Another week of 80’s rock is upon us as we continue our look at the letter R and songs that hit the Billboard rock charts but failed to cross over into the Hot 100.
”Common Ground” 1988, #9 (download)
We start the week off on kind of a dull note, not necessarily with this song but with the group in general – Rhythm Corps (previously known as Rhythm Method). ”Common Ground” was the title track on their second LP (their first major label release) and was easily the best thing on it. Everything around this tune was rather dull, straightforward jangly pop-rock. If it’s on, nothing makes you want to turn it off. But nothing makes you want to put it on either.
Although Richards’s album (Talk Is Cheap) is loved by Stones fans and critics and is better than the majority of stuff the group put out in the 80s, I just don’t find it as remarkable as most. I attribute it to the fact that I’ve always detested ”Take It So Hard.” I can’t listen to what I think are just some horrible, horrible vocals on the track. So on the rare occasion that I do pull out the album, I get to it at track #2 and it pisses me off so much that I just move on. ”You Don’t Move Me” and ”Struggle” don’t piss me off like that and the former is actually a very good song even.
Don’t skip right by these tracks today. Both of these tunes are from Mosquitos, the second solo release from the former Wall of Voodoo frontman. Actually, even if you do skip these go and buy the entire record. It’s a pretty brilliant slab of diverse pop-rock that is irresistible from start to finish and easily the material I’ve heard from Ridgway.
Riot is such a disappointing band for me. At one point they were a heavy metal group. 1979’s Narita and 1981’s Fire Down Under were decent riff fests — not spectacular, but good to the point where you could see them building up to something. And then they went soft and forgot how to write songs starting with 1982’s Restless Breed from which ”Showdown” originates. ”Born in America” was the title track and one of only a handful of listenable tracks on a miserable album.
They did come back nicely in 1988 and have been putting out records since but these guys should have been bigger. Oh, and the half man-half animal (what the hell was that thing, a rat?) on the first five album covers was fuckin’ creepy. Especially the huge version on Fire Down Under.
I think you might be surprised to know that I really love Robbie Robertson’s debut album. I came into listening to the record many moons ago unaware who he was. Lacking any real knowledge of tracks from the Band and not knowing his personal issues over the years made me listen to the album as if it was just from another no-name. Another no-name of course that features the BoDeans, Maria McKee, U2 and Peter Gabriel among others, on his debut solo record. I had no preconceived notions that he was a dick or that he was an aging 70s artist so I’m assuming that’s the reason I dig the album. Or it could just be good I suppose.
Matthew Bolin actually wrote about this album a long while back in his When Good Albums Happen To Bad People Series. You should go back and check that out.
Rock City Angels
”Deep Inside My Heart” 1988, #49 (download)
One thing to say: Get your own riff!
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”I Can’t Get Satisfied” 1981, #42 (download)
Cool track here from The Rockets off their 4th record out of their five studio releases — Back Talk. The band formed in the mid-70s when Jim McCarthy and John Badanjek split from the Detroit Wheels.
”Little Sister” 1981, #8 (download)
This Elvis Presley cover was done by Rockpile featuring Robert Plant on vocals and was part of the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea performances and album. With a ton of songs by the Who, the Pretenders, Wings and Rockestra which was like 30 British musicians together on stage it’s a little surprising that this was the only track off the record to hit the charts.
”Cut Loose” 1983, #15 (download)
This was the title track from Paul Rodgers only solo album in the decade. He released it a year after his last album with Bad Company and then formed the Firm with Jimmy Page a few years later so he never got back to another solo record until ’93. I’ve always loved Rodgers’ voice, though I don’t think it works well with Queen these days. But the most amazing thing for me is the look. The picture of Rodgers on the cover of Cut Loose looks right out of a Dukes of Hazzard episode. Where if you look at him these days with the mustache and goatee/beard that looks like he paints it on each morning, he often looks a little bit like Stephen Baldwin.
The Rolling Stones
”If I Was A Dancer (Dance Pt. 2)” 1981, #26 (download)
”Little T&A” 1981, #5 (download)
”Too Tough” 1983, #14 (download)
”Too Much Blood” 1983, #38 (download)
”Think I’m Going Mad” 1984, #50 (download)
”Winning Ugly” 1986, #10 (download)
”Sad Sad Sad” 1989, #14 (download)
”Terrifying” 1989, #8 (download)
Well, at least I don’t have to talk about ”Emotional Rescue,” a song I hate with a fucking passion. So the Richards-Jagger bickering was in full effect during the 80s making for some awkward and uninspiring music, though radio didn’t seem to care. The only studio release of the decade that’s worth a front to back listen is Tattoo You. Undercover was average at best, Dirty Work was pretty terrible and while Steel Wheels had some great songs on it, it still doesn’t feel like a very complete album.
To me, the best track here is the disco-fused ”If I Was A Dancer (Dance Pt. 2)” recorded during the Emotional Rescue sessions which saw ”Dance Pt. 1″ lead off the album. Though Emotional Rescue was released in 1980, ”Pt. 2″ saw its release on the compilation, Sucking in the Seventies. The rest of that album consisted of remade songs from the actual decade in the title or live tracks.
I think ”Winning Ugly” is actually my second favorite song here and is pretty much the highlight of Dirty Work for me, while I’m not sure I understand the appeal of songs like ”Terrifying” or ”Too Much Blood” especially the latter with its faux rap. Well, maybe there is no appeal to ”Too Much Blood” and the Stones probably know that since it’s not on any greatest hits comp and from what I understand, has never been played live.
”Think I’m Going Mad” is one you won’t find on a studio album. It was the B-side to ”She Was Hot,” the second single from Undercover. So was it rock radio that really liked ”Think I’m Going Mad” to flip the single over and play it, or was it that they just didn’t like ”She Was Hot”?
Best Song: Rolling Stones, “If I Was A Dancer (Dance Pt. 2)”
Worst Song: Rock City Angels, “Deep Inside My Heart”
Also appeared in the Hot 100
Lionel Richie (1): ”Running with the Night”
Rock and Hyde (1): ”Dirty Water”
Rockwell (1): ”Somebody’s Watching Me”
Rolling Stones (10): ”Start Me Up” ”Hang Fire” ”Waiting on a Friend” ”Going To A Go-Go” ”Undercover of the Night” ”She Was Hot” ”Harlem Shuffle” ”One Hit (To the Body)” ”Mixed Emotions” ”Rock and a Hard Place”