Bottom Feeders: The Ass End of the ’80s, Part 89
It was a long journey through S, wouldn’t you say? Unfortunately, now that we’re through the largest letter of the alphabet, it’s kind of hitting me that we’re reaching the end soon. However, we’ve still got a couple of pretty big letters to go, starting with the tantalizing T. Here are more songs from the bottom three-fifths of the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the 1980s.
The Talking Heads were pretty awesome, weren’t they? Not only did they have some of the catchiest melodies of the decade (“This Must Be the Place”) but they were unique and kind of quirky at the same time. I mean, it’s impossible to forget the strange and yet wildly cool video for “Once in a Lifetime.”
“This Must Be the Place” comes from Speaking in Tongues, which gave them their only Top 10 hit in “Burning Down the House” (#9). “And She Was” was the second single from their 6th album, Little Creatures, and “Once in a Lifetime” came from their live album Stop Making Sense. Sense was released in 1984 and a couple singles charted in the UK before Little Creatures came out, and then two more singles were shipped to radio after that album’s run was complete. Amazingly, the studio version of “Once in a Lifetime” only bubbled under at #103.
In the U.S. Talk Talk really only got their due for “It’s My Life,” and even that wasn’t a big hit, peaking at #31. Their biggest success probably came when No Doubt remade the song in 2003. They’ve never really gotten any love from me either, as while they weren’t a bad group, they never make a playlist of mine. I can’t stand “Such a Shame,” but “Life’s What You Make It” is much better. It’s one catchy chorus away from being a big hit. The progression of the band is the interesting thing here; you start off with a Duran Duran feel, then switch to a little Depeche Mode and end up with some Tears for Fears in these three tracks.
“She’s Only Twenty” — 1988, #88 (download)
The Tami Show were a short-lived band featuring sisters Cathy and Claire Massey on vocals. “She’s Only Twenty” comes from their self-titled debut and was the only single off the album. They actually released a second album in 1991 and scored a Top 40 hit with “The Truth,” a song I swear I’ve never heard before. The debut is a tough find these days, and unless you’re a collector it isn’t worth the hunt.
“On the Line” — 1989, #67 (download)
Tangier was a decent band that just hit way too late. They had a self-titled, self-released album in 1985, but then didn’t get a deal and release another album until 1989. “On the Line” came from that album, Four Winds, and sounds a whole lot like Whitesnake, who had peaked two years earlier. If Four Winds had been released in ’86 or ’87, I’m sure this would have been a hit.
“No Time to Lose” — 1981, #74 (download)
The Tarney-Spencer Band are an interesting inclusion in this series because they never actually recorded any music in the ‘80s. The band recorded three albums in the late ‘70s and “No Time to Lose” was included on their final record, Run for Your Life, released in 1979. It was released as a single in ’79 and went to #81, then in 1981 MTV started airing a video for it and the single was released again, this time making it to #74 — but this was two years after the band broke up, and they didn’t bother to get back together to capitalize on this minor success.
A Taste of Honey
“I’ll Try Something New” — 1982, #41 (download)
A Taste of Honey sure did like their Asian sounds, didn’t they? Their songs seem to be either disco or ballads with an Asian flair to them. Their biggest hit in the ‘80s was “Sukiyaki” but their Miracles cover “I’ll Try Something New” had the same sort of feel to it. This would be their final charting single.
“Bad Times” — 1980, #47 (download)
Tavares was a five member family band who really hit their peak in the mid ‘70s. By the time the ‘80s rolled around, the hit making machine that gave them 12 Hot 100 hits in the previous decade had slowed down a bit, and they were only able to get two more in this one. “Bad Times” was the first of the two, written by Gerard McMahon and the lead track on their Supercharged album and the second “A Penny For Your Thoughts” went to #32 in 1982.
“When the Rain Comes Down” — 1986, #73 (download)
Andy Taylor was the guitarist for Duran Duran. Both his playing in the Power Station and his solo material were a pretty direct fuck you to his old group in saying that he didn’t like the keyboard-filled direction the group went in and that he wanted to rock. “When the Rain Comes Down” was his second and final solo single to chart, and was taken from the Miami Vice II TV soundtrack.
B.E Taylor Group was a Pittsburgh, PA area band that had some minor success on the charts with these two songs in the mid ’80s. “Vitamin L” was on their second album, Love Won the Fight. It was the only song on the album not sung by Taylor; instead, the vocals you hear belong to Joey D’Amico, the bassist. “Karen” is more of an adult contemporary arena rock song and would be their final charting single before Taylor would go solo.
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone say a bad thing about James Taylor’s music. It’s lighthearted, soothing and at times even quite fun. All three of these tracks are great, led by “Never Die Young,” from the album that shares the same name. “Everyday” is a Buddy Holly & the Crickets cover.
Tears for Fears
“Change” — 1983, #73 (download)
Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith are plain cool. Their body of work feels massive, even though they’ve really only released four albums as a group since 1982. Songs from the Big Chair (1985) and The Seeds of Love (1989) gave them the star power they needed to be remembered 20 years later, but it’s their 1983 debut, The Hurting, that’s really their best work. Some of their best songs, like “Start of the Breakdown,” “Change,” and “Mad World” would be on the album that started it all. The group broke up in 1991, though Orzabal would release two more “solo” albums under the Tears for Fears moniker. The group officially reunited to release Everybody Loves a Happy Ending in 2004.
“Power” — 1980, #43 (download)
“Aiming at Your Heart” — 1981, #67 (download)
“Standing on the Top, Pt. 1” — 1982, #66 (download)
“Love on My Mind Tonight” — 1983, #88 (download)
“Sail Away” — 1984, #54 (download)
“Treat Her Like a Lady” — 1984, #48 (download)
“Lady Soul” — 1986, #47 (download)
At first I felt kind of bad for the Temptations. They had seven hits in the decade and all seven of them failed to crack the Top 40, but then I saw that “Power” was the 46th Hot 100 hit and I wasn’t that sad anymore.
None of these tracks are close to being as good as any of their mega-hits, but there are a few memorable moments. They had 11 albums in the decade, though, and only seven hits, which tells you a little about the quality of the material at this point.
I’ve always enjoyed the grooviness of “Power” and “Treat Her Like a Lady” is a bit over-processed, but isn’t too bad. But the gem stems from the uniqueness of the old and new coming together for the Reunion album. “Standing on the Top” featured vocals from oldies David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks and Melvin Franklin as well as current members Dennis Edwards and Richard Street. And it featured Franklin’s nephew, Rick James, on the track as payback for providing the backing vocals to “Super Freak.”
Best song: Tears for Fears, “Change”
Worst song: Temptations, “Lady Soul”
TOP 40 ONLY
Taco (1), Ta Mara & the Seen (1), John Taylor (1), Livingston Taylor (1), Technotronic (1)
Next week we take a look at one of the worst videos of the decade and go southern-fried on your ass.