We move on this week to the sixth letter of the alphabet and look at more tunes that hit the Billboard rock charts in the 1980s but failed to cross over into the Hot 100.
The Fabulous Thunderbirds
“Tip On In” 1981, #44 (download)
“One’s Too Many (and A Hundred Ain’t Enough)” 1981, #41 (download)
“Look At That, Look At That” 1986, #20 (download)
“How Do You Spell Love” 1987, #22 (download)
“Rock This Place” 1989, #10 (download)
One of my favorite underrated groups of the ‘80s, most people know them for the excellent “Tuff Enuff” which pushed them to mainstream radio, but before that they were pretty straightforward blues rock and I’d bet a hell of a fun bar band.
Their first album to give them hits was Butt Rockin’ from 1981 which contained the blues cover “Tip On In” and “One’s Too Many” co-written by singer Kim Wilson and Nick Lowe.
Fast forward five years to the Tuff Enuff album where they added a pop edge into the blues to create killer numbers like the title track and “Wrap It Up”. “Look At That, Look At That” was also from the record but was a little too traditional blues for mainstream radio.
The next album – Hot Number – generated “Stand Back” for the mainstream media and the blues cover “How Do You Spell Love?” for rock radio.
Their last album of the decade was Powerful Stuff, er – only by title. It’s a pretty uninspired album with generic tunes like “Rock This Place” sadly being the best of the bunch.
Face to Face
“Out Of My Hands” 1984, #55 (download)
“Out of My Hands” was the lead track on Face to Face’s debut album in 1984. “10-9-8” and “Under the Gun” were the two released singles and rock radio picked up on this semi-cool and semi-awkward new wave number. Over the years I’ve grown iffier on these guys – tending to lean more towards the thought that they didn’t really bring anything special to the table.
“Der Kommisar” 1983, #22 (download)
Those who have had the privilege of hearing this one, have heard greatness. Mostly everyone knows of the After the Fire, English cover version and mostly everyone knows “The Commissioner” was performed by Falco first, but many haven’t heard his version. It appears on his debut album, Einzelhaft.
“Fool In Love” 1987, #42 (download)
Farrenheit were a cleverly named Boston group with two R’s since they were being led by Charlie Farren – lead singer of the Joe Perry Project.
The group was nothing terribly special but their Warner Brothers debut album in 1987 is a halfway decent slab of rock that fits in perfectly with the time.
Another cleverly named band combining founding members Fast Eddie Clarke (Motorhead) with Pete Way (UFO), the “Way” part of the group didn’t even make it to the first record. Although Way is credited with playing bass on the album he actually left the band before it was recorded. Jerry Shirley (Humble Pie) was the drummer and Dave King was the singer (later fronting Flogging Molly)
They put out five albums in the ‘80s with each one getting worse until they performed the soundtrack to the movie Trick or Treat in 1986. I don’t know if I ever really understood why a great guitarist like Fast Eddie was coming up with such boring material, but there’s nothing really worth stopping for on any Fastway album at least in the ‘80s.
“Away” 1988, Modern Rock #6 (download)
Hang in there for this one if you never heard it – it’s a slow creeper that takes about a minute to kick in before you’re able to bounce around with it.
This was from their third album – Only Life – which was their most mature sounding disc and maybe the least impressive of their entire catalog. Though tracks like “Away” and “Deep Fascination” make the album worth hearing at least once.
“Bad Girls” 1983, #34 (download)
I actually kind of dig “Bad Girls”, the only single from the former Eagles’ guitarist’s only solo album – Airborne. With solo singles he’s best known for “Heavy Metal (Takin’ A Ride)” from the Heavy Metal soundtrack – always an interesting track to me since it really isn’t heavy metal in the least bit. His solo record and “Bad Girls” – hell “Heavy Metal” for that matter certainly sounds very much in the vein of what Don Henley was up to as well.
Speaking of the Eagles, Joe Walsh plays guitar on this groovy tune from the former lead singer of Spirit. This is really the only solo track I’ve ever heard from Ferguson and while it’s cool, it also doesn’t make me want to find other works from him.
“Slave To Love” 1985, #19 (download)
On the other hand, here’s a wonderful track that certainly makes me want to grab other Bryan Ferry material. This track is his most known song outside of Roxy Music and for good reason. Not only is it a great tune but it’s been covered many times over. Amazingly I’ve heard it more from the Elan Atias featuring Gwen Stefani version which my wife used to play all the time off the 50 First Dates soundtrack.
“Love Crushing” 1989, Modern Rock #19 (download)
Fetchin Bones was a fairly unique and pretty cool North Carolina band that a lot of people should have made it big. The reality with their music though is that they were all over the map in terms of style, fusing punk, rockabilly, country rock and a grunge type sound (before that really caught on). I’ve read in quite a few places where people think they were ahead of their time but I don’t know. I mean, since when has mainstream radio really liked bands that jump around from genre to genre without any real rhyme or reason? Two or three years later that still wouldn’t have made a difference. College radio was the place for these guys and gals pretty much from the start.
“Hey Matthew” 1989, Modern Rock #29 (download)
There’s just something I love about this song – the only charting hit from British singer Karel Fialka. It’s him talking to his son about what he’s watching on TV and the child actually responds back with all the TV shows he’s seeing like “The A-Team, Dallas, He-Man etc..” Sometimes it pays to be a pretty simple song with a catchy melody. Take note Powersource – this is how you use a kid in a song!
Figures on a Beach
“Accidentally 4th St. (Gloria)” 1989, Modern Rock #14 (download)
This seems to be the week where we’re looking at the final songs of bands, as this was the last single released from Figures on a Beach off their self-titled 1989 swan song. Their cover of BTO’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” was their crossover hit, though “Accidentally 4th St. (Gloria)” is by far the best song I’ve heard from them.
“Time With You” 1989, Modern Rock #26 (download)
I’m really surprised that fIREHOSE wasn’t a bigger group. Singer Ed Crawford teamed up with former Minutemen, Mike Watt and George Hurley and by the time 1989’s fromohio came around they had turned themselves into this edge yet mellow, laid back groovy type band. Their debut was harsher and so were follow ups to this album, but fromohio and “Time With You” marks the peak of fIREHOSE’s career. And don’t you dare get them mixed up with Fire Town and especially Firehouse.
“The Good Life” 1989, Modern Rock #18 (download)
Fire Town was a bit of a short lived group that had just this one, pretty excellent hit from ‘88s The Good Life. They are known more for what the band members became though as guitarist Doug Erikson and drummer Butch Vig went on to form Garbage in the ‘90s and well, Vig – I mean, he became the go-to producer for angst-ridden rock in the ‘90s for quite a while.
Back in the original series one person commented that “F” was particularly bland and while I wouldn’t say that in the Rock End, the Firm cemented the feeling in the former and don’t help the latter at all.
I’ll restate the same thing I did back then. For me, the Firm go down as one of the biggest disappointments of the decade. Jimmy Page, Paul Rodgers, Chris Slade – the Firm should have been a rock n’ fuckin’ roll masterpiece and instead I can barely keep my eyes open for either of their records. Such a damn shame.
“Red Skies” 1983, #13 (download)
“Deeper and Deeper” 1984, #3 (download)
“Built for the Future” 1986, #13 (download)
“Don’t Be Scared” 1987, #32 (download)
“Precious Stone” 1989, #23 (download)
And the Fixx is a group that I guess I’ve never really latched on to. Apart from the major hits like “One Thing Leads To Another” and “Secret Separation” nothing really sticks with me. They had 14 songs on the rock chart and I can probably sing the chorus to maybe four of them.
I don’t know if I’ve ever figured out why they don’t have much staying power with me. Every time I listen to songs like “Red Skies” and “Deeper and Deeper” I really like them, but ten minutes later they get wiped from my mind. I guess the Fixx is just going to be one of those bands that I’m never going to learn to love. I can live with that.
Best Song: fIREHOSE, “Time with You”
Worst Song: The Firm, “Live in Peace”
Also appeared in the Hot 100
The Fabulous Thunderbirds (4): “Tuff Enuff”, “Wrap It Up”, “Stand Back”, “Powerful Stuff”
Donald Fagen (2): “I.G.Y.”, “Century’s End”
Fairground Attraction (1): “Perfect”
Don Felder (1): “Heavy Metal”
Bryan Ferry (1): “Kiss and Tell”
Fine Young Cannibals (3): “She Drives Me Crazy” “Good Thing”, “Don’t Look Back”
Fiona (2): “Talk To Me”, “Everything You Do (You’re Sexing Me)”