Let’s hop right into the music this week and stray all over the map within the borders of the letter J, looking at songs that charted no higher than #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the 1980s.
“96 Tears” — 1981, #66 (download)
Garland Jeffreys had been putting out music since 1969 with little success, though he had a non-charting yet popular song in 1973 called “Wild in the Streets.” His 1980 album Escape Artist yielded “96 Tears”, his only charting song.
“The Real Thing” — 1987, #82 (download)
John “Jellybean” Benitez had three songs on the Hot 100, the most well known being ’85s “Sidewalk Talk” written by and featuring Madonna on the chorus. Jellybean’s solo career consisted of using other artists as vocalists and apparently on quite a few occasions, “using” should be in quotes. On the cover of the “Sidewalk Talk” single he made prominent mention of Madonna writing it though didn’t bother to credit the main female singer, Catherine Buchannan. He’s also sold the rights to some of his songs without the knowledge of the singer on the track, most famously with his track “Love’s Gonna Get You” which featured Jocelyn Brown singing “It’s getting kind of heavy” which would be the prominent line in Snap’s song, “The Power” in 1990. “The Real Thing” is the most generic of his three solo hits, this one featuring singer Steven Dante.
Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson
“Just to Satisfy You” — 1982, #52 (download)
Billed as Waylon & Willie on the single, this is a nice modern remake of a track Waylon released back in 1969 on his album of the same name. I’m no Willie Nelson fan, but I think this is one of his best in the decade.
The Jets had 10 hits in the decade, five of them going Top 10 and yet, I still think they were quite underrated. Eugene, Elizabeth, Haini, Moana, Eddie, Rudy, Kathi and LeRoy Wolfgramm were the brothers and sisters that comprised The Jets, pretty much a true ’80s band as they barely made it out of the decade still together. Today, they don’t seem to get the respect they deserve for making some super smooth ballads, but also some really funky songs. If you dig into songs like “Private Number” or “You Better Dance” there’s some nice funk present, but that fact goes missing on most since they tossed a lot of dance beats and pop rhythms into the mix. Their 1988 hit “Rocket 2 U” is one of the funkiest songs of the late ’80s. Time to give them their props.
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
“Good Music” — 1986, #83 (download)
’84-’88 was slight bit of a creative mess for Joan Jett & the Blackhearts having released albums Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth (1984) and Good Music (1986) with only the title track from the latter record even making a dent in the charts and this bland piece of rock didn’t deserve to chart either. She did however follow this up with Springsteen’s “Light of Day” and of course “I Hate Myself for Loving You.” Joan Jett is now 51 years old and have you seen her lately…still smoking hot.
Frankly, I’m shocked that the ladies from Just Jammin’ Fresh and Def had any songs besides their most well known, “Supersonic.” I could have sat for weeks trying to recall either of these tracks with no luck. Produced by none other than Dr. Dre with DJ Yella from N.W.A, with Eazy-E overseeing the whole shebang, this wasn’t one of Dre’s strongest showings. But hey, thanks to “Fergalicious” bringing “Supersonic” back to life I hear we’re going to get a 2009 tour with them and the Fat Boys. Joy.
I don’t know what I fucking think about Billy Joel anymore. I loved his music growing up, well through “The River of Dreams.” Now that I’m getting older I should be liking him more, but that’s not the case. I really kind of look back and wonder why I liked such bland music. Then again, I picked up Glass Houses the other day and thought it was great. So my opinion on Billy changes all the time. For the purpose of this series, Billy Joel is Billy Joel — my opinion certainly isn’t going to sway you.
“Heartache All Over the World” — 1986, #55 (download)
For the purpose of this series Elton John is Elton John and my opinion isn’t going to sway you. Wow, that sounds familiar. The big difference though between this track and the two from Joel, is that you can make a case for both of Billy’s being good. However, “Heartache All Over the World” is dookie on a plate.
Robert John released only four solo records from 1968 to 1980. He’s most famous for 1979’s “Sad Eyes,” but the follow-up, “Lonely Eyes,” is solid as well. John liked covering songs apparently too, as he had a hit with a cover of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in 1972, as well as The Four Seasons’ “Sherry” here. Then his final charting single was a cover of the Newbeats’ “Bread and Butter”, which I believe was simply a one off single. Neither of these covers were needed, especially the horrendous cover of “Sherry.”
“Heartache Away” — 1986, #56 (download)
I hate crap like this. I mean, just because he was one of the biggest actors in the world in 1986, doesn’t mean he needed to make an album. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the public had to buy it or “Heartbeat” should have went to #5. Since I was only 10 at the time, I can’t blame myself. But I can blame the rest of you. Shame on you for buying not one but two albums from Don Johnson!
“Love Train” — 1989, #65 (download)
Holly Johnson quit as singer of Frankie Goes to Hollywood in 1987 after recording only two albums with them. In 1989 he released Blast!, his first solo album which spawned only this minor hit in the U.S. And while I know riots may ensue, I enjoy this song much more than anything Frankie ever released.
Another Prince protÃ©gÃ© that never got his due, Jesse Johnson was the lead guitarist in the Time. Since you know I love my funk and I adore pretty much everything the Time put out, I’m a big fan of all four of these tracks. “Be Your Man” could very well be a Time outtake, and “Love Stuck” is a great subtle piece of funk, even if it doesn’t really stand out in the crowd. The real gem, though, is “Crazay”, a collaboration with Sly Stone. This is a song that should have become a great sing-along, like “The Bird” or “Jungle Love.” But alas, it makes it into Bottom Feeders instead.
Best song: Jesse Johnson featuring Sly Stone, “Crazay”
Worst song: Robert John, “Sherry”
Next week we close out the letter J. See you then.