Bottom Feeders: The Ass End of the ’80s, Part 90

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It’s a doozy of a week here at Bottom Feeders as we continue looking at songs that landed below #40 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the 1980s, specifically those by artists whose names begin with the letter T. If you’re just here for the music, at least watch the second embedded YouTube video below — it’ll make your week.

10,000 Maniacs
“Like the Weather” — 1988, #68 (download)
“What’s the Matter Here” — 1988, #80 (download)
“Trouble Me” — 1989, #44 (download)

In a world of female artists that I don’t like, Natalie Merchant gets a free pass. I’ve always enjoyed the 10,000 Maniacs, no more so than when they hit their peak in 1992 with Our Time in Eden. Their final two ‘80s records, In My Tribe (1987) and Blind Man’s Zoo (1989), are fine listens as well with the former being worth a front-to-back shot. They really didn’t have a great run on the Hot 100, though, with their only Top 40 hits coming later in the ‘90s, but they did have some modern rock success.

Robert Tepper
“Don’t Walk Away” — 1986, #85 (download)

This is such a disappointing track for me: Tepper’s first and only other Hot 100 single, “No Easy Way Out,” from Rocky IV, was fucking awesome. Both the songs are cheesy but “No Easy Way Out” is so in sort of an “I’m gonna kick your ass and then shake hands over a beer” type way, while “Don’t Walk Away” is more like “I had way too much time to experiment with my keyboards”-type cheese. In reality, what Robert Tepper should always be known for is his cowriting credit on Benny Mardones’s “Into the Night.”

Tony Terry
“She’s Fly” — 1987, #80 (download)
“Forever Yours” — 1988, #80 (download)

Tony Terry, not to be confused with producer and DJ Todd Terry (although maybe it’s only me that makes that mistake) was a new jack swing artist who paid his dues doing background vocals in the mid-’80s until he got his own deal in ’87. He had a total of eight R&B hits over his first two albums, but in the end had a relatively generic voice that simply blended in with the pack.

Tesla
“Little Suzi” — 1987, #91 (download)

A cover of “Little Suzi’s on the Up” by British band Ph.D., this track is pretty reminiscent of the sound that made Tesla famous. Slow intro, rock out (albeit moderately) and throw a little acoustic guitar in there for good measure. That formula gave them enough to get at least two big hits (1989’s “Love Song” and 1990’s “Signs”) and a few minor ones as well. They broke up in ’94, but got back together a decade later and are still releasing albums to a minuscule audience. “Little Suzi” was their only Hot 100 hit from their debut record, Mechanical Resonance.

Texas
“I Don’t Want a Lover” — 1989, #77 (download)

Texas’s debut album, Southside, checks in at #80 on my Top 80 Albums of the ‘80s list. Texas was founded by bassist Johnny McElhone, who was also in Altered Images and Hipsway. The album is a cool, bluesy pop trip that’s catchy as hell and hook filled from start to finish. The band’s sound has progressed over the years to incorporate soul and dance music.

.38 Special
“Rockin’ Into the Night” — 1980, #43 (download)
“Fantasy Girl” — 1981, #52 (download)
“Somebody Like You” — 1986, #48 (download)
“Back to Paradise” — 1987, #41 (download)
Rock & Roll Strategy” — 1988, #67 (download)
“Comin’ Down Tonight” — 1989, #67 (download)

One of those bands I loved from start to finish, even though they ended up getting kind of cheesy as they got older, Donnie Van Zant and company go down as my favorite southern-rock group of the decade. Sure, by the time Strength in Numbers rolled around in 1986 they were making keyboard-driven rock, and 1988’s Rock & Roll Strategy was a full-blown pop record (under the moniker Thirty Eight Special), but that doesn’t mean they weren’t any less awesome. I mean, “Rockin’ Into the Night” is great, but so is “Rock & Roll Strategy.” Soundtrack songs are really doing it for me in this post too, as I’m rockin’ “Back to Paradise” right now — the theme to Revenge of the Nerds II, of all things. The only shitty track here is “Comin’ Down Tonight,” their final hit of the decade. And of course, .38 Special made some of the most glorious shitholes of videos in the early ‘80s which makes them even more awesome in my book.

B.J. Thomas
“Whatever Happened to Old Fashioned Love” — 1983, #93 (download)

The more and more I look back at country artists through the ‘80s, I realize they must have never taken a break: 19 albums for Willie Nelson, 16 for the Oak Ridge Boys, and 15 for B.J. Thomas. While I’m familiar with most of Willie’s and the Oak Ridge Boys releases (unfortunately), I don’t know much about B.J Thomas in the decade. I know his version of “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” from 1969, but that’s pretty much it besides his lone ‘80s hit “Whatever Happened to Old Fashioned Love,” which, frankly, isn’t all that bad.

Evelyn Thomas
“High Energy” — 1984, #85 (download)

I haven’t looked at the rest of the letter T yet, but this might go down as the worst song attached to that letter. This really isn’t that “High Energy” to begin with, but with those super long extended held notes and way too simple repetitive backbeat, it’s painful to the ears. And did she have a lisp or something? Every time I hear the intro and especially the first verse it sounds like her tongue is in the way.

Nolan Thomas
“Yo Little Brother” — 1985, #57 (download)

“Yo Little Brother” is one of the most fascinating songs of this series. It’s one of those tunes that you heard a thousand times in the ‘80s and never since, and one of those where you couldn’t possibly come up with the artist unless someone told you — and even then you’d have to give that fake “Oh yeah, now I remember” face. Nolan Thomas, a.k.a. Marko Kalfa, is what makes the ‘80s great: bad dance music, totally cheesy vocals, and a white kid trying way too hard to fit in with the soul crowd (there’s even a song on his album called “Too White”). But none of that is what makes “Yo Little Brother” so good. It’s the fact that Thomas was rumored to have died after the video came out (he didn’t) and that the vocals are from some dude named Elan Lanier instead of Thomas (this one might actually be true, but if so, I’m not sure what the hell Nolan did on the track, if anything). It’s the video, though, that makes this song legendary. Complete with child parodies of Cyndi Lauper, Ric Ocasek, Bruce Springsteen, and Prince for some unknown reason, gratuitous dancing, pastels, and supershitty lip-synching, it makes for a video so bad that it cycles back around to good again (sort of like the Zoolander of the ‘80s). Just like the video for Ronnie Milsap’s “She Loves My Car” spawned a post unto itself, one of our writers here at Popdose needs to break this baby out and give it its own piece.

Timmy Thomas
“Gotta Give a Little Love (Ten Years Later)” — 1984, #80 (download)

Timmy Thomas is best known for his 1973 prequel to this track, “Why Can’t We Live Together,” but here we are ten years later (okay, 11, but who’s counting) with what’s considered the (yo) little brother of that track. This is a lost gem of the decade, with Thomas really blending well with the times and surprisingly creating something this catchy and hip so late in his career.

QUICK HITS
Best song: Texas, “I Don’t Want a Lover”
Worst song: Evelyn Thomas, “High Energy”

TOP 40 ONLY
None

Next week, one of the hottest women to come out of the ’80s is somehow cool with the  hand jive.

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Dave Steed
Dave Steed is all about music; 80's and metal to be exact. His iPod will shuffle from Culture Club to Slayer and he won't blink an eye. He's never heard Astral Weeks but thinks "Dazzey Duks" by Duice is the bomb. It's an odd little corner of the world he lives in.