It seems like a lot of people thought last week’s list of songs was a little on the boring side. If that’s the case, then this week should be much better as we spend another week with the letter T, taking a look at songs that hit the rock charts in the ’80s but only those that failed to cross over into the Billboard Hot 100 as well.
I think “The Future’s So Bright” is probably the best and worst thing to have happened to Pat and Barbara MacDonald. I’m sure the residuals still come in from their only hit song and the Timbuk 3 name will always stick in people’s minds but most people just laugh and toss it off as a novelty song which couldn’t have helped them even get a lone follow up hit. Both their debut – Greetings from Timbuk 3 – and the follow up – Eden Alley are fantastic albums though.
Mr. Bowie’s group is a funny thing. If you look on the web for reviews of the album that were written back in the day, they are generally positive. But the vast majority of people that I know feel that Tin Machine sucked the big one. I caved into peer pressure a long time ago and also claimed their self-titled debut was terrible but then I decided to go back and listen to it at some point last year and realized that while it wasn’t anything to write home about, it wasn’t a flaming bag of poo either. I don’t know much about Tony and Hunt Sales other than the fact that Soupy’s sons performed on some Todd Rundgren material in the ‘70s and were part of Iggy Pop’s band on Lust For Life which of course David Bowie was a part of as well. But Reeves Gabrels was Bowie’s sort of kick-in-the-ass to get him to do some things a little out of the box. And let’s face it, at the time Bowie’s solo material wasn’t worth listening to, so at least the change in direction to a more rockin’ group atmosphere was different than anything else he was trying to do at the time.
Toad the Wet Sprocket
“One Little Girl” 1989, Modern Rock #24 (download)
I often forget that Toad the Wet Sprocket’s first album, Bread and Circus, came out in 1989. The first mainstream success they really got was with their third album – Fear – with the singles “All I Want” and “Walk on the Ocean” and their debut record really doesn’t sound anything like the hits, so it’s hard for me to connect the two. I mean, I would never know the group singing “One Little Girl” is the same that had a six week stay at #1 in 1994 with “Fall Down.”
Tom Tom Club
“Suboceana” 1989, Modern Rock #10 (download)
The Tom Tom Club were always a little bizarre for me and I never quite latched on to their quirkiness. However, “Suboceana” isn’t that odd of a song and actually is a track that I think is one of the most overlooked of the decade. It’s got such a brilliant pop rhythm and catchiness to it that I’m shocked this wasn’t a bigger hit. It came from their album Boom Boom Chi Boom Boom which doesn’t hold up nearly as well as the single.
“Without Love” 1988, #42 (download)
I don’t ever recall hearing this song in Philly growing up and I know Tonio K. more because I’ve seen his name on songwriting credits all over the place. I really don’t know much about his music other than this song which is fantastic. His biggest hit is really “Love Is” which Vanessa Williams and Brian McKnight released in ’93.
I was never a huge fan of Toto but I might be if “Afraid of Love” was the song they were known for instead of “Rosanna” or the overplayed “Africa.” In fact I like all three of these tunes better than either of the two big hits from them. Looking at a list of their hits too, I’m surprised the band didn’t do more for me seeing as how I was greatly influenced by the music my mother listened to and I totally forgot about the 45 of “Hold the Line” she mixed in with Queen and Eddie Rabbitt all the time.
“Won’t Get Fooled Again” 1981, #39 (download)
“Face Dances Part Two” 1982, #15 (download)
“Slit Skirts” 1982, #41 (download)
“Stardom in Acton” 1982, #30 (download)
“Give Blood” 1985, #5 (download)
“Secondhand Love” 1986, #32 (download)
“Barefootin’” 1986, #26 (download)
“Life to Life” 1986, #39 (download)
“A Friend is a Friend” 1989, #3 (download)
I really think that I like Pete Townshend’s solo material in the ‘80s better than I like the Who as a whole. I like the experimental nature of some of his work in the decade and he just has a ton of irresistible songs. I especially love “Face Dances Part Two” and its weird time signature (I don’t know much about the technical side of music but I read it’s in the rarely used 5/4 signature which gives it a bit of a unique feel). “Slit Skirts” is pretty awesome as well (neither it nor “Face Dances” is about sex strangely enough). Both of them as well as “Stardom in Acton” are from All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes. (Side note: Even Joel Whitburn calls the track “Stardom in Action” rather than “Acton” as in the district in London where Townshend was born.
I love the next album (White City: A Novel) as well with “Face the Face” being my favorite Townshend solo track. “Give Blood” and “Secondhand Love” are from this album with the former being a fantastic way to lead off the album.
None of the other tracks here really do much for me though. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is a live version of the Who song recorded with John Williams for the Secret Policeman’s Ball. “Barefootin’” is also a live recording from Pete Townshend’s Deep End Live.
“Life To Life” comes from the Playing For Keeps soundtrack while “A Friend is a Friend” is from the Iron Man musical. (“Dig” and “Fire” also come from Iron Man, but they are credited to The Who, so we’ll see them later).
Best Song: Tom Tom Club, “Suboceana”
Worst Song: Pete Townshend, “A Friend Is A Friend”
Appeared in the rock chart and Hot 100:
‘Til Tuesday (4): “Voices Carry” “What About Love” “Coming Up Close” “Believed You Were Lucky”
Timbuk 3 (1): “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades”
The Timelords (1): “Doctorin’ the Tardis”
Tommy Tutone (1): “867-5309/Jenny”
Tora Tora (1): “Walkin’ Shoes”
Toronto (1): “Your Daddy Don’t Know”
Toto (2): “Rosanna” “Stranger In Town”
Pete Townshend (1): “Face To Face”