We’re moving on to the 11th letter of the alphabet this week on Bottom Feeders, a look at all the great and miserable songs that charted no higher than #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the 1980s.
Johnny Average Band
“Ch Ch Cherie” — 1981, #53 (download)
Yeah, I know I just said we were beginning the 11th letter, K, but thanks to a snafu — I thought I wrote about the Johnny Average band last year when this series kicked off — we have to deal with the one J entry that I missed.
Frankly, I’m hoping you can provide some kind of insight into this one. I’ve read quite a few different things about the Johnny Average Band: One, I’ve heard this is really a group called the Falcons that was formed by producer and onetime David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson. But I’ve also read that Ronson doesn’t play on this particular track. I do know that Johnny Average was the stage name of the keyboard player, and “Ch Ch Cherie” features singer Nicole Wills on vocals.
“Hang On Now” — 1983, #78 (download)
I don’t believe Kajagoogoo has ever come up as a topic in this series before so I don’t know what the reaction will be when I claim these guys are total crap. I truly believe that Kajagoogoo are one of the luckiest bands of the decade. I can’t sit here and even remotely tell you that “Too Shy” despite its stupid lyrics isn’t catchy as hell, but the rest of their debut album White Feathers, including “Hang On Now” is slop. These guys were poised to rise like Duran Duran would soon do (the album was even produced by Nick Rhodes and Colin Thurston who was the Duran Duran producer at the time) but they forgot to actually write some songs. White Feathers is straight by-the-book new-wave, taking very few chances at all. And dumb titles like “Ooh To Be Ah” and “This Car is Fast” cemented their place as poor songwriters in my book. Singer Limahl was fired after this album and the ensuing two records without him (both by Kaja — no “googoo” suffix — in the U.S.) sucked even worse. Good for them that they are still making money off “Too Shy” but damn if that wasn’t just good luck rather than talent.
“Loverboy” — 1984, #88 (download)
This is one of the rarer tracks in this post. Karen Kamon is also known as the wife of producer Phil Ramone. She had songs in Flashdance and D.C. Cab before releasing “Loverboy,” her only charting single.
“You Can” — 1982, #77 (download)
Speaking of Flashdance, “You Can” certainly would have fit well on that soundtrack. A Swedish model, this might be her biggest hit, as it did very well on the dance charts. The version posted is the 12-inch mix of the single.
“Don’t Look Any Further” — 1988, #64 (download)
The Kane Gang were a short-lived British group that hit the charts twice in the States. This and their other U.S. hit, “Motortown,” both came from their second record, Miracle. These guys apparently liked covering soul records, as this was a cover of the Dennis Edwards original and their debut record contained a cover of the Staple Singers’ “Respect Yourself.”
“Can’t Hold Back (Your Lovin’)” — 1981, #89 (download)
Kano was an “Italo-Disco” group that began releasing club tracks with 1980’s “I’m Ready.” “Can’t Hold Back” sounds like second-rate Chic to me, the only memorable part of it being the strange name of the album it was from, New York Cake.
No one I knew ever listened to Kansas. No parents, no friends’ parents, no friends. Growing up, no one ever sung “Carry On Wayward Son” to me, so my first introduction to any sort of Kansas material was through my collection. Now, of course, I know the big ‘70s hits, but this sloppy, generic born-again Christian faze of Kansas was my big introduction to them, so you can imagine why I say I’m not impressed at all. I actually think “Power” is a really decent track, though it sounds nothing like what Kansas was. And the opening riff of “Fight Fire With Fire” is just killer, unfortunately lost in the shittiness of the rest of the song. If I honestly never hear any Kansas song again, I’ll be perfectly fine with that.
I’m really not digging this week at all, but I guess that’s the way the alphabet falls, isn’t it? Here’s another group that I could do without. “Walking on Sunshine” is one of those songs that I will just skip on by every time it shows up on my iPod. “Que te Quiero” was the second follow-up to “Sunshine” and is mediocre at best, and “Is That It?” is from their second album, Waves, which reportedly even the band doesn’t like.
“It’s Not You, It’s Not Me” — 1986, #89 (download)
Here’s one that I actually dig, can you believe it? The K is for Paul Kantner, the B for Marty Balin, and the C equals Jack Casady, all members of Jefferson Airplane/Starship. I like the mix of the groovy verses with those epic saxes. “It’s Not You, It’s Not Me” was written by Van Stephenson and was on their one and only self-titled album.
“Just for the Moment” — 1980, #82 (download)
Um, whoa now … what the … look, be careful how close you get, because I become a cranky little boy when someone wakes me up from a nice nap, like the one I just took while listening to this saptastic tune. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at how dull it is; after all, it was produced by David Foster.
“Wouldn’t It Be Good” — 1984, #46 (download)
I’m shocked I’m talking about Nik Kershaw here. Or, rather, I’m shocked that I’m talking about a great song like “Wouldn’t It Be Good.” Off his debut album, Human Racing, this song has one of the catchiest choruses of the decade, in my opinion. It had all the right elements in place to be a major hit but failed to climb past #46. The shitty video couldn’t have helped.
“What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me” — 1981, #53 (download)
“Got to Be There” — 1983, #67 (download)
“This Is My Night” — 1985, #60 (download)
“Through the Fire” — 1985, #60 (download)
“Own the Night” — 1985, #57 (download)
“Love of a Lifetime” — 1986, #53 (download)
Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
“Sharing the Love” — 1981, #91 (download)
Despite not liking female artists as a general rule, it’s hard for me to not enjoy the goddess of funk. Chaka’s had a massive career of hit song after hit song, and even her minor hits here are excellent. There’s certainly two sides of Chaka here — before 1985 it was all about straight funk tunes and smooth R&B ballads. Then, starting with 1984’s I Feel for You, she went kind of synth-heavy and followed the trend of dancier R&B that would keep her relevant for a few more years. “Love of a Lifetime” is really the only weak link here. Of course, there’s been renewed interest in her music over the past few years thanks to Kanye West introducing a whole new generation to her when he sampled “Through the Fire” for his own “Through the Wire.” I’m including the Rufus track here because I assume I’ll have forgotten it by the time we reach the letter R.
Best song: Nik Kershaw, “Wouldn’t It Be Good”
Worst song: Kajagoogoo, “Hang On Now”
Next week we “kihntinue” with the letter K, with some rock gods and a Barry Manilow sighting.