Bottom Feeders: The Rock End of the ’80s, Part 50
We’re winding down with the Rock End of the ’80s here. We’ll get a few weeks with the letter T, but I have a feeling the rest of this Rock End is going to move quite quickly. So catch ‘em while you can – more songs from the ’80s that hit the Billboard rock charts but failed to cross over into the Hot 100.
I seem to have forgotten these two last week. Talk amongst yourselves.
“Road To Nowhere” 1985, #25 (download)
“Stay Up Late” 1985, #24 (download)
“Puzzlin’ Evidence” 1986, #19 (download)
“(Nothing But) Flowers” 1988, #5 (download)
“Blind” 1988, #39 (download)
Just last week a couple radio DJ’s in my area were talking about what the Talking Heads would sound like if they were still together. Now, that’s never really going to happen as David Byrne doesn’t seem to have any interest in that and he’s doing alright for himself collaborating on a ton of great tunes in the last few years. But it’s an interesting thought as the group did go their separate ways while still making damn good music.
There are some truly great songs in this bunch of tunes. “Road To Nowhere” bubbled under at #105 and “Stay Up Late” while not released as a single is similar to “And She Was” – all off Little Creatures.
I’m not a big fan of “Blind” but “(Nothing But) Flowers” is kind of shocking that it only hit the rock charts – as that’s a very well known Heads tune. “Puzzlin’ Evidence” is the only one that doesn’t get regular play at my house. It’s from True Stories which is arguably the weakest Talking Heads album.
The three guys in Taxxi are some pretty lucky fellas to have had three “hits” in the U.S. considering that nothing they put out is very exciting. Their brand of AOR was hitting it big at the time and they blended in nicely, especially when songs like “I’m Leaving” definitely were Foreigner-esque. But one listen to “Maybe Someday” will certainly clue you in to their dullness.
Andy Taylor’s debut solo record (Thunder) in 1987 is one of my most disappointing records of the decade. Here’s a guitarist in one of the most influential new wave bands of the decade and after leaving Duran Duran made a decent record with Robert Palmer and the Power Station. But this stuff here is pedestrian which is even sadder since the whole thing was co-written by and played on by Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols. That’s not to say some of the soloing wasn’t great – I mean, the last minute of “I Might Lie” is fairly awesome riff trading – but most of the record is generic arena rock. And as much as I like the riff in the chorus of “Don’t Let Me Die Young” it sounds a little too much like the main lick in “Run Runaway” by Slade.
B.E. Taylor Group
“Never Hold Back” 1982, #54 (download)
This was B.E. Taylor’s first hit song from his debut, Intermission. He’d go on to have two songs cross into the Hot 100 after this track and as of the mid-2000’s was recording Christian and Christmas music.
“Stand and Fight” 1981, #21 (download)
“Stand and Fight” is from Dad Loves His Work, the James Taylor/Carly Simon break up album. On the rock chart it debuted the exact same week and peaked at the same position as the bigger hit “Her Town Too” – though “Stand and Fight” was on the chart for four more weeks.
“Eat For Two” 1989, Modern Rock #12 (download)
Surprisingly, it was 1992’s Our Time In Eden that really turned me on to the 10,000 Maniacs. I remember listening to that and Amy Grant’s Heart in Motion until my ears bled, something that I look back on and can’t really believe that was me at the time. Blind Man’s Zoo is a pretty good record too though – of which “Eat For Two” is the lead track.
Ten Years After
“Let’s Shake It Up” 1989, #23 (download)
Alvin Lee and Ten Years After had their run starting in the late ‘60s and throughout the ‘70s, but broke up in 1979. In 1988 they reunited to do some concerts and decided to put out an album, which they did in 1989, called About Time.
Tesla’s known for “Signs” and “Love Song” but they could really rock out as well, when they wanted to. “Modern Day Cowboy” and “Gettin’ Better” are evidence of that. I actually think Tesla were a little too talented to make it early on. Mechanical Resonance was a great album but the guitar work on it seemed a little too cool to be on radio in a time all about big hair and makeup over songwriting.
They reached their peak only two albums in though as ‘89s the Great Radio Controversy gave them their first real taste of the spotlight with “Love Song,” no doubt a good tune but one of the most generic tracks on the record.
Up until the point I started collecting ‘80s music, I had never listened to anything from The The. I think the weird name scared me off into thinking they were some experimental noise band and back in the ‘80s and ‘90s I wasn’t into that stuff at all. But of course, while Matt Johnson was experimental in nature we weren’t exactly talking about harsh sounds, especially on Mind Bomb from which all three of these tracks come. Mind Bombwas the first album where Johnson employed an actual band behind him (and this band included Johnny Marr) as his previous few albums featured a mess of guess musicians backing him up. That’s not to say he didn’t have a lot of people working on this album as well (Sinead O’Connor is on “Kingdom of Rain”) but with the same guys playing on every track this time around, the album feels more consistent than Infected did, three years before this. Overall, it’s a little mellow for me but I understand why people like it.
“So What If I Did” 1989, Modern Rock #29 (download)
I hear these guys were pretty good back in the day. I’ve never heard anything but this song simply because I can’t stand Bob Forrest’s voice, so I couldn’t tell you anything about the band to be truthful. I do believe this was their only taste of success, albeit a small one.
They Might Be Giants
“Ana Ng” 1988, Modern Rock #11 (download)
I really have to catch up on my They Might Be Giants music. My high school years were littered with repeated plays of Flood, day and night. I stuck with them until 2001’s Mink Car and then my tastes kind of shifted and I lost track. I thought I would go back when their children’s albums got rave reviews over the past few years but I haven’t for some reason. I should, because they rock. No doubt about that.
Album-wise, the ‘80s weren’t kind to Thin Lizzy, though as evidenced by these two songs – both off Renegade – they could still rock your ass off. Unfortunately, that translated into 3-4 good songs on each of their three albums in the decade but they were clearly at the tail end of their run.
Best Song: They Might Be Giants, “Ana Ng”
Worst Song: Taxxi, “Maybe Someday”
Also appeared in the Hot 100
Talking Heads (3): “Burning Down the House” “And She Was” “Wild Wild Life”
Talk Talk (3): “Talk Talk” “It’s My Life” “Life’s What You Make It”
Tangier (1): “On the Line”
James Taylor (1): “Her Town Too”
Tears For Fears (6): “Change” “Everybody Wants To Rule the World” “Shout” “Head Over Heels” “Sowing the Seeds of Love” “Woman in Chains”
10,000 Maniacs (3): “Like the Weather” “Trouble Me” “What’s the Matter Here?”
Robert Tepper (1): “No Easy Way Out”
Tesla (2): “Little Suzi” “Love Song”
Texas (1): “I Don’t Want A Lover”