Whew. Friday morning was a big ol’ sigh of relief for me. My wife and I moved last Wednesday (hence my late-Thursday responses to part 81), and of course that means moving my entire music collection. We hired movers, who did a great job, but I moved close to 4,000 records with only some help from a buddy — who’s since vowed never to do it again — from a second-floor condo to a house with room for records on the second floor. After all those steps, my legs were on fire but felt like jelly at the same time.
But the relief came on Friday when all the records were put on shelves and sorted correctly in their new home. Sounds a little silly to be so nervous about records, and I realize I probably have some undiagnosed form of OCD, but damn if it didn’t ease my mind to have the collection in place again.
Anyway, onto the post, with more tracks from artists in the Bottom Feeders collection whose names start with the letter S, as we look at songs that charted below #40 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the 1980s.
A pop, jazz, and R&B singer, you can’t help but feel a little sorry for Phoebe Snow. She had been dubbed the next big female singer in the mid-‘70s after her first single “Poetry Man” went to #5 in 1975. But she gave birth to a daughter at the end of the year who was severely brain damaged, and after deciding to devote her life to taking care of her, her music career was put on the back burner for the most part.
Both of the tracks here come from Rock Away; it would be another eight years before Snow released her next album, Something Real. There’s clearly something special going on here, as I love both these tracks as well as Rock Away.
“Bad, Bad Billy” — 1983, #88 (download)
Whew, now here’s a rare one. It took me forever to find simply a 45 of this song, from the Virginia based Snuff. A country-rock group, they released a self-titled debut album in ’82 and an EP called Night Fighter on Curb Records in ’83. “Bad, Bad Billy” comes from that long out of print EP. The version here is the album version which is only 3:45 so it’s a wonder why a radio version chopping off a full minute was really needed. The 45 can be located for a reasonable price, but I’ve never seen the full EP.
“Are You Sure” — 1988, #41 (download)
The two guys in So – Marcus Bell and Mark Long were in a British post-punk band called The Opposition in the early-to-mid ‘80s. After taking a couple year break they decide to sound more like Climie Fisher or Go West for their one and only album called Horseshoe in the Glove (What the hell does that mean? Is that some sort of masturbation reference I’ve never heard before?). Anyway, I have my usual distaste for groups that name themselves something impossible to search on, but at least the unique album name takes care of that. The song itself is very good and right up my alley though.
I have to wonder when an artist goes to choose his stage name, how he gets to Belouis Some? It certainly flows better than his birth name, Neville Keighley but it’s no Ron Smith either. Mr. Some was a dancey new-wave artist from the UK that released two albums in the ‘80s. Both these tracks were from his debut Some People but he seemed to get more recognition for his track “Round, Round” from the Pretty in Pink soundtrack. There’s a lot of people that think he’s underrated. I just don’t hear anything in either of these tracks that makes him stand out.
When I think of the best funk groups of the decade, the Sounds of Success always get forgotten. It’s certainly not for lack of good songs, but unlike many of their peers, their crossover success was relatively minimal. Their big hit was “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” which went to #3 in 1980. However, all the songs above have a different sound to them as the band started working with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in 1983. That fact made it almost certain that sooner or later Janet Jackson would do something with them but I believe it took until 2006 for that to happen as “Tell Me If You Still Care” was sampled for her Top 40 hit, “Call On Me.” “Just Be Good to Me” is probably their second biggest track and was remade itself by Beats International (Norman Cook) and taken to #1 in the UK. “The Finest” features both Alexander O’Neal and Cherelle and marks the final time the S.O.S. band hit the Hot 100 chart.
“The Way to Your Heart” — 1989, #41 (download)
SoulSister were actually two guys from Belgium and only released one album under this particular moniker, though slight variations would continue on through 1995. This is a brilliant track, that I can’t help dancing to every time I hear it. It’s certainly a throwback to the Motown sound, though all I really hear is a song that could still very easily be mistaken for a Fine Young Cannibals song that could fit in very nicely on The Raw and the Cooked (1989).
Southside Johnny & the Jukes
“Walk Away Renee” — 1986, #98 (download)
Having started recording only a few years after Bruce Springsteen hit the scene, Jersey boy John Lyon and a rotating cast of what seems like hundreds of Asbury Jukes sounded very much the Boss and will always be associated with them. Lyon formed the band with Steven Van Zant, Springsteen wrote quite a few tracks for the group and many members of the E Street band played with the Jukes over the years. Hell, Jon Bon Jovi played with them a bit too. The ‘80s weren’t too kind to Southside Johnny though as in ’83 he put out a disco-ish record produced by … yep, Nile Rodgers (Nile Rodgers sighting, y’all!). 1984’s In the Heat was a tepid adult contemporary record and 1986’s At Least We Got Shoes lacked solid material but was at least a more easily digestible sound. “Walk Away Renee” comes from that album and was their second Hot 100 song, but only hit in this decade. (And the absence of “Asbury” in their title is correct, as they took it out from ’84 to ’87.)
“Communication” — 1984, #59 (download)
I’m glad Spandau Ballet came so late in the game as I get to link to the hilarious Modern Family episode that Edward Norton guest-starred in as Izzy LaFontaine, the bassist for Spandau Ballet. It was supposed to be an anniversary gift from Claire to Phil because their song was “True.” But when Izzy realizes that Phil has no idea who Spandau Ballet is, he starts quizzing him with things like “What’s your favorite B-Side?” Meanwhile, he’s playing just the bass parts of Spandau Ballet songs in the background. In the end it actually turns out that their song was “If You Leave” by OMD instead.
I just love “I Predict” for its overall quirkiness. It certainly stands out in a crowd doesn’t it? The last few lines are my favorite of the song – “They’re going to stop Saturday night so you better have fun now, I predict. They’re going to stop having the sun, so you better get tan now, I predict. And this song will fade out, yes this song will fade out, this song will fade out, I predict.” And of course just like the rest of the predictions, it doesn’t happen.
“Cool Places” ain’t a bad track either – a duet with Jane Wiedlen from the Go-Gos. I’ve heard many people say this is a novelty track, but I don’t hear that at all. I mean, if you’re labeling something from them as a novelty, “I Predict” certainly sounds more-so than “Cool Places” to me. Although I do get why many people though Sparks really was a novelty act. I mean, the song comes from In Outer Space which boasts titles like “All You Ever Think About Is Sex,” “A Fun Bunch of Guys From Outer Space,” and “Dance Godammit.”
“Imagine” — 1989, #85 (download)
It’s interesting that this absolute atrocity shows up the week after the anniversary of Lennon’s death and of course is performed by a girl who was born five years after the original was released. If there was ever a point where I’d be embarrassed that I’m an ‘80s fan, it’s right here. Certainly no offense to Tracie Spencer as I’m sure she had nothing to do with the choice or the shitty accompanying music.
Spider may not have done a whole lot on the charts with just these two songs and one that just cracked the Top 40 (#39) called “New Romance (It’s a Mystery)” but the group certainly spawned off into something great. We talked about keyboardist Holly Knight back in K. She’s had hit records in her next group – Device – as well as solo and she’s written some major hit songs over the years. And the drummer for Spider was Anton Fig who is the current skinsman in David Letterman’s band, the CBS Orchestra.
Spider’s second and final album – Between the Lines – contained “It Didn’t Take Long” but also two tracks that would later go on to be huge hits for other artists – “Change” remade by John Waite a year later and “Better Be Good To Me” remade in 1985 by Tina Turner.
The Spinners had massive success in the ‘70s with their own songs, but in the ‘80s they had the majority of their success with cover songs and songs with slash marks in them. Having just come off two top-five hits in 1980 with medleys, it’s pretty surprising that the Carpenters cover “Yesterday Once More” combined with “Nothing Remains the Same” wasn’t a bigger hit. But after 1980 they really didn’t have any big hits, with even their run on the R&B charts starting to dwindle. “Never Thought I’d Fall in Love” is definitely worth a listen, but otherwise you’re best to stick with 1980 and before for the Spinners (especially the period from 1972 to ’77, when Philippé Wynne and Bobbie Smith were the lead singers).
Best song: SoulSister, “The Way to Your Heart”
Worst song: Tracie Spencer, “Imagine”
TOP 40 ONLY
Soft Cell (1), Soul II Soul (2), J.D. Souther (1), Judson Spence (1)
Next week, back-to-back superstars and one of my most-talked-about ‘80s artists.