A few weeks ago I was at a record show for a few hours flipping through thousands of $1 records. I fully admit that I am a nosy person — I like listening to conversations going on around me, and itâ€™s almost impossible to avoid them in this setting. I pick up some of the worst-looking albums you could possibly imagine, so I usually donâ€™t make fun of people for their purchasing choices, but sometimes itâ€™s inevitable. The best time to do this is when people are flipping through records and loudly talking to their friends or family like they’re experts on every artist, album, and song ever made. They seem to be trying to impress the seller or other seekers to the point where we somehow magically ignore the fact that Debbie Gibsonâ€™s debut is in their hands. This brings me to my first character. Weâ€™ll call him â€œThe Shrink.â€
The Shrink was probably in his mid-20s and was there with a buddy around the same age. The friend picked up Michael Boltonâ€™s The Hunger and held it up for show. The Shrink then went off on a tangent that I’ll attempt to re-create as much as possible here. He said, â€œIs that a greatest-hits album? If thatâ€™s a greatest-hits album you should put it back, because greatest-hits albums donâ€™t truly reflect where an artistâ€™s head is at the time, and thatâ€™s why you should be buying a â€˜real record.â€™ Why would you want just pieces of albums thrown together when your purpose should be to listen to the artistâ€™s mind-set in one period of time?â€
Of course I had to let out a little chuckle, not just because of the Shrink completely ripping the greatest-hits concept — which I clearly am not against — but because a harmless Michael Bolton record is what set him off. Iâ€™m pretty sure there were no signs given off that this was indeed a greatest-hits record, because if it was, wouldnâ€™t there be some sort of indication on the record sleeve?
But itâ€™s what happened in the next ten minutes or so that really got me. The Shrink continued to jabber on about random things until he said something that really got my attention. He said to his buddy, â€œI live for understanding the artist in his natural setting. Thatâ€™s why I have over 80 records.â€ Here I was crying from laughing so hard at his huge 80-piece record collection and talking about musicians like they’re chimpanzees when he threw out the final nugget and stated, â€œSo this is why Iâ€™m going to get 52nd Street instead of Glass Houses.â€ He put Glass Houses back and bought just that one copy of Billy Joelâ€™s 52nd Street for $1. Iâ€™m sorry, that to me is just ridiculous. For one, I didnâ€™t know anyone in America didnâ€™t already own both of those albums in some form, which most certainly can be found at every garage sale, consignment shop, and Goodwill across the world. And second, the simple fact that 52nd Street is what he picked up, after going on and on like heâ€™s the expert in musical psychology, was pure enjoyment for my eyes and ears.
Next week Iâ€™ll talk about Mr. Random, my other favorite character who also appeared at this show.
NEW MUSIC FOR THE COLLECTION:
Laurie Anderson, Strange Angels
The Dream, The Dream
Latin Rascals, Bach to the Future
Blue Oyster Cult, Imaginos
Blue Oyster Cult, Club Ninja
Only seven artists this week, as there are a few who each have a bunch of tracks. We continue looking at songs that peaked at #41 or lower on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the â€˜80s, with more â€œCâ€ artists below:
â€œCry Like a Babyâ€ — 1980, #44 (download)
â€œMistaken Identityâ€ — 1981, #60 (download)
â€œYou Make My Heart Beat Fasterâ€ — 1984, #54 (download)
â€œI Pretendâ€ — 1984, #74 (download)
â€œMake No Mistake, Heâ€™s Mineâ€ — 1984, #51 (download)
â€œInvitation to Danceâ€ — 1985, #68 (download)
â€œAbadabadangoâ€ — 1985, #67 (download)
â€œDivided Heartsâ€ — 1986, #79 (download)
Carnes had a nice run of 20 straight Hot 100 songs from 1978 to 1986, and her biggest hit, â€œBette Davis Eyes,â€ is considered the second-biggest song of the ’80s, resting at #1 for nine weeks in 1981. She charted 13 times after “Bette,” but with only moderate success — the highest she got was #15 on a few occasions, including “What About Me?,” her 1984 three-way with Kenny Rogers and James Ingram. Her eight songs here tie her with Bananarama for the most in this series so far, but she also had nine Top 40 hits in the ’80s as well, so she definitely was able to produce some good tracks. Most of these bottom feeders are pretty decent too — I mean, Iâ€™m never going to like a Barbra Streisand track, so her duet with Carnes on â€œMake No Mistake, Heâ€™s Mineâ€ is not a favorite, and I donâ€™t think “Yabba Dabba Doo Wango Tango,” or whatever that track is called, is especially interesting, but the rest could have, and probably should have, been bigger hits.
From the tail end of the Carpenters’ career, these songs came after Richardâ€™s treatment for an addiction to Quaaludes and just shortly before Karen passed away from complications due to anorexia. â€œ(Want You) Back in My Life Againâ€ isnâ€™t necessarily a bad track, but none of these really do much for me.
Paul Carrack is my second-favorite vocalist of the â€˜80s. Heâ€™s just got one of the smoothest pop voices and can belt a tune with the best of them. The dude was all over the place in the ’70s and ’80s, having been in Ace, Roxy Music, Squeeze, Nick Lowe & His Cowboy Outfit, and Mike + the Mechanics, in addition to being a session keyboardist for many other artists and having a pretty decent solo career as well. â€œWhen You Walk in the Roomâ€ is certainly not his shining moment, but â€œButton Off My Shirtâ€ was certainly good enough to chart higher than #91.
Itâ€™s hard to believe that the Cars never had a #1 song on the Hot 100. The highest they ever climbed was #3 with â€œDriveâ€ back in 1984. They did have ten songs in the Top 40, though, and even the three featured here that didnâ€™t make it are quite good. The hook in â€œSince Youâ€™re Goneâ€ just isnâ€™t catchy enough to have propelled a major hit; â€œStrap Me Inâ€ and â€œComing Up Youâ€ are the final two singles the Cars released, the latter sung by the late Benjamin Orr.
Cellarful of Noise
â€œSamantha (What You Gonna Do?)â€ — 1988, #69 (download)
Cellarful of Noise were Mark Avsec and Kevin Valentine, two members of Donnie Irisâ€™s backing band, the Cruisers. Iâ€™m a big fan of Iris, so this track is a bit disappointing for me. I donâ€™t like the vocals, so that kind of ruins the song for me right off the bat, but it really doesnâ€™t go anywhere musically either. Overall, it’s just boring.
â€œWalking Into Sunshineâ€ — 1981, #84 (download)
One of the things I love is discovering songs from the â€˜80s that have been sampled by hip-hop artists. And then of course it really bugs the crap out of me when I canâ€™t recall what song(s) used the sample. Like this one. The keys are completely familiar, and it sounds like something that’s been used in a hundred rap songs, but I canâ€™t name any of them, though LL Cool J sticks in my head. Maybe a version of â€œJingling Babyâ€?
Iâ€™m loving this week because of Paul Carrack, but even more so because my absolute favorite vocalist of the decade is Peter Cetera. To me, Chicagoâ€™s Greatest Hits 1982-1989 is the best greatest-hits package ever made, and a good half of that record is before Peter and the band parted ways. And who doesnâ€™t love “Glory of Loveâ€ from The Karate Kid Part II? His duet with Agnetha FÃ¤ltskog, â€œI Wasnâ€™t the One,â€ isnâ€™t very good, but both â€œBig Mistakeâ€ and â€œBest of Timesâ€ definitely follow that grand adult-contemporary sound that Chicago had throughout the decade.
Best song — Paul Carrack, â€œButton Off My Shirtâ€
Worst song — Carpenters, â€œBeechwood 4-5789â€