Bottom Feeders: The Ass End of the ’80s, Part 9


How many of you remember your first music purchase? I have a terrible memory, so I’m not sure if it really was my first purchase ever, but I absolutely remember buying my first CD with my own money. I was eight, the year was 1984, and the unfortunate CD was Culture Club’s Colour by Numbers. (I don’t know what CDs cost back then, but I must have done a lot of chores to be able to afford one at that age.) I say “unfortunate” not because the album was bad — I still enjoy it even today — but because it just becomes the laughingstock of the first-purchase conversation. I could absolutely tell people that it was Def Leppard, Billy Joel, David Bowie — hell, even Ride the Lightning if I wanted to be cool — but I know that at some point I’d tell someone the wrong thing and get called on it and then not only will people laugh at my purchase but they’ll think I’m an asshole for lying about it too. It’s really a no-win situation, so I just stick with the truth. Besides, people are just as horrified when I cradle my self-titled Frank Stallone record like it’s my child, so at that point “Karma Chameleon” is like 100 times better.

I’m an absolute junkie for the “My first record was …” story, so I’d love to hear what yours is after you take a listen to the 19 below as we continue this week with the letter “B.”

“The Hardest Part” — 1980, #84 (download)

Charting just a few weeks before “Call Me” would make them major superstars in the U.S., I find myself enjoying this song more than any of the their number one smashes. Soon after this, I realized that Debbie Harry left a bad taste in my mouth, so this is the final Blondie/Harry song that I actually dig. When we visit her solo career in “H”, I’ll spew the venom.

Kurtis Blow
“The Breaks” — 1980, #87 (download)
“Basketball” — 1985, #71 (download)

“The Breaks” is a hip-hop classic that I’m sure has influenced more songs than anyone could possibly think of. To me, it’s one of the top hip-hop songs ever made. “Basketball” on the other hand is ridiculously silly but is still is one of the most recognizable songs about a sport in history. You have to be impressed with his ability to toss in so many players and still get a nice clean rhyme out of it. And, the chorus of ladies singing “They’re playing basketball, we love that basketball” is totally addictive. I just wish Blow hadn’t started it out with such an incredibly lame line like “Basketball is my favorite sport / I like the way they dribble up and down the court.” Despite the fact that he gradually redeems himself for this line throughout the song, it’s something that I just can’t get past.

Blue Mercedes
“I Want to Be Your Property” — 1988, #66 (download)

To get the full gist of how bad this is, you need to see both the U.S. and the UK version of the video for this song. Both of them are quite ridiculous, but you gotta love the dance moves in the UK version which don’t seem to have anything to do with the actual song. As if it couldn’t get worse, the lead singer’s last name is Titlow and he wore shorts that said “Funk Ass” on the back. [Shaking head]

U.S. version:

UK version:

Blue Oyster Cult
“Shooting Shark” — 1984, #83 (download)

Co-written by Patti Smith, this pretty much lacked any edge or hard rock hook and was pretty much a starting point for the decline and demise of BOC.

Blue Zone U.K.
“Jackie” — 1988, #54 (download)

This was the group that launched Lisa Stansfield’s career. After their debut album Big Thing, the label and group decided to make it a solo career for Lisa. The other two guys in the group stayed on and participated on her first few solo albums. I’m actually surprised to see upon checking the ’90s charts that she really only had moderate success on the Billboard charts in the U.S. “Jackie” is arguably the best song she’s released though certainly not the most commercially successful.

Michael Bolton
“Fools Game” — 1983, #82 (download)
“Wait on Love” — 1988, #79 (download)

Not that “Fools Game” is death metal here, but it’s significantly different than anything released from say, 1987 on. The world could certainly do without his music, but you can’t blame him for going where the money was. Taken in context of his other hits, “Wait on Love” was actually the best and least sappy of the bunch. Typical that it was the one post-’87 song that wasn’t a major smash.

No matter what he does, though, Michael Bolton will always get a laugh from me thanks to the now-legendary exchange between coworkers Samir Nagheenanajar and, um, Michael Bolton in Office Space.

Samir: No one in this country can ever pronounce my name right. It’s not that hard: Na-gheen-an-a-jar. Nagheenanajar.
Michael: Yeah, well at least your name isn’t Michael Bolton.
Samir: You know there’s nothing wrong with that name.
Michael: There was nothing wrong with it…until I was about 12 years old and that no-talent assclown became famous and started winning Grammys.
Samir: Well, why don’t you just go by Mike instead of Michael?
Michael: No way. Why should I change? He’s the one who sucks.

Gary U.S. Bonds
“Jolé Blon” — 1981, #65 (download)

It had been 19 years since Bonds had had a hit when he teamed up with Bruce Springsteen in 1981 for the Dedication LP, which yielded a #11 hit in “This Little Girl.” You can hear the Boss’s style all over “Jolé Blon,” so it’s surprising that it only climbed to #65.

“Wait for You” — 1989, #55 (download)

Even as a teen, I can remember the anticipation behind hearing the album from John Bonham’s kid and I can remember the disappointment when it just wasn’t that great. But really, is there anything Jason Bonham could have done that would have lived up to his dad? The worst part about this is that you can clearly hear Zeppelin in “Wait for You,” but to a greater extent, Robert Plant’s solo work. That’s not to say it’s a terrible song at all, but it sounds exactly like a kid playing his dad’s music. I’m not sure there was ever a chance at Jason following in such huge footsteps, but karaoke versions of Zeppelin tunes seems like a bad idea from the start. However, once again Jason has left me with anticipation as I’m looking forward to the first release from Savage Animal — err…Damnocracy.

Bon Jovi
“She Don’t Know Me” — 1984, #48 (download)
“Only Lonely” — 1985, #54 (download)
“In and Out of Love” — 1985, #69 (download)

Of the early Bon Jovi singles, “She Don’t Know Me” and “Only Lonely” are the two that really don’t get any airplay now and rightfully so, as they both pretty much suck. “In and Out of Love” was the final song to chart before Bon Jovi became the biggest band in the world. It took me until my senior year in high-school to finally admit to anyone that I really liked Bon Jovi though. At least in my area, it was absolutely not cool for a dude to listen to Bon Jovi, but for years I was trying to convince people to just forget they were pretty boys and just listen to the awesome riffs in “Bad Medicine” or “You Give Love a Bad Name.” Now I can say that, and it’s perfectly acceptable, but I knew I would get my ass kicked back in ’88 if I admitted it.

Karla Bonoff
“Baby Don’t Go” — 1980, #69 (download)
“Please Be the One” — 1982, #63 (download)

While I couldn’t admit I liked Bon Jovi, I was all over singing Karla Bonoff tunes in study hall. Well okay, that’s a lie because I’m sure I had no idea who Bonoff was until I started collecting the music. Pop ballads that could easily be turned into country songs was her game, and she falls right in the middle of the heap when it comes to quality.

Book of Love
“Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls” — 1988, #90 (download)

I never remember hearing Book of Love when they were mildly popular in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but for some reason I hear them all the time now. And I can probably trace it back to this February when Medsker put them on my radar. Damn him.

Chuckii Booker
“Turned Away” — 1989, #42 (download)

Forgettable artist, forgettable song. However, while you may not know this just by the name, you will most likely recognize the chorus. That was catchy enough on its own to make this a mild success, but the rest of the song is a snooze-fest that could be mistaken for dozens of other songs from ’88-’92.

Boomtown Rats
“I Don’t Like Mondays” — 1980, #73 (download)

Another song that you hear much more now than when it came out, you’d certainly think it charted higher. But Bob Geldof’s charity work and political activism always overshadowed his songs and while Boomtown Rats were huge in Europe, their music just never crossed over to the U.S. audience.

Bourgeois Tagg
“Mutual Surrender (What a Wonderful World)” — 1986, #62 (download)

I’m a big fan of the short-lived Bourgeois Tagg. While I like their bigger hit, the 1987 track “I Don’t Mind at All,” this is also a great burst of pop energy.

There you have it — 19 more songs from the bottom of the ’80s Hot 100 chart. Next week we look at the shit period of a legend and one of those rare tracks that peaked at #100. Until then, head on over to Rock’n Hood records and check out the Bolton you didn’t know existed.

  • matthew

    first lp – Go West by (yup) Go West
    first single – view to a kill by Duran Duran
    first cd – operation mindcrime by queensryche

    christ on a bike it's a wonder i had any friends.

  • EvilNickname

    I would. But just not that.

    Actually, a couple of months ago, I was asked to do a small presentation about what that magical thing is he won't do. Good fun.

  • George

    I think my first LP was either something by Culture Club or Duran Duran.

    First cassette was “Victory” by the Jacksons.

    And the first cd was “Time's Up” by Living Colour. I do recall that with my cd player I had an offer to join Columbia House and get 4 free cd's and the one's I chose were “To the Extreme” by Vanilla Ice, “Tender Lover” by Babyface, “World Clique” by DeeLite and the Johnny Gill cd with “Rub you the Right Way.”

  • Breadalbane

    First LP: Wall of Voodoo, “Call of the West”. Still one of my all-time favourite albums.
    First cassette: Either “Stop Making Sense” by Talking Heads, or “Soul Mining” by The The. In both cases, the cassette version had extra or extended tracks, although the extra The The tracks were terrible.
    First 45: Talking Heads, “Once In A Lifetime (Live)”. Already had this A-side on cassette; bought it for the B-side, the live version of “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)”
    First CD: The Smiths, “Louder Than Bombs”. Purchased some weeks before I had an actual CD player.

  • whiteray

    My first purchase with my own cash came in the spring of 1970 and was one of two LPs: either “Let It Be” by the Beatles or “Chicago II” with the silver cover. Both are still on the shelves and both play pretty well – not pristine, but no major scratches. I still love the Chicago, but, looking back, the Beatles' album was a lot worse than it should have been, thanks to Phil Spector.

  • whiteray

    I should add: First 45 was 5th Dimension's “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In, 1969.”

    First cassette: “Blood, Sweat and Tears,” 1969.

    First CD: “High On The Hog” by The Band, 1999. (I was late to the party.)

  • Elaine

    There is not a perfect place to post this, but since we're on the subject — where we all fall on the rock/pop continuum — I wanted to mention there is a relatively new FM station at 100.3 I've discovered in socal. In the last few weeks, I've heard old debut-era Elvis Costello, “Shut Your Eyes” by Snow Patrol, and on the way home tonight I heard Lyle Lovett's “Church.” They're all over the place in a good way. I don't remember the last time I enjoyed listening to terrestrial FM radio. listen live. When I told my husband about it, he said, “ah. so they're now creating oldies stations for people *your* age.” (please note: he is older than I am.) But anyway it got me thinking. Maybe that's what's really going on here. I don't know who created it (what's AAA?) or what their corporate intentions are, so give it a listen before it starts sucking. 'cuz we all know it will.

  • David_E

    Toto IV and Glass Houses, plus Synchronicity, were all I listened to for a good 18 months of my life. No Journey, but Asia's first LP was waiting on deck.

    And I still remember singing “Makin' It” in the back of our station wagon, only to have my mom turn around from the front seat and ask, rather accusingly, “Do you know what that means?” [No.] “Then stop saying it.” [Shrinks into vinyl seat, unsure why.]

  • Peter

    Hmm…First 45 I can remember was “Saturday Night” by the Bay City Rollers. Or “Beth” by Kiss. Seeing as SN was released in 1973 and I bought the single at a garage sale, I can't really place the time, but it was around 1976.

    First album: “Foreigner”, Foreigner
    First cassette: “Tonight”, David Bowie
    First CD: “Umbrella,” The Innocence Mission

  • gavadajoe

    First 45: “Power Of Love”, Huey Lewis And The news
    First 33: Hmmm… probably “Love At First Sting”, Scorpions

  • JonCummings

    That is an amazing station–it's a bit like the “Deep Tracks” station on XM. So far they don't have DJs, so it's a bit like the “Jack” format except that the songs are more obscure.

    However, I've been listening to it for a month or two, and I'm already getting upset when they play a song again that I've heard there before. This afternoon it was “Put the Message in the Box” by World Party. Great song, but come on! World Party had a dozen great songs–play “Ship of Fools” already!

  • Elaine

    I agree..I hear repeats sometimes, too. But you're right, they're mostly playing and replaying good stuff, as opposed to playing/replaying crap. So, for now I'm willing to stick with it. Always ever ready to bolt, though. I just think I admire a station setup that's trying to mimic someone's ipod. That's what I think is going on.

    Every city (it seems) has a Bob-FM station nowadays, which has a similar premise but you hear the same Maroon 5 song 3x/day. At least at The Source, it'll be World Party or obscure 80's new wave.

  • danat123

    1st LPs (xmas gifts from my dad) were Sgt Pepper and G Geils band

    1st actual purchase of my own… Cory Hart – the one with Sunglasses at Night and Starship – We Built This City

    My shame is palpable

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  • clerck

    Converting Bourgeois Tagg's first into MP3 as I write this, “Electric Train” fading out. Underrated band. Brings me back to the summer of '86 and my first true independence after college. I remember hearing “Mutual Surrender” on the radio for the first time from a station in Lubbock of all places. The year had a bunch of great music opening up to us – Fabulous T-Birds, INXS, Wall of Voodoo, all experienced for the first time. And the club scene w/ Nu Shooz and Jermaine Stewart.

    First LPs – “Carpenters” (eponymous) & the J5 Greatest Hits
    First Rock LP – “The Grand Illusion”, Styx
    First 45s (bought in a frenzy w/ cash burning a hole in my first wallet – “The Night Chicago Died”, Paper Lace; “You Make Me Feel Brand New”, The Stylistics; “Rikki Don't Lose That Number”, Steely Dan”; “Who Do You Think You Are”, Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods; “Don't Ever Be Lonely (A Poor Little Fool Like Me), Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose; “Wildwood Weed”, Jim Stafford. My dad asked me if I had any idea what the latter was about and I was completely clueless.
    First 8-Track – My parents were far too un-hip and of-the-now to own one, but this very cool dude with a smoking hot Mopar (forget the exact model, but I can see it now) let me listen to his. I couldn't get enough of The Grassroots Greatest.
    First Cassette – Think it was a Seals and Crofts Greatest that someone slid my way. Loved and wore it out.
    First CD – I was a vinyl junkie and highly resentful of these pieces of plastic that forced my favorite product of any kind out of stores. I didn't convert until 1997!! Think it was a mix single of Smashmouth's “Walkin' On The Sun”. First full lengths were Francis Dunnery's “Tall Blonde Helicopter” and United Future Organization's “3rd Perspective”.

    Thanks for the topic! Fun to read everyones firsts.

  • Matracas

    Dave: I couldn't find a way to e-mail you directly so I am replying to this post. I am a Blondie fan and I see that you purchase practicly anything made in the 80's and I 'm wondering if you have the Chequered Past LP anywhere in your collection. I know 2 Blondie members were in that group and the album had no singles and this album is nowhere to be found ¿Any chance you have it and if so, any what you could share it with me? Let me know at matrakas

  • Matracas

    Dave: I couldn't find a way to e-mail you directly so I am replying to this post. I am a Blondie fan and I see that you purchase practicly anything made in the 80's and I 'm wondering if you have the Chequered Past LP anywhere in your collection. I know 2 Blondie members were in that group and the album had no singles and this album is nowhere to be found ¿Any chance you have it and if so, any what you could share it with me? Let me know at matrakas

  • Matracas

    Dave: I couldn't find a way to e-mail you directly so I am replying to this post. I am a Blondie fan and I see that you purchase practicly anything made in the 80's and I 'm wondering if you have the Chequered Past LP anywhere in your collection. I know 2 Blondie members were in that group and the album had no singles and this album is nowhere to be found ¿Any chance you have it and if so, any what you could share it with me? Let me know at matrakas

  • Guy Smiley

     “I could absolutely tell people that it was Def Leppard, Billy Joel,”
    Ironically, my first two albums purchased were Billy’s An Innocent Man and Leppard’s Pyromania. Both on cassette. Almost 30 (!) years ago now.

    In the years since, I’ve replaced An Innocent Man on CD (twice) and still listen to it now and then. 

    I haven’t heard Pyromania in (probably) 29 years. Never replaced it. 

  • aaaaa

    Karla Bonoff bubbled under with SOmebody’s Eyes from Footloose. The soundtrack had had six top 40 hits(Footloose, I’m Free, Let’s Hear it for the Boy, Almost PAradise, Holding Out for a Hero, Dancing in the Sheets). Bonoff’s song made the Footloose soundtrack come very close to being only the second album(at the time) to yield seven top 100 hits(Thriller had become the first a few months earlier)

  • shamwow

    First record: “Heart Like A Wheel” by Linda Ronstadt. I was in 5th grade at the time and thought she was hot…
    First CD: “Songs from the Big Chair” by Tears for Fears. I was in college at the time and a dork.