The Fortune Without The Pain

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As you can see from my other posts, the list of debuts in early January gets shorter as the decade progresses. That’s in part due to the tighter playlist and rigidity of programmers to include anything that wasn’t metal or dance-pop. There was still a lot of great music in the late 80s, but it wasn’t even making it to the Hot 100. We’ll see how that changes as the years roll on. For now, let’s look at the debuts from 1987 to 1989 of The Other Sixty during the first chart week of January.

January 10th, 1987

90. Til Tuesday – Coming Up Close

This song sums up Aimee Mann’s career, a life full of great songs that almost broke through to the mainstream but fell short. Yeah, I know Til Tuesday a few hits, but they nor her solo career ever were able to get to the next level. Maybe her stuff is too sophisticated for the pop crowd. I’ve enjoyed her output over these last three decades and look forward to each release.

This single, the second release from Welcome Home, would only reach #59.

93. Lone Justice – Shelter

Here’s a band that didn’t even get to the level Til Tuesday rose to. Their brand of NEw Wave rockabilly, also known as Cowpunk, garnered lots of fans from Tom Petty to Dolly Parton. And we know Robbie Roberston like lead singer Maria McKee. But by 1986, the record company got rid of all of the band’s exciting qualities and tried to make them sound like U2. The title track from the second album would be their biggest success on the Hot 100, reaching #47. It would also be their last entry.

There were no Hot 100 debuts during the week of January 9th, 1988, that did not make it into the Top 40.

January 7th, 1989

96. Ratt – Way Cool. Jr.

We’re at the point of pop-metal chart dominance and full MTV takeover, but Ratt just couldn’t buy themselves a hit. It’s not for lack of trying. They changed up their sound a little but not enough to scare away fans. And they were still able to come up with a catchy hook. Did people really prefer White Lion to this?

97. House Of Lords – I Wanna Be Loved

Keyboardist Gregg Guiffira was working on another Guiffira album when he bumped into his old Casablanca label mate, Gene Simmons. Having heard the demos, Gene asked if he would release the record on his new label and change the name of the project to House Of Lords. The first single from their debut got some MTV and rock radio airplay but would only make it up to #58.

 

 

 

 

The People That We Call Friends

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Let’s move into the middle of the decade and check out which songs pushed through the Christmas hangover to debut on the Hot 100 during the first chart week of 1984, 1985 & 1986 only to become The Other Sixty.

January 7th, 1984

83. Con Funk Shun – Baby I’m Hooked

Con Funk Shun was a two-hit-wonder, first with Ffun in 1977 and then, Too Tight in 1981. This funk ballad with by another Top 5 R&B hit, but will only rise to #76 on the Pop charts. Songwriter & vocalist Felton Pilate will leave the band after the next album and make crazy bank collaborating with MC Hammer in the early 90s.

88. D-Train – Something’s On Your Mind

Here’s another laidback jam courtesy of electro funkateer, James D-Train Williams, who never had a Top 40 hit but had lots of R&B and dance hits. This would be his most popular Soul smash going up to #5 while it was his only Hot 100 entry, which will come to a #79 stop. I’m partial to his earlier dance floor classics such as Keep On and You’re The One For Me.

90. Patti Labelle – If You Only Knew

After Labelle split up in late 1976, Patti embarked on a solo career, which went through many record labels, including a three-album tour at Philadelphia International. The second LP, I’m In Love Again, spawned this Soul classic, which shot to #1. It was also her first Hot 100 entry, which peaked at #46.

93. Evelyn King – Action

You may be noticing a trend wherein Soul acts had a harder time breaking through to the Pop charts in the mid-80s. These were the days of reverse crossover wherein Sting, Wham!, and Paul Young could make it on the R&B charts. Evelyn was an established star during the disco era, which may be the stigma that kept her off of Pop radio in 1984. She put the champagne away and still reached #75 while this became a #13 Soul hit.

January 5th, 1985

76. Deep Purple – Knocking At Your Back Door

I remember it being a big deal that Deep Purple got back together in 1984 with what was called the Mark II lineup. The album, Perfect Strangers went platinum. They had one of the most successful tours this year. But outside of rock radio, many folks did not hear this single which got up to #61.

85. Nolan Thomas – Yo Little Brother

If you think the lip-sync saga of Milli Vanilli was an isolated incident, think again. Here’s a one-hit-wonder in name only as Nolan did not record the vocals on this freestyle dance track. Elan Lanier recorded them. No one cared as this only topped out #57. Also you may need special glasses to watch the video. And no, that’s not Ben Stiller.

95. Whodini – Friends/ Five Minutes Of Funk

This hip hop classic from old school rappers, Whodini was their only Hot 100 entry, so you only knew this if you were already into rap or hang out on basketball courts where the giant boom boxes were or had a break-dancing crew. The LP, Escape, is def top to bottom. Amazingly this single cracked the Top 5 on the Soul charts. This would climb as high as #87 on the Hot 100.

January 11th, 1986

87. Evelyn “Champagne” King – Your Personal Touch

Yeah, Evelyn brings the champagne back but unfortunately, her Pop career was on ice by 86, which is also the highest number she’d get to on the Hot 100. That’s a shame because this mid-tempo track was better than a lot of the other dance-pop that was on the radio at the time. And I can’t tell you how many newer current artists have tried to recreate this sound.

92. Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew – The Superbowl Shuffle

In 1986, no one (white people) took rap seriously, so we ended up having lots of rap parodies and crap like this. This was also the last time anyone took the Chicago Bears seriously. Jim McMahon sounds like a coked-out bro, but Willie Gault has a smooth flow. This just missed being a Top 40 hit, peaking at #41.

Fun fact: The Bears were not the first football team to record a single as the Frisco 49ers recorded We Are The 49ers in 1984. The song did not chart, but the team won the Super Bowl.

 

 

The Break That Don’t Ever Come

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I’ve enjoyed writing about various Top 40 countdowns during the 80s over the last year, culled from the Billboard Hot 100 charts. But what about the other sixty, you might ask? That’s where my radio show, The UnCola, which is broadcast weekly on 103.3 Asheville FM, comes in. I play those tracks and others that weren’t as lucky to chart over the last five decades. Some of them you may know. Some of them were more popular than specific Top 40 hits. Some deserved their fate. So let’s go through the decade week by week this year as I shine a light on The Other Sixty.

January 5th, 1980

81. Gamma – I’m Alive

This was guitarist Ronnie Montrose’s latest project, and the group’s first single was a cover that the Hollies took to #1 in the UK. This version will only make it to #60. Gamma would release three albums before taking a break and reuniting in 2000.

Fun fact: Alan Fitzgerald, who was Gamma’s bass player as well as with Montrose, became the keyboardist for Night Ranger.

83. Molly Hatchet – Flirtin’ with Disaster

Ridin’ Skynyrd’s coattails out of Jacksonville, FL, here’s the most popular tune from this Southern rock outfit’s second album, teasing their catastrophe all the way up to #42.

85. Bobby Vinton – Make Believe It’s Your First Time

Bobby became a star in the early 60s when music was defenseless, meaning that Elvis was in the Army, and the Beatles had yet to breakthrough. He had a few more hits in the mid-70s, cause everyone went nuts and embraced goofy shit. When we finally got it together, we collectively tried to stomp out future Vinton comebacks such as this one, which I call horny cornpone. An older man should not be telling anyone to pretend they’re a virgin. Karen Carpenter can if she feels like, which is why it became a Top 10 AC hit for the Carpenters in 1983.

86. Mike Pinera – Goodnight My Love

Mike Pinera was the founding member of the band Blues Image, which has a $4 in 1970 called Ride Captain Ride. After that group split up, he joined Iron Butterfly, formed a trio called Ramatam, and became Alice Cooper’s guitarist in the early 80s. This single was released from the “sun” side of Mike’s second solo album, Forever, Mike Pinera, and will climb up to a #70 peak.

93. Tavares – Bad Times

The Brothers Tavares were having trouble following up their Saturday Night Fever version of More Than A Woman. Maybe it was the endorsement by Tony Manero. It wasn’t for their lack of good songs. This cinematic jam reflected our horrific economy at the turn of the decade, and maybe people didn’t want that constant reminder. Still, this would make it up to #47. Can you dig it?

January 17th, 1981 (ed note: I mixed up the first two weeks, so next week you’ll get the Jan 10th debuts)

79. Queen – Flash’s Theme aka Flash

Queen just finished a busy 198o, their most successful year to date. I have no idea how they fit in recording a soundtrack to the film, Flash Gordon. The movie is a cheesy train wreck. The soundtrack fared a little better with this single, just missing the Top 40 at #42.

Fun fact: Even though they had two #1 singles in 1980, they also had three other songs within a year’s time peak between #42 & #44.

90. Slave – Watching You

Even though they were a one-hit-wonder on the Pop charts with Slide, this Ohio funk septet had many R&B hits, including this one that will reach #6 on the Soul charts. This oft-sampled, oft-interpolated jam will be their second Hot 100 entry but will stall out at #78.

97. McGuffey Lane – Long Time Lovin’ You

And from the other side of Ohio comes this country-rock septet whose DIY success earned them a contract with ATCO Records and an opening slot on a Charlie Daniels tour. Unfortunately, this did not translate to national sales as this single only made it twelve notches higher before plateauing at #85. They also crossed over a few times to the Country charts, and they are still kicking around today.

January 9th, 1982

81. Peabo Bryson – Let the Feeling Flow 

Peabo had been releasing LPs since 1976, but still could not cross over to the Pop charts. This will be his 15th Top 40 on the Soul charts hitting #6 but will stiff at #42 on the Hot 100. One year later, he will breakthrough on a duet with Roberta Flack, Tonight I Celebrate My Love For You.

83. Teddy Pendergrass – You’re My Latest, My Greatest Inspiration

When Teddy P left the Blue Notes in the late 70s to embark on a solo career, he also picked up the mantle of R&B Quiet Storm crooner. No one could do it like him, but his stuff was too potent for the mainstream. This late Philly Soul classic will stand down at #43. Two months, Teddy’s life will forever be altered as a car accident he was in severed his spinal cord leaving him a quadriplegic. He still managed to give us another two decades of new music before his death at 59 in 2010.

January 8th, 1983

82. Chaka Khan – Got To Be There

Michael Jackson recorded the original version of this song, which became his first solo single. It reached #4. Chaka recorded it for her fourth solo album and released it as the first single. It will go as high as #67 on the Hot 100, but Top 10 on the Soul charts.

86. Dire Straits – Industrial Disease

I can’t imagine the band or the record company thought they would have a hit with a song called Industrial Disease. If that’s true, they were right, as it topped out at #75 though it did make the Canadian Top 10. It’s still a great song from their equally pleasing Love Over Gold LP. But their next album, which was three years in the making, would prove to be their most significant success.

88. Michael Martin Murphey – Still Taking Chances

M3’s follow-up to What’s Forever For swings for the bleachers but only comes up with a #76 Pop hit while crossing over to #3 on the Country charts.

90. Utopia – Feet Don’t Fail Me Now

I have no idea how Todd Rundgren and Utopia kept churning out top of the line albums year after year. I also have no idea why they weren’t embraced more fully by the Top 40 community. This is straight-up pop gold! With lead vocals by keyboardist Roger Powell, this will only move up eight notches before its descent off the Hot 100.