Bottom Feeders: The Ass End of the ’80s, Part 38
I’ve gotten bored with what I’ve been listening to lately, so recently I went back into my collection to dig out CDs I haven’t spun in a while, like De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising, an album I haven’t listened to in at least four or five years. Hearing this excellent disc again piqued my interest for two reasons, the first being that I didn’t realize the direct influence it most likely had on my love of both Urban Dance Squad and P.M. Dawn.
Urban Dance Squad brought rock, ska, and funk to their rap, throwing together bits and pieces of sounds that didn’t seem like they’d flow as one — sort of what Prince Paul does these days. 3 Feet High and Rising is one of the first albums he produced and a starting point for his future sound collisions. Then there’s P.M. Dawn, who happen to be one of my all-time favorite groups; there are at least three or four tracks on 3 Feet High that could have fit nicely on P.M. Dawn’s 1991 debut, Of the Heart, Of the Soul and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience. With both groups the flow is pretty much the same, and even the lyrical style is similar, right down to the lines that seemingly make no sense on first listen but when broken down actually have some legit meaning.
But that’s not really the reason I’m bringing it up here. It’s because I’m wondering if there was any other album in the ’80s on which the biggest hit was track 20! 3 Feet High almost seems like a rap album from this decade, with a skit between every song (hell, they have two in a row at points), but even so, “Me, Myself and I,” a #1 rap hit and De La Soul’s only Top 40 hit (until they backed the Gorillaz on “Feel Good Inc.” in 2005), is buried all the way down at track 20.
I still think the album is excellent, despite the fact it felt like a decade had passed by the time I got to “Me, Myself and I,” but it really got me wondering if there was another track in the entire decade buried that far down on a disc. Greatest-hits and multiple-disc sets don’t count — I’m talking a single disc where the biggest hit was that far down. Hell, even just a single that was that far down on an album. Better yet, name any big hit that far down on a normal LP in any decade. It might have happened more frequently in the past decade on rap albums, but I still think it’s a pretty rare feat.
Anyway, let’s move along to the main event. This week we begin looking at artists whose names fall under the letter H, as we continue profiling tracks that landed no higher than #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the 1980s.
“I’ll Fall in Love Again” — 1982, #43 (download)
“Piece of My Heart” — 1982, #73 (download)
“Never Give Up” — 1983, #46 (download)
“Winner Takes It All” — 1987, #54 (download)
“Eagles Fly” — 1987, #82 (download)
Van Hagar, whoooo! Okay, okay, so I’m not going to get into Sammy-vs.-Dave talk here, as we have a long time to work that up for the Van Halen post, but there was certainly a point where I rocked out to Sammy Hagar. I mean, the guy can’t write a song to save his soul, but during his early solo years and his time with Van Halen, the dude could simply rock ‘n’ roll. You can debate his talent all you want, but Sammy has a voice cut out for rock music. His cover of “Piece of My Heart” and the guilty pleasure of “Winner Takes It All,” from Over the Top, are fine slabs of R&R. “Eagles Fly” almost made it onto Van Halen’s 5150, but it was ultimately rejected by the band and they recorded the megahit “Dreams” instead.
Hagar, Schon, Aaronson, Shrieve
“Whiter Shade of Pale” — 1984, #94 (download)
In 1983, Hagar hooked up with his buddies — Journey’s Neil Schon, bassist Kenny Aaronson and Santana drummer Michael Shrieve — to form the band also sometimes referred to as HSAS. Their one album Through the Fire is about as creative as the choice of names, and you can hear one song from that snoozefest here — a cover of Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale.”
“Someone Like You” — 1987, #57 (download)
“Someone Like You” is from Daryl Hall’s second solo record, Three Hearts in the Happy Ending Machine, which was recorded during a little break in the action when Hall & Oates were between labels. All three hits from the record, including “Dreamtime” and “Foolish Pride,” could have been Hall & Oates hits themselves. Amazingly, the duo had 22 hits in the ’80s and every one of them charted in the Top 40.
“Fool for Your Love” — 1982, #77 (download)
“Fool for Your Love” is the second and final charting single for the former lead singer of Wet Willie. His other hit, “I’m Happy That Love Has Found You,” went to #27 in 1980, and Hall later went on to sing on Jeff Beck’s album Flash in 1985.
John Hall was the lead singer of the ’70s band Orleans. The John Hall Band released two albums, each containing one of the pretty rockin’ tunes you have here. These days, Hall is a congressman in New York’s 19th district.
“Where’s Your Angel” — 1981, #88 (download)
Lani Hall was one of the female leads in Sergio Mendes’ Brazil ’66. After she left the band she went on to marry Herb Alpert in 1974 and he produced her solo career, which includes six albums in Spanish and one in Portuguese.
“He’s My Girl” — 1987, #79 (download)
David Hallyday is the son of Sylvie Vartan, who we heard back with John Denver, and Johnny Hallyday, who is considered the French-speaking equivalent of Elvis Presley. Dad has sold 100 million albums in France and yet I would know his son before him. David should be proud, as this is the title track from his only acting gig — which also starred T.K. Carter and was viewed by 12 people in the US alone. Fuck it, I’m Netflixing this one.
“Rockit” — 1983, #71 (download)
It’s very surprising that “Rockit” wasn’t a Top 40 hit, especially with that strange and yet somehow iconic video that goes with the song. Hancock is known for his jazz experimentation and was never shy about dabbling in many other genres. From 1973-1983 he released 25 albums, but started slowing down to one a year by ’83. In the ’80s (and even now, on occasion) you can see him carrying my favorite instrument — the keytar.
“Rain Forest” — 1985, #57 (download)
There’s not too much that sounds like “Rockit” that would be in this series, and yet the one song that is very similar ends up falling directly after it. Personally, I like this song better than “Rockit,” and I also think it’s superior to the song he’s really known for in the US, “19.”
“I’d Do It All Again” — 1986, #52 (download)
Sam Harris got his start as the winner of the first season of Star Search. His first single, “Sugar Don’t Bite,” went Top 40 (#37 in ’84). “I’d Do It All Again” is his terrible follow-up to that semi-catchy tune. This would be his final hit song, though he continues to release albums. He’s also a Broadway actor, and I’ll always remember him for his stint as Perry Pearl on the short lived (but excellent) sitcom, The Class.
“Wake Up My Love” — 1982, #53 (download)
“Wake Up My Love” is the lead track from the largely throwaway album Gone Troppo. Harrison was fed up with the music industry at the time and had one album left on his current contract, so out came this scattered mess which ultimately tanked. Then George when dark for another five years before recording the mega-successful Cloud Nine.
I can’t really wrap my head around Debbie Harry’s solo career. There are days when I think there’s just a tremendous drop-off in quality from her work with Blondie to her solo material, and then there are other days where I just can’t get enough of songs like “The Jam Was Moving” and forget all about that. So here’s where I am today as I listen to these four songs again — she really ain’t that bad after all. Both “Backfired” and “The Jam Was Moving” were written and produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic. Both reflect both the disco they were used to writing and a bit of rock that would be in their early ’80s records. I’ve never been a fan of “Backfired,” and even now it doesn’t do anything for me. But “The Jam Was Moving” is simply her best solo work by a long shot. Both “French Kissin’” (also known as “French Kissin’ in the USA”) and “In Love with Love” are two very different-sounding songs, both from her second solo record, Rockbird. “French Kissin’” is a good pop song, but “In Love with Love” is really the song I don’t know how to react to. I’m surprised that Blondie’s Chris Stein had a hand in writing something with such a club beat. But then how could something so dull and boring be danced to in a club? In the end, it’s just a song that Debbie Harry didn’t need to make.
Best song: John Hall Band, “Crazy (Keep on Falling)”
Worst song: Sam Harris, “I’d Do It All Again”
Next week we take a look at one of the most rockin’ females of all time, and we take a quick listen to one of the worst wastes of airtime in the entire decade.