Hi everybody! It’s CHART ATTACK! time once again, and this week’s pretty solid, if I do say so myself. (And I do.) This week, we bid a fond (okay, maybe not-so-fond) farewell to three artists who had a slew of Top 10 hits in the ’80s but came to a dead halt within a few weeks of this chart. One day, someone will write a requiem for Loggins, Lewis and Palmer (sounds like a really bad supergroup), but until then, we’ll just have to pay tribute to them here, as we look back to September 24, 1988!
10. Don’t Be Cruel — Bobby Brown Amazon iTunes
9. Nobody’s Fool — Kenny Loggins Amazon iTunes
8. If It Isn’t Love — New Edition Amazon iTunes
7. One Good Woman — Peter Cetera Amazon iTunes
6. Perfect World — Huey Lewis & the News Amazon iTunes
5. Love Bites — Def Leppard Amazon iTunes
4. Simply Irresistible — Robert Palmer Amazon iTunes
3. I’ll Always Love You — Taylor Dayne Amazon iTunes
2. Sweet Child O’ Mine — Guns N’ Roses Amazon iTunes
1. Don’t Worry, Be Happy — Bobby McFerrin Amazon iTunes
10. Don’t Be Cruel — Bobby Brown
Whenever I’m feeling down in the dumps, I like to present myself with some perspective. I always used to think about the Blues Traveler line “It won’t mean a thing in a hundred years,” but I think I’m switching to “hey, you could be Bobby Brown.” Because I don’t know if anybody is such a great example of having everything and then flushing it right down the toilet. He’s even worse than Andy Gibb. I mean, Bobby Brown is so universally hated that even Whitney’s Oprah interview can’t bring her back to the top. You only need to spend a few minutes with Bobby Brown to know that it’s generally a bad idea (case in point? Glenn Medeiros); Whitney spent what, five years with this tool? Maybe if she could still sing, we’d take her back, but this is all besides the point. The point is that no matter how bad you think you’ve screwed up, or how much you think you’ll never be able to get back to a better place, remember: hey, you could be Bobby Brown.
Bobby’s first solo album King of Stage didn’t do so well on the charts (quite possibly because was not the king of the stage). Not so with Don’t Be Cruel, both the album and the single. This was the lead-off single, and though it took a couple of months, it eventually peaked at #8 and paved the way for the other hits from the album. “Don’t Be Cruel” is a pretty sweet R&B song; dare I say it deserved to chart higher, or at least higher than “Humpin’ Around.” My only criticism of the song, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, is that it ends too abruptly. Bobby does a nifty lil’ rap, and then there’s a fade-out. I seriously want more.
9. Nobody’s Fool — Kenny Loggins
As we’ve said before, Kenny Loggins was the undisputed King of the Soundtrack Songs in the ’80s. You can’t deny the awesome montage/we’re-gonna-make-it-after-all power of “I’m Alright,” “Footloose,” “Danger Zone,” and “Meet Me Half Way.” Kenny would agree; they’re included on his 1997 greatest hits collection. “Nobody’s Fool,” however, isn’t on there. Seems odd, right? The song did reach #8, certainly higher than other included songs like “Forever” (#40), “Conviction of the Heart” (#65) and “The Real Thing” (#âˆž).
So why isn’t it included? I’m going to guess that perhaps it’s because the song was the “Theme From Caddyshack II,” which was a terrible, terrible movie. And because it actually includes the line “Back to the shack,” which just reeks of desperation. Take a look at the video, which — of course — includes numerous clips from the movie itself. When you’re competing with Jackie Mason for screen time, you know you’re in serious, serious trouble.
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“Nobody’s Fool” was Loggins’ final appearance not only in the Top 10, but in the Top 40. That might be another reason why the song isn’t included. It’s actually a shame, because the chorus is pretty damn good. You can read more about the song and its video at Gavin Edwards’ Rule 42 blog.
8. If It Isn’t Love — New Edition
Wow. I honestly have not thought of this song since early 1989 at the latest. But now that I’m hearing it again, I’m remembering how much I dug it at the time, specifically the excellent chorus. The New Edition of 1988 had a more grown-up sound, thanks to the knockout team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The song borders on new jack swing, with a clever homage to the Jackson 5 in the bridge. Replacing the ousted Bobby Brown in the group was Johnny Gill, who was brought in after rumors of an additional departure by Ralph Tresvant (though he eventually opted to stick around). The group managed to get this song all the way to #7 — their first Top 10 hit since 1984. It reached #2 on the R&B chart, held off from the top spot by “Don’t Be Cruel.” I’m sure Bobby loved that, although it looks like New Edition — and everyone else in the world — has wound up with the last laugh.
The video for “If It Isn’t Love” isn’t as solid as the song itself. A Jamie Foxx lookalike (not Jamie Foxx, I looked it up) plays their manager, and he’s the Joe Jackson/Murry Wilson type, berating the guys for not working hard enough at their performance of this song. (I have to believe this was a dig at the group’s founder Maurice Starr, who was working with New Kids on the Block at this point.) So the guys spend the entire video looking relatively downtrodden and exhausted. Boy, is that fun to watch! Within the last minute or so, the manager gets fed up and leaves, locking the guys in the rehearsal room. They dutifully rehearse the song again, though they don’t look like they’re having any more fun on their own. God, this video is a downer. It seems like they might triumph at the very end, as they’re heading on stage, but that’s a segue for their next single’s video, “You’re Not My Kind of Girl,” which peaked at…#95. Ouch. So basically, the whole video is a lead-in for a bomb. There you go. If you made it through that paragraph, you never need think of the “If It Isn’t Love” video again, but if you’re jonesing to see it anyway (the choreography is almost laughable), here ’tis.
And if that’s not enough, how is that not enough? here are some guys who have done a complete remake of the video. I’m not sure why they did this, but it’s somewhat impressive.
7. One Good Woman — Peter Cetera
With “One Good Woman,” Peter Cetera walked into the studio with a really, really strong chorus, then just got lazy about the rest. The first verse is especially awful: “I am in so in love with you/I just can’t deny it/everybody knows I can’t deny it/everybody knows.” That’s the best you could come up with? The verse concludes with “Everybody needs a fortune teller/telling you the very truth.” That’s some lame-ass songwriting. Of course, it didn’t really matter; the man knew that all he had to do to secure a hit was to drown the song in Foster-esque keyboards and do that annoying vocal thing that he does, where he increases his volume and then quickly cuts off the ends of words — y’know, “fire” becomes “fa-yuh,” or to be more specific, “fa-yuh.” And sure enough, the bastard got to #4 with this song, the lead-off track from One More Story, an album that would have been much better had it been titled One Last Story, I Promise. Apparently, this song was supposed to be used in the movie Big, but 20th Century Fox asked for a number of changes (maybe they wanted, I don’t know, better lyrics?) and Cetera refused. I’d love to tell you this was Cetera’s last appearance in the Top 10, but it wasn’t; his last appearance was in 1997, reaching #8 with his contribution to Az Yet’s cover of “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.”
6. Perfect World — Huey Lewis & the News (download)
“Perfect World” was the first single off of Small World, and the only single to reach the Top 10 — a disappointment for a group who saw most of their singles between 1983 and 1987 reach those heights. In addition, Small World was named the Worst Album of 1988 by Rolling Stone readers. Ouch. So why did it happen? I think I have the answer. Look at these covers.
Sports, released in 1983.
Fore!, released in 1986. Two News.
Small World, released in 1988.
No News on the cover = unsuccessful album. I’m sure of it.
I actually do remember buying this cassette shortly after its release and thinking, “This looks so…serious.” And the music contained therein just didn’t sound like “fun,” the way the previous albums did. None of the songs sounded like “Hip to be Square” or “Stuck With You” or even “Doing It All For My Baby.” Artistically sound? Sure, with maybe the exception of “Bobo Tempo” (if you haven’t heard it, be thankful). But less pop, and more jazz/reggae means less interest from the radio-listening public, unless you’re UB40 or something.
All this being said, “Perfect World” is a fine song. Any song that features the Tower of Power horns so prominently is tops in my book. It was written by Alex Call, who was the lead singer of Clover, Huey Lewis’ former band. Alex even wrote most of the horn parts, which is pretty impressive, considering it’d be easy for Tower of Power to come in and just piss all over ’em. The song reached #3, becoming the group’s last Top 10 hit. What a bummer. And I know I’m not the only one reading this who feels this way; Huey Lewis was voted innocent by a count of 300 to 71 in Rock Court.
If you have the chance to see Huey Lewis and the News live, go for it. The keys are lowered a little, and Huey’s not hitting all the notes he used to hit, but they still sound fantastic. Here’s the video for “Perfect World,” which shows that despite the serious album cover, they still know how to poke a little fun.
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5. Love Bites — Def Leppard
As I was listening to the end of this song on headphones the other day, I noticed some other words being spoken in addition to “If you’ve got love in your sights, watch out — love bites.” I looked it up and apparently it’s Mutt Lange responding with “Yes it does…bloody hell.” It seems, though, that a number of people are hearing “Jesus Christ of Nazareth…go to hell.’ I can see “go to hell.” But “Jesus Christ of Nazareth” is decidedly different from “Yes it does.” People will hear what people want to hear. And what I want to hear is a kick-ass prechorus, and I sure as hell got it on this track. Every good Def Leppard song (and many bad ones, I’m sure) have prechoruses. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit analyzing this prechorus. See, it’s a full, four-line prechorus the first and third time, but only a two-line prechorus the second time. It’s amazing I ever got married.
Last time I covered this song on CHART ATTACK!, I wound up listening to Hysteria on repeat for about a week. I need to go warn my wife it’s about to happen again. It’d be great if Def Leppard could return to this kind of stuff. Perhaps they should take the excellent advice Don Skwatzenschitz offered up in last week’s “Unsolicited Advice For…Def Leppard” column.
4. Simply Irresistible — Robert Palmer
Yes, it’s true that by the time “Simply Irresistible” came around, Robert Palmer had pretty much beaten the hot-girls-in-the-background concept to death. But two points in his defense: firstly, if you had waited 12 years for your first solo top ten hit (“Addicted to Love,” which also reached #1), you’d probably go right back to that well for your follow-up album to make sure it wasn’t just a fluke. And secondly, this video does improve upon the concept. The girls are in swimsuits now, for chrissakes! And they’re wearing goggles! Goggles!!
I watched this entire video, vaguely remembering that there was a smile by Robert Palmer in there somewhere. I know he wasn’t as serious as these videos made him out to be — not by a longshot — but he knew enough to work with the persona. And I couldn’t help but smile myself when he finally broke. Smart guy. And a phenomenal voice. And although his death will prevent him from reaching the Top 10 ever again (unless he’s used in a sample), he did have a few AC hits later in his career. I’d like to be wildly optimistic and think he’d eventually make it back to the charts if not for his death, but I think it’s more likely that he would have gone the Paul Carrack route, singing standards and releasing Christmas albums and writing bad songs for the Eagles.
That’s not to say that “Simply Irresistible” is a work of lyrical genius either, though. It’s simply a good groove. Palmer could have used any word ending in the “ble” sound. Try it. My favorite suggestion is “An undescended testicle.” Are you listening, Weird Al from 1988?
3. I’ll Always Love You — Taylor Dayne
I wonder if, when “I’ll Always Love You” came out, Lite-FM program directors around the country did a little jig or something, because they knew that they’d be able to play this song for years and years and years. It’s perfect for them — it has a sweet sentiment (“you’re my lover, my friend,” blah blah blah), no real instruments save for perhaps a saxophone — just smooth programmed synthesizers, and it’s 100% inoffensive. In fact, the only thing offensive about the song is Taylor Dayne.
And that’s not even the worst of it, people!
Raise your hand if you won’t be able to sleep tonight!
I’ve decided I’m not going to talk about this song anymore. For starters, I think that I’ve already spent more time writing about it than she did recording it. Also, I went over to Songfacts (one of my favorite sites) to see if there was anything significant I’d missed about the song, and saw the following:
This song won the 1987 Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year. At the same time, Taylor Dayne won the 1987 Grammy Award for Best New Artist, and Tell It To My Heart won the 1987 Grammy Award for Album Of The Year.
You know what’s interesting about that above paragraph? EVERY SINGLE WORD OF IT IS FALSE. The answer to each of those is, respectively, Barbra Streisand (for an album, not a song), “Higher Love,” “That’s What Friends Are For,” Bruce Hornsby & the Range, and Graceland. And yes, I looked at the 1988 and 1999 Grammy award winners as well. No Taylor Dayne. As far as I know, the only Grammy Taylor Dayne ever won was for Best Unintentionally Hilarious Use of Botox. So right now, according to Songfacts, Taylor Dayne is a musical genius. I hate the Internet sometimes.
2. Sweet Child O’ Mine — Guns N’ Roses
Firstly, I think it’s crucial to point out that the amazing solo by Slash was influenced by, among other songs, “Baker Street.” This will be the first and only time that Gerry Rafferty and Guns N’ Roses will be discussed in the same sentence.
It’s generally accepted that the lyrics to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” originated from a poem to Erin Everly, Axl’s then-girlfriend, and that the lick was a mindless noodle during a jam session between Slash and Izzy. I’m assuming some of the other details, which can be found in the detailed Wikipedia entry for this song, are the stuff of legend. (“The final dramatic breakdown was not added until [producer Spencer] Proffer suggested the band add one. They agreed, but weren’t sure what to do. Axl started saying to himself, ‘Where do we go? Where do we go now?’ Spencer suggested that he sing that, and ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ was born.”)
Personally, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this song. Despite how many times I’ve heard it on just about every radio station I can imagine, I’ll never turn it off. Looking back, I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t play it for my mother as proof that you can’t believe everything you read on the “Parental Advisory” sticker. (Yes, I’m still bitter that she wouldn’t let me have Appetite for Destruction.)
“Sweet Child” remains the only song in GN’R history to top the charts. And you just have to love 1988 so much when you see this song knocked off the #1 position by…
1. Don’t Worry, Be Happy — Bobby McFerrin (download)
I can’t force you to do this, but I think you should listen to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” loud. Or on headphones. I know, I know: you’ve spent the last 20 years trying to forget about this song, and I don’t blame you. It’s an earworm, and it absolutely sucks to hear when you’re in a bad mood. But don’t do it for the message of the song; do it to marvel at the brilliance of Bobby McFerrin and his seemingly three billion vocal tracks. Each one is so seamless that it’s easy to forget that there aren’t any other instruments — just the voice. The man has an amazing gift, and I guess it’s both a blessing and a curse that he reached the top of the charts with this song. He’s known as a one-hit wonder by many, but they might never have heard of him at all were it not for this single.
McFerrin wrote the song after seeing the phrase on a poster of the Indian sage Meher Baba. (You may know Meher Baba if you follow the Who at all; Pete Townshend has spoken and written numerous times of him, and he’s the partial inspiration behind “Baba O’Riley.”) He had been working on the song for some years, and finally finished it for inclusion on his album Simple Pleasures. It was both the song’s unique quality and its placement on the Cocktail soundtrack that brought it to the top of the charts. And of course, then there was the video. You probably feel the same way about the video as you do about the song: you saw it a million times on VH1 back in the day and don’t need to see it again. But watch it anyway. McFerrin does a credible job keeping up with Robin Williams and Bill Irwin, who is, for my money, one of the greatest physical comedians of our time. So yeah — annoying? Perhaps. But the song is the work of a truly talented dude. (Why do I feel like I’m going to get so much shit from you guys for this?)