Question: What was the longest-running number one U.S. mainstream rock hit of the '80s?
Though easily one of the most popular styles of '80s pop music, mainstream rock has always struggled to avoid middle-of-the-road characteristics. It hasn't always succeeded in this area, of course, as much of the arena rock
, soft rock
and hard rock that generally fits the category can fairly be described as vanilla. Still, the top hits on this chart have plenty to say about the state of pop music during this era. Here's a look at some of the longest-running number one hits on Billboard's niche mainstream rock chart during the '80s, including a track from a legendary band that spent three straight months at the top.
The simplest and shortest answer to this question probably comes as little surprise to longtime rock music fans. In fact, no artist during the '80s comes close to matching the 13-week run of "Start Me Up"
during the fall of 1981 at the peak of Billboard's mainstream rock chart. Almost two decades into an eclectic, storied career that has continued well into the 21st Century, the Rolling Stones
delivered in this song a genuine rock anthem. And while Keith Richards
is responsible for more than a few signature rock guitar riffs, this one maintains its distinction even after tons of exposure over the years.
Still, the champions of this particular chart don't start to form an instructive pattern until an observer peers a bit more closely. Two more bona fide classics - 1983's "Every Breath You Take" and 1984's "Jump" - follow distantly with nine and eight consecutive weeks on top, respectively. And while finding '80s giants like the Police and Van Halen on this short list fails to inspire shock and awe, the list of songs tied at six consecutive weeks at No. 1 contains some surprises as well as rock staples. Among the highlights are Steve Miller's underappreciated "I Want to Make the World Turn Around" (1986) and Billy Squier's "Everybody Wants You" (1982). However, perhaps two of the earliest standouts of the decade qualify best as quintessential mainstream rock smashes: Tom Petty's "The Waiting" (1981) and Asia's "Heat of the Moment" (1982). These last two tracks have never become old hat to my ears despite overly numerous spins, probably on the strength of unforgettably melodic and driving guitar riffs. I may not really need to hear "Start Me Up" ever again, but most of the above mainstream rock gems retain a freshness that never seems to lose its sheen.