Last week’s E.G. Daily track reminded me of bar trivia with my buddies, so I thought I’d expand that into an intro. For a good three years, Wednesday was the day to show off my geek-tastic knowledge of ‘80s music. From ’03 to ’06, my buddies and I went to Steppy’s Bar & Grill in East Norriton, Pa., a bar with a bowling alley attached to it; we went for “Sports & Music Trivia With DJ George.” From nine until about one in the morning every Wednesday night, we’d drink and answer sports questions. There were four quarters, each consisting of six questions. George would read a question, then play a Billboard Hot 100 song from any decade, and you had to answer the question before the song ended as well as give the name of the artist and the year it charted.
Things started off easy. The questions were semi-softballs and the music was like Guns n’ Roses or the Beatles. But as the game moved along, everything grew more difficult. Everyone in my group was in their 20s or 30s, so we had a rough time with the music from the ‘60s, but we made up for it with my knowledge of the ‘80s. There would be two ‘80s songs in the final quarter — a really hard one, and the final song of the night, which would be the “impossible” song George chose specifically to try to stump me each week.
The final question of the night was always ridiculous — the “name every …” question, e.g. “Name every Philadelphia 76ers head coach in order from oldest to most recent.” And the song was something that no one ever got but me. George loved playing those late-‘80s freestyle tunes or one of those Cugini-type songs; Pajama Party and Nocera tracks were also big on his list. Every now and then he would stump me, and of course that would piss me off. But most of the time I was the only person in the bar to know the final song. If that makes me an ‘80s nerd, so be it — but quite a few times it got us some decent prizes, and in some small way it probably led me to writing Bottom Feeders.
NEW SOUNDS FOR THE COLLECTION:
Thrashing Doves, Trouble in the Home
We continue on through the letter D, as we look at songs that peaked between 40 and 101 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the ’80s.
“Hot Fun in the Summertime” — 1982, #58 (download)
Dayton was a funk band, naturally out of Dayton, Ohio, and formed by Chris Jones, who was one of the vocalists and trumpet players in another Dayton band, Sun. They had a few R&B hits after this, but this cover of the Sly Stone classic was their only single to cross over onto the pop charts.
Thinking of the Dazz Band always leads me back to Family Guy. “Let it Whip” is their biggest and best hit, and it always reminds me of the episode where Meg becomes obsessed with Brian, tying him up and telling him she’s going to get the “hwip,” continuously pronouncing the silent H. Unfortunately, my love of funk doesn’t lead me to the Dazz Band very often. As a whole, their albums weren’t very good, and while “Joystick” is solid (especially the weird breakdown at the end), something like “Let it All Blow” almost sounds unfinished. The cheesy keyboards and lack of any substantial lyrics make it easy to pass this up.
I’m a huge fan of Dead or Alive’s ‘80s music. Their debut record — Sophisticated Boom Boom — is almost perfect from start to finish, featuring a great cover of “That’s the Way (I Like It).” Their next two records, Youthquake and Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know, were great dance records as well. They started tailing off around the end of the decade, and while all their big hits were Stock, Aitken, Waterman songs, none of them sounded as formulaic as “Come Home with Me Baby.” The real story is of course, Pete Burns. I mean, there’s already been a ton said about her, so it’s not like I can provide any new news, but I’m mainly curious about what Pete sounds like today singing something like “Brand New Lover.” There was no doubt from the start that he was a little bit on the feminine side, but he clearly sounds like a dude on the Dead or Alive hits. But looking at him now and seeing that he’s basically a chick, I would love to hear him sing those songs again. I honestly haven’t heard him speak or sing in years to know what kind of vocals I’d be getting at this point. I was looking forward to seeing Dead or Alive as part of this summer’s Regeneration tour, but they dropped out very early on.
“Love Me in a Special Way” — 1984, #45 (download)
Eldra Patrick DeBarge very well could be the most talked-about person in this entire series (Arthur Baker and Randy Jackson might give him a run for his money, though.) I absolutely love “Who’s Johnny?,” and El and/or this song must come up in normal conversation at least once every other week. I’m also the only person I know that could answer the question, “Hey, anyone know who the five members of DeBarge were?” (That would be El, Mark, Randy, James and Bunny). It’s honestly confusing to tell which moniker each song was released under. Their debut record in 1981 was from The DeBarges. Then they added brother James into the fold and became DeBarge. In 1985 Berry Gordy and Motown decided they wanted to break El out on his own, so even though both “You Wear It Well” and “The Heart Is Not So Smart” were released on the DeBarge album Rhythm of the Night, these two singles were billed as El DeBarge with DeBarge (I’ve seen things listed as DeBarge featuring El DeBarge as well). Tensions flared after that, and both El and Bunny left the group. El went on to release four albums; both solo tracks here are from his self-titled debut. After this, all hell broke loose in the DeBarge camp, as Bobby and Chico got arrested for drug trafficking and pretty much everyone else had some kind of substance abuse problem. In 2007, El got arrested for violating his probation — a bad thing to do when you have 11(!) children to take care of. Now I hear Bunny is writing a book about the family. Hey Bunny, if you need any help, just let me know — I never realized just how much I knew about DeBarge!
In the U.S. at least, Chris DeBurgh will only ever be known for “The Lady in Red,” the #3 smash hit which came after these two and was his final charting track. In the U.K. he continues to have minor hits to this day. “Ship to Shore” is a pretty terrible song, and “High on Emotion” sounds remarkably like something that would have come from the Survivor camp.
“Body Talk” — 1984, #77 (download)
It’s a bit surprising that the Deele didn’t have a bigger career, seeing as how two of its members were Babyface and L.A. Reid — though Babyface wasn’t the lead singer. It’s okay, though, as they gave us at least two excellent tracks with “Body Talk” and one of the best ballads of the decade in “Two Occasions,” not to mention what Babyface and L.A. contributed to music once both of them decided to go their own way.
“Knocking at Your Back Door” — 1985, #61 (download)
Deep Purple Mark II — with Ian Gillan, Richie Blackmore, and Roger Glover — reunited for the Perfect Strangers album, which was the first the band had released in nine years and the first for this classic lineup in 11 years. “Knocking at Your Back Door” is the lead track on the dis, which didn’t get such great reviews, though it’s a damn fine rocker straight through.
“Eat My Shorts” — 1984, #75 (download)
A tragically unlistenable and remarkably unfunny track, this is Rick without his cast of idiots.
“Bringin’ On the Hearbreak” was actually from the album High ‘n’ Dry in 1981, but following the success of the Pyromania record, High ‘n’ Dry was rereleased with two bonus tracks, one of them being a remix of “Bringin’ On the Heartbreak” that was so close to the original that on future rereleases it wasn’t even included.
“Women” is interesting because it’s the lead track and the first of seven singles from 1987’s ginormous Hysteria album. All six tracks on the first side of the LP were released as singles (the only other ‘80s album I know offhand that accomplished this was Michael Jackson’s Bad, which had every song on the second side released), but “Women” was a pretty weak way to start off their run to the top. It’s the only one of the seven singles that I don’t hear on radio today.
“You and Me Tonight” — 1987, #54 (download)
“You and Me Tonight” took a funky little path to the charts. Deja first released this single in 1985 as the group Aurra. They had some R&B hits in the early ‘80s and then around ’85 their former drummer sued them for use of the name. Around the time this song was released, they reached a settlement that would have allowed them to keep the name Aurra, but apparently they didn’t like the agreement very much, so they decided to change their name to Deja instead. The song got pulled, jazzed up a bit, and released in 1987 in the form you hear here.
“I Still Want You” — 1986, #87 (download)
This was the Del Fuegos only song to crack the Hot 100. One other song — 1989’s “Move With Me Sister” — hit the modern rock charts, but that’s all we heard from them off their four albums.
Best song — The Deele, “Body Talk”
Worst song — Rick Dees, “Eat My Shorts”
Next week we get way too much adult-contemporary crap and a little Celtic soul.