We’ve reached the end of the longest letter we’ve had in a while, and we leave it in style — and/or a pile of adult-contemporary crap. Take your pick. Enjoy the final week of the letter M as you listen to a lot more from the ass end of the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the 1980s.
“I Don’t Know” — 1989, #81 (download)
If you type “Michael Morales” into Wikipedia, you’ll get the profile of some convicted murderer. Now, the musician known as Michael Morales may have been pretty crappy, but the only thing he’s murdered are my eardrums. (Ba-dum-bump! Here all night, folks!)
In the world of Top 40 hits there are very few songs I would consider obscure, but Morales’s first two singles might fall into that category. In 1989 “Who Do You Give Your Love To?” went to #14, and his second, a cover of the Romantics’ “What I Like About You,” went to #28. Then “I Don’t Know” dropped, and you know what — I don’t know if I’ve ever heard Morales’s actual vocals. All three of these songs are so layered, processed, and fake sounding that I feel like I’m listening to a machine instead of a human. But if his vocals were so bad that they needed to be that processed, how did he ever get a deal in the first place? “What I Like About You” would go down as my least favorite cover song of the decade if it weren’t for Roger’s (Troutman) mind-melting 1981 cover of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”
“Do Me Baby” — 1986, #46 (download)
It was a nice, cool night in 2006 when I came home from work and quietly ran into the record room without my girlfriend noticing. I put “Do Me Baby,” still in the picture sleeve, on top of the turntable. As I was unpacking my stuff from work, I asked her to go into the room and put on this new Prince cover I’d gotten because I thought she’d like it.
She told me to do it myself.
After a few more tries, I finally convinced her to go into the record room. When she picked up the 45, underneath it was a diamond ring.
Yes, I got engaged to Meli’sa Morgan’s cover of Prince’s “Do Me Baby.” A romantic at heart, I am.
Check out the video with Sadao Watanabe on saxophone:
“Reach Out” — 1984, #81 (download)
I can’t deny what Giorgio Moroder has brought to music, especially ’80s music. He took Italo-disco and turned it into synth-pop and wrote and/or produced some of the best songs and soundtracks of the decade. But “Reach Out,” the official theme to the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, sucks humongous balls.
Speaking of Giorgio Moroder, the Motels recorded their 1985 album Shock at his studio, although I don’t believe he had any direct involvement in the recording. “Take the L” and “Forever Mine,” the third and fourth singles from All Four One, respectively, are two very good tracks. Even though “Forever Mine” is my favorite of the tracks here, I love the cleverness of “Take the L out of ‘lover’ / And it’s over.” But when I think about the title, I think about the “El” instead — the elevated train that I took every weekend trying to get around Philadelphia as a kid.
I love Motley Crue. I mean, as a rocker at heart, how could I not? They sum up everything simultaneously awesome and strange about rock in the ’80s. Seriously, in the makeup years of the band was there anyone who looked more awkward in glam gear than Mick Mars?
Here you’ve got two raw-sounding rock songs in “Looks That Kill” and “Too Young to Fall in Love” and two sweet piano ballads in “Home Sweet Home” and “You’re All I Need.” And while I may get my ass kicked by Crue fans for saying that Dr. Feelgood is the band’s only really great album from start to finish, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy Vince and the boys prior to ’89. They’ve had some great tracks (is there a better one than “Live Wire?”) as well as some clunkers on every other album they’ve made. But I’m still a fan today.
They certainly had a period when the public stopped caring, but that means casual listeners missed out on what could be the best Crue song ever: 1991’s “Primal Scream,” a new track on the Decade of Decadence compilation. They also missed the really solid but something-is-missing (um, Vince Neil) 1994 self-titled release with new lead singer John Corabi, and even some great rock tracks on 1997’s Generation Swine (yes, they exist, just as they do on every Crue record), the band’s reunion with Neil after four years apart.
Fortunately, most of the public also missed the worst song put to plastic disc in the history of hard rock — Tommy Lee’s tribute to his son, “Brandon,” from Generation Swine. And wait, I can’t just slide by without saying that Corabi is a much better vocalist than Vince ever was or will be, especially now that Vince only sings every other word in concert. But Motley Crue without Vince just isn’t cool, so the self-titled album really had no chance.
All four of the featured songs this week were produced by our own Tom Werman, and if you’ve been following Popdose for a while, you know there’s been a lot said on the subject. I’ll let you do the digging for the brownest of the ass end, but you can read Tom’s thoughts on Motley Crue here and here.
“Love and Loneliness” – 1980, #78 (download)
(Just an aside — I’m trying to write this while listening to Resurrection Through Carnage by Bloodbath. It’s not going well.)
I’m not sure I have an opinion on this one. “Love and Loneliness” is one of those songs that doesn’t do a whole lot for me but really isn’t that bad either. So is refraining from forming an opinion just another way of copping out? Probably. But fuck it.
“What About Me” — 1989, #46 (download)
I know what you’re saying: “1989?! Steed, you been drinking the Kool-Aid again?”
Well, “What About Me” had a funny chart path. It was first released in 1982 off of Moving Pictures’ first album, Days of Innocence. It spent 26 weeks on the chart but only reached #29. Then it showed back up in ’89 and spent another 17 weeks on the chart, peaking at #46. I suppose the latter release had some kind of tie-in with Moving Pictures guitarist/keyboardist Garry Frost releasing the only charting single from 1927, which was the name of his new band back then. “What About Me” and 1927’s “That’s When I Think of You” crossed paths on August 26, 1989.
You know, if you put at least five more words in the title of the featured song — maybe something like “What About Me? No, Really, What About Me?” — it might have been able to pass for a Jim Steinman tune. I can see Meat Loaf singing it.
“Love Resurrection” — 1985, #82 (download)
Alison Moyet is an artist who really doesn’t stick in my mind very well, and I don’t have this song come up very often in my rotation, so every time it does I think it’s a dude singing. I do think it’s a great song from the former Yazoo/Yaz singer, though.
I just listened to “Love Resurrection” four times on my iPod, and at so many points I hear Boy George on a bad day.
M + M
“Black Stations/White Stations” — 1984, #63 (download)
Well, if I poorly alphabetized Mr. Mister two weeks ago, I most certainly mis-alphabetized M + M. See, it’s in this slot because the computerized list I’m working off of must have read the name as “M Plus M,” therefore considering P to be the second letter after M.
That’s the only logical explanation, and of course I didn’t catch it until now. Should have been somewhere at the beginning of M, I suppose. Either way, M + M is a significantly better name than the band’s previous moniker — Martha & the Muffins. “Black Stations/White Stations,” an anti-racism anthem aimed at radio stations, was their only hit in the U.S. under any name.
So just how much money has James Mtume earned from the million samples of “Juicy Fruit” that have been used over the years? Even if you don’t know the original song, you’ve been under a rock if you haven’t heard it borrowed by Warren G, Faith Evans, Keyshia Cole, or, most famously, by the Notorious B.I.G. for his song “Juicy.” “You, Me and He” is a smooth song as well, even if it’s about a woman cheatin’ on her husband.
Michael Martin Murphey
“Still Taking Chances” — 1983, #76 (download)
Once again, I’m not ashamed to say I don’t know my ‘80s country music from a hole in my head, but the quick and dirty research says this guy was a great country music writer and his music was performed by a shit-ton of great country artists (and the Monkees). But what good country writer hasn’t had his songs travel around to every possible recording artist in the genre? So does that really mean anything anymore? Either way, “Still Taking Chances” wasn’t one of the better ones.
“Themes From E.T.” — 1982, #47 (download)
Phone home, friends. Phone home.
“Lucky Me” — 1980, #42 (download)
“I’m Happy Just to Dance With You” — 1980, #64 (download)
“It’s All I Can Do” — 1981, #53 (download)
“Another Sleepless Night” — 1982, #44 (download)
“A Little Good News” — 1983, #74 (download)
“Now and Forever (You and Me)” — 1986, #92 (download)
I’m glad we aren’t ending on Anne Murray. God, that would suck.
While I really wanted nothing to do with her music, I remember being a kid with some of her picture sleeves and thinking she was kind of hot despite dressing like she was 60. But now as I look through some Google images of her, I’m not 100 percent sure why I thought that or how she made it anywhere near Lita Ford and S-S-Samantha Fox in my brain. That very well could be the first time Anne Murray has been mentioned in the same sentence as those two vixens. But this series isn’t about how people look (unless they’re butt ugly or really hot) — it’s about the music. And the music is closer to the butt-ugly side of the spectrum.
“She’s Trouble” — 1984, #65 (download)
Last but not least, “Thees generation rules ze nation!” Actually, ending on “She’s Trouble” isn’t much better than ending on Ms. Murray. If you don’t already know the song, would you have ever been able to guess it’s from the same group that gave us “Pass the Dutchie”? If you say yes, you lie! You lie!
Best song: Motley Crue, “Looks That Kill”
Worst song: Giorgio Moroder, “Reach Out”
Next week: finally, a different letter of the alphabet!