I’m going to issue you a promise — I promise to never Rickroll you again (in this series). I mean, there’s no way I could top last week’s shenanigans anyway.
As a reminder to those who are just tuning in, I only leave each week’s songs up until the next week’s entry is posted. After that you’re out of luck. But as a special treat, I’m going to leave “American Memories” posted for a second week. For those who still haven’t located it, go to the very bottom of last week’s post and look for “an extra song.” Sorry, I don’t take requests, so you’ve got one more week to pick it up.
As far as this week goes, M’s been such a mixed bag so far — we’ve seen some really good artists and heard a lot of rare songs, but this week we visit one of my least favorite artists of the decade. Way to kill my momentum, M!
There’s a whopping 23 songs in this post. Enjoy all but the last six as we continue looking at the ass end of the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the ’80s.
“Hold Me” — 1985, #62 (download)
Puberty is bad. Very bad. If you didn’t know that then you haven’t been following Menudo at all. Menudo is a rotating cast of children that got fired when they reached puberty to keep the group young looking. It must have been great for the gaggle of kids that were in this band at one point or another to sing for a while and then have your dreams shattered when you got a little hair on the family jewels. They’ve had like 40 records or so – which I guess isn’t so hard when you’re simply a corporation. “Hold Me” was their only US hit and one of the voices on here is courtesy of the most famous of all members of Menudo, Mr. Ricky Martin.
Men Without Hats
“I Like” — 1983, #84 (download)
I like bacon, long secluded periods of time with only Ambrosia records to listen to and your cute sister. Oh, and I like this song, the follow-up to “The Safety Dance.”
I’m kind of torn what to think of either of these tracks. “Love Kills” is the better of the two, from the soundtrack of the movie Metropolis. But Queen clearly saw something in “I Was Born to Love You,” as the remaining members of the band reworked it for their 1995 album Made in Heaven. Neither of them really blow me away. I think Mr. Hughes likes “Love Kills” more than me, though.
I never really understood the fascination with Bette Midler, especially as a singer. She may have been an all-around superstar but I don’t think she has all that great of a voice. All three of these suck-ass cover songs come from her 1983 album No Frills. “All I Need to Know” is a reworking of “Don’t Know Much” which we saw last week from Bill Medley. “Favorite Waste of Time” is a butchered take on a great Marshall Crenshaw song (Lost Causes’ version is best. —Ed.), and “Beast of Burden” is of course a Rolling Stones cover and is actually tolerable at least.
“The Dead Heart” — 1988, #53 (download)
I say Midnight Oil is one of my favorite artists of the decade, but I never actually go back to listen to them even though I own every one of their records. “The Dead Heart” was the second single from Diesel and Dust, their breakthrough album in the US. Unfortunately, they were only able to get one more Hot 100 song, in 1990 with “Blue Sky Mine.” I’m not sure there’s a bad album in the Midnight Oil catalog, but starting with 1982′s 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and going through 1996′s Breathe wouldn’t be the worst way to spend your day.
“Freak-a-Zoid” — 1983, #66 (download)
“Wet My Whistle” — 1983, #61 (download)
“No Parking (On the Dance Floor)” — 1984, #81 (download)
“Scientific Love” — 1985, #80 (download)
“Headlines” — 1986, #69 (download)
“Midas Touch” — 1986, #42 (download)
Midnight Star is a supercalifunkalicious group that had all 19 singles they released chart on the R&B charts. Seven of them crossed into the Hot 100, with only “Operator” in 1985 hitting the Top 40. It’s hard to pick which is the best song here as almost everything they did from ’82-’86 was awesome. As I’m listening to “Freak-A-Zoid” right now, I’m thinking about those robotic lyrics and then thinking of all the other groups that did this, plus the use of the talk box and wonder if these unnatural vocals created the stir that Auto-Tune has created these days.
As much as I love “Freak-a-Zoid” I think “No Parking (On the Dance Floor)” is one of the definitive funk songs of the era. You can’t help but move your booty to this one and sing along, “beep beep, beep beep, beep beep.” These two and “Wet My Whistle” were from their best overall album also called No Parking (On the Dance Floor). The next year the Bar-Kays would go on to make a very similar song called “Freakshow on the Dance Floor.”
Their ’86 album Headlines would spawn the title track and the crazy “Midas Touch” which is a song that I can remember listening to a lot growing up, spinning the 45 probably 10 times a day. Mom apparently either liked the song or didn’t really care either way. I don’t think I’d mind if my son played this all day long either. “Midas Touch” would be their final Hot 100 hit. After this album founding member Reggie Calloway and his brother Vincent would leave the band to form Calloway (1990′s “I Wanna Be Rich”). The next two albums would get the group a total of five more R&B hits but sales dropped and the group disbanded in 1991.
I was always a big fan of Mike + the Mechanics. I’ve always liked Mike Rutherford’s choice to bring in not one but two of the best voices of the decade in Paul Carrack and Paul Young. Both of these tracks were from The Living Years, which was their second record. Their follow-up album, 1991′s Word of Mouth, is my favorite overall album from them. Paul Young died of a heart attack in 2000.
“To Dream the Dream” – 1982, #62 (download)
Frankie Miller was a Scottish singer though this song sounds very much like southern rock. In fact, apart from the vocals this sounds very much like a Bob Seger tune.
Steve Miller Band
“Circle of Love” — 1982, #55 (download)
“Cool Magic” — 1982, #57 (download)
“Give It Up” — 1982, #60 (download)
“Shangri-La” — 1984, #67 (download)
“Bongo Bongo” — 1985, #84 (download)
“I Want to Make the World Turn Around” — 1986, #97 (download)
If you’ve read the series for a while, you know I hate Corey Hart. Right behind Corey though is Steve Miller. In my opinion, Steve Miller represents the quickest and most severe drop from really good to really bad in the history of music. I mean, “The Joker” and “Fly Like an Eagle” – these are great songs. And then the ’80s came and for whatever reason Steve Miller went 100% off his fucking rocker. There is probably no one that wishes Mr. Miller would have taken the money and ran more than me.
Most people probably point to “Abracadabra” as the jump the shark moment in his career, but that track is gold compared to the other crap he released in the decade. It started with 1981′s Circle of Love album, which not only features that sad sack of a title track and its sick-sounding “ahhh ahhh ahhhs,” but also “Macho City,” the 16-minute, completely unlistenable entire second side of the LP. To this date, Circle of Love is the only album of the 4,000-plus full-lengths in my collection that I haven’t listened to in full. I took a break as I was writing this, popped “Macho City” on, and made it to minute four before I had to stop. I’ve listened to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music all the way through once. “Circle of Love” checks in at #6 on my bottom 80 songs of the ‘80s list.
Then there’s the bizarre 1984 album Italian X-Rays, which featured both “Shangri-La” and “Bongo Bongo.” Shangri-La” checks in at #44 on my list of worst ’80s songs thanks mostly to those miserable, miserable harmonies but also some terrible lyrics. “Bongo Bongo” checks in at #11 on my list and represents one of the songs in my “unholy trilogy.” You’d think that trilogy would include my three least favorite songs of the decade, but that’s not the case. There are three songs that strike some kind of weird chord with me even if there are worse. “Bongo Bongo” is one, Toni Basil’s “Shopping A to Z” is another (and I do think that’s the worst) and “Dear Mr. Jesus” by Powersource which we’ll talk about in the letter P. Steve Miller’s final charting song was “I Want to Make the World Turn Around” which probably could have made my list as well except I couldn’t bare to waste four spots on him.
Best song: Midnight Star, “No Parking (On the Dance Floor)”
Worst song: Steve Miller Band, “Circle of Love”
It’s a shame I had to end on Steve Miller. If my ears can recover, we’ll have more from the letter M next week.