Bottom Feeders: The Ass End of the ’80s, Part 76

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In the ongoing continuing education of Steed, I recently listened to both #1 Record (1972) and Third/Sister Lovers (1978) by Big Star. My overall general assessment is that it’s just not my thing.

I get the draw of the first album, and I completely understand how Big Star and Alex Chilton influenced so many bands. “Feel” and “Don’t Lie to Me” are great songs — there’s no way I couldn’t like them. But despite not wanting to rip it out of my deck, I can’t see a point where I would ever pick #1 Record up again.

I couldn’t get into Third/Sister Lovers at all, though. I was expecting a jangly pop record, but it’s mostly ballads. Way too slow for my tastes, and just a turn I guess I wasn’t expecting after the band’s poppy debut. However, what I did get from Third was how ahead of their time Big Star really were. I can appreciate that fact, at least.

There’s one artist in particular who kept popping into my head throughout my numerous listens: Matthew Sweet. I don’t think I’m far off in saying that he was definitely influenced by Big Star, correct?

Anyway, thanks for the recommendations. If nothing else, I always enjoy listening to music that other people are fanatical about.

Now enjoy the last of artists whose names begin with the letter R, as we continue to look at songs that charted no higher than #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the ’80s.

Diana Ross
“One More Chance” — 1981, #79 (download)
“Work That Body” — 1982, #44 (download)
“Let’s Go Up” — 1983, #77 (download)
“Eaten Alive” — 1985, #77 (download)
“Chain Reaction” — 1985, #95 (and 1986, #66) (download)

Diana RossI’m definitely a fan of early Diana Ross, but much of her later stuff feels like filler to me. However, for the purpose of this series, that’s pretty much reversed. “One More Chance,” the lame workout song “Work That Body,” and “Let’s Go Up” don’t hold up compared to “Eaten Alive,” which was written by and performed on by both the Bee Gees and Michael Jackson (one wonders why this wasn’t a much bigger hit), or “Chain Reaction,” also written and performed on by the brothers Gibb.

You see two listings for “Chain Reaction” here: The album version was released in 1985. She then performed it on the American Music Awards in a different form, and that version got released in 1986. Sorry, but I don’t have an MP3 of the later version for you. If anyone does, I’ll be happy to upload it and love you forever (or a little while).

Rossington-Collins Band
“Don’t Misunderstand Me” — 1980, #55 (download)

Gary Rossington and Allen Collins, both guitarists in Lynyrd Skynyrd, formed this band in 1979 after recuperating from their injuries suffered in the plane crash that killed most of their former bandmates. “Don’t Misunderstand Me” was the only charting single from their debut, Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere.

DLRDavid Lee Roth
“Goin’ Crazy!” — 1986, #66 (download)
“That’s Life” — 1986, #85 (download)
“Stand Up” — 1988, #64 (download)

“Goin’ Crazy!” is a good track to lead off David Lee Roth’s section here. I mean, the guy is a nut job. But he’s one heck of a showman and one heck of a singer. I’m surprised I even dig stuff like his cover of Sinatra’s “That’s Life,” but a song like that just fits Diamond Dave’s persona so well. “Stand Up” is a track that I’m not too thrilled with, though. The chorus is pretty catchy but the rest of the song is boring. The subdued vocals in the verses just don’t fit him very well. Why the hell would you want to subdue those pipes? However, it does have a crazy Steve Vai solo in it.

Rough Trade
“All Touch” — 1982, #58 (download)

In a slew of semi-obscure bands in this series, Rough Trade and “All Touch” stand out to me as things that should have been bigger. They had a half dozen hits in Canada in the decade, but this was the only track to cross over onto the U.S. charts. They were known mostly for their lyrics about sex and lesbianism and singer Carole Pope’s tendency to wear bondage gear while performing. Probably kind of shocking back in 1982, but I’d bet pretty tame these days. Pope’s voice and delivery, combined with the look, always makes me think of Grace Jones.

Roxanne
“Play That Funky Music” — 1988, #63 (download)

Roxanne---RoxanneThere’s just nothing right about this at all. Checking in at #29 on my Bottom 80 Songs of the ’80s list this may be the least funky version of this song I’ve ever heard and that includes the Chipmunks take on it. The whole thing is just extremely cheesy from start to finish. The shame of it was that Roxanne (terrible name for a bunch of dudes) wasn’t half bad. Their debut record of hair metal wasn’t exactly going to blow the doors off the world, but it sounds nothing like this junk, which someone thought was just good enough to bury as the last track on the record. This is the perfect example of how to kill a career before it gets started. Shitty band name with a debut single that’s a shitty cover not representing the band’s sound at all.

Roxy Music
“Over You” — 1980, #80 (download)

I’m ashamed to say it, but I don’t know a whole lot from Roxy Music. I guess that’s what happens when you block out everything from the middle of 1979 on back. In 2007 I went to a flea market and picked up my first copy of their final album, 1982′s Avalon, and I mentioned to the seller I was an ’80s collector but had never heard the record and he dismissed me like some back-alley hooker. It took that to at least get me to give a good solid listen to that record and Flesh + Blood, on which “Over You” appears.

Rubber Rodeo
“Anywhere With You” — 1984, #86 (download)

Funny, Wikipedia says this group is Roxy Music influenced. Small world.

“Anywhere With You” is somewhere between Blondie and Missing Persons for me and although this track is very cool, it’s easy to see why they weren’t a big hit, as it doesn’t represent them as a group all that well. They were almost like country new-wave and I’ve never really met anyone that wanted their new-wave and country mixed together.

Todd Rundgren
“Bang the Drum All Day” — 1983, #63 (download)

Here’s a song that needs no introduction (so I’m not going to talk about it — if it needs no introduction, then it won’t get one).

Run-D.M.C.
“It’s Tricky” — 1987, #57 (download)
“Mary, Mary” — 1988, #75 (download)

There might not be another song that explains why Run-D.M.C. are the shit better than “It’s Tricky.” “It’s tricky to rock a rhyme / To rock a rhyme that’s right on time / It’s tricky,” and sonuvabitch if that rhyme ain’t right on time. It’s hard to imagine where the rap game would have gone without Run-D.M.C. on the map.

Rush
“The Spirit of Radio” — 1980, #51 (download)
“Limelight” — 1981, #55 (download)
“Tom Sawyer” — 1981, #44 (download)
“Closer to the Heart (Live)” — 1981, #69 (download)
“The Big Money” — 1985, #45 (download)

I’ve never been a Rush follower, but I understand the appeal to fans. Therefore, I asked Chris — my boss at my day job — to chime in since he’s a humongous fan. Here’s what he had to say:

Rush-band-1978“When Rush was putting out its early catalogue in the mid-70s, you could divide most people into two camps: those who worshipped their heavy take on prog rock, with its intricate instrumental work and Neil Peart’s sci-fi, Ayn Rand and marijuana-inspired lyrics and others whose primary reaction to them was ‘What is that awful racket coming out of that gargoyle’s mouth?’

“Anyway, that’s what I thought of Geddy Lee back when my older brother bought his first copy of 2112, so suffice it to say it took me a few more years to get Rush. Starting with the original studio release of ‘Closer to the Heart’ in 1977, they took a decided step toward the mainstream, and made an increasing effort to tone down ol’ Geddy’s screeches and include some shorter, more accessible tracks on each of their records.

“By the time ‘Tom Sawyer’ hit the charts four years and three albums later, I and a lot of the kids I knew were hooked (although I guess we were still a little out of place among all of our cohorts wearing one sparkly glove to school dances). Most of these quasi-hits have been staples of rock radio and Rush’s live shows for nearly three decades now, although ‘The Big Money’ and most of the songs from their ‘synth’ era have sort of disappeared. They’re a big reason why Rush is still selling a lot more concert tickets and records, new and old, than most of their peers from that era.”

Jennifer Rush
“The Power of Love” — 1986, #57 (download)

There was a time when I wished death on Jennifer Rush for co-writing this track covered later by Laura Branigan (1987) and of course taken to #1 by Celine Dion (1993). But over the years the track has grown on me in all three versions to the point where I actually think Celine’s take is the best of the three. I hope I’m just getting old and not old and soft.

PatricePatrice Rushen
“Haven’t You Heard” — 1980, #42 (download)
“Feels So Real (Won’t Let Go)” — 1984, #78 (download)

Say what you want about Will Smith, but without Men in Black I would have never really known the music of Patrice Rushen. I was familiar with “Forget Me Nots” before he sampled it, but I couldn’t have told you one other thing she did. That song made me go back and take a good listen, at which point I found out that she’s pretty damn talented. She was more of a jazz singer in the mid-’70s before transitioning to disco and funk in the early ’80s and more of a smooth R&B sound by the time ’82-’83 rolled around. “Forget Me Nots” and “Feels So Real” rival each other for her best track.

Mitch Ryder
“When You Were Mine” — 1983, #87 (download)

Knowing that I normally hate covers that were done in the ’80s and also that Prince is my favorite artist, if I were you I’d figure that I’d rip this since there’s no way I could think this is better than the original. And well, you’d be right that it’s not better than the original, but wrong in the fact that I really think this is a well-done, pretty straight-forward version of it. And there’s definitely the sound of the producer, John Mellencamp, trickling in on this one.

QUICK HITS
Best song: Roxy Music, “Over You”
Worst song: Roxanne, “Play That Funky Music”

TOP 40 ONLY
The Rovers (1); Roxette (4); Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (1); Jimmy Ruffin (1); Brenda Russell (1)

Next week we begin looking at the largest letter of the series.

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  • B-man

    I was a big Roxy Music fan back when, and I'm still a big fan of Bryan Ferry (check out “Fool for Love” if you can find it), but my entire collection finally just came down to the Roxy Music Greatest Hits. It's got the high notes, plus enough of the eclectic that you can understand why they never really caught on beyond the 'arty crowd' for most of the period.

  • kingofgrief

    I dig the singalong aspect myself. It gives it a dimension you don't find on the studio version. Depeche Mode used the audience to great effect on the 101 recording of “Everything Counts”.

  • tdolbyfan

    The Rubber Rodeo album Scenic Views is always a nice pick up. I enjoy listening to them because they were unique. There follow up Heartbreak Highway was a strong country effort, with a very nice cover of Everybody's Talking.

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

    late to the party as usual. Been a crazy week.

    almost as crazy as say…Diamond Dave. Love the dude, but yeah. “Goin Crazy” was pretty good, “That's Life” was another attempt at the success of “Just a Gigolo” – didn't really work. Gotta love it though, haha. “Stand Up” was pretty good. I thought Skyscraper was a pretty underrated record. Vai on guitar makes it interesting obviously, and I'll always love “Just Like Paradise”

    Run DMC: The kings of rock, there is none higher. Seriously. If you disagree…you be illin'

    Probably the single group that got me into hip hop(along with the Beastie Boys, who at that stage in their career basically were Run DMC, or at least tried their hardest to be!) I pretty much dislike most hip hop post-80s (not including Wu Tang's 36 Chambers, Ice Cube's The Predator, and uh, House of Pain, among a select few others) But yo, the shit back in the day? THE BEST.

    Rush. Well, thank you, I will now have THAT RIFF from “Tom Sawyer” stuck in my head for the next straight 36 hours or so. LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE them. Especially the Moving Pictures record. Can rock that one front to back all day any day and never tire of it.

    Nothing much else this week really tickles my fancy. I really need to brush up on Roxy Music, I LOVE “More Than This” but otherwise don't own any of their tunes in my collection, I know I'm probably missing out, just have never gotten around to it!

    Looking forward to delving into S next week. Should be some fun ones in there!

    PS- steed admitted to liking a Celine Dion song up there, just in case anyone missed it!

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

    not enough to ever pick up on it on my own, but since you brought it up, I can kinda see why you'd make the connection. Not too blatant though. That's one of my favorite Peter Gabriel songs, by the way!

  • Russ

    Might be easier to find the promo 45 that has both the long and the short version.

  • http://www.bastardradio.com steed

    Thanks. I'll look for that. Doesn't seem to be anything on ebay for that now – so I'll have to dig around.

  • http://www.myhmphs.com My hmphs

    Totally agree on Run-DMC, although I would argue that rap would have sucked even more had Run-DMC not come along.

  • http://cartooncouchpotato.blogspot.com/ Stephen

    Rough Trade is so underated, and Carole Pope was ahead of her time, moreover with songs like “Highschool Confidential”. Raw lyrics. A great new-wave act for sure. Rush is awesome, as always.

  • http://cartooncouchpotato.blogspot.com/ Stephen

    Rough Trade is so underated, and Carole Pope was ahead of her time, moreover with songs like “Highschool Confidential”. Raw lyrics. A great new-wave act for sure. Rush is awesome, as always.

  • http://cartooncouchpotato.blogspot.com/ Stephen

    Rough Trade is so underated, and Carole Pope was ahead of her time, moreover with songs like “Highschool Confidential”. Raw lyrics. A great new-wave act for sure. Rush is awesome, as always.

  • http://cartooncouchpotato.blogspot.com/ Stephen

    Rough Trade is so underated, and Carole Pope was ahead of her time, moreover with songs like “Highschool Confidential”. Raw lyrics. A great new-wave act for sure. Rush is awesome, as always.

  • musicmanatl

    Interestingly, Air Supply's cover of “The Power Of Love” actually charted in the US before Jennifer Rush's original did. Jennifer's version hit #1 in the UK in October 1985, and Air Supply's version charted here two months earlier, in August. Clive Davis was all over that, once again. Jennifer's original didn't chart here in the US until February 1986.

    I actually think Russell Hitchcock's voice was well-suited for the song, and like Laura Branigan's version the least (although I do love her in general). I hate the part near the end when she hurts her voice – it's painful to listen to and I can't imagine why one would want to do that in a song if you weren't a hard rock singer.

    And I love that Jennifer Rush's real name is Heidi Stern. Nothing like trying to hide that you are a nice Jewish girl from New York City… :)

  • musicmanatl

    Hmmm.. I've never heard that one before, but it makes sense. She was very cute and really funky. I was a big fan of “Haven't You Heard” back in 1980. I bought the 45 and everything, and was broken-hearted when it stopped at #42, just outside of the top 40. Damn you, Billboard chart masters! :)

  • musicmanatl

    More reasons to love this group: people who actually know “All Touch” and Rough Trade! I hunted down a CD copy of “For Those Who Think Young” after I read a bio about Dusty Springfield and her relationship with Carole Pope. (I guess we won't get to discuss Dusty here, since she only charted with the Pet Shop Boys in the 1980s, and that was not a bottom feeder. But oh, wow… what a vocalist.)

    I love late-period Roxy Music, like “Dance Away”, which got a lot of airplay in Cleveland in 1979. The other early-'80s singles are smooth and melodic – just great stuff.

    No one commented on the Rossington-Collins Band single – I heard it when it was out in 1980 and HATED it and then heard it about ten years later and liked it. :) Good rock song for its time.

    Geddy Lee's voice to me is like the proverbial nails on chalkboard. I put him up there with Neil Young as having the most unlistenable voice in rock. I can handle (and actually like) “New World Man” because he stays in a listenable register.

    Rock on, Dave!