I must go ahead and thank Annie Zaleski, who commented last week about the group Chromeo. I’m frankly bothered and disgusted that their 2007 album Fancy Footwork has been sitting out in the world for two years — it even got a deluxe release last year — and not one person in my life tuned me into maybe the funkiest ’80s throwback group ever.
I’m disgusted at myself as well for not finding them on my own. How a marvelous funky-ass release like this could fly under my radar, I don’t understand. I can’t let others slip by, so now I must ask if there are other bands out there like this. iTunes led me to MSTRKRFT, who I’d heard of, but they aren’t quite as ’80s as Chromeo. Who else should I know about who sounds like they’re making lost Oran “Juice” Jones records? As far as this week goes, after listening to the Chromeo record all I have to say is: Ray Parker Jr. sounds even better!
Here are more artists whose names begin with the letter P, as we check out songs that charted no higher than #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the 1980s.
â€œSlip Awayâ€ — 1981, #75 (download)
Iâ€™ve never really been a fan of Pablo Cruise but I have to admit that â€œSlip Awayâ€ is a pretty cool, laid back song. The intro to this track just makes me want to sit on my porch, close my eyes and enjoy a nice summer breeze. (I must be in a strangely good mood as shit like that last sentence doesnâ€™t usually come out of my mouth.)
â€œProve Me Wrongâ€ — 1986, #95 (download)
What an absolutely miserable song from the former lead singer and guitarist of Ambrosia. Iâ€™m not sure this song has an identity. It starts off with those super-fake sounding keys and drums and seems to want to be some kind of R&B number and then about a minute in it breaks into a riff that could be the little brother of Kenny Logginsâ€™ â€œDanger Zoneâ€ and then goes right back where it began. This track was actually the second cut on the White Nights soundtrack as well as featured on Packâ€™s first solo record, Anywhere You Go. The only thing I like David Pack for are the countless hours of enjoyment heâ€™s given me thanks to the cover of the Ambrosia album One Eighty, which regularly gets referenced in my house as â€œmen hugging each other.â€
Another heavily played song in my trivia days, â€œYo No Seâ€ is a song that I remember hearing a lot in â€™89 and â€™90 and yet possibly never heard the name of the group. I only remember the name now because of said trivia matches. The song itself is probably one of my favorites of the freestyle genre, though thatâ€™s a little tough to say since so many sounded exactly the same. Itâ€™s at least one that I remember quite vividly. However, I could have sat here for weeks and never given you the name of the Pajama Party follow up song. I donâ€™t ever remember hearing â€œOver and Overâ€ and yet that performed better on the charts than â€œYo No Se.â€
â€œCan We Still Be Friends?â€ — 1980, #52 (download)
â€œYou Are in My Systemâ€ — 1983, #78 (download)
â€œDiscipline of Loveâ€ — 1985, #82 (download)
â€œSweet Liesâ€ — 1988, #94 (download)
â€œTell Me Iâ€™m Not Dreamingâ€ — 1989, #60 (download)
Many of the artists I really love are favorites because they are different, unique and musical chameleons, which describes Robert Palmer pretty well. Hereâ€™s a guy that could go from sounding like Steely Dan into something super funky, flash a killer guitar riff and toss some jazz on top — all without sounding awkward at all. And Palmer liked to cover tracks soon after they were originally recorded (I guess for this reason you could argue against me calling him “unique”) and I honestly canâ€™t name one that isnâ€™t as good if not better than the original. I canâ€™t tell you how many times I looked at Robert Palmer liner notes thinking songs were his when they were covers. Thereâ€™s â€œCan We Still Be Friends?â€ (Todd Rundgren), â€œYou Are in My Systemâ€ (the System), â€œYou Can Have It (Take My Heart)â€ (Kool & the Gang), â€œI Didnâ€™t Mean to Turn You Onâ€ (Cherrelle), â€œEarly in the Morningâ€ (the Gap Band), â€œTell Me Iâ€™m Not Dreamingâ€ (Jermaine Jackson), â€œMercy Mercy Meâ€ (Marvin Gaye), and dozens more.
And letâ€™s not forget amazing originals like â€œSimply Irresistibleâ€ and â€œAddicted to Love.â€ Both 1984â€™s Riptide and 1988â€™s Heavy Nova are almost perfect from start to finish with Heavy Novaâ€™s eclectic vibe winning me over from the first note. â€œSweet Liesâ€ is an interesting one here — I donâ€™t ever recall hearing it back in the â€˜80s. It was the title track from a Treat Williams flick and released between Riptide and Heavy Nova. It probably could have fit on Riptide pretty well, though I have to admit itâ€™s a pretty boring song. Instead it appeared on Palmer’s first greatest-hits records, Addictions Vol. 1.
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â€œMy One Temptationâ€ — 1989, #97 (download)
Iâ€™m a little surprised that with a voice as good as hers and a sound that fit in perfectly in 1989 all Mica Paris could muster was one single reaching just #97 on the charts. Even a year later when Prince wrote a song called â€œIf I Love U 2 Niteâ€ that she recorded, that didnâ€™t give her the follow-up hit. And we all know that everything Prince touches is a huge hit. Um, yeah.
â€œLife Gets Betterâ€ — 1983, #94 (download)
Itâ€™s once again interesting to note how many different songs and artists that for the longest time I attributed to Elvis Costello. Not being very familiar with Parkerâ€™s music, I think one could do much worse than mistaking this for a Costello track.
Ray Parker Jr.
â€œI Donâ€™t Think That Man Should Sleep Aloneâ€ — 1987, #68 (download)
Ray Parker Jr. & Helen Terry
â€œOne Sunny Day/Dueling Bikesâ€ — 1986, #96 (download)
Ray Parker Jr. had quite a career for himself both solo and with his band Raydio. Unfortunately, heâ€™ll pretty much only ever be known for his theme to Ghostbusters. He had 11 other hits in the decade though including the excellent â€œThe Other Womanâ€ and â€œA Woman Needs Love.â€ And the guy wrote a lot of songs about sex — with his woman, with other women, with your woman. Didnâ€™t matter to him.
And then he got paid to write (sort of) a song about ghosts. And of course I say â€œsort ofâ€ since no matter what Parker chooses to say, the riff is totally Huey Lewisâ€™s â€œI Want a New Drug.â€ I do wonder how he got roped into doing this crap â€œOne Sunny Dayâ€ duet with Helen Terry for the Quicksilver soundtrack, though. Maybe someone had some actual pictures of Parker with the other woman.
I think a lot of people think of John Parr as a pop artist thanks to â€œSt. Elmoâ€™s Fire (Man in Motion),” but thatâ€™s really as much of a rock song as others in his catalog, it just so happens to David Foster all over it. Meanwhile, Parr has one of the best top-down, music-blaring songs of the ’80s in the #23 hit â€œNaughty Naughty.â€ Parr was actually pretty huge in â€™85 and â€™86 and make a nice mark for himself despite only two albums decade. â€œBlame It on the Radioâ€ is a pretty awesome song as well. Not so much for â€œLove Grammarâ€ which sounds half like a reject from his 1983 sessions writing for Meat Loaf.
Fred Parris & the Five Satins
â€œMemories of Days Gone Byâ€ — 1982, #71 (download)
Yikes. This is the sound of a band grasping at straws to get anything close to relevant. The Five Satins’ â€œIn the Still of the Nightâ€ is a brilliant song and so far away from this utter crap mash-up — well, okay, not that far away since â€œIn the Still of the Nightâ€ is part of the mix. Then again, you know I hate these types of songs and itâ€™s totally what Iâ€™d expect to see on a Five Satins PBS special.
Alan Parsons Project
â€œSnake Eyesâ€ — 1981, #67 (download)
â€œPsychobabbleâ€ — 1982, #57 (download)
â€œYou Donâ€™t Believeâ€ — 1983, #54 (download)
â€œLetâ€™s Talk About Meâ€ — 1985, #56 (download)
â€œDays Are Numbers (The Traveller)â€ — 1985, #71 (download)
â€œStereotomyâ€ — 1986, #82 (download)
I went back into the archives to see if there was a Popdose guide to the Alan Parsons Project, and there wasn’t (though I found one for Slayer, so that made up for it). Hereâ€™s a band that calls out for one (no, Jeff, I am not volunteering). Iâ€™ve definitely stated many times that prog rock is not my thing, but despite the fact that I never pick up an Alan Parsons record, he and the Project totally rule. Thereâ€™s not a bad cut here, and every album up to 1985â€™s Vulture Culture is excellent (and that has its moments as well). Itâ€™s hard to pick the best cut of the six songs here, as â€œSnake Eyesâ€ is pretty great especially for the story of the gambler who plays snake eyes and seven-eleven at craps praying to win â€“ when in reality the two bets cancel each other out. â€œYou Donâ€™t Believeâ€ is a great track as well off of Ammonia Avenue and a song that I somehow find myself headbanging to.
For my purposes I think itâ€™s good I got into them only after I started collecting in the early part of this decade. I canâ€™t imagine how difficult it was to pick out an Alan Parsons Project single on the radio since thereâ€™s a vast array of singers present on these songs. Chris Rainbow tackles both â€œSnake Eyesâ€ and â€œDays Are Numbers,â€ Lenny Zakatek takes on â€œYou Donâ€™t Believe,â€ Elmer Gantry sings on â€œPsychobabble,â€ the pipes of David Paton can be heard on â€œLetâ€™s Talk About Me,â€ and John Miles gets the vocals on â€œStereotomy.â€
Best song: Robert Palmer, â€œYou Are in My Systemâ€
Worst song: David Pack, â€œProve Me Wrongâ€
TOP 40 ONLY
Tommy Page (1); Kevin Paige (1)
Next week we get TKOâ€™d by Juggsy McJuggs.