Bottom Feeders: The Ass End of the ’80s, Part 28

Written by Bottom Feeders, Music

I’m a list man. I love making them, I love talking about them, I love everything about them. And if I accept a challenge to make a list I will painstakingly carve it out and be able to defend to the death why I chose what I did.

About three weeks ago I was challenged to make a list of the Top Ten ‘80s hits that I wish I would never hear again. Overall, finding these songs is not a terribly difficult thing for me as I would prefer not to listen to the Top 40 for the most part and instead focus more on these Bottom Feeders or the more obscure tracks anyway. But the part that took me three weeks to finalize is simply cutting it to just ten songs. If the criteria would have been 50 songs it would have been a piece of cake but just ten is ridiculous. But, I’ve done it and I told my buddy who proposed the challenge that I would post the ten songs as one of my intros to the segment. And while I’m not going to go into the full explanation of why I chose them here (that would just take way too long) I will tell you that my only criteria was that they were a Top 40 hit. To choose something that hit #98 would be too easy and clearly not the point of this exercise.

So here I present you with the ten top 40 hits from the ’80s that I could live without ever hearing again — in no particular order:

Beach Boys, “Kokomo”
Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”
Bangles, “Walk Like an Egyptian”
Katrina and the Waves, “Walking on Sunshine”
Corey Hart, “Sunglasses at Night”
Corey Hart, “Boy in the Box”
Rolling Stones, “Emotional Rescue”
New Kids on the Block, “Cover Girl”
Steve Miller Band, “Abracadabra”
Michael Bolton, “That’s What Love is All About”

Now, we move into letter #5 of the alphabet, looking at artists whose names begin with E, as we continue rummaging through the Bottom Feeders of the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the ’80s.

Sheila E.
“Hold Me” — 1987, #68 (download)

Sheila E. gets my ear by default since she’s associated with Prince, though her solo work stands on its own very well. However, coming off “The Glamorous Life” and “A Love Bizarre” this ballad falls very flat. This song does hold one distinction though; it’s one of six tunes that charted in the ‘80s called “Hold Me” – the most of any title.

Earth, Wind & Fire
“Star” — 1980, #64 (download)
“Let Me Talk” — 1980, #44 (download)
“You” — 1980, #48 (download)
“And Love Goes On” — 1981, #59 (download)
“Wanna Be With You” — 1982, #51 (download)
“Side by Side” — 1983, #76 (download)
“Magnetic” — 1983, #57 (download)
“System of Survival” — 1987, #60 (download)
“Thinking of You” — 1988, #67 (download)

We have a new leader in total number of songs for an artist in this series. Earth, Wind & Fire check in at a whopping nine tracks in the bottom of the Billboard Hot 100 charts. There is one artist still to go that has ten in the series, so they do not win the overall prize, but they do have the most so far.

I tell everyone how much I love Earth, Wind & Fire. The funny part about this statement is that if you asked me to name any of their ‘80s tracks, the only one I could tell you is “Let’s Groove”. Not one of these nine songs would even come to mind. However, almost all of them are still pretty good.

I think what I really enjoy about them though, is that their ballads are just as strong as their funk numbers. A vast majority of the funk artists in the ‘80s had ballads that sounded more like filler than anything else – Cameo being a great example of that. However with Earth, Wind & Fire, a ballad like “You” is just as strong as the upbeat “And Love Goes On.”

“Side by Side” is the one that really deserved a better fate as it’s one of their better mid-tempo numbers. I also think “Magnetic” is really underrated, but I completely see why it wasn’t a hit. The only single off the Electric Universe album, it replaced their ‘70s sound with the new synth-driven ‘80s R&B groove. It really lacks that distinct Earth, Wind & Fire flavor but it’s still a good tune. “System of Survival” and “Thinking of You” were both off their Touch The World album, the first album after a four-year layoff. Don’t miss checking out “Thinking of You” if you haven’t heard it since ’88. It’s another underrated gem from Maurice White and the gang.

Easterhouse
“Come Out Fighting” — 1989, #82 (download)

This excellent track was from Easterhouse’s second and final album Waiting for the Redbird. Since they were often compared to The Smiths, I’m going to let all you Morrissey fans out there chat up this one.

Sheena Easton
“Machinery” — 1982, #57 (download)
“I Wouldn’t Beg For Water” — 1982, #64 (download)
“Devil in a Fast Car” — 1984, #79 (download)
“Swear” — 1985, #80 (download)
“Jimmy Mack” — 1986, #65 (download)
“So Far So Good” — 1986, #43 (download)

Easton had 5 Top 40 hits in ’80 and ’81, but her third record Madness, Money & Music didn’t fare very well, probably thanks to the odd choice of releasing “Machinery” a full blown new wave track as the first single. Although maybe not so odd since it is the best song on the record. Things definitely picked back up in 1983 when her Best Kept Secret album yielded three more hits including “Devil in a Fast Car” which took those synths to the right place – enhancing a pop song. Her image had slowly been getting sexier and sexier and it came around full force in ’85 with “Sugar Walls” and her faithful rendition of Tim Scott’s “Swear”. Of course then we have another odd choice for a single in her cover of Martha and the Vandellas’ “Jimmy Mack” and another sugary pop song “So Far So Good” from the movie About Last Night. It’s kind of surprising that she had so many hits considering how many style changes she made with her career, but it seems like the constant adapting to the times worked well for her. You can check out the original version of “Swear” below.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/dWYhW2ZFOlg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

John Eddie
“Jungle Boy” — 1986, #52 (download)

John Eddie really got his break when Bruce Springsteen used to hop on stage during his concerts and sing with him. It really didn’t lead to a whole lot as Eddie released two records and then faded away. However, Kid Rock just covered John Eddie’s “Low Life” on his latest record, so it looks like Eddie is trying to market that into a comeback.

Eddie & the Tide
“One in a Million” — 1985, #85 (download)

You know, I have to applaud some of these fan run websites. Some, like the page for Eddie & The Tide are so much fun to read because you get to read what a superfan thinks of an artist. So, I was doing a little searching for Eddie & the Tide and you have to get a bit of a chuckle out of this site. There’s a FAQ page with exactly zero questions on it, pretty much everything is “long lost” and the guy that runs it was hoping that VH1’s Bands Reunited would have asked them to get back together. What a ratings winner that episode would have been. “Hi, I’m Aamer Haleem and we’re about to track down the members of a band you didn’t even know existed to see if they will reunite.” I give him props for keep word alive about a band he loves, but let’s not think they were God’s gift to music here.

QUICK HITS:
Best song — Earth, Wind & Fire, “Side by Side”
Worst song — Sheena Easton, “Jimmy Mack”

(Side note: Billboard takes songs with multiple collaborators and gives them both a separate slot, but for the purpose of this series each song is only going to appear once. With four letters down, we’re going to start hitting some of these duplicates soon. That said, Clint Eastwood’s song “Make My Day” will appear under “S” with T.G. Sheppard. I didn’t just flat out miss it.)

Next week you get an extended post as I finish off the letter E –- in just two weeks!