Today is the ultimate Bottom Feeders post. Posting the Shamus M’Cool track in the original series was the key moment in the three years I’ve been doing this but I don’t know how you could possibly tell me any week beats what we have below. Part of this is due to my missed week last week, so I’ve put in more tracks than I normally would – in fact double what I normally would, but after you scroll below and see the section on the Boss, that was almost inevitable. More songs from S, right here. Songs that hit the Billboard rock charts but failed to cross over into the hot 100. Really, really good stuff!
There’s going to be a day at some point in the future where I throw the “general rule” out the window and just start finding a way to like female artists more than I do now. Until then, I’m the asshole that won’t bother with a catalog like Patti Smith’s. However, I have to say that I went back and listened to Dream of Life — her only ‘80s record and the one from which these songs originate — and it’s quite enjoyable, especially “Up There Down There.” And I’m sure if I go back I’m going to find music that’s very much in line with what I’m listening to, I just have no desire. I need to find that fire again, man! (Is this a “fire/desire” sighting?)
A couple weeks ago there was a huge discussion about the Smithereens in the Popdose inner circle and I quickly realized that my colleagues were way more qualified to talk about the group than I am (yeah yeah, I know where you’re going to go with that one now….) so our good buddy Mojo graciously volunteered to take the reins for this portion of the program.
Take it away, Mojo:
“Blood and Roses”
After six years laboring pretty much in obscurity in New Jersey, the Smithereens blew into rock radio with this lovely little suicide note from Especially For You. It would take the band a few years more to cross over to the Top 40, but this Don Dixon (of R.E.M. Murmur fame) production was the start of a nice little run for the ‘Reens, building their underground cred in the alt-rock scene. Check out the positively hypnotic bassline laid down by Mike Mesaros.
“Behind the Wall of Sleep”
Another minor-keyed cut from Especially For You, “Sleep” drives it a bit harder than “Blood and Roses,” rocking out some nocturnal fantasy action. Lead singer and songwriter Pat DiNizio was on a tear when he wrote this one, dropping Jeannie Shrimpton and Bill Wyman references in successive verses. A version of this with Graham Parker singing lead with the ‘Reens pops up on the Attack of the Smithereens rarities set.
“House We Used To Live In”
The trippy followup to the Green Thoughts quasi-hit “Only a Memory.” Pat DiNizio wrote it about his childhood home of Scotch Plains, N.J. Not the town, the actual building. This rockin’ little cut features a cool call-and-response chorus, a hooky bridge, and a Smithereens trademark coda ending that gets live audiences shouting themselves hoarse. DiNizio still lives in Scotch Plains, and there’s a Smithereens yard party at his place May 29 for those willing to fork over $50.
“Drown In My Own Tears”
Yet another cut from Green Thoughts, “Drown” came out while the band was perhaps at the peak of its alt-rock cred, canvassing the country and getting good play on FM rock radio. Pretty good for 1960s melodic pop devotees in a musical epoch dominated by clowns like David Lee Roth and Motley Crue. After this, they’d make a run for the pop charts just to see the rug ripped out from under them by a bunch of flannel-clad greaseballs from Seattle. The thing that really makes this song go are the “dah-dah-dah” melodic triplet figures in the verse lines.
“Isn’t It Enough” 1987, #26 (download)
It’s kind of funny that Smyth’s only solo album in the ‘80s starts off with “Never Enough” and later on in the disc she asks “Isn’t It Enough?” I mean, didn’t she already answer that question?
Every time I think about Patty Smyth though, I picture one of my co-workers who was a punk singer, loves tennis (Smyth is married to John McEnroe) and looks a heck of a lot like I’ve seen Patti look over the past few years. Uncanny.
“Teen Age Riot” 1988, Modern Rock #20 (download)
I hate everything about Sonic Youth. There used to be two bands in my life that I absolutely loathed; Sonic Youth and the Cranberries. At some point I learned to leave the Cranberries be and I replaced them with Nickelback. Sonic Youth will forever be on my shit list though. I could pinpoint it with the Cranberries down to Dolores O’Riordan’s voice, with Sonic Youth it may actually be less about the music (though I can’t stand them) and more about the attitude.
I was in college between ’94 and ’99 and having worked at the radio station on campus it was one of those things where you were just totally lame and uneducated if you didn’t latch onto these guys and praise them with every ounce of your being. I can’t imagine this was the only college environment this ever happened in either. I remember a DJ having an hour long debate about the hidden meaning of the two kids wearing shirts that had Sonic Youth washing machines on them. The fucking 1995 album was called Washing Machine. Why do I need to go into this conversation any further?
So of course as I read this back, my hatred is based on other people’s undying love for a group that can seemingly do no wrong even though I can’t find anything right. By all means though, I’ve grown up and hold no grudge against anyone for their desire to listen to Sonic Youth. Go ahead and love them, they are your band. I just don’t think I ever can.
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Southside Johnny & the Jukes
“New Romeo” 1984, #43 (download)
Okay, so this isn’t the best sounding recording of the song here so it can’t help matters, but “New Romeo” is just missing something. The verses aren’t dynamic enough, the guitar lick in the chorus is terribly generic and the song just seems like it was a calculated radio move for the non-Asbury Jukes at this point. They needed a recalculation.
Hearing the name Danny Spanos conjures up images of that one d-bag that played Jesse Spano’s brother on Saved by the Bell for a few episodes or maybe someone from Charles in Charge– but never really an ‘80s rock singer. Both the tracks are decent though but I especially love “I’d Lie To You For Your Love.” Until I started this series I never knew that the Bellamy Brothers version years later wasn’t an original (the brothers get the writing credits but I suppose that’s because they revamped pretty drastically into a country version) but this version is easily the better one.
“I Got A Line On You” 1984 #54 (download)
Looking at track names on Spirit records I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything from them besides this tune. You have to expect that of course from me as Jay Ferguson, Randy California and the gang aren’t even remotely an ‘80s group so there was never a reason for me to listen. This was a rerecording of their 1969 hit, released on Spirit of ’84 or The Thirteenth Dream in every place but the U.S. The album version is here, all seven minutes of it. The original track was something like 2:30.
“History Never Repeats” 1981, #33 (download)
“History Never Repeats” was never a real favorite of mine from Split Enz. Even on this album (Waiata) I prefer tracks like “One Step Ahead,” Iris” and “Ships.” But no matter what I think about it, it gave the gang a slight little bit of airplay in the states, not enough to make them huge but kept some momentum going after “I Got You” was a hit in 1980.
“Calling All Girls” 1982, #4 (download)
I’m a huge fan of Rick Springfield’s music. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen even one minute of his acting but to me he’s easily one of the most talented actor-musicians out there based solely on the fact that his songs kick ass. I have no idea why this track wasn’t a huge hit for him either though. It was the lead track from Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet, had great riffs and was catchy as hell.
“I’m A Rocker” 1981, #42 (download)
“Cadillac Ranch” 1981, #48 (download)
“Point Blank” 1981, #20 (download)
“Ramrod” 1981, #30 (download)
“Be True” 1981, #42 (download)
“Atlantic City” 1982, #10 (download)
“Open All Night” 1982, #22 (download)
“Johnny 99” 1982, #50 (download)
“Pink Cadillac” 1984, #27 (download)
“No Surrender” 1984, #29 (download)
“Bobby Jean” 1984, #36 (download)
“Trapped” 1985, #1 (download)
“Stand On It” 1985, #32 (download)
“Because the Night” 1986, #22 (download)
“Raise Your Hand” 1986, #44 (download)
“Spare Parts” 1987, #28 (download)
“All That Heaven Will Allow” 1988, #5 (download)
“Roulette” 1988, #45 (download)
“Chimes of Freedom” 1988, #16 (download)
Now if I was smart, I would have gotten the Popdose inner circle to help me with the Boss rather than the Smithereens since there’s a whopping 19 tracks here! Oddly enough, I would have assumed that the majority of tunes would have been from before the Born in the U.S.A. disc but it’s pretty even with 9 of the 19 before that time frame.
Growing up, I wasn’t into Springsteen until the aforementioned album. I’m sure The River was just too much for a little boy to handle and Nebraska wasn’t my style at all. However I did and still do today, think that Tunnel of Love is an underrated album.
As an adult and having now gone back to listen to the Boss from his very first album, I of course have gained appreciation for both The River and Nebraska but the former interests me quite a bit more. If you look at the track listing in album form, you see that “Point Blank,” “Cadillac Ranch” and “I’m A Rocker” are the first three tracks of the third side. The fourth track on that side is “Fade Away” which also hit the rock chart and the first one on the flip side is “Ramrod.” So here we have four songs way deep into the disc which actually wouldn’t have even made the cut had The River been the single LP was originally planned to be. But “Be True” would have apparently been on the record – instead released as a one-off single between the albums.
Then of course you get the three tracks from Nebraska– “Atlantic City” “Open All Night” and “Johnny 99.” While typing this up I was initially shocked to see that “Atlantic City” didn’t cross over since it’s now such a well known song but remembering that it’s essentially a demo track, I guess it really doesn’t have the polish to have been a big hit. I’m supposing that I think it’s bigger than it really was because I live within driving distance of Atlantic City and have probably heard the song every other day of my entire life.
I’ve always loved the fact that songs that come out of the boss and hit radio aren’t necessarily the ones you think would be and/or aren’t even on records – just good tracks that deserve to be out there – like “Pink Cadillac,” which has to be impossible to hate, right? Natalie Cole did it justice in ’88 but there’s nothing like Bruce’s version.
After that, go back and look at the track listing for Born in the U.S.A. – with “No Surrender” and “Bobby Jean” charting here, that the entire second side of the record charted in one way or another (“I’m Going Down, “Glory Days,” “Dancing in the Dark” and “My Hometown” being the final four tracks on the flip side). That also makes nine of the 12 songs on the album that charted in one form or another. Quite impressive.
A bunch of live material comes in after that – led of course by “Trapped” from the We Are the Worldalbum – clearly the highlight of the disc. In fact, isn’t any moment that features the Boss doing “Trapped” a highlight? I saw him in concert for the first time a few years ago in Hershey, PA and my lord – when he played “Trapped,” that…well, really it’s hard to describe the overwhelming sensation in that arena when everyone busts into the chorus and Bruce starts running around the stage.
“Because the Night” and “Raise Your Hand” are both from the Live ’75-’85 box set which is a fabulous listen when you’re working with the vinyl version. I’ve had a totally backwards progression with the former song as I heard the 10,000 Maniacs hit version way before I even knew the Boss did it and way before I heard the Patti Smith version from ’78. I hate to even say it, but I like the Maniacs version the best.
In between these tracks, Bruce released a one-off single called “Stand On It” which would probably be the most generic of the tracks offered here.
Then there’s Tunnel of Love with “All that Heaven Will Allow” and “Spare Parts” being the highlights of the first side of the disc with the bigger hits “Brilliant Disguise,” “Tunnel of Love” and “One Step Up” all comprising the brilliant second half.
“Roulette” was another one-off single in 1988 – and the one song here that I really don’t know much about.
Finally, “Chimes of Freedom” was the title track from the 4-song EP released to benefit Amnesty International. This Dylan cover would be the last one from the Boss to chart in the decade.
“In Quintessence” 1981, #39 (download)
“Black Coffee In Bed” 1982, #26 (download)
“Annie Get Your Gun” 1983, #40 (download)
“Hits of the Year” 1985, #39 (download)
“Trust Me To Open My Mouth” 1987, #50 (download)
“If It’s Love” 1989, Modern Rock #7 (download)
I thought about stopping the post after Springsteen – I mean, how do you follow up 19 damn songs – but Squeeze is certainly worthy to be protection for my clean-up hitter.
I’ve often wondered why Squeeze didn’t have more hits in the U.S. but I think I’m coming to the conclusion right now that they had the perfect number for them. Sure, we’re talking only one or two hits per album but there are eight charting songs in the decade and everyone of them are pretty much perfect. It’s hard to argue with the batting average of the group.
To my ears, I’d have to put “In Quintessence” as the best of this group of songs, also off their best album – East Side Story.
“Annie Get Your Gun” and “Black Coffee In Bed” are certainly classics that everyone pretty much knows at this point but if you don’t remember “If It’s Love” from frank. then you should certainly listen to this underrated track.
“Lonely is the Night” 1981, #28 (download)
“Keep Me Satisfied” 1982, #46 (download)
“Learn How To Live” 1982, #15 (download)
“Can’t Get Next To You” 1984, #51 (download)
“Shot O’ Love” 1986, #30 (download)
“Tied Up” 1989, #20 (download)
“Don’t Let Me Go” 1989, #38 (download)
And finally in this massive post is Mr. Billy Squier. This has to be my favorite post of the year with Squier, the Boss and Rick Springfield being favorites of mine.
The surprising song here of course is “Lonely is the Night” since that actually still gets recurring airplay on classic rock stations and is totally badass.
The rest of the songs here are so killer as well that I can’t even make up my mind what the next best one is. I love 1989’s Hear & Now and I’ve always thought “Don’t Let Me Go” was one of Squier’s best ballads (yeah, sure the Damn Yankees weren’t listening to this). But the bluesy feel of “Keep Me Satisfied” is also pretty great.
Best Song: Bruce Springsteen, “Trapped” (Live)
Worst Song: Sonic Youth, Teen Age Riot
Appeared In the Rock Chart and Hot 100
The Smithereens (2): “Only A Memory” “A Girl Like You”
Patty Smyth (2): “Never Enough” “Downtown Train”
Sneaker (1): “Don’t Let Me In”
Soft Cell (1): “Tainted Love”
Spandau Ballet (2): “True” “Only When You Leave”
Rick Springfield (8): “Jessie’s Girl” “Love Is Alright Tonight” “Don’t Talk To Strangers” “Affair of the Heart” “Human Touch” “Love Somebody” “Don’t Walk Away” “Rock Of Life”
Bruce Springsteen (13): “Fade Away” “Dancing in the Dark” “Born in the USA” “Cover Me” “I’m On Fire” “Glory Days” “I’m Goin’ Down” “My Hometown” “War” “Fire” “Brilliant Disguise” “Tunnel of Love” “One Step Up”
Spys (1): “Don’t Run My Life”
Squeeze (3): “Tempted” “Hourglass” “853-5937”
Billy Squier (11): “In the Dark” “The Stroke” “My Kinda Lover” “Everybody Wants You” “Emotions in Motion” “She’s a Runner” “Rock Me Tonight” “All Night Long” “Eye On You” “Love is the Hero” “Don’t Say You Love Me”