no surprise coming from the man who also sang Sometimes When We Touch, which went to Number Three on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977. Although a song like this wasn’t compatible with the pop dance music trend on the Hot 100 in 1989, It certainly resonated with the adult contemporary crowd, peaking at Number Three on that chart!
Keep Each Other Warm by Barry Manilow. You might be asking, Barry Manilow had a chart hit in 1989? And you would be excused for not knowing that, as there was little commercial promotion for his music after the early 1980's. And it wasn’t due to Barry‘s lack of trying, or lack of good music, but by the late 1980's, the Hot 100 was really fueled by dance tracks and more heavily produced music. Fortunately, for those who were looking for an alternative, or respite from that sound, the Adult Contemporary chart provided an oasis that welcomed Barry with open arms. Barry is in top form vocally on the song, and it’s a perfect song with which to cuddle up with the one you love on a cold winters night, or on a spring day, as it debuted on the AC chart in May, eventually peaking at Number Eight.
Any Other Fool by Sadao Watanabe featuring Patti Austin. The AC chart welcomed that light jazz sound throughout 1989, from artists throughout the world, including Basia from Czechoslovakia with Promises, and saxophonist Sadao Watanabe from Japan with Any Other Fool. This song features that wonderful saxophone sound, complemented by the warm and soulful warm vocals of Patti Austin. Relationship troubles always sound so much better put to music, and this song that peaked at Number Six on the AC chart is perfect proof of that.
Bodyguard by Bee Gees. Smooth and sensual! This steamy tone was the follow up to the Bee Gees’ big comeback hit, One, that peaked at the top of the AC chart and in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1989. It’s a bit surprising that Bodyguard didn’t cross over to the Hot 100, at least briefly, since it was in the ballad style that was popular in 1990. But, perhaps some radio programmers were thinking their earlier comeback hit was a fluke, and thus didn’t want to play or promote any follow up songs? In any case, this song is a recommended listen, and AC listeners at the time agreed, allowing it to peak at Number Nine on the AC chart in early 1990.
Look Me In The Heart by Tina Turner. Up to this point, Tina Turner’s songs regularly charted on the Billboard Hot 100, often without crossing over to the AC chart. But in this case, the opposite situation occurred, where this song reached Number Eight on the AC chart in early 1990, without hitting the Billboard Hot 100 at all. It’s a mid-tempo ballad that would have been right at home on pop music stations that played Top 40, but for whatever reason it wasn’t promoted, or just didn’t resonate with pop music fans, and this song was reserved for those who appreciate the softer side of rock music.
Everything You Touch by Smokey Robinson. Classic Smokey! Sounds like the description of a barbecue sauce, but in this case it describes a song by a legendary artist who’s been making fine soul music for decades. Smokey had experienced a Top 40 comeback in 1987 with the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 songs, Just To See Her and One Heartbeat. It seemed natural to expect that Everything You Touch would also have fared well on the Billboard Hot 100. Instead, this song touched the hearts of AC listeners everywhere, peaking at Number Two for three weeks in the spring of 1990. In these challenging days and times, this feel good song is a real mood booster; trust me on this one.
Through The Test of Time by Patti Austin. These 1990 R&B "quiet storm" productions are the best! This song is classy, soulful, and so very representative of that early 1990's production quality. We heard from Patti earlier in this blog with the song Any Other Fool, but she’s certainly no fool, and sounding as good as ever in this tune that went to Number Nine in the spring of 1990. It’s a shame that Patti’s music doesn’t get more radio airplay on radio stations, as it certainly deserves more exposure.
Adiós by Linda Ronstadt. Is there anything that Miss Ronstadt can’t do? Seriously! No matter what style of music she’s covered, whether pop, new wave, soft rock, country, classic show tunes, or anything else, she’s done it all with her own inimitable grace, style, and spunk. This song has kind of an apropos title, as it is her final Top 10 AC hit to date. It’s a beautiful song, with backing vocals by the legendary Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. Linda sounds so strong, yet vulnerable in this song. It really is such a beautiful display of emotion, and it’s no doubt that’s what helped propel it to Number Nine on the AC chart in the summer of 1990. And, if you're a Californian (or long to be in California), I bet you can picture and appreciate all the places being described about the Golden State in this musical gem.
Better Not Tell Her by Carly Simon. A night of steamy passion and romance! There were obviously many songs in 1990 that covered this topic, but Carly did it in a way that make it much more seductive, with her warm and distinctive vocals. Couple that with a flamenco guitar, and you’ve got a song that makes you reliving those passionate nights...or hoping they soon return! This was one of Carly’s biggest AC hits, peaking at Number Four in late fall of 1990. Still one of my favorites of hers!
I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane, or perhaps discovered some new tunes! During these times of quarantine, I’m looking to explore, discuss, and experience more music. As always, I welcome your feedback, email me at Jimmy’s smiles firstname.lastname@example.org, or use the web form to submit your thoughts. Happy music listening!