It’s another week of artists whose names begin with the letter S, as we take a look at the ass end of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, i.e. songs that charted below #40, during the 1980s.
“I Got You” — 1980, #53 (download)
Neil and Tim Finn. Great songwriters, no doubt about it. But am I shocked that Split Enz didn’t have more than this one lonely hit? Not really. They were experimental and ahead of their time and clearly no record company thought that the material they released in their native New Zealand really translated well on U.S. soil as pretty much everything they released was either reworked or just sequenced differently for our ears. I think most of the readers here would think highly of the band but certainly Top 40 radio wasn’t quite hip enough back in the day to play them.
“Taxi Dancing” — 1984, #59 (download)
My apologies to the Jack Wagner fans out there, but Rick Springfield is the best musician-actor of the decade. Rick had 17 songs hit the Hot 100 and only this lone single from the Hard to Hold soundtrack didn’t go Top 40 (rightfully so — it’s the worst of the singles). And of course, Rick Springfield has one of the iconic ‘80s songs in “Jessie’s Girl.”
The Best of Rick Springfield, from 1999, has 16 of those 17 hits (leaving off “Bruce,” the song released without his consent that’s about him being mistaken for Springsteen) and is right up there with my favorite Greatest Hits compilations of all time. Even if you think you aren’t that familiar with his music other than the mega hits, I’d bet after listening to the hits, you’d be shocked how many you know. And since his major hit making period started in 1981 and 1988’s Rock of Life album was his last for 11 years he’s essentially a true ‘80s artist.
“Fire (Live)” — 1987, #46 (download)
And now the Boss. There’s obviously no comparison between the success of Bruce Springsteen and the success of Rick Springfield, but Bruce had three less hits in the decade than Rick. Of course, Springsteen has more before and after, won awards and is iconic, so numbers mean nothing here. “Fire” was from Live/1975-1985 which I own in the remarkable five-LP box set. I’m not a fan of live recordings for the most part, but any ‘80s collector should own this as it’s a brilliant capture of his concert experience. “Fire” doesn’t exactly work up the frenzy that “War” did as the first single from the set so it’s understandable why it didn’t shoot up the charts like all the rest of his songs did.
Spyro Gyra is great wine drinking, dinner party, late-night chillin’ music. Smooth jazz was never my thing, but this is the cream of the crop in the ‘80s here. Pair Spyro Gyra with some Tom Browne, George Benson, and some early to mid-‘80s Al Jarreau and you’ve got yourself a nice relaxing evening.
“Don’t Run My Life” — 1982, #82 (download)
Spys was a rock group formed in 1981 by Al Greenwood and Ed Gagliardi, both original members of Foreigner. They released two records, a self-titled debut which contains the excellent “Don’t Run My Life” and Behind Enemy Lines, both quite difficult finds until a CD issue in 1996 that contained both albums. That’s out of print as well now, making Spys one of those lost gems.
“Tempted” — 1981, #49 (download)
When I mentioned a few weeks ago how Scritti Politti might be the most underrated artist of the decade, I failed to think of Squeeze. Six albums and a Difford and Tillbrook record and they could only manage a measly three charting singles in the U.S. (“Hourglass” and “853-5937” being the other two). “853-5937” wasn’t nearly as good as “Black Coffee in Bed,” “Pulling Muscles from the Shell,” “Last Time Forever,” or a host of other tracks in their catalog even. And “Tempted” sung by Paul Carrack couldn’t even crack the Top 40. That’s just crazy.
“My Kinda Lover” — 1981, #45 (download)
“Emotions in Motion” — 1982, #68 (download)
“She’s a Runner” — 1983, #75 (download)
“All Night Long” — 1984, #75 (download)
“Eye on You” — 1984, #71 (download)
“Love Is the Hero” — 1986, #80 (download)
“Don’t Say You Love Me” — 1989, #58 (download)
So Squeeze has three hits in the decade and Billy Squier has 11. I’m a Billy Squier fan myself, but you have to admit there’s just something wrong with that. Billy Squier’s early ‘80s and late ‘80s albums were really solid rock records with some great songs on them. The title track from his third album Emotions in Motion is a highlight along with “She’s a Runner” from the same album. I’m not a big fan of his fourth album Signs of Life though. That includes the boring “All Night Long” and “Eye on You.” His final album of the decade, 1989’s Hear and Now, was panned by critics but is his most rockin’ effort in years and is my favorite Billy Squier album. “Don’t Say You Love Me” was the standout single from that disc, but the lead track on that disc, “Rock Out/Punch Somebody” is my all-time favorite Squier song.
(Of course, I couldn’t talk about Billy Squier with at least saying the words “pink shirt.”)
“One Simple Thing” — 1987, #93 (download)
The Stabilizers were a pop group out of Erie, Pennsylvania. They released just one album called Tyranny in 1986, which yielded two singles, “One Simple Thing” being the only one that charted. They are pretty much the generic middle ground of the ‘80s with the only noteworthy moment being that the video for this track was directed by David Fincher.
“Love Cries” — 1989, #46 (download)
Speaking of generic middle ground, we get the Stage Dolls, a Norwegian hair metal band that finally got their lone charting single in the U.S. when they released their self-titled record in 1989. It’s completely generic rock ‘n’ roll but they probably could have been bigger if this was released even just two years earlier.
Speaking of generic middle ground … No, wait, Frank Stallone is no “generic middle ground” kind of guy — Frank Stallone is the ‘80s personified. Frank Stallone is legend. Frank Stallone is the fucking man. I say this with no smirk on my face at all. One of the prize possessions in my collection is the debut self-titled record from Rocky’s brother containing his biggest hit, “Far From Over.” It also included the awesome second single, “Darlin’” as well. Stallone, didn’t release another album until 1991 and has shifted towards more of a big band feel to his recordings.
“Case of You” appears to be a one-off single released on Scotti Brothers records in 1980 and is a ridiculously difficult find.
Best song: Frank Stallone, “Darlin'”
Worst song: Rick Springfield, “Taxi Dancing”
Top 40 Only
Next week it’s really really long hair and, finally, some medleys that I like.