Here at Music In the Key of E, we talked about 80s Top 40 hits and The Other Sixty, so it makes sense to keep digging down and discuss those songs that were Bubbling Under the Hot 100. This was a feature in Billboard that began in June 1959 to predict which new records will become chart climbers, as they put it. They started off with a list of 15 songs per week but expanded it during the 1960s up to 35 (and on a few occasions, 36) depending on the volume of releases. Boy, that must have been some ego boost to tell everyone that you had a single reach #135. I’m looking at you, P.J. Proby.
By 1974, the magazine settled on ten spots, numbered #110 to #120, and ran the chart until August 1985. They picked it up again in 1992, and it still exists today. I have frequently mined these lower ten for The UnCola as many exciting singles peaked there. So we’re going to review them all – January 1980 to August 1985 – starting with the first two weeks of the chart year.
Here are the Bubbles that never Popped.
January 1980 – 1982 (chart weeks 1 & 2)
Oak – Draw The Line (debuted on 1/5/1980, peaked at #108)
If you’re buying a record based on a name, then surely you think you’re gonna hear some good ol’ Country rock, right? Nope, you’re gonna get some warmed-over soft rock by a bunch of wannabe Eagles, who look like they’ll do your taxes for you in exchange for an eight ball. This quintet from Maine was led by Rick Pinette, who eventually joined the Jim Bakker Morningside Band in the 2000s. Let’s move on.
Chic – My Feet Keep Dancing (debuted on 1/12/1980, peaked at #101)
Disco did not die in 1979 after the record demolition at Comiskey Park. Disco never died. The blood-sucking ad executives and coked-out record company exploiters just moved on. Unfortunately, they took many good bands down with them, and Chic, which was peaking in ’79, felt it immediately. This was the third single from their third album, Risque, which yielded the classic #1, Good Times. The follow-up, My Forbidden Lover, only reached #43. This one didn’t even chart on the Hot 100, missing by a notch. It will only reach #42 on the R&B charts but will get loads of Disco play.
April Wine – Say Hello (debuted on 1/12/1980, peaked at #104)
Alright, the pride of Nova Scotia is getting a little funky. This Canadian rock quintet released this as the first single from their eighth album, Harder…Faster. Their US fans took a pass on it, which is why it’s down here. They preferred the follow-up, I Love To Rock, although not that much as it only hit #86.
Hansie – Automobile (debuted on 1/12/1980, peaked at #109)
Artist Hansie or Hansje, if you’re enjoying a spacebar, was a singer from the Netherlands, who released a silly pop single in 1978 called Silex Pistols Piew Piew. She had a modicum of notoriety in the States when this 45 reached #109 in early 1980. It’s a car crash full of New Wave synths and sub-Moroder bass patches that could have found a home on the Bachelor Party soundtrack….and I can’t look away.
Tommy Dee – Here Is My Love (debuted on 1/10/1981, peaked at #107)
Who’s Tommy Dee? Never heard of him? Then you must have missed seeing The Idolmaker in the theatres, a Taylor Hackford-directed bomb starring Ray Sharkey as an overzealous manager trying to find the next big star. Even though this single release from the film is credited to “Dee,” it’s actually Jesse Frederick’s voice. He didn’t get rich on this, but eventually, he started lining his pockets with residuals from writing the TV show themes, Perfect Strangers, Family Matters, and Full House a handful of years later.
Jon Anderson – Some Are Born (debuted on 1/17/1981, peaked at #109)
Jon Anderson released his second solo album, Song Of Seven, in 1980 after the recording sessions for Yes’ Drama album went awry, and he and Rick Wakeman left the band. He would have varying degrees of success with his Vangelis collaborations, but not as much with his solo releases. This #109 single will be his best solo Pop showing. Some are born to work as a group.
The Spinners – Love Connection (Raise The Window Down) (debuted on 1/9/1982, peaked at #107)
The Spinners’ run of top-notch output from 1972 to 1976 was rarely matched by any R&B act during the 70s. When singer Phillipe Wynne left in 1977, the wheels just fell off. The magic was gone, and the group spent decades trying to restore it. A single like this has the group sounding like a band trying to sound like them, meaning you have no idea it’s the Spinners unless you look at the label. It will not get any higher than #68 on the R&B Hot 100.
Slave – Wait For Me (debuted on 1/16/1982, peaked at #103)
Some groups were just too funky (aka “black”) to be on Pop radio and needed a ton of 45 sales even to have a chance. This was the Dayton, OH’s band’s third single to linger as a Bubbler [after 1978’s The Party Song and 1979’s Just Freak]. They just kept hitting the Pop roadblocks. No wonder Steve Arrington tried to branch out on his own. [We’ll hear from him in April.] It will still reach the R&B Top 20.
The Manhattan Transfer – Spies In The Night (debuted on 1/16/1982, peaked at #103)
This New York vocal quartet was always riding the line between classy and cheesy. Sampling the James Bond theme (without any songwriting credit) pushes the band into the latter. Co-written by David Foster and producer Jay Graydon, it was the third single released from Mecca For Moderns and second follow-up to the Top 10 hit, Boy From New York City. Their second release, Smile Again, only showed up on the AC charts.
Diesel – Goin’ Back To China (debuted on 1/16/1982, peaked at #105)
Dutch quartet Diesel had a surprise Top 30 hit in late 1981 with Sausalito Summernight. After visiting California, these dudes take a trip to Asia with this slower-paced follow-up. This had been a 1979 Top 40 hit in the Netherlands for the group, but no such luck over here.
Luther Vandross – Don’t You Know That? (debuted on 1/16/1982, peaked at #107)
Even though he became a star in his relatively short time on Earth, it took a lot of perseverance for him to finally breakthrough. There was a lot of backing vocal sessions on hit songs (Bowie, Chic), failed bands (Luther), uncredited lead vocals (Change), and commercial work (Kodak, KFC). But it wasn’t until 1981’s Never Too Much that Pop audiences first heard of him. This funky Quiet Storm jam was the follow-up to his first Top 40 single. It will become his second Top 10 Soul hit.
Diana Ross – My Old Piano (debuted on 1/16/1982, peaked at #109)
What is this doing here almost two years after the release of 1980’s Diana? I’m guessing it’s due to Diana’s compilation, All The Great Hits, that Motown released after Diana signed with RCA Records. In the UK, this single reached #5 in the Fall of 1980. It should have been released in the US back in early 1981 as the third single, and it might have had a better shot at success. It will not show up on any other Billboard chart.