This week we have a ginormous, gigantic, gargantuan post, as we finish up with the letter G on our trek through the bottom of Billboard‘s Hot 100 charts during the ’80s.
“Theme From ‘Terms of Endearment’” — 1984, #84 (download)
You know, it feels like every week here at Bottom Feeders starts with something completely bland or just plain douche-a-rific now. I guess if you’re listening to everything from top to bottom you can consider this your intro song. Or if you’re putting together a nice light-rock CD for grandma, you can make this your centerpiece. That’s it — grandma music.
If I didn’t collect ‘80s music I most certainly would have missed out on these gems and thought that “King of Wishful Thinking” (1990) was Go West’s first single and Indian Summer (1992) their first album. If you ever wanted to get into Go West for some reason, that album could easily be the place to start and stop. However, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not going back and listening to their 1985 self-titled debut. The follow-up, 1987’s Dancing on the Couch, wasn’t quite as good as Go West, but it still contains some catchy-as-hell pop tunes. All three of the great songs featured here are from Go West, and though they sound dated today, if you think back to 1985 they actually sound a little too sophisticated for that era. Maybe that’s why none of them made an impact on the charts. Go West had one single in ’87 barely crack the Top 40 — “Don’t Look Down (The Sequel)” hit #39, but it isn’t even included on the British version of Dancing on the Couch.
“Sad Girl” — 1982, #93 (download)
GQ released three albums between 1979 and ’81, then called it a day. “Sad Girl” was their only hit in the ‘80s and is yet another example of a disco-funk group that wasn’t meant to sing ballads.
“Lay Down Your Arms” — 1989, #56 (download)
It’s truly shocking that such a great pop song made by such talented artists didn’t make it past the ass end of the charts. The Graces were led by Go-Go’s guitarist Charlotte Caffey and future “Bitch” singer Meredith Brooks. Their 1989 album Perfect View was their only one — Brooks left the band in ’91, and the third member, Gia Ciambotti, left the following year to join Bruce Springsteen’s band.
Larry Graham’s solo career in the ‘80s consisted of slow, slower, and slowest. I’m sorry, but since he used to slap the bass in Sly & the Family Stone, I expected at least a single or two that wouldn’t put me to sleep.
“Ready or Not” — 1987, #54 (download)
Rock music from a rocker — something that doesn’t seem to show up very often in this series. The title track from Gramm’s solo debut, this was released right before Inside Information, his final album (or so we thought) as the lead singer of Foreigner. “Ready or Not” isn’t remarkably different from what Foreigner was doing at the time, but the centerpiece of the album is of course “Midnight Blue,” which strays just a bit from the band’s sound. Gramm’s second and last solo record, 1989’s Long Hard Look, garnered him even more success, even if its big single, “Just Between You and Me,” sounded like Richard Marx with an edge.
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five
“The Message” — 1982, #62 (download)
About a month ago I finished reading The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats. It’s a fascinating read if you’re interested in the history of rap, DJing, and Sugar Hill Records in particular. One of the most well-known and sampled rap songs of all time, “The Message” may be attributed to Grandmaster Flash, but he isn’t anywhere on the record. Internal conflicts between Flash and the Furious Five, mainly caused by backstabbing and some crazy manipulation of the group by Sugar Hill Records owner Sylvia Robinson, were partially to blame for that, in addition to the fact that in the early ’80s rap was mostly used to churn out party records — Flash was uncomfortable with the serious nature of “The Message’s” lyrics. The song was written by Duke Bootee and Melle Mel, who’s the only member of the Furious Five on the final product and the main voice that you hear.
Grandmaster Melle Mel & the Furious Five
“Beat Street Breakdown” — 1984, #86 (download)
After “The Message,” Flash parted ways with Melle Mel, who added “Grandmaster” to his name. This song, billed as “Beat Street” on the 45, was from the movie of the same name, which starred Melle Mel.
1985 was the year the top-selling Christian artist of all time decided to try her hand at mainstream pop, and the results were quite astounding. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of female artists in general, but I’ll take Amy Grant from ’85 to ’92 any day. “Wise Up” is a great pop song off her album Unguarded, while “Lead Me On” is from the album of the same name, which Contemporary Christian Music Magazine hails as the #1 Christian album of all time. Personally, I have even more love for her megasuccessful 1991 pop album Heart in Motion.
“I Don’t Wanna Dance” — 1983, #53 (download)
“Electric Avenue” came before, and “Romancing the Stone” came after (I love both those songs), but for some reason Grant’s second U.S. single, “I Don’t Wanna Dance,” really doesn’t do much for me. Maybe it’s just that it seems a little too basic after the electro beat of “Electric Avenue.”
“Alabama Getaway” — 1980, #68 (download)
The Grateful Dead are another of a handful of artists I’m not going to touch. You either get them or you don’t, and I’m one of many who just don’t get the appeal. I do enjoy “Alabama Getaway,” though I can’t imagine that true fans of the band think it represents them very well.
If I was writing this in 2002, Great White would be just another hard-rock brown streak on the ass end of the ‘80s, but of course on February 20, 2003 (can you believe it’s been almost six years?), they became the group that burned down the venue where they were playing, killing what was probably half of their remaining fans.
As for their music, they were pretty harmless. Not the best of their generation but not the worst by any means. Both of these tracks come from their album Once Bitten …, which meant they had noÂ choice but to follow it up with … Twice Shy.
Lee Greenwood is a successful country artist who crossed over to the Hot 100 only twice in the ‘80s. These days you won’t find him without his signature Stars ‘n’ Stripes jacket, as he’s the guy who wrote the now world-famous patriotic tearjerker “God Bless the USA.”
“Electric Boogie” — 1989, #51 (download)
If there’s one song every single person reading this series should know, it’s this one. I wonder if any of you can actually say you’ve never done the electric slide at some point in your life. Even if it was just for one verse, everyone’s had a grandma, a really drunk friend, or an overzealous DJ pull you onto a dance floor at a wedding and force you to do the slide. And this ain’t the time for bullshitting either — I’m all about honesty here at Bottom Feeders. You’re doing the electric slide right now, aren’t you?
“The Hunter” — 1986, #85 (download)
Formed by Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett and Yes/Asia guitarist Steve Howe, GTR’s only album (self-titled) is subject to some strong opinions, mostly from crazy Asia fans. There seems to be a contingent that thinks it’s better than anything Asia did and a more fanatical set who believe it’s garbage. I’m no Asia fan, but GTR certainly is bland. I can’t even give them points for their studio work — instead of traditional keyboards, they played their guitars through their synths. While that was unique for the time, it doesn’t sound all that different from standard fare to me. I’ll never forget what I think is the best review of an album I’ve ever seen: critic J.D. Considine wrote that GTR is “SHT.”
“Into My Love” — 1982, #92 (download)
That early-’80s AOR sound was what Greg Guidry did best. Early in his career he sang with Michael McDonald, and later he wrote songs for artists like Exile, Robbie Dupree, and Climax Blues Band. “Into My Love” was the second and final single from his debut, Over the Line, and features his sister Sandy on vocals. In 2003 Guidry was found burned to death in his car after his house caught on fire.
Guns n’ Roses
“Nightrain” — 1989, #93 (download)
I’m surprised to see this here — I didn’t know “Nightrain” was a single. Turns out it was released in July of ’89 after “Patience” went to #4 earlier in the year. Since there were no other radio-friendly songs on the mini-album G N’ R Lies aside from “Patience,” I guess Geffen thought they’d keep the train rolling with another song from Appetite for Destruction, which was two years old at that point, figuring they could release anything from Axl and the boys at that point and still get a hit. It’s a great song, but unlike “Paradise City” or “Welcome to the Jungle,” it’s not really radio friendly either.
“Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But the Rent” — 1986, #42 (download)
Known as the original gold digger’s anthem, Guthrie’s biggest Hot 100 hit can be viewed from two angles: either she won’t date a man without some cash or she wants her man to get a job and stop being a bum. The line “No romance without finance” became famous a year later when Eddie Murphy used it in his stand-up movie Raw.
“I Like” — 1989, #70 (download)
Teddy Riley featuring Guy
“My Fantasy” — 1989, #62 (download)
Guy was formed by Teddy Riley, and 1989 is the year he was anointed the king of new jack swing. Keith Sweat had new-jack hits in ’87 and Bobby Brown took the genre to new heights in ’88 on Don’t Be Cruel, but it was Guy who really introduced the world to the man who became the spokesperson for the entire genre. Riley, Babyface, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis pretty much had a hand in every major new jack swing song for the next half decade or so. “I Like” wasn’t the strongest of the era, but “My Fantasy,” off the Do the Right Thing soundtrack, is typical of the sound.
Best song: Guns n’ Roses, “Nightrain”
Worst song: GQ, “Sad Girl”
Next week we take a walk through the “halls” of the Bottom Feeder music library and go all Cabo Wabo on your ass.