This has been an interesting trip so far. Since I’m talking about the songs that reached the Hot 100 but not the Top 40, I know there are some stinkers. But since I’m doing it in alphabetical order, I was really curious how the quality would turn out. We’ve had one really good week in post #1 and one pretty bad week in #4, but for the most part there’s been a good mix of hits and crap each week.
So, continuing with the story … it’s 2001 and I’ve completed what I originally set out to do — get a hard copy of every song to hit the Billboard Top 40 in the ‘80s. But that wasn’t enough for me, so I decided to expand my search to encompass the entire Hot 100.
This is the point where the real fun of collecting began. It wasn’t difficult at all to get the songs in the Top 40. But the songs we’re talking about in this series are a completely different story: approximately 4,230 songs hit the Hot 100 in the 1980s. Now, of course, having greatest-hits CDs and a ton of full albums meant I had a good start in my quest, but I quickly realized the rarer songs from the early ‘80s would have to be found on record, as many of them have never been issued on CD. I’m not made of money, so the challenge was not only to locate them but to do so on the cheap. Finding those bottom-of-the-chart Bananarama songs from last week was simple, but locating something like “Fools Like Me” by Lorenzo Lamas was not. The only format I wouldn’t accept was cassette, only because I had nothing to play them on.
So, over the next five years I scoured record shows and eBay for Dana Valery singles and Frank Stallone’s self-titled debut record. My then-girlfriend — now my wife — would get totally pissed at me as she came home every day to find a half-dozen packages blocking the door, but hey, it’s all for the love of the art, right?
Next week we’ll skip ahead to 2006 and talk about how I “finished” my quest. Until then let’s continue with artists whose names start with the letter B, as we look at the songs that made it into the lower three-fifths of the Billboard Hot 100 in the ’80s.
Band of Gold
“Love Songs Are Back Again” — 1984, #64 (download)
I detest these medley songs. I don’t know if they existed before the ‘80s, but the decade in question must have had the most. Stars on 45 were really to blame for the popularity of them, but there are at least another dozen or so by various artists that charted. There were two types: those that just sort of mixed the original songs together, and ones like “Love Songs Are Back Again,” where a medley of covers was presented. Both methods sucked. If I really wanted to hear all of these songs again I’d just listen to the originals. In any case, it’s not like “Love Songs” or any of the other popular medley songs were remade to sound like they belonged in the ‘80s.
Frank Barber Orchestra
“Hooked on Big Bands” — 1982, #61 (download)
Since I’m going in alphabetical order, it’s a complete coincidence that we have two of these proto-mash-up songs back-to-back. To me it’s just inexplicable how “Hooked” got any airplay at all. I’m not saying it isn’t a well-made song, but leave it out of my decade.
Sorry, but “Magic Carpet Ride” is just one of those song titles you don’t choose unless you’re covering the Steppenwolf classic. This is no cover song, but it is seriously craptastic.
Bardeux went through three lineup changes in three years, but the most remarkable thing about them is that one of the original members, Tairrie B., recorded a gangsta-rap record in 1990 with Eazy-E. I’m not quite sure I would’ve seen that coming.
Band of Gold actually got higher on the charts than “Freakshow on the Dance Floor”? What was this world I was living in back then? My eight-year-old self would clearly have been able to figure out that there’s nothing that says ‘80s funk like being a freakshow on some dance floor. Although I’m not a big fan of the ballad “Today Is the Day,” both “Freakshow” and “Move Your Boogie Body” rank right up there with the best funk of the decade.
Jimmy Barnes was huge in Australia, both as a solo artist and with his band Cold Chisel. Supposedly he was a raging alcoholic and slept with over a thousand women. Now, supposedly this number was only a rumor, but how does that even come about? I’ve never been on tour with a billion groupies on me at all times, but that’s still a ridiculous amount of vajayjay. “Good Times” was an Easybeat cover recorded with his friends from INXS and used in the film The Lost Boys. Barnes worked with a lot of other superstars as well — Journey’s Jonathan Cain wrote “Working Class Man,” and Kim Carnes and Huey Lewis appeared on his records.
Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock
“Joy and Pain” — 1989, #58 (download)
Pump it up now. It’s hard to believe such a great song wasn’t a bigger hit, isn’t it?
“New Day for You” — 1988, #53 (download)
I actually like this song much better than Basia’s biggest hit, “Time and Tide.” This was considered contemporary jazz, a field which I am admittedly not too knowledgeable about. However, every time I listen to “New Day for You” I hear a lot of Sade in it, and since she was quite jazzy herself, I can understand where the label comes from.
I’m so excited to be talking about “Shoppin’ From A to Z” already. This is Shit Sandwich #1 on my 80 Worst of the ‘80s countdown over at Bastard Radio. It definitely seems like a good portion of people have no idea that Toni Basil did anything after “Mickey,” which is a terrible song too. If you listen to nothing else from this week’s installment of Bottom Feeders, enrich your day by listening to a chorus of people scream Toni’s shopping list one by one from A to Z. As if this doesn’t sound lame enough to begin with, some of the items are recited by just one person the second time through, which leads to such awkward moments as a dude trying to sound like he’s barking the words “dog food” and a breathy woman saying “nuts.” But the two moments that really make this the worst tune of the entire decade are the letter Z, for which Toni shops for zippers, and the letter X, for which she shops for … well, nothing. First of all, there’s never been one occasion where I’ve visited the same store to pick up onions, tuna, and zippers. And secondly, the part with the letter X just bothers the bejesus out of me; seriously, the thing she’s shopping for here is “nothing.” How many people did it take to put this track together and not one of them at any point said to themselves, “Well, we can’t think of any foods for X and Z so maybe we just shouldn’t do this fucking train wreck”! Or at least point out to Toni that she’s shopping from A to Z minus X. If you’re going to use “zipper” as a choice, then “xylophone” could’ve been worked in somehow. I’m sure there are many more noncharting songs that are worse, but this dark brown stain on society was actually played by a DJ or three. Therefore it grabs the top spot for me as the worst song of the ‘80s.
The Beach Boys
“Goin’ On” — 1980, #53 (download)
“It’s Getting Late” — 1985, #82 (download)
“Rock ‘n Roll to the Rescue” — 1986, #68 (download)
“California Dreamin’” — 1986, #57 (download)
“Still Cruisin’” — 1989, #93 (download)
I have to admit there are some pretty bad tunes in this week’s post, so what’s five more, right? I’m not going to lie — the Beach Boys were a group I just never understood. Surf rock never interested me, but no matter what their sound was, to this day I can’t understand liking a group that recycled the same damn song their entire career (okay, so I can understand — I like AC/DC). Are all these songs different in some way? Well, sure, I’d be silly to say they aren’t. But when I listen to them I hear exactly the same thing over and over again. All five of them are pretty sad, but “Still Cruisin’” completely takes the cake.
“Brass Monkey” — 1987, #48 (download)
At least we get to end on a high note. I know what you’re saying right now: “This douchebag claims the Beach Boys suck but he likes the Beastie Boys?” Hey, at least the Beasties were pretty damn unique for the time. How can you not love a sequence like “This girl walked by, she gave me the eye / I reached into the locker, grabbed the Spanish Fly / I put it with the monkey, mixed it in the cup / Went over to the girl — yo, baby, what’s up?”
That’s it for this week, my friends. Twenty more songs from the bottom of the charts next week, including some from a critically praised jazz guitarist and a recent Nine Inch Nails collaborator. Until then bring up Toni Basil on your iPod the next time you hit the supermarket and see if you can locate the nothing for her.