This week you get another extended post so we can finish up the letter F nice and clean. Without further ado, I give you the final batch of artists whose names begin with the sixth letter of the alphabet and who reached the ass end of the Billboard Hot 100 in the ’80s.
“Stacy” — 1985, #80 (download)
Fortune is an AOR band formed in Los Angeles in 1977. They released their debut self-titled record in ’78, had a track called “Airwaves” on the Last American Virgin soundtrack in ’82, then finally got around to their second album (also self-titled) in ’85. “Stacy” comes from the second album, which includes a whole mess of generic light-rock tunes.
There’s just no way I have it in me to discuss the shittiness of Foster’s duet with Olivia Newton-John, “The Best of Me,” or Foster in general, when Terje Fjelde lives and breathes the guy — read Into the Ear of Madness while listening to these tracks.
4 by Four
“Want You for My Girlfriend” — 1987, #79 (download)
My first thought was 4 by Four simply wanted to be the next New Edition: good-looking kids with slick pop-filled R&B hooks. But I listen to this song and hear a lot of Prince in it as well. Zero in on the 2:20 mark and I swear you’ll hear the first bar of Prince’s “Controversy.”
“Spend the Night in Love” — 1980, #91 (download)
As you probably know by now, I’m not a big fan of hangers-on, those artists that created great music for two or three decades and are now trying to milk just one more single out of their career, all the while making music that’s either dull, shitty, or just plain out of touch. So you’ll probably be shocked to hear that I don’t feel any of that with this song. “Spend the Night in Love” comes from the Four Seasons’ Reunited Live album and has some rock elements to it, but it’s really a catchy-as-hell disco track. Maybe I just have a soft spot for it because Frankie Valli’s Heaven Above Me (1980) is the first record in the row sitting right next to my computer. Therefore his suave mug stares me down every time I write one of these Bottom Feeders posts.
Just like the Four Seasons, the Four Tops were another group that didn’t seem like they were phoning it in just yet at the tail end of their career. I mean, “Back to School Again” from the Grease 2 soundtrack is a pretty great rock song, and “Sad Hearts” had me snapping my fingers. “I Just Can’t Walk Away” comes from their Back Where I Belong album, a reference to them returning to Motown after a decade-plus detour from the label that made them stars. Lead singer Levi Stubbs passed away on October 17; he was 72.
“Seasons” — 1981, #75 (download)
Charles Fox was a composer of themes for TV and movies, best known for the theme songs of TV’s Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and Love, American Style. The subtitle for “Seasons” is “Based on Theme From Ordinary People,” the 1980 Best Picture winner whose score was composed by Marvin Hamlisch.
If we’re being honest here, the only reason I gave two shits about Samantha Fox is because of her ginormous hooters. Maybe I owe Ms. Fox for making me the hornball that I am today, because even at the tender age of 11 I’m almost sure she gave me a raging stiffy. I mean, I vividly remember her teasing me as she wore those frayed shorts with the zipper opened right to the promised land. It didn’t matter that most of her music was a giant flaming turd (see “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now”). I do remember liking “Do Ya Do Ya” very much, though, because yes, I did want to please her. Actually, maybe I owe my dad something, because he’s the one who allowed me to bring her records into the house. They were like porn to an 11-year-old, I guess.
“Lying” — 1986, #74 (download)
And who better to kill the raging stiffy that I just had while searching for that Samantha Fox picture than Peter Frampton? Although I’m definitely a fan of “Lying,” I must’ve mislabeled it a Steve Winwood song at least three or four times in the past few years. That of course begs the question, “You’ve discussed ‘Lying’ as many as four times in the past few years?” What can I say? You talk about weird shit when you’re drunk.
Surprised to see “Relax” here, huh? Yeah, so was I, but that #67 chart position is a little misleading. The song was rereleased after “Two Tribes” reached #43 and this time went all the way to #10 (I’m still shocked it didn’t hit the top spot). I can’t even imagine how many different versions of “Relax” are out there. Remixes galore, 16-minute extended mixes — just a crazy amount of different ways I’ve heard this song. I do actually think I’m posting the version that charted in ’84, though the differences from the ’85 version are subtle. Heck, it’s not like you don’t already own it anyway.
Frankie was never really my thing, and even today I can’t listen to Welcome to the Pleasuredome straight through. Just too much going on to enjoy, though I know how many people really love the record. If only back in ’84 I had realized how “dirty” the group was!
“United Together” — 1980, #56 (download)
“Come to Me” — 1981, #84 (download)
“Get It Right” — 1983, #61 (download)
“Rock-a-Lott” — 1987, #82 (download)
“It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Never Gonna Be” — 1989, #41 (download)
Aretha Franklin and George Benson
“Love All the Hurt Away” — 1981, #46 (download)
You know, it’s sad. When I think of Aretha Franklin, all I can picture is a woman who has ballooned in weight and wears some of the most god-awful, unflattering clothing known to man. Aretha needs to get a dietician and stylist, because she’s looking terrible these days. But of course it’s all about the songs here, and she actually had more decent songs in the ’80s than most artists from the ’60s who were still making music.
The title track from Get It Right gets a bad rap because the album is so weak compared to the excellent Jump to It (1982), but it really is the only song worth a damn on that record. 1985’s Who’s Zoomin’ Who really changed Aretha’s style and helped her catch up with the rest of the R&B world in the ’80s. “Rock-a-Lott” is a track you don’t hear anymore, as it got caught in the wake of her #1 smash with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” but it really is as good as almost anything from this period of her career. The biggest disappointment of the bunch is her duet with goddaughter Whitney Houston, “It Isn’t, It Wasn’t, It Ain’t Never Gonna Be,” which is an uninspired dance track. I was expecting a little more from these two talents. (The version of “Come to Me” that’s available for download is the remake from Aretha’s 1989 album Through the Storm. It’s a bit glossed up but not all that different from the original 1981 version.)
“Do You Love Me” — 1984, #82 (download)
If you’re going to do a cover, you should at least try to update it to your style and give it some new twist. Fraser’s version of “Do You Love Me” isn’t how you do it. I’m okay with him updating the names of the dances in the song, but he destroys the rhythm of the Contours’ original hit with supercheesy ’80s keys and limp guitar.
“All Those Lies” was the fifth and final single from No Fun Aloud, Frey’s first solo record after the breakup of the Eagles. Of all his solo hits, I think it sounds the most like an Eagles record. However, “Livin’ Right” is probably the worst of his ten Hot 100 hits in the ’80s.
“Should I See” — 1987, #69 (download)
While this is a decent song, the real talking point about Frozen Ghost is that on their debut self-titled album, which features “Should I See,” the run-out groove contains gibberish that, if played backward, translates to “You are ruining your needle.” I love shit like that.
Best song — Four Seasons, “Spend the Night in Love”
Worst song — Andy Fraser, “Do You Love Me”
Next week, we pause for a look back before we move on to the letter G.