Bottom Feeders: The Rock End of the ’80s, Part 7

So, I took at least an inital recommendation last week to listen to some Blue Oyster Cult and spun the record the vast majority said to listen to – Mirrors.  The whole first half of the album is pretty awesome – I think my favorite being “The Great Sun Jester”.  And while I understand that this isn’t quite reminiscent of their overall sound, it probably was a perfect start for me and my tastes in music.  There’s another artist below that I don’t know much about but to be honest, I’m looking forward to the recommendations a lot less than with BOC.

So lets finish up the letter B today as we listen to more songs that hit it big on the Billboard rock charts but failed to cross over to the Hot 100.

Box of Frogs
“Back Where I Started” 1984, #14 (download)

Box of Frogs was a group formed by three members of the Yardbirds, Chris Dreja, Paul Samwell-Smith and Jim McCarty. The vocalist was John Fiddler formerly of the British Lions. “Back Where I Started” features Jeff Beck on guitar as well. And what can you say about the song except for – hello! “Spirit in the Sky”.  The new Yardbirds still play this one in concert.

Billy Bragg
“Waiting For the Great Leap Forwards” 1988, Modern Rock #20 (download)
“She’s Got a New Spell” 1988, Modern Rock #16 (download)

Well, Popdose seems like the exact right place to learn about Billy Bragg and that’s what I need right now as I don’t really know anything about him. Many of my buddies love him and he comes up in conversation quite often but all they get from me are nods that I know the name. Other than these two songs, I don’t know if any other Billy Bragg song has ever been heard by my ears and that’s despite thinking both these tunes are really cool. These tracks bookend his 1988 release Workers Playtime.

The Brandos
“Gettysburg” 1987, #34 (download)

The Brandos were a decent rock group formed in New York in 1985. Their debut album featured “Gettysburg” which would be their only charting song. The album is excellent and got critical praise but they got caught up in the ass end of the music business and couldn’t release a follow up until 1992.

Honor Among Thieves was released in ’87 on Relativity Records. In ’88 they left the label and signed with Geffen which didn’t go so well. They managed to move on from that deal to RCA in 1989 right before the label went through an overhaul. That shift led to them being dropped and the band scrapped the album they had made and started over, which led to 1992’s Gunfire at Midnight. Unfortunately by that point it seemed their window for a true hit was closed.

John Brannen
“Desolation Angel” 1988, #21 (download)

Here’s a great song from country/roots rock singer John Brannen. This was from his debut Mystery Street. He’s often compared to Bruce Springsteen which is pretty obvious even if you just listen to this one song.

The Breaks
“She Wants You” 1983, #39 (download)

The Breaks were a short lived band from Memphis featuring siblings Susanne and Pat Taylor. They released one album on RCA before moving on to other projects. This was the first of two singles released on the album. Oh, and Susanne was a total cutie in some photos and smokin’ hot in the video.

Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
“Little Miss S” 1989, #38, Modern Rock #14 (download)

This has always been an interesting song for me – a little poppy for a song about a party girl-drug addict. The song was one of many songs written for actress Edie Sedgwick, including “Edie (Ciao Baby)” by the Cult, “Femme Fatale” by The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman” and “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” among others. It was the third single from Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars.

Martin Briley
“Dangerous Moments” 1985, #31 (download)

Martin Briley is considered a one-hit wonder thanks to his #36 hit “The Salt In My Tears”. “Dangerous Moments” is actually the better song of the two, the first single and title track off his third solo record. Dangerous Moments would be hit last album until 2006 when he released It Comes In Waves. In between he focused his efforts on songwriting and has credits with many other artists.

The Broadcasters
“Down in the Trenches” 1988, #48 (download)

The is one of those tunes that someone needs to put on a summer mix tape. It seems like a perfect top-down highway drivin’ song, doesn’t it? The Broadcasters were made up of a few members of the rockabilly group Finn & the Sharks. When that group parted ways, The Orwells formed – later to switch to The Broadcasters before releasing their album 13 Ghosts. After they got sued by another band called The Broadcasters, they changed their name to match the album – 13 Ghosts, but never made it past that point as a group. Read the full story on their MySpace page.

The Danny Joe Brown Band
“Edge of Sundown” 1981, #12 (download)

Danny Joe Brown was the lead singer of Molly Hatchet. He left the group in ’80-’81 to form his own band. “Edge of Sundown” was off their only album – Danny Joe Brown and the Danny Joe Brown Band. In a weird twist, guitarist Bobby Ingram later went on to front Molly Hatchet, forcing the original members of the group to perform under a different name. How weird the world works at times.

Jackson Browne
“Cut It Away” 1983, #37 (download)
“Lives in the Balance” 1986, #33 (download)
“World in Motion” 1989, #4 (download)
“Chasing You Into the Light” 1989, #9 (download)

Singer, songwriter, political activist, boyfriend of Daryl Hannah – Jackson Browne had a lot going for him. Most of his singles in the ‘80s hit the Hot 100 at least up until the point where he was no longer relevant in the popular music scene.

“Cut It Away” was from his last big hit album, Lawyers in Love and is the best of the tracks here, but pardon me, it sounds a whole lot like a Billy Joel song.

“Lives in the Balance” was the title track from his 1986 album and is noted for being used prominently in Miami Vice.

World in Motion was his final album of the decade and included both the watered down title track and “Chasing You Into the Light”.

Jimmy Buffett
“It’s Midnight and I’m Not Famous Yet” 1982, #32 (download)

I’m not really a fan of Jimmy Buffett but this song was always intriguing to me as it doesn’t really fit with the carefree beach-rock sound that I as a casual listener am familiar with. This is more of a straight-forward rock song – one of two singles from Somewhere Over China. I still like the Hot 100 hit, “It’s My Job” much better, but this is a solid track.

The Bunburys
“Fight (No Matter How Long)” 1988, #8 (download)

Back in the original series we talked about how undervalued the Traveling Wilburys were and here’s another supergroup that didn’t get as much exposure as you would expect. Hell, in fact I had completely forgotten about this one off single from the 1988 Summer Olympics album.

The Bunburys are Eric Clapton and the Bee Gees. There was actually one album called The Bunbury Tales released in conjunction with the Bunbury Cricket Club. The album features individual contributions from these two artists as well as Elton John, George Harrison and others.

Glen Burtnick
“Little Red House” 1986, #40 (download)

Here’s a pretty boring song from a guy who’s changed the spelling of his name no less than three times over the years. In the ‘80s he was Glen Burtnick, then Glenn Burtnick and by the time he joined Styx in 1990 he was Glen Burtnik. No matter how you spell it there’s nothing remotely interesting about this single from his debut solo record, Talking in Code.

Kate Bush
“Love and Anger” 1989, Modern Rock #1 (download)

I’m not sure I’ve ever really gotten Kate Bush. She’s a great songwriter, but as a vocalist I’ve never liked her style. It’s certainly unique, so combined with solid songs like “Love and Anger” I guess I see why she was so loved throughout her career but she just doesn’t do much for me.

Jon Butcher Axis
“Life Takes a Life” 1983, #26 (download)
“Don’t Say Goodnight” 1984, #24 (download)
“Stop” 1985, #31 (download)

Jon Butcher
“Goodbye Saving Grace” 1987, #7 (download)
“Holy War” 1987, #25 (download)
“Wishes” 1987, #42 (download)
“Send Me Somebody” 1989, #7 (download)
“Might As Well Be Free” 1989, #38 (download)

Jon Butcher (solo or with the Axis) probably should have been bigger than he ended up being as he was a pretty damn good ax man. Unfortunately, he got compared way too much to Jimi Hendrix for the obvious reasons that even he recognizes as inevitable but maybe a bit unfair. But ultimately it was that most of his songs had flaws in them.

Many of them didn’t showcase his guitar very well at all mainly thanks to poor production, but something like “Life Takes A Life” suffers from the sucky keys (or are those simply keyboard effects through Butcher’s guitar?). “Don’t Say Goodnight” has that annoying electronic buzz in the background the entire song and harmonies that aren’t quite where they should be. “Stop” has a great riff but pedestrian lyrics.

After 1985’s Along the Axis, Butcher went “solo” and released Wishes in 1987 leading with “Goodbye Saving Grace” which sounds a lot like a much less sensual version of Sade’s “The Sweetest Taboo”.

And do I really have to say anything about a dumb chorus like the one in “Wishes” of “If wishes were horses…/then dreamers would ride.” Then there’s “Might As Well Be Free” where he doesn’t seem to be able to sing fast enough to keep up with the pace of the music.

Okay, so I’m not making a real good case for him being bigger, am I? But as a guitarist he was damn good. It’s almost one of those cases where I just wish he would have had some outside writers give him some good tunes. Where the fuck were you Diane Warren?

David Byrne
“Make Believe Mambo” 1989, Modern Rock #11 (download)
“Dirty Old Town” 1989, Modern Rock #8 (download)

David Byrne’s ’89 disc Rei Momo is pretty brilliant. It’s a huge departure from the Talking Heads featuring Mambos, Salsas, Cha-Chas and many other styles of dance. It could really be the soundtrack to Dancing with the Stars. In my mind I kind of remember “Dirty Old Town” being much poppier, but either way it’s an absolutely fabulous song.

Quick Hits
Best Song: David Byrne, “Dirty Old Town”
Worst Song: Jon Butcher, “Wishes”

Also appeared in the Hot 100
Edie Brickell & New Bohemians (2): “What I Am”, “Circle”
Martin Briley (1): “The Salt In My Tears”
Brtiny Fox (1): “Long Way To Love”
Jackson Browne (6): “Somebody’s Baby”, “Lawyers in Love”, “For A Rocker”, “Tender Is the Night”, “For America”, “In the Shape of a Heart”
Lindsey Buckingham (2): “Trouble”, “Go Insane”
Jimmy Buffett (1): “It’s My Job”
Bulletboys (2): “For the Love Of Money”, “Smooth Up”
Glen Burtnick (1): “Follow You”
Kate Bush (1): “Running Up That Hill”

Dave Steed
Dave Steed is all about music; 80's and metal to be exact. His iPod will shuffle from Culture Club to Slayer and he won't blink an eye. He's never heard Astral Weeks but thinks "Dazzey Duks" by Duice is the bomb. It's an odd little corner of the world he lives in.