Bottom Feeders: The Rock End of the ’80s, Part 4

This week we begin the letter B, looking at songs that hit the Billboard Rock and Modern Rock charts in the 1980s but failed to cross over into the Hot 100. Enjoy more tracks from the rock end of the Reagan years.

Bad Company
“Racetrack” 1982, #39 (download)
“Fame and Fortune” 1986, #37 (download)
“No Smoke Without a Fire” 1988, #4 (download)
“One Night” 1988, #9 (download)
“Bad Man” 1989, #20 (download)

Over the years I’ve come to hate Paul Rodgers, but back with Bad Company he was pretty enjoyable. However, only “Racetrack” features him, taken from Rough Diamonds which was the final album featuring the original lineup.

Four years after, Bad Company came back with Brian Howe as the lead singer and ushered in a new era, one which wasn’t spectacular but I enjoyed none-the-less. Their 1986 album Fame & Fortune didn’t do a whole lot on the charts but 1988’s Dangerous Age yielded quite a few hits. “No Smoke Without a Fire”, “One Night” and “Bad Man” all come from this album “Bad Man” being the standout even though it charted the lowest of all of the tracks on this record.

Bad English
“Best of What I Got” 1989, #9 (download)

Bad English got John Waite, Jonathan Cain and Ricky Phillips from The Babys back together after years apart. Cain also brought with him Neil Schon who played together in Journey and drummer Deen Castronovo would round out the group – he later went on to play with Journey for a while. “Best of What I Got” appeared on the ’89 self-titled debut and also was in the movie Tango & Cash – though no soundtrack was released for the movie.

“Dreams in the Dark” 1989, #38 (download)

Badlands was a semi-supergroup of sorts. It featured Ray Gillen on vocals, Jake E. Lee on guitar and Eric Singer on drums. Singer of course drummed for Kiss and Alice Cooper and worked with Gillen in Black Sabbath for a short while. Gillen went on the Seventh Star tour with Sabbath in 1986 and recorded the ’87 album The Eternal Idol, but both him and Singer quit the band before the album got released (his vocals would be replaced before release by Tony Martin). After that departure, Gillen called up former Ozzy guitarist Jake E. Lee and out of that you get Badlands.

The debut album was really solid bluesy rock n’ roll, not necessarily unique but a refreshing change from a world saturated with hair metal at the time.

Balaam & the Angel
“I Love the Things You Do to Me” 1988, #13 (download)

Balaam & the Angel is a Scottish band featuring brothers Mark, Jim and Des Morris. They started their career as a goth group in 1984 and release a handful of EPs until Virgin records signed them in 1986. That led to their debut that year called The Greatest Story Ever Told. By the time Live Free or Die rolled around in 1988 they had moved to a more rockin’ sound like you hear in “I Love the Things You Do To Me”. Still an element of goth in their music but much upbeat pop as well, sort of reminding me a bit of Love & Rockets.

Russ Ballard
“Voices” 1984, #15 (download)
“The Fire Still Burns” 1985, #15 (download)

Russ Ballard is better known for what he wrote than what he performed. He was the singer and guitarist in Argent for a bit and was best known for writing the song “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll To You”. He also wrote tracks like “Since You’ve Been Gone” which he recorded and then Rainbow covered it, “Winning” which he recorded and then Santana made a hit, “You Can Do Magic” by America and “I Know There’s Something Going On” by Frida.

For his solo career, he’s record eight records since 1975 featuring quite a few songs covered by other artists. I’ve never been a fan of “The Fire Still Burns” but “Voices” is excellent. It’s a bit horror film creepy at the start but turns into a pretty groovy track after the intro. Both tracks bubbled under the Billboard Hot 100.

“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” 1983, #26 (download)

Here’s another one that bubbled under, peaking at #101 the “top” of that chart. I don’t really get how this cover is a rock song in any way, but it’s not the only questionable entry on the Rock chart. I guess it gets a pass because the original is so memorable.

The Bangles
“Hero Takes a Fall” 1984, #59 (download)

By name this would seem to be another questionable entry for a rock chart though a lot less shady than Bananarama.  However, this is quite a rockin’ song. “Hero Takes a Fall” was off the excellent Bangles debut All Over the Place. That album had some great pop songs but also rocked more than the bigger follow ups. It’s one of those albums that gets a little lost in the shuffle because of how huge the next two albums became, but it’s really their best.

Pete Bardens
“In Dreams” 1987, #41 (download)
“Gold” 1988, #49 (download)

Pete Bardens started out his career with a year in Them with Van Morrison then moved on to the short lived Shotgun Express with Rod Stewart and Mick Fleetwood before spending many years in the prog rock group Camel. He recorded with Morrison again in 1978 on Van’s Wavelength album before going solo. “In Dreams” comes from his 1987 album Seen One Earth and “Gold” from his follow up, Speed of Light.

Jimmy Barnes
“No Second Prize” 1986, #41 (download)
“Driving Wheels” 1988, #38 (download)

Jimmy Barnes was the lead singer for Cold Chisel, one of Australia’s biggest bands. We’ll visit them for one little song in the letter C but Jimmy Barnes solo efforts had a bigger impact on the US charts than his band. In the original series we heard “Working Class Man” and “Too Much Ain’t Enough Love” as well as “Good Times” with INXS which is probably his best known song in the US. Both “No Second Prize” and “Driving Wheels” are great tracks with the latter being a lost gem from the decade. Here’s another artist that the US dropped the ball on.

The Beat Farmers
“Dark Light” 1987, #27 (download)

The Beat Farmers were a fun and eclectic band. I’ve heard them called “cowpunk” – a genre I’ve never heard attributed to any other band – basically a combo of country and punk. I’m sure there are other bands and probably ones we’ll visit in this column as well, but it’s a term that’s unfamiliar to me as I would call them more of a roots rock group. They released seven studio records, one live album and had a greatest hits disc (against their wishes) between 1985 and 1995. In ’95 singer Country Dick Montana was performing in British Columbia when three songs into the set he had a heart attack and died. The band broke up three days later.

Jeff Beck
“Gets Us All in the End” 1985, #20 (download)
“Stand on It” 1989, #35 (download)

It is impossible to be a fan of good old Rock ‘N’ Roll and not at least give immense respect to Jeff Beck. The guys plays guitar like no other. That said, his 1985 disc Flash has always been a little weird to me. It’s a mix of rock, funk and electronics with songs written by Jan Hammer, Arthur Baker and Nile Rodgers (Nile Rodgers and Arthur Baker sighting in one shot, ya’ll!). It’s an eclectic mix for sure, one that hits me in different ways every time I go back to it. However, I have always loved “Gets Us All in the End” which is a fabulous rock song sung by Jimmy Hall of Wet Willie fame.

On the other hand, 1989’s Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop is a wonderful record of blistering guitar, unique effects and solos like crazy. The album featured Tony Hymas on keys and Terry Bozzio on drums and was mostly an instrumental album. “Stand on It” was the only single and kicks total ass.

Quick Hits
Best Song: Jeff Beck, “Stand On It”
Worst Song: Bad Company, “Fame and Fortune”

Also appeared on the Hot 100
Bad Company (3): “Electricland”, “This Love”, “Shake It Up”
Bad English (2): “Forget Me Not”, “When I See You Smile”
Badfinger (1): “Hold On”
Philip Bailey (1): “Easy Lover”
Mary Balin (1): “Hearts”
Russ Ballard (1): “On the Rebound”
Band Aid (1): “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”
Bangles (3): “Manic Monday”, “Hazy Shade of Winter”, “In Your Room”
Jimmy Barnes (3): “Working Class Man”, “Good Times”, “Too Much Ain’t Enough Love”
Beastie Boys (1): “Hey Ladies”
Jeff Beck (1): “People Get Ready”

  • thefxc

    Did the Baalam and Beat Farmers songs hit the modern rock or mainstream rock charts? I'm a bit shocked that Baalam had any US success at all…

    Great series, as always!

  • Jeff

    The thing I remember most about the song 'Voices' was hearing it at some multimedia feel-good-you-can-do-it-just-be-yourself assembly in early high school. I think that the title of the presentation was, in fact, called Voices. I probably still have a promotional pin-back button laying in a drawer somewhere.

    Any way, it is still a great song, and one I have to crank up any time it pops up on my iPod.

    Thanks for another great week!

    Jeff. . .

  • jbacardi

    Other Cowpunk-labeled groups: Rank and File, X, Green on Red, Social Distortion, and the Long Ryders. There are more, but I think these are good examples.

  • Malchus

    Oh yeah, “Voices” is fantastic. The opening textures sound like he was sampling Vangelis from his BLADE RUNNER score.

    By the way, Deen Castronovo is still the drummer for Journey. He was the first guy Neal Schon called after Steve Smith opted out of the Journey reunion. He's now been in the band longer than any of the previous drummers and he's a hell of a singer, too.

  • steed

    Both surprisingly were Mainstream rock…

  • steed

    Social Distortion would be cowpunk? Interesting, I didn't know that. Looks like I have some Rank and File and Green on Red to dig up and listen to. Thanks for the examples.

  • jbacardi

    They were closer to the “Punk” end of the spectrum, but yeah, they were often lumped in with that crowd early on. Some would include acts like Los Lobos, Lone Justice and Mojo Nixon/Skid Roper, too…

  • Michael Parr

    I think that I remember Badlands a bit more fondly than they deserve. You hit the nail on the head, though: they were a refreshing change of pace at the time, and it was great to hear Jake E. Lee again.

  • smf2271

    Funny how the songs you remember hearing a lot from a given album aren't always the ones that were on the chart – in the case of the Bangles, I remember hearing “Going Down to Liverpool” a lot more than I ever heard “Hero Takes a Fall,” (both great songs though) and in the case of Jeff Beck they used to play “Ambitious” a lot on MTV, but I never heard “Gets Us All in the End” before today.

    Jeff – I think I saw that very same feel-good-about-yourself movie in my high school auditorium featuring “Voices!” (I don't suppose you went to Newton North High in Newton MA did you? They probably showed it at lots of different high schools but just in case) It was probably during my freshman year, 1986-87.

    “Easy Lover” made the mainstream rock chart? Awesome – I thought it was 100% lily-white. I guess it was just 99.9%.

  • vjb77

    'voices' playing…crockett and tubbs heading outta miami in a cigarette boat to get calderone in the bahamas…dare i say quintessential 80s.

  • steed

    Yes, how “Easy Lover” qualifies as a rock song baffles me.

  • Mark SW

    The Bangles “Hero Takes a Fall” 1984, #59

    Are you kidding? # 59. What month did this enter the chart? It had to have been before October because, according to your first post in Part 1, that's when Top Tracks went from 60 to 50 positions. I never knew there was a chart appearance for this single. It didn't even hit Bubbling Under. A sad showing for such a great song. At least “Going Down To Liverpool” made the UK Top 75 but not until 1986.

  • NastyG

    Well, though I'm thrilled they showed up here, I agree that Bananarama are an odd entry! And that Bangles song will always be one of their best.

    As far as “cowpunk” goes, the person I always heard that term most applied to is k.d. lang!! That's what they always referred to her style as in her early days with the Reclines. Bet you weren't expecting that! LOL Here's further proof:

  • mojo

    You can't possibly mention the Beat Farmers without “Happy Boy,” what I consider their signature tune

    I can't believe album rock stations played this thing, but I distinctly remember it, my ears don't lie

  • DwDunphy

    I'll second that. He's great on “Mother, Father” which is very important to me. If any Journey song ends up being screwed up, please let it NOT be “Mother, Father”.

  • DwDunphy

    How about “Hollywood Hills” from the Beat Farmers? No love for that?

  • DwDunphy

    That Jeff Beck album, Guitar Shop, is fantastic. One of my favorite instrumental albums.

  • Russ

    The Del Lords were sometimes put into the cowpunk category, too.

  • Russ

    Phil Collins was the drummer on that song, same with “I Know There's Something Going On”. I started listening to college radio because rock radio was just oversaturated with Phil Collins music at the time.

    I'm actually curious as to why you think the Bangles and “Easy Lover” DON'T qualify as rock songs. You must've been born in the 70's.

  • Russ

    Columbia released it as a single twice in the span of about 4 months. The first was the LP version – after it didn't chart the label did some (not radical but irritating nonetheless) remixing of it and released it again with a different b-side. Somewhere in my stacks I have the original UK 12-inch of “Liverpool” with a few tracks from their debut EP on the flip.

  • Neil Mathews

    Rank & File were great Cowpunk. You could also through in The Meat Puppets.

  • steed

    I was born in the '70s. The Bangles are a pop group – though I think “Hero Takes a Fall” is more rock than “Manic Monday” which also charted on the rock charts. And “Easy Lover” is R&B masked as pop. It's a great song, one that I love – but I would never even think about mixing it with rock songs.

  • Jeff

    Well, the time frame is right, I would have been a junior in '86, but it was in Portage, Michigan. But you are right, it was probably shopped around to a lot of high schools.

  • rsbrandt

    That's Marty Balin, not Mary…you know what? Never mind.

  • Russ

    I just find it interesting that people younger than me have such a narrow definition of rock 'n' roll. Stevie Wonder was such a mainstay on rock stations prior to the days of disco that the lines that are drawn today seem odd. I realize it's all just marketing, but I remember Thriller, Prince, and Madonna's first record getting rock radio airplay (justifiably, imo). The Bangles were originally lumped into “The Paisley Underground” with Dream Syndicate, Green On Red, Three O'Clock, et al.

  • DK

    Dude, I totally agree. This was the ULTIMATE moment/montage EVER on Miami Vice. “You heard right”…

  • autographedcat

    There will always be hipster chic. Its form changes constantly, but it's the same as the too-cool-for-the-room bepop jazz kids sneering at the Big Bands in the 40s. Before that, it was probably Stravinsky fans….

  • kingofgrief

    Hubba hubba hubba hubba hubba! Best gargling solo committed to tape.

  • kingofgrief

    Including B.F. Terry High School in Rosenberg, Texas. We witnessed two of these spectacles in successive years. I don't remember “Voices” being used, but I was surprised to hear Laurie Anderson AND Bad Manners (covering “Bang the Drum All Day!”) in the mix.

  • kingofgrief

    I've been having some difficulty getting 'dose tracks to DL/playback properly as of late, even moreso than usual. I'll have to reserve commentary on Balaam and the Angel and Pete Bardens until normalcy is once again restored. (On that note, if anyone can float me “Sound Alarm” or “Art in America” from last week, I'd preshade it. Apparently my download attempts didn't take and I only noticed this morning.)

    Gonna have to go with “Voices” for Song of the Week. As late as '93, people would come into the record store where I clerked looking for that song. The album was already long out of print by then, but the original 45 would occasionally pop up in oldies stock! “The Fire Still Burns” was a TV5 favorite, but truly the lesser of the two Ballard cuts here.

  • kingofgrief

    This might be closer to “cow-wave”, but I must bring this Stone Cold KoG Jam to your attention.

  • Notdexter

    k.d. lang and the reclines were the first band I heard referred to as cowpunk. In fact a bio written in 1990 was titled “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Cowpunk”

  • steed

    Ha. Not once reading this over did I realize I turned Marty into a lady.

  • 10over9

    yeah that's all kinds of awesome!