Bottom Feeders: The Ass End of the ’80s, Part 69 (Heh, Heh)

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This is one of the very few places where I can make a statement like “I was so excited to find a near-mint copy of the Electric Dreams soundtrack” and get reactions other than people calling me a dork under their breath.

There’s this very cool shop in Reading, Pennsylvania, called Vertigo Music that’s run by this cool indie girl (one day I’ll ask her her name so that I can stop saying, “You know … that store with the cool indie girl”). I stop by on many of my trips to that area. She’s got a nice pile of one-dollar records, and the better albums are very reasonably priced. A few weeks ago I located the soundtrack I mentioned above for $8, which to me is a steal for something I don’t think I’d ever seen before. I also was able to pick up the Nails’ Mood Swings (featuring their only hit, “88 Lines About 44 Women”), another album I’d been searching for a long time.

I mention this for two reasons. The first is because I know you’ll understand my excitement in finding two albums I’ve wanted in my collection forever. No one else really does, to be honest. Second, I feel the need to let the world know about this place. In my area, just finding a record store is difficult, but when you walk into one that’s clean, inviting, well organized, and has a great selection of music without being overwhelming … well, it begs some attention. I’m assuming she does more business through her Gemm site than in-store, but if you’re ever in Reading, you should definitely stop in and check it out. The world needs more of these types of record stores.

Anyway, how about some more songs from artists whose names begin with the letter P, as we take a look at the bottom feeders — songs that charted at #41 or lower — from the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the 1980s.

Poco
Under the Gun” — 1980, #48 (download)
“Midnight Rain” — 1980, #74 (download)
“Shoot for the Moon” — 1982, #50 (download)
“Days Gone By” — 1984, #80 (download)

Poco had seven songs hit the Hot 100 in the ‘70s, and most of those were Bottom Feeders too. Almost all of them also had some combo of Richie Furay, Jim Messina, Randy Meisner, and Timothy B. Schmit on them. The Poco of the ’80s had none of those guys; guitarist Rusty Young is the only member to have been there from the start. Singer Paul Cotton replaced Messina in 1971 and can be heard on these songs. I’ve never really picked up a Poco album voluntarily, but these songs certainly count as harmless dinnertime background music.

Buster Poindexter
“Hot Hot Hot” — 1987, #45 (download)

Olé, ohh-lé! Olé, ohh-lé! This is former New York Dolls singer David Johansen’s only hit song – a cover of the Arrow original. From what I’ve read over the years, Buster is a bit tired of it at this point, as it’s the only thing he gets recognized for.

Pointer Sisters
“Could I Be Dreaming” — 1980, #52 (download)
“If You Wanna Get Back Your Lady” — 1983, #67 (download)
“I Need You” — 1983, #48 (download)
“Baby Come and Get It” — 1985, #44 (download)
“Freedom” — 1985, #59 (download)
“Twist My Arm” — 1986, #83 (download)
“All I Know Is the Way I Feel” — 1987, #73 (download)
“Be There” — 1987, #42 (download)

Pointer Sisters I hope you like the Pointer Sisters, because you’ve got enough tracks here to put together a typical ‘80s-length CD. Unfortunately, unless you were a true fan, I’d be shocked if you knew more than two of these songs. Everyone knows “I’m So Excited,” “Jump (For My Love),” and “Neutron Dance,” but this is a group where the lesser singles really didn’t stand the test of time.

None of the songs here are even that good, though at least “If You Wanna Get Back Your Lady” is slightly recognizable: it was the final charting single from the So Excited LP. The strange track here is “I Need You,” which was the first single off their smash-hit album Break Out. The three songs mentioned in the first paragraph were all from this album as well, and went top ten. I’m completely baffled how such a generic track was the lead single on an album that had can’t-miss hits on it.

“Baby Come and Get It” was the fifth single from Break Out, and was written by James Ingram. While “Be There” is also a pretty bad song, it fits right in on the Beverly Hills Cop II soundtrack, which came out three years after the Pointers contributed “Neutron Dance” to the original Cop‘s soundtrack.

(Okay, so I’ve gone back and listened to these songs quite a bit since I wrote these ladies up, and I think I was generous when I said, “None of the songs here are even that good.” They all suck.)

Poison
“I Want Action” — 1987, #50 (download)

Poison I was initially shocked to see that Poison didn’t have more songs in this series. Then I was even more shocked to see that “I Want Action” was the one. But then again, I think back to how big Poison was just one year later and maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise. And while these guys are super easy to pick on for being the prototypical hair metal band, I’m not going to — because I loved them just as much as you did. Even songs from 1990’s Flesh and Blood like “Ride the Wind” and “Life Goes On” went Top 40 and maybe I’d recognize them if I heard them, but by title I have no idea what they are.

Now, of course, Bret Michaels is a whore (but frankly, if I was single and was offered a job where the main premise is to hook up with rock skanks for years, I’d do it too). But this is nothing compared to the travesty of recording a “rock” version of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback” in 2007. If the love bus didn’t do it, this certainly stripped him of his rock-cred card.

Apparently there’s a gangsta rapper out there now going by the name of Poison. He raps in French. Look him up on iTunes for a laugh. Gangsta rap in French doesn’t translate well.

Police
“Message in a Bottle” — 1979, #74 (download)
“Secret Journey” — 1982, #46 (download)
“Don’t Stand So Close to Me ‘86” — 1986, #46 (download)

Police Boy, we really run the gamut here. Who would have expected “Message in a Bottle” to top out at #74? (It peaked on the Hot 100 near the end of ’79, but for the week of January 5, 1980, it was at #100, so it makes the cut for this series.) Who would have expected that the very un-radio-friendly “Secret Journey” was a single? And who would have expected something as utterly blasphemous as the 1986 butchering of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” even exists?

The only reason I can understand radio stations playing “Secret Journey” is that it was simply another song by the untouchable Police. I don’t blame them for jumping on the “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ‘86” bandwagon, but I’m dismayed it got as high as #46, though it did get as high as #10 on my Bottom 80 Songs of the ‘80s list. It’s simply an unnecessary and brutal remake of an absolutely classic song.

Gary Portnoy
“Where Everybody Knows Your Name” — 1983, #83 (download)

Gary Portnoy has released a couple albums and written some songs for other people, but he’ll be forever known as the guy who sang the theme song to Cheers, which he cowrote with Judy Hart Angelo. They also wrote the theme songs for Mr. Belvedere, sung by Leon Redbone, and Punky Brewster, sung by Portnoy. (“I’m RICH, bitch!” –Ed.)

Powersource
“Dear Mr. Jesus” — 1987, #61 (download)

Somehow this one only checked in at #32 on my Bottom 80 Songs of the ‘80s list. Surprisingly, I’ve never taken any heat for putting a sincere song about preventing child abuse in my “unholy trilogy” (no, I’m not even remotely calling Powersource unholy — they were essentially a Christian-music ministry … but it works!). The other two songs in the trilogy, if you haven’t been around for Bottom Feeders from the beginning, are Toni Basil’s “Shoppin’ From A to Z” and Steve Miller’s “Bongo Bongo.”

A few radio stations actually played this on their own, but it became a hit when, around the same time as its release in 1987, a girl named Lisa Steinberg was beaten to death by her adoptive father, Joel. I get the message and why it was played in the wake of that tragedy, but I’m still allowed to rip it because it’s fucking creepy. Face it — it really is kind of alarming to hear this little six-year-old girl talking about being beaten, and it not only sends shivers up my spine every time I hear it, but it’s totally a mood killer in any given iPod shuffle. And before right-wing Christians knock down my door, I want to state for the record that I’m talking about the quality of the song itself, not the message. Child abuse = BAD. Powersource = WORSE.

Elvis Presley
“The Elvis Medley” — 1982, #71 (download)

Well, with the surge of medleys in the ‘80s, this was bound to happen. And I mean, I can’t really say much about classic Elvis songs, but this mix is perhaps the worst of all the various mixes in the decade, probably because most of the other ones seem to be tied together via some backbeat that made transitions seemless. This is simply just one song stopping and the next one starting. I don’t get the album of the same name either (well, I get it – money) as this medley is six songs long. The album then includes these six songs in their entirety, in order. It’s then followed up with “Always on My Mind,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” and “Hard Headed Woman.” If you’re going to tack on three major hits at the end, why the fuck weren’t they in the medley? I guess it would have taken us to the five minute mark, which would have just been too much Elvis for the radio. Yeah.

QUICK HITS
Best song: Police, “Message in a Bottle”
Worst song: Police, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me ‘86”

TOP 40 ONLY
Point Blank (1); Bonnie Pointer (1); Mike Post (2); Power Station (3)

Next week we finish up the letter P with my favorite artist of all time.

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  • http://myspace.com/DJChrisXmusic Chris X

    Oh man, I hear that. The excitement when a new/upcoming release leaks online just isn't the same, haha

  • musicmanatl

    I haven't heard “Dear Mr. Jesus” since it was out. Wow. That really IS awful. How could so called “Christian” adults make a child sing those lyrics? Eeeeeeeeeek.

    It took America a little while to catch on to the brilliance of the Police. I think “Message In A Bottle” was not quite as commercial as “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”. It seems that acts need to break through first with more commercial songs and then they can branch out and go to less commercial places. No question, the Police were among the most brilliant acts of the decade.

    I have a special place in my heart for the Pointer Sisters too. Damn, could they sing! Their harmonies were perfect and their voices were distinct – you could always tell who was on lead. I love Ruth's low vocals on “Automatic” especially. I've also questioned why Planet led off that LP with “I Need You”. That was a fine song, but not nearly as creative or original as the ones that followed.