Triple digits! Woo-hoo! We’re hitting the century mark and finishing up the letter W this week with more songs from the bottom three-fifths of the Billboard Hot 100 in the 1980s.
“The Best Man in the World” — 1986, #61 (download)
Ann Wilson broke free from Heart for the second time in 1986 and for the first time recorded a song on her own. In ’84 she teamed up with Loverboy’s Mike Reno for the #7 hit “Almost Paradise” for the movie Footloose. In ’88 she’d team up with Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander for “Surrender To Me” from the Tequila Sunrise soundtrack. Smack in the middle is a solo performance from her called “The Best Man in the World” this time for the movie The Golden Child.
“What You Do to Me” — 1983, #72 (download)
I never was a Beach Boys fan and maybe that’s why I like this track. Carl Wilson released a self-titled record in 1981 and then Youngblood in 1983 from which “What You Do To Me” was the only hit. It’s a decent pop song written by John Hall and didn’t have that typical Beach Boys surf-rock sound.
“(Baby Tell Me) Can You Dance” — 1987, #50 (download)
Sometimes known as just Shanice and other times as Shanice Wilson, she released her debut album, Discovery, in 1987 when this mature voice you hear here, was only 14. She had a couple R&B hits, but didn’t release another album until 1991. She released three albums in the ‘90s, one in 2006, and there’s another one in the works for 2010.
“Hungry” — 1989, #85 (download)
“Hungry” was the third single from the debut Winger record and while it does feature a nice guitar solo, it has a very similar feel to “Seventeen” but couldn’t recreate that success peaking at #85.
“Arc of a Diver” — 1981, #48 (download)
“Still in the Game” — 1982, #47 (download)
“Valerie” — 1982, #70 (download)
“Talking Back to the Night” — 1988, #57 (download)
“Hearts on Fire” — 1989, #53 (download)
Steve Winwood first went solo in 1977 but didn’t get a hit single in the U.S. until 1981 when Arc of a Diver was released. Arc of a Diver had a bit more of an artsy classic rock feel to it than later work and included the title track and “While You See a Chance.”
The next album Talking Back to the Night condensed the songs into a more pop feel, but wasn’t very good, yielding only the minor hits, “Still in the Game” and “Valerie,” though Steve would think both “Valerie” and the title cut were good enough to slick up and rerelease on Chronicles in 1987. “Talking Back to the Night” shows up here, only going to #57 but “Valerie” peaked at #9. “Hearts on Fire” was yet again the dreaded fourth single from his last album of the decade, Roll With It. By this point Winwood was a solo hit-making machine so only reaching #53 wasn’t such a big deal.
The one album we don’t get here is 1986’s Back in the High Life, which I think is an excellent album while pretty much everyone else in the world thinks it’s the peak of his commercial shittiness. The amazing thing about this album was that seven of its eight tracks were released as singles, with only the final track, “My Love’s Leavin’” not one.
Peter Wolf left the J. Geils Band in 1983 after the Freeze-Frame record, pretty much at the peak of their success, due to differences within the band. He then embarked on a solo career which started out with 1984’s Lights Out. The album featured Elliot Easton, Adrian Belew and others and was a little funky thanks to Michael Jonzun of the Jonzun Crew producing and co-writing most of the tracks. “Oo-Ee-Diddley-Bop!” was on that record, while “Can’t Get Started” was from his follow up record, Come as You Are, and sounded more like his former band.
“Papa Was a Rolling Stone” — 1982, #55 (download)
Bill Wolfer was a smooth-jazz keyboardist and his talk-box filled cover of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” was his only hit on the Hot 100.
Bobby Womack & Patti LaBelle
“Love Has Finally Come at Last” — 1984, #88 (download)
“Love Has Finally Come At Last” is a nice and smooth R&B track from Bobby Womack featuring Patti LaBelle. It comes from his Poet II album, which also featured jazz artist Wilton Felder and George Benson.
“Outside My Window” — 1980, #52 (download)
“Lately” — 1981, #64 (download)
“Ribbon in the Sky” — 1982, #54 (download)
“Land of La La” — 1986, #86 (download)
“You Will Know” — 1988, #77 (download)
“Get It” — 1988, #80 (download)
Stevie Wonder was part of 20 Hot 100 hits in the decade starting with his two tracks, “Send One Your Love” and “Outside My Window” from the bizarre Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants. At a low volume “Outside My Window” kind of sounds like mice running through your house.
“Ribbon in the Sky” was one of four new tracks on Stevie Wonder’s Original Musiquarium, along with hits “That Girl” and “Do I Do.”
The quality of his records dropped off a bit with 1985’s In Square Circle where the silly “Land of La La” was the third single.
Both “You Will Know” and “Get It” come from the very mediocre Characters album, his last of the decade. I think we’ve talked about this one before, but how bad does a song have to be to include Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, like “Get It” and only spend six weeks on the chart and peak at #80.
“Fly Away” — 1982, #84 (download)
Despite releasing only two records, Stevie Woods managed three hits including two that went top 40. “Steal the Night,” “Just Can’t Win ‘Em All,” and “Fly Away” were all from his debut album, Take Me to Heaven. “Fly Away” was written by Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager. His follow-up record, 1982’s The Woman in My Life, yielded only a minor R&B hit with the title track. Woods is the cousin of Phillip Michael Thomas.
World Class Wreckin’ Cru
“Turn Off the Lites” — 1988, #84 (download)
World Class Wreckin’ Cru was the start of something big for a few of the members, mainly DJ Yella and Dr. Dre. This track featured and was coproduced by Dre and featured one of his original protégées on vocals, Michel’le. This would be one of the last tracks Dr. Dre would be part of with the Cru before going off with Ice Cube, Yella, and Eazy-E to form N.W.A.
Best song: World Class Wreckin’ Cru, “Turn Off the Lights”
Worst song: Stevie Wonder, “Outside My Window”
TOP 40 ONLY
Jesse Winchester (1), World Party (1), Gary Wright (1)
Next week we move to X, but unlike Toni Basil we have more than nothing.