They could have been. They should have been. But they never got to the Hot 100. Here are the songs that stayed below in the Bubbling Under charts in the 80s during chart week four.
Head East – Got To Be Real (debuted 1/26/80, peaked at #103)
This Midwest quintet sounds like Styx if they never let Dennis DeYoung join them. They dropped three singles onto the Hot 100 in the late 70s, with each one doing progressively better. Their fifth album, A Different Kind Of Crazy, spawned this track, which I think is better than the others. I guess I’m alone in thinking that.
Fun fact: Lead singer Dave Schlitt was fired after the group’s sixth album in 1980 for being a druggie. He cleaned up and formed the Christian rock band Petra.
Ambrosia – Outside (debuted 1/31/81, peaked at #102)
Now a little West Coast for you from a band with two big singles in 1980 – You’re The Only Woman and Biggest Part Of Me. They were asked to be a part of the soundtrack to the Richard Donner-directed film, Inside Moves and had this jazzy single released only to languish below the Hot 100 for two months. It was written by lead singer David Pack along with Michael McDonald, who also provided backing vocals.
Moon Martin – Love Gone Bad (debuted 1/31/81, peaked at #105)
Oklahoma native John “Moon” Martin had a memorable 1979. He nabbed his only Top 40 hit, Rolene and Robert Palmer took one of his songs, Bad Case Of Lovin’ You (Doctor, Doctor), into the Top 20. This singer-songwriter put out his third LP, Street Fever, in late 1980, and this country-tinged midtempo pop-rocker was the lead single. Moon passed away in May 2020.
Nielsen/Pearson – Two Lonely Nights (debuted 1/31/81, peaked at #110)
Here’s a little more smoothness for ya. Pull the boat out of dry dock and enjoy this follow-up to Reed Nielsen and Mark Pearson’s only Top 40 entry, If You Should Sail.
ELO – Rain Is Falling (debuted 1/30/82, peaked at #101)
Jeff Lynne decided it was too much work to say “the electric light orchestra’ and from now on, his band would be known as three letters. Plus, technology started to wipe away the necessity of stringed instruments. Their cinematic third single from the album Time did not follow the other two into the Top 40, let alone the Hot 100.
Rick James – Ghetto Life (debuted 1/30/82, peaked at #102)
It’s interesting to see these two artists chart and fail together. Rick’s music was never made for the Pop crowd. The fact that he crossed over with his punk-funk was a testament to his talents. It’s a shame, though, that a terrific song like this, the third released from Street Songs and featuring backing vocals by The Temptations, wasn’t more successful.
Prince – Let’s Work (debuted 1/30/82, peaked at #104)
The student will soon become the master. The man Rick took out on tour with him, dissed and humiliated constantly, will become an icon in the 80s. It will take a while for many folks to appreciate the dark funk of his fourth album, Controversy. This jam was probably to most straightforward tune on the album but isn’t even close to the best. And within nine months, he will release his first opus, the double LP, 1999, so he’s just getting started.
Chic – Stage Fright (debuted 1/30/82, peaked at #105)
Nile Rodgers was hit with divine inspiration while he wrote this. Or maybe he was feeling the force from Dagobah? Otherwise, how do you explain the Yoda-like hook, “My stage fright holds back me.”? The lead single from Take It Off was funky disco-rock, showing more muscle than their polished classics, and it’s one of my faves from them.
Tané Cain – My Time To Fly (debuted 1/29/83, peaked at #108)
Jonathan Cain moved from The Babys to Journey in 1981 and immediately used that juice to get his then-wife, Tane (pronounced Tawnee), an album deal. Her single, Holdin’ On, co-written by Jonathan, reached #37. This slick pop-rock offering was the follow-up, but it never took flight.
Fun fact: Tane played Reese Witherspoon’s mom in Legally Blonde.
Randy Crawford – Imagine (debuted 1/29/83, peaked at #108)
It’s a shame that Randy didn’t have more success on the Pop charts, outside of her appearance of the Crusaders’ 1979 hit, Street Life. Her buttery voice melts over everything she sings. This jazzy cover of John Lennon’s classic was recorded with the Yellowjackets live in Europe, where she was well-regarded, for an all-star Warner Brothers album called Family Affair. I’m not sure it was ever released.
Shalamar – You Can Count On Me (debuted 1/28/84, peaked at #101)
Shalamar released a rare ballad that starts off sounding like Styx’s Babe before Howard Hewitt kicks in with his silky falsetto. It was the third single released from their seventh album, The Look. This will still be bubblin’ as Jody Watley splits the group, and they debut in mid-March on the Hot 100 with their last Top 40 hit, Dancing In the Sheets.
Earth, Wind & Fire – Touch (debuted 1/28/84, peaked at #103)
The second single from EWF’s thirteenth album, Electric Universe, did not reach any of the band’s heights of the 70s. Even Let’s Groove, a smash two years previous, seemed like a lifetime ago in 1984. They have fully embraced the digital age, and while this is a good song, it’s just not as immediate as their other hits.
Freeez – Pop Goes My Love (debuted 1/28/84, peaked at #104)
Freeez started out as part of the Brit-Funk movement of the early 80s, and their debut contains one of my faves from that period, Southern Freeez. Fast forward a few years, and the group is now recording breakdance music with Arthur Baker. This was the second track from their second album, Gonna Get You, and it hit #5 on the Dance charts and the UK Top 40.
Whodini – Freaks Come Out At Night (debuted 1/26/85, peaked at #104)
Finally, some hip-hop, even if it’s being held down. Another great track from the Brooklyn trio’s landmark second album, Escape. I also remember hearing this song in The Jewel Of The Nile for some reason.
Sam Harris – Hearts On Fire (debuted 1/26/85, peaked at #108)
Star Search legend follows up his one Top 40, Sugar Don’t Bite, with another one for your aerobic workout.
Fun fact: Sam co-created the TV show, Down to Earth, which ran for four seasons on TBS.