This week we continue on with the letter C and visit some more tracks that hit the rock charts but never crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100 in the 1980s.
Tom Cochrane & Red Rider
“Lunatic Fringe” 1981, #11 (download)
“Power (Strength In Numbers)” 1983, #13 (download)
“Human Race” 1983, #11 (download)
“Crack the Sky (Breakaway)” 1983, #39 (download)
“Boy Inside the Man” 1986, #17 (download)
“The Untouchable One” 1986, #48 (download)
“Big League” 1988, #9 (download)
“Calling America” 1989, #42 (download)
I’m almost ashamed to say that the first time I heard Tom Cochrane is in 1992 with “Life is a Highway” – even more ashamed to say that I still think that album – Mad Mad World – is pretty damn awesome. But I was a dorky kid in the U.S. so I didn’t get much exposure to Canadian sensation Red Rider. What Mad Mad World did do however, is get me to go back and listen to the Red Rider catalog and while I didn’t find any albums that I thought were as good, there were bits and pieces that are totally awesome.
“Lunatic Fringe” is probably Red Rider’s most well known track though it wasn’t their biggest hit. I don’t know much about the Canadian charts, but if Wikipedia is correct, it didn’t even chart in Canada. It’s a great track though, used both in an episode of Miami Vice and in Vision Quest, off their album As Far As Siam.
“Power”, “Human Race” and “Crack the Sky” were all from their 1983 album Neruda, which was not their finest moment. “Power” is a decent enough track (is that faint quick guitar riff in the background the same as used for Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen”?) but “Human Race” and “Crack the Sky” are relatively generic. These three and “Lunatic Fringe” were all credited to Red Rider.
From this point on in the life of Red Rider they were known as Tom Cochrane and Red Rider – setting himself up nicely for the solo career. The 1986 self-titled record started the group on a much more pop oriented path and was not well received at all. It’s quite a contrast to previous albums and certainly was a good indication of what was to come. Personally, I really like “Boy Inside the Man” and especially “The Untouchable One” and they are a good representation of the sound of the album.
The final ‘80s album was called Victory Day and that’s the one I really don’t like. That’s like them trying to mix U2 with their original sound while still maintaining that pop feel from the previous record and it comes across as quite a mess. It did give them their biggest hit in the U.S. aside from “Young Thing, Wild Dreams” which was their only Hot 100 hit. But “Big League” which peaked at #9 really isn’t anything special and “Calling America” is actually pretty bad.
But then Tom went solo and gave us “Life Is A Highway” which the world is too embarrassed to admit they like – and the rest is history.
Another guy from the great white north, Bruce Cockburn is the type of artist I would have never gotten near during my peak ‘80s listening years. But then as I was collecting, I suddenly realized that this guy wrote some scathing tunes, but also some of the catchiest pop melodies of the decade. And I realized that the 1984 album Stealing Fire, is a brilliant work of art. “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” is the lead track on that album.
1989’s Big Circumstance was an album that I don’t revisit very often but does include the great “If a Tree Falls” so it’s worth a spin just for that at least.
God, what a voice this guy has. He’s never played a style of music that I could really get into but some of his songs are undeniably good. His cover of Randy Newman’s “You Can Leave Your Hat On” is fucking brilliant as is “Unchain My Heart” with Clarence Clemons on sax. “Two Wrongs” is a little too generic for Cocker but still isn’t a bad track.
“Carolyn’s Fingers” 1988, Modern Rock #2 (download)
I’m going to take a lot of shit for this, but I’m just going to come right out and say it – Elizabeth Frazier’s virtually indecipherable vocals – total crap. I know the Cocteau Twins are one of those beloved 4AD groups that shit gold according to their fans, but my lord, “Carolyn’s Fingers” is ridiculous. The music is gorgeous, don’t get me wrong and put together with some vocals that you could sing along to, might have made this a monster smash but as is, I just don’t get the attraction.
“My Baby” 1981, #32 (download)
Until I started collecting ‘80s music, Cold Chisel was one of those bands I had heard of but never actually heard. Led by Jimmy Barnes, these guys were huge in Australia, but never had the success in the U.S. like INXS or Midnight Oil did. A lot of people blame this on the hard partying lifestyle of the band including Barnes who I’ve heard was often so drunk on stage he could barely stand up. It’s kind of a shame too because they made some great music that the U.S. really never got to hear. I still have to go back and hear a lot more to get the full grasp of the group, but tell me “My Baby” ain’t great?
Lloyd Cole & the Commotions
“My Bag” 1988, Modern Rock #13 (download)
I don’t really know a whole lot about Lloyd Cole & the Commotions other than the fact that “My Bag” came from their final album – Mainstream. In fact, I believe this is the only track I’ve ever heard from them. Worth picking up the album or any of the Lloyd Cole & the Commotions records?
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“Behind the Lines” 1981, #58 (download)
“Do You Know, Do You Care?” 1982, #41 (download)
“Like China” 1982, #17 (download)
“Thru These Walls” 1983, #34 (download)
“The Man With the Horn” 1985, #38 (download)
“Inside Out” 1985, #9 (download)
“I Don’t Wanna Know” 1985, #42 (download)
I love Phil Collins, always have. But I starting loving him even more after making discs of his songs for my wife, who really loves him. I have no problem with the pop direction both him and Genesis took in the ‘80s at all and of course I’ve mentioned that Genesis’ “Mama” contains my favorite moment in music.
As far as the songs here go – they are quite varied. 1981’s Face Value gave us “Behind the Lines” which is a great song, but I keep picturing the Jackson 5 on stage performing it rather than Phil.
Hello, I Must Be Going! brings us the next three songs, the dark and proggy “Do You Know, Do You Care?” which along with the bigger hit “I Don’t Care Anymore” sounded like direct follow ups to “In the Air Tonight”. Actually, “Thru These Walls” has a similar vibe thanks to the drum breakdowns throughout it, but was a strangely quirky song as well. Of the three here though, “Like China” is my favorite – sung in a cockney accent, this is one of the few upbeat tracks on the album and the whopping 7th and final single (and I don’t believe “Do You Know, Do You Care?” was even officially one of those seven).
I’m actually wondering how many of you recognize “The Man With the Horn”? It was recorded during the Hello, I Must Be Going sessions but was left off the album and appeared as a b-side on the 45 to “One More Night” in the U.S. Unless it’s on some weird various artist compilation someplace, I can’t find any evidence this track has made it to CD. If I remember correctly, Phil doesn’t even care for it himself, so the chances of it showing up on anything but a comprehensive box set seem slim.
I’ve always liked 1985’s No Jacket Required very much and “Inside Out” is a nice gem buried at the end of the end of an otherwise much poppier record. I’ve never really latched onto “I Don’t Wanna Know” though, probably for its lack of a real chorus.
Best Song: Bruce Cockburn, “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”
Worst Song: Cocteau Twins, “Carolyn’s Fingers”
Also appeared in the Hot 100
Clarence Clemons (1): “You’re A Friend Of Mine”
Clocks (1): “She Looks A Lot Like You”
Tom Cochrane and Red Rider (1): “Young Thing, Wild Dreams (Rock Me)”
Bruce Cockburn (1): “If I Had A Rocket Launcher”
Joe Cocker (2): “Shelter Me”, “When the Night Comes”
Cock Robin (1): “When Your Heart Is Weak”
Phil Collins (10): “In the Air Tonight”, “I Missed Again”, “You Can’t Hurry Love”, “I Don’t Care Anymore”, “Against All Odds”, “One More Night”, “Don’t Lose My Number”, “Sussudio”, “Take Me Home”, “Another Day In Paradise”
(So who’s going to make the first cock joke this week?)