We’re almost in triple digits, but first we have to get through some more artists whose names begin with the letter W. Enjoy more tracks that failed to crack the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the 1980s.
After leaving the Go-Go’s in 1984 Jane Wiedlin released two solo albums in the decade, 1985’s Jane Wiedlin and 1988’s Fur. The self-titled record is probably the best solo recording from any member of the Go-Go’s, though your own opinion of it will depend on how much you can tolerate Wiedlin’s almost kiddielike voice. Fur was almost synth-pop and way too slick and overproduced, but it did yield her best solo song, “Rush Hour.”
“Fire With Fire” — 1986, #71 (download)
For the first time in a long time, I got to Wild Blue’s entry and was completely unaware what this song was. “Fire With Fire” comes off their album No More Jinx, which I do own, but man, this clearly didn’t make much of an impression on me if I didn’t even remotely recognize the artist or the song. “Fire With Fire” was the theme song of the 1986 movie of the same name featuring Virginia Madsen and Craig Sheffer, but I’m not sure if a soundtrack was ever officially released.
Eugene Wilde was a member of a few groups in the ‘70s, including TTF for a brief period, going by his birth name, Ron Broomfield. But then something weird happen, and I want to quote the brilliant writing of whoever wrote the following on Wikipedia: “He changed his name after seeing an advertisement in a newspaper for a nightclub which he had gone to the night before. He had sex with a hooker and then decided to call it the Wilde Flowers of Sex.” Ha. There are just so many things wrong with those two sentences.
Anyway, both of these songs went to #1 on the R&B chart, and the hooker lover says he wrote “Gotta Get You Home Tonight,” but damn if that ain’t Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” right down to the opening “Oooh, baby.” C’mon now.
Kim Wilde was all over the map in the ‘80s, going from new wave to rock to slick pop, and, not surprisingly, as she went from college-rock darling with “Kids in America” to commercial star with “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” her quality slowly declined.
Most of the songs up until 1986’s Another Step were written by her family, namely Ricki and Marty Wilde. Outside writers were brought in for a lot of the tracks on Another Step contributing to her slicked up sound. However, she reverted back to her family on 1988’s Close which yielded her final Hot 100 hit in “You Came.”
She’s had a much bigger career in her native England as she had hits through 1996. In 2006 she put out a new record, featuring dance remakes of her hits. And she still looks pretty damn good though she had to have some work done. I’ve seen pictures of her looking pretty old and others where she could be mistaken for Jenna Jameson. The picture here, though — ooh la la! She’s also a champion gardener apparently. That does nothing for me though.
“Bouncin’ Off the Walls” — 1984, #52 (download)
“Bouncin’ Off the Walls” was the third and final hit for Matthew Wilder. It was the title track from his final album in 1984 before concentrating on producing instead. He shows up now and again, mostly producing pop music and has written and produced stuff for No Doubt, Kelly Clarkson and Christina Aguilera among many others. He was nominated for an Oscar in 1998 for his work on the movie Mulan.
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“Talk to Myself” — 1989, #49 (download)
A small player in the new jack swing era, this was Williams’s first of three songs to hit the Hot 100. He’s worked in theater a bit and even appeared in New Jack City in 1991. Williams is the godson of Ella Fitzgerald and the cousin of Al B. Sure!
Deniece Williams was a singer with Stevie Wonder before she went solo in 1976. She’s had quite a few hit duets with Johnny Mathis over the course of the ‘70s and early ‘80s but her peak was between 1982 and 1984 with her top 10 hit, “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle” and #1 smash from Footloose, “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.” Just like so many other female R&B artists in the decade, her music got more upbeat and poppy as the decade went on leading to “I Can’t Wait” off her 11th record, As Good as It Gets. It’s a really good song in an otherwise uneventful period of her career.
Miss America, actress on Ugly Betty and on stage, and a truly good singer, Vanessa Williams really is the entire package. Her debut album, The Right Stuff, was released in 1988 and produced three singles — the two above and the #8 hit “Dreamin’.” Her biggest success, though, was with The Comfort Zone which followed the debut three years later and gave us “Save the Best for Last,” her only Billboard #1 hit. Vanessa continues to release music that critics like but radio doesn’t get on board with.
And right after Vanessa Williams is the perfect example of “not the entire package.” Someone convinced Bruce Willis it would be a good thing for him to record an album in 1987 while Moonlighting was hot, and he must have liked that idea as well. Sadly, The Return of Bruno sold quite well and produced a top-ten hit thanks to his cover of the Staple Singers’ “Respect Yourself.” The album was filled with R&B covers and one original. “Young Blood” is a Coasters song, and “Under the Boardwalk” is a total butchering of the classic Drifters tune.
Willis “The Guard” & Vigorish
“Merry Christmas in the NFL” — 1980, #82 (download)
Willis “The Guard” & Vigorish were not a one-hit wonder as it might seem. This was actually a pseudonym for Buckner & Garcia, whose “Pac-Man Fever” was the bigger hit. “Merry Christmas in the NFL” was written as Howard Cosell being Santa Claus, but Howard thought it was offensive, so very few radio stations played it. Kind of unbelievable what was offensive back in 1980.
When both “Dreamin’” and “Say It’s Gonna Rain” were released, Will to Power was essentially just Bob Rosenberg. The female vocals you hear are from Suzi Carr who would become a member of the band by the time their debut came out in late 1988. The first two singles were released before Will To Power released an album. They were placed on the self-titled debut along with “Fading Away” and the #1 hit, “Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley” (also known as “Freebaby”). “Freebaby” may have gotten them the name recognition they needed but the other three singles are the really good ones. Rosenberg was able to muster up one more Top 10 hit from the follow-up, Journey Home (1990), before dissolving the group.
And how about this picture? I know that’s Mr. Rosenberg in the middle and I believe that is Suzi Carr on the right and Dr. J on the left. In a million years I wouldn’t have imagined this music coming from that gang.
Best song: Will to Power, “Fading Away”
Worst song: Bruce Willis, “Under the Boardwalk”
TOP 40 ONLY
Don Williams (1)
Next week: we wreck it up world class, baby.