It’s easy in hindsight to shake your head and wonder why some of these songs weren’t bigger hits or at least chart on the Hot 100. That’s my immediate thought as I look at this list of 80’s Bubbling Under songs from that week twenty-six. It’s easy to forget that some songs take time to grow into classics. Sometimes record companies just bungle the promotion. Some program directors who had particular tastes or were towing corporate lines created pop radio playlists as formulas for marketing executives rather than listeners. Eventually, we, the fans, get to choose, generation by generation, what we enjoy, so long as we can find it and have the ability to listen to it.
Gary Numan & Tubeway Army – Are ‘Friends’ Electric? (debuted 6/28/1980, peaked at #105)
Gary blew up the Pop charts in the late Spring of 1980 with the Synthpop classic, Cars, an absolute game-changer, robotic and lush. When it peaked at #10 in early June, it was surrounded by Linda Rondstadt on one side and Elton John on the other. A new day had come. But rather than release another track from The Pleasure Principle, such as Observer or Complex, ATCO re-released this 1979 UK #1 smash recorded with his former band, Tubeway Army. The single was more aligned with Joy Division than with Funkytown, and thus Gary remains a US one-hit-wonder.
Odyssey – Don’t Tell Me, Tell Her (debuted 6/28/1980, peaked at #105)
This New York City trio had a U.S. Top 40 in early 1978 with Native New Yorker. But they just could not get any more songs of theirs to click on the Pop chart for some reason. This was the lead single from their third album, Hang Together, and with the proper promotion and maybe better timing, this easily could have been a hit. Its gentle calypso vibe helped it do well on the Dance Club charts, where it reached #6.
Cameo – Freaky Dancin’ (debuted 7/4/1981, peaked at #102)
New York funk band Cameo whittled their group down from 14 to 10 members by their seventh album, Knights of The Sound Table. They are also of the few funk outfits to move through the pre-Disco, Disco, and post-Disco periods without losing their stroke. This will be their eleventh R&B Top 40 hit and fifth Top 10 when it peaks at #3. They will rack up 19 Soul hits before their first Pop Top 40 smash, Word Up!.
Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train (debuted 7/4/1981, peaked at #106)
People forget that when Ozzy was kicked out of Black Sabbath in 1979, many thought his career was over. But this where the legend of Oz begins. His agent, Don Arden, got him signed to Jet Records and made his daughter Sharon look after him and get him on the right track. [Ozzy was currently married to his first wife, Thelma, at the time.] He recruited members of various rock bands, including Quiet Riot’s Randy Rhoads, to play with him and record his debut, Blizzard Of Ozz, released in the UK in the Fall of 1980. This was the first solo single he ever released, and although it never reached the Hot 100, it was certified four times platinum in 2020.
Imagination – Just An Illusion (debuted 7/3/1982, peaked at #102)
Here’s a British trio that dabbled in some post-disco synth-funk that netted them lots of hits in their native country. This single, released from the second album, In the Heat of the Night, reached the Top 10 in almost every European country during the Spring of 1982. By the time this midtempo track reached the US shores, it had managed some Dance club spins and a #27 post on the R&B charts, but not much else. Producers Steve jolly & Tony Swain helmed one more album for the group before turning their attention to creating hits for Spandau Ballet and Bananarama.
Gino Soccio – It’s Alright (debuted 7/3/1982, peaked at #108)
If you listened to dance music after 1979 or danced in the clubs, you know that Disco never died. It just became less mainstream and less commercialized. You’re also probably one of the few who would know who Canadian producer Gino Soccio is. He had a slew of smashes on the Disco charts in the early 80s, including this one which peaked at #2. It will also chart on the R&B Hot 100, reaching #60.
U2 – Two Hearts Beat As One (debuted 7/2/1983, peaked at #101)
Until The Joshua Tree, the quintessential U2 album was War. If you were a fan, you knew every song on this album and truly believed Bono and the boys could change the world. It became their first #1 album in the UK and spent years on the US album charts. This single, easily my favorite from the LP, was the follow-up to their first chart single, New Year’s Day, which hit #53.
Jennifer Warnes – Nights Are Forever (debuted 7/2/1983, peaked at #105)
Nobody thinks of Jennifer Warnes as the Queen of 80s soundtracks. But if you needed a woman to sing your film’s theme song, you called her. Her voice was at once familiar and new, comforting yet disquieting. What a perfect choice for Twilight Zone – The Movie, a production with its own complicated history. This track probably got buried because of the film’s bad press, but its Yachty-vibe is ripe for rediscovery. It will reach the Top 10 on the AC charts.
I’ll get to the rest in the next post…