If We’d Stayed To Play For Fortune

This is an exciting collection of songs for chart week eighteen in the 80s. And if you’re like me, you might listen to these and wonder why a lot of them didn’t succeed. Let’s review those tunes that were Bubbling Under the Hot 100.

Con Funk Shun – Got To Be Enough (debuted 5/3/1980, peaked at #101)

Let’s get it started with some Oaktown funk from a septet that was on their sixth album. Spirit of Love was the first of two LPs released in 1980, and it spawned this sweet horn-laden jam. What I like about these guys was how they could throw down a stanky groove and add just enough smoothness with a catchy hook on top to keep their R&B audience [this peaked at #8 Soul] but have just enough appeal for Top 40. Pop radio was too narrow-minded, and the Disco backlash lumped most funk-soul-disco acts as the same thing. Otherwise, you might have heard this one before or after Call Me on the radio.

Jerry Knight – Overnight Sensation (debuted 5/3/1980, peaked at #103)

Before Ray Parker Jr. added his name to the band or even began his solo career, fellow bandmate Jerry Knight tested the waters with a funky self-titled debut and this monster groove. It will make the Top 20 on the Soul and Dance charts. He’ll team up with former Wonderlove member Ollie E. Brown for the theme of the movie Breakin, which will be a Top 10 smash. Jerry will write songs for other artists as well, including The Jets’ Crush On You.

Floyd Cramer – Dallas (debuted 5/3/1980, peaked at #104)

TV show themes crossing over to the Pop charts is nothing new. Even instrumentals have reached the higher echelons of playlists. What makes this one strange is that Dallas was one of the biggest television shows. Of course, this was about five months before the Who Shot J.R. episode, so maybe the 45 release was a little premature. This single will make the AC (sure) and Country (what?) Top 40.

Fun Fact: You may have heard of The Wrecking Crew, the group of studio musicians who played on almost all Pop hits from the 60s. Piano player Cramer was part of the Nashville A-Team, the Country equivalent that lasted much longer.

Webster Lewis – Give Me Some Emotion (debuted 5/3/1980, peaked at #107)

Soul music took such a beating on Pop radio in the 80s after truly breaking out the decade before. Record companies had enough budget to create great music like this, but not enough to get it heard by the masses.  Was it too jazzy? This won’t even make the R&B Top 40, despite this smooth groove that Nathan Watts and James Gadson lay down.  This track is from Lewis’ second solo album, 8 for the 80s, produced by Herbie Hancock.

Robert Winters & Fall – Magic Man (debuted 5/9/1981, peaked at #101)

Pianist Robert Winters released the first of his two albums in 1981. This lead single, a ballad sung by Walter Turner, will be his biggest hit, reaching #11 on the R&B charts. You wouldn’t know it from the album covers, but Robert was handicapped, confined to a wheelchair after a childhood bout of polio.

Susan Hart – Is This A Disco Or A Honky Tonk? (debuted 5/9/1981, peaked at #109)

Susan was a film actress in the 60s, appearing in flicks such as The Ghost In The Invisible Bikini and Pajama Party. She retired mainly by 1971 but decided to record this Country single as an attempt at a new career. The song is not as interesting as the title.

The O’Jays – I Just Want To Satisfy (debuted 5/8/1982, peaked at #101)

It’s 1982. The O’Jays are still recording with Philadelphia International. But their Pop crossover days have come to an end two years previous. Justified? Of course not. This lead track from their fifteenth album, My Favorite Person, is another high-quality addition to their vast catalog, written by Kenny Gamble and Cecil & Linda Womack. The problem is that it still has its foot in the classic 70s soul sound, which sounded out of date at the time. Trends have passed, so enjoy this one now.

Alex Call – Just Another Saturday Night (debuted 5/7/1983, peaked at #101)

Alex was a member of the Marin County sextet, Clover, which recorded four albums in the 70s, but is more remembered for being the backing band on Elvis Costello’s debut, My Aim Is True. They propped that dude up and were promptly forgotten. To make matters worse, the band’s harmonica player started his own band, the News, and they and Huey Lewis became huge in the 80s. Alex would write a tune for Tommy Tutone called Jenny, and that would get him a recording contract which is why he was Bubbling here in 1983. That said, his record company screwed up by not pushing this to Pop radio.

Bananarama – Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye (debuted 5/7/1983, peaked at #101)

This UK female trio made its first proper attempt to break into the US market in 1983 after having a few hits in England. What better way to do it than with a cover of a 1969-released #1 hit? [No, not Venus. Wait another three years.] The gals update this accidental smash on their debut album, Deep Sea Skiving, with tons of tom fills and tambourines a-plenty, a formula they’d repeat on their first big hit in the States, Cruel Summer.

Marty Balin – Do It For Love (debuted 5/7/1983, peaked at #102)

The former captain of the Airplane Starship released his second solo album after his debut spawned two Top 40 hits, including Hearts. This one will get stuck in the hangar as the follow-up to What Love Is, which peaked at #63.

Frida – Here We’ll Stay (debuted 5/7/1983, peaked at #102)

Anni-Frid Lyngstad, or 25% of ABBA, came on strong with her first all- English album (her first two were sung in Swedish), released two months before her former group’s double LP compilation The First Ten Years. Produced by Phil Collins, the first single I Know There’s Something Goin’ On slapped its gated reverb drums up to  #13. This follow-up, a  sprightly duet with Phil the Shill, should have followed it the first one into the Top 40. But in the Bubblers here, it will stay.

Fun fact: Per Gessle will co-write a track on Frida’s album. Within six years, he’ll have the first of four US #1s as part of Roxette.

Menudo – If You’re Not Here (By My Side) (debuted 5/5/1984, peaked at #102)

Menudo was a Latino boy band formed in Puerto Rico in the late 70s. They only had one rule: once you hit puberty, you were out of the band. That kept the group as a teen band in perpetuity. The problem was that they were big in many Hispanic countries but had no support in the US. In fact, many record labels didn’t even have  Latin divisions in their company. They had to manufacture Menudomania for folks here to get interested, and then they bombarded us with a full entertainment assault. To their credit, their inroads were the seeds of the Latin music explosion of the 90s. This ballad from their fourteenth album, Reaching Out, was sung by new member Robbie Rosa.

Nena – Just A Dream (debuted 5/5/1984, peaked at #102)

I was never sure if the band or the singer was Nena. Maybe that’s where Sade got her inspiration. The West German New Wavers almost hit #1 with 99 Luftballons except that Van Halen did not believe in tearing down the wall, just jumping off of it instead. This follow-up from their debut posited more happy times with a loved one. And who wants to hear about that?

KC – Are You Ready (debuted 5/5/1984, peaked at #104)

I’m glad the KC had a comeback hit with Give It Up. But this follow-up track was a great reminder that the gas had entirely run out of the tank. Even if you were standing at an Amoco pump, nothing was going to make this car drive again.

Con Funk Shun – Electric Lady (debuted 5/4/1985, peaked at #101)

We started with Con Funk Shun. We will end with Con Funk Shun. I love that symmetry. But hate it for these guys who saw another R&B smash [#4] remain as a Bubbler. Pick up their Best of collection, and you won’t be disappointed.

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