Welcome again to Bottom Feeders, your weekly look into songs that charted no higher than #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the 1980s. This should be a fun week, with more rock ‘n’ roll storytelling on our hands. Download and enjoy some songs, and while you’re at it, give me your Kiss story.
â€œShandiâ€ — 1980, #47 (download)
â€œA World Without Heroesâ€ — 1981, #56 (download)
â€œLick It Upâ€ — 1983, #66 (download)
â€œHeaven’s on Fireâ€ — 1984, #49 (download)
â€œTears Are Fallingâ€ — 1985, #51 (download)
â€œCrazy Crazy Nightsâ€ — 1987, #65 (download)
â€œReason to Liveâ€ — 1987, #64 (download)
â€œLet’s Put the X in Sexâ€ — 1989, #97 (download)
â€œHide Your Heartâ€ — 1989, #66 (download)
Kiss sets all kinds of marks as part of this series. Their nine tracks here are the most of any artist so far (there will be an artist with ten in the future) but the most remarkable thing is that these are the only nine tracks to chart in the decade. That kind of speaks to the remarkable career they’ve had: not one Top 40 song in the decade and yet the record company kept releasing singles. Now, granted, in most cases the songs you’re hearing were the first off an album and the second one didn’t chart, so the initial impact wasn’t exactly stellar.
As a rock ‘n’ roller at heart, I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never seen Kiss live. I’ll see them on some reunion tour at one point; I think I have to as a rock fan, but I have no need to pick up a kiss record from the ’80s. I’m sure most of you will say the same thing as it’s no secret that Kiss isnâ€™t exactly the greatest studio band in the world.
Let’s look at how the decade unfolded for Kiss. Unmasked was the first album of the decade and featured “Shandi” as the first single. It was the last with Peter Criss as the credited drummer though he didn’t actually play on the album. The album has more of a pop feel than the more popular Kiss records but hadn’t yet went to the pure ’80s sound.
Music From ‘The Elder’ was released in 1981 and ended up spawning probably the best single out of all the tracks here, but it was Kiss’s worst-selling album. It was also the last record they made with Ace Frehley until Psycho Circus.
Without touring, they came right back in 1982 with Creatures of the Night which is probably the strongest album of the decade for Kiss which of course means that it had no singles chart. The catchy as hell “I Love It Loud” comes from this album though and that became a concert staple. This was the first album with Vinnie Vincent on guitar.
1983’s Lick It Up actually sold some records for the band, going platinum which is the first time the band had done so since Unmasked. It had more to do with the fact that this was the point where Kiss decided to remove the makeup and show their faces, a fact that even Paul Stanley doesn’t dispute.
1984’s Animalize started the downward spiral of utter crap to come out of the Kiss camp. It’s not like any of the first four of the decade were great, but Kiss really started turning up the cheesiness of the ’80s with the record. “Heaven’s On Fire” was the lead single from this record, the only one featuring Mark St. John on guitar.
With 1985’s Asylum, Kiss established a new lineup that would take them through the rest of the decade, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Bruce Kulick on guitar and Eric Carr on drums.
1987’s Crazy Nights is the only album here that spawned two charting Hot 100 singles. Both the instantly catchy “Crazy Crazy Nights” and “Reason to Live” charted from the record even though it was the third album in a row to get shittier overall.
1988 saw the greatest-hits compilation, Smashes, Thrashes & Hits, which included only three of the previously released songs in this post and “Let’s Put the X the Sex,” a new song for the comp. As cheesy as a line like “Love’s like a muscle and you make me want to flex” is, that’s pretty much what Kiss is all about and the song is quite catchy if not completely mindless.
Finally, 1989 saw the release of Hot in the Shade, which gets my vote for worst Kiss album of the decade. It’s way too long at 15 tracks, and the big single, “Forever,” was cowritten by Michael fuckin’ Bolton. That’s a low, low point, even if the song did hit #8 in 1990.
Anyway, I also think we’ve set a record for most I’ve ever written about one band in this series. So now it’s your time to write (well, after you read the rest of the column). I’m sure there are a ton of great Kiss stories out there, so since I have none (yet), I want to hear yours.
Hereâ€™s two very different sounding songs. Kissing the Pinkâ€™s first record, Naked, was an eclectic mix of genres, in the end sounding like a mixed up college rock album. The lineup changed in 1985 and with that came a name shortening as well, to KTP (I suppose because Kissing the Pink sounded way too dirty — which was kind of the point). By the time they released their 1986 album One Step, they had moved towards the dancier sound you hear on â€œCertain Things Are Likelyâ€. The reality of the group is that they never really made anything worth a repeated listen though I know there are plenty of fans of the band out there.
â€œStop Doggin’ Me Aroundâ€ — 1983, #50 (download)
This is the type of song that I wouldnâ€™t normally enjoy, but this works well for some reason. Kliqueâ€™s only Hot 100 hit was this Jackie Wilson cover. Lead singer Howard Huntsberry actually went on to play Jackie Wilson in La Bamba.
Between Kiss, Kissing the Pink, the dirty birds in Klymaxx, and the dirty minds of the Knack coming right up, we really have a naughty little post this week, donâ€™t we? Itâ€™s hard to deny the funk of â€œMeeting in the Ladies Room.â€ There arenâ€™t too many female-fronted funk songs that make you get up and dance like this. As far as the other song goes, I really didnâ€™t need a song about menopause. Okay, so itâ€™s not about that, but the play on words there really is kind of weird, especially if you hear it that way between the moans and groans. Iâ€™m figuring this song was supposed to get guys all hot and bothered, but it ends up being a little cheesy instead.
Itâ€™s quite a shame the Knack could never reproduce the success of their debut album Get the Knack which is in my top 10 of all time. Itâ€™s a masterpiece of misogynistic power pop and while it probably would have been tough to meet the quality of that record again, the Knack never even got close. Their second record, â€¦ But the Little Girls Understand, tried, with the nasty little ditty â€œBaby Talks Dirty,â€ leading the way as the first single, but the album kind of fizzled among critical backlash that half their songs seemed to be about underage girls. Then the band had some internal issues and broke up after 1981â€™s Round Trip.
Ms. Knight and the Pips formed in 1953, released their first album in â€™61 and really kicked their career into gear around 1967. The â€˜80s did them in however as they ended their stellar run in 1989. However — and I canâ€™t say this for many groups — Iâ€™m not sure there was more than a slight hiccup along the way. Okay, so by the â€˜80s they didnâ€™t exactly sound like the same group that gave us â€œI Heard It Through the Grapevineâ€ or â€œMidnight Train to Georgia,â€ but their output in the decade was surprisingly good. They signed with Columbia Records in 1980, started teaming up with Ashford & Simpson, and made some very good records. Groundbreaking? Absolutely not. But much better than I would have expected. All four Columbia albums (1980â€™s About Love, 1981â€™s Touch, 1983â€™s Visions, and 1985â€™s Life) had some great little funky numbers on them and some really solid ballads as well. â€œLandlordâ€ might be my favorite Gladys Knight song of the decade. Ms. Knight had 15 songs hit the R&B charts in the decade, but only these two and â€œLove Overboardâ€ (1987, #13) hit the Hot 100.
â€œHeart Don’t Fail Me Nowâ€ — 1988, #59 (download)
Holly Knight has appeared quite a few times in this series and she’s not done yet.Â Not only is this solo track here, but weâ€™ve already seen her back in D when she was with Device and weâ€™ll see her later on in S with her group Spider. But sheâ€™s a pretty terrific songwriter too, having written â€œLove Is a Battlefieldâ€ and â€œInvincibleâ€ for Pat Benatar, â€œBetter Be Good to Meâ€ and â€œThe Bestâ€ for Tina Turner, â€œObsessionâ€ for Animotion, and many other huge hits. As far as this series goes, she wrote â€œPleasure and Painâ€ for the Divinyls as well as â€œHide Your Heartâ€ which appears just a few paragraphs above by Kiss. â€œHeart Donâ€™t Fail Me Nowâ€ is from her self-titled release in â€™88, and that unmistakable male voice you hear is none other than Daryl Hall.
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â€œMy Toot Tootâ€ — 1985, #50 (download)
And of course what would Bottom Feeders be if it ended on a decent song. Instead of course, we get â€œMy Toot Tootâ€. Written by Rockinâ€™ Sidney Simien a year earlier as a Zydeco tune which he took it to #19 on the country chart. Then everyone in the universe started recording it, in a billion different languages and it became quite the sensation. Give the original a listen as itâ€™s remarkably better than Jean Knightâ€™s version. Rockin’ Sidney’s going to put a whuppin’ on you.
Best song: Klymaxx, “Meeting in the Ladies Room”
Worst song: Kiss, “Tears Are Falling”
Next week weâ€™ll close out the letter K with a request (?) and a visit to the doctor.