Bottom Feeders: The Rock End of the ’80s, Part 29

After a quick fly over with the letter K, we move on to L with the best little bar band in the world! Here are more tracks that hit the Billboard rock charts but failed to cross over into the Hot 100.

L.A. Guns
“Rip and Tear” 1989, #47 (download)

Back in college when I was hosting a weekly radio show called “Stuck in the ‘80s” I would get a request every single week from my buddy Benson for the biggest L.A. Guns hit, “The Ballad of Jayne.” And without fail I would be the asshole that stuck to my “guns” (so very much intended) and claimed it was a ‘90s song because it didn’t hit the charts until the first few months of the next decade even though the album was released in ’89. Never though did he request the cool “Rip and Tear” also from the excellent and sleazy Cocked & Loaded.

Shona Laing
“(Glad I’m) Not a Kennedy” 1988, Modern Rock #14 (download)

This is one of those that you really need to listen to the lyrics as well as enjoy the music. It’s such a well written song with a great melody, beautiful vocals and of course a chilling story about JFK. This was Laing’s only hit off her album South.

Greg Lake
“Nuclear Attack” 1981, #34 (download)

I haven’t heard this one in ages and it’s surprising me just how good and totally rockin’ it is. Greg Lake is of course the middle name in Emerson, Lake & Palmer/Powell and the former singer of King Crimson for a couple of their earlier critically acclaimed works but “Nuclear Attack” is much more straight forward than all of the above. It was the lead track off the decent but unmemorable self-titled solo debut for him.

Robin Lane & the Chartbusters
“Send Me An Angel” 1981, #53 (download)

It’s a little weird how despite the fact that I’m familiar with Robin Lane & the Chartbusters and own the full length albums from them that I continually see the name and think Robin Lane is a guy. Robin grew up in music as her dad was a songwriter for Dean Martin, she briefly married Andy Summers (future Police guitarist) and sang background vocals on some early Neil Young recordings. In the ‘80s she took the Chartbusters in more of a new wave direction for their two albums (self-titled in 1980 and Imitation Life in 1981) before she dissolved the band because she wanted to have a child (at least partly if I’m not mistaken).

Led Zeppelin
“Darlene” 1982, #4 (download)
“Ozone Baby” 1982, #14 (download)
“Poor Tom” 1982, #18 (download)

It’s sad the only record I get to talk about from Zep is Coda, which certainly is no gem but even as an odds and sods album has a few decent tracks on it. It was released two years after John Bonham’s death and features outtakes from sessions throughout their career. John Paul Jones has stated in the past that very few Zeppelin songs didn’t make an album so this was about all they could scrape up and they owed the label and album per their contract — thus Coda was born. I actually really like “Darlene” recorded in ’78 in the same sessions as “Ozone Baby” which isn’t quite as good. “Poor Tom” is an oldie, recorded back in June of 1970 and rightfully discarded.

Alvin Lee
“Detroit Diesel” 1986, #24 (download)

Alvin Lee was the singer and guitarist of the band Ten Years After and the excellent “Detroit Diesel” is his lone solo hit which appears on the album that bares that name.

John Lennon
“I’m Losing You” 1981, #54 (download)
“Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him” 1984, #52 (download)
“Come Together” 1986, #25 (download)
“Imagine” 1986, #20 (download)

I try not to say much about any of the Beatles as a rule since I’m on the other side of a battle I don’t want to get in. I was never a Beatles fan. It’s that simple. But I will say that if you strip out Yoko’s songs from Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey and combine Lennon’s tracks together, you might have the best album of the decade. The version of “Every Man” that charted is from the Every Man Has A Woman compilation in 1984 and strips away Yoko’s vocals from the original Double Fantasy version (I’ve included the closest thing I could get which would be the Lennon version off the Milk and Honey reissue which is about 20 seconds shorter than the single). “Come Together” and “Imagine” are both from Live in New York City recorded in 1972.

If you want a much better read than this, check out Mark Feldman’s Fixing a Hole series. He’s up the ‘80s anyway, so it’s perfect timing if you haven’t been there yet.

Le Roux
“Addicted” 1982, #7 (download)

It’s kind of hard to be Le Roux in this case, following John Lennon alphabetically. Last Safe Place was their album in 1982 that contained “Addicted” – part catchy and part a little too busy.

Let’s Active
“Every Dog Has His Day” 1988, Modern Rock #17 (download)

For years, Let’s Active bothered me because it just flows off the tongue so poorly. But once I discovered that the name had no real meaning and it was just seen on a T-Shirt in Japan, the weird moniker stopped bothering me. But the name also gives off the vibe that the group beneath it should be playing something similar to Haircut 100. Instead, the Mitch Easter led group was jangle pop until Every Dog has His Day in 1988 when they had more of a power pop style. Frankly, I can’t understand why the title track here wasn’t a massive hit.

Huey Lewis & the News
“Finally Found A Home” 1984, #41 (download)
“Trouble In Paradise” 1985, #11 (download)
“Back in Time” 1985, #3 (download)
“Whole Lotta Lovin’” 1988, #38 (download)
“Walking with the Kid” 1988, #47 (download)

Let’s (Active) get it right out of the way. I love Huey Lewis & the News. I really don’t give a shit that they are a glorified bar band or any of the other billion reasons why so many people hate them. There are enough people out there like me that love the fun tracks Huey brought to the table and made him the hit he was. In fact, they just released a new album and if they come to the Philadelphia area I’ve already asked my wife to get me tickets. I am determined to see Huey Lewis in concert one day. Probably would have been better to catch him back in ’88 or so when he was playing just the ‘80s songs rather than the blues that he’s turned to, but I’ll take what I can get.

Hard to pick my favorite song here as I’ve always loved “Trouble in Paradise” and this live version from the We are the World album isn’t terribly far from the studio one or “Back In Time” which should have been a huge hit from Back to the Future. As much as I love “Whole Lotta Lovin’” I’m a little shocked this charted anywhere, but Fore! was so damn hot at the time, I’d bet almost every track could have been a hit. “Walking with the Kid” comes from Small World which had a mighty different feel to it and while it’s not as immediately catchy as Sports or Fore!, I still think it’s quite underrated.

Quick Hits
Best Song: John Lennon, “I’m Losing You”
Worst Song: Led Zeppelin, “Poor Tom”

Also appeared in the Hot 100
Cyndi Lauper (5): “Time After Time” “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” “She Bop” “All Through the Night” “Money Changes Everything”
John Lennon (5): “Woman” “Watching the Wheels” “Nobody Told Me” “I’m Stepping Out” “Jealous Guy”
Julian Lennon (5): “Valotte” “Too Late For Goodbyes” “Say You’re Wrong” “Stick Around” “Now You’re In Heaven”
Level 42 (1): “Something About You”
Huey Lewis & the News (14): “Do You Believe in Love” “Workin’ For A Livin’” “Heart and Soul” “I Want A New Drug” “Walking On A Thin Line” “The Heart of Rock & Roll” “If This Is It” “The Power of Love” “Stuck with You” “Hip To Be Square” “Jacob’s Ladder” “I Know What I Like” “Perfect World” “Small World”

  • jack

    Loved Let’s Active! Catchy as hell.

    I’m not a huge Huey Lewis fan, but I did always love the part in “Back in Time” near the end where he says “Get back, Marty!” Cool that he recorded a song with the characters name dropped in a throwaway line before the movie came out.

  • Steve

    I loved the whole album Big plans for everybody by Let’s Active. It came and went quickly back in 86 with me as it’s only champion. I felt slightly vindicated when I heard a cover of a Let’s Active song on a friends episode 10 years later. Still, no one cared but me. Thank you, for adding them to your blog and finally, they will not be “couldn’t find anything for Let’s Active” on the Hype Machine.

  • smf2271

    Funny, the one Huey Lewis song you didn’t mention as a possible favorite is “Finally Found A Home,” which has always been my favorite track of his. I was surprised that “Bad is Bad,” which I also love, wasn’t on here, because it definitely had a video. Like Hall & Oates, Journey, and many other ’80s hit-makers, I don’t quite get why the view of them is so mixed now; they could certainly write good tunes, and it’s not like there hasn’t been slickly-produced pop in every decade since, including today.

    Thanks once again for plugging “Fixing A Hole!” The current entry is the first foray into Julian Lennon territory, but the next one (in two weeks) is probably the most ’80s-sounding. Be prepared.

  • Anonymous

    LA Guns…”Never Enough,” also a decade straddler? That seemed to be the first single I was aware of. I too think that the Guns were among the best of the pack that had to accept Axl’s crumbs.

    Pre-grunge, there seemed to be only so much culty commercial success available to the CollegeRock crowd. Let’s Active, Guadalcanal Diary, Drivin’ n Cryin, etc. etc., pretty much had to be content with opening slots for REM, or each other.

    Without even considering his own stuff, Huey Lewis is kind of the Kevin Bacon of quality rock n’ roll. He was an occaisonal collaborator with Nick Lowe, loitering on the fringes of the pub rock scene. There is also a “Hughie Lewis” that gets thanked for his harmonica chops in the liner notes for Thin Lizzy’s “Black Rose” (or maybe “Chinatown,” I forget).

  • drcastrato

    “poor tom” the worst song on this list? not by a long shot. at least you like “rip&tear”

  • Anonymous

    Nice work. I get the beat from “Poor Tom” stuck in my head rather frequently.

  • Luffy66

    Big fan of Huey Lewis, and have seen him in concert a couple of times in the last couple of years.
    He seems to have embraced and accepted the hits from his past in his shows, and still plays a good amount of them (albeit in a lower key). He even threw in Trouble in Paradise and Jacobs ladder! You must see him if he comes around. Its 90 minutes of pure pop joy.

  • Anonymous

    Which song/which episode? I had no idea — that’s awesome.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s Active was far too quirky to ever be totally popular. Cypress/Afoot was too twee for their mainstream, and even bumping up the production gloss wasn’t enough to make more than a cult following care. Which is sad, as I’m a HUGE fan. Everything is back in print now, but for awhile Cypress was going for like $75 on CD on eBay. Mitch Easter did a solo show a few years ago; he re-learned “Talking to Myself” for me, because I asked. I mean, wow!

  • steed

    It was a total shame that Julian wasn’t in here – it would have been absolutely perfect timing.

  • Matracas

    That would be the song “Every Word Means No ” by Smash Mouth. A party episode somewhere around the 4th to 6th season?

  • Anonymous

    I always get Robin Lane & the Chartbusters mentally entangled with Pearl Harbor & the Explosions…same name structure, same time frame, same Warner-distributed cassettes in Woolworth’s cutout bins throughout the ’80s. Both acts should be bigger presences on my radar.

    I haven’t revisted Coda in the better part of a decade thanks to my Zeppelin burnout but I remember being impressed with “Bonzo’s Montreux” as a 14-year-old. I heard “Darlene” once on rock radio when the album was brand-spankin’-new, then it was back to II, IV and “Kashmir” on shuffle.

    I have a copy of the new original/stripped-down Double Fantasy awaiting my ears; I’m considering the latter version of “I’m Losing You” to commemorate John’s passing next week. DF was the very first pre-recorded cassette I ever bought…December 26, 1980. (Can you guess what i got for Christmas that year?) Glad to have a different “Imagine” by the author, can’t listen to the original these days without the rest of the album following. (It’s also on my personal shortlist of songs that need never be covered again, alongside “What’s Going On” and “God Bless the Child”.)

    Let’s Active…also on the get-to-know-better roster. I’ve got Cypress and a handful of compilation tracks so far.

    Man, I’d leap at the chance to see Huey and the gang live. I got this (same format but a good hunk cheaper) a few months ago and I was impressed even by the early cuts I wasn’t familiar with. In my research, I’ve learned that there was a 12″ mix of “Heart and Soul” released in the UK back in the day, and that can’t go unpossessed by me.

  • Dan

    Why would Robin Lane want to have a child partly?

  • steed

    I had a tough time picking the worst this week – this one is one of my favorite weeks.

  • steed

    I had a tough time picking the worst this week – this one is one of my favorite weeks.

  • steed

    You must not have full children. They are a handful. Part of one – much simpler.

  • bama

    Wow! That’s worth finding on the blogosphere. I had no idea of the smashmouth cover.
    As a North Carolinian growing up, Mitch Easter was a regular presence.
    Some of the moodier stuff is good, too… try “Waters Part” and “Crows on Phone Line.”
    His voice is likely an acquired taste, though.

  • Russ

    The problem with “Bad Is Bad” is that Dave Edmunds’ version of it which came out a couple years earlier was a gajillion times better.

  • Anonymous

    As for Shona Laing – ‘Soviet Snow’ off of that same album is a GREAT song.

  • Old_Davy

    Let’s Active is my favorite 80’s band. The first song I heard was in 86 – “Writing the Book Of Last Pages” and I rushed out to get the album the next day. “Big Plans For Everybody” still remains as my number 1 80’s album. They have lots of songs that should have been massive hits – “Waters Part”, “Every Word Means No”, “Talking To Myself”, “In Little Ways”, “Last Chance Town”, “Reflecting Pool”, “Horizon”, and many many more.

  • Brett Alan

    Just FYI, that version of “Imagine” is not the one that hit the rock chart in ’86. The one you have (at least when I downloaded it last week) is from the Apollo Theater in Dec. 71. It’s on the Lennon Anthology. The one that hit was from Live In New York City, recorded at Madison Square Garden in August 72. This version is played on guitar; the one released at the time is on electric piano.

  • Guy Smiley

    Loves Huey Lewis, but dislikes the Beatles. 


    There’s nothing more I can say. Just… Wow.