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


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.

“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.

“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.

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


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

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  • David

    Yo Little Brother … Oh my what a lame video. I guess Billy Idol had a mini-me before Austin Powers, yeah baby!! Anyway, another great posting as usual.

    Since the end is near :( … here's an idea for a new segment … bubblers from the 80's? Continue the bottom feeder legacy for songs that almost made the top 100

  • mjheyliger

    Holy crud. I've loved “Yo Little Brother” all this time and I had no idea Nolan Thomas was white. I'd also never seen the video. It's hilarious and horrifying at the same time.

  • DwDunphy

    Wow, I've got nothin' for this batch. I can't stand Natalie Merchant's voice, have only a passing interest in early .38 Special, and this Nolan Thomas twerp. If I've ever wanted to punch my computer monitor, it is nigh.

    I don't like B.J. Thomas that much. He's the Katy Perry of his day in that in the late '70s he converted and released a bunch of CCM albums, guaranteeing that you wouldn't be able to account for his prolific nature. Nobody could. Then he renounced, started recording secular albums again and eventually did the Growing Pains theme song. What did your wrangling get you, B.J.? Alan Thicke?

    It's not a new thing. When Paul Mazursky came calling, Richard Penniman was only too happy to jump back into his old persona, but “Great Gosh A'Mighty” was actually a pretty good song. Al Green has lately been able to straddle the two, recognizing that it's okay to be Christian and sing love songs, and who's going to argue with Reverend Al? Not me.

    But B.J.? Bleaaaggh.

  • DavidMedsker

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Spectacularly bad, that clip. It makes me want to go back and watch the video for Steve Miller's “Bongo Bongo” again.

  • rockymtranger

    Yo Little Brother has to hold the title for “Worst Video of the 80s”. It makes LaToya Jackson's videos look downright DEEP! I never saw the video when the song first charted, and I thought he was black.

    I really like Todd Terry at the time, but disposable is a great word to describe his output.

    I remember the first time I saw the video for “Like the Weather” on VH1, and I was instantly hooked. Saw 10,000 Maniacs at a club in their hometown of Jamestown, NY, and I was right up front. Natalie did not disappoint. But you've got the wrong lineup pictured for the 80s version of the group.

    Anytime Benny Mardones gets a mention on a blog, it's a good day. I wrote a post on Benny over a year ago, and it quickly became my most-read and most-searched post. There's a lot of Benny Love out there for “Into the Night”, even though a lot of those people don't have a clue who he is.

  • pete

    “Forever Yours” is one of my favorite guilty pleasure slow jams from the 80's. Shout out to Tony Terry!

  • drxl

    I do not know if I should be surprised that “High Energy” only made it as high as 83, but it certainly remains a classic, at least in Mexico, where it was really huge and remains a must in many a block party.

  • kingofgrief

    So Nolan's showing off his Blue Steel! on the record sleeve?

    I second the Full of AWESOME! treatment for that video…as long as Styx' “Music Time” doesn't get forgotten. I have 12″ versions of this and his cover of “One Bad Apple” if I may so tempt you. (Tempt! Apple! I'm a riot!)

    I also have a 7:50 mix of “High Energy” which I'll be keeping to myself.

    I'm a little disappointed in you, Steed…not even a mention of Sharleen Spiteri in your Texas blurb? If you're going to tease us about a hottie on the horizon, you better recognize what you got here and now. I remember seeing the “I Don't Want a Lover” clip on VH! and thinking, “Are you sure? Won't you reconsider for a genuine Texas boy? PLEEZ?” (Yes, I even misspell my thoughts.)

    Speaking of Texas, B.J. Thomas spent many a formative year in Rosenberg, the twin city to Richmond (where I grew up), so he's still a hero to the old guard. Every great once in a while, he'll stage a reunion with his old backing band, the Triumphs. I should see the guy at least once while I have the chance. In addition to “Raindrops”, I've always dug his other Hot 100 topper, “(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song”, even if I hate typing out the title.

    You mentioned Ph.D in your Tesla spiel…you should hear their 1981 single “I Won't Let You Down”, it sounds like a Great Lost Bottom Feeder if such a thing existed.

    Never knew about the Timmy Thomas sequel. Fitting in with the 80s shouldn't have been much of a stretch, as the original was all keyboards and drum machine (or “rhythm generator”). In addition, the single's slip, “Funky Me”, became a popular sample source in the late 80s and early 90s…to wit:

  • kingofgrief

    You're right! It's the post-Merchant, let's-butcher-Roxy-Music-for-our-new-singer's-debut lineup! FLEE!

  • steed

    Man, I only include pictures so the post isn't so dull looking. I don't even think twice about them because I'm much more concerned with the music.

  • steed

    Spiteri never did anything for me. Just went to her website to see what she looks like now and apart from some sensual poses, she still isn't my type.

    Ha – “Blue Steel” – that may very well be.

  • Nasty G

    Wow, last week I had nothing to add, but this week indeed I do. First of all, I think you may have to be on the look-out for a mob of drag queens ready to slap you silly with their sequined handbags for your diss of Evelyn Thomas and “High Energy”. It is considered one of the premier gay anthems, and is often considered the song that coined the the whole musical genre Hi-NRG, the fast BPMed disco/synth music that was huge in gay clubs in the early 80s. I myself was never that keen on it (and I'm shocked it made the top 100), but in recent years I have grown to like it AND it's ridiculous video. She's one freaky diva!

    As for Nolan Thomas, I confess to never having heard the song until a couple years ago, and that's only because I was looking for songs produced by Mark Liggett and Chris Barbosa, whose production skills I was obsessed with thanks to their work with Shannon. The video is a trip, and the voice certainly doesn't suit the look, but he recorded a song as Mark Kalfa in the late 80s and the voice is similar.

    I too have never really 'got' Natalie Merchant. She's too 'precious' for me, but I do think “Trouble Me” is a beautiful song.

    I've never heard anything by Tony Terry, and I also used to get him mixed up with Todd Terry when I saw his name (which admittedly wasn't much). But of course I was aware of him through his brilliant duet, “On The Strength”, with Flame (whose album is featured on my blog). I'm liking “She's Fly” but agree he was way too generic.

    And once again you've introduced me to songs I've never heard before and am surprised that I actually like by Robert Tepper, Tesla, .38 Special, Timmy Thomas and Texas (a group I always thought I should get into but somehow never did. I'll have to peruse their catalog now). Thanks again for opening my ears!

  • Nasty G

    Oops, you made the mistake Steed almost did – it's Tony Terry, not Todd. LOL

  • davidjburton

    B.J. Thomas had 22 Hot 100 hits in the 1960s and 1970s, four of which hit Top 10: the aforementioned “Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head” and “Hey Won't You Play Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” plus “Hooked on a Feeling” (five years before the Blue Swede ooga-chaka version), and “I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry” (way back in 1966). My favorite of his hits was “Everybody's Out of Town,” written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

    Of '80s interest, most of you have heard Thomas on the theme song to the sitcom “Growing Pains,” called “As Long as We've Got Each Other.” He did three different versions — solo, and as a duet with both Dusty Springfield and Jennifer Warnes. None of them made the Hot 100, however.

  • Matracas

    I have been reading week after week since about a year ago and I enjoy my reads…I am an 80's fanatic and these posts have opened my eyes (ears) to a lot of “unknown” stuff.

    Question: Why do links only last a week? How can I get something from past weeks/months?

    Monterrey, Mx.

  • Don Karnage

    Did “High Energy” in fact lend its moniker to the genre Hi-NRG? IT seems to have come along at close to the right time, but it seems a bit too subdued (and not quite as sequenced) as what I consider “Hi-NRG” music. (Kim Wilde's “You Keep Me Hangin' On” and Company B's “Fascinated” spring to mind.) Maybe the music evolved during those couple years. I can't pull off drag myself, but I'd say my only gay friends who would give somebody grief for disliking the song would be the ones who are still trying to convince me how amazing American Life and Hard Candy are…

    My brother and I both liked “Yo Little Brother”. In that weird “it's dumb but I like it” way you could still pull off in your teenage years. Oddly, I remember some bits of the video – how dumb he looked 'calling' to his brother – but none of the Mini-Pops clones.

  • Chris X

    goddammit, I finally remember to come in on the day it's posted, and it's like the worst week of Bottom Feeders ever. Yikes. See you in a week!

  • Zazoo Pitts

    High Energy… a couple of comments:

    1) Have you seen the cover? Check it out on Wikipedia. Maybe that answers some questions you have. :)

    2) Rip-off of Frankie Goes To Hollywood “Relax” isn't it? The groove is the same programming just a little sped up (and it actually changes notes unlike Relax).

    3) I think the song is a little over the top. That's why I like it. Especially the screams!! “All The Gold In Fort Knox couldn't buy this happiness!”

    4) #1 on U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Play.

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  • cellardweller

    Hiya Nasty G. In regards to Liggett and Barbosa productions, I wonder if you found anything on Monet? The artist released one album, and her songs “My Heart Gets All the Breaks” and “Come On To Me” were huge in the clubs and on dance stations.

    If you've not found her stuff, here are you tube links. (My Heart Gets All The Breaks) (Come On To Me)

  • cellardweller

    Hiya! This is the first time I've posted here. I've only found this list a short time ago, but I've read it from the first page. LOL Such flashbacks here! Thanks for all the memories.

    As a freestyle fan, I'm happy to see all the freestyle you included on the lists. So many people don't seem to know what that genre is, and the artists forgotten.

    As for Nolan Thomas…..I used to own that album. I may still have it somewhere. LOL There was a remake of The Osmonds “One Bad Apple” that was on the same level of “Yo, Little Brother”. If you want to check it out, here's a link.

  • sfenn

    Total FGTH rip-off. Which gives us Zoolander shout-out #2 for this post.

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  • Nasty G

    Thanks! I have indeed heard of Monet. I have the cassette and recently found that someone ripped the vinyl to MP3 and downloaded that, so I'm in heaven. I actually think her album is their best work, and she even has a duet with Nolan! If you don't have the MP3s, let me know! ;)

  • steed

    I don't know – I think the “HI-NRG” moniker came first. There are quite a few songs from the '70s and early '80s associated with the genre – though I wonder if something like Lipps Inc.'s “Funkytown” was thrown into that ballpark after it got a name.

    I agree with you on the subdued part – that's not what I consider HI-NRG to be either, but I'm no expert at what is or isn't part of the genre. I always thought it was more of a club sound, songs that were specifically dance tunes but in reality anything Stock Aiken Waterman did was HI-NRG and I consider artists like Bananarama just simply pop. I've never once thought of Dead or Alive's “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)” as part of the genre, but it's one of the biggest hits of it.

    And don't let them convince you. Stay the course.

  • steed

    Thanks for the link – is it sad I don't think it's that bad? I have to go get the album now – I only own the 45. I've heard the full record but only once or twice. Need to own that baby now.

    I can identify freestyle a lot better than I can identify HI-NRG, that's for sure.

  • djrichiep

    Since you mentioned Ronnie Milsap's “She Loves My Car” again, I must tell everyone that I just got the extended 12″ version of that song off eBay the other day! Pure pop fluff at twice the length! Truly the pinnacle of my vinyl collection!

  • musicmanatl

    I was a bit surprised that Sharleen didn't get a mention, because for all intents and purposes, Sharleen IS the band. She's been been the driving force since they started. I'm still amazed that they never broke through in America. “Say What You Want” and the whole “Love on Blonde” album were incredible! I can only assume that they didn't want to make it here, because they were commercial and really good. If you don't know them, check out their greatest hits CD from 2001. It's a treasure trove of good stuff. :)

  • steed

    Ooh. I may need to locate this.

  • kingofgrief

    If you do, you know where to send it for digitization before it joins the Steed Archive for good. ;)

  • Raduenzel3131

     What a great slice of cool nostalgia!

  • katt

    That song was stolen from mr. Lanier from jersey city, new jersey. He was a student at Lincoln high school on crescent Avenue. He actually sang his song live on stage at the high school (to a standing ovation) and there was no mistaking the fact that he was the song writer and vocalist. When we saw the video we couldn’t believe it!! So yeah, the kid was mouthing the words!!! Nolan thomas and the record company should be sued!! SMDH@THEM!!!!