You know, there are times when even I’ve had enough of ’80s music. It’s hard to believe that since I’m still acquiring “new” music all the time, but sometimes I need something more.
One of those times occurred this past Saturday as I was sitting at a poker table in Atlantic City, New Jersey. My iPod contains every Hot 100 hit from the ’80s plus many more ’80s tunes, some random great albums from the past two decades, and a ton of metal. I rarely ever choose a single artist or a full album and listen to the whole thing since I love the randomness of the shuffle option. There’s just something about hearing a 17-minute track from doom metal masters Electric Wizard followed by a Flock of Seagulls tune that does it for me. But as I was sitting at the table, I actually started to see a trend — when Tiffany came on, I was playing passively and poorly, but when it shuffled to Slayer I was nice and aggressive and winning hands. So, there came a point when I got tired of losing money and just chose to listen to Exodus albums for the rest of the night. I never thought there would be a point where the ’80s just didn’t work for me, but I guess I’ve found it.
NEW SOUNDS FOR THE COLLECTION:
Isaac Hayes, Lifetime Thing
Captain Sky, Concerned Party No. 1
The Flirts, Made in America
Gayle Adams, Gayle Adams
Back to a full post this week as I invade your speakers with more Billboard Hot 100 Bottom Feeders from artists whose names start with the letter C.
“If I Had a Rocket Launcher” — 1985, #88 (download)
I’m glad this song is good. If not, I’d have to resort to cock jokes. And while we all love a good one now and again, there’s just no room for them in this forum. Okay, I lie — there’s plenty of room for them, but for some reason I’m choosing to let it be. Instead, give “If I Had a Rocket Launcher” a good listen if you haven’t heard it before. It’s one of those songs that’s much better if you really listen to the message. Bruce wrote this after visiting some Guatemalan refugee camps while in Mexico, and you can just hear the anger at the very end when he sings, “If I had a rocket launcher / Some son of a bitch would die.”
Okay, something must really be wrong with me now — two opportunities for cock jokes and I’m passing on both of them. It’s a shame I know everything that’s coming up or I could at least hope later on for someone with the name of Richie Vagiman to provide one sex joke in the series.
Both of these Cocker tracks are decent yet unspectacular, but “Edge of a Dream,” from the Teachers soundtrack, is one of those songs you could use to describe ’80s music to someone that has never heard anything from the decade. It’s got that perfect soundtrack feel –- a building power-ballad bridge, epic harmonies in the chorus, and keyboards that sound like horns. It is absolutely, unmistakably ’80s.
“Live It Up” — 1988, #91 (download)
Gardner Cole is known more as a writer than as an artist. If you listen to “Live It Up” you can hear elements of two of his biggest hits of the decade: the totally underrated “Another Lover,” recorded by Giant Steps, and the song that will keep him paid for life, Madonna’s “Open Your Heart.”
Supertalented, which is to be expected of the daughter of Nat “King” Cole, but I think the most amazing part of the Natalie Cole story is the rampant drug use in the ’70s and early ’80s. It’s been well publicized through her book and a made-for-TV movie about her life, but I still have a hard time looking at her and thinking of her as a hardcore heroin addict.
“I Cannot Believe It’s True” — 1983, #79 (download)
My wife’s favorite artist, Phil Collins had 15 Hot 100 singles in the ’80s (counting his duet with Philip Bailey, “Easy Lover”); this is the only one that didn’t go Top 40. Tough to explain why, though — “I Cannot Believe It’s True” isn’t any less awesome than any of his other singles. After this, Collins had 13 in a row land in the top 20.
“Heroes” -– 1980, #54 (download)
“Why You Wanna Try Me” — 1982, #66 (download)
“Painted Picture” — 1982, #70 (download)
“Only You” — 1983, #54 (download)
“Animal Instinct” — 1985, #43 (download)
“Janet” -– 1985, #87 (download)
“Goin’ to the Bank” — 1986, #65 (download)
When you’re talking funk, you must name-check the Commodores! Before Mr. Lionel Richie went solo and really took the R&B ballad to a new level, the man was a funk machine in the Commodores. As far as the ’80s go, it’s hard to top “Lady (You Bring Me Up),” but “Why You Wanna Try Me” is a blazin’ funk track as well. Once Lionel left the group in ’82, only one song — “Nightshift” — hit the Top 40. It’s hard to replace such a smooth vocal, which is plain to see beginning with “Painted Picture” and “Only You.” And while “Animal Instinct” is downright embarrassing, the Commodores made up for it with the underrated “Goin’ to the Bank.”
“Never Can Say Goodbye” — 1988, #51 (download)
The Communards were formed by singer Jimmy Somerville after he left Bronski Beat. Their only two Hot 100 hits in the U.S. were both covers; “Never Can Say Goodbye” was originally recorded by the Jackson 5, but the Communards’ take on the song is closer to Gloria Gaynor’s disco version from 1974.
“Voice on the Radio” — 1982, #63 (download)
The ’80s have stumped me again: “Voice on the Radio” was one of the more difficult songs to acquire when I set out to own every Hot 100 hit in the ’80s. I have the 45 and I know there’s a “mini-LP” out there that I don’t own, but past that it’s not easy to find any info on the group in question. And of course the hardest songs to locate are always made by the bands with the most generic names, so your run-of-the-mill search engine brings back 10,000 options, none of which pertain at all. Anyone know anything about Conductor?
Con Funk Shun
“Baby I’m Hooked (Right Into Your Love)” -– 1984, #76 (download)
Here’s the last good tune recorded by Con Funk Shun. Starting with 1980’s Touch, each album they released sounded worse than the one before, until they finally broke up in ’86. Singer-guitarist Michael Cooper then went on to release two pretty shitty solo albums in the ’80s as well.
“Theme From Dynasty” — 1982, #52 (download)
Honestly, this is the crap that I never need my iPod to shuffle to again. I like the Mr. Belvedere theme as much as anyone else, but apart from the rare full-length TV theme, none of them needed to be played on the radio. Sure, in the world of theme songs this is pretty solid, but I find it hard to believe that DJs actually put this quick instrumental on the air.
Three years ago I sat right behind Tommy Conwell at a Philadelphia Phillies game. Of course, if he hadn’t been wearing a Phillies jersey that said “Conwell” on the back (something I hate, by the way — you were never on the team!), he would’ve just been another guy holding a cheesesteak. But then they put him up on the JumboTron, because I guess being a rocker with two semi-hits and a local radio DJ makes you a celebrity these days. I heard these two Conwell songs a lot growing up in Philly, and rock DJs seemed to take a shine to “I’m Not Your Man” — it hit #1 on the rock charts. Personally, I think it’s a steaming pile, but “If We Never Meet Again” is the shining star in the Young Rumblers’ tiny catalog.
Best song — Phil Collins, “I Cannot Believe It’s True”
Worst song — Commodores, “Animal Instinct”
Next week we revisit a track from an artist who just recently released one of the best albums of the year, in addition to a few songs from one of the earliest Latin freestyle groups to hit the charts.