Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Dan Seals, “Bop”


Dan Seals

Written by Paul Davis and Jennifer Kimball

Radio & Records

#1 (3 weeks)

December 13 – December 27, 1985


#1 (1 week)

January 18, 1986

I’m going to talk about “Bop” in a minute.  But first, I want to talk about the 2023 CMA Awards.

37 years after Dan Seals went home with Single of the Year at the 1986 ceremony, I felt the sting that comes with watching the music of your formative years be celebrated by contemporary artists who have claimed it as their roots, despite them clearly not understanding it.

There were two moments in last year’s ceremony that brought this into sharp relief for me.  The first was the jaw-droppingly awful “tribute” to Joe Diffie by Morgan Wallen, HARDY, and Post Malone.  These men were blissfully unaware of two things: that “John Deere Green” and “Pickup Man” were novelty songs, and that those novelty songs had melodies.

There they stood, mustering up all of this intense energy and conviction, all to sing “The whole town said that ‘he should’ve used red’ but it looked good to Charlene” as if it was the latest “small town good/city baaadd” crayon scribbling from Jason Aldean.

But at least Joe Diffie is dead and he didn’t have to hear it.  No such luck for Tanya Tucker, who was brought on stage to sing “Delta Dawn” with Little Big Town.

You don’t get more Country Music 101 than “Delta Dawn,” and it only has one verse mixed in with its singalong chorus.  Cut to the crowd, and there were Wallen and Jelly Roll, trying to sing along to the easiest song to sing along with, and they didn’t know the damn words. Unlike Luke Combs and Cody Johnson, who were singing along with their full chests and, not coincidentally, have released country music in the past year that is identifiably country music.

Now what on earth does any of this have to do with “Bop,” another classic singalong country song that came along in the decade that served as a buffer between seventies and nineties country?

Put on your Bobbi-sox babyRoll up your old blue jeansThere’s a band playin’ down at the armoryThat knows what rock and roll really means

I want to ride in your ’55 T-BirdDrive through some old memoriesI ain’t after your body babyI just want you to dance with me

If the band down at the armory knows what rock and roll really means, the whole point of the dancing is to get after that body, baby.  Rock and roll dancing wasn’t a replacement for sex; it was its opening act.

The sanitization and idealization of the rock and roll era had fossilized into nostalgia by this point, aided along by shows like Happy Days that made Little House on the Prairie look like gritty historical television.  The counterculture that rock and roll represented had become so neutered by this point that it could be claimed as its own by the children of parents who were forbidden to listen to it.

Yet “Bop” captures its own moment in history, even as it fumbles in its attempt to capture the essence of rock and roll’s early days.  Early country records often grieved the painful experience of leaving the rural life behind, but country artists – and audiences – were as fully suburbanized as their rock and roll counterparts by 1985.  They were no more connected to the hardships of Appalachian poverty than they were to the horrors of racial injustice in urban areas that their neighbors had white flighted from.

“Bop” holds up so well because it’s so perfectly suburban.  It’s so perfectly of its time, like Back to the Future and Johnny Rockets restaurants.  And really, could anything capture the suburbanization of America better than a seventies pop star singing about his rock and roll days on country radio?

Seals may not have understood what “Tutti Frutti” was about any more than HARDY and company understood that “Pickup Man” was a joke.  But he is as representative of his era of country as Tucker and Diffie are of theirs.  If the CMA pays tribute to him down the road, let’s hope it’s Combs and Johnson bopping up on the stage and that the camera man can find someone under forty in the audience who knows the words.

“Bop” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. Country music, at times, has tried to be like rock music, and in most cases, fails tremendously at capturing that same energy. However, I did not think even think of the historical element of country’s love for rock and roll, but you nailed it Kevin. Regardless, I still love this song, for reasons I can’t even explain. It sounds exactly like the era it came from, isn’t sonically country in really any way, but still captures me. Still awaiting the next Seals entry though!

  2. One of my top 10 favorite country songs of the 80s. I remember driving to college and turning this song up every time it came on the radio.

    Kyle Lehming did an incredible job producing this. It was infectious. Great writing on a danceable tune.

  3. I sheepishly share that I have always hated this song.

    To my ears, this non-committal dance-pop country confection is spectacularly lame.

    It is ’80s country’s Pat Boone moment.

    Everything that had previously gone so well for pop-country this decade derails here in a tangled mess, of programmed drums, synthesizers, and a screaming saxophone, all purportedly in the name of nostalgia.

    The song is neither a convincing invitation to dance nor a believable surrender to the young hearts and free souls the lyrics reference as being so inspirational way-back-when.

    As a whole, the retro-inspired production ultimately ends up evoking no genre in particular, either in sound or spirit.

    In the ’90s, Doug Stone would similarly sanitize and suburbanize country love ballads.

    I appreciate the write-up, analysis, and historical contextualization of the song and it’s significance, but I still dislike actually listening to “Bop.”

    Then again, maybe every criticism and complaint I have laid against the song is exactly what Kevin is getting at.

    I have confused myself again.

  4. Kevin, great review and article even if completely disagree with the rating and it’s one of my least favorites. At least Dan was being authentic and true to himself as he does have the background of being in pop/rock. Although I cannot wait for the next review as I share the same enthusiasm as it being one of Dan’s best song’s.

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