Bottom Feeders: The Ass End of the ’80s, Part 83


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.

split_enzSplit Enz
“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.

Rick Springfield
“Taxi Dancing” — 1984, #59 (download)

rick_springfieldMy 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.

Bruce Springsteen
“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
“Catching the Sun” — 1980, #68 (download)
“Café A’more” — 1981, #77 (download)

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.

Billy Squier
“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.

Stage Dolls
“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.

Frank Stallone
“Case of You” — 1980, #67 (download)
“Darlin’” — 1984, #81 (download)

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.

Quick Hits
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.

  • DwDunphy

    Frank Stallone, huh? I'll give it a try but, just to set the record straight, I also think you've been hitting the punchbowl early.

  • The Man I Used To Be

    The first two post sum up all that was wrong with the 80s and pop music. Neil Finn's first band barely cracked the top 60 and Rick Springfield is holding a Grammy.

    Thanks for the Stabilizers track. I forgot about that one. Fincher, really?

  • Malchus

    Man, Freddie Mercury's harmonies on Billy Squier's “Love in the Hero” really make that song. I have always thought that was a great mainstream rock track that Squier's fans and radio didn't embrace. I know it's odd to write Billy Squier and “stirring” in the same sentence, but that song really moves me.

  • steed

    I never stop hitting the punchbowl. Frank certianly owes part of his success to his brother, but I really would have liked to see where he went had he kept putting out albums. That album is surprisingly good.

  • steed

    And continuing that trend – that's the only one of the six I didn't talk about. Interesting.

  • The Man I Used To Be

    It's fitting that the lightweight Squier was brought down by his little pink t-shirt and the video worlds best display of unintentional comedy, “The Rock Me Tonight” debacle. If only that happened to more of 80s payola “artist”.

  • KellyStitzel

    Frank Stallone will always be “Staying Alive” to me. You just can't trust a guy who plays rhythm guitar.

  • DwDunphy

    My two thoughts on that are that Guy Rock is still insecure, but back in the 1980s you didn't mess with that at all. The moment the pink shorts hit the fan and Billy went all Richard Simmons, the sound of a million Squier bumper stickers being ripped off of Firebirds up and down the Eastern Seaboard was imminent.

    The second thing is that the tide was already turning in the AOR world. The pop-leaning types went more to the right and the hair-metallers went more to the left. Even if Billy had popped out in a tuxedo, he might have hung on an extra year, but the times were totally on the march.

  • DwDunphy

    The notion of Stallone covering Joni Mitchell is also slightly untrustworthy.

  • Matt

    I've always liked that Rick Springfield track. I'm probably going to hell for that.

  • David_E

    Y'know, for completely generic hair “metal,” that Stage Dolls disc is surprisingly good. Maybe not Frank-Stallone-surprisingly-good, but really … of all the discs I burned through in my mid-to-late-80s metal phase, that is one of the few survivors to see airplay any more. A nice sense of melody throughout the disc. Closer kin to Honeymoon Suite than any shaggy metal guys like RATT.

  • MatthewBolin

    Split Enz's “I've Got You”, and Squeeze's “Tempted” are on this weeks list and you pick a Frank Stallone song as the best of the week?!

    Yes, it's a good track, but it also sounds a lot like 100 other songs from the decade that played in the “montage” portion of a teen comedy.

  • Don Karnage

    It wasn't the pink shorts – in fact, they weren't shorts, and they weren't pink. It wasn't the pink shirt (that I remember). It was the fact that he put the pink shirt on after first putting on an 80s design, pre-ripped, no-collar t-shirt…and ripping than one off his own body. And then there were his bedroom dance moves. Whenever anybody uses the term “gay” to mean “lame”, that Billy Squier video is what pops into my head…

    Got your back on Rick Springfield, although I don't think I'm going through with the invitation my cousin made to me to go on the Rick Springfield cruise in November. I love the idea of a Rick Springfield cruise ship, though. The State of the Heart Exercise Room! The Bop 'til You Drop Dance Club! The Human Touch Spa and Massage Parlor!

    You're on your own for Frankie, though. I tried him out a few times, and he just seemed so…goofy.

  • Wahoo91

    It gets worse. Springfield is doing a duet on this cut with jazz and R&B star Randy Crawford, whose career deserved better. She is best known for singing lead on “Street Life” by the Crusaders. Rick kept some good company back then despite being well…..Rick.

  • steed

    I'm telling you – I have an unhealthy infatuation with Mr. Stallone.

  • steed

    yes, you are correct. I can't believe I pictured them as shorts in my mind. So that means I pictured Billy Squier with pink shorts on – ugh. What was I thinking. Now I'm turning shades of pink. We'll edit that part soon. It was that pink tank top I was thinking about of course and that terrible video.

    ooh, the Human Touch Massage Parlor! Sounds excellent. I wish I had the money for a trip right now. I'd probably love that cruise.

    Yeah, I don't think too many people are going to be with me on Frank.

  • Matt

    Split Enz and Squeeze remind me of what a kick-ass record label A&M was in the early '80s. Thanks.

  • kingofgrief

    Let it be entered in the minutes that “Tempted” is my favorite Bottom Feeder of the entire decade. I honestly can't think of any candidates that we've covered or are to follow that can top it. (Of course, some come pretty close, one of which I'll rave about in the next paragraph.) I first heard it on the radio sometime in '81, an anecdote I mentioned when I introduced Glenn Tilbrook at an in-store this October. How's that for full circle?

    And lurking somewhere in my BF Top 5: “I Got You”. I was so impressed after hearing this song on Solid Gold that I named it my favorite song in some getting-to-know-you questionnaire we filled out in some class (I was in 5th grade at the time). I'm a little surprised that the Enz didn't manage to at least scrape the Hot 100 with other efforts (“Message to My Girl”, “One Step Ahead” et al).

    In her book Rock to the Top: What I Learned about Success from the World’s Greatest Rock Stars, veteran Houston DJ Dayna Steele cites the “Rock Me Tonite” video as a classic bad career move. She also takes Squier to task for placing the blame on his management when the choreography was allegedly his idea. I never knew it was such a big deal in the first place; to me, it was just another video. “Emotions in Motion” is my favorite Squier BF; I had that album in junior high. Good times.

    Man, what a feast this week. I'm sure you didn't plan it this way, Steed, but all these goodies two days before Christmas? Wowee! As there's no Top 40 crown-tip available this week, I'll step outside the chart and offer you this relavant holiday bonus. Cheers, all!

  • steed

    No, of course they fall where they may – but I admit this week is much better than at least the last two.

  • maxx40

    of course Neil Finn, with Crowded House, had a big worldwide hit with Don't Dream It's Over. And that album was popular too if I remember correctly.

  • Eric S

    I agree with your Stage Dolls assessment. “Hair metal” is not a fair label. This is good old fashioned AOR (a dated term, but still very descriptive). I liked Stage Dolls well enough that I bought an import of some new material they did a couple years ago and it was surprisingly good. The same goes for Spys. They sound more dated because of the heavy keyboards, but I still go back and listen from time to time.

    Overall, this is one of the stronger posts. As for Frank Stallone, I don't think he could have gotten arrested without that last name. If “Darlin'” is the best song here, Hall & Oates should sue him immediately for ripping them off.

  • slappyfrog

    Got to love google ads, I think the ad in the sidebar is for a dating service for people 80 years old or older:
    “Singles In Their 80's
    See Over 30 Million Singles Free on Z—- – The Fastest Growing Network”
    immediately above an add for Joe Perry & the Grammy Foundation…love it

    PS *LOVE* this series and find my self surprised at the chart position of some of these…Split Enz was only a 53? That song was everywhere when I was a kid, very interesting.

  • DwDunphy

    No, “Tempted” is pretty awesome. Difford, Tilbrook, Carrack and Elvis Costello all passing around the microphone.

  • Zazoo Pitts

    Well, I'm glad you picked Frank. I hadn't heard it before. It's a nice slice of 80s. Darlin' reminds me of Tom Petty's Don't Do Me Like that with a little bit of Billy Joel.

    I've Got You and Tempted are definitely more classic/better songs (shocked they weren't top 40) but everyone knows them now so no need to feature them.

  • breadalbane

    As with a lot of new wave classics, “I Got You” was a big hit everywhere in the English-speaking world except the US (#1 Australia, #1 NZ, #12 UK, #13 Canada). Proving once again that

    A) US radio programmers were/are pusilanimous nincompoops.
    B) A&M's payola budget wasn't high enough.

    But here's a curiosity — Squeeze's “Tempted” was a bottom feeder *everywhere*: #41 UK, #45 Canada, #95 Australia.

    I can't begin to figure this one out. Did A&M just not promote this record, or what?

  • kingofgrief

    I had never asked myself what “(A) Case of You” would sound like had it been covered by J.D. Souther. Now I don't have to.

  • steed

    Applause all around. Someone sees it my way!

  • OJ Incandenza

    Perhaps laser-etching the True Colours album blew the budget?

    Seriously though, one thought: would MTV have helped? During 1980-81, you could catch “I Got You” pretty frequently on Nickelodeon's proto-MTV “Popclips” (and every once in awhile an earlier track, too!) and I'm pretty sure they even played it on “Livewire”.

    All of this was over and done with by the time MTV launched in the summer of '81, and I don't remember seeing Split Enz at all there.

  • OJ Incandenza

    Having looked it up, the earlier track I was referring to would be “Late Last Night”.

    Don't tell me that hair wouldn't have made an impression on America.

  • DwDunphy

    Since A&M also had laser etching on Styx's Paradise Theater, I'd imagine a lot of money vanished around that time. Even so, “I Got You” is totally perplexing to me. Our local stations played it many-mucho but, of course, never actually said the name of the song. In typical fashion, I took random words from the chorus, none of which were the real title.

    It wasn't until about 1988 that I found out it was “I Got You”, but I got that from an article about Crowded House so, too little too late.

  • rsbrandt

    How did I first hear “Tempted”? The El Paso Public Library's pitifully scant Pop & Rock LP collection–which, seriously, usually consisted entirely of one copy of The Fabulous Poodles' “Think Pink”–one day featured a new arrival: “East Side Story,” by some band I'd never heard of. I took it home, dropped the needle, and Holy Crap! The rest is musical infatuation history.

  • rsbrandt

    Another video that was all over MTV, too. Go figure.

  • kevininorlando

    While MTV didn't have the complete Split Enz promo roster, they did feature the band in heavy rotation up until 1983 into 1984. “History Never Repeats” was one of the very first videos the network ever aired, followed closely by “I Hope I Never”, “One Step Ahead” & “I Got You”. If it wasn't for MTV, I might have missed them (as was the case for hundreds of bands for me back then!)

    Hot Tracks remix service did a splendid Shep Pettibone-esque remix of “I Got You”, really jumps at retro nights!

  • kingofgrief

    Oh, I've GOTTA hear that Hot Tracks remix. Time to put the cyber-feelers out…

  • kingofgrief

    Oh, I've GOTTA hear that Hot Tracks remix. Time to put the cyber-feelers out…

  • musicmanatl

    Add Randy Crawford to the list of female vocalists that I love. I have her 2-CD greatest hits set from Europe and pretty much every cut is awesome. She had a unique voice and I can see why perhaps she never had commercial pop success here. But she managed two top five hits in the UK, and we really missed out on both “One Day I'll Fly Away” (later covered by Nicole Kidman in 'Moulin Rouge') and especially “Almaz”, my favorite.

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