Every now and then I like to talk about what I have deemed “inappropriate ghetto moments.” These moments occur when I have the windows open in my car, the stereo turned up really loud (there isn’t any other volume), and some really bad song is playing as I’m driving through the ghetto.

Now, this doesn’t happen often. Most of the time I drive straight home from work and I don’t pass through the ghetto at all. But on days where I stop to get some food on the way home, I have to take the long way back and, well, there goes the neighborhood. We’re definitely talking a lot of 40 oz. bottles of fine malt liquor, one or two crack whores, and maybe someone starting a fight outside of the Fried Chicken Shack. Oh, and the homeless man with the broken right leg. Yet even with this sunny description of the area, my fat belly often yearns for a double cheeseburger from some grease pit, so I risk it.

Anyway, the story is not about the food I eat but rather the songs coming out of my speakers. The first time I ever spoke about “inappropriate ghetto moments” came as I was riding down the street and a group of thugs were stollin’ along the sidewalk while I was playing El DeBarge’s “Who’s Johnny.” (Yes, I realize this song comes up all the time in my posts. I swear I listen to it way more than anyone should.) Another time was a 12-inch remix of “Electric Youth” by Debbie Gibson. And it usually doesn’t hit me right away either. After a half dozen people give me weird looks, it’s only then do I realize the reason and stop singing along.

So how do I top Debbie Gibson, you ask? Well, I think I did last week. I had four dudes walking down the yellow line in the middle of the street as I pulled up blasting the very beginning of “Ears of Tin” by Jethro Tull, off their Rock Island record. If you don’t know this song, it starts off with a fierce flute passage (typical), and of course nothing says “I’m a big pussy, please carjack me” like Riverdance-sounding bullshit bumpin’ outta da hooptie. And this time I was going through the ghetto for nothing more than a sweet tea — if I’m going to die it’d better not be while listening to Jethro Tull and sipping sweet tea. That’s far less cool than my plan of dying when I’m 90 during an orgy with barely legal teens after realizing my Levitra-induced erection has lasted more than the four hours they warned me about on the commercial. This, of course, only holds true if they don’t create some kind of bionic penis in the next 60 years. If they do, then maybe death by Tull will have to do.

Blue Magic, From Out of the Blue
Cheri, Love Stew
Isaac Hayes, And Once Again
Loose Ends, Zagora
Menudo, Reaching Out
Motivation, Crazy Daze
Pleasure, Give It Up

Hey, more “C” artists this week. Gotta love those Billboard Hot 100 bottom feeders!

Neneh Cherry
“Heart” — 1989, #73 (download)

Cherry had a better career in Europe than in the U.S., where she really didn’t do anything much after her Raw Like Sushi debut album in 1989. “Buffalo Stance” is a track that I don’t hear much anymore, probably because it’s not exactly supermarket background music, but it really sounded unique back in ’89; Cherry’s ability to both rap and sing well made it for me. “Heart” showcases both those sides as well, and while the song is a bit more straightforward and probably a little less interesting than “Buffalo Stance,” it’s still quite awesome.

Cherry is now a grandmother at the young age of 44, and in an odd band called CirKus with her husband.

“Rebels Are We” — 1980, #61 (download)
“Real People” — 1980, #79 (download)
“Chip Off the Old Block” — 1980, #79 (download)
“Soup for One” — 1982, #80 (download)

Hands down, Chic were the best disco band ever and also have the best disco song ever made in “Le Freak.” Could someone convince me that the Bee Gees were better? Maybe, but while I enjoy the Bee Gees, I actually go back and actively dig out Chic records to enjoy. Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were brilliant musicians and producers and paved the way for so much in the world of music. You can track hip-hop back to Chic as “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang borrowed heavily from “Good Times.” You can hear the Chic influence in Blondie and Sister Sledge as well as the amazing Diana LP from Diana Ross. Nile Rodgers had a hand in producing Bowie’s Let’s Dance as well as Madonna’s Like a Virgin. Edwards worked with Duran Duran and Robert Palmer and of course I’m only touching the surface here. The music of Chic and these two guys in particular is what makes me love being a fan of ‘80s music.

Now that I’m done kissing Chic’s ass, we got some songs to talk about. “Rebels Are We” is a great track, but the gems are the first double A-side that we have in Bottom Feeders with “Real People” and “Chip Off the Old Block.” I just can’t help but to get up and shake my rump to both of these. Either way, I’d be happy to listen to any of these four in a continual loop.

“Thunder and Lightning” — 1980, #56 (download)
“What You’re Missing” — 1983, #81 (download)
“25 or 6 to 4” — 1986, #48 (download)
“Niagara Falls” — 1987, #91 (download)
“We Can Last Forever” — 1989, #55 (download)

I’m sure there are those hardcore fans of Chicago who think the veteran band totally went to shit once David Foster was brought on board with Chicago 16 in 1982, or in the post-Peter Cetera era starting in ’86, and I’m sure there are other fans who were turned onto Chicago by their ’80s hits and really either don’t like the earlier work or don’t know a whole lot of it. I’m right in the middle, I guess, since I enjoy their ‘70s output and also think their change of style in the ‘80s was a great move. You can hear that shift in sound within these five songs if you listen to “Thunder and Lightning” followed by any of the other four. “Niagara Falls” is the best of the five here, and I’d really enjoy “25 or 6 to 4” if it didn’t pale in comparison to their original 1970 version.

Chicago Bears Shufflin’ Crew
“The Super Bowl Shuffle” — 1986, #41 (download)

So I mentioned in the tease last week that this may be the greatest charting sports song ever. That statement was probably made after the whiskey really kicked in. Though there aren’t too many hit songs with sports themes, at least Kurtis Blow’s “Basketball” is better than this.

It’s hard to even pinpoint which Bears player is the worst of the rappers here. Free safety Gary Fencik is terrible, but QB Jim McMahon is worse. However, linebacker Otis Wilson is actually kind of okay. I think the most egregious moment of the entire song however is when McMahon’s backup QB, Steve Fuller, is talking shit after starting only two games. Granted, they were 44-0 and 36-0 blowouts, but still — tough to run your mouth after two starts. All in fun, though … all in fun.

Toni Childs
“Don’t Walk Away” — 1988, #72 (download)

Strange how music works sometimes. A native Californian, Childs has just this one hit in the U.S. but garnered six hits and a pretty decent career in New Zealand.

“Whatcha Gonna Do” — 1982, #41 (download)

What a terrible name for a band. Up until recently, I didn’t realize Chilliwack is the name of a city in their native British Columbia, but it doesn’t make it any better now that I know the origin. The song itself is a nice slab of rock, so I guess I can overlook the name.

“Run to Paradise” — 1989, #80 (download)

Australia’s Choirboys released their debut record in 1983 but didn’t have a follow-up until ’88, with their album Big Bad Noise, which “Run to Paradise” comes from. While the Choirboys never achieved much success, this album is excellent and definitely worth a cutout-bin purchase if you see it.

Chris Christian with Amy Holland
“Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing/You’re All I Need to Get By” — 1982, #88 (download)

Chris Christian is better known as a songwriter and a producer than an artist but has apparently released at least 16 albums. I’ve only heard the self-titled record this mash-up comes from and a religious album that followed it called Let the Music Start — but I can only also assume that the majority of them are similar light-rock schlock since he wrote for Dionne Warwick and the Carpenters, or Christian records since he wrote for Amy Grant.

Chunky A
“Owwww!” — 1989, #77 (download)

Chunky A was Arsenio Hall in a fat suit, and for quite a while most people didn’t even realize it. Good disguise, apparently, but it might just have been better for him to market this with his name on it. This parody of Cameo’s “Word Up” was cool for about a minute before I realized it just wasn’t funny. If you’re going to do this sort of thing, you need to do it right. Make sure the lyrics are funny and use the same music as the original song. “Weird Al” Yankovic had already perfected this genre; “Owwww!” feels so wrong compared to the hilarity that ensued when you listened to a Yankovic record.

“Somebody Save Me” — 1987, #66 (download)
“Gypsy Road” — 1989, #51 (download)

I really liked Cinderella. I don’t know if this was because I grew up in their hometown of Philadelphia and thus heard them every three seconds, or simply because they were one of the better glam bands of the era. Cinderella hit the ground running, debuting in 1986 with the Night Songs album and touring with Poison and Bon Jovi, so they got a lot of exposure very quickly. Their 1988 record, Long Cold Winter, was a total blast, and “Gypsy Road” is a kickass song.

Eric Clapton
“Blues Power” — 1980, #76 (download)
“Another Ticket” — 1981, #78 (download)
“See What Love Can Do” — 1985, #89 (download)
“Pretending” — 1989, #55 (download)

Clapton, baby, yeah! One of the greatest blues guitarists of all time, it’s hard to deny him the credit he deserves. A lot of people think he tailed off in the ‘80s, and if you base it completely on hit songs, then sure, I can understand the logic. But he had some solid albums, including the excellent pop record Money and Cigarettes from 1983, featuring one of my favorite Clapton songs, “I’ve Got a Rock n’ Roll Heart,” and the underrated Journeyman from 1989. Let’s not forget what may be the best shoulda-been song of the entire decade — the noncharting “It’s in the Way That You Use It,” from the film The Color of Money and on the album August.

I’d be very curious somewhere around the year 2028 to look back and see if John Mayer turned out to be the Clapton of our generation. I don’t particularly like his music, but every time I see him playing the blues with a cigarette in his mouth, all I can think of is Slowhand himself.

Best song — Chic, “Chip Off the Old Block”
Worst song — Chunky A, “Owwww!”

Next week, more from the letter “C.”

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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