You know what I get off on? The letter W!! Here are more songs from the bottom 60 percent of the Billboard Hot 100 chart during the 1980s.

Wet Wet Wet
”Wishing I Was Lucky” — 1988, #58 (download)

Wet Wet Wet, named after a line in a Scritti Politti song, have had much success on the UK charts since the ’80s, but were only able to manage this lone Hot 100 hit in the U.S. that decade (though they would touch down at #41 in 1994 with ”Love Is All Around,” from the Four Weddings and a Funeral soundtrack). I’ve never been a fan of “Wishing I Was Lucky” and therefore didn’t pay much attention to Wet Wet Wet in their heyday, and it still doesn’t do much for me as I listen to it now.

”Bad Boys” — 1983, #60 (download)
”Where Did Your Heart Go?” — 1986, #50 (download)

Man, did Wham! change over the course of a year. Their debut record, Fantastic (1983), was anything but, featuring a lot of hollow pseudo-funk tracks and a weird image — I mean, ”Bad Boys” doesn’t sound like something you’d hear from those rebels they’re talking about in the song; the visuals don’t quite match the music and lyrics. ”Young Guns (Go for It)” wasn’t a terrible track, but the majority of their debut is pretty lame.

But then of course there’s Make It Big (1984), album number two, which made George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, ahem, big. The damn thing spawned four singles, three of which went to #1. It’s a fantastic pop record and still holds up pretty well today.

Music From the Edge of Heaven (1986) wasn’t much of a departure from Make It Big, but it didn’t have any #1 hits (”I’m Your Man” was the biggest, peaking at #3). Overall it wasn’t quite as solid, though, with the fourth single, ”Where Did Your Heart Go?,” being pretty boring. For many years I had no idea it was a cover — the original belongs to Was (Not Was), off their self-titled 1981 debut.

What Is This?
”I’ll Be Around” — 1985, #62 (download)

A dumb-ass band name and middle-of-the-road Spinners cover is all secondary to the history of the band. Singer Alain Johannes started the band Anthym in the early 80s with Hillel Slovak, Jack Irons and Flea, who in 1987 would be three-quarters of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Anthym eventually changed their name to What Is This? and released two EP’s and one full-length with Slovak and Irons on board. The band split up in 1985 and Slovak and Irons concentrated on the Chili Peppers. In 1988 Slovak died of a Heroin overdose and Irons left the band because of it. Irons then teamed up with Johannes again to form the rock group Eleven. In ’95 he then went to drum in Pearl Jam. Johannes can now be seen as the silent non-publisized 4th member of Them Crooked Vultures. The biggest shocker of course is how three members of the Chili Peppers were in a band that sounds like this. Yikes.

When in Rome
”Heaven Knows” — 1989, #95 (download)

I’m not quite sure I even knew When in Rome had another charting single after ”The Promise.” Surprising too, since this is a decent track. The two singers of When In Rome started out in a band with Corinne Drewery who would leave in ’87 to form Swing Out Sister. The guys recruited a keyboardist to round out the trio and released just a lone self-titled disc in 1988.

The Whispers
”Tonight” — 1983, #84 (download)

The Whispers are an R&B band that I think of as ’70s artists though they really hit their commercial peak in the ’80s. They released their first album in 1970 and over the course of the decade had 16 hits on the R&B charts with five crossing over to the Hot 100 (1970’s ”Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong” being their best, going to #50) .

But then in late 1979, the Whispers and Solar records pulled off the ”career restart” releasing a self-titled record and funkin’ the guys up with ”And the Beat Goes On” which would go to #19 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B charts (if you forget the song, think ”Miami” by Will Smith). They actually had 17 R&B hits in the 80s and another #1 with ”Rock Steady” in 1987 which gave them their only Top 10 hit on the Hot 100 (#7). It was the first charting song written by soon-t0-be superstar Babyface.  It’s not often a band has their biggest hit 17 years after their first single but give credit to the Whispers for keepin’ on keepin’ on.

”Right Next to Me” — 1989, #60 (download)

Wet Wet Wet, What Is This?, and now Whistle — it’s the week of shitty band names.

Whistle was a hip-hop group that threw in ballads like this between their dance songs, making their albums quite disjointed. ”Right Next to Me” was the first of two songs to chart in the Hot 100, the other being a cover of Heatwave’s ”Always and Forever.” I don’t particularly care for “Right Next to Me,” but it reminds me of two other songs: the first 25 seconds sound just like Michael Jackson’s ”I Just Can’t Stop Loving You,” and I swear the music in the chorus was lifted in the coming years for a P.M. Dawn song (though I’m too lazy to go back and figure out which one — anyone?).

Maurice White
”Stand by Me” — 1985, #50 (download)
”I Need You” — 1986, #95 (download)

Both of these tracks are from Earth, Wind & Fire member Maurice White’s self-titled 1985 solo album. One of my biggest complaints about cover songs is most artists take no chances. They simply record a note-for-note clone of the original. So in that aspect I give White credit for switching up the rhythm and making ”Stand by Me” his own. Unfortunately, it might be the worst version I’ve ever heard of it. (Boy, that sounds like a Simon Cowell comment, doesn’t it?) And ”I Need You” ain’t no gem either. A lot of people think this is an underrated record. Not I.

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Tony Joe White
”I Get Off on It” — 1980, #79 (download)

If you listen to just one song here, make it this one. The only way to convey the awesomeness of this song is to reprint the lyrics:

I met a pretty girl who really turned me on
But we didn’t make it very far
It’s hard to make love to a lady
When she’s munching on a candy bar
And I couldn’t help but say
Ain’t no time for Milky Way
And she goes, ‘I get off on it, I get off on it
Give me just a little slack
Can’t you see I’m into snacks, yeah
I get off on it’

There was a pretty thing in Los Angeles
But she was a man in women’s clothes
I told him he was dressing kind of dangerous
Cause how’s a fool like me gonna know?
And I couldn’t help but say
‘Why you wanna dress that way?’
And he goes, ‘I get off on it, I get off on it, yeah
It ain’t no sweat off your nose
I just dig them ladies’ clothes, ha-ha
Ooh, I get off on it’

A good old boy, he met a girl and liked her
But she didn’t know what he was all about
‘Cause when he filled his lip with tobacco
Well, don’t you know it nearly grossed her out
And she couldn’t help but say
‘Why you wanna do that way?’
And he goes, ‘I get off on it, hey, I get off on it
Now I don’t mean to make you flip
But don’t be messing with my dip
I get off on it’

There is a dude up in New York City
And he wears nothing but a raincoat when he walks around
He comes upon a lady looking pretty
And he gives her just a glimpse from the waist down
And she couldn’t help but say
‘Why you wanna do that way?’
And he goes, ‘I get off on it uh, I get off on it
Please don’t you let it bring you down
But I just got to flash it ’round’

There was a girl I had a lot of fun with
‘Til she asked me to her house one night
And when she told me she was into bondage
Well, don’t you know that nearly blew my mind
And I couldn’t help but say
‘Why you wanna be that way?’
And she goes, ‘I get off on it, uh, I get off on it
Can’t you see I’m into pain
Please let me do my thing’

White Lion
”Tell Me” — 1988, #58 (download)
”Little Fighter” — 1989, #52 (download)
”Radar Love” — 1989, #59 (download)

I’ve always been a hair-metal fan, but White Lion never floated my boat. It was partially because I never thought White Lion wrote the catchy riffs to stick with their peers but mainly because I can’t stand Mike Tramp’s voice. However, they got some respect in the metal world and generally do not invoke the smirks and flat out laughter when people mention other hair-metal bands like Poison or Winger. ”Little Fighter” actually shows up on my Worst 80 Songs of the 80s list but that may need a little updating as listening to these three again, I dislike ”Tell Me” way more. It sounds kind of funny, but White Lion is one of the few bands that I’m willing to admit I might not have the correct opinion of. But it is what it is. Maybe one day I’ll pick up Pride and love it, but that won’t come anytime soon.

”Fool for Your Loving” — 1980, #53 (download)
”Still of the Night” — 1987, #79 (download)
”Give Me All Your Love” — 1988, #48 (download)

And if I hate White Lion, I should probably hate Whitesnake even more. For some reason I don’t though. They weren’t the most creative band in the world and they certainly liked the contraction ”an’” (”Ready an’ Willing”, ”Come an’ Get It”, ”Hit an’ Run”, ”Rough an’ Ready” ”Love an’ Affection”, ”Saints an Sinners” ”Cheap an’ Nasty” all sound like Steven Segal movie titles). And of course when they went all slick in 1987 with their self-titled album they also started just rerecording their old material. Both ”Crying in the Rain” and ”Here I Go Again” are re-dos as well as ”Fool For Your Loving” being remade for their 1989 record Slip of the Tongue. Maybe David Coverdale was a genius though as the latter two were huge hits and only the original ”Fool For Your Loving” charted before they went commercial.

I actually feel kind of bad for the band that recorded the self-titled record in ’87. Guitarist John Sykes, bassist Neil Murray and drummer Ashley Dunbar laid down the tracks and then David Coverdale shit-canned them all before the record blew up, replacing them with the all-star lineup of Adrian Vandenberg, Vivian Campbell, Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge. Karma bit him in the ass though as the star power would clash, Vandenberg injured his wrist (he was then replaced by Steve Vai) and Whitesnake would only get out one more record before dissolving.

The Who
”Don’t Let Go the Coat” — 1981, #84 (download)
”Eminence Front” — 1982, #68 (download)

There’s a lot of people that seem to think that the Who’s two studio albums in the 80s, Face Dances and It’s Hard, are either crap or irrelevant since the band was at the tail end of their run, but I think both are excellent listens. Face Dances with ”You Better You Bet” and ”Don’t Let Go the Coat” is the better of the two, but It’s Hard produced the amazing ”Eminence Front” (who doesn’t recognize those keys and guitar riffs now?) and ”Athena” of which I just love the lyric, ”My heart felt like a shattered glass in an acid bath.”

”Friends” — 1985, #87 (download)
”Five Minutes of Funk” — 1985, #87 (download)

Whodini is often spoke of as influential for many rap groups, but chart wise they didn’t have a whole lot of success. Their most well known song, ”Freaks Come Out At Night” didn’t even cross over to the Hot 100. ”Five Minutes of Funk” and ”Friends” was a double A-side single with a lot of radio stations playing one or the other, not necessarily the entire 10 minutes. ”Friends” has been sampled in quite a few rap songs, most notably ”If I Ruled the World” by Nas.

Best song: Tony Joe White, ”I Get Off on It”
Worst song: Maurice White, ”Stand by Me”

Karyn White (4)

Next week we go-go-go for it, and it’s time for Bruno.

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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