We’ve almost reached the end of Bottom Feeders: The Rock End of the ’80s. This week, we’ll hit the second half of W. Next week X and Y and the following week you’ll get your ZZ Top before the series takes an indefinite hiatus. If you haven’t seen my comments on the matter or haven’t been following along, here’s the official announcement – when the Rock End is through, the series will be put on hold, maybe temporarily, maybe permanently. Not only did a I need a little break from what’s been a weekly column for more than three years running but I struggled mightily with what direction to go with the series. However, now that I’ve made the decision to hang it up, I’m already getting the urge to do another series.
Something cool is going to replace this on Wednesdays in a few weeks, so no worries there. I won’t give it away but I’m sure most of you will enjoy it very much but I still wanted to get the reader opinion on what to do with the series should I decide to write up another chart. I have all the songs from two other charts and have enough knowledge of them to feel comfortable making a series out of either the R&B charts from the ’80s or the Hot 100 from the ’90s. If I were to do another one, which would you rather see (or do neither of them interest you?).
Anyway, it’s time for the songs. More from the letter W as we take a look at the songs from the ’80s that hit the rock charts but failed to cross over into the Hot 100.
”Another Tricky Day” 1981, #6 (download)
”Daily Records” 1981, #36 (download)
”Did You Steal My Money” 1981, #38 (download)
”You” 1981, #51 (download)
”How Can You Do It Alone” 1981, #50 (download)
”Cry If You Want” 1982, #34 (download)
”Dangerous” 1982, #38 (download)
”It’s Hard” 1982, #39 (download)
”Dig” 1989, #9 (download)
”Fire” 1989, #44 (download)
My son is going to be three in just a couple months and in the past three years of learning to be a father for the first time, there is one thing I’ve missed more than anything else — the ability to listen to records at any point and time and as loud as I want to. And that comes into play with the Who more than any other band right now.
As a fan of rock music, I know that the fact I’ve never heard a non-80s Who album from start to finish is ridiculous and I’ve been trying to find the time to start from 65s My Generation and work my way through 2006’s Endless Wire but it just isn’t there. The Who are #1 on my list of bands to get more familiar with followed closely by Thin Lizzy..
1981’s Face Dances and 1982’s It’s Hard are the only two studio albums I’ve listened to end to end and of course I realize that’s not the best representation of the group as a whole. I definitely like Pete Townshend’s solo work better than either of those albums and at least a little of Roger Daltrey’s as well.
The first five tracks here are the final five tracks on Face Dances. They all have such a different vibe that it makes the flip side of the album a little inconsistent. But the John Entwistle written, ”You” is my favorite of the five tunes.
The next three tunes come from It’s Hard, an album that has gotten very mixed reviews over the years. I can take it or leave it though I do completely love ”Eminence Front.” In what appears to be a trend here, ”Dangerous” is my favorite of the three tunes — also an Entwistle tune. ”It’s Hard” however, is my least favorite tune on either album.
Both ”Dig” and ”Fire” are Who tunes from Pete Townshend’s Iron Man: The Musical.
Danny Wilde was formerly of Great Buildings in the early 80s and then after three solo records in the mid-to-late 80s he helped form the Rembrandts. Both of these tunes are some of the finest moments of power pop. ”Isn’t It Enough” from his best solo record, The Boyfriend and the ”Time Runs Wild” from the Dream a Little Dream soundtrack as well as his second record, Any Man’s Hunger.
”Water On Glass” 1982, #53 (download)
Although I’m going to bet that most of you will be on the opposite end of the court from me, I was more of a fan of Wilde’s late 80s pop material than her early 80s new wave stuff. Almost all of her early material was written by her dad Marty and brother Ricky but she didn’t become a big hit in the US until she started co-writing her own material and bringing in outside producers to generate more of a pop sound.
”Water On Glass” was the lead track from her self-titled debut and while there’s no denying that the bigger single, ”Kids in America” from the same record, was a killer song, the chorus to this one sounds so whiney to me that it’s almost impossible for me to listen to.
Will and the Kill
”Heart of Steel” 1988, #28 (download)
”Heart of Steel” had to chart simply because Will was Will Sexton, brother of Charlie Sexton who worked on the debut record with the group. It certainly couldn’t have been due to the quality of the song as Will’s vocals on this tune are simply horrendous.
Willie and the Poor Boys
”Baby Please Don’t Go” 1985, #35 (download)
I’m fascinated that information on Willie and the Poor Boys isn’t that easy to come by on the web. This gem sort of floats under the radar a bit even though it’s from the supergroup of Andy Fairweather Low (Amen Corner), guitarist Mickey Gee and of course Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts of the Stones.
”Love and Mercy” 1988, #40 (download)
As you should be aware of by this point, I’m no Beach Boys fan and because of that, this was doomed from the start for me. And although I’m biased, I still have to say this song and the debut solo record from Wilson are a god-awful train wreck but still not quite as bad as the group’s Still Crusin’ in 1989.
”Madalaine” 1988, #27 (download)
Rip the group all you want, they deserve it but I still think Kip Winger is a talented musician. Of course he went from being the bassist on two of Alice Cooper’s shittiest records to hair metal so mocking was in order from the start. ”Madalaine” was actually released as the first single from the debut Winger record and failed to chart in the Hot 100.
”Smoke Rings” 1989, Modern Rock #12 (download)
Winter Hours were a New Jersey based indie group who had their one taste of minor success with ”Smoke Rings” from their debut album.
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”Rain” 1988, #43 (download)
The brother of Edgar Winter, Johnny had two songs on the rock charts — 1991’s ”Illustrated Man” and ”Rain” which charted 29 years after his first album.
When I say that I completely love Steve’s Back in the High Life album, keep in mind that since I don’t listen to anything from before the 80s my knowledge of any of his previous bands is minimal. That’s not to say I don’t see why it gets a bad rap these days for being pretty lightweight pop music, but for me growing up with it, it was the only thing I knew from him and was my introduction to the ”Steve Winwood keyboard sound” that permeates dozens of great 80s tunes. It was a little surprising to me though to see ”Take It As It Comes” only hit #33 with the inferior ”Split Decision” hit #3. In fact, it was the second highest charting rock single off the record after ”Higher Love.” Whether any of the six songs that charted are rock tunes to begin with is a different debate.
On the other hand, I thought Roll With It was relatively boring compared to High Life, though ”Dancing Shoes” was the only track out of five rock tunes that didn’t cross over into the hot 100.
Although this was really the most successful Wire ever got chart wise, the album from which these came (It’s Beginning To and Back Again or IBTABA) was really the last halfway decent record they made during their second incarnation. The album consisted of a lot of live material from their last record, taken back into the studio and remixed to form new studio tracks of sort. ”Eardrum Buzz” and ”In Vivo” were new songs though, with the latter only on the CD version of the album.
The Wonder Stuff
”Give, Give, Give, Me More, More, More” 1989, Modern Rock #17 (download)
This tune with the Abba-like title, comes from the excellent debut record from the group called The Eight Legged Groove Machine. They would have five more hits on the modern rock charts in the coming years but never crossed over into the Hot 100.
”Crazy” 1984, #26 (download)
I learned something new as I was writing this up when I pulled out Wolf’s debut solo record – Lights Out – to listen to it again. I don’t think I realized that almost the entire album including ”Crazy” was co-written with Michael Jonzun from electro-funk group The Jonzun Crew. That’s pretty funky.
”The Revolution Song” 1989, #33 (download)
I really dig ”The Revolution Song” though I guess not that much, since I’ve never bothered acquiring the first of two World Trade albums. The group was led by Billy Sherwood who would go on to play with a bunch of prog-rock groups including Yes for two records and now the terribly titled Yoso supergroup of Yes and Toto members.
”Anyway Anytime” 1982, #17 (download)
“Anyway Anytime” is the laughable single from the short lived Canadian arena rock group, Wrabit. The vocals of singer Lou Nadeau are so over-the-top and that guitar solo is so weak that the song comes off like a bad joke, those wrascally wrabits.
Best Song: Danny Wilde, ”Isn’t It Enough”
Worst Song: Wrabit, ”Anyway Anytime”
Appeared in the rock chart and Hot 100
The Who (3): ”You Better You Bet” ”Athena” ”Eminence Front”
Kim Wilde (1): ”Kids In America”
Ann Wilson (2): ”The Best Man in the World” ”Surrender To Me”
Winger (3): ”Seventeen” ”Headed for a Heartbreak” ”Hungry”
Steve Winwood (14): ”While You See A Chance” ”Arc of a Diver” ”Still in the Game” ”Valerie” (original) ”Higher Love” ”Freedom Overspill” ”Back in the High Life Again” ”The Finer Things” ”Valerie” (remake) ”Talking Back To the Night” ”Roll With It” ”Don’t You Know What the Night Can Do” ”Holding On” ”Hearts on Fire”
Peter Wolf (4): ”Lights Out” ”I Need You Tonight” ”Comes As You Are” ”Can’t Get Started”
World Party (1): ”Ship of Fools”
Gary Wright (1): ”Really Wanna Know You”