Forget What I’ve Tried To Be

It’s another full dance card for chart week twenty-four regarding those Bubbling Under singles from the 80s. First, let’s review a handful from 1980 through 1983.

GQ – Sitting In The Park (debuted 6/14/1980, peaked at #101)

After scoring a #20 hit in 1979 with the Billy Stewart tune, I Do Love You, this Bronx quartet goes back to the well with another of his songs, which initially reached #24 in 1965. This one finds a bench, feeds the pigeons, and ends up a Bubbler. It will reach the R&B Top 10.

Gene Chandler – Does She Have A Friend? (debuted 6/14/1980, peaked at #101)

The Duke Of Earl tries to elongate his late 70s mini-comeback with this funky mid-tempo track from his eleventh album, ’80. It was a nice change of pace after his last two disco singles and should have received more love. It will only reach #28 on the Soul charts but will match that peak in the UK.

Survivor – Rebel Girl (debuted 6/14/1980, peaked at #103)

Oh, Survivor. We meet again. The band that placed ten singles in The Other Sixty group is back with their second and final Bubbler. It’s the follow-up to their first chart hit, Somewhere in America, but was not included on their 1980 debut for some reason.

Fun Fact: Lead singer Dave Bickler was also the band’s keyboard player in the beginning. Keyboardist Jim Peterik played rhythm guitar for the first two albums before switching.

Angel City – Marseilles (debuted 6/14/1980, peaked at #109)

Wanna know what AC/DC would sound like with a mellower lead vocalist? Well, look no further. The Angels were an Australian quintet eager to break into the US market at the turn of the decade. Their 1980 album Face to Face was a compilation from their last two late 70s Down Under releases, Face To Face and No Exit. They changed their name to Angel City, and this was all they had to show for it. The group would keep that double name charade up for five years. During that time, the US band Angel split up, and no one ever mistook these guys as the ones who sang My Boyfriend’s Back.

Heart – Bebe Le Strange (debuted 6/14/1980, peaked at #109)

The first five years of Heart’s career were filled with false starts and lawsuits. But even with their janky momentum, they still racked up seven Top 40 hits to this point. The title track to their fifth album was the follow-up to the #33 climber, Even It Up. No one got their Zeppelin better on better than the Wilson sisters.

Billy Ocean – Night (Feel Like Getting Down) (debuted 6/20/1981, peaked at #103)

Leslie Charles had an eight-year Top 40 gap between 1976’s Love Really Hurts Without You and Caribbean Queen. But he wasn’t on hiatus or asleep. Pop programmers were. The title track to his third album is a smooth jam that should have been pumping from car speakers that Summer. The cool cars in my neighborhood did, and it reached #7 on the R&B charts.

Also, Billy’s presence here is my cue to link this pre-Ted Lasso favorite.

The Pinups – Song On The Radio (debuted 6/19/1982, peaked at #110)

What a horribly misogynistic and exploitative concept as a band. But this is a damn fine pop song, which goes to prove that T&A doesn’t automatically sell music [see The Pussycat Dolls]. The song was written by Tony “A Fine Fine Day” Carey and released in the Netherlands in 1981 before getting a proper release here in the States. Pop radio missed the boat on this one.

The Isley Brothers – Between The Sheets (debuted 6/18/1983, peaked at #101)

We’re gonna finish with two classics in their respective genre. First up, the smooth grooves of the Isley Brothers, who released the title track to their twenty-second LP and last with the classic six-person lineup. Pop radio has absolutely no excuses for ignoring this Quiet Storm masterpiece. It will reach #3 on the Soul charts but will be sampled repeatedly by Jay-Z, Aaliyah, Whitney Houston, and, most importantly, Biggie. It’s hard to play this song and not think of throwing your hands in the ay-ya like a true playa. But we all know the true big poppa was Ronald Isley.

Marshall Crenshaw – Whenever You’re On My Mind (debuted 6/18/1983, peaked at #103)

Now on to a New Wave classic. What was the reason to keep the lead single off of Marshall’s second album, Field Day, off Pop radio? It’s easily the best thing he ever wrote and performed, and considering he already had a Top 40 presence the year before with Someday, Someway, this should have been a non-brainer for programmers. I also dig this version by Marti Jones, another artist Pop radio ignored.

That’s nine. We’ll finish up the chart week with the back nine in the next post.

 

Simple But No So Clear

Let’s continue our review of those snakebit tunes Bubbling Under the Hot 100 during the 80s. Here’s the group that showed up on chart week twenty-three from 1983 to 1985.

Carlos Santana – Watch Your Step (debuted 6/11/83, peaked at #107)

Devadip brings a little Muscle Shoals to San Francisco on his fifth solo album, Havana Moon, produced by Jerry Wexler and Barry Beckett. This fun, upbeat rocker also features the Tower Of Power horns. Carlos has only charted once on the Hot 100 outside of his band for all of his output. That was his live version of Evil Ways with Buddy Miles that reached #84 in 1972.

O’Bryan – Lovelite (debuted 6/9/84, peaked at #101)

O’Bryan Burnette is an R&B singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist who racked up seven Top 40 hits on the Soul charts. This synth-funk jam from his third album, Be My Lover, was his biggest going all the way to #1. It was co-written as all the album tracks were by Don Cornelius. And that’s one way to get yourself on Soul Train. Also, does he know a limo driver is waiting for him at LaGuardia?

Greg Kihn Band – Reunited (debuted 6/9/84, peaked at #101)

And it feels so good. But this isn’t a Peaches & Herb remake. It’s the first single from Kihntagious, the sixth official release from the Greg Kihn Band.  Kihn this power popper make the Hot 100? No, it kihnt, as it kihn only climb as high as #101. Kihn you believe that? What an absolute kihn. Too bad they weren’t Kihnadian. They could’ve gotten some kihnkihn airplay.

John Lennon – Borrowed Time (debuted 6/9/84, peaked at #108)

Almost four years after John & Yoko’s Double Fantasy, Ono tried to finish the album that she & he were working on when he was murdered in December 1980. She called it Milk And Honey. Nobody Told Me ended up reaching #5, and after I’m Stepping Out only climbed as high as #55, this was released as the third single. Inspired by Bunny Wailer and a harrowing sailing trip, John wrote and recorded the first version of the song in Bermuda, which heavily influenced the reggae vibes, before going into the studio in New York during August 1980 band sessions.

The Deele – Material Thangz (debuted 6/8/85, peaked at #101)

This Cincinnati quintet kept delivering the synth-funk jams, which got them R&B airplay (#14 Soul) but never helped them crossover to Pop radio. They didn’t realize they had a smooth ballad songwriter in their lineup called Babyface. When they did, he co-wrote and co-sang Two Occasions, their only Top 40 hit. And then he split.

Van Zant – You’ve Got To Believe In Love (debuted 6/8/85, peaked at #102)

The Johnny Van Zant Band released three early 80s albums with not much to show for it. Even though Southern Rock was falling out of fashion, Johnny was undeterred and knew what to do. He changed the name of the band to Van Zant and released a fourth album under that moniker. And, voila, he was rewarded with a Bubbler. This track was co-written by Bill “This Night Won’t Last Forever” LaBounty. Johnny will later team up with Donnie as a tribute to Ronnie.

Ashford & Simpson – Babies (debuted 6/8/85, peaked at #102)

This married duo, which had their biggest Pop hit with Solid when it reached #12 in early 1985, is now on single #3 from that 1984 release. And still no love. This moody synth-soul tune will reach #29 on the R&B charts and features a muted trumpet solo by Joe Mosello, who played with Maynard Ferguson in the late 70s.

Run-D.M.C. – You Talk Too Much (debuted 6/8/85, peaked at #107)

Homeboy, you never SHUT UP! Another great track from the Hollis, Queens trio’s second album, King of Rock, which was blasting out of boomboxes all Summer in 1985. It will also make the R&B Top 20.

Greg Kihn – Boys Won’t (Leave The Girls Alone) (debuted 6/8/85, peaked at #110)

Kihn you believe this? Two Greg Kihn songs in one post. This one was from Citizen Kihn, Greg’s first solo album since 1978’s Next Of Kihn and was written with his long-time bass player, Steve Wright. It’s the catchy follow-up to his last Top 40 hit, Lucky but kihn barely get itself into the Bubbler club. It features Pete Escovedo on percussion. Also, rosebud.

 

Mysteries Of Time Unravelled

It looks like there were many debuts from chart week twenty-three that did not make it onto the Hot 100. So we had to break this list up in two. First, let’s check out those 80s Bubblers from 1980 to 1982.

Red Rider – Don’t Fight It (debuted 6/7/80, peaked at #103)

Here’s the second single from the Toronto, Canada quintet’s debut, released in 1979. Their first 45, White Hot, reached #48 earlier in the year, while this genial pop-rocker received barely any notice south of their border. They may be best known for their 1981 track, Lunatic Fringe, which got a lot of Rock radio airplay but did not chart in the US. Nevertheless, VH-1 still named it one of the greatest one-hit-wonders of the 80s.  But then again, they also have songs like Black Velvet listed, which hit #1 in March 1990.

Felix Cavaliere – Good To Have Love Back (debuted 6/7/80, peaked at #105)

Along with Tommy James, another voice from the 60s ended their Top 40 absence in 1980. The former lead singer of the Rascals had recorded three solo albums and one under the moniker Treasure in the 70s. This was the second single from 1979’s Castles In The Air, which sounds ripe for a Yacht Rock renaissance. But how can I be sure, in a world where the format keeps changing?

Willie Nile – It’s All Over (debuted 6/7/80, peaked at #106)

Somewhere between Tom Petty and Steve Forbert lies Willie Nile. This singer-songwriter is an artist whose name should be far more recognizable than it is. His debut was a critic’s darling back in 1980, but record company woes derailed his career for nearly a decade. Willie’s latest, New York At Night, was released in 2020 and continues to add to his legacy.

Rachel Sweet – Spellbound (debuted 6/7/80, peaked at #107)

What goes for Willie also applies to Rachel. At least she had a minor hit with her Rex Smith-duet cover of Everlasting Love. But, my Lord, she had a boatload of other tunes that were way more interesting, such as this New Wave pop release from her second LP, Protect the Innocent. Sweet moved into TV production in the late 90s on shows such as Sports Night, Dharma & Greg, and more recently, Hot In Cleveland and The Goldbergs. The 80s circle has now been closed.

Joe Chemay Band – Love Is A Crazy Feeling (debuted 6/13/81, peaked at #105)

Joe Chemay is a session bass player who not only played on Pink Floyd’s The Wall, he toured with them as a backup singer. He came off of that tour and released an album under The Joe Chemay Band called The  Riper The Finer, a nice slice of West Coast AOR. [The album was eventually released on CD in Japan in 2002 but is now out of print.]The single, Proud, reached #68 and this Toto-vibed track was the follow-up. Joe has played on most of Kenny Rogers’ album starting in the 80s and moved to Nashville, playing on classics by Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks.

Emmylou Harris – I Don’t Have To Crawl (debuted 6/13/81, peaked at #106)

Emmylou got her start as a Fallen Angel singing with Gram Parsons just before he died in 1973. Once you hear her voice, you know why. She has been consistently nominated for Country Grammys since the mid-70s. No one ever mentions her in RNRHOF discussions, but they sure as shit should, as her music has influenced generations of singers and songwriters in various genres. Her eighth album, Evangeline, provided Harris with her only Top 40 hit, a #37 cover of Mister Sandman. This beautiful ballad gets stuck down here, and it’s her only single to make the Country Top 40 between 1975 and 1985. I never appreciated those Trio albums she did with Dolly and Linda when they came out. But I sure do now.

Roberta Flack – You Stopped Loving Me (debuted 6/13/81, peaked at #108)

Lost between her unfinished duets album with Donny Hathaway and her 1982 LP, I’m the One, was the soundtrack to the Richard Pryor film Bustin’ Loose, which Roberta recorded. This upbeat track was written by Luther Vandross and will sneak into the R&B Top 40 at #32.

Meco – Big Band Medley (debuted 6/12/82, peaked at #101)

Did Meco inspire the medley craze of the early 80s, or was he just riding the wave? This gave something for your grandparents to dance to, but they weren’t buying 45s anymore. This debuts a week after Larry Elgart’s Hooked On Swing, and although it will climb to #32, I can’t tell which is worse.

Junior – Too Late (debuted 6/12/82, peaked at #102)

British soul singer Junior Giscombe reached the Top 40 with that sweet ass jam Mama Used To Say in early 1982. It only reached #30, so it was probably too much to ask this one which is just as great, to do much better than a #102 showing. It will reach #8 on the Soul charts and #20 in the UK.

Fun Fact: Junior was a member of the Red Wedge, a group of British artists such as Paul Weller and Billy Bragg who formed in 1985 to help enthuse young voters to become engaged with the Labour Party campaign.

Jethro Tull – Fallen On Hard Times (debuted 6/12/82, peaked at #108)

Named after the seed drill inventor, this prog band led by flutist Ian Anderson fell on hard times in the 80s, with an ever-shuffling lineup per album release. Their last chart hit was in 1977, with the #59 peak of The Whistler. This Bubbler from The Broadsword and The Beast was the closest they would ever come to the Hot 100 again. However, the decade wasn’t all bad for the Tull because they’ll win the first Best Hard Rock/Metal Performace Grammy in seven years from now.

 

 

 

A Democracy of Sorts

Let’s continue our review of those unlucky tracks held down by Pop radio programmers as they Bubbled Under the Hot 100 during chart week twenty-two from 1983 to 1985.

Mary Jane Girls – Candy Man (debuted on 6/4/1983, peaked at #101)

What started out as an attempt to get Motown to sign singer Jojo McDuffie turned into a contract for a four-woman group of singers who called themselves the Mary Jane Girls. Named after Rick James’ song, Mary Jane, these ladies had been mining backup for the superfreak on tour for a few years. But when Prince created Vanity 6, Rick kicked into gear to show he could do the same but better. Well, Rick was right. Their debut was a funky delight and spawned three R&B Top 40 hits as well as endless grooves to sample.

Roxy Music – More Than This (debuted on 6/4/1983, peaked at #102)

How does an established band that heavily influenced many 80s New Wave bands create a critically revered album at the height of New Wave and fail to have any of their songs played on Pop radio? This classic was a smash worldwide, including reaching #6 in the UK a year previous. Bryan Ferry would split the group up and Avalon remains their last studio album. Fourteen years later, a Merchant-less 10000 Maniacs would grab their only Top 40 hit with a cover of this song. But that pales in comparison to tastemaker Bob Harris.

Spandau Ballet – Lifeline (debuted on 6/4/1983, peaked at #108)

Here’s a band who enjoyed the second British Invasion. Their third album, True gave us the title track and the #29 single, Gold. This was the first single released from the album in the Uk and peaked at #7. In the US, it was the third and it stalled in the Bubbler zone.

Amy Holland – Anytime You Want Me (debuted on 6/4/1983, peaked at #110)

This synthy pop-rock track, written by Paul Bliss, was the first single from the Michael McDonald-produced sophomore effort from Amy called On Your Every Word. It did not plan any Hot 100 entries after Amy’s debut gave us How Do I Survive and garnered her a nomination for Best New Artist. It is still a smooth recording with my favorite track, Rollin’ By, featuring a tasty guitar solo by Steve Lukather. Amy & Michael got married in 1983 and are still together.

Herbie Hancock – Mega-Mix (debuted on 6/2/1984, peaked at #105)

Herbie had his biggest R&B hit with Rockit in 1983 reaching #6. It also hit #1 on the Dance charts. So the thinking was, why not take all of the tracks on Future Shock, throw in 1974’s Chameleon and mash it all together? Well, mash it what it sounded like, and it may have killed the momentum of Hancock’s future electro-funk experiments.

Roger Waters – 5:01 A.M. (The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking) (debuted on 6/2/1984, peaked at #110)

After years of leading Pink Floyd, Roger finally left the quartet and released his first (non-soundtrack) solo album, The Pros and Cons Of Hitch Hiking. He started working on this idea at the same as The Wall, revolving around a man having a midlife crisis in real-time from 4:30AM to 5:11 AM, hence the title, the tenth cut on the LP. It’s bizarre as shit but somehow makes sense if you enter Roger’s world. Clapton’s guitar meanders throughout.

Jesse Johnson’s Revue – Can You Help Me (debuted on 6/1/1985, peaked at #110)

The guitarist for The Time released his first of three solo 80s albums, Jesse Johnson’s Revue, in 1985. This was the second single released after Be Your Man reached #61 on the Hot 100. I have to believe that had Jesse put this out on any other label than square-ass A&M, which was in the midst of screwing up Janet Jackson’s career,  this might have heard by more folks. As it stood, it will be his second straight R&B Top 10, peaking at #3.

 

Just Follow All The Written Rules

This is a tantalizing mix of country, soul, New Wave, rock, and funk that we have here Bubbling Under the Hot 100 during the 80s. Let’s see what we got on chart week twenty-two from 1980 to 1982.

Tommy James – You Got Me (debuted on 6/1/1980, peaked at #101)

The leader of the Shondells had a surprise comeback hit in 1980 with Three Times In Love which reached #19. This was his follow-up, and it’s not a shock to see it here as it’s too mellow even for 1980 and not as immediate as its predecessor.

Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers – Taking Somebody With Me When I Fall (debuted on 6/1/1980, peaked at #108)

Larry got his start writing songs for Dottie West and singing back-up for Kris Kristofferson. He recorded his first solo album in 1973 and brought his brothers, Steve & Rudy, in with him, officially changing their name in 1979 to the above. They had a #1 hit, All The Gold In California, from their album, Straight Ahead. This was the third single released, a nice little slice of Yacht Country, which could easily sit beside Poco or Firefall.

Fun fact: In Kenny Rogers’ 1979 song, Coward of the County, Tommy’s girlfriend, Becky, is sexually assaulted by the Gatlin Boys. Both Kenny and the songwriters, Billy Ed Wheeler & Roger Bowling, deny they were referring to Larry, Rudy & Steve, even though there was three of them. It’s also interesting they chose the name Becky as Larry’s first hit was called Sweet Becky Walker.

Grace Jones – Pull Up To The Bumper (debuted on 6/6/1981, peaked at #101)

Yes, this is a sweet jam. From Grace’s fifth album, Nightclubbing, this mix of New Wave funk and Caribbean rhythms was the third single released and her first Top 40 hit on the Soul charts, peaking at #5. It will climb to #2 on the Dance Club charts as well. Put this on your car playlist and turn it up while you drive. Also, this song has nothing to do with parking cars, if you know what I mean.

Kraftwerk – Pocket Calculator (debuted on 6/6/1981, peaked at #102)

This German quartet was so far ahead of the game, and they had to stop recording music by the late 80s for everyone to catch up. And remember, they were recording most of their work on brand new technology, working out the kinks for artists in future decades. It still blows my mind that they had a Top 40 hit in 1975 with this. Nothing sounded like the album Computer World in 1981, when it was released on May 10th, 1981. This is what the Top 40 looked like if you need a reference.

The Roulettes – Only Heaven Knows (debuted on 6/6/1981, peaked at #105)

This is an excellent piece of retro-flavored Power Pop, in the vein of Phil Seymour, but confoundingly out of date by the time of its release. Damn, the window was short. Even still, this would have sounded nice on Pop radio and preferable to the other gunk clogging the charts.

Split Enz – Six Months In A Leaky Boat (debuted on 6/5/1982, peaked at #104)

This New Zealand sextet was led by singer/songwriter Tim Finn, whose brother Neil joined the group by album three, Dizrythmia. By 1980, he wrote and sung their best-known song, I Got You, even though it reached #53. This was the lead single from their seventh album, Time And Tide. Tim sings lead on this nautical tale about the New Zealand pioneers sailing to a new land.  It went Top 10 in Australia and New Zealand as well as in Canada, but this catchy ditty didn’t get much of a chance in the States. Maybe a few Columbus day spins.

Lacy J. Dalton – Slow Down (debuted on 6/5/1982, peaked at #106)

Country singer Jill Byrem, otherwise known to her fans as Lacy J. Dalton, released her fourth album, 16th Avenue, in 1982. The lead single was her only crossover mark, bubbling at #106 while climbing to #13 on the Country charts. Many fans have commented that she sounds a lot like Bonnie Raitt, which is probably why…

Bonnie Raitt – Me and the Boys (debuted on 6/5/1982, peaked at #109)

…this single gets caught in the fishing net with Lacy. Of course, this bluesy rocker shouldn’t have competed with Lacy’s lazy ballad anyway. From her eighth album, Green Light, this cover was initially released by NRBQ on their 1980 LP, Tiddlywinks, but Bonnie gives it some special sauce.

Randy Crawford – One Hello (debuted on 6/5/1982, peaked at #110)

And here’s another lady who should have had at least one crossover hit. Singing on the Crusaders’ Street Life doesn’t count. She’s had a lot more success in the UK with five Top 20 hits, 3 of them reaching the Top 10. This ballad written by Carole Bayer Sager and Marvin Hamlisch and included on her sixth long-play, Windsong, was not one of them but should have been. This was also the featured song of the Neil Simon film flop, I Ought To Be In Pictures.

 

Put The Right Letters Together

We’re continuing our recap of the Billboard Top 40 from June 4th, 1988, with the Top 20, a group of songs that has mostly disappeared from retro radio rotation. Was it just a pop radio lull? Was 60s nostalgia distracting station programmers? Or do they suck and/or put you to sleep? At least half of these are ballads, and most of these tunes are mellow, so we should have enough supermarkets and elevators to support them on their Muzak playlists. Let’s run through them and see.

20. Lita Ford – Kiss Me Deadly

THW – I prefer just about anything that Lita did as the Runaways guitarist to this song. But that’s not the point. Very few females succeeded in the male-dominated genre of metal. And even if one had a pedigree such as Lita’s, she still needed the support from the new manager, Sharon Osborne, to push her third album out to the public for them to hear it. It’s catchy pop-rock on its way to #12 with production from Mike Chapman and a harder edge provided by Pat Benatar’s back-up band.

19. Cheap Trick – The Flame

After struggling to reach the Pop charts through most of the 80s, this Power pop quartet from Rockford, IL had their biggest hit with this slow song, the first single released from their tenth album, Lap Of Luxury – perfect for proms and just in time for graduating Seniors. So So I’ll skip it, thanks.

18. Brenda K. Starr – I Still Believe

THW – Twenty-five percent of this week’s Top 20 are two-hit-wonders. Brenda, whose dad Harvey Kaplan was an organist in Spiral Starecase, is one of them. This ballad was her first Top 40 hit from her self-titled album, and it’s on its way to a #13 peak. One of the backing singers on this track was future superstar Mariah Carey. She’ll cover this tune in 1999 and take it up to #4.

17. Pet Shop Boys – Always On My Mind

Even though Willie Nelson sang Always On My Mind like he wrote it, he didn’t. And it didn’t stop this UK duo from doing their own synth-pop version, which was prompted by a TV performance celebrating Elvis’ 10th death anniversary. It also became the most successful rendition of this tune when it peaked at #4 a few weeks ago.

16. Cher – We All Sleep Alone

Yes, everyone but Cher, who was sleeping with Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora when she wasn’t chilling with that bagel dude. Good for you, Cher! This power ballad, co-written and produced by Sambora, Jon Bon Jovi, and Desmond Child, will doze its way up four more spots. Also, why hire three separate dudes when you can just hire Jim Steinman?

15. Prince – Alphabet St.

It’s a close call whether this song or Thieves In the Temple is the Purple One’s least remembered Top 10 hit. A quick little bluesy funk number, this song was a Top 10 hit in thirteen countries, including #3 on the R&B charts and eventually #8 on the Pop charts. It was written initially as a small piece of music to bridge 👁 No and Glam Slam on his new album, Lovesexy, programmed as one long track on the initial CD release. Arrested Development will sample the title of their first hit, Tennessee, from it.

Bonus points to the Big 80’s countdown, which plays the 12″ version.

14. Bruce Hornsby & The Range – The Valley Road

For a song that reached the Top 5 and #1 on the Rock and AC charts, it’s a wonder that it’s rarely heard on 80s stations today. I bought this 45 back then, and I find it far more interesting and less preachy than The Way It Is. Bruce recorded a new version of the song with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Vol. 2. It won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Recording, which pissed a lot of folks off. a la Tull and their heavy metal Grammy.

13. White Lion – Wait

THW – A recessive gene in a white lion gives it a near-translucent color, almost as if it wasn’t there. In late 1991, a group of rare Nirvana neverminds escaped from a soundgarden, and pearl jammed them into near extinction. Efforts by the USNO (U.S. Nostalgia Organization) helped bring them back into temporary existence with the last decade.

12. Michael Jackson – Dirty Diana

Thriller made MJ otherworldly. Bad was the awful side effect of that, where no one ever said no to Michael again. But after a year and four number one, no one was truly complaining. This is a true travesty in his catalog, which started to rapidly fill up with them.  There’s no groove. The music sounds plastic. Steve Stevens doesn’t come close to Eddie Van Halen. And Michael singing about cheating on his girlfriend with a groupie isn’t just unbelievable; it’s laughable. It will reach #1 and knock Debbie Gibson from the top, which seemed like progress, but the bar was so low.

11. Belinda Carlisle – Circle In The Sand

RAR – BC amiably sings through another gauzy pop song, saved by Thomas Dolby’s keyboard work from becoming too precious. But, if you need something to hum while you wait on your Vicadin prescription at CVS, it sure beats most of the ballads in the Top 10.

10. Gloria Estefan & the Miami Sound Machine – Anything For You

I feel like Miami Sound Machine albums were like long auditions for the band to play your wedding. This was the group’s first #1 song and future dad/daughter dance number.

9. The Jets – Make It Real

“I need another ballad for the album. One that sounds just like You Got It All but is far less interesting. But not too sleepy that my nine-year-old daughter doesn’t like it.” – The Jets manager, Magic album pitch meeting.

8. Foreigner – I Don’t Want To Live Without You

This is the first of four Top 10 songs in 1988 that begin with I Don’t. [Elton John, Chicago, and Duran Duran will have the other three.] Not sure why there was so much obstinance going on.

7. Debbie Gibson – Foolish Beat

This is what a teen ballad about break-up sounds like when it’s done poorly. I know it seems like I always take any chance I can to dunk on poor ol’ Lil Debbie. But this is truly painful. No one ever needs to hear the thoughts of a teenage white girl with boy trouble unless it comes from Ronnie Spector or Kate Bush. The fourth single from Out Of The Blue will reach #1 in two weeks, which means it was the most popular song in the US. People thought it was better than anything else in the countdown, radio, or stores. It’s a low point in pop music from which we have never recovered. But I digress…

6. Brenda Russell – Piano In The Dark

THW – This is what an adult ballad about break-up sounds like when it’s done correctly. After a five-year hiatus, she returned with Get Here, her fourth album, highlighted by this semi-credited duet with former Brooklyn Dreams member, Joe “You’re The Best” Esposito. It’s a hauntingly beautiful tune and one of my faves from an artist I truly appreciate. And if it comes on the speakers while I’m walking down the cereal aisle towards you, be prepared to sing Joe’s part, cause I’m taking Brenda’s.

Fun fact: Singer Oleta Adams heard the title track, Get Here, in a record store while she was on tour with Tears For Fears. She decided to include it on her 1990 debut, and because we bombed the hell out of Iraq for six weeks in early 1991, it was heavily requested on radio and became a Top 10 hit.

5. Rick Astley – Together Forever

The SAW machine is in full force as Rick rolls his second Whenever You Need Somebody single up the charts on the way to another number one. It will also top the Dance Club chats, reach #2 on the AC chart, but get stuck behind Kylie Minogue for the top spot in the UK. How did we get so lost?

4. Hall & Oates – Everything Your Heart Desires

Save us, Daryl & John! Here’s the first single from the duo’s first studio album in four years, Ooh Yeah, a smoother take on Possession Obsession, if you will. It may not be their best, and it’s undoubtedly lost in a catalog full of hits, but it was a breath of fresh air back then. It will slide up one more spot, becoming their final Top 10 hit to date.

3. Samantha Fox – Naughty Girls (Need Love Too)

PFK – Believe it or not, this Full Force-written and produced freestyle jam was not a big hit worldwide. But we were suckered in over here and acknowledged it as one of the three most popular songs in the country during this week. It also contains this very wise couplet:

Don't let me be misunderstood.
Temporary love's so bad. But it feels so good.

2. Johnny Hates Jazz – Shattered Dreams

THW – This mid-tempo pop track about a pending divorce spent three weeks as the bridesmaid, but it’s lucky that it even got that far. Originally released in the Spring of 1987, it hit #5 in the UK in May. I heard it during that stretch and bought it as an import 12″. It slowly made its way around Europe, hitting many Top 10 charts before getting a US release in early 1988. Twelve weeks later, here it sits, trying to unseat…

1. George Michael – One More Try (2 wks at #1)

George had no trouble establishing himself as a superstar with his debut solo album, Faith. This is his third straight #1 from that release, from which he’ll have four total. It will reach #1 on the R&B & AC charts as well.

I feel like I need a nap.

KEY

  • OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
  • THW – Two-Hit-Wonder
  • PFK – Perfect for Karaoke
  • RAR – Rite-Aid Rock
  • STA – Second Time Around

 

 

 

 

There’s Nothing Better We Can Do Than Live

I can’t help myself. So I’m at it again recapping another American Top 40 countdown, this time from June 4th, 1988 – the beginning of another Summer rife with bittersweet memories, one in which I started with a girlfriend and a band and ended up with neither. The songs are better than I remembered, possibly because a good chunk of them haven’t been overplayed in the decades since.

40. Robert Plant – Tall Cool One

The first single from Plant’s fourth album, Now And Zen, didn’t chart. However, the next one makes the Top 40 complete with guitar provided by former compatriot Jimmy Page and samples from five other Zeppelin tunes. It’s on its way to a #25 high and will be his last solo Top 40 hit.

39. Glass Tiger – I’m Still Searching

The pride of Newmarket, Ontario is back with the third Top 40 single from their debut, The Thin Red Line. Though if I played this song for you, I doubt you’d be able to tell me who this was unless you had an Alan Frew poster from Smash Hits on your wall.

38. Rod Stewart – Lost In You

RAR – Rod tried to soak in some of the Power Station vibes, hiring Andy Taylor to co-write this song, have Tony Thompson play drums while Bernard Edwards produced. He just about pulls it out, although I would love to have heard what Robert Palmer would have done with it. David Lindley adds a little mandolin rain to the mix.

37. Natalie Cole – Pink Cadillac

Springsteen wrote and recorded this song during the Nebraska sessions and eventually released his version as the B-side to his second Born In The USA single, Dancing In the Dark. But the song gained popularity due to its inclusion on setlists and the fact that anything Boss-related in the mid-80s got exposure. Natalie was in the middle of her late 80s comeback and recorded her version for the 1987 Everlasting LP. It was the third single released and will be her biggest hit since I’ve Got Love On My Mind in 1977. Natalie pretends that the title isn’t about the lady bits. (For reference, Aretha did not.)

36. Bardeux – When We Kiss

OHW – Have you ever watched those adult films on Skin-a-Max and wondered how you could get a copy of the soundtrack?

35. E.U. – Da Butt

OHW – Go-go music is a for-real fun-as-hell subgenre of funk that started in the D.C. area, which needs all the fun it can get. Outside of Chuck Brown in 1979 with Bustin’ Loose, this was pretty much the only go-go Top 40 hit. Recorded for Spike Lee’s film, School Daze, and written and produced by jazz bassist Marcus Miller, this will hit #1 on the Soul charts, shakin’ booties for years to come. Like this one…

34. Aerosmith – Angel

I remember hearing a story about Joe Perry being bummed that Dream On eventually became a big hit for Aerosmith because they didn’t want to be known as a band that plays slow songs. I’m sure a decade of eating dirt sandwiches that you have to make yourself changed his tune. This will become their biggest hit until another ballad usurped it in 1998.

33. Suave – My Girl

OHW – Did we really need a New Jack version of the Temptations classic? The answer is no. Now please turn this example into a Dr. Rick Progressive Insurance commercial.

32. Terence Trent D’Arby – Wishing Well

I remember sitting in the back of a particular class that I can’t remember which subject it was, who taught it, or how I passed. All I remember about the course was the constant laughter between my two other friends and me. And a picture I drew of a restaurant called Terence Trent D’Arby’s. There was a wishing well out front and a speech bubble from the window that said, “Two Beef N Cheddar’s and make it funky now, boys.” I wish I still has that drawing.

31. The Church – Under The Milky Way

OHW – We’re about to start an Australian four-play on the Top 40, beginning with a Sydney quintet, who released an incredible album, Starfish, as their fifth. It contains this, their only US Top 40, and it’s now even the best song on the album. But it is an easy one to learn guitar and sing to.

30. INXS – New Sensation

What Men At Work was to the early 80s, INXS was to the later 80s, and then some. Their sixth album, Kick, was on the verge of making them superstars, and it already spawned a #1 smash, Need You Tonight, and a #2 hit, Devil Inside. This may be the song that most sounds like their previous work, more specifically, like a band rather than an overproduced product with a pretty boy lead singer. I’m bummed that I never saw them live (baby live). It will reach #3 and not feature a trumpet.

29. Midnight Oil – Beds Are Burning

OHW – Seriously, who had this group on their 88 bingo card? But good on ya, if you did. This story about the unfair treatment of Aboriginal tribes and the theft of their native lands became a hit all around the world, eventually reaching #17 in the U.S., a land with a similar history

28. Icehouse – Electric Blue

THW – Icehouse cracked the Top 20 in early 88 with the lead single from their sixth album, Man Of Colours, called Crazy. John Oates had been a fan of the group and wrote a song with lead singer Iva Davies, which became single number two. It was their biggest hit in America, climbing to #9 and their biggest Down Under reaching #1.

27. Def Leppard – Pour Some Sugar On Me

The Def Lep train is riding full steam down the track. Their third single from Hysteria, the title track, became their fifth Top 40 hit and first to reach the Top 10. This one will best it and almost get to the top, held down only by Richard Marx’s Hold On The Nights.

26. Pebbles – Mercedes Boy

Here’s another future bridesmaid, this one getting the stiff arm from Cheap Trick’s The Flame. It’s the second big hit from her debut album and features production from the Gap Band’s Charlie Wilson. The single was remixed into a more radio-friendly version than the album cut. It will reach #1 R&B and hit #2 on the Dance Club charts. It’s also one of the few songs that remind me of that summer. [Paradise by Sade is another and is sitting at #48 this week.]

25. OMD – Dreaming

After spending the first half of the 80s releasing synth-pop albums to the indifference of most Americans, OMD collected four Top 40 hits during the second half, including this tune that was featured on The Best Of OMD, which I happily purchased on CD on release.

24. Times Two – Strange But True

OHW – The California duo of Shanti Jones & Johnny Dollar got a big career boost (for them) when they released their debut and were hired to open for Debbie Gibson. I’m sure only the high-dollar babysitters splurged on the 45, which falls from its peak of #21. Steve Barri, who produced Billy Don’t Be A Hero and Undercover Angel, helmed the boards for this one as well.

23. Poison – Nothin’ But A Good Time

There is nothin’ more depressing than the line, and it don’t get better than this. Also, that’s the tagline for Old Milwaukee beer, so…

22. Al B. Sure – Nite And Day

OHW – Al celebrated his 21st birthday with a hit record as this Quiet Storm staple climbs up six more notches on its way to the Top 10. Also, there’s no one better in the biz for my money to break it down like Kyle West. Me’shell Ndegeocello did a fine cover of this in 2019.

21. The Deele – Two Occasions

OHW – Here’s a Cincinnati synth-funk sextet that released their third album in late 1987, Eyes Of A Stranger. This ballad was the second single from the album, and their only crossover hit, traveling up to a zenith of #10. It features lead vocals by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmunds, and its success plus the former Pebbles hit, Girlfriend, which he and bandmate LA Reid wrote and sang on, gave the duo the encouragement to quit the band and establish LaFace Records

Fun Fact: Babyface received his nickname from Bootsy Collins. That’s cred.

KEY

  • OHW – One-Hit-Wonder
  • THW – Two-Hit-Wonder
  • PFK – Perfect for Karaoke
  • RAR – Rite-Aid Rock
  • RFW – Ripped from Wikipedia
  • STA – Second Time Around

The Time That It Takes To Feel It

We’re up to chart week twenty-one during our review of those tunes that were Bubbling Under the Hot 100 during the 80s. So let’s see who we have this week.

Frank Zappa – I Don’t Wanna Get Drafted (debuted 5/24/80, peaked at #103)

I was surprised to see this here. Zappa’s music is its own universe, and you’re either in that world or not. Sure, you can make a visit, but Frank and his fifty time signatures changes force you to either stay or leave. Zappa’s statement on the upcoming draft reinstatement during the Carter Administration was released as a single before being re-recorded for the 1981 album, You Are What You Is. This single is also the first recorded appearance by his kids, Moon Unit and Ahmet.

Rush – Entre Nous (debuted 5/24/80, peaked at #110)

Here’s the second single from the Canadian prog-rock trio’s seventh album, Permanent Waves, following up the #51 peak of The Spirit of Radio. This one is a straight-ahead rocker that vibes along the lines of fellow Canucks, Max Webster but didn’t click on Pop radio.

Gino Soccio – Try It Out (debuted 5/30/81, peaked at #103)

Check it out – another Gino from Montreal. But rather than wanting to stop or partaking in an internal life, this Gino is making folks move on the dance floor. This boogie jam will spend six weeks at #1 on the Disco Top 100.

Randy Meisner – Gotta Get Away (debuted 5/30/81, peaked at #104)

Randy netted three Top 40 hits after stepping away from the Eagles in 1977, although I’m sure that none of them paid out anything close to his co-write of Take It To The Limit. You’re more likely to hear that song a thousand times before you hear any of his solo hits. This mellow rock single is the follow-up to his biggest hit, Hearts On Fire, which hit #19. It was the third release from his second album, One More Song.

Marshall Tucker Band – This Time I Believe (debuted 5/30/81, peaked at #106)

The pride of Spartanburg, SC is back with their eleventh album, Dedicated, a tribute to band member Tommy Caldwell and his brother Tim, who died in 1980 in separate traffic accidents. Unfortunately, Southern Rock had lost its favor with Pop radio and none of the singles from the album ever charted.

Larry Graham – Don’t Stop When You’re Hot (debuted 5/29/82, peaked at #102)

The master of the bass slap is back with a mid-tempo body shaker from his album, Sooner Or Later, that made no impression with Top 40 audiences at all. Could we have traded this for an Air Supply single? Yes, and we should have. It will reach the R&B Top 20 and become his only charting 45 in the UK.

Buckner & Garcia – Do The Donkey Kong (debuted 5/29/82, peaked at #103)

Pac-Man Fever was a huge novelty hit in 1982 due to the massive success of the aforementioned video arcade game. This catastrophe is an attempt at a follow-up by two guys who clearly ran out of ideas. Radio programmers and Pop music customers promptly threw a flaming barrel their way.

Chubby Checker – Harder Than Diamond (debuted 5/29/82, peaked at #104)

If Gary U.S. Bonds could have an early 80s comeback, why not that man who introduced us to The Twist. Checker released The Change Has Come, but the lead-off single, Running, only reached #91. I prefer the follow-up, which tried to update Chubby’s sound into melancholy New Wave rock. But it did even worse, turning up as a Bubbler.  I have the LP, and as far as I know, this has yet to be issued digitally. Had this been more successful, maybe Chubby wouldn’t have agreed to this.

Gary Moore – Always Gonna Love You (debuted 5/28/83, peaked at #103)

This Irish guitarist has had a long career as a session player, a solo artist, and a member of Colosseum II and Thin Lizzy. From his album, Corridors of Power, this power ballad was the closest that Gary had sniffed the Hot 100 until his #97 peak of Still Got the Blues (For You) in 1990.

Fun Fact: It’s not well-known, but Gary is considered the “sixth” Traveling Wilbury. He appears on the 1990 release Vol. 3 on She’s My Baby and is credited as Ken Wilbury.

Stacy Lattisaw & Johnny Gill – Baby It’s You (debuted 5/26/84, peaked at #102)

Six albums in, Stacy goes the Flack/ Hathaway route with a duet album featuring up-and-coming DC singer Johnny Gill. This a slow dance cover of the 1961 Shirelles classic written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and was the second single released from Perfect Combination. It will reach #37 on the Soul charts.

Santana – I’m The One Who Loves You (debuted 5/25/85, peaked at #102)

Santana has gone through many peaks and valleys in its lifetime. In 1985, the Beyond Appearances album would start a new career slide down and an absence from the Hot 100 until 1999’s mega-smash, Smooth. His cover of an obscure Impressions single from 1963 written by Curtis Mayfield has a dated arrangement and is just plain dull.

Fun Fact: Rob Thomas was only thirteen years old when this single came out.

Bill Withers – Oh Yeah! (debuted 5/25/85, peaked at #106)

We’re ending up on a high note. And if you’ve never heard this song before, blame Columbia. They systemically tried breaking Bill’s spirit for years, rejecting his material until he finally released the album, Watching You, Watching Me, seven years after ‘Bout Love. While the release suffers from tired 80s production, the sweetness still shines through. There’s no reason that this shouldn’t have been playing on Pop radio during the Summer of 1985 other than the fact that the record company didn’t push it. The single was co-written by Larry Carlton and David Foster and peaked at #22 on the Soul charts. Bill promptly retired from the music business and spent the last thirty-five years enjoying the company of family and friends while we continued to enjoy his music.