It’s 1999 — I’m working two jobs and finding myself with no money thanks to my record-buying obsession, so I pick up three new jobs. I’m now working five jobs, 60 hours or so a week, going to school, and purchasing as many records as I can get my hands on.
Fast-forward to 2001. Collecting every song from the Top 40 wasn’t really the most difficult thing I’ve done. The majority of them can be found on some CD, somewhere, and if not on the original album then on a reissue, greatest-hits album, or compilation of some sort. The only reason it took me two years is a simple lack of moolah.
The very last song I needed to finish my collection was an interesting one: “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles. Of course I could’ve found that song on a thousand different CDs, but I wanted to find the ’80s release of it — it hit #23 in 1986 thanks to its inclusion in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I must’ve searched for the soundtrack to that movie for six months without any luck before the lightbulb went off in my head that maybe I should find out why. Seems that Ferris’s director, John Hughes, didn’t think the songs in the movie would flow together outside of the movie, so he never released a soundtrack. At that point I purchased the original song from one of those thousand different CDs, and my collection was complete. Or so I thought.
I figured I could end it there, but after going no more than three weeks without purchasing one record, I decided I needed to keep going and expanded my quest to include the entire Billboard Hot 100 chart from the ’80s. So, essentially, I’ve been building up to this series for about seven years now.
Since this is where the fun really begins, we’ll start talking about this challenge next week. In the meantime, we move on to the letter “B.”
This is the way you start a post, my friends. John Waite is my third favorite vocalist of the ’80s, behind only Peter Cetera and Paul Carrack. The dude has such a smooth, melodic tone and can absolutely belt out a rock tune. These days Scott Weiland reminds me a lot of Waite, both vocally and with his overall look.
Both of these songs are killer, though “Midnight Rendezvous” is the true gem of the Babys’ catalog. I almost called it flawless, but it could’ve been improved with a better hook. Take a listen to .38 Special’s “Hold On Loosely,” which came out a year later. The bridge in that song is pretty much the chorus to “Midnight Rendezvous,” but it went Top 40 thanks to its sing-along chorus. However, .38 Special didn’t throw in the line “Oh, I really wanna fuck you” as “Hold On Loosely” faded out. Now, that’s badass.
“Electricland” is from Rough Diamonds, the last album from the original Paul Rodgers era of Bad Company. The song is pretty much a snoozer, but that’s not important, because Rough Diamonds has one of my favorite album covers of the ’80s. At first glance it appears to be a pretty generic sort of turquoise front with three diamonds cut out. But then you see the, well, rough diamonds, cut all the way down the opening of the album jacket. It’s really quite cool to have all these little cut-out diamonds on the side, but if there’s any one drawback to looking good, slide Rough Diamonds into a pile of records and have someone pick them up — little fingers don’t like pointy cardboard digging into them.
“This Love” certainly goes down as the low point in the Bad Company discography. They had replaced Rodgers with Brian Howe by this point and hired Foreigner’s producer to work on the album Fame and Fortune. The resulting sound was filled with keyboards, and “This Love” was the best of the worst on this completely generic slop.
Quite surprisingly, though, Bad Company’s 1989 album Dangerous Age wasn’t that bad at all. The keyboards are basically gone, and a new producer brought the rock back. “Shake It Up” is kind of catchy, and the album, though dated, is solid.
Not sure what camp the drama is coming from these days, but apparently some form of Bad Company is touring right now and someone doesn’t like it, as this appears on their website — “Bad Company are not touring and have not been on tour since 2002. Anyone saying that they are Bad Company is doing so with out the bands approval or consent.” Good shit right there.
“Forget Me Not” — 1989, #45 (download)
John Waite is my third favorite vocalist of the ’80s, behind only Peter Cetera and Paul Carrack. Oh, wait, I already said that, didn’t I?
Bad English was a mixture of members of the Babys and Journey, including Waite, Neil Schon, and Jonathan Cain. I have a good feeling I’m in the minority here, but I dug this short-lived project. “Forget Me Not” was the first single off their debut record and sounded closer to the Babys’ end of the rock world. Of course, Diane Warren penned the album’s second single, “When I See You Smile,” which was just played at its 1,000,000th wedding.
“Hold On” — 1981, #56 (download)
“Hold On” was a shockingly good song considering that it was created after original singer Pete Ham committed suicide, management had screwed over the band, and their 1979 comeback record wasn’t a success. This is a lost power-pop gem that deserved a better fate.
“Walking on the Chinese Wall” — 1985, #46 (download)
Love it, love it, love it. Earth, Wind & Fire are one of my favorite funk groups of all time, but I think getting Phil Collins to produce Bailey’s Chinese Wall record and releasing this gorgeous, Collins-influenced track was a great move on Bailey’s part, as the EWF sound had grown a bit stale by this time. “Walking on the Chinese Wall” didn’t do anything to help his solo career, but it was a nice addition to the catalog.
Over the past two years or so I’ve been really getting into the urban music of the ’80s; I’m constantly listening to R&B and funk whenever I get a chance. Before I started opening my mind to those genres, Anita Baker wasn’t even a blip on my radar, but I now realize just how good she was. Both of these songs are from 1986’s Rapture, which is probably one of the best R&B albums of the decade. However, a few weeks ago my wife and I went to a birthing class and the instructor told us there are only 352 days in a year, so how come no one told Anita as she was recording my favorite song of hers? Silly mistake.
“Falling in Love” — 1981, #56 (download)
Well, we needed one superturd in this batch. It’s hard to listen to “Falling in Love” and know that Balance was considered a rock band. If I heard this on the radio, I’d be falling in love with whatever song came after it.
“What Love Is” — 1983, #63 (download)
1983 was not a good year for all things Marty Balin. Granted, his former group, Jefferson Starship, was caught in an overly boring period, but his own solo career pretty much ended with that year’s Lucky, which was only his second album. Both of Balin’s albums in the ’80s had the same flaws: no rock edge, very little songwriting from Balin himself, and musicians that sounded like they were simply going through the motions. “What Love Is” had to have charted based on reputation alone, as the song quality just isn’t there.
“On the Rebound” — 1980, #58 (download)
Here’s Russ Ballard, former lead singer of Argent and writer of two big ’80s hits, Frida’s “I Know There’s Something Going On” and America’s “You Can Do Magic.” It took Ballard four albums to get his only charting single; he turned out to be one of those characters who wrote his best material for other people but never really kept anything superb for himself. But you know, this damn song has all the elements of a rock smash: the echo throughout the verses and the quick-fire guitar solo at the 1:40 mark, with some talk box right on its heels, are some great little effects that give “On the Rebound” a slightly different feel for its time.
“Living in the Background” — 1986, #87 (download)
I’m not ashamed to admit that I kind of dug singer Jimmy McShane and his group Baltimora. If “Living in the Background” had had a decent hook it probably would’ve fared better, but its real problem was following a sing-along hit like “Tarzan Boy.” That was easily the best tune on Baltimora’s debut EP, and while the rest was decent, there was just no way for them to match it. They released a second record overseas and then were only heard from again in the early ’90s when “Tarzan Boy” was licensed for various commercials and movies.
“Planet Rock” — 1982, #48 (download)
Cannot. Type. While. Doing. The. Robot.
“Shy Boy” — 1983, #83 (download)
“Robert DeNiro’s Waiting” — 1984, #85 (download)
“The Wild Life” — 1984, #70 (download)
“More Than Physical” — 1986, #73 (download)
“A Trick of the Night” — 1986, #76 (download)
“I Can’t Help It” — 1987, #47 (download)
“Love in the First Degree” — 1988, #48 (download)
“Love, Truth & Honesty” — 1988, #89 (download)
Well, folks, we have a new leader in the race to see which artist has the most songs in this series. Bananarama had over 20 Top 40 hits in Europe, but in the U.S. they basically built their career on three songs: “Cruel Summer,” “Venus,” and “I Heard a Rumour.” In fact, those three were the only Top 40 hits they had. You’d get no argument from me if you said their pre-’86 new wave period found them at their most creative — “The Wild Life” and “Robert DeNiro’s Waiting” are both great songs. But neither of them fit in with what U.S. radio was playing at the time, so it’s understandable that they weren’t hits. Silly, but understandable. However, when Bananarama moved to Stock-Aitken-Waterman territory in ’86, their new wave became Europop, and songs like “More Than Physical” and “I Can’t Help It” were cookie-cutter crap.
I do still find it interesting that all three of the Bananarama girls sung in unison on pretty much every track. Even if just multitracked in the studio, doing that live had to be a challenge. And wow, have you seen the ladies now? Original members Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin are still making music as Bananarama. Check out their website — these ladies are in their mid- to late 40s. Talk about aging well. Finally, one of my favorite facts: Keren lives in England with her boyfriend, who just happens to be Andrew Ridgeley!
Next week we get to listen to a good friend of INXS and also talk about my least favorite song of the decade. I can’t wait. Until then, make it a Bananarama and John Waite night and watch the lovin’ flow. (Just remember to safely contain the flow.)