I’d bet that most people right now would say “Welcome back” to all of you. But I’m not, because the false “Welcome back” is just a little pet peeve of mine. You didn’t really go anywhere — I did.
I’ve loudly stated my hatred for this phrase for many years now, like when I’m watching a live TV show and they come back from commercial and say “Welcome back.” You went somewhere, not me. I didn’t ask you to promote Always (with wings) or the 2009 Prius. I simply asked you to give me a live television show, but you had to go and interrupt it with commercials.
So, I can’t say “welcome back” in this case because it’s me that went dark for five weeks. I will, though, say “hi there,” or thank your office manager for letting your production slack off again as you spend time reading Bottom Feeders. So as I say thanks for letting me back into your brain once again, we start back up with the ass end of music in the ’80s.
For those of you joining me for the first time, each Wednesday we take a look at 20 or so “Bottom Feeders” – tracks from the Billboard Hot 100 chart that made it no higher than #41. And we’ll do it alphabetically by artist until we reach ZZ Top. We start 2009 off with the letter G.
“We’ve Saved the Best For Last” – 1989, #47 (download)
Well, we certainly didn’t “save the best” for the start of 2009, did we? Mr. Kenneth Gorelick (easy to see why he shortened this to “G” now, isn’t it?) starts us off with some jazzy R&B from his 1988 album Silhouette. The vocal stylings of Smokey Robinson actually save this song, which ends up being not exactly terrible. Sorry, “not exactly terrible” is the best compliment I can come up with for any Kenny G tune. Talk to me again when I’m 60 and we’ll see if I still say that.
I happen to love Peter Gabriel. I’ve never been able to get into prog rock for the most part, but ’70s Genesis is a favorite of mine for some reason. Looking at full bodies of work, I would take Peter Gabriel solo over Genesis, though — the guy makes such lush pop music with very intriguing lyrics. His biggest hits in the U.S. are, of course, the upbeat ones: “Sledgehammer,” “Big Time,” and “Shock the Monkey.” Throughout his career, though, he’s made his most emotional statements with his slower songs, such as “Don’t Give Up” with Kate Bush and “In Your Eyes.” The latter actually did chart at #26 back in 1986 when it was the second single from So. It reentered the charts in 1989, of course, thanks to John Cusack holding a boom box in Say Anything…
Gamma was the brainchild of Ronnie Montrose just two years after breaking up the band Montrose (which featured Sammy Hagar on vocals). This group featured more keyboards than the previous outfit and as you can hear with “Right the First Time,” they toed the AOR line a bit too much — though “I’m Alive” is pretty darn catchy.
In a weird coincidence, both Peter Gabriel’s and Gamma’s first four records were self-titled. Okay, so Gamma’s were Gamma 1 through Gamma 4, so I guess they were really titled something other than Gamma, but fuck it if I’m going to let that stop me from making the connection. And wait, the next artist had eight (semi) self-titled records! Whoa now. Creepy.
Gap Band (they dropped “The” from their name as the decade began) were not unlike the majority of the best ’80s funk bands: They had two or three years of good success on the Hot 100 chart, then quietly continued their career on the R&B charts while mainstream radio regularly ignored them as the musical climate changed. They also were not unlike other similar artists – like Cameo – in that their creativity seemed to run dry late in the decade with songs that sounded like they were just sampling their old tunes rather than coming up with new ideas.
You have to love the Gap Band in their heyday, though – between 1980 and 1983 – with “Oops Upside Your Head”, “Early in the Morning” and of course “You Dropped a Bomb on Me.” The brothers Wilson were in their element for these few years, with just some smokin’ hot funk including “Burn Rubber on Me.” Gap Band was actually one of the few groups that I remember really growing up listening to – “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” in particular. Mom had quite an affinity for them and something about the sound of the bomb on the track really set my fancy dancin’ shoes aflame.
Gap Band V (1983) was really the last worthwhile album from the group. Gap Band VI (1984) includes one of my least favorite “hits” of all time, “Beep A Freak,” which went to #2 on the R&B charts. The entire six-minute-plus song has one keyboard note played repeatedly to imitate the sound of a beeper. At normal volume this isn’t that bad, but I like to listen to my music as loud as possible – at which point the beeping sounds like someone’s stabbing you in the eardrums.
Singer Charlie Wilson’s had a bit of a comeback in the past few years, having a devoted follower in Snoop Dogg and his second solo record produced by R. Kelly. Plus, “Yearning For Your Love” was either sampled by or directly influenced “Love Like This” by Natasha Bedingfield.
“A Heart In New York” – 1981, #66 (download)
“A Heart in New York” was the eighth and final Hot 100 single from Art Garfunkel off his fifth solo album, Scissors Cut (strangely enough, not titled Art Garfunkel V). Although I was never a Simon & Garfunkel fan, this is pretty decent track.
All I really know of Leif Garrett is that he’s addicted to drugs, almost killed his buddy in a car crash, and that these three songs make me want to crash my car into something. Since I was born in 1976, I thankfully never got to experience the joy of Leif Garrett, teen idol. I only get Fear Factor winner/ VH1 reject Leif Garrett. But thanks to Bottom Feeders, I once again get to listen to three incredibly lame songs sung by the guy you’re seeing in this mugshot. Unbelievable, isn’t it?
“K.I.S.S.I.N.G.” – 1988, #97 (download)
Yuck. This track only exists thanks to her vocal duet with Michael Jackson on “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” a year earlier. This was off her album Kiss of Life – her only solo record until 2004. As bad as Leif’s songs are, I’m tempted to say Garrett has the worst song of today’s post. The Garrett name won’t get a chance to redeem itself until M, with Midnight Oil’s singer Peter Garrett.
Here’s two slabs of tear-jearking soft-rock from the former lead singer of soft-rock group Bread. Despite the fact that neither of these songs are groundbreaking or even good, at least Gates has a decent voice, which put him at least one step above the Garrett’s crap.
“It’s Like We Never Said Goodbye” – 1980, #63 (download)
“The Blue Side” – 1980, #81 (download)
“The Woman in Me” – 1981, #76 (download)
“Baby, What About You” – 1983, #83 (download)
“The Sound of Goodbye” – 1983, #84 (download)
According to Joel Whitburn of Billboard fame, Crystal Gayle is #45 on the list of top Country artists, ever – and the 15th top Country artist of the ’80s. Of the five tracks here, “The Blue Side” was her lowest-charting country single at #8. Three of them (“It’s Like We Never Said Goodbye,” “Baby, What About You,” and “The Sound of Goodbye”) all hit #1. She only had four songs that crossed over into the Hot 100 and make the Top 20, and one was “You and I,” a duet with Eddie Rabbitt. While these five are certainly no favorites of mine, the fact they are country songs that crossed over gives them a little leg up on the generic pop-lite all over this period.
Best Song: Peter Gabriel, “Solsbury Hill (Live)”
Worst Song: Leif Garrett, “Runaway Rita”
So, Bottom Feeders ’09 and the letter G didn’t start off with the bang I had hoped for, but next week we make up for it with my all-time favorite moment in a song — and one of the most underrated rock bands of the decade.