We soldier on this week with more songs from the bottom three-fifths of the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the 1980s, made by artists whose names begin with the letter S. Enjoy.
“It’s Only Love” — 1989, #57 (download)
I’m sure if I lived in England, Simply Red would mean a lot more to me than they do. I’ve always claimed to like them, especially their 1986 Top 40 hit “Money$ Too Tight (To Mention),” but I don’t believe I really know anything outside of their singles. And “It’s Only Love” isn’t one that I remember, as it was the only one out of five U.S. singles that didn’t hit the Top 40 from ’85 to ’89. In that same period, Mick Hucknall’s band had three times that many singles chart over in the UK.
Single Bullet Theory
“Keep It Tight” — 1983, #78 (download)
This song would probably be rarer if it wasn’t on one of those Just Can’t Get Enough Rhino comps (volume 8, if you’re playing at home), but getting your hands on the original album is very tough. Named of course after the theory used by the Warren Commission to explain JFK’s assassination, I’ve only been able to find sketchy details on the group. I believe they were a D.C.-based band, and their self-titled debut on Nemperor Records was probably their only major release. Beyond that, “Keep It Tight” appears to be quite rare.
“Right Back Where We Started From” — 1989, #84 (download)
Sinitta was born in Seattle, Washington, but has lived most of her life in the UK. Her recording career began over there and featured quite a few songs written by Stock Aitken Waterman. This is of course a cover of the Maxine Nightingale classic and was a pretty tame way to lead off her second album, Wicked. But Sinitta’s not really known for her music as much as she is for her dating habits: her former group, Hot Gossip, is known as the first band to sign with Fanfare Records, which was partially run by her future fiancée, American Idol‘s Simon Cowell. After they broke up, she upgraded to Brad Pitt for two years.
Siouxsie & the Banshees
“Peek-a-Boo” — 1988, #53 (download)
Back in the day I hadn’t yet learned to like quirky music, so I never got into Siouxsie & the Banshees. I’ve never went back to them either, but I have a strong feeling that I’d enjoy their uniqueness a bit more these days now that I’ve learned to open my mind a bit. However, I’ve always been fond of “Peek-a-Boo,” a track that doesn’t get nearly enough airplay these days. The music (percussion and accordion) are neatly backmasked and the vocals go back and forth from the left to the right channel because Siouxsie Sioux alternated microphones for every line. For those reasons, I’m not surprised it didn’t crack the Top 40, but it’s still a damn good song.
“Posse on Broadway” — 1988, #70 (download)
Yeah, Sir Mix-a-Lot actually had a hit before his unforgettable ode to big booties. “Posse on Broadway” (Seattle, not NY) was an 808 filled hooptie bumper that didn’t quite hit as big as Tone Loc or Young MC’s did, but established him with some cred in the rap world. The song is most memorable for me because it was probably the first time I’ve heard the oft-repeated rap line, “the 808 kick-drum makes the girlies get dumb.”
I’d take a gamble and say that the only regular reader that might be interested in these four tracks would be Chris X since he’s a Philly dude like myself and Sister Sledge were huge hometown favorites. However, I think we’re both a little young to remember the peak of the madness with “We Are Family” in ’79. Although R&B doesn’t seem to garner much interest in the context of this series, it should in this case because that sound you hear is of course is from Bottom Feeders’ new favorite talking point, Nile Rodgers (Nile Rodgers sighting!).
“Youth Gone Wild” — 1989, #99 (download)
Now take a sharp turn from Sister Sledge to Sebastian Bach and company and “Youth Gone Wild,” which had to be more of a video hit than radio staple because it just seems unfathomable that it only spent 2 weeks on the true bottom end of the chart. It was the first single off the self-titled debut before the ballads “18 and Life” and “I Remember You” went to #4 and #6 respectively. A lot of people seem to think that Bach is a big child thanks to his crazy antics and drunkenness but I have to admire his energy and love of the music more than anything else. The debut album was good, 1991’s Slave to the Grind was even better, and 1995’s Subhuman Race is underrated and quite a different beast than the first two albums (if you’ve never heard “Beat Yourself Blind,” you must). However, I’m still waiting for the first disc from Savage Animal!
“Toccata” — 1981, #83 (download)
Funny how this works, isn’t it? Sky is the brainchild of classic guitarist John Williams. “Toccata” is an update of “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” (BWV 565) by Johan Sebastian Bach. Bach followed by Bach — how ’bout that.
“Little Sheila” — 1985, #86 (download)
Slade were one of the biggest bands in the UK from 1971-1976, then they started running out of money and were trying hard to crack the US market and didn’t fare so well until 1980 when a UK comeback started again. The years 1983 and’84 marked their biggest moments in the U.S. with the Top 40 hits “My Oh My” and “Run Runaway,” off their album Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply. “Little Sheila” was on their album Rogues Gallery and was only released in the U.S., which makes sense since it sounds like it was crafted especially for our market. I already know a lot of you really dig Slade as we’ve had the brief discussion about them back in the Quiet Riot post.
I just absolutely love digging up old R&B and funk songs and uncovering the original compositions used as classic rap samples. “Watching You” certainly falls into that category as it was reworked into the chorus “rolling down the street smokin’ endo, sippin’ on gin and juice” in the now legendary Snoop Doggy Dogg track “Gin and Juice.”
“Seasons” — 1980, #95 (download)
Holy crap, I totally don’t get this track. And it’s incredibly tough for me to listen to – as I mentioned before, I only listen to things at a loud volume and by the end of this song, the chorus of voices is at a mind exploding volume. I literally had to shut my iPod off and put my head between my hands to just get back in sorts.
“Stay True” — 1986, #94 (download)
“Stay True” is actually a good song, but the simple reality is that Sly Fox still holds a place in people’s memories only because of the monster hit “Let’s Go All the Way,” which is a brilliant track. Sadly, these two tracks are the only good ones on the band’s sole album.
“Only a Memory” — 1988, #92 (download)
The Smithereens created quite a few power pop gems with a retro feel during their peak years of 1986 to 1990. “Only a Memory” is the lead track from their album Green Thoughts, but they will always be known for their second U.S. hit, “A Girl Like You.”
I have learned something new upon writing up Patty Smyth. Despite all the versions of “Downtown Train” there are out there, I never knew that it was a Tom Waits original. I need to hear that because I just can’t picture this song coming from him. Having never heard the original, I say that Smyth’s version is the best one I know. I love “Never Enough” as well, but it certainly is made for radio, isn’t it? The edge of Scandal is pretty much gone, but the track is still damn catchy.
One thing I’ve never been able to get out of my head is that Eddie Van Halen wanted her to be the lead singer of Van Halen after they parted ways with David Lee Roth. As good as she was, I just can’t fathom her singing “Jump” or “Unchained.”
“Don’t Let Me In” — 1982, #63 (download)
Sneaker had two hits off their debut self-titled record, the #34 hit “More Than Just the Two of Us” and “Don’t Let Me In,” which sounds a whole lot like Steely Dan, maybe because Walter Becker and Donald Fagen wrote it. The band took its name from the Dan song “Bad Sneakers.”
Best song: Siouxsie & the Banshees, “Peek-a-Boo”
Worst song: Grace Slick, “Seasons”
TOP 40 ONLY
Simple Minds (4), Frank Sinatra (1), Skyy (1), Frankie Smith (1), Rex Smith & Rachel Sweet (1)
Next week, I predict that the letter S will continue.