We move into year two of Bottom Feeders: The Ass End of the ‘80s, with one of the best weeks we’ve had in a while, in my opinion. How about we continue with the letter L, looking at songs that peaked at #41 or lower on the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the ’80s.
“Bet Your Heart on Me” — 1981, #54 (download)
Naturally, after I say this is one of the best weeks we’ve had in a while, we start off with this lump of coal. I’m not quite sure I understand how most country music crossed over into the Hot 100 in the early ’80s. Lee had a pretty massive hit in 1980 with “Lookin’ for Love” (#5), so maybe I can see “Bet Your Heart” charting if it was the follow-up, but it wasn’t. There were four other singles between those two that only hit the country chart. So how does this generic country song become the one that mainstream radio pushes? I guess it’s just about knowing the right people or having the right amount of cash.
“Don’t Talk” — 1982, #81 (download)
There are weeks where I dig this light rock sound from the early ’80s and weeks I don’t. This must be one of those where I do, because I’m groovin’ along to this simple tune, the only solo hit Larry Lee had after leaving the Ozark Mountain Daredevils early in ’82.
“Boom Boom (Let’s Go Back to My Room)” — 1987, #43 (download)
I’m so happy this missed the top 40 by three spots. “Boom Boom (Let’s Go Back to My Room)” is the type of song Bottom Feeders is all about, so I would have been crushed to not have it here. This is one of two songs in the letter L that I love way more than I should. And I’m going to bet that all of you loved this at one point or another too (this is the place to admit it). If you were between the ages of 15 and 22 in 1987 when this came out you absolutely loved this, because it was probably played at every high-school dance or fraternity party for a year. I can’t imagine how many horny boys and horny girls were awkwardly dry humping each other trying to get some “Boom Boom.” (I was going to add a Paul Lekakis picture to this, but my google search kept turning up pictures of him naked by himself or naked with other men, so I decided to move on).
Two wonderful songs here from Mr. Lennon. “I’m Steppin’ Out” comes from Milk and Honey, which would have been a great EP had Yoko Ono’s songs not been on it. “Jealous Guy” was released in conjunction with the soundtrack to Imagine: John Lennon. (Some of you may wonder how I could write almost a dozen sentences about Paul Lekakis and only three about John Lennon, but hell — what could I say that you don’t already know?)
John Lennon’s first son ended up with six Hot 100 hits, all in the ’80s. Frankly, I’m surprised that he didn’t have a bigger career simply because of his name. Then again, he didn’t release music until after his father’s death, and from everything I’ve read, he never had much of a relationship with his father anyway — he was always closer to Sir Paul than John.
“Jesse” was the fourth and final single from his debut album, Valotte, and was the weakest single on it. After that he was only able to muster one hit from his next record, 1986’s The Secret Value of Daydreaming (“Stick Around,” #32), which was critically panned at the time but is underrated, if you ask me. He followed that up with just one single from his 1989 album, Mr. Jordan: “Now You’re in Heaven” had a very different sound from his previous singles.
Louisiana’s LeRoux had four tracks hit the Hot 100, three in the ’80s. “The Last Safe Place on Earth” is a dull track from their album Last Safe Place. “Carrie’s Gone” is a track I really enjoy, with a much more dynamic sound than they previously had, probably thanks to singer Fergie Frederiksen coming aboard for the album replacing original singer Jeff Pollard.
Talk about a group that evolved over time. If you’ve never heard the first few Level 42 albums, you’d be hard-pressed to identify them as coming from the same group that made “Something About You” a massive hit.
The U.S. didn’t pick up on these guys until 1985, when they released their sixth album, World Machine. Before that time, and especially at the beginning of their career, Level 42 were a jazz-funk group with lots of instrumentals on each record. Each release after their 1981 self-titled debut moved a little more toward the mainstream, with 1983’s Standing in the Light throwing the band’s first pop hooks into the water, and 1984’s True Colors dipping more than just a toe into the mainstream.
But World Machine was the big hit in this country. “Something About You” is undeniably catchy and was easily the poppiest thing they had done up until that point. “Hot Water” was included on the U.S. version of the album only — a longer version had been released on True Colors a year earlier. “Running in the Family” was their last Hot 100 song, being the title track from their 1987 album. According to Wikipedia, they’ve had 32 charting hits in the UK and unbelievably only four in the U.S. I guess it’s not the only time we’ve made a mistake with a group.
Over the years I’ve heard so many people say that Huey Lewis & the News were simply lucky and they really sucked. I can’t share that opinion.
I’m a big fan of Huey and the gang, probably the best bar band of the decade. Their only weak album was their self-titled debut in 1980. 1984’s Sports and 1986’s Fore! are great albums from start to finish, Fore! being a rare masterpiece, in my opinion. “Workin’ for a Livin'” comes from the Picture This album and was followed by 13 consecutive Top 40 hits (including three number ones). 1988’s Small World went a little more towards their jazzier side and wasn’t as big a hit, but produced a few great songs, one of them being “Give Me the Keys.”
The only problem I have with Huey Lewis is their greatest-hits package, Time Flies … The Best of Huey Lewis & the News. Greatest-hits packages are hit-or-miss and are often incomplete, but this one in particular sticks out as being extremely poor for some reason. They put out four new songs, the non-hits “Bad Is Bad,” and a live version of “Trouble in Paradise,” but left off two of the most popular Huey Lewis songs, “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Hip to Be Square.” I’m certainly not all about hits, but having a Huey Lewis & the News greatest-hits record without “Hip to Be Square” on it seems quite ridiculous to me.
“Realistic” — 1989, #84 (download)
Shirley Lewis really had no chance to make it. Her debut album Passion, was poorly distributed by A&M Records and wasn’t anything special or unique to begin with and as far as I can tell, she never made a follow up record. She’s had a few one off singles here and there before and after this, but nothing noteworthy.
“Baby Step Back” — 1982, #50 (download)
There’s something a little crazy about this. I know nothing about Gordon Lightfoot except “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and this tune. I have zero interest in ever hearing any other Lightfoot song or learning anything more about him. And yet, I love this track.
“French Kiss” — 1989, #50 (download)
Of the 4,200-plus songs that hit the Hot 100 in the decade, this might go down as the most unlikely of the group. This song is basically an orgasm courtesy of Shawn Christopher (a backing vocalist for Chaka Khan who later took her orgasm skills to My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult). I can’t even begin to fathom how this got any mainstream play, let alone enough to chart as high as #50. And the version you’re hearing here is just the four-minute single version. Grab the longer 12-inch versions and you’ve got a lot more orgasm to work with.
“Only for Love” — 1985, #51 (download)
You know, back when Kajagoogoo was in the series, I thought that I would much rather listen to Limahl solo material than anything the Goos put out but man, was I totally wrong. This is as bad if not worse than the output of the group. “Never Ending Story” is stellar compared to this crap.
“Victory Line” — 1986, #79 (download)
Limited Warranty was another artist that was never given a true chance to shine. They were a Star Search winner in 1985 and that led to their self-titled record which included the excellent “Victory Line” a song I can see fitting in perfectly with a group like the Alarm. Unfortunately bad management and label problems prevented them from ever releasing a proper follow up (only an EP released on their own in 1987 would surface) so if you weren’t a die-hard, this is probably all you’ve ever heard from them.
“Rock It” — 1980, #64 (download)
Lipps Inc. is the perfect example of what happens when your first single is so good that you can never get close to that quality again. “Funkytown” goes all the way to the top of the charts in 1980 and then everything after that paled in comparison. You still would have thought that the follow up single, “Rock It” would have ridden some of that momentum to reach a peak spot higher than #64. It’s a good song, but no “Funkytown.” And when you only have four songs on your debut and six on your follow up (1980’s Pucker Up) you don’t have much choice in the way of singles.
“What’s She Got” — 1983, #86 (download)
Liquid Gold was an English disco group that released their first single in 1978. “What’s She Got” was a one off final attempt at a hit before the group broke up for good in 1984.
Best song: Limited Warranty, “Victory Line”
Worst song: Limahl, “Only for Love”
Next week we showcase one of my favorite artists of all time, and the king of soundtracks!