Welcome to the Billboard Chart Beat Podcast, where each week co-hosts Gary Trust and Trevor Anderson, from the Billboard charts department, discuss why what’s on the charts … is on the charts, while also looking at current chart action in a historical context for even greater insights.
This week, Gary and Trevor travel back to the Billboard Hot 100 this week 30 years ago, dated July 23, 1988, when Richard Marx earned his first No. 1, “Hold On to the Nights,” the fourth single from his self-titled debut album.
“I wrote ‘Hold On to the Nights’ in 1986, and it came out in ’87 on the album, and then was a hit in ’88. In ’86, I was completely obsessed with Peter Gabriel‘s So album. I’m still kind of obsessed with that album,” Marx says. “Peter’s production, especially on the slower songs, was very sparse, and very ethereal, and even though I knew ‘Hold On to the Nights’ could easily be produced as a straight-ahead arena-rock ballad, I wanted to try to borrow from the influence of the Peter Gabriel stuff that I was so crazy about.
“There’s a lot of space [in “Hold On to the Nights”], and it didn’t sound like anything else on the radio,” Marx muses. “So much so that I remember not only the A&R department of my label at the time, EMI, but the head of radio promotion telling me that it just wouldn’t work. I remember the head of radio promotion saying, ‘Dude, nothing happens until the end!’ They begged me to rerecord it and have the drums come in in the first chorus. ‘Please sound like everything else!’ I just was like, ‘Nah. This is the vision I have for this. If it’s a hit, great. If it’s not, it’s exactly what I wanted it to sound like.’
“Even now when I occasionally hear it on the radio, I listen to it. I love the record I made. It holds up for me.”
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