Bottom Feeders: The Ass End of the ’80s, Part 87


Just when you thought it might be over, we get Survivor holding up the completion of the 19th letter of the alphabet. It’s the penultimate week of the letter S, as we take a look at the bottom feeders — songs that charted below #40 on the Billboard Hot 100 — of the glorious decade we call the ’80s.

Henry Lee Summer
“Darlin’ Danielle Don’t” — 1988, #57 (download)
“Hands on the Radio” — 1988, #85 (download)

Henry Lee Summer reminds me quite a bit of Eddie Money. Music and vocals decent, overall sound kind of generic but harmless. “Hands on the Radio” is the better of the two songs here, which were the second and third singles off his self-titled major-label debut (third album overall).

Summer’s run into some issues in the past few years: in 2006 he was drunk driving and crashed his car, and last May he was busted for possession of meth.

Joe Sun
“Shotgun Rider” — 1980, #71 (download)

Joe Sun started releasing bluesy country music in 1978 and had five country hits before “Shotgun Rider,” his only song to cross over to the Hot 100.

“Breakfast in America” — 1980, #62 (download)

I was never a huge fan of Roger Hodgson and Supertramp, though their singles are very good. “Breakfast in America” was released in 1980 and was the fourth single from the album that bares the same name. The third single, “Take the Long Way Home,” was released in late ’79, then a live version of “Dreamer” was released, then followed by “Breakfast in America.” That album of course is impossible to forgot thanks to the awesome cover of the waitress holding the O.J.

“Closer Than Friends” — 1989, #57 (download)
“You Are My Everything” — 1989, #84 (download)

Both these tracks are off Surface’s second album, appropriately titled 2nd Wave. They both went to #1 on the R&B charts and actually bookended their biggest ‘80s hit, “Shower Me With Your Love,” which went to #5.

“Somewhere in America” — 1980, #70 (download)
“Summer Nights” — 1982, #62 (download)
“The One That Really Matters” — 1983, #74 (download)
“Caught in the Game” — 1983, #77 (download)
“The Moment of Truth” — 1984, #63 (download)
“First Night” — 1985, #53 (download)
“How Much Love” — 1987, #51 (download)
“Man Against the World” — 1987, #86 (download)
“Didn’t Know It Was Love” — 1987, #61 (download)
“Across the Miles” — 1989, #74 (download)

Here it is, folks — the Bottom Feeders record for most songs from one artist within the series. Survivor rolls in with exactly half the week at a whopping ten tracks that didn’t make the top 40. And they still had eight songs that did, giving them 18 charting tracks in the decade.

The overwhelming number of songs here seems right because they were a pretty average rock group. There were many groups that didn’t have the talent but many more that had it and created much more engaging music. The thing with all ten of these tracks is that I had to listen to them again to even remember them. Their big hits, “Eye of the Tiger,” “High On You,” “The Search Is Over,” “Burning Heart,” and more are memorable even if only because they are played to death. But they are the only ones that get recurring airplay these days. These minor hits have disappeared into the oblivion. One or two might be understandable but before right now, I couldn’t have named one of these tunes. I wonder too if that could be because I don’t have a face to put to the music. I guess I’ve never seen a Survivor video or never paid attention, because I couldn’t pick these guys out of a crowd, nor could I even name one member of the group without looking it up.

“Somewhere in America” comes from their self-titled ’79 debut and “Summer Nights” was placed on their second disc, Premonition. Those two are probably the best Survivor records as they were before “Eye of the Tiger” which means those over-the-top arena melodies and complete keyboard saturation hadn’t happened yet.

“The One That Really Matters” is really the last of the original rock sound of Survivor. It was off the Eye of the Tiger record but was the one single that hadn’t incorporated the watered down sound yet.

“Caught in the Game” is the title track from their 4th record which certainly was met with high expectations as the follow up to Eye of the Tiger. Of the ten tracks here this is the only one I remember hearing and it was the best song on the album by a long shot. It was the only single even released from it.

At this point singer Dave Bickler left because of voice problems and was replaced by Jimi Jamison who has pretty much the perfect arena rock voice. He started out with “The Moment of Truth” recorded for Karate Kid and while it is a pretty good song, this soundtrack song didn’t quite bring the success of “Eye of the Tiger.”

Their fifth album, and first with Jamison, Vital Signs, was totally-over-the-top pop metal, but at least it had more energy than Caught in the Game. “First Night” was the fourth single from the album that spawned the top 20 hits, “I Can’t Hold Back,” “High on You,” and “The Search Is Over.”

Their sixth album, When Seconds Count, was a pretty miserable keyboard filled copycat of their previous hits. The public didn’t buy into the lack of creativity and the album didn’t sell well. It did generate three singles – the #9 hit “Is This Love” and both “How Much Love” and “Man Against the World.” If you listen to the album as a whole, this is totally their Van Hagar moment.

“Didn’t Know It Was Love” is the best track off their final, almost unlistenable album, Too Hot Too Sleep. “Across the Miles” goes down as the worst track of the group here and would be their final single. The group would break up after this, though in 1993 first singer Dave Bickler came back and took the group on the road. Jamison joined back up in 2000 replacing Bickler again and in 2006 they released a new album that no one wanted. Jamison left after that, but the guys in the band continue to tour with another singer to this day. Rocklahoma baby!

Best song: Supertramp “Breakfast in America”
Worst song: Joe Sun, “Shotgun Rider”


Next week, we finally finish off the letter S!

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  • EightE1

    I unapologetically list Survivor among my favorite bands (I wrote their Idiot's Guide, unfortunately lost in the Jefitoblog warehouse fire). I can't explain why — their music just connected with me as a kid, and I still diggum to this day (their Ultimate collection never leaves ye olde iPod).

    It's pretty interesting that an act with 18 charting singles never really made it past the opening act phase of its career. I disagree with the assessment of Too Hot to Sleep; after the relative disappointment of When Seconds Count, the band needed to come back strong, and I think they did. No one was listening, but no matter …

    Dave Bickler is recording an album right now; Jim Peterik writes and produces new music, and dresses like your senile Aunt Gertie after a day of yard sale shopping. Survivor itself (really, just Frankie Sullivan and Marc Droubay, the drummah) tours with former McAuley Schenker Group singer Robin McAuley. Not really Survivor at all.

  • DwDunphy

    Survivor gets a bad rep for the wrong reasons. Almost all the hard rock bands of the day were leading with the keyboards. The '80s is typified by what I call the “dim-duh” sound, where the first note of the song is a guitar strike followed by the keys taking lead with a pattern usually sounding like this (pardon me while I onomatopoeia) – “Dim-duh! Dum-de-dum, dim-duh!” You hear it in late period Journey (“Be Good To Yourself”,) it creeps into Whitesnake (the single edit for “Here I Go Again”,) and so on and so forth.

    The real problem with Survivor is that, while those other bands were hardly writing tributes to Walt Whitman, their lyrics often sound like they were thought up while they were taking a whizz. “Dum-de-dum, dim-duh, running in the heat, begging for your touch… Uh… In the middle of the street. Good enough. Let me shake this thing dry, then we'll go record.” If the lyrics weren't so, y'know, pissed out, there might be more of a legacy left to them.

  • cmmmbase

    Actually Dave, “Breakfast In America” was the second single from the Paris album, and the 45 was a live version. You've posted the studio version. Also, there was a second single from Survivor's “Caught In The Game” album – “I Never Stopped Loving You” which only made the bubbling under chart (#104).

  • David_E

    I will second (third?) the love of Survivor here. They were inescapable for years in the mid-80s, and their music still makes me nostalgic. Peterik could write a mean chorus hook – and did, several times over, for .38 Special. Their sound always makes me think of John Carpenter movies. Something about the keyboards, I think … especially in “American Heartbeat.”

    Nothing but love for Supertramp, too. And I've got Jefito himself to thank for my latter day embrace of Henry Lee Summer. Who sounds like a serial killer.

  • steed

    Interesting. It seemed like this would have been the case for Supertramp, but that goes against the info I have in my billboard lists and all the info I could find on the web about the single when it seemed a bit shady to me.

  • steed

    I changed the song to the live version.

  • jefito

    I've been trying to convince Henry Lee Summer to give me an interview for months. Let me tell you, there's nothing worse than an uppity mullet enthusiast.

  • drcastrato

    I expected to laugh at the Survivor tunes, but they are actually pretty awesome.

  • Matt

    Rob, I am with ya re: Survivor to the point that I bought all of the early albums on Japanese import before they were eventually reissued here. About the only thing that I don't have is a good copy of the Live in Japan video that was released on laserdisc (I've come close to buying the laserdisc several times)…..there are DVDs that circulate with that show and the video collection, all on one DVD…gotta get my hands on that.

    I wasn't really a fan of Too Hot To Sleep, but I do love “Didn't Know It Was Love.” And actually, “When Seconds Count” is quite under-rated in my opinion, but it seems like I'll be alone with that opinion here in this room. What I love about When Seconds Count is the visual imagery that the music and lyrics create with many of the songs on that album, something that Peterik and Sullivan were always really good at.

    Looking at the rest of the catalog, Eye of the Tiger was for years the only album that I had from the Bickler era. Thrift shops and flea markets eventually led me to the other three, S/T, Premonition, and Caught in the Game – wow, what a knockout punch those first two albums are. The Caught in the Game album is a favorite as well, and as much as I like those first four albums with Bickler, I'm glad that the Jamison era happened. The Jamison stuff is a completely different side of Survivor, but I like where they went with it.

    Bickler's obviously doing okay these days as the singing voice of the Budweiser “Real Men of Genius” ads, which might be why his solo album has been such a long time coming. Rob, I haven't seen any recent updates – have you heard anything within the past year that indicates that this Bickler solo album is actually still in progress?

    Regarding the tracks above, they really are the best of the rest – if you heard and liked the hits, these might be the tracks that lead you deeper into acquiring the entire Survivor catalog.

    P.S. – Rob, I remember that Survivor guide – it was a good 'un.

  • David_E

    I liked “When Seconds Count.” Tommy Shaw guested on it. And the “Real Men Of Genius” campaign is dead, as of late last year. RIP.

  • Matt

    wow, that's a real shame….I just heard the commercial sometime late last month, so there ya go, I guess. That was a good long run for that campaign…hopefully Bickler managed to bank some good dollars out of that, and I'm guessing that he did.

  • steed

    Holy crap – I can't believe all this Survivor love! I totally misestimated how this week would go down.

  • jefito

    If you're lucky, you'll experience the same thrill I did when Frankie Sullivan's brother posts a comment demanding that all files be removed immediately.

  • EightE1

    I think it was Chris Grove, their one-time keyboardist, who threatened you with bodily arena-rockin' harm for your Reach downloads. Last I heard, Grove is playing with Eddie Money, and we're past the M's. Steed should be safe.

  • steed

    I did say Henry Lee Summer reminded me of Eddie Money. So I may still have a shot here!

  • EightE1

    Thakyuhverymuch for remembering the Guide fondly. It was a lot of fun to write. I'm thankful I PDF'ed it, else-wise there'd be no record of it at all. [sigh]

    I follow Bickler on Twitter and check his Web site occasionally. He's still recording, little by little. He'll post pics and short snippets of things-in-progress on occasion.

    The one When Seconds Count track that stays with me is “Oceans.” Love that song, and Sullivan's gee-tar solo is pretty stinkin' cool. I wore out one vinyl copy of Caught in the Game and wound up purchasing a second, though to my ears it sounds very compressed and trebly. Good writing on it, though.

    And you're not alone, RE: the Japan reissues. First thing I ever bought on eBay was a Japanese import of the first album. My copies of Premonition, and Caught in the Game are likewise imports.

  • Matt

    Grove shoulda thanked El Jefito – those Reach tunes were pretty bad.

  • Matt

    Wow, Bickler's website was dead last time I checked it…but there it is! And he's on Twitter! Thanks for the tip on both. His voice sounds good on “The Gift,” posted on his main page. I'll definitely be interested to hear that album, whenever it finally makes it out.

  • kingofgrief

    The most recent Whitburn book lists “Breakfast” as a live cut. Yet another reason to upgrade if you haven't already done so.

  • steed

    Yep, looks like it's time. Shame Christmas has passed.

  • Nasty G

    Well, I too am surprised by all the Survivor love. I actually always thought that they were a one-hit-wonder, yet they had FIVE top ten hits???? Where the hell was I in the 80s?? I had to just go listen to their other top ten hits, and I have to say that I have a VERY vague recollection of them, as if they were something I might have heard in the background while wandering around K-Mart. But I agree that part of this is likely due to the group having no memorable image, and to me all their songs, both the top tens and the ones here, sound pretty much the same. But again, it's not my type of music, so different strokes, though I am aware of the music of pretty much every other rock band of that era…

  • kingofgrief

    I was in Austin with the missus over the weekend and heard “The Search Is Over” at a diner. My thoughts: “Hey, Survivor should be coming up on Bottom Feeders this week”, followed by “Hey, d'ya suppose THEY'RE the act with the most BFs?” And lo. Yep, “Caught in the Game” is the only one I know from the titles alone. I'm sure when the others pop up on shuffle in the car, a familiar chorus or hook will come into play.

    Is it weird for anyone else to acknowledge that songs from 1980 will “turn” thirty this year? It's hitting me as I listen to “Shotgun Rider”, which I haven't heard in about three decades (maybe '81 at the latest). I've never forgotten the “good love arranger” line…an odd sentiment, but logical nonetheless.

    Not much to say this week, but as my favorite band of the '80s (and a damn close runner-up) should feature next Wednesday, I'll resume my Tolstoyesque commentary before you know it. Since there's no Top 40-only act to trumpet, I take my leave with something from a featured artist that (to my surprise) didn't even bubble under.

  • Jeremy Holiday

    Dave Bickler's solo album is very much still in the works. He is about halfway through cutting the basic tracks. “The Gift” will be on it, re-recorded with full band including Ryan Hoyle (Collective Soul) on drums and Brad Smith (Blind Melon) on bass (Dave plays all the instruments on the demos featured on his site). Thanks for the Ultimate Survivor love, I produced that compilation.

  • Russ

    The real shame for Survivor is that their best song, “Rebel Girl”, was lost in the shuffle when Scotti Bros. changed their distribution from Atlantic to CBS.

    I also think Peterik gave too many decent songs to 38 Special. But then my fave 38 Special tune is “If I'd been The One” which I think was their first post-Peterik single. (And their only good post-Peterik single.)

  • brettalan

    My Whitburn book also lists “Breakfast” as the live version, and the book is the 2000 edition.

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  • SteveA

    Re: Survivour – I remember Summer Nights and it was one of those tunes that the melody got stuck in my head since 1982…I know it's weird. When I think of Survivor I remember that song. I actually had the opportunity (if you want to call it that) to see this band live twice – wow!

    Summer Nights for some reason was a song I could not get and I think it was played in a movie called Summer Lovers – but I think I might also be wrong about that!

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  • viruete

    I'm a Survivor fan too…. Well, I love their keyboard-driven sound more than the more rockish songs that the first era. It's simply that I thing they did better songs then. More “run-of-the-mill” 80s sound, yes. But hooks galore and memorable chorus… yes, too. Jamison have the perfect voice for FM rock of the 80s.

    As for When seconds count, it's true that it's too much similar than Vital Signs, but with songs like Is this Love, Oceans or Rebel Song… I'll take it any day over Eye of the tiger. I never liked that album as a whole.

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  • smf2271

    You can only imagine how excited I was when I woke up one morning in March of 1985, knowing I was going to see REO Speedwagon at the Worcester (MA) Centrum that night, and then to top it off the DJ on WHTT (Boston's “Power 103″) informed me that Survivor was the opener! Hey, I was in 7th grade. It was an awesome show, at least to a typical white suburban Boston 12 year old boy such as myself.

    “First Night” to me represented the true ass end of the '80s for a period. WHTT used to put out their own Top 50 “hit list” every week and I collected them religiously. And “First Night” spent one lone week at number 50. I kid you not. The real kicker is that one week was in late July of 1985, smack in the middle of two months of radio-free overnight camp, so I never even heard it in it's brief time on WHTT's rotation. I finally caught it on Mtv months later and the great mystery was finally cleared up.

    “How Much Love” I think in it's eerie closeness to High On You is second only to Rick Astley's Together Forever on the list of 80s carbon copies in terms of how close they resemble an earlier tune by the same artist.

  • Todd

    Wow..i *loved* the song “Caught in the Game” and sing it from time to time (oddly) to this day. Great post..thanks for sharing.

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  • Don Karnage

    Since everyone else is discussing Survivor…

    …for reasons to random to go into, I ended up meeting up with a guy from Italy who had spent a total of 24 hours in America, but was sitting in Nowhere, New Mexico. My friends and I sort of took him under our wing, since he was sort of at loose ends. We offered to take him out to eat, and we asked him what sorts of food he liked. He said, “Here? What I really love is your breakfast.” We said, “Really?” He nodded, then sang (with an extremely heavy accent) “Take a look at my girlfriend…”

    Someone pointed out if you reverse the album artwork image, you have what looks like a 9 and an 11 above the twin towers. Through an airplane window. No, I don't think that means anything – just one of those “huh – how 'bout that” things.

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  • edwinsallan

    The Moment of Truth was a big hit here in Manila. The One That Really Matters got some airplay. Should have been a bigger hit, too. Nice to find them here.

  • edwinsallan

    The Moment of Truth was a big hit here in Manila. The One That Really Matters got some airplay. Should have been a bigger hit, too. Nice to find them here.

  • musicmanatl

    Sadly, I'm old enough to remember when the “Paris” live LP came out in 1980 and I'm certain that the single of “Breakfast in America” was issued from that LP. I guess there are some benefits to being old, right? ;)

  • musicmanatl

    I was kind of indifferent to Survivor's music until Ron Nevison got a hold on them with the “Vital Signs” LP. I LOVED “I Can't Hold Back”, “High on You” and “Is This Love”. I really liked how Nevison polished the sound of the groups he worked with. He did the same work with Heart, although I remember Ann Wilson talking about how much she hated him for how he worked. Regardless, I don't think '80s pop-rock got much better than those three Survivor singles I listed. They still make me happy when I hear them today.

  • musicmanatl

    I love your description: “as if they were something I might have heard in the background while wandering around K-Mart…”. LOL and it gives a perfect visual. :)