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118. The Jesus and Mary Chain, “Just Like Honey”

“People don’t realize you can make much better records our way,” Jim Reid insisted, back in 1985. “A good record is a good record. What difference does it make how you get it? I realize you can make a good record going through the same process that others have done in the past, but it’s not vital.” Appropriately for a band whose music rattled the senses with abrasive pop lushness, the Jesus and Mary Chain always thrived on that sort of concerted contradiction. The group, led by brothers Jim and William Reid, threaded their songs with ear-clawing sonics, but truly believed they were destined to become the biggest rock stars in the world, playing arenas across the planet. While there would prove to be a long, lucrative career is forging cult hero identities in the alternative music world of the nineteen-eighties, at the time the band’s energized but modest fan base must have felt like a constant shortfall given the Reid brothers’ shared aspirations. Still, there were signs that certain tracks resonated in a unique way. “Just Like Honey,” a single from the band’s 1985 debut, Psychocandy, was the prime example. “It hit home pretty quick, that song,” Jim Reid later said. “This was during a time where there would be riots at Jesus and Mary Chain shows. There would be people knocking seven kinds of shit out of each other and then we’d start playing ‘Just Like Honey,’ and people would stop for a couple of minutes and it would be like ‘Ah, isn’t that nice.’ And then we’d start playing ‘The Living End,’ and it would be back to the baseball bats again.” The single became so firmly representative of the band’s early success that they alluded to it in the title of their 1992 album, Honey’s Dead, in an artistic insistence on putting the past behind them. While many associate “Just Like Honey” with a certain swooning romanticism — a perception bolstered mightily by its expert deployment in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation — the song, like many in the Jesus and Mary Chain catalog, is about drugs instead of love. By all reckoning, cocaine is the substance holding a simile-stated correlation to the sweet byproduct of bees’ daily business.

 

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117. JoBoxers, “Just Got Lucky”

Thanks to their suspenders-and-newsboy-cap style choices and loping pop sound, the British new wave band endured a flood of comparisons to Dexys Midnight Runners around the time their debut album, Like Gangbusters, landed, in 1983. They recoiled from that admittedly reductive association at the time, though they eventually came around to it, claiming they’d always liked Kevin Rowland’s band. It was another entirely different pop culture icon who amusing figured into the creation of “Just Got Lucky,” JoBoxers’ second single and sole Top 40 hit in the U.S. According to lead singer Dig Wayne, he wrote “Just Got Lucky” with bassist Chris Bostock, pulling the title from his notebook of jotted down phrases that he thought sounded like the stuff of pop songs. He drew some of the lyrics from outside sources, as well, including the memorable opening line of the song, which came from the lithe beloved of a certain sailor man. “The first line was ‘Your technique leaves me weak,’ which I got from an old Popeye cartoon,” Wayne later said. “Olive Oyl said it to Popeye. I thought, ‘That is a good rhyme. I’ll have to use it someday.’ And I did. Every time I hear ‘Just Got Lucky,’ I think of Popeye!” Though “Just Got Lucky” was the band’s second straight Top 10 song in the U.K., they faded fairly quickly after that, a trajectory the various members chalked up as a common too-much-too-soon phenomenon. “I do believe that any band that goes into the Top 5 with their first single has a hard time creating a lasting career,” Wayne said years later. “Where is there to go?”

 

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116. Prince and the Revolution, “Let’s Go Crazy”

It’s hard to overstate how thoroughly Prince’s Purple Rain dominated pop culture upon its release, in the summer of 1984. The movie was a hit in its own right, opening atop the box office, briefly knocking Ghostbusters from that perch. (The comedy regained the top position the following weekend and stayed there for seven straight weeks.) It was the soundtrack that became a true sensation. Purple Rain, which doubled as Prince’s sixth studio album, hit #1 on the Billboard album chart the first week of August. It didn’t relinquish that position until the following year, ceding the top to Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. on the chart dated January 19, 1985. In some ways, the chart path of “Let’s Go Crazy” is a good indicator of just how swell things for going for Prince at the time. Released as the second single from Purple Rain, “Let’s Go Crazy” debuted at #45 on the singles chart on the same week that lead single “When Doves Cry” was enjoying its fifth straight week at #1. Within a few weeks more, “Let’s Go Crazy” was Prince’s second straight chart-topper. While the Purple One was beset by criticism for his salacious lyrics elsewhere on the record (the hotel lobby activities enjoyed by a periodical-toting girl named Nikki was one of the main affronts on decency cited by the Parents Music Resource Center in their crusade against naughty lyrics), “Let’s Go Crazy” was a reflection if his deeply spiritual side, though he felt compelled to keep it somewhat veiled. “I had to change those words up, but ‘de-elevator’ was Satan,” Prince explained in a later interview. “I had to change those words up ’cause you couldn’t say ‘God’ on the radio. ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ was God to me. Stay happy, stay focused, and you can beat the de-elevator.”

 

As we go along, I’ll build a YouTube playlist of all the songs in the countdown.

The hyperlinks associated with each numeric entry lead directly to the individual song on the playlist. All images nicked from Discogs.

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