Only five more weeks of ’80s rock music to go, so get your fix in while you can. This week, it’s the letter V as we continue to wind our way through the alphabet looking at songs that hit the Billboard rock charts in the decade, but only those that didn’t also find their way to the Hot 100.
“Friday Night” 1983, #29 (download)
Of his three albums, Adrian Vandenberg’s debut is really the only solid rock record. Starting with his second – Heading For a Storm – the material got poppier and lacked a quality hit like “Burning Heart” from early ’83. “Friday Night” is a good example of how generic his material got. After his third record in ’85 did nothing, David Coverdale asked him to be in Whitesnake and he disbanded his group for good.
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“Mean Street” 1981, #12 (download)
“So This Is Love?” 1981, #15 (download)
“Unchained” 1981, #13 (download)
“Push Comes To Shove” 1981, #29 (download)
“Where Have All the Good Times Gone!” 1982, #17 (download)
“Little Guitars” 1982, #33 (download)
“Secrets” 1982, #22 (download)
“The Full Bug” 1982, #42 (download)
“Best of Both Worlds” 1986, #12 (download)
“Summer Nights” 1986, #33 (download)
“Mine All Mine” 1988, #50 (download)
“Cabo Wabo” 1988, #31 (download)
So this group of songs should help end the Van Halen vs. Van Hagar argument, right? Okay, it doesn’t, even though the amount of songs here favor the Roth era by far. That had nothing to do with Roth vs. Hagar though. It had more to do with the fact that both ‘81s Fair Warning and ‘82s Diver Down didn’t really have that big rock hit that everyone wanted. Granted, everyone wanted Van Halen at the time as evidenced by the first four songs here entering the charts exactly one week after the previous tune or the fact that that three of the six Diver Down songs showed up the same week while the last two did the same about a month later. It shows that rock radio simply wanted to play Van Halen but they simply didn’t have that one tune everyone needed to hear.
For all intents and purposes, Fair Warning was a hitless record and was the worst selling album of the Roth period. That’s even with “Unchained” being on the record, which is of course a fantastic song but a little out of place on a mellower record.
Diver Down did actually have two legit hits in “(Oh) Pretty Woman” and “Dancing in the Street” but with an album consisting of half covers and half originals where the covers were the best part, that didn’t leave much else to work with. “The Full Bug” was probably the best of the originals on the disc.
There aren’t any songs here from 1984 as the four charting rock tunes all crossed over into the hot 100. “Jump,” “Panama,” “Hot For Teacher” and “I’ll Wait” all entered the charts within a week of each other as well, in January and early February of 1984. But rock radio didn’t need any album cuts or B-sides for this one as “Jump” spent eight weeks at #1 while “I’ll Wait” and “Panama” hit #2 with the latter tune remaining on the rock charts for a whopping 31 weeks.
The Hagar era begins in style with “Best of Both Worlds” and the excellent “Summer Nights” both showing up here, from 5150. Van Halen was a rock juggernaut at this point so the entire record probably would have charted if DJ’s wanted it to.
OU812 gives us another two excellent tracks in “Mine All Mine” and the now signature Red Rocker tune, “Cabo Wabo.”
Here’s the interesting thing about Van Halen on the rock charts though. If I asked you to name me the three biggest songs they placed on the rock chart according to Billboard, you’d never guess right. The first is “Jump” which you absolutely should have guessed as one of the three. The second though? How about the David Lee Roth tune, “Me Wise Magic” from the Best of compilation in ’96. That spent six weeks at #1. And the third? Well, that’s even odder as it’s “Without You” which spent five weeks at #1 in ’98. That’s right, it’s a Gary Cherone song. Who would have thunk that?
Ronnie, Johnny, Donnie…it is only me that gets them confused? Even if I do though, one thing can be certain; if it says “Van Zant” it’s some down home southern rock.
Johnny was the only family member in his band from ’80 to 85. Then he joined with brother Donnie to form the band Van Zant in ’85 of which both “I’m a Fighter” and “You’ve Got To Believe In Love” are credited to. Johnny then went on to take over the lead vocals for Skynyrd in ’87.
“Jimmie Jones” 1981, #39 (download)
So the Vapors aren’t a one hit wonder after all? Well, no – they really can be considered that since no one hears “Jimmie Jones” any more. “Turning Japanese” hit big before the rock charts existed so that’s why it’s not here. This tune was the lead track off their second and final album – Magnets.
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
“Pride and Joy” 1983, #20 (download)
“Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” 1984, #26 (download)
“Cold Shot” 1984, #29 (download)
“Look At Little Sister” 1983, #20 (download)
“Change It” 1985, #17 (download)
“Superstition” 1986, #11 (download)
“Willie the Wimp” 1987, #19 (download)
“Crossfire” 1989, #1 (download)
“Tightrope” 1989, #14 (download)
“The House Is Rockin” 1989, #18 (download)
Blues rock is something that really didn’t do much for me back in the day and probably still doesn’t now if I really think about it, though a group like the Fabulous Thunderbirds (featuring Stevie Ray’s brother Jimmie) somehow peaked my interest. I’m pretty sure the reason for most of it is because a lot of the artists covered old blues tunes or rock songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s and since I’m ignorant to anything before 1979, I tend to not even bother with artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan.
It is however, hard to deny that Vaughn’s last recording before his death – 1989’s In Step – was a fantastic record, about half of it co-written with Doyle Bramhall. The record is pretty rockin’ from start to finish, led by the three tunes here, “The House Is Rockin’,” “Crossfire” and “Tightrope” – all originals, which led into the cover tunes. But by that point I’m rockin’ out so much that it works well for me. I believe “Crossfire” was the only actual single from the album and spent three weeks at #1.
“Nightmares” 1989, Modern Rock #4 (download)
I’ve heard “Nightmares” about a billion times thanks to my old buddy from high school who used to be the biggest Violent Femmes fan I knew. We’d meet up every day and at least twice a week we’d go to the used CD store down the street. No matter what I brought home each time, he always seemed to pop on either 1989’s 3 or the self-titled debut with “Blister in the Sun.” However, I didn’t like them then and I still don’t like them now. And I don’t think the amount he played them had any bearing on it.
“Lady on the Rock” 1981, #47 (download)
Joe Vitale is known more for his work with Joe Walsh, the Eagles and CSN than for any of his three solo albums. But “Lady on the Rock” off his second and only album of the decade (Plantation Harbor) is damn cool.
Voice of the Beehive
“I Say Nothing” 1988, Modern Rock #11 (download)
Well, you know I don’t like this one, right? It’s just way too girly for me. I’m just a little shocked that the group existed back in the ‘80s. Strangely enough too, the only album I ever knew from them was Let It Bee which was released in ’88 but was introduced to me for the first time when I started college in ’94. I’ve always placed the album in that time period as those were the years I was inundated with girly rock. Even odder because they put out their last album – Sex & Misery – in 1995 and I didn’t even know that existed. Such a weird path I took to hear these ladies.
Best Song: Van Halen, “Unchained”
Worst Song: Van Halen, “Push Comes To Shove”
Appeared in the rock chart and Hot 100
Vandenberg (1): “Burning Heart”
Van Halen (13): “Pretty Woman” “Dancing in the Street” “Jump” “Panama” “Hot For Teacher” “I’ll Wait” “Why Can’t This Be Love” “Dreams” “Love Walks In” “Black and Blue” “When It’s Love” “Feels So Good” “Finish What Ya Started”
Gino Vannelli (1): “Black Cars”
Suzanne Vega (2): “Luka” “Solitude Standing”
Billy Vera (1): “I Can Take Care Of Myself”
Vixen (2): “Edge of a Broken Heart” “Cryin’”