A few weeks ago I was at a record show for a few hours flipping through thousands of $1 records. I fully admit that I am a nosy person — I like listening to conversations going on around me, and it’s almost impossible to avoid them in this setting. I pick up some of the worst-looking albums you could possibly imagine, so I usually don’t make fun of people for their purchasing choices, but sometimes it’s inevitable. The best time to do this is when people are flipping through records and loudly talking to their friends or family like they’re experts on every artist, album, and song ever made. They seem to be trying to impress the seller or other seekers to the point where we somehow magically ignore the fact that Debbie Gibson’s debut is in their hands. This brings me to my first character. We’ll call him “The Shrink.”
The Shrink was probably in his mid-20s and was there with a buddy around the same age. The friend picked up Michael Bolton’s The Hunger and held it up for show. The Shrink then went off on a tangent that I’ll attempt to re-create as much as possible here. He said, “Is that a greatest-hits album? If that’s a greatest-hits album you should put it back, because greatest-hits albums don’t truly reflect where an artist’s head is at the time, and that’s why you should be buying a ‘real record.’ Why would you want just pieces of albums thrown together when your purpose should be to listen to the artist’s mind-set in one period of time?”
Of course I had to let out a little chuckle, not just because of the Shrink completely ripping the greatest-hits concept — which I clearly am not against — but because a harmless Michael Bolton record is what set him off. I’m pretty sure there were no signs given off that this was indeed a greatest-hits record, because if it was, wouldn’t there be some sort of indication on the record sleeve?
But it’s what happened in the next ten minutes or so that really got me. The Shrink continued to jabber on about random things until he said something that really got my attention. He said to his buddy, “I live for understanding the artist in his natural setting. That’s why I have over 80 records.” Here I was crying from laughing so hard at his huge 80-piece record collection and talking about musicians like they’re chimpanzees when he threw out the final nugget and stated, “So this is why I’m going to get 52nd Street instead of Glass Houses.” He put Glass Houses back and bought just that one copy of Billy Joel’s 52nd Street for $1. I’m sorry, that to me is just ridiculous. For one, I didn’t know anyone in America didn’t already own both of those albums in some form, which most certainly can be found at every garage sale, consignment shop, and Goodwill across the world. And second, the simple fact that 52nd Street is what he picked up, after going on and on like he’s the expert in musical psychology, was pure enjoyment for my eyes and ears.
Next week I’ll talk about Mr. Random, my other favorite character who also appeared at this show.
NEW MUSIC FOR THE COLLECTION:
Laurie Anderson, Strange Angels
The Dream, The Dream
Latin Rascals, Bach to the Future
Blue Oyster Cult, Imaginos
Blue Oyster Cult, Club Ninja
Only seven artists this week, as there are a few who each have a bunch of tracks. We continue looking at songs that peaked at #41 or lower on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the ‘80s, with more “C” artists below:
“Cry Like a Baby” — 1980, #44 (download)
“Mistaken Identity” — 1981, #60 (download)
“You Make My Heart Beat Faster” — 1984, #54 (download)
“I Pretend” — 1984, #74 (download)
“Make No Mistake, He’s Mine” — 1984, #51 (download)
“Invitation to Dance” — 1985, #68 (download)
“Abadabadango” — 1985, #67 (download)
“Divided Hearts” — 1986, #79 (download)
Carnes had a nice run of 20 straight Hot 100 songs from 1978 to 1986, and her biggest hit, “Bette Davis Eyes,” is considered the second-biggest song of the ’80s, resting at #1 for nine weeks in 1981. She charted 13 times after “Bette,” but with only moderate success — the highest she got was #15 on a few occasions, including “What About Me?,” her 1984 three-way with Kenny Rogers and James Ingram. Her eight songs here tie her with Bananarama for the most in this series so far, but she also had nine Top 40 hits in the ’80s as well, so she definitely was able to produce some good tracks. Most of these bottom feeders are pretty decent too — I mean, I’m never going to like a Barbra Streisand track, so her duet with Carnes on “Make No Mistake, He’s Mine” is not a favorite, and I don’t think “Yabba Dabba Doo Wango Tango,” or whatever that track is called, is especially interesting, but the rest could have, and probably should have, been bigger hits.
From the tail end of the Carpenters’ career, these songs came after Richard’s treatment for an addiction to Quaaludes and just shortly before Karen passed away from complications due to anorexia. “(Want You) Back in My Life Again” isn’t necessarily a bad track, but none of these really do much for me.
Paul Carrack is my second-favorite vocalist of the ‘80s. He’s just got one of the smoothest pop voices and can belt a tune with the best of them. The dude was all over the place in the ’70s and ’80s, having been in Ace, Roxy Music, Squeeze, Nick Lowe & His Cowboy Outfit, and Mike + the Mechanics, in addition to being a session keyboardist for many other artists and having a pretty decent solo career as well. “When You Walk in the Room” is certainly not his shining moment, but “Button Off My Shirt” was certainly good enough to chart higher than #91.
It’s hard to believe that the Cars never had a #1 song on the Hot 100. The highest they ever climbed was #3 with “Drive” back in 1984. They did have ten songs in the Top 40, though, and even the three featured here that didn’t make it are quite good. The hook in “Since You’re Gone” just isn’t catchy enough to have propelled a major hit; “Strap Me In” and “Coming Up You” are the final two singles the Cars released, the latter sung by the late Benjamin Orr.
Cellarful of Noise
“Samantha (What You Gonna Do?)” — 1988, #69 (download)
Cellarful of Noise were Mark Avsec and Kevin Valentine, two members of Donnie Iris’s backing band, the Cruisers. I’m a big fan of Iris, so this track is a bit disappointing for me. I don’t like the vocals, so that kind of ruins the song for me right off the bat, but it really doesn’t go anywhere musically either. Overall, it’s just boring.
“Walking Into Sunshine” — 1981, #84 (download)
One of the things I love is discovering songs from the ‘80s that have been sampled by hip-hop artists. And then of course it really bugs the crap out of me when I can’t recall what song(s) used the sample. Like this one. The keys are completely familiar, and it sounds like something that’s been used in a hundred rap songs, but I can’t name any of them, though LL Cool J sticks in my head. Maybe a version of “Jingling Baby”?
I’m loving this week because of Paul Carrack, but even more so because my absolute favorite vocalist of the decade is Peter Cetera. To me, Chicago’s Greatest Hits 1982-1989 is the best greatest-hits package ever made, and a good half of that record is before Peter and the band parted ways. And who doesn’t love “Glory of Love” from The Karate Kid Part II? His duet with Agnetha FÃ¤ltskog, “I Wasn’t the One,” isn’t very good, but both “Big Mistake” and “Best of Times” definitely follow that grand adult-contemporary sound that Chicago had throughout the decade.
Best song — Paul Carrack, “Button Off My Shirt”
Worst song — Carpenters, “Beechwood 4-5789”