You may have noticed the lack of intros to my posts lately. While this series is all about the music, I do like to do one now and again, but am going through a nice little writer’s block right now. However, there is one thing that always breaks me out of it and that’s more inappropriate ghetto music!
Yeah, I haven’t had one of those moments in a while, in fact it’s been months since Debbie Gibson blared out my car, but it happened again this past week. For those who are new to the series, let me explain. I normally drive to and from work in a route that bypasses my neighborhood ghetto. But on days where I’m picking up dinner on the way home, the row of restaurants takes me right through the slums. And lately, I’ve been taking the long way to my son’s daycare in the morning and that puts me the other way through the dingy streets, but the ghetto in daylight usually just isn’t exciting. When the lights go down it’s crack whores and homeless people (though, unlike last time I haven’t seen the homeless guy with the broken leg in a while).
The other day I was driving through the ghetto just as the sun was starting to go down. I got stuck behind a school bus that at one point must have let 20 kids off at one time. So here I am in my three-week-old Scion xB with the windows down and the iPod on shuffle. Playing as the kids got off the bus was Manowar’s “Loki God of Fire.” Strangely enough that wasn’t the inappropriate song choice. I must have been at the very end of the song because as these kids were crossing the street in front of my car, my iPod shuffles to “Soldier of Love” by Donny Osmond. At least three kids stared into my car and laughed as if to say, “You are the whitest person I have ever seen, retard.” You know, I don’t care what people think about my musical choices, but there’s something really embarrassing about a group of 13-year-olds laughing at a grown man. Of course that could have been my conscience talking as well, as those kids could have been laughing at a joke or someone could have farted. Maybe it wasn’t the Donny Osmond after all. And I mean, fuck, I’m sure they had no clue that was Donny fucking Osmond unless they are the coolest kids ever. Who am I kidding? I was a grown man being laughed at by kids for inappropriate ghetto music. Maybe I need to plan better and just always have Lil Wayne handy for these moments.
Anyway, on to a whole mess of songs that probably wouldn’t be too inappropriate. This week we begin the letter J as we take a look at the lower three-fifths of the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the 1980s.
It figures of course that a week of nothing but Jacksons would start off with one of the two Jacksons not related to each other. Freddie could have never passed off as a Jackson family member either as he was way too manly for those guys. If you’re trying to find an artist that sums up the soul of the mid-to-late ’80s, you could start in worse places. Freddie’s got a perfect R&B voice, a nice straight-forward delivery and his songs aren’t overly sappy. “Have You Ever Loved Somebody” is a great happy medium for his sound — smooth, silky and sensual while still having a bit of rhythm. It’s nuts however, that his best song, “Nice ‘n Slow” didn’t chart higher than #61. It did reach #1 on the R&B chart and got plenty of airplay despite its poor showing on the pop charts.
You know, if you combine Damita Jo’s first single with the first song in this week’s post, you get “Young Tasty Love” — which probably would’ve put Freddie Jackson in prison. But hey, that never happened — instead we get two songs from Ms. Janet before she got nasty. Both of these songs come from her self-titled debut album from ’82. The album was produced by Rene Moore and Angela Winbush, so it had that early ’80s disco feel to it. For Janet’s second album, Dream Street, in 1984, her father turned to her family members to help her with it, but it still failed pretty miserably. She then married one of those crazy DeBarge men (James), divorced him, pretty much divorced her father, found Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, showed a little boob during some football game, and is now dating a midget. Other than that, she’s really laid low over the years.
â€œYou Like Me Don’t Youâ€ — 1981, #50 (download)
â€œI’m Just Too Shyâ€ — 1981, #60 (download)
â€œ(Closest Thing To) Perfect” — 1985, #67 (download)
â€œDo You Remember Me?â€ — 1986, #71 (download)
â€œDon’t Take It Personalâ€ — 1989, #64 (download)
Jermaine Jackson and Pia Zadora
â€œWhen the Rain Begins to Fallâ€ — 1985, #54 (download)
“You Like Me Don’t You” is a nice way to start out the Jermaine Jackson section and for the first time ever, I’d like to answer the question. Yes, Jermaine. Yes, I do. He clearly has the best male voice in the family outside of Michael and it’s really a shame that he never got more recognition for his solo career, but I guess it’s tough when you’re always a step behind your brother. That’s certainly not to say he didn’t have a nice career with 20 R&B hits and 17 songs that crossed over to the pop charts but I don’t hear Jermaine Jackson on my XM these days. Straight through the decade he changed up his style to fit the times with very few missteps along the way. Frankly, even “When the Rain Begins to Fall” written for Pia Zadora’s blockbuster(!!) movie Voyage of the Rock Aliens isn’t that bad (well, when you can’t hear Pia at least). If you are a J.J. novice, it might be better to start with 1980’s “Let’s Get Serious,” 1984’s “Dynamite,” or 1986’s almost perfect “I Think It’s Love,” written with Stevie Wonder. But songs like “I’m Just Too Shy” or “Don’t Take It Personal” really round out his body of work nicely.
We pause the ’80s R&B for a moment to visit Joe Jackson — the white English guy, not the abusive Jackson family patriarch. Hell, the dude’s real name isn’t even Joe — it’s David.
I know many Popdose readers really dig Joe Jackson. So do I, though probably not to the same extent as many of you. However, the two songs featured here are pretty great. “Memphis” is the younger, more energetic brother of 1982’s “Steppin’ Out” (it’s from the soundtrack to the movie Mike’s Murder), and “Happy Ending,” I’m sorry to admit, is one I’ve mistaken for an Elvis Costello song more than once.
â€œHeart Don’t Lieâ€ — 1984, #56 (download)
Back to the program at hand — we now get LaToya trying her hand at a little pop-reggae. I want to rip this apart, but I can’t as it’s a pretty harmless song and frankly, the reggae vocals from the kids in Musical Youth and the adult male vocals from Shalamar singer Howard Hewitt, pretty much mask most of LaToya’s shittiness. Since this was 1984 it was also before she started looking like a tranny.
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â€œOne Day in Your Lifeâ€ — 1981, #55 (download)
Think what you want of him now thanks to Neverland Ranch, dangling “Blanket” over a balcony in 2002, or the fact that he’s now a white dude with a glued-on nose, but in the ’80s Michael Jackson was the shit. It’s kind of unfair that Michael is even part of this series, as “One Day in Your Life” is one of his ’70s recordings, released by Motown on an album of the same name in 1981 to capitalize on the success of 1979’s Off the Wall. It was a shameless move on Motown’s part to release an “unofficial” album, and while it doesn’t fit well between Off the Wall and Thriller, it’s still Michael Jackson at a time when he could do no wrong. “One Day in Your Life” may be out of place, but it’s still a damn fine track. I’m fascinated this didn’t chart higher, though — when Motown pulled this crap again in 1984 by following Thriller with Farewell My Summer Love, an album that was supposedly scrapped in ’74, the title track cracked the Top 40, peaking at #38. You know what, fuck it — Michael Jackson is still the shit. I bet if he ever puts out the supposed record he’s working on in Bahrain with Will.i.am, it’ll be awesome.
The Jackson 5 became the Jacksons in 1975 when Jermaine stayed behind at Motown and Michael, Tito, Marlon, and Jackie left for CBS Records (they were first on the Philadelphia International label, then Epic). They added brother Randy as an official member to fill the gap left by Jermaine, whose decision to stay at Motown was probably influenced by his marriage to Berry Gordy’s daughter Hazel. He rejoined the group for 1984’s Victory.
The Jacksons didn’t have nearly as much success as men as they did when they were kids being pimped out by their dad, but I’ll take “Lovely One” or even “Torture” over many other songs of the decade. And Triumph (1980) and Victory have sold over four million copies in the U.S., so the Jacksons still weren’t doing too badly for themselves.
“Can You Feel It,” “Walk Right Now,” and “Body” are pretty recognizable songs, even if you might not sing them at karaoke. “Nothing (That Compares 2 U)” might not be recognizable simply as a Jacksons song, but the title certainly reads very similar to the Prince-penned “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which Sinead O’Connor took to #1 shortly after this song was released and upon listening to this song you’ll hear a sound very similar to Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step” and a little bit of “On My Own” as all of them were written by L.A. Reid and Babyface. The Jacksons’ final album was 2300 Jackson Street in 1989, which is noteworthy only because the title track featured all six brothers plus Janet and Rebbie. The only one of the nine siblings who didn’t perform on it was LaToya. Maybe it was because she was finally perfecting the tranny look? (Two transsexual references in the same blog — who woulda thunk it?)
Best song: Freddie Jackson, “Nice ‘n Slow”
Worst song: LaToya Jackson, “Heart Don’t Lie”
I just can’t let this go — of all the Jackson family members to have a song on the Billboard Hot 100 in the ’80s, the only sibling who didn’t make it onto Bottom Feeders is fucking Rebbie. Michael gets a spot here, but because he writes a song called “Centipede” for his sister in 1984, she takes it to #24 and misses my ridicule. That’s not right, so we’re expanding this post a bit this week, to include that, plus another Jackson family tidbit. I normally wouldn’t do this thing, because it’s not really the point of the series, but how many times am I going to have a special occasion like this one? So enjoy the items below. And next week, all I promise is no more Jacksons.
Marlon Jackson, “Don’t Go” (peaked at #2 on the R&B chart in 1987)
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