We are on chart week five of the Bubbling Under singles, and as you can see, we have a lot of R&B and dance tracks that didn’t get a chance to cross over. If you ever thought that the Pop charts were whitewashed in the 80s, especially compared to the previous decade, here’s some pretty good proof.
Phyllis Hyman – You Know How To Love Me (debuted 2-2-80, peaked at #101)
Now, this is what I call classy Disco gold. This was the title track and first single released from her fourth album. It was produced by Reggie Lucas, and James Mtume, who were in between the success of Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway’s The Closer I Get To You and Stephanie Mills’ Never Knew Love Like This Before. This single should have easily joined those folks in the Top 40, but Disco was getting blackballed on radio, so very few tunes got a chance to shine. It will reach #12 on the R&B charts and #6 on the Disco charts. Phyllis never placed a single on the Hot 100.
Michael Johnson – The Very First Time (debuted 2-2-80, peaked at #101)
MJ racked up three Top 40 hits between 1978 and 1979, including Bluer Than Blue. Then someone shut off the faucet, which prompted him to turn to the Country charts, where he had more success throughout the 80s. This ballad, written by Randy Goodrum, was from the album Dialogue, which already gave us the Top 20 Bill LaBounty-penned track, This Night Won’t Last Forever.
Instant Funk – Bodyshine (debuted 2-2-80, peaked at #103)
I don’t understand why this disco-funk band did not have a more prominent career. They moved down to Philadelphia and became the backup band for lots of stars such as Lou Rawls, Evelyn Champagne King, and Bunny Sigler. They were also favorites of DJ Larry Levan, who was working his magic at the Paradise Garage in Manhattan and remixed their single, I Got My Mind Made Up, which eventually hit #20 in 1979. He remixed this cut from their third album, Witch Doctor, and although it was a club hit, it didn’t even reach the R&B Top 40.
The Gap Band – Steppin’ (Out) (debuted 2-2-80, peaked at #103)
This was the first single from the Gap Band II album, and it will become their second R&B Top 10 hit. As a casual fan, you might not realize who the band is as they have yet to find their signature synth-funk sound. This sprightly track features Fender Rhodes, Latin percussion, and some keyboard work by Greg Phillinganes.
AC/DC – Touch Too Much (debuted 2-2-80, peaked at #106)
Highway to Hell was AC/DC’s last album with Bon Scott. In fact, two weeks after this track debuted here, Bon passed away. One month later, they hired Brian Johnson as the new lead vocalist, and one month after that, they started to write and record their next album. Only five months after losing Scott, they released Back In Black, which has sold over 50 million records internationally. Understandably this single, which as their second UK Top 40, was lost in the wake, so to speak.
Jim Stafford – Cow Patti (debuted 2-7-81, peaked at #102)
Former lover of snakes and spiders and current co-host of Those Amazing Animals is back at it with a song originally written for the Clint Eastwood orangutan sequel to Every Which Way But Loose. Jim is also in the film. It’s as everything bit as dumb as the title suggests.
Talking Heads – Once In A Lifetime (debuted 2-7-81, peaked at #103)
Now imagine being a member of this New York City quartet and realizing that your single didn’t chart higher than Cow Patti. All that talk from producer Brian Eno discussing that it should be left off the new album, Remain In Light, might make you doubt its existence. Or sometimes you create something so out there that people need time to catch up with.
Considering this song never charted on the Hot 100 ( a live version charted in April 1986), it’s impressive that it became one of if not the most well-known song from this New Wave band. This is partly due to its iconic video, which earned lots of MTV airplay and was frequently used in their advertising. The song’s message of living life on auto-pilot is timeless, especially for those who hit middle age. It’s also funky as hell. I’m convinced that this is the song which convinced Tina & Chris to start the Tom Tom Club.
FYI – It became a Top 20 hit in the UK and Ireland.
Bettye LaVette – Right In The Middle (Of Falling In Love) (debuted 2-6-82, peaked at #103)
Miss Betty had her first taste of success back in early 1963 when she hit #7 on the Soul charts with My Man-He’s A Lovin’ Man. You might have caught her on Broadway in the mid-70s as part of the cast to Bubbling Brown Sugar. And even though she recorded sporadically for two decades, it wasn’t until 1982 that she released her first full album when she was signed to Motown. This midtempo ballad, written by Sam Dees, will become her last R&B Top 40 hit. She continues to record and released Blackbirds, a bluesy homage to her female peers, in 2020.
Novo Combo – Tattoo (debuted 2-6-82, peaked at #103)
Here’s a quartet made up of four dudes who had been playing solo or with bands for years and came together to create two New Wave Power Pop albums in the early 80s. Singer Stephen Dees released a Daryl Hall-produced album in 1977. Guitarist Pete Hewlett was in the Euclid Beach Band. And drummer Michael Shrieve played with Santana on his first seven albums. Another great band lost to history.
André Cymone – Kelly’s Eyes (debuted 2-5-83, peaked at #107)
After playing with Prince since his 94 East days up through the Controversy album, Andre struck out on his own in 1982. Unfortunately, he was now competing with his childhood friend, and although his songs were entertaining, they could not hold up in comparison to him. For example, when you listen to this track, you would swear that you were about to hear Prince’s falsetto yowl. But you don’t. It’s a bit jarring to hear Andre’s low tenor come in instead. He would never chart on the Hot 100 but would share some success with his one-time wife, Jody Watley, producing her first four albums.
All debuts in the Bubbling Under chart during this week in 1984 made the Hot 100.
Ashford & Simpson – Outta The World (debuted 2-2-85, peaked at #102)
Here is the follow-up to this married duo’s biggest Pop [#12] & R&B [#1] hit, Solid. This midtempo synth-boogie will reach #4 on the Soul charts but will be kept off the Hot 100, even with all of that great momentum.
Klymaxx – The Men All Pause (debuted 2-2-85, peaked at #105)
We wrap it up with a female sextet from L.A., who not only played their instruments but wrote their own songs as well. They were on album number three with no success and their label, SOLAR, refused to release it. So they went back into the studio and recorded Meeting In The Ladies Room. Released in late 1984, this was the first single, and this synth-funk jam climbed up to #5 on the Soul charts. It would take two more single releases until they crossed over with I Miss You, which hit #5 in early 1986.
The band’s image also inspired this recent SNL sketch.