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Something totally awesome is happening over at Beck’s Record Club, where the popular alt-rock artist gathers some buddies together and records a “cover” of an entire album in one day, then releases a track each week until the album is complete. In what I must say is an awesome move, he’s covering INXS’s Kick this time around; “Guns in the Sky” was posted last week. I can’t wait to hear the rest.
Not only that, but Usher’s new album, Raymond v Raymond, was released yesterday, and holy shnikes, an interpolation of King Benny Mardones‘s “Into the Night” is the closing track. The stars are in alignment this week.
And now, back to the Bottom Feeders! It’s the second week of artists whose names begin with the letter W, as we take a look at more songs from the bottom three-fifths of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the 1980s.
“Big Talk” — 1989, #93 (download)
From the tiny town of Hollywood, California, came Warrant, who burst on the hair-metal scene big time in 1989 with a pretty excellent record, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich. “Down Boys” went to #27 and then “Heaven” went to #2 before the album’s third single, “Big Talk,” stalled at #93. DRFSR is really the only good album the band ever made — it’s filled with catchy hooks and harmonies everyone can sing along with. In 1990 Warrant followed it up with Cherry Pie, on which only the title track and the single “I Saw Red” were any good.
Hey, hey, hey! It’s Friday, and you know what that (sometimes) means! That’s right, it’s time to take a look at another Billboard Top 10 from ages past, and today we’re heading back a full 20 years to see what the charts were like on May 13, 1989!
10. Wind Beneath My Wings — Bette Midler Amazon iTunes
9. Patience — Guns n’ Roses Amazon iTunes
8. Rock On — Michael Damian Amazon iTunes
7. Second Chance — 38 Special Amazon iTunes
6. After All — Cher and Peter Cetera Amazon iTunes
5. Soldier of Love — Donny Osmond Amazon iTunes
4. Forever Your Girl — Paula Abdul Amazon iTunes
3. Real Love — Jody Watley Amazon iTunes
2. Like a Prayer — Madonna Amazon iTunes
1. I’ll Be There for You — Bon Jovi Amazon iTunes
10. Wind Beneath My Wings — Bette Midler
I try to stay away from directly quoting Wikipedia entries, but this sentence is just perfect: “Because of the song’s soaring imagery and the extreme earnestness of Midler’s iconic performance, the song has become ripe for parody.” I mean, that’s totally it, isn’t it? It doesn’t really get any more earnest than this, unless you count “From a Distance,” which was totally Midler’s (successful) attempt to repeat her newfound success as an inspirational singer. Midler didn’t actually care for the song when she first heard it — she was convinced to do it by Marc Shaiman, her long-time musical director (as well as the genius behind the songs in the Broadway version of Hairspray and a million other movies, including South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and Team America: World Police). The song won Grammy awards for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year, but strangely lost the Earworm of the Year award to “Love Shack.”
Although the song will always be tied to Bette Midler, she was far from the first person to record it. The song was written in 1982 by Jeff Silbar and Larry Henley, and was first rejected by Kenny Rogers and Barry Manilow. (When Barry Manilow is turning down your sappy song, you know you’re in trouble.) Artists who recorded the song before Midler include Roger Whittaker, Sheena Easton, Lou Rawls, Lee Greenwood, B.J. Thomas, Gladys Knight (her version was called “Hero”) and Gary Morris, who recorded a country version, much to the chagrin of Silbar and Henley…until it won Song of the Year at the Country Music Awards. Apparently when Morris performs it, he often says “Bette is free to sing this however she wants, but personally, I think she butchered it.” Har!
My favorite version, however, is the duet between Midler and Krusty.
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9. Patience — Guns n’ Roses
Written by Izzy Stradlin, “Patience” peaked at #4 on the charts and, recorded in a single session with three acoustic guitars, clearly showed a different side of the band. It very clearly said to audiences that Guns n’ Roses wasn’t just happy getting with teenage girls backstage. They wanted their mothers, too. Even my Lionel Richie-lovin’ mother liked this song…until the end when Axl started that “awful screaming” (which is kind of my favorite part of the song). By the way, I wish people would take that specific vocal section into account before they decide to sing this song at karaoke. It’s always painful.
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8. Rock On — Michael Damian (download)
What’s sadder: the fact that I hadn’t heard “Rock On” before Damian’s version, or that I can immediately tell you that this was on the soundtrack to Dream a Little Dream, the movie starring Corey Feldman and Corey Haim? Both are pretty sad, don’t you think? I agree. (I’m sure Kelly Stitzel is with me on this one.)
You may be thinking what I’m thinking: Michael Damian, “Rock On,” total one-hit wonder, right? Actually, it turns out that he’s had two other hits in the Top 40, both in 1989: “Was It Nothing At All” made it all the way to #24, and “Cover of Love” reached #31. Damian had recorded “Rock On” a couple of years earlier in his garage with his two brothers, but it was rejected by most record labels. Dream a Little Dream director Mark Rocco asked Damian’s brothers if they could write some music for the soundtrack, and they brought him “Rock On.” The track reached #1 in early June and surpassed the original, a #5 for David Essex in ’74.
Apart from “Rock On,” Damian’s had numerous successes: he played a lead role on The Young and the Restless for 18 years, appeared in the revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (and earned a Grammy nomination), and even won the BMI Songwriting Award for “Was It Nothing At All.” Furthermore, he’s directed two award-winning independent films! So there’s no mocking Damian here, folks. This guy hasn’t really done anything to…aw, Jesus. Wait a second.
A TOUCH OF SHALAMAR
Singer, songwriter, and producer Jody Watley first boogied her way to fame at the age of 14 as a dancer on the legendary music program Soul Train. In 1976 the group Shalamar was created by Soul Train‘s booking agent, Dick Griffey, and R&B producer Simon Soussan. After a group of session musicians recorded the original hit “Uptown Festival” in 1977, Jody and her male counterparts took over as the official version of the group. For seven years Shalamar was a solid-gold hit machine, spinning off a string of disco, soul, and funk classics.
The group’s longest-lasting and most popular lineup consisted of Jody and singers Howard Hewett and Jeffrey Daniels: their success began when they signed with SOLAR Records and joined forces with producer Leon Sylvers III. Shalamar’s run of chart success kicked off with 1979’s “Take That to the Bank,” which reached #20 on the UK pop chart. Numerous pop and R&B hits followed, including “A Night to Remember” (#5 pop in the UK), “This Is for the Lover in You,” and “Friends,” and 1980’s million-selling smash hit “The Second Time Around” soared all the way to #1 on the U.S. disco and R&B charts and #8 on the pop chart. The album Friends achieved platinum status in 1982 by crossing over and reaching fans of pop, disco, and soul.
Shalamar kept the dance floor full through the early ’80s. However, problems behind the scenes with their record label led Jody and Jeffrey to dance their way out of the group by 1982; it was a new version of the group that recorded the hit dance groove “Dancing in the Sheets” for the Footloose soundtrack album in 1984. Meanwhile, Jody found her way to London and began recording demos with the Art of Noise before being asked by Bob Geldof to appear on Band Aid’s 1984 charity record “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” She was soon ready to walk the runway to her own solo career. Hasta la vista, Shalamar!