Bottom Feeders: The Ass End of the ’80s, Part 47

Written by Bottom Feeders, Music

Dave Steed’s Bottom Feeders series has reached the end of the letter J, and you know what that means — Grace Jones sighting!

I’ve started a new collection! For those who haven’t followed the series from the beginning, the original “collection” that I was aiming to complete was to get every Hot 100 song from the ’80s on either record or CD; I’ve accomplished that save for Shamus M’Cool’s “American Memories,” which I’m resigned to never owning, so that part of my collection is as complete as it’s going to get. Then I moved to all the other charts: mainly Adult, Rock, Dance/Disco, and R&B. But a promise to my wife and myself to stop spending all my money and the fact that I’m out of room in my house to store the thousands of records I own have slowed down the new projects considerably. But since music is so dismal these days, I was getting bored and had to try collecting something new — ’80s metal!

I’ve always been a metal fan — my iPod will shuffle from an ’80s tune to something from Slayer, Carcass, Annihilator, Electric Wizard, Sunn O))), you name it. I have this calm side that can listen to Air Supply tunes and this aggressive side that thinks God Hates Us All by Slayer is the best record ever made (I’m not kidding). My new collection, however, began a few weeks ago after I picked up Martin Popoff’s Collector’s Guide to Heavy Metal, Volume 2: The Eighties. It’s a menacing book with over 2,500 reviews of metal records from that decade. It’s the only thing I’ve ever read from Popoff, but he knows his metal, even if he isn’t the best writer (which he admits), often putting a string of words together that make absolutely no sense. He has a passion for power metal and a definite man-crush on Ian Gillan, but for this purpose, who fucking cares? The guy has introduced me to bands I’ve never heard of before and great albums like God, Guns & Guts by Agony Column and Bound to Break by Anthem. I’m still working my way through the letter A in the book; I clearly have a long, headbanging journey ahead of me. But I’m finally feeling good about music again, so it’s all worth it.

This week we finish up the letter J at Bottom Feeders, looking at the lower three-fifths of the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the 1980s.

Michael Johnson
“You Can Call Me Blue” — 1980, #86 (download)

Michael Johnson is a folk singer who released his first album in 1973. He apparently liked songs about being blue as his biggest pop hit was 1978’s “Bluer than Blue”. “You Can Call Me Blue” is his final Hot 100 song, though his next nine singles would do well on the country charts, including two #1 songs.

Jon and Vangelis
“I Hear You Now” — 1980, #58 (download)
“I’ll Find My Way Home” — 1982, #51 (download)

I was never a fan of Yes, and I don’t know much about Vangelis other than “Titles” (the Chariots of Fire theme song), so I find it quite amazing that I really dig the pairing of Yes singer Jon Anderson and the Greek wonder. I feel like I’m in a trance listening to “I Hear You Now” with its spacey atmosphere. “I’ll Find My Way Home” checks in at #44 on my top 80 songs of the ‘80s list. It’s so slow and dark and yet incredibly catchy. It’s a great nighttime song — sit in the dark, shut your eyes, and listen to this. So mesmerizing. Brilliant tuneage.

Glenn Jones
“We’ve Only Just Begun” — 1987, #66 (download)

Somehow Glenn Jones slipped through the cracks. I mean, he’s nothing special, but nothing bad either. “We’ve Only Just Begun” is a really good track that may have sounded like 100 other songs in 1987 but that should have translated into stardom but it really didn’t. He had ten R&B hits in the decade, beginning with “I Am Somebody” in 1983, and had nine more R&B hits in the ’90s, but this, amazingly, was his only Hot-100-charting single.

Grace Jones
“I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect for You)” — 1986, #69 (download)

I’m more than happy to admit that I just never got the freak that is Grace Jones. This is one of the few songs of hers that is even listenable to me. Bigger in the UK and on the dance charts in the U.S., this was Jones’s only Hot 100 single in the decade.

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Howard Jones
“Like to Get to Know You Well” — 1985, #49 (download)
“All I Want” — 1987, #76 (download)

Howard Jones is the proud creator of what I believe is the #1 song ever written — 1986’s “No One Is to Blame” (the remix on Action Replay, not the original on 1985’s Dream Into Action). The rest of his catalog is pretty damn great as well, leading to ten Hot 100 hits in the decade. “All I Want” is one of his lesser-known hits from his last really good record, One to One. However, “Like to Get to Know You Well” still gets plenty of airplay as the first single from Dream Into Action. If you’re not that familiar with Jones’s work, picking up this record or his debut album, Human’s Lib (1984), is a good place to start, or if you want to just go right for singles, 1993’s The Best of Howard Jones is one of my top-ten best greatest-hits albums of all time (yes, I have a list for everything).

Rickie Lee Jones
“A Lucky Guy” — 1981, #64 (download)
“The Real End” — 1984, #83 (download)

Now that we’ve caught up with the Joneses (no Quincy or Oran “Juice,” sorry), we’ll finish up with the mellow sounds of Rickie Lee. “A Lucky Guy” is a damn fine simple song, one of many tracks on her album Pirates about her breakup with Tom Waits. “The Real End” isn’t a shabby track either. I don’t know much about it and it certainly sounds like she’s talking about a guy in it, but in reality it could have been about her ending her relationships with drugs and alcohol at this point in her life.

Journey
“Too Late” — 1980, #70 (download)
“Good Morning Girl” — 1980, #55 (download)
“Stay Awhile” — 1980, #55 (download)
“Why Can’t This Night Go On Forever” — 1987, #60 (download)

Nineteen overall Hot 100 hits for Journey in the ’80s, and only these three (the double A-side single “Good Morning Girl”/”Stay Awhile” counts as one) didn’t go Top 40. “Too Late” isn’t a bad track, but Steve Perry’s unmistakable vocals are just a little off at the end of the song. “Good Morning Girl” and “Stay Awhile” run in that order on the second side of 1980’s Departure, with the former feeling a bit like an intro to the latter, which, at only two minutes and 48 seconds, probably wasn’t long enough to warrant being released as a single on its own. However, for the sake of this series, “Why Can’t This Night Go On Forever” is the notable song here for one reason only — bassist Randy Jackson, of course, dawg. It’s been quite a while since a Randy Jackson or Arthur Baker sighting on Bottom Feeders, so it’s nice to have one of them back for a brief moment.

Judas Priest
“You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” — 1982, #67 (download)

Nice to see Priest here as I start my budding new metal collection, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” being one of the best of an era. Priest never really made a dent on the charts, even the rock charts, which they only ended up on four times in the decade. But the charts really weren’t necessary of course for Judas Priest to make their mark as metal Gods. If you haven’t pulled any Priest out for a while of course going to British Steel (1980) is never a bad choice, but Screaming For Vengeance (1982) is very close to matching British Steel for pure metal power.

Rob Jungklas
“Make It Mean Something” — 1987, #86 (download)

Now, here’s an artist that really needed a stage name! Fortunately, not many people needed to say his awkward real name, as “Make It Mean Something” was Jungklas’s only brief taste of success. He went on to be a teacher and has put out some blues records in the last half decade.

Note: If you were expecting to see Patrick Jude’s “Strangers in a Strange World” here (and how could you not have been — I mean, it’s Patrick Jude!), it’s not included because we profiled it back in the letter B as it was a duet with Jenny Burton off the Beat Street Soundtrack. Well, and it sounds really really terrible next to Judas Priest.

QUICK HITS
Best song: Jon and Vangelis, “I’ll Find My Way Home”
Worst song: Grace Jones, “I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect for You)”
(In reality, there isn’t one really bad song here for the first time in a while.)

We’ve been plowing through letters as of late, and next week we dive head first into the letter K.