Last week I talked about “the Shrink,” the guy at the record show who thinks he knows everything about every artist that ever recorded. This week we move on to another one of my favorite characters: Mr. Random.

Mr. Random is the dude who comes into the twice-a-year record show with thousands of records in milk crates all around the floor and gets pissed off when the records aren’t in alphabetical order. I don’t expect everyone to be a hardcore collector like me, but it still makes me laugh when I see people get angry at randomness. Mr. Random was probably in his mid-40s or so and came in with his wife and two children. He immediately asked the seller, “Are these in any sort of order?” The seller told him that they were by genre only and that he was in the rock and pop section, with country, jazz, easy listening, etc., over on the far wall. After the seller walked away, Mr. Random started loudly complaining to his family: “How does he think anyone will buy any records if they aren’t in order?” Then he started flipping through the crates, you know, like ten records at a time, kind of looking in their general direction and feigning a bit of interest before walking away seemingly disgusted.

I really just wanted to answer his rhetorical question to his wife. “Who’s going to buy them? Well, pretty much everyone who comes here, sir, since you are clearly the only one that just stumbled across this record show. The rest of us are here because of the show, and I’m sure all of us don’t mind not having anything in order, and in fact most of us enjoy the fact that they are random because that’s part of the fun of the search.”

And yes, I completely realize that I sound like a record-show snob at this point, but I’m really not. Ninety-nine percent of the people that were at the record show were totally cool and, really, I couldn’t have cared less what they were doing or buying, but it’s the 1 percent that make for a good story.

David Hasselhoff, Lonely Is the Night
Atlantic Starr, Brilliance
Jethro Tull, Under Wraps
Jethro Tull, Rock Island

More “C” artists to come as we try to keep up with the quality of last week’s songs with 20 more from the bottom of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the ’80s.

Bill Champlin
“Tonight Tonight” — 1981, #55 (download)
“Sara” — 1982, #61 (download)

Peter Cetera was in the previous post, Chicago will be in the next one, and we have Bill Champlin this week. Man, they just have the letter “C” cornered, don’t they? A singer, songwriter, and keyboardist, these two songs were released pretty much coinciding with Champlin’s joining Chicago, and they certainly have his stamp on them. Slow to midtempo adult-contemporary tracks were his forte, as you can hear from this pair of songs, the length of the ’80s with Chicago, and other tracks he wrote or cowrote, like “After the Love Has Gone” for Earth, Wind & Fire.

“Paradise” — 1981, #80 (download)
“Hold Tight” — 1981, #89 (download)
“The Very Best in You” — 1982, #84 (download)

Change launched in 1980 with a Chic-ish disco sound. Through 1981 Change featured a young Luther Vandross, and although he was with the group for both “Paradise” and “Hold Tight,” he only sang lead on songs from the group’s 1980 debut album, The Glow of Love, due to contractual issues. James Robinson, a vocal clone of Vandross, took over vocals in ’82, and Change switched to R&B and funk, abandoning the disco sound it had become known for.

Tracy Chapman
“Talking ‘Bout a Revolution” — 1988, #75 (download)
“Baby Can I Hold You” — 1988, #48 (download)
“Crossroads” — 1989, #90 (download)

I never had a big problem with Tracy Chapman like I did with most female singers. I definitely like artists who are unique, and she has one of those unmistakably different voices. “Baby Can I Hold You” is the best of the three songs here, and I actually enjoy it more than the big hit off her debut, “Fast Car.” After winning the Best New Artist Grammy in 1989, she only had one other major hit, 1995’s “Give Me One Reason.”

Charlene with Stevie Wonder
“Used to Be” — 1982, #46 (download)

Even a blind man could see this was a piece of crap! Charlene is really known as a one-hit wonder for her song “I’ve Never Been to Me,” released in the late ’70s but a big hit in 1982. Signed to Motown, I guess they thought putting Stevie Wonder on her records would mean instant hits, but writing a decent song would’ve accomplished that task too.

Cheap Trick
“Everything Works If You Let It” — 1980, #44 (download)
“Stop This Game” — 1980, #48 (download)
“If You Want My Love” — 1982, #45 (download)
“She’s Tight” — 1982, #65 (download)
“Tonight It’s You” — 1985, #44 (download)
“Never Had a Lot to Lose” — 1989, #75 (download)

In my less-than-humble opinion, Cheap Trick is the most underrated band of the decade. I hear the best possible combo of rock, pop, and punk put forth on record, and I think a mess of today’s rock bands would agree with that assessment. Cheap Trick released 24 singles in the ‘80s, but only nine of them charted. In fact, they had to wait until 1988 to get their first big hits of the decade — “The Flame,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” and, to a lesser extent, “Ghost Town.” Cheap Trick certainly weren’t without their stinkers too, like the theme songs for the movies Spring Break and Up the Creek in 1984, but the majority of their songs were pretty damn awesome.

Chubby Checker
“Running” — 1982, #91 (download)

I have to admit that when I first heard this a few years back I was shocked to find out it was Chubby Checker singing. I know nothing from Checker other than “The Twist,” so to hear this type of rock music from him was quite startling. “Running” is definitely in the Bruce Springsteen vein, and after Gary U.S. Bonds restarted his career by adopting the Boss’s style, why shouldn’t Checker try the same thing? The one real good track from his brief reincarnation was “Harder Than Diamond,” which ended up on the Billboard rock chart.

Cheech & Chong
“Born in East L.A.” — 1985, #48 (download)

The first parody song to appear on Bottom Feeders — maybe the first comedy track as well (unless you consider “I Wish I Was Eighteen Again” by George Burns to be comedy) — Cheech & Chong broke up immediately after this. Richard “Cheech” Marin went on to work steadily in movies (he wrote, directed, and starred in 1987’s Born in East L.A.) and TV, peaking, of course, in 1992 with the Golden Girls spin-off The Golden Palace (also starring Don Cheadle). Tommy Chong presumably just continued to smoke the ganja.

Joe Chemay Band
“Proud” — 1981, #68 (download)

Of the more than 4,200 songs to hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the ‘80s, I would guess that there aren’t more than 50 that I couldn’t at least hum one bar or sing the chorus. This is one of them. Joe Chemay was a session bassist and background singer in the ‘70s; “Proud” and his group’s only album, The Riper and the Finer, are part of that west coast AOR sound of the early to mid-’80s. This song shows up on the west coast music website that seems to list 75 percent of the albums they lump into this genre as “classic west coast music albums” or “masterpieces,” of which 99 percent are clearly not. Joe Chemay is a “classic,” apparently. “Proud” isn’t a bad tune, but it’s no classic.

“Skin Deep” — 1988, #79 (download)

There are two things that as an adult I’m totally not ashamed to admit. The first is that “Skin Deep” really isn’t that bad. The second is that even at 13 years old I would have totally done 43-year-old Cher in the “If I Could Turn Back Time” video. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t have admitted that 20 years ago, but now I think it’s perfectly fine and, frankly, you would’ve totally done her too.

“I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” — 1984, #79 (download)

This was a cool track in its original form, written by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for Cherrelle, but perfected two years later, climbing to #2 for Robert Palmer. Back in this era, Jam and Lewis’s tracks were fresh and unique, as the production duo were still at least a decade away from me thinking that everything they put their name on sounded exactly the same.

Best song — Cheap Trick, “If You Want My Love”
Worst song — Charlene, “Used to Be”

Next week we cover a guitar legend and maybe the best sports song of all time.

About the Author

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.

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