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.
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.
“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 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.
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.
“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 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 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.
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.
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”