We begin the letter C this week, as we take a look at songs that hit the Billboard rock charts in the glorious 1980s but failed to cross over into the Hot 100.
John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band
“Song & Dance” 1988, #47 (download)
This is an often overlooked gem in the John Cafferty catalog. From their 1988 album Roadhouse (not another single from the Road House soundtrack, though it would have fit right in) this was the only single from the album to chart.
The Call were an extremely underrated band though fellow musicians and fans alike gave them much respect. Their best disc is 1986’s Reconciled which includes both “I Still Believe” and “Everywhere I Go” (that’s Peter Gabriel and Jim Kerr with backing vocals). “I Still Believe” is one of those super pure pop songs that it’s hard to ever get tired of.
“I Don’t Wanna” comes from the follow up, Into the Woods – another beautiful pop album – not as good as Reconciled but definitely worth a few spins.
1989’s Let the Day Begin was another sparking pop album with the title track being their biggest hit with “You Run” hitting the rock charts as the second single.
Lead singer Michael Been’s son Robert Levon is the lead singer of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
Here’s yet another surprise for me at how little love Camouflage got from radio. The German trio with the inevitable comparison to Depeche Mode got their first single “The Great Commandment” on the Hot 100, but the rest of their singles only made it to the Modern Rock chart. Of course at this time Depeche Mode was bigger than ever so I would have expected more stations to pick up on the group’s music, especially “That Smiling Face”, the second single and lead track off their debut Voices & Images.
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Camper Van Beethoven
“Pictures of Matchstick Men” 1989, Modern Rock #1 (download)
Camper Van Beethoven are a critically acclaimed and pretty much universally loved band that got much more recognition after David Lowrey moved on and had hits with Cracker. They were eclectic and sometimes very bizarre but throughout their career always stayed interesting and knew how to write songs to catch your ear. “Pictures of Matchstick Men” is a Status Quo cover from their final album of their original era – Key Lime Pie. It would fit right in with Cracker’s Kerosene Hat, released four years later.
I haven’t looked ahead, so I don’t know what the rest of the Rock End will bring, but this very well may be the best song of the entire series.
Former Traffic drummer Jim Capaldi had two hot 100 hits, including the top 40, “That’s Love” from his 1982 album Fierce Heart – his best solo record in the decade. He then had one hit off each of his next two records, “I’ll Keep Holding On” from 1984’s One Man Mission and “Something So Strong” from 1988’s Some Come Running.
“Break the Rules Tonite (Out of School)” 1981, #46 (download)
“Break the Rules Tonite” is really the only song I don’t like off Carnes’ 1981 album Mistaken Identity. It’s a great pop record that tries its hand at some different genres but this style of rock just feels way out of place on an otherwise perfect album.
“Lesson in Love” 1982, #33 (download)
“Lesson in Love” was the first charting rock single from Paul Carrack off his 1982 album Suburban Voodoo. He released it after leaving Squeeze early in the year. His backing band for the album was Noise To Go featuring Nick Lowe. After this record, the band would be renamed Nick Lowe and His Cowboy Outfit, which Carrack would play keyboards in.
Jim Carroll Band
“People Who Died” 1981, #50 (download)
This was the only charting single by punk and poet Jim Carroll and while it’s a great song, it seems like a pretty unlikely choice for a single and radio play. It is after all a song about his friends that died and he claims to have known all of them.
Just recently I heard a cover of this song where it was described as “as fun as the original”. I’m sorry, great song – sure. “Fun” – absolutely not.
Although The Cars obviously had a ton of tracks hit the Hot 100, there were five that didn’t make it and quite a few of these are just as good as the tracks that were bigger hits – like, “Cruiser” for instance with its harder rock edge. Both that and “Victim of Love” were from Shake It Up.
“It’s Not the Night” is another pretty great song, the 5th song to chart from Heartbeat City. Following songs like “You Might Think”, “Magic” and “Drive” it didn’t quite have the poppiness to hit the pop charts but was just as good as any of them.
“Breakaway” is kind of a rare one, the B-side to “Why Can’t I Have You”, the 6th charting single from Heartbeat City. Apparently some radio stations played it enough to get it to #19 on the rock charts. And it is the better of the two songs. As far as I can tell, it’s only appeared on CD on one Greatest Hits double disc released in 1995.
“Double Trouble” is the most rockin’ song here, but also the worst of the five. It was the third single off Door to Door, following up “You Are the Girl” and “Strap Me In”.
“The Sheep’s a Wolf” 1989, Modern Rock #25 (download)
Caterwaul was a bit alternative and a little goth, this being one of their more alternative songs. “The Sheep’s a Wolf” was their only hit off their second album Pin & Web. They released four albums in their career with the middle two being on I.R.S. Did you know that a caterwaul is the sound a cat in heat makes? I didn’t.
“He’s Got a She” 1989, Modern Rock #17 (download)
This fabulous song was the only charting single from Exene Cervenka, lead singer of X. X was a great band for a period of five years or so very early in their career. Their music started going downhill when their sound became slightly commercial starting with 1986’s Ain’t Love Grand!. It was in ’89 that Exene put out a solo record called Old Wives’ Tales which contained “He’s Got A She”.
Peter Cetera gets a bad rep these days. He’s one of the best voices of the decade and has put out some of the catchiest pop songs of the era, but because he took Chicago into the land of ballads it somehow takes away from all of this. And for those that think this way, Cetera’s debut Solo Album in 1981 is probably your best call in terms of his solo material. A lot of people don’t even realize the album exists because of the five year gap between records and the fact that Chicago started their comeback period just a year later. Cetera was kind of pissed off that “Livin’ in the Limelight” and the self-titled disc wasn’t a hit and thought that Warner Brothers decided not to promote the record so that he wouldn’t leave Chicago. If that’s the case, then it worked out pretty well for them. The album is damn good though with more of a rock feel than anything else he did after it.
“You Never Listen to Me” is a pretty dull track though, the third single off his third solo record, One More Story. David Gilmour plays guitar on the record.
Peter Cetera is poised to make a comeback now, though! If you haven’t yet seen the Heineken commercial below, you should check it out.
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Best Song: Camper Van Beethoven, “Pictures of Matchstick Men”
Worst Song: Kim Carnes, “Break the Rules Tonite (Out of School)”
Also appeared in the Hot 100:
John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band (4): “On the Dark Side”, “Tender Years”, “Tough All Over”, “C-I-T-Y”
The Call (2): “The Walls Came Down”, “Let the Day Begin”
Camouflage (1): “The Great Commandment”
Tony Carey (3): “I Won’t Be Home Tonight”, “A Fine Fine Day”, “The First Day of Summer”
Kim Carnes (1): “Bette Davis Eyes”
Paul Carrack (3): “I Need You”, “Don’t Shed a Tear”, “One Good Reason”
The Cars (11): “Shake It Up”, “Since You’re Gone”, “You Might Think”, “Magic”, “Hello Again”, “Drive”, “Why Can’t I Have You”, “Tonight She Comes”, “I’m Not the One”, “You Are the Girl”, “Strap Me In”
Tracy Chapman (3): “Fast Car”, “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution”, “Crossroads”\
Charlie (1): “It’s Inevitable”