This past week I was like a pig in shit. Nine tracks from Chinese Democracy were leaked and I couldn’t be happier. See, Guns n’ Roses are my Led Zeppelin. They’re my Black Sabbath. Appetite for Destruction came out in 1987 when I was 11 and they were pretty much the first hard rock band I had ever really come in contact with. I’m not sure what music my dad liked. I mean, he gave me money to buy records, but I don’t really ever remember him buying anything for himself, so maybe he just liked me enjoying it. I know my mom liked The Moody Blues and Queen, so Queen was probably my first exposure to rock music — but GNR was the first hard rock that I can remember. Thinking about it right now, it was probably pretty cool of my mom to let a preteen listen to Appetite.
I’ve mentioned before how I don’t remember actually listening to much in the ‘80s. But there are two things I remember vividly. The first is coming home from school one afternoon and every hour on the hour huddling around the TV with my friends to watch the MTV premiere of the video for “Paradise City.” And the other was sitting on the back of the school bus and trying to convince all the kids that I had one of the “original” copies of Appetite for Destruction because “Paradise City” was much louder after the whistle on my version.
So last week was a good week for me. For years I’ve been hearing everyone in the world say they won’t go anywhere near Chinese Democracy if and when it’s ever released. Then nine tracks appear for a fleeting second and people are leaving comments everywhere how great the songs are. And really, they are great. I expected them to be good, I mean after so many years how could they not be at least pretty good, but I can’t say I thought they’d be this damn fine. I listened to the new Motley Crue record the same day last week and it’s a laughable comparison. Axl clearly sounds like a man who knows how to write a song and who clearly knows what he’s doing by leaking these tracks out there while Motley sound like cheesy old men. And I like the Crue too. I thought for a fleeting second about Gunsrolling (or Roserolling, maybe) you this week and having “The Blues” play instead of a Cameo tune, but that of course would mean I have the songs. And I don’t, Mr. FBI Agent. I swear.
Anyway, before we get to the songs each week, I’m going to start listing the albums that I just acquired and listened to for the first time as part of my ‘80s collection. I listen to every piece of music I get for it, and people have been telling me over the weeks that it would be neat to see the stuff I’m adding to the collection. See, I listen now and again. (In addition, the “Quick Hits” at the end of this post list what I think are the best and worst tracks of this week, in case you don’t have time to listen to them all.)
NEW MUSIC FOR THE COLLECTION:
Glamour Camp, Glamour Camp
Age of Chance, Crush Collision
Julie Brown, Goddess in Progress
The Jon Butcher Axis, Stare at the Sun
El DeBarge, Gemini
We now move on in my trek to talk about every song that hit from #41-100 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in the ‘80s with the letter “C.” The comment was made last week that the “B” had sucked lately, but I think “C” is going to start out pretty well.
John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band/Eddie and the Cruisers
“On the Dark Side” 1983, #64 (download)
“Tender Years” — 1984, #78 (download)
“Small Town Girl” — 1985, #64 (download)
“Heart’s on Fire” — 1986, #76 (download)
“Voice of America’s Sons” — 1986, #62 (download)
“Pride & Passion” — 1989, #66 (download)
John Cafferty did have 4 songs hit the Hot 100, so he had a decent career, but with a sound so similar to The Boss, I would have expected more. Was it a case of identity crisis? One minute they are fictional band Eddie and the Cruisers, the next they’re the Beaver Brown Band, and then in 1989 they’re Eddie and the Cruisers again. “On the Dark Side”and “Tender Years”were both rereleased at the end of 1984 after failing to crack the top 40 first time around and became a #7 and #31 hit respectively. “Hearts on Fire” was from Rocky IV, “Voice of America’s Sons” was used in another Sly Stallone film, Cobra, and “Pride & Passion” was from Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! “Small Town Girl” is the only one of these six tracks that wasn’t from a movie, having been released only on Cafferty’s album Tough All Over.
Bobby had most of his success in 1978 with his song “What You Won’t Do for Love.” He never was able to reproduce that success with his four ‘80s releases, but became huge in Japan. After his 1984 album August Moon, he decided to focus on writing songs instead, such as the hit “The Next Time I Fall” for Amy Grant and Peter Cetera.
The California Raisins
“I Heard It Through the Grapevine” — 1988, #84 (download)
The voice of the California Raisins was actually Buddy Miles, drummer for Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys. Miles passed away on February 26th this year. I’m surprised this only made it to #84 as I remember the California Raisins being everywhere at the end of ‘80s and this is a pretty straightforward cover of one of the best songs ever made.
The Call is one of the most underrated bands of the decade. They put out six albums in the ‘80s beginning with their self-titled release in 1982. Their sound started out pretty raw, but got more polished as the decade went along. “The Walls Came Down” was off their second release, Modern Romans, which had strong political overtones. “Let the Day Begin” was the title track from their excellent 1989 album which was a much bigger hit on the rock charts.
Cameo is a crazy band for me. Funk in the ‘80s is one of my favorite things to listen to, and I actually own every Cameo album even though most of them just aren’t very good.
Without looking at the charts I would’ve thought Cameo had a massive string of hits, but that’s not the case, as “She’s Strange” was the first of five tracks to hit the Hot 100, with only “Word Up!” and “Candy” hitting the top 20 in 1986. Everyone knows them for “Word Up!” of course, but even their album by the same name wasn’t very good. If you really want to hear Cameo at their best, 1981’s Knights of the Sound Table and 1980’s Cameosis are blazing funk records. Once you hit ’84 or ’85, as Cameo pared down their lineup, you get weak rhythms and really cheesy ballads. “You Make Me Work” is another one of those little pet peeves of mine. It’s basically just a reworking of “Word Up!” Same rhythm, same horns, same style. I know it’s your biggest hit, but there’s no need to make it again. This seemed to be a bit of a trend in the late ‘80s as one of my favorites, the Gap Band, was a culprit as well.
“The Great Commandment” — 1988, #59 (download)
I’m sure there is some little nuance about this that makes them completely different from Depeche Mode, but I can’t hear it at all. I don’t ever recall hearing this when it was released, only when I first got it for my collection and I thought it was Dave Gahan and the gang.
It was about 1978 when Glen Campbell lost his steam on the Hot 100. These were his only three Hot 100 hits in the ‘80s despite all of them being extremely solid songs including his excellent duet with Rita Coolidge, “Somethin’ ‘Bout You Baby I Like”. He still had a string of songs on the country charts of course, but even that didn’t treat him nicely from ’79-’84. Still, it’s hard to argue with 45 million records sold and a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“Dancing Under a Latin Moon” — 1988, #68 (download)
To this day, this remains one of my favorite freestyle songs of the decade. It just sounds a little more sophisticated that most from that genre. After this, they went back to their original name of Candi & the Backbeat, released on more album in 1990 and then disbanded.
Freddy Cannon & the Belmonts
“Let’s Put the Fun Back in Rock ‘n Roll” — 1981, #81 (download)
Here’s a classic example of a song that just doesn’t belong in the ‘80s. The Belmonts have made music since the late ‘50s and this track still sounds like it belongs in 1963. I’m no fan of music before the ‘80s, so maybe I’m biased but I like stuff that sounds like it was recorded in this decade.
Best song — The Call, “Let the Day Begin”
Worst song — Cameo, “You Make Me Work”
Hope you enjoyed your 20 tracks this week. Next week I’ll do it to you one more time with a new batch of Bottom Feeders.