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.


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.

Must Be A Sucker For It

Let’s get back to checking out those songs held under the Hot 100 in the 80s, the ones we affectionately call the Bubblers. We’re up to chart week twenty, and as always, there’s a lot of lost Soul(s).

Kool & The Gang – Hangin’ Out (debuted 5/17/80, peaked at #103)

This New Jersey funk band made two significant changes in 1978. They brought in a producer (Deodato), and they hired a full-time lead singer (J.T. Taylor) Both paid immediate dividends that lasted through most of the 80s. Their 1979 album, Ladies Night, smoothed out some of their rough edges and spawned two Top 10 singles on both the Pop & R&B charts. This was the third single which reached #36 on the R&B Hot 100. Within six months, they’ll have the most successful and most enduring single of their career.

Chaka Khan – Clouds (debuted 5/17/80, peaked at #103)

Chaka reached #21 with I’m Every Woman from her debut in 1978, then proceeded to strike out at Top 40 radio with every solo single she released until 1984’s I Feel For You. She had a wealth of potential hit singles in between those years but was shut out by Pop programmers. This Ashford & Simpon-penned funky disco tune was the lead single from her terrific second album, Naughty, will reach the R&B Top 10.

Fun fact: Sixteen-year-old Whitney Houston, along with her mom Cissy sings back-up on this track. Whitney will return the favor by covering I’m Every Woman for The Bodyguard soundtrack, taking it up to #4, and giving Miss Khan a shout-out at the end.

Joe Perry Project – Let The Music Do The Talking (debuted 5/17/80, peaked at #110)

Aerosmith was in complete disarray by 1978, prompting Joe Perry to leave the band and form a new project. Unfortunately, the leader of this outfit was not charismatic but instead the quiet guy, hence the title. And the music was not worth listening to, in my opinion. We all know how it turns out, so let’s just call this rocks bottom.

Bill Summers And Summers Heat – Call It What You Want (debuted 5/23/81, peaked at #103)

Bill Summers is a percussionist who played in the Herbie Hancock’s band, The Headhunters, including their 1973 jazz fusion breakthrough album, which featured Chameleon & Watermelon Man. Bill formed the funk band Summers Heat in 1977, and this single, the title track from their fourth album, became their most successful, reaching #16 on the R&B charts.

Lakeside – Something About That Woman (debuted 5/22/82, peaked at #110)

Ohio, the land of Funk, was the birthplace of this nonet which tallied thirteen Top 40 R&B hits without ever grabbing one Top 40. This laid-back jam was the second single from the band’s sixth album, Your Wish Is My Command, and reached #25 Soul.

English Beat – Save It For Later (debuted 5/21/83, peaked at #103)

What’s this New Wave classic doing here? Well, the charts were getting clogged with catchy pop from the UK, and someone was going to held down. For every Our House, there was a Save It For Later, the second Bubbler from the group’s final album (in their original configuration), Special Beat Service. They had more success as parts of new outfits, General Public and Fine Young Cannibals.

Smokey Robinson – And I Don’t Love You (debuted 5/19/84, peaked at #106)

Smokey was still playing the boogie game in 1984 with another rare groove track, the lead single from his fourteenth solo album, Essar (get it? his initials…) It’s a sweet groove, but Smokey’s sweet soothing voice sounds odd on top of it. He’s still two albums away from his late 80s comeback.

Skipworth & Turner – Thinking About Your Love (debuted 5/18/85, peaked at #104)

Talk about a lost jam. This is so good. How did this not cross over in the Summer of 1985? They used play this video a lot on VH-1 and that’s where I became familiar with it, rather than in its inclusion in the female bodybuilding documentary, Pumping Iron II. In the 2013 film, Begin Again during a celebratory wrap party scene during a fun ‘don’t dance‘ challenge. Everyone lost. It will reach the R&B Top 10 and UK Top 40.

Peter Brown – Zie Zie Won’t Dance (debuted 5/18/85, peaked at #108)

After after a few classic Disco smashes in the late 70s, Peter couldn’t get any of his 1980 singles to chart at all despite them being catchy, danceable, and radio-ready. Released from his 1984 album, Snap, it will be his last song to post on the Hot Disco/ Dance charts reaching #20

Frederick – Gentle (Calling Your Name) (debuted 5/18/85, peaked at #108)

We’re gonna wrap up the week of Bubblers with a Quiet storm ballad from the Cleveland singer, Frederick Davis. It didn’t get a lot of National play even on Soul radio, as it only reached #48 on the R&B charts. This was partly due to local record label Heat Records’ failure to keep up with the single’s buying demand. But if they played it in your region, there’s a good chance you danced to it at a prom, wedding or the privacy of your own home.


What Are Words Worth?

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.

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.

Tryin’ To Find That Happy Ending

Not as many songs held back as Bubblers during the seventeenth chart week of the 80s, but many good ones. Let’s review and rediscover.

Crown Heights Affair – You Gave Me Love (debuted 4/26/1980, peaked at #102)

Here’s a Brooklyn R&B octet that formed in the last 60s, moved over to funk by the mid-70s, and settled into a disco groove by the decade’s end. Their biggest crossover hit was Dancin’ which reached #42 in 1977. This was the first single from their seventh album, Sure Shot, and will become their biggest UK hit, peaking at #10. It will also climb to #12 on the Disco Top 100.

Greg Kihn Band – Sheila (debuted 5/2/1981, peaked at #102)

Greg and his buddies follow up their breakthrough hit, The Breakup Song, with a Power pop cover of Tommy Roe’s #1 smash from 1962. They’ll wait for two more albums for more success until 1983 when Jeopardy climbs all the way to #2.

Alabama – Old Flame (debuted 5/2/1981, peaked at #103)

This Country quartet released their fifth album, Feels So Right, but had yet to cross over to Pop radio. The lead single, co-written by Mac McAnally, is a honky-tonk ballad that would have been at home on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack. It will be their third straight #1 on Country charts, and their next two follow-up singles, the title track and Love in The First Degree will reach the Top 40

Life – Cool Down (debuted 5/2/1981, peaked at #106)

Here’s a Pop duo formed by Florida guitarist George Terry, who worked with Eric Clapton in the 70s and co-wrote Lay Down Sally. He also played on Andy Gibb’s solo records and the Bee Gees’ Spirits Having Flown. This bluesy number stalled under the Hot 100, but another track of theirs, E.T. Phone Home charted in the UK.

William “Bootsy” Collins – Take A Lickin’ And Keep On Kickin’ (debuted 5/1/1982, peaked at #103)

Bootsy kept a second career going as Booty’s Rubber Band while still a member of Parliament and Funkadelic before recording under his own name. He would rack up 12 Top 40 hits on the Soul charts, including the world’s funkiest sing-a-long, The Pinnochio Theory (don’t fake the funk or your nose will grow), and the #1 smash, Bootzilla. None of them would cross over to the Hot 100. In fact, this was his best solo showing regarding the Pop charts, unless you count Tom Tom Club dropping his name on Genius Of Love, which is up at #31 this week. He would show up in the Top 10 in 1990 as a guest on Dee-Lite’s Groove Is In The Heart.

Point Blank – Let Her Go (debuted 5/1/1982, peaked at #109)

This Texas sextet finally nabbed a Top 40 in 1981 when Nicole reached #39. Let Her Go was their sixth, which spawned this single. But the lack of continued success plus the relentless touring schedule combined to break up the band. They will get back together in the late 2000s and release and few more albums.

Julio Iglesias – Amor (debuted 4/30/1983, peaked at #105)

Enrique’s dad was a massive star in Spain since the late 60s, but that will only get you so far in the financial department. So he started singing in other languages besides Spanish. His twentieth release, Julio, was a compilation that featured a few tracks in English, including this one which is partly sung in Spanish. The album did quite well in the States and precipitated his move to Florida, setting him up for success with 1984’s 1100 Bel Air Place.

Fun fact: Julio was once a goalie for a Real Madrid soccer team in his youth.

The Manhattan Transfer – Mystery (debuted 4/28/1984, peaked at #102)

After their #7 hit, Boy From New York City in 1981, Pop radio mostly shunned them, even as this vocal quartet recorded and released well-produced and performed singles ready for radio. This Rod Temperton-penned ballad featured a soulful sax solo from Ernie Watts and caught the ear of an up-and-coming Detroit R&B singer who was looking for songs for her new album.

Peter Brown – They Only Come Out At Night (debuted 4/28/1984, peaked at #102)

The man who asked if we wanted to get funky back in 1977 recorded a quick follow-up album to 1983’s Back To The Front called Snap. This was the lead single, a fast-paced dance track, perfect for all the lean and hungry types, and it will reach #1 on the Dance/Disco Top 80 charts. It will also cross over to the R&B charts and get as high as #50.

Break Machine – Street Dance (debuted 4/28/1984, peaked at #105)

Break out your worn piece cardboard and your Adidas tracksuit because it’s the Village People of hip-hop, minus the Halloween costumes. I only say that because Jacques Morali and Henry Belolo put this trio together and produced them. This single was huge across Europe hitting #1 in Spain, Norway, and France and #3 in the UK. In the States where rap and breakdancing were created, no one cared, except for the clubs which pushed this single to #6 on the Dance/Disco Top 80 charts. I first heard this track on an airplane station playlist and really dug it, spending years trying to find it.

Steve Arrington – Feel So Real (debuted 4/27/1985, peaked at #104)

The former drummer and eventual lead vocalist of the funk band Slave left in 1982. He released Steve Arrington’s Hall Of Fame, Vol. 1 one year later, a tremendous album and one of the best R&B albums of the 80s. Naturally, Pop radio dissed it. Two albums later, in 1985, Steve smoothed his sound out a little and was rewarded with a #5 Dance hit, #17 R&B zenith, and a #5 peak in the UK. His follow-up, Dancin’ In the Key Of Life, will climb onto the Hot 100 and reach #68. Steve is still doin’ his thing and put a solid effort in 2020 called Down To The Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions, as well as guesting on Thundercat’s release, It Is What It Is.

Step Out And Dare To Declare

There must have been a Pop radio jailbreak during chart week sixteen since there aren’t that many Bubblers left behind. Let’s review those forgotten 45s from the 80s.

Sister Sledge – Reach Your Peak (debuted 4/19/1980, peaked at #101)

This is easily my favorite of the bunch. Had the Disco backlash not happened, the Sledge sisters would have had a few hits from 1980’s Love Somebody Today, their Nile Ridgers/ Bernard Edwards-produced follow-up to We Are Family. After Got To Love Somebody reached #64 Pop and #5 R&B, this breezy reggae-tinged track only climbed as high as #21 on the Soul charts. The album track Pretty Baby was never minted as a 45, but this confident disco strutter was another favorite of mine.

John Cougar – A Little Night Dancin’ (debuted 4/19/1980, peaked at #105)

Don’t let the title fool you. JC didn’t go disco, but he did get his Van Morrison on. This straight-ahead acoustic rocker was the third single released from his self-titled third LP, which included his first Top 40 hit, I Need A Lover.

The 1981 debuts all moved onto the Hot 100, so let’s continue with 1982.

Cameo – Just Be Yourself (debuted 4/24/1982, peaked at #101)

Funk was another casualty of the Disco backlash as well as the recession. It’s hard to keep ten guys on the payroll if you do not have giant hits. Cameo was now down to five members on their 1982 release, Alligator Woman. They’d shrink to four with their next release, and by the time of their first Top 40 ht, Word Up!, they were a trio. This compact jam will reach #12 on the R&B charts.

Fun fact: Did you know that the model on the cover of Alligator Woman was Vanity?

Xavier – Work That Sucker To Death (debuted 4/24/1982, peaked at #104)

Here’s a funk octet from Connecticut that received a little help from George Clinton & Bootsy Collins, who performed on two tracks on their album, Point Of Pleasure. This monster jam was one of them and worked itself into the R&B Top 10, hitting #6. Because it was released on the same label as Kenny Rogers, I’m not sure that was any A&R money to go around to push this one to Pop radio.

Devo – Through Being Cool (debuted 4/24/1982, peaked at #107)

Devo will amass five single singles that were labeled as Bubblers in the 80s. Pop radio had no idea what to do with them. And even during the early 80s New Wave invasion, their sound was too future-forward. This was the second single released from 1981’s New Traditionalists and was also featured on the Heavy Metal soundtrack. Writing a song for nerds when that word was still an insult garnered them a loyal cult following to this day. Now they look to aim their spud guns at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

1983 was strutting around like a sharp-dressed man this week, moving their singles up to higher highs.

Evelyn “Champagne” King – Shake Down (debuted 4/21/1984, peaked at #107)

This was one of the few songs of Evelyn’s that I wasn’t as familiar with. It sounds like Sly Stone meets synth-funk with King working her sultry lower register a la Ruth Pointer on Automatic or Jody Watley on Still A Thrill. [JW’s producer, Andre Cymone produced four tracks on Face To Face.] This #12 peaker will be one of eighteen Top 40 R&B hits that she’ll rack up.

B.E. Taylor Group – Reggae Rock N Roll (debuted 4/20/1985, peaked at #102)

The pride of Pittsburgh, Bill Edward Taylor, known as BE, formed a quartet with three former members of the West Virginia prog-rock band, Crack The Sky. They released three albums, which yielded two Hot 100 entries and one EP called Life Goes On, which this single was spawned [It would also appear on their final full length, Our World in 1986.] Also, the single didn’t have a lot of (if any) reggae, but it did have a lot of anthemic Midwest pop-rock comin’ at ya.

If you want to read more weeks of Bubbling Under during the 80s, the rabbit hole is this way.

The Kid With The Clues

As we reach chart week fourteen in our review of 80s tunes that were Bubbling Under the Hot 100, we find a bunch that did not make it, so much so that I split the group in two. Let’s review the Bubblers from 1980 to 1982.

Jane Olivor – Don’t Let Go Of Me (debuted 4/5/1980, peaked at #108)

Jane was a singer who got her start performing in the NY cabaret scene and places such as the Continental Baths, where Bette Midler was discovered. Thus far, her biggest hit was a cover of the Shirelles’ He’s So Fine, which reached #77 in 1978. This single, released from her fourth album, The Best Side Of Goodbye, should have been a much bigger hit. Its soft pop vibes would have sounded great next to Melissa Manchester or anything else on this countdown. It’s a mystery as to why someone on a major label with minor successes couldn’t get this Randy Edleman-penned tune onto the radio.

Atlantic Starr – When Love Calls (debuted 4/11/1981, peaked at #101)

This was the first big hit for the White Plains, NY sextet, climbing to #5 on the R&B charts. Released from their third album, Radiant and produced by Commodores pal James Anthony Carmichael, this funky jam was a far cry from the wedding tunes that they are more well-known for.

Fantasy – You’re Too Late (debuted 4/11/1981, peaked at #104)

Here’s a monster disco smash from a vocal quartet from New York. The Chic-ish track dominated the clubs during the Winter of 1980/ 1981 and spent five weeks at #1 on the Disco Hot 100. It also made the R&B Top 30, but Pop radio had long closed their door to Disco.

Point Blank – Let Me Stay With You Tonight (debuted 4/11/1981, peaked at #107)

Here’s a Texas rock quintet on their fifth album, American Exce$$, by 1981 with not much national exposure to show for themselves. The catchy tune got them a little more notice, enough to show up here. But their second single, Nicole, was the one that broke them when it reached #39.

Stephen Bishop – Send A Little Love My Way (Like Always) (debuted 4/11/1981, peaked at #109)

After scoring three Top 40 singles from his first two albums, Bish came up snake eyes with his third release, Red Cab To Manhattan, another well-crafted West Coast pop album. It’s befuddling that he couldn’t get this ballad on Pop radio when they were playing stuff like Wayne Newton’s Years instead. Stephen was already becoming somewhat of a movie guy with soundtrack songs to Animal House and Roadie. He’ll add Tootsie to that list a year from now, and It Might Be You will hit #25 in 1983. An aside: the B-side to this single is City Girl, one of my favorite tracks of the Bishmeister.

Rox – Dddddddance (debuted 4/11/1981, peaked at #109)

Not sure if this was a band or just an alter-ego for Boston singer Mike Rox. But the title is definitely someone’s attempt to obscure the fact that this song is boring as hell. It was produced by Village People impresario Jacques Morali and released on Boardwalk Records while it was going under. So it didn’t have a lot going for it at the time.

Grover Washington Jr. – Jamming (debuted 4/10/1982, peaked at #102)

Put this track on, and at about 20 seconds in, say out loud,” We’re experiencing operating difficulties. Please stand by.” If you were there, you’d get it. This is a very chill and pleasant cover of the Bob Marley classic and the second single from GW’s Come Morning LP.  But a minute into this, you might start wondering why you’re not listening to Exodus instead.

Lulu – Who’s Foolin’ Who (debuted 4/10/1982, peaked at #106)

Here’s the third single release from Scottish singer Lulu’s 1981 comeback album, which gave us the #18 hit, I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do). It’s a bluesy number that rocks way harder than her previous pop endeavors. In fact, it was nominated for a Best Female Rock Grammy. It was originally recorded by Bobby Blue Bland for his 1974 album, Dreamer, and written by the guys that produced hits like this.

Poco – Sea Of Heartbreak (debuted 4/10/1982, peaked at #109)

It definitely seemed like MCA Records had contempt for these guys when they took over their ABC contract, even making them audition all over for them to keep them on. They completely destroyed a decade’s worth of momentum and success at radio, and the band just wanted out by this time. So the fellas recorded a half-hearted covers album, which benefited no one, least of which, the fans. This track was co-written by Hal David and recorded by Country singer Don Gibson, who took track up to #2 on the Country charts and #21 on the Hot 100 back in 1961.


You Know It’s Hard Some Time

We’re up to the unlucky chart week of thirteen. Actually, it was only unfortunate for these artists back in the 80s. Now that we’re spotlighting them decades later, you might actually go out and buy their music.

The Gap Band – I Don’t Believe You Want To Get Up And Dance (Oops Upside Your Head) (debuted 3/29/1980, peaked at #102)

By the end of the 70s and their fourth album, the Wilson brothers were wearing their Parliament influences on their sleeves with this jam. Maybe that’s because their cousin was Bootsy Collins or because they were the best and most exciting funk group to imitate. This nursery rhymes-laden groove was not only their third Top 10 hit on the R&B charts. It became their first big hit in the UK, reaching #4. It has been sampled and covered countless times since.

Herb Alpert – Street Life (debuted 3/29/1980, peaked at #104)

Herb was enjoying a renaissance in 1979 with his song and album, Rise. On that LP, he released another track, Rotation, which reached the Top 30. The third was a cover of the 1979 Crusaders smash with Herb’s trumpet trying to replicate what Randy Crawford sang so well. Where the jazz trio made this song the perfect soundtrack to a night on the L.A. town, this version tried too hard and grooved too much, like your parents disco dancing in the living room to impress your friends.

Dazz Band – Invitation To Love (debuted 4/4/1981, peaked at #109)

This ballad was the second single and title track to the Cleveland, OH band’s 1980 debut. It’s not bad, but it lacks a distinctive personality to distinguish it from the other horn funk groups. It only peaked at #51 on the Soul charts, but within two more albums, they’d be letting it whip.

Jennifer Warnes – Come To Me (debuted 4/3/1982, peaked at #107)

This was the second single from an aborted 1981 album that ended up getting released as part of a Best Of compilation. Decisions like this would have seriously derailed Jennifer’s career had she not recorded a love theme with Joe Cocker to a Richard Gere film. That future #1 song will debut on the Hot 100 four months from now.

Dan Seals – Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind (debuted 4/3/1982, peaked at #110)

England Dan and John Ford Coley went their separate ways in 1980, and neither ever had any Pop success again. Dan recorded two quality but rarely-heard Yacht Rock LPs. This was the lead for the second one, Harbinger. After it failed, he ran to Nashville and became a successful Country artist racking up nine #1s during the 80s, including Bop.

KC & The Sunshine Band (with Teri DeSario) – Don’t Run (Come Back To Me) (debuted 4/2/1983, peaked at #103)

KC had a great start to the 80s with Please Don’t Go reaching #1. But it all went downhill from there. It reminds me of the scene in Boogie Nights. TK Records went bankrupt. He was in a horrible car accident and had to learn how to walk again. And the Disco backlash chewed his band up and spit them out in the gutter. All In A Night’s Work was their third straight 80s release that bombed. But hidden on side two was a track called Give It Up that needed a little time to percolate before it was ready.

Peter Godwin – Images Of Heaven (debuted 4/2/1983, peaked at #105)

Peter was the lead singer of the English trio Metro, who recorded two albums in the late 70s, including the song Criminal World, which David Bowie covered on his 1982 Let’s Dance album. That allowed Peter to have his Images of Heaven EP released in the US. Unfortunately, this New Wave dance track wasn’t successful on the charts, although it received some moderate Club play.

Johnny Mathis (with Deniece Williams) – Love Won’t Let Me Wait (debuted 4/1/1984, peaked at #106)

We all heard Johnny & Niecy singing to us every Thursday night as we watched Family Ties. So what better time to record another duet together? This one was released from A Special Part Of Me, and it was a cover of the 1975 Major Harris Top 10 smash, minus the moaning. It will creep into the R&B Top 40 at #32.

Alexander O’Neal – Innocent (debuted 3/30/1985, peaked at #101)

Alex was the lead singer of Flyte Tyme before pissing off Prince and getting replaced by Morris Day. Probably for the best, as his style was very intense and Day was more like a cartoon character come to life. O’Neal released his debut five years later and was backed by the Time members he once played with. In fact, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis wrote and produced the entire album. This was the first single release, and it reached #11 on the R&B charts. He wouldn’t cross over until his 1986 duet with Cherelle called Saturday Love.

Van Morrison – Tore Down A La Rimbaud (debuted 3/30/1985, peaked at #101)

Van might be one of the most enormous pain in the asses (or select a different adjective, if you like) in music, but this dude never stops working. He has forty solo albums in his catalog and is planning his new one for release this year. Released from his fifteenth, A Sense Of Wonder, this shuffler just missed climbing onto the Hot 100 at a time when his music sounded way out of date (Or, as some call it, timeless).

John Palumbo – Blowing Up Detroit (debuted 3/30/1985, peaked at #109)

Here is the lead singer of the cult prog-pop group, Crack the Sky, a band that was on the cusp of a breakthrough throughout the 70s but never had that one song to do it. This single from the singer’s solo debut should have easily received more airplay and could have been a hit. Maybe the title scared folks away. But it had that frenetic 80s New Wave dance groove that sounded reminiscent of Oingo Boingo.

No One Can Tell Your Hell Goes Unspoken

As we approach chart week twelve, we are 1/4 done with our review of singles Bubbling Under the Hot 100 during the 80s.

Hall & Oates – Who Said The World Was Fair (debuted 3/22/1980, peaked at #110)

This was the Philly duo’s first Bubbler and a slap in the face for the guys that hung out at #1 with Rich Girl only three years before. This follow-up to the Top 20 hit, Wait For Me, from their David Foster-produced X-Static album, was the last single to miss the Hot 100 for the next eleven years. Their next 22 singles would reach the Top 40, starting with the prescient How Does It Feel To Be Back, charted in four months from now. Don’t Hold Back Your Love broke the streak when it peaked at #41 in early 1991.

Todd Rundgren – Time Heals (debuted 3/28/1981, peaked at #107)

After his 1978 Top 30 hit, Can We Still Be Friends, Todd only had one more Hot 100 solo career chart entry [Bang The Drum All Day]. How does a song this catchy get stuck down here? Can’t blame MTV cause this was the eighth video that was played on the channel. His 1981 Healing LP also has one of his best and most beautiful ballads, Compassion, and it should have been a big hit for him. It’s definitely something we all need right now.

Bobby Vinton – Let Me Love You Goodbye (debuted 3/28/1981, peaked at #108)

Who OK’d the A&R budget for this one? Bobby, you had your time and your hits and even a mid-70s comeback. Please, love yourself goodbye.

Third World – Try Jah Love (debuted 3/27/1982, peaked at #101)

Here’s a Jamaican reggae band formed in 1973 who also threw jazz, funk, and disco into the mix. Their only Hot 100 entry, Now That We’ve Found Love, was a Gamble & Huff composition, initially recorded by the O’Jays in 1973. Their dancefloor cover reached #47 on the Pop charts, #9 R&B, and #10 in the UK in early 1979. This single, co-written by Stevie Wonder, who took the band on tour with him, Is from their seventh album, You’ve Got The Power, and peaked at #23 on the Soul charts.

Bobby Caldwell – Jamaica (debuted 3/27/1982, peaked at #105)

Keeping with the Jamaica theme, we have singer-songwriter Booby Caldwell with the lead single from this third album, Carry On. This Pop one-hit-wonder will nab four Top 40 hits on the Soul chart, but this one will peak #54. He is also a legend in Japan.

Dwight Twilley – Somebody To Love (debuted 3/27/1982, peaked at #106)

It’s been seven years since power-pop rocker Dwight Twilley came near a Hot 100 chart. This one started out as an Arista Records singles release before getting picked up by EMI, wherein he released his new album Scuba Divers. Neither 45 nor LP would come up for air.

Kashif – I Just Gotta Have You (Lover Turn Me On) (debuted 3/26/1983, peaked at #103)

The 80s showed a limited amount of love to R&B artists. No matter how much juice the man, born Michael Jones, put into his boogie, it wasn’t going to make much of a Pop impact. It will be the former BT Express member’s first R&B Top 10 when it reaches #5.

Q-Feel – Dancing In Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop) (debuted 3/26/1983, peaked at #110)

How does one of the most 80s-sounding songs not succeed in the 80s? The synth-pop duo of Martin Page & Brian Fairweather switched to writing songs for other artists, such as Kim Carnes, Barbara Streisand, and Earth, Wind & Fire. This single finally entered the Hot 100 in 1989 and reached #75, at a time when songs like this were already out of fashion. Martin Page will nab a #14 hit in 1994 with In The House Of Stone And Light.

Endgames – Love Cares (debuted 3/24/1984, peaked at #105)

Here’s a Samuel Beckett-loving New Wave quartet from Glasgow, Scotland, who is still a forgotten band of the era. Sitting somewhere between the synth-funk of Human League and the sophistication of ABC, this single was released from their debut album, Building Beauty, and their one week at #105 will be the closest the band will come to US success.

David Sanborn – Love & Happiness (debuted 3/23/1985, peaked at #103)

Saxophonist Sanborn played on the music scene for the previous two decades, starting with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and moving over to Stevie Wonder’s posse before beginning a solo career in 1975. From his Grammy-winning seventh album, Straight From The Heart, this cut was an Al Green cover recorded live featuring AWB’s Hamish Stuart on lead vocals.

Fun fact: All of those little sax outbursts in the Lethal Weapon movies are played by David.

Fun fact 2: In 1988, David will co-host Night Music with Jools Holland, a late-night music TV show that was almost too to be true.

The Whispers – Some Kinda Lover (debuted 3/23/1985, peaked at #106)

The further we move through the 80s, the more that Soul music gets kicked to the curb. Here’s another synth-funk jam from the LA quintet, the second release from their thirteenth album, So Good. It will reach #17 on the R&B charts.

Shalamar – My Girl Loves Me (debuted 3/23/1985, peaked at #103) (debuted 3/23/1985, peaked at #106)

This was the third and final Bubbler for an act that evolved from the Soul Train dancers back in the late 70s. It’s also where lead singer Howard Hewitt finally jumps ship. The second proper release from their eighth album, Heartbreak, will hit #22 R&B.

Run-D.M.C. – King Of Rock (debuted 3/23/1985, peaked at #108)

This is where I officially became a RUN-DMC fan. I liked Hard Times and Rock Box from their 1984 debut, but this one blew my mind the first time I heard it. No synths, no samples. Just blazing guitar solos courtesy of Eddie Martinez over a TR-88’s drum beats turned up to 11. Producer Larry Smith should get the credit for providing the blueprint for rock and rap even though Rick Rubin would build the house. This single will reach #14 on the R&B charts, which was quite an accomplishment.

Dazz Band – Heartbeat (debuted 3/23/1985, peaked at #110)

The Pop one-hit-wonder funk band from Cleveland is still trying to cross over one more time with something a bit slower. This will be their final and closest attempt from their seventh album, Hot Spot. They’ll rack up four more R&B Top singles, including this one which will reach #12.