So, we’re on the third post of this series, and I haven’t yet told you about my collection, and the reason I can actually do this type of thing. Last week I mentioned how my dad used to give me cash to get 45s back in the late ’80s, but that’s not really what got me started on my habit. It wasn’t until college that I really started collecting.
As a student at the College of New Jersey, I spent the majority of time at the campus radio station, WTSR. Back in ’97 or ’98 I picked up the coveted 9-midnight Monday night slot and started “Stuck in the ’80s,” but at that point, my collection didn’t include much other than the crap the studio had kept around for the last 15 years. At the time, my buddy James was doing a ’70s show and his goal was to own every song that hit the Top 40 within that decade. So, as any broke college student would do, I decided to embark on that same journey for my decade, albeit with much shittier music to find (or so James would tell me).
I started out getting greatest-hits packages to build up the tunes for the show, then someone would call and request a tune I didn’t have, so I’d run out and buy it so I had it for the next week. It worked like that for a few years, until I graduated in ’99 and started making some real money. That’s when the obsession really began.
And … commercial. Just like every reality show in the world, I send it off to break just as it’s getting good. We’ll look more into my obsession in the next post. Heck, I mean, there are going to be hundreds of these, so I need to take it kind of slowly, or else by part 35, I’m going to have nothing left to talk about but my morning bowel movement. And I’m sure that’s not nearly as fascinating to you as it is to me. And if it is, there are groups to take care of that sort of thing. Maybe you should look into that.
Update: After it was mentioned in response to post #2, I actually went out and purchased the All Sports Band LP. Maybe it’s just me, but the damn thing ain’t half bad. I mean, “I’m Your Superman” still sucks total ass, but it’s a decent rockin’ album. Not anything great, but a little bit of Journey and a little bit of The Knack and you have this record. Much better than I could have ever anticipated.
Anyway, more A’s for you this week …
“How Can You Love Me” — 1982, #86 (download)
In typical ’80s fashion, the syrupy ballads are the super hits, but the minute Ambrosia tries rockin’ out a bit, no one wants to play them. “Biggest Part of Me” and “You’re the Only Woman” earned them Grammy nominations in 1980, but this follow up in 1982 failed to impress. A decent song, off a pretty poor album (Road Island), this bit of rock edge didn’t follow suit with the wedding ballads from years past, and Ambrosia split right after this.
“Right Before Your Eyes” — 1982, #45 (download)
I’m actually surprised I enjoy this one. I don’t like to pigeonhole myself into one genre of music, so with the ’80s I try to only compare each song to what was out at the time or what a band’s peers were doing at the time. I don’t think I’d ever go back and intentionally listen to much within this style, but for what it is, it’s a well written and kind of catchy tune. Rudolph Valentino would be happy.
American Comedy Network
“Breaking Up Is Hard on You” — 1984, #70 (download)
A parody of Neil Sedaka’s “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” this was made in response to the breakup of AT&T. Sounds a topic that was made to be comedy gold, right? It’s a well-done song, but I guess you had to be there to actually find this funny.
“Shy Boys” — 1987, #94 (download)
This was typical freestyle from the late ’80s, but had some interesting flaws. At the time this song came out, Anna was only 13 and singing about liking to date shy boys instead of macho guys. I just don’t know if I buy into the concept of this song. Of course I’m sure me buying into it wasn’t the first thing on her mind though. If you looked at the cover you could see she was just a teen, but she doesn’t sound 13 years old on this track. Twentysomething guys just couldn’t wait around for the age to catch up with the mature voice, so instead they turned their affection to the almost-legal Tiffany and Debbie Gibson. By the age of 15, Ana had no career to speak of (as far as I can tell).
“Swingin'” — 1983, #43 (download)
If there’s one thing I like about ’80s country songs, it’s that even if you don’t care for them, they are all pretty much over in three minutes. This is a nice simple song about Charlotte Johnson and John Anderson starting their romance in a swing on the front porch. Country artists always tell the best stories. I love how descriptive this song is. Her brother was eating chocolate pie, Mom was cutting up chicken, Dad was rolling up a garden hose. And not one of them cared that John was sitting on the front porch lusting over little Charlotte. Little known fact about this song: the record company cut out the last verse where John talked about lifting up Charlotte’s skirt while Mama was out shopping. No, really — I swear.
“The Night” — 1983, #48 (download)
Eric Burdon reunited the original lineup of the Animals in 1983 and released this slightly new wave track, which is actually much better than it should be. Being a fan of ’80s music, and really having no desire to go back to anything from the ’60s and ’70s, probably has its benefits with something like “The Night.” Other than the well-known hits, I’ve never really heard the Animals before, so I’m comparing this to other ’80s tunes. I’m sure that this isn’t even a blip on the radar of any real fans of the band.
Here you’ve got three songs from Animotion, but once you reach the third, you’re listening to pretty much a different group. Their self-titled album in 1985 spawned the mega-hit “Obsession”; their follow-up Strange Behaviour provided us with the excellent “I Engineer.” While they were recording the third album all three founding members decided to leave, but in what has to be a remarkable turn of events, none of them took the name with them. In 1989 Cynthia Rhodes, best known as Penny Johnson from Dirty Dancing (or maybe as Mrs. Richard Marx), became the lead singer of the new Animotion. They released another self-titled album, killed the new wave off completely, and went more for the sound that got Starship some hits in the ’80s. “Calling It Love” is a decent song, but they really should have called the band something else, because they aren’t remotely the same group.
“I’ve Been Waiting for You All of My Life” — 1981, #48 (download)
Paul Anka? If I didn’t know the ’80s, there’s no way I would have ever thought Paul Anka had a hit in this decade. I remember growing up and listening to his albums from the ’50s with my grandfather. He very well might be the only artist of the ’80s that I have to skip a generation in my family to find the fans. Props to Paul Anka for making music for so long, but this didn’t need to happen.
Eh. “Goody Two Shoes” was the real hit from Adam’s first solo record, Friend or Foe. Ant got a little less quirky when he went solo compared to his first three records with his group, The Ants. Not much, but a little. At least he toned down the pirate garb a bit.
Ant’s final hit in the U.S. was “Strip,” which was slicked up in the studio by none other than fellow Brit Phil Collins.
I’ve always enjoyed the Adam Ant story due to the fact that in 1979, after releasing the first Adam & The Ants record, he sought out Malcolm McLaren to be the manager of the group. McLaren then convinced the other three members of the band to quit and form Bow Wow Wow. Good choice there, Adam.
“Sex Shooter” — 1984, #85 (download)
The first of many Prince projects that will appear over the course of this series, Apollonia never really had a chance. Prince’s original girl group was Vanity 6, but when she left, he handed the reins over to Apollonia and also gave her the lead role in Purple Rain. That, and the fact that Apollonia 6 performed in only lingerie, should have propelled her to stardom, but Prince lost interest in the group, and supposedly pulled all the really good songs from the album before releasing it — “Manic Monday” and “The Glamorous Life” being two of them. “Sex Shooter” was pretty much the best song that remained. Only the most talented of artists that Prince worked with really ever succeeded, as he had no patience for mediocre crap.
I’ve heard so many people talk shit about April Wine. No, wait — that must have been someone else, because, well … who the hell talks about April Wine these days? These guys were pretty big back in the early ’80s (and deservedly so, as their 1981 release, The Nature of the Beast, was damn solid). But I find a song like “I Like to Rock” kind of funny. I mean, what group just “likes” to rock? You can wanna rock. You can love to rock. You can even live for rock. But if you’re a rock group, shouldn’t you be a bit more excited than just liking to rock? “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” is a great tune for rock ‘n’ roll, though. Who doesn’t think gypsy queens are badass? Apart from the layered chorus, the song is flawless.
April Wine ran into some troubles in 1982, however, when Power Play failed to impress anyone, and only yielded one weak single in “Enough Is Enough.” The band struggled to write another record, but the writing was pretty much on the wall after an even weaker Animal Grace LP in 1984. Their final single certainly wasn’t the “right one,” and the group disbanded until 1992.
“Drop the Pilot” — 1983, #78 (download)
Coming in at #19 on my 80 greatest songs of the ’80s list, I’m just in love with this tune — and that’s saying a whole lot for me, because as a general rule, I’m not a big fan of female singers. If you move outside my ’80s collection, there are thousands of CDs, but I’d bet less than 50 of those artists are female. I love women, but for some reason there are a very select few female artists I enjoy. Joan Armatrading is one of those that I love — at least in the ’80s, when she made some great catchy pop records with a rock flair, like “Drop the Pilot.” She cranked out six LPs in the ’80s, all of which were at least above average, but she never caught on as a hitmaker. “Drop the Pilot” was her only charting song in the U.S., and even in England, she only had one tune crack the Top 10. This song should have made her a superstar.
“Dancin’ in the Key of Life” — 1985, #68 (download)
Steve Arrington left Slave in 1982 to form his own group, Steve Arrington’s Hall of Fame. While his self-titled first record yielded some completely unlistenable crap, he got better on his second and third records. “Dancin’ in the Key of Life” was the title track from his third release. Arrington never had the greatest voice, but it doesn’t bother me much here, because the chorus is so catchy. I admit, though, this is baffling me a little bit. The chorus is immediately recognizable to me and I know it’s not because I’ve heard it a lot lately. Was it used in some commercial, movie, TV show — something? Help me out, folks. These types of things eat away at me until I figure them out, so assist me in keeping my sanity. I’d run on over to the official Steve Arrington website, but apparently he found God and is a minister now, so his days in the Hall of Fame are not easily found.
Art of Noise
“Peter Gunn” — 1986, #50 (download)
If you paid any attention to what the band wanted you to believe, there was never any group called Art of Noise. The artists appeared in masks and they were billed as just an art project that kind of … existed. However, in the real world they were led by Trevor Horn, who produced ABC, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and others, and had his quick taste of chart success with The Buggles. Art of Noise were known for instrumentals that were mish-mashes of noise generated by computer sampling — which was pretty unique back in the early to mid-’80s. For my tastes, they were a bit too much noise for noise’s sake, except on this song. Instead of using samples, they re-recorded the original “Peter Gunn” guitar part in the studio with Duane Eddy and created this pretty straightforward, Grammy-winning cover.
That’s it for the week, friends. In part 4 next week, we get freak-a-ristic on the tail end of the letter “A” and we get to talk about not one, but two Astleys. Joy! While you’re waiting, pop on Dirty Dancing again, but this time mute the TV and put Animotion’s second self-titled record on. I hear they sync up perfectly. Shhhh … don’t tell anyone. Oh, and remember, no one puts Baby in a corner.