We’re stumbling through the jungle of Hot 100 songs that never were. Let’s review those tunes that were Bubbling Under in the 80s during chart week n-n-n-n-nineteen.
Skyy – High (debuted 5/10/1980, peaked at #102)
Here’s a funk octet from Brooklyn led by three sisters, mentored by Brass Construction leader Randy Muller. He wrote and produced this R&B Top 20 jam from the group’s second album, Skyway. They would nab their only Top 40 hit, Call Me. from their fourth album, Skyy Line, in 1982.
The Whispers – I Can Make It Better (debuted 5/16/1981, peaked at #105)
After a decade of releases, this L.A. quintet led by twins Walter and Scotty Scott hit the Top 40 with three songs in a row. This funky groove was the follow-up to It’s A Love Thing, a #28 hit, but although it got significant club play, it only reached #40 on the Soul charts, as well as getting stalled here.
Phil Seymour – Let Her Dance (debuted 5/16/1981, peaked at #110)
Former bassist and drummer for the Dwight Twilley Band, Phil Seymour, follow up his only Top 40 hit, Precious To Me, with an obscure Bobby Fuller Four cover. Giving it the Power Pop treatment it deserved was not enough to push it onto the charts.
Tom Tom Club – Wordy Rappinghood (debuted 5/15/1982, peaked at #105)
Even though this followed up the Top 40 hit, Genius of Love, It was recorded and released first, selling tens of thousands as a 12″ import. It features an interpolation of the children’s song, A Ram Sam Sam, and a tune that Tina Weymouth and her sisters Laura and Lani made up as kids during their school days in France. That’s why they both received songwriting credit. This massive hit in Europe hit the Top 10 in Spain, Belgium, France, and the UK. It will top the Disco Top 80 charts. And this slaps like a mofo.
Kix – Body Talk (debuted 5/14/1983, peaked at #104)
Heavy metal was barely given any chance at Pop radio until MTV forced the issue. Mostly that meant, you needed a vibrant, well-remembered video to push your single, and this band didn’t have one yet. This Maryland quintet was on their second album when they recorded a hard rock version of Nick Gilder’s (She Talks) Body Talk. Its failure did not deter the band, and six years later, they would record the power balled, Don’t Close Your Eyes, which they took up to #11.
Smokey Robinson – Touch The Sky (debuted 5/14/1983, peaked at #110)
It doesn’t feel right to say that Smokey was coasting in 1983. But how else would you describe a song where it feels like Smokey is barely there? I mean, here’s the album cover. Feels like he’s given up. This breezy single will only get up to #68 on the Soul charts.
Russ Ballard – Voices (debuted 5/12/1984, peaked at #110)
The man who wrote Three Dog Night’s Liar, America’s You Can Do Magic, and Ace Frehley’s New York Groove could not muster a solo hit of his won. The former Argent guitarist’s best showing has his 1980 single On The Rebound, which peaked at #58. This was the lead single from his sixth album, Russ Ballard, and should have been given a better shot.
Marvin Gaye – Sanctified Lady (debuted 5/11/1985, peaked at #101)
Marvin has his big comeback in 1983 with the smash Sexual Healing from his album, Midnight Love. It was the first of three LPs to be released by Columbia, and he had already recorded tracks for the follow-up, including this one, titled initially Sanctified Pussy. Lyrically Marvin was going into a very sexually suggestive, if not misogynistic direction. But musically, I really dig the electro-funk moves he was making. This easily could have been played next to anything else in the Summer of 85. And with Aretha shining brightly on Pop radio back then, it’s a shame Marvin couldn’t join her.
Fun fact: Barry White has mentioned that he had planned to record a duet with Marvin for this unfinished album. That’s enough to make a million ovaries explode.
B.B. King – Into The Night (debuted 5/11/1985, peaked at #107)
I loved this song back then, and I felt like the newly launched VH-1 played this quite often that Summer. This was used as the title theme to the new John Landis movie starring Michelle Pfieffer and Jeff Goldblum. B.B.’s song, My Lucille, his bluesy ode to his guitar, makes an appearance in the film as well. This will be his last R&B Top 40 when it reaches #15.
Wang Chung – Fire In The Twilight (debuted 5/11/1985, peaked at #110)
Here’s another soundtrack tune, this one from the John Hughes-directed high school flick, The Breakfast Club. Simple Minds was up at #3 with Don’t You (Forget About Me) when they single entered then immediately left the Bubblers. This track is played during the scene when the jock, the princess, the nerd, the burnout, and the basket case run through the hallways with a bag of weed trying to evade the principal.