Classic TV? Grading The College Years

If you were a child growing up in the 1980s, there were several TV shows that were built into your mandatory watching; Miami Vice, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, and Cheers. There was also Saved By The Bell, the show about a group of high school students and their daily situations (some extreme, but hey it’s television), and how they ended up at the end of the day all one big happy group of friends. Everyone loved Mark Paul Gosselaar’s Zack Morris and his scheming to get the short cut while still being able to get the girl, which was Tiffani Amber Thiessen’s Kelly Kapowski.  There was also Mario Lopez’s A.C. Slater, Dustin Diamond’s goofy Screech, and the school principal Mr. Belding, played by Dennis Haskins.

The show ran from 1984-1993, and then created two spinoff shows, “The New Class,” where only Diamond and Haskins was in, and before that, “The College Years,” which starred the four main characters of Morris, Kapowski, Slater, and Screech at the same college and roommates. Even though “The College Years” only lasted one season, it was the only part of the series that was shown on prime time television on NBC. I remember watching it every week when I was at college (and even taped it on VHS) my college friends and I could watch it during the week until the next episode.

The show had newer characters, like dorm advisor Bob Golic (the former NFL Football player) as Mr. Rogers, Anne Tremko as Leslie Burke, Kiersten Warren as Alex Tabor, and Patrick Fabian as Professor Jeremiah Lasky.  In the pilot episode, another character was the roommate of the girls, Danielle, but was replaced when Kapowski came on the show.  I have owned the DVD Box set (which does not include the Zack and Kelly wedding special, which is on a separate collection), and thought I’d recently watch the show again and list some of my favorite episodes from the show.

Zack and Mike Rogers
  1. “The Pilot” (May 23, 1993 Episode 1). Usually the first episodes of a series are usually slow and not very good, but I liked this episode. The normal premise is there from the original series, with Zack talking to the camera as if we are right there with him. Zack does his best in this episode to get in good with new roommate Leslie, and things fall apart, with him trying to use his old high school tricks and schemes thinking it will work in college. The episode has a touchy feel to it, where the big names in high school (Zack and Slater) are trying to fit in among the other college students, realizing that it’s a different playing field, especially when Zack says college is a full of first, like “The first time I didn’t get the girl.” The show could’ve been like other shows where the leads just walk onto campus and are still the big shots, but this showed an early struggle to fit in with the characters.
Professor Jeremiah Lasky
  1. “Zack, Lies, and Videotape” (Sept 14, 1993 Episode 3). I liked this episode because it has the debut of Professor Lasky and his classroom antics, like trying to sell Zack a copy of his midterm while sitting among the students, with Zack falling for it before realizing he is the teacher. The Lasky character was a great addition to the show, and Fabian’s acting is funny as an eccentric college professor. Of course, the episode has all the girls in the class falling for the professor, which was something I witnessed in some of my college classes (later in the series they explore a Kelly and Lasky relationship).  The episode also shows Zack realizing his short cuts won’t always work in college, where Lasky allows him to complete a field study on the topic “What Women Want,” in order to get a B for the class, and sleep in the rest of the semester. The episode starts the Zack and Lasky humor in the show. I remember watching this episode over and over at college with my friends wishing they too could do a field study on the topic to hit on girls and get a grade for it.

  1. “Professor Zack” (October 19, 1993 Episode 8). In this episode, Zack pretends to be Lasky in order to impress a girl named Jennifer, who happens to be the Chancellor of the college’s daughter.  There is a funny scene in the classroom where Jennifer tries to sit in on the class to see Zack teach, and Lasky is in the room talking to Zack, her, and Screech. Zack informs her that Lasky is an older student, and the scene plays out like a Marx Brothers skit. The rest of the show deals with Zack trying to find a way to break up with the girl before the Chancellor, and Laksy, find out.
Zack, Leslie, and the back to life Kelly
  1. “Guess Who’s Coming To College” (September 14, 1993 Episode 2). Zack is still trying to impress his roommate Leslie, while his old flame, Kelly Kapowski, shows up to college. Screech pulls some strings and Kelly is now the crew’s new roommate. Chaos starts when Zack can’t decide on whom he likes more; Kelly or Leslie. One funny scene is when Zack finally sees Kelly at the college right after he tells Leslie that Kelly died on a ship. While trying to get rid of Zack, Leslie forges her class schedule so Zack ends up in an advanced Chinese class where no English is allowed. I liked this episode because it gave Zack and new interest in the rich girl Leslie, as opposed to just starting the show with Zack and Kelly. These early episodes show an attraction at first of Zack and Leslie that may or may not be explored and keeps the audience guessing.
Dr. Hemmings
  1. “A Question of Ethics” (December 21, 1993 Episode 14). I loved this episode, and it is one of the top ones on the short lived series.  After the original ethics teacher wins the lottery and retires, the class is stuck with the toughest teacher on campus, Dr. Hemmings, played by Robert Guillaume (who played TV’s Benson).  The crew has to decide whether or not to cheat on his midterm after finding copies of the test all around campus.  Zack has to decide if his shortcuts are worth it or not. I liked the character of Hemmings, not only because it brought a well known actor to the show (and showed his humor), but the character was very much like a real college professor, one that was hard but yet ended up making the student think. My friend and I were also taking an Ethics class at the time the show was on, which also resonated with me.

  1. “Bedside Manner” (January 11, 1994 Episode 16). This was one of the last episodes I remember watching when it was on TV (for some reason, the last few episodes were not shown on my local NBC Channels). The episode is a throwback to the original series, with a bunch of antics going on at one time. Zack ends up faking an illness to try and get closer to Kelly after she had her heart broken by Professor Lasky. Lasky ends up sick as well in the student health center, where Kelly is working. Kelly tries to take care of Laksy, while Zack tries to interfere, along with the Dean of the college also playing a role as she ends up at the center. I was not a fan of the Dean character in the show, who was always trying to catch Zack in a scheme to kick him out of the college. The recurring Dean character was a little too much for me- we had Lasky a major part of the crew, so why would a Dean of a whole college focus only on Zack? Yes it’s TV, but I don’t think I ever met the Dean of my college even once (I dealt with a few Associate Deans, but never the Head Dean). This episode was 30 minutes of crazy antics, as fans of the original show would love.

 

Since the “College Years” only ran one season, it is hard to just choose a few episodes. There were some other good things I liked about the show, like Golic’s character as a former football player, who would rather help students and get his Master’s Degree than go back to football, has heart to it (and the episode of him trying to date an English Professor is funny), and I loved the bloopers at the end of the shows while the credits rolled each week.  I liked the characters of Leslie and Lasky the most in the show. Alex Tabor was portrayed as a theater major dead on, with the emotional outbursts and viewed everything as a crisis, which were similar to the theater people I encountered at my college).

There were some bad things in the show as well, such as how Kelly was portrayed as clueless and dumb (the head high school cheerleader can’t handle the intellects in college- nice stereotype), along with the Screech character being the goofball he was in the original show.  It seemed like they had to have some stereotypes kept in from the original shows, instead of having the characters mature a little.

“The College Years” was better than the second spin off, which was just like the original show-shown on Saturday Mornings. Instead of rehashing old storylines (which seemed the case in “The New Class”), “The College Years” dealt with several issues that were relevant on campuses, like ethics and racial heritage.  The series ran from 1993-1994, and after watching it again recently, it still holds up as a funny show with some heart in it. If you haven’t seen this show and loved the original show, search the episodes out. You may enjoy the show that may bring back memories of your college days.

I Love It Loud:Ranking The Best Kiss Albums

 

Kiss has always been one of my favorite bands. Along with The Beach Boys, The Bay City Rollers, and The Oak Ridge Boys, the band was an early influence on me as a fan, and even as a drummer.

            My early encounters with Kiss involved my older cousin, who had many of their albums lying around when I would visit his house to play LEGOs. I remember him scaring me with the picture of Gene Simmons from the “Alive II” album, along with him playing me the song “God of Thunder.” I would stare at his Kiss Bubble Gum Card collection in awe wondering what it was I was seeing.  I remember years later in junior high, when I walked across town with my friend to look at the bargain bin cassette tapes at the local Fishers Big Wheel (which was like a K-Mart). It was there I bought my first Kiss cassette, “Destroyer.” Throughout the 1980s, I became a bigger fan of theirs, including drummer Eric Carr, and how cool he looked after reading stories about him in Metal Edge Magazine, along with other music magazines.

            I was also a huge fan of Gene Simmons, who was all over my TV at the time with his movies “Runaway” and “Trick or Treat,” which I watched all the time with another drummer friend of mine (Many years ago I got the DVD of the movie at a Walmart bargin bin and still love the film, and the music of Fastway who performed the soundtrack).  I remember almost wearing out my VHS copy of “Kiss Meets the Phantom of The Park” when I taped it from a late night Pittsburgh TV Channel.  I still have many Kiss T-Shirts and items (one of my favorite still is my Eric Carr Figure, and the “Crazy Nights” Program Book a college friend sold to me, who is even a bigger Kiss fan than I am). I saw them on the Reunion Tour in 1996 in Pittsburgh PA, “The Psycho Circus” Tour in 1998 at the same arena, and the “Farewell Tour” in Cleveland, Ohio in 2000. Even though I saw drummer Eric Singer with Alice Cooper, I have not seen him with Kiss (who happens to be my second favorite drummer behind Eric Carr, and got to talk to Singer at the Cooper show).

            Since Kiss was such an important part of my music listening and drumming career, I thought I’d rank my Top Kiss Albums. As passionate as Kiss fans are, I am sure this will cause some debate, but this is my ranking of my favorite albums by the band. I am not counting any Greatest Hits Collections or Live Albums on this list-this is strictly their studio work.

6. “Rock And Roll Over” (1976).  This album also has one of my favorite covers of the band, although many may choose “Destroyer” as the best, I love the cover so much that my girlfriend got me a coffee mug of the cover of the album.  This album charted at #11 on the U.S. Album Charts, and has great songs like “Mr. Speed” (probably my favorite lesser known Kiss song ever), “Love Em, Leave Em,” and “Makin Love,” which closes the album.   The song also has “Hard Luck Woman,” which became a hit for the band, which has a Rod Stewart feel to the song. There are a few songs that wear on me, but overall this is one of my tops.

5.  “Love Gun” (1977).  This album is great all throughout with no fillers on the album. What is amazing about Kiss during the early years is that they were releasing two albums a year while touring. Today’s acts can hardly put out an album once a year.  Once again, the cover is great, with the band surrounding by women in Kiss makeup. I always loved the cover just because of how Gene looks so menacing, like Count Dracula or another horror character in the painting.  This was a time when the album covers meant something to the product.

            Another aspect of the album I love (no pun intended) is the fact that it is a short album, with a run time of a little over 32 minutes, which leads no time for filler solos or songs just to plug up the album. I remember getting this album on cassette at a bargain bin, and practicing the parts on my drum set for hours. Although many love the album due to Ace Frehley’s “Shock Me,” I love the songs “Plaster Caster,” Christine Sixteen,” and the bands remake of “Then She Kissed Me,” a re-working of  then “Then He Kissed Me” hit by The Crystals.  I also like “Hooligan,” with drummer Peter Criss singing lead, which is a song I liked better than “Beth.”  The album also reminds me of “The Phantom of the Park,” when some of the songs from the album was used in the film.

4. “Destroyer” (1976).  Most people love this album because of the famous album cover, and because it has the staples like “Beth,” Detroit Rock City,” and “Shout It Out Loud,” which are all good reasons. However, when I listen to this album, I think of songs like “King Of The Night Time World,” and “Flaming Youth.”  My memories of the album is more being able to purchase my first Kiss cassette, as mentioned earlier, and the fact that so many songs are still played live today by the band shows its importance. However, some of the songs are overplayed that I need a break from hearing them, but that does not take away from how good the album is from start to finish.

3. “Hotter Than Hell” (1974).  This album is my favorite of the original lineup.  This was their second album and has a dark theme to some of the songs, which made me afraid of the band (along with many other parents at the time when they heard and saw the band). Songs like “Parasite,” Got To Choose,” and “All The Way” are my favorites.  “Watching You” and “Goin Blind” are also great in keeping with a dark tone.  Even though the album only charted around #100 on the Albums Charts (they didn’t get their break until “Alive I” a few years later), this is my favorite of the originals.  The cover isn’t as awesome as “Love Gun” or “Destroyer,” but the songs are what counts.

2. “Crazy Nights” (1987). Now this is where Kiss fans will start attacking me, but I think this album is underrated, and it was a major part of me growing up in junior high. The song “Crazy Crazy Nights” was played at every high school dance I went to, along with the junior high dances (certain dances junior higher students were allowed to attend the high school ones).  This was the album that I discovered Eric Carr’s drumming as well, who became my all time favorite drummer.  I loved the shattered glass image for the cover, and thought Eric looked cool with his drummer gloves, which I didn’t see many drummers use before. Many fans think this album is too polished and Pop sounding, but when the album came out, it was no different from the stuff that was being released at the time.  I still think “Reason To Live,” and “Turn on The Night” are great songs, along with the drumming on “I’d Fight Hell To Hold You.”  This album gets too much criticism in my opinion (almost as much bashing as “The Elder” or “Dynasty”), but it gets high ranking for me due to the memories I have of the album growing up.

1.     “Revenge” (1992).  It’s hard to believe this album is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year. I remember when the video for the single “Unholy” was shown on MTV’s “Headbanger’s Ball” and I was floored by it. Gene Simmons was back in my eyes, looking mean and street-like, as opposed to the glam look he was sporting in the 1980s.   This album brought back many Kiss fans that left the band in the 1980s, and made the album hit #6 on the U.S. Album Charts.  I got the cassette when I was a member of the BMG Music Club, where you would get 12 cassettes for the price of one, as long as you bought it within the year. When I finally got a CD player, one of the first CDs I got from the club was “Revenge” as well.  Paul Stanley recently mentioned on Chris Jericho’s podcast that the band finally was at a common cause, as opposed to the years where he was doing most of the work, while Gene was doing movies.  Stanley also calls the album a rebuilding of the Kiss brand, to get back the fans that left them in the 1980s. This album was the first for Eric Singer, who fit in great with the band.  This album could have been a disaster, in the fact that the fans (and the band) were just coming off of the death of Eric Carr, but this album is my favorite non-makeup era album.

     The album is heavy oriented, which was needed in the band, just like “Creatures of the Night” brought a new direction for the band in the 1980s.  Songs like “Domino,” “Thou Shall Not,” and “Heart of Chrome” (which Stanley recently stated is his favorite song on the album), shows more edge to the band, and that they were still able to compete with the grunge music that was started to break at the time.  This album also had the ballad “Every Time I Look At You” and the catchy “I Just Wanna” for the fans that were still loving the 1980s stuff that followed out of the “Hot In The Shade” Album that was before this one.  The band also brought former member guitar player Vinnie Vincent for the songwriting process, which shows that Vincent was still a great writer.  The album also shows how underrated guitarist Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer really are as musicians, who do not get enough credit in the music world.  I challenge anyone who doubts Singer’s work to check this album out, because he is definitely a great drummer.

This album also has a special memory for me, not just because of the music club, but I also bought my first T-shirt from online rock site Rockabilia. Back then, the company sent a catalogue through the mail, and I remember my excitement seeing the package at my college mailbox, and inside was a shirt of the band photo from the back of the CD. I wore that shirt proudly, and still have the shirt in good shape. The album was played constantly through my walks to and from classes on the college campus of Kent State University (this was before IPods and we had Walkmans).

There are many great Kiss albums like “Creatures of the Night,” “Carnival of Souls,” and “Dynasty,” and even the debut album, but there are songs I skip over on all those. (Plus I was tired of the “Carnival of Souls” after listening to bootleg copies of it for a year until the actual release).  The fact that Kiss started in 1974 and is still playing today is a testament to their musicianship.  The band will always have their critics, even those that refuse to accept the original lineup is not together, but I have enjoyed albums from each of the lineups. It is rare that a band with several lineups have been able to stay relevant and produce good music. Kiss is truly a musical phenomenon that has proven its longevity throughout several decades.

 

Back To The Beach: My Favorite Rarer Beach Boys Songs

A few remaining Capitol Record Cassettes and “Problem Child” Single from my collection.

One of my fondest summer memories growing up was when I would go to my hometown Fisher’s Big Wheel (which was similar to K-Mart) and go to the music section. The store had albums, 45s, and cassettes. It was at the bargain bin where I got “Destroyer” by Kiss on cassette, along with several from The Beach Boys that were thrown together by Capitol Records. I would walk to the other side of town with my best friend, buy the cassettes and rush home to put it in my boom box player and practice playing drums to the songs.

The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys have always been one of my favorite bands of all time, and I wanted to list a few of my favorite Beach Boys songs that some may not know about. Everyone knows about their surfing songs like “Surfin USA” and car songs like “Little Deuce Coupe,” but these ones are unique in their own right, especially when some fans may have stopped listening to them in the 1980s.  So here are some of my favorite underrated Beach Boys songs (and the album it was on):

  1. “Getcha Back” (The Beach Boys-1985). I constantly write on this site how much I LOVE this album, which was the first album after drummer Dennis Wilson’s death. Some fans do not like the album, but for me, it was a big part of my summers growing up in the 1980s, and since my best female friend was a fan of the band as well, it brings back good memories.  The song deals with a guy reminiscing after hearing “their” song from an ex (remember when couples had their song?). Written by Terry Melcher, the song hit #26 on the U.S. Charts and brought a new audience to the band with their appearances on shows like “Solid Gold” for younger listeners.  To this day, it is one of my favorite songs of the 1980s.
  1. “She Believes In Love Again” (The Beach Boys- 1985). From the same album, this ballad was written by Bruce Johnston, who sings lead on the song. Carl Wilson helps out on the chorus, which shows no matter how polished and produced this album is, with its 1980s drum machines and synthesizers, Carl still had a great, pure voice. Gary Moore also played on the song, which fits in with any Pop Ballad of the time. This is one of my favorite songs on the album.
  1. “Rock And Roll to the Rescue” (Made In USA -1986). This song was part of a Greatest Hits package, which a friend of mine had when we were growing up. I loved the autobiographical tone to the song, which could be an example of any musician that fell in love with music. I also loved the fact that the story starts off about a shy boy who ends up playing to concert arenas by the end of the song. Brian Wilson sings lead on this song, but still kept the vocal harmonies of the band, even in the 1980s.
  1. “Do You Remember” (All Summer Long- 1965). I discovered this song on one of the Capitol issued cassettes I mentioned earlier, which was on 1983’s “Summer Dreams.” I fell in love with this song which tells a small history of Rock and Roll, because of my professional wrestling infatuation. One of my favorite tag teams was The Rock and Roll Express, who came out to ELO’s “Rock and Roll is King” song. I also thought this would be a good song as theme music when I used to play with my AWA Wrestling action figures. The song also has a feel to it similar to Danny and The Junior’s “At The Hop.” The song was part of the lawsuit that Mike Love ended up getting credit for that was uncredited for years.
  1. “Girl Don’t Tell Me” (Summer Days and Summer Nights-1965). Another song that was on the “Summer Dreams” cassette that I loved. This song was one of the early songs Carl Wilson sang lead on, and it was different from their other work, due to the acoustic guitar vibe to it. I used to listen to this song and think Carl was sitting on a beach by a fire playing the song. There is also a lack of the other members singing on the chorus, which makes the song unique. The song reminds me of the days when a person would have a friend from another school or state that would visit for the summer and then go back home and refuse to continue to stay in touch, or when people used to have pen pals. The line “I’ll see you this summer and forget you when I go back to school” and “Girl don’t tell me you’ll write me again this time” are in that theme.
  1. “Problem Child” (Released as a cassette single-1990). This was the theme song from the movie with John Ritter, which was written by Terry Melcher. I bought the cassette single, even though I still haven’t seen the movie. This was in the 1990s, when the band was fading with their audience, except for the diehard fans. John Stamos played drums on the song. The lyrics deal with how people can change and dispel labels being put on them. The lyrics like “Who wants to work until you’re 93” and talking about the girl next door may “Turn into a work of art” still showed that the band could find great lyrical content. The arranging of putting the children’s “Na Na” chant in the song was clever, which is what great Pop songs need. Even the video was fun to watch.
  1. “The Private Life of Bill and Sue” (That’s Why God Made the Radio- 2012). This album was their first since the death of Carl Wilson, and the first with returning member David Marks since 1963. Written by Brian Wilson and Joe Thomas, the song talks about how obsessed our culture is with fake celebrities and reality stars. The song is similar to the song “South American” off of Wilson’s 1998 Solo CD “Imagination.” Even though the rest of the album is OK, due to the fact that it seems scattered all over the place, this is my favorite off the album. This is a fun song.

Maybe these songs will make you check out some of the rarer songs by the band, or any band. These show that The Beach Boys were not all about surfing, cars, and higher pitched vocals.

 

 

A Dynamic Duo: My Favorite Songs By Daryl Hall And John Oates

Daryl Hall and John Oates

As much as I have been an outspoken critic about The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and their inductees, the year 2017 brought a few deserving acts that were inducted , including Daryl Hall and John Oates. I have been a fan of their music for years, especially in the 1980s when they dominated the radio, MTV, and other video programs. I remember seeing their album covers all over the record stores during the time. The duo had around 30 Top 40 Hits in the U.S. from 1976-1990.  After finishing reading the recent memoirs of John Oates, I decided to focus on some of my favorite songs by Hall and Oates. In no particular order, here are a few of my suggestions to check out of their vast collection.

 

  1. “So Close” (1990). This song was from their “Change of Seasons” Album. It was the lead single released, hit #11 on the U.S. Pop Charts, and also hit on several other charts, including the AC Charts.  One of the co-writers of the song was Jon Bon Jovi.  I like the opening line of “They met on the dance floor in the old high school gym,” which brings back a bygone era where gym dances were the place where memories were made. I also love the chorus line that says “We believe in tomorrow/Maybe more than today.” Even though the song did well on the charts, it seems to be a forgotten mention when discussing the duo’s work.
  1. “Getaway Car” (2003). The duo’s “Do It For Love” is one of my favorite albums that they recorded, especially the post 1980s. There are many great songs on the album, but one of my favorites is “Getaway Car,” which wasn’t written by either Hall or Oates. The song was written by Billy Mann and Gary Haase, and has been recorded by country acts.  The song hit #21 on the AC Charts for Hall and Oates. The song is a great tale of a guy and girl being frustrated with their lives and wants to start anew, which is shown in the line “Let’s disappear and start all over again.” I can picture the couple driving out of the city limits into the county with the radio playing this song. The tempo of the song is great for the telling on the song. This is one of my favorite all time songs that the duo recorded.

  1. “Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid” (1984). This song is another one that hit the charts but seems to be not played as often on 1980s Radio shows.  This song was off the mega album “Big Bam Boom,” and hit #18 on the U.S. Charts. The slow build at the beginning of the song ends up with a big, loud ending.  I used to use the chorus of the song for using song lyrics as poetry when I taught as an English Teacher, with the lines like “Some lies are better off believed,” and “Some hearts are better left unbroken.”  Even though the album gave hits like “Out of Touch” and “Method of Modern Love,” this song, written by Hall, should not be overlooked.
  1. “Method Of Modern Love” (1984). This song makes my list, off of “Big Bam Boom,” because of the memories I have hearing the song when it first came out. I remember the video of the song, along with the video for “Out of Touch.”  The song peaked at #5 on the charts, and stayed on the charts for 19 weeks. Today’s music fans may not know that during the 1970s and 1980s, songs did not just debut at number one, and then disappear like in today’s downloadable music times. Many songs worked their way up to make the Top 40 and slowly moved up to the Top 10. I remember standing on the corner of our school parking lot in junior high singing this song along with the cassette tape my buddy would bring in and play on his boom box radio.  We would mimic the videos of the songs that we saw on our local music channel (Channel 23 in Ohio was our popular one, with host Billy Soule, because we didn’t have MTV), and this song was one I always sang along with during recess. The song also shows Hall’s soulful voice in the time when music was more about image.
  1. “It’s A Laugh” (1973). This song came off of the album “Along the Red Ledge” and was a Top 20 single for the duo. The album had guest musicians such as Todd Rundgren, George Harrison, Rick Nielsen, and Robert Fripp.  I love the introduction of the song with the saxophone solo, along with the lyrics about a man looking back at a failed relationship.  This was a great song from 1970s.
  1. “One On One” (1983). As I said in the introduction of this blog, posters of Hall and Oates Albums were all over music store during the 1980s, including the “H2O” Album, which is where this song can be found. I can’t listen to this song without picturing the cover of the album in my mind.  This song hit #7 on the Pop Charts, along with #4 on the AC Charts. The song is a great life reference by using basketball themes. The soul, smooth voice of Hall helps the song not be outdated, and could been a hit in the 1960s-1990s.  I also love the basic line of “It seems I don’t get time out anymore,” which is what many of us want in our busy lives, and is not just an athletic reference.  This is a great song combining love, life, and sports.
  1. “Did It In A Minute” (1982). This single was off the album “Private Eyes,” which was the album the MTV Generation of fans started jumping on the Hall and Oates train, even though the band was recording for years. The song hit #9 on the charts, and was the next to last single released from the album.  I love the line “And if two can become one/who is the one two becomes.”  This has the Pop feel of the duo, as opposed to their Soul records. The song fit along the others that were being released at the time, with a focus of the keyboard up front and center of the songs.  This is one of my favorite early 1980s songs by the duo.

Hall and Oates are still touring today as a duo, and releasing songs as solo acts. There are many great songs that the duo has recorded that I love, like “Rich Girl,” “Say It Isn’t So,” “Out of Touch, ” and Hall’s solo “Dreamtime,” but I wanted to focus on some of the songs that are rarer or not played as much on 1980s flashback radio channels. The duo finally getting into the Hall of Fame is something that should have happened years ago, but deserving nonetheless.  This duo has had successful and memorable songs that have lasted many decades.

Book Review: “Crazy” Is A Super Book!

“Anyone who knows me knows the best way to ensure I do something is to tell me I can’t.”

 

Those words definitely describes AJ Mendez Brooks, who takes the reader through her life in her book “Crazy Is My Superpower” (Crown Archetype Books, 2017). Her book covers not only her time in the wrestling ring, but also how she overcame adversities through a rough family life and her struggles with bipolar disorders.

Brooks writes about her early life as a child moving from several apartments after being evicted due to her parents failures to pay rent and the normal bills, to living with friends and family members houses or apartments (with her whole family living in one room). She describes her parents marrying and having children at a young age as one reason for her growing up fast without a normal childhood, moving to motels and dealing with her father’s drug and alcohol abuse, along with getting toys that were brought home from the dumpsters.

Brooks , however, does not make the reader feel sorry for her upbringing, but ads some great humor in the book, such as the time she was in grade school and writes about her early story-time experience at school. She writes that “The only story-time experience I have ever enjoyed was last year, when I swiped Stephen King’s Cujo off my 1st grade teacher’s desk and began reading it out loud during recess.”

Brooks writes in most of the book how she found out her mother was bipolar, but they refused to discuss it, nor get treatment for it. It was only later that Brooks found out that she herself was bipolar as well.

Brooks writes about how she overcame her pre-wrestling days by having good grades that landed her into a prestigious college, only to find out her mother spent the money that Brooks was saving for the admissions fee.  She talks about how her brother and sister ended up leaving the family after they graduated high school in order to get away from the lifestyle, leaving her to try and care for her family while chasing her dreams of school.

If the reader is looking for a normal wrestling biography, this is not the book. The majority of the book talks about her struggles with the disease, while at times, using humor or references to Pop Culture, such as comic book characters like The X Men, Harry Potter, and other 1990s TV Shows like “Buffy The Vampire Slayer.” However, there is several chapters on her stay at the WWE’s Developmental League in Florida (FCW), where she gets several offers to move up to the main roster, only to have it yanked away from her. She ends up staying in FCW so long that she becomes the girl for all the other female wrestlers to have their matches with before they moved up to the main roster.  She writes that she was so in love with her dream of being a wrestler that  “Day in and day out, every second not sleeping or eating” was focused on wrestling or watching wrestling tapes in Florida.

Once Brooks made it to the WWE, she was put in storylines with Kane, Daniel Bryan, and future husband CM Punk, and discussed how management thought she was not only too small, but not marketable, where she ended up being so popular she became one of the top selling wrestlers in the company for merchandise.  She writes briefly about when she and Punk started dating after being thrown together in a storyline, along with their friendship before they started dating, and finally their wedding where she writes, “And the rest of the story is just for us.”

Brooks discusses her friendship with former wrestler Kaitlyn (real name Celeste) and Brooks’ decision to retire after several injuries. She also tells stories of her love for animals, along with advice for women on various subjects via journal entries.

Normally the lack of wrestling stories would distract me from the book, but Brooks is such a great writer and combines humor into a serious topic that the book is wonderful.   The book deals with someone embracing the disease and conquering it as best she could, along with overcoming her background without making the reader feel sorry for her (although it’s a wonder how she made it through some of her childhood). This book is a great tale of overcoming obstacles and ending up on top of the world, no matter how big the dream may be. Even if you are not a wrestling fan and have no idea who AJ Mendez Brooks is, this is a book that keeps the reader turning each page without slow spots in the book.  Maybe Brooks will write more books in the future (maybe with more wrestling stories), because she has the talent to be just as successful a writer as she was a wrestler.

 

“Crazy Is My Superpower” is available now at any bookstore and online sites.

My Buddy: The Underrated “Nature Boy” Of Wrestling

Growing up a major wrestling fan in the 1980s, I tried to watch as many of the territories I could (for those that may not know, as opposed to today, there were many wrestling leagues throughout the U.S. and Canada before the WWE bought most of them out).  As a kid in junior high when I started watching, I was usually cheering for the fan favorites, aka the “Faces,” such as Hulk Hogan, Sting, and The Rock N Roll Express among many. However, there were a few of the bad guys, called “Heels,” that I always cheered for, like managers Jim Cornette and Bobby Heenan, and wrestlers like Nick Bockwinkel, The Midnight Express, Curt Hennig, and Bill Dundee (when they were Heels-they were also Faces too in their career) There was an wrestler who I enjoyed watching as a heel and thought he was so underrated, and that was “The Nature Boy” Buddy Landel.

Newer fans may not know that many wrestlers used the same nicknames when they were in the different territories, unlike today where a wrestler would leave, the league has copyright property to the name (there are times when the wrestler owns their name, but that is becoming rare).  This is why when fans think of “The Nature Boy” gimmick, they think of Ric Flair. Flair actually took the gimmick from Buddy Rogers, who was the first WWWF Champion in 1963 (losing to Bruno Sammartino) and the NWA Title in 1961. Other “Nature Boy” wrestlers were Flair, Paul Lee, and Landel.

Landel started wrestling in 1979 in Bill Watt’s Mid South territory, where he started out as a jobber and caught my eye when he joined Jim Crockett’s NWA in 1985. I remember my first issue I ever bought of the wrestling magazine Pro Wrestling Illustrated covering the Great American Bash of 1985 (before Supercards on PPV, this was Crockett’s big summer card). At the time, Landel was teaming with Cowboy Ron Bass as part of J.J. Dillon’s stable. The storyline started that Dillon was paying more attention to Landel than Bass, which created Bass to turn good and face Landel at the Bash, which was declared a draw. Although some people thought of Landel as a fake Ric Flair, I loved watching his matches and interviews at the time, along with his “corkscrew elbow,” which set up his other finisher, the Figure Four, which Flair and Rogers also used. Wikipedia writes that a match in 1985 between Flair and Landel broke a North Carolina record held by Elvis Presley, so Landel wasn’t just a wanna-be star.

Landel won the NWA National Heavyweight Title at Starrcade 1985 in a decent match against Terry Taylor, when Dillon grabbed Taylor’s foot when Taylor was trying to do his finish, a superplex off the ropes. I remember the NWA showing the match on free TV after the card weeks later, and even then I was rooting for Landel over Taylor, which went against most of my young views that the Heels were bad.

Landel left the NWA when he refused to show up for a TV Taping on time and was fired that day. Landel said on a podcast later that he was tired of the management and other wrestlers playing politics, although he admits that he was having drug problems on top. He claims on that podcast that plan was that NWA Champion Flair was to drop the belt to Landel, and he was to either drop the belt to Magnum T.A. or Tully Blanchard. He also states that Blanchard’s manager at the time, Baby Doll, was to manage him, while Tully was to be paired up with Dillon. Nonetheless, Landel was fired from what was his shot at the big time.

Landel then went to the Memphis area in 1986, and then back to WCW (for a small time), before going to Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and the WWF before getting injured, and released. Landel’s time in Jerry Lawler’s Memphis area was very exciting, where he had some of his best work, especially teaming with Bill Dundee. One of my favorite spots at this time was when Landel and Dundee decided that they would announce the matches themselves, instead of Dave Brown and Lance Russell, and brought out their own table that had a sign titled “The Bill and Buddy Show.”  I remember watching this 1986 Memphis run with Landel and Dundee fighting Lawler and Dutch Mantel.  This territory was so different from the WWF, AWA, World Class, and NWA that I was used to, and was actually annoyed when my TV Station would pre-empt the show during some weeks where I live in Ohio.

Landel was a major reason, along with The Rock N Roll Express and Jim Cornette, that I was a huge fan of the Smoky Mountain Wrestling territory in the 1990’s, run by Cornette.  Just like the Memphis TV Show, I was not able to see Smoky Mountain every week, but with the Internet, I have gotten see every Smoky Mountain show in order. Landel came in Smoky Mountain in 1992, and then again in 94-95 before the league closed. Landel was the Smoky Mountain Champion as a Heel, and right before they closed, Landel was a Face, going against Cornette’s Militia group. I asked Cornette via his podcast, “Corny’s Drive Through” Podcast on MLW Radio (March  14, 2017) if there was plans for Landel to win back the title if the league didn’t close. Cornette said that was the plan. A memorable Smoky Mountain moment was an interview Landel gave admitting to his past mistakes with drugs and being unreliable to the bookers. His run in Smoky Mountain, especially his second run, included a great match with  WWF Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels. His WWF run included matches against Bret Hart, a young Matt Hardy, and HHH.

One interesting time in his career that I forgot about, but then rediscovered, was his time in USA Championship Wrestling in Knoxville, Tennessee (1988), run by Ron Fuller. Landel was usually paired with Hector Guerrero. This TV Show was interesting because the wrestlers sat at the announcer’s desk for their interviews. Several of the Smoky Mountain Wrestling stars were here at the time, such as The Armstrong Family, The Mongolian Stomper, and Ron Wright. The wrestling was decent, ( I believe it ended up being a part of Continental Wrestling) but Landel’s character was that he had an injured arm and wore a black arm band, that he “loaded” it with some foreign object. Although the fans bought into the gimmick, yelling at the referee every time Buddy would turn his back to the ref, I think it diminished the fact that Landel really was a great in ring worker that did not need to use a cheap prop gimmick to get over.

Buddy Landel was one of the most underrated wrestlers of the 1980s-1990s. He was still wrestling Indy Shows after he was released from the WWF. He had a short stint in the AWA in 1987 as well.  Some of the big names he wrestled during his career were: Magnum T.A., Sting, King Kong Bundy, Tommy Rich, Jerry Lawler, Tully Blanchard, Bobby Eaton, Ron Bass, Kamala, Jim Duggan, The Rock N Roll Express, and more.

I asked Hall of Fame Announcer Jim Ross, via his website, his opinion of Landel and if he was underrated. He replied, “ Buddy was a naturally talented wrestler whose own demons hurt him but Buddy was a good hand without question.”

I also asked Slam Sports Wrestling’s Producer and Author Greg Oliver (who helped give me my break in writing about wrestling) his views on Landel. Oliver writes via email:

Buddy Landel was criminally underrated as a performer. He had all the skills to make it to the top — look, microphone skills, in-ring magic (the story he told me for The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels about wrestling The Invisible Man is proof he could do anything). What he didn’t have was discipline or his head screwed on straight. To his credit, he always owned up to his shortcomings later in life, never bemoaning what could have been.

 

Buddy Landel died in 2015, at the age of 53, due to complications of a car accident.  Even though he was one of the few “Nature Boys,” his work and interview skills were not of a cheap knock off. Wrestling fans, go back and discover this talent. He was not only one of my favorite wrestlers growing up, but even now, going back and watching his matches still entertains me.

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A special thanks to Greg Oliver for helping contribute to this page.

You can find Greg Oliver, and the rest of the great Slam Sports Wrestling writers, at http://slam.canoe.com/Slam/Wrestling/home.html

Jim Ross at http://www.jrsbarbq.com , and Jim Cornette’s Podcasts at http://www.mlwradio.com .

 

Here is another one of Landel’s best promos.

 

 

 

 

Air Flight-My Favorite Air Supply Songs

One of the greatest Adult Contemporary Duos in music was Air Supply. This act from Australia was a major act on the Pop Charts, along with Lite Rock Music in the 1980s. Members Graham Russell (guitar) and Russell Hitchcock (lead vocals) met in 1975 while performing Jesus Christ Superstar, and broke big in America in 1980, being a major act for Arista Records (which was the home of Barry Manilow in the 1970s until 1985). Air Supply is sometimes the butt of many jokes for their mellow sound, but their music is used in many movies, commercials, and TV shows to this day, which proves their longevity.  When I try and write short stories, I put on their “Greatest Hits” Album and for some reason, the words just flow onto the computer screen. So here are my favorite Air Supply songs and the albums they are on.

 

  1. “All Out Of Love” (Lost in Love- 1980). This song was written by Graham Russell and Clive Davis, and was named one of VH1’s Greatest Love Songs. The album was the first to hit the U.S. Charts, and the single reached #2. Not only is it a great song, but the vocals by Hitchcock at the end are so high, along with the holding of the final note. Donny Osmond even recorded the song for his 2002 covers album.
  1. “Every Woman in the World” (Lost in Love- 1980). This song hit #5 on the U.S. Charts and was #2 on the AC Charts. This was the third single from their “Lost in Love” album, which also had three Top 5 singles. This song has a catchy guitar riff at the beginning and is a duet between the two singers. This is a great Pop Song.
  1. “Even The Nights Are Better” (Now and Forever- 1982). This was a #1 Hit on the AC Charts for the duo, although it reached #5 on the U.S. Charts, it exited the Top 40 charts the week after it peaked, dropping to #42 (Taylor Swift later did the same thing on the charts). This was surprising to me because this song was played all the time at the roller skating rink and school dances where I lived when the song was released.  This is just a happy song that I love.
  1. “Two Less Lonely People in the World” (Now and Forever- 1983). This song was on the last album to hit platinum in the U.S. and reached #38 on the charts, along with #4 on the AC Charts. This song’s lyrics deal with a guy who is down on his luck and meets someone feeling just like himself.  This song would still be a great wedding song today without being dated.
  1. “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All” (Greatest Hits-1983). This song was a huge hit when it came out, hitting #2 on the U.S. Charts. The song was written by Jim Steinman, who wrote the song for Meatloaf, but Meatloaf’s label wouldn’t pay him for the songs, so he passed it to Bonnie Tyler, which ended up passed to Air Supply (although Tyler recorded a version of it). The song was the last U.S. Top 10 hit for the duo, and was actually kept out of the #1 spot by Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” which was also written by Steinman. The song features Rick Derringer on guitar as well. I love the song for the powerful lyrics, especially the last verse, talking about “I can make the runner stumble, I can make the final block” and “I can make all the stadiums rock.” This is my favorite Air Supply song.
  1. “Just As I Am” (Air Supply- 1985). This is probably my second favorite song that the act released. It was also one of their last hits in the U.S. reaching #19 on the charts. Just like the time period, the song has big, loud sounding drums and is about a guy who seems to mess up all the time but his girl still loves him. The song was co-written by Dick Wagner of the Alice Cooper Band fame and also played on “Destroyer” by Kiss.  Even though the music scene was starting to shift to harder rock, the song is still a great Pop Song.
  1. “Lost In Love” (Lost in Love- 1980). This song was originally recording years earlier on their “Life Support” Album, but was re-released in 1980, which hit #3 in the U.S, along with #1 on the AC Charts. This was one of the first songs I heard from the band, and while seeing a live show on television of them (“Live in Hawaii’), this was the song that made me get back into the band.

Even though Air Supply gets ignored when the 1980s are mentioned, they were a big part on the music charts and were underrated. The band still performs today and is putting out music. They had many other great songs, like “Here I Am,” and “I Can Wait Forever,” among others. They seemed to got lost during the MTV Generation with their videos, but they were still all over the radio charts.

 

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Book Review: Motorhead Book Deals A Winner

In his book “Beer Drinkers And Hell Raisers: The Rise of Motorhead” (ECW Press, out May 2017), Martin Popoff takes the reader through an entertaining and informative journey through the early years of the Metal Band Motorhead.  The book focuses on the classic lineup of the band from 1977-1982, featuring members Lemmy Kilmister, Phil Taylor, and Eddie Clarke.

The book begins by examining the early days of how each member ended up in the band, including how Kilmister was a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, along with his time in the band Hawkwind. His trouble at the border in Canada led to his dismissal in Hawkwind, and started his creation of Motorhead, which eventually led to hiring Clarke and Taylor.

There are many entertaining stories in the book, including Clarke’s audition for the band, which he had to pay for the audition space, and was told (several days later) he got the gig when Lemmy showed up at his door with a leather jacket and a bullet belt. Clarke says that Lemmy told him that he got the gig, “turned around and off he went.” Other stories involve Lemmy’s first show where he played only 20 minutes, the band becoming the loudest band in music, and the band’s jokes with media reporters, including walking out on a female journalist, and an interview session that involved a fire hose.

The “Classic” lineup: Clarke, Kilmister, and Taylor.

The book follows each of the band’s recordings, with a track by track commentary about the songs, along with interviews by the early band members and fellow musicians that were around the band at the time.  Popoff intertwines the interviews from magazines along with his own personal interviews to make the book feel like the reader is sitting right next to those speaking.

One of the most entertaining parts of the book is towards the end, where Popoff covers the breakup of the classic lineup.  He gets the perspectives of Clarke and Taylor during each step of the separation, including the relationship between Kilmister and Plasmatics lead singer Wendy O. Williams, which had a major impact on the breakup. The flow of the book during this part feels like a VH1 “Behind The Music” episode, with the author doing a great job of getting as many sides of the story as he could.

The book, at the beginning, dealt a little too much on discussing the argument if Motorhead was a Metal Band or just a Rock Band, but the rest of the book was an easy and wonderful read. There are some great stories told by Dee Snider of Twisted Sister about Lemmy helping Snider’s band gain respect right before Twisted Sister’s major breakout. There is also a small part covering Clarke and Taylor’s music careers after they left the band, including when Clarke formed the band Fastway, as well as the last lineup of Motorhead before the deaths of Taylor and Kilmister.

My limited knowledge of the band Motorhead was their song “Ace of Spades,” Lemmy’s recording the entrance music for WWE Wrestler HHH, and seeing the movie about Lemmy, but Popoff’s book was such an entertaining read, it makes someone who does not know much about the band become educated, along with wanting to dig into the band’s recordings.  The book is very detailed with the track listings going through the years, along with Popoff’s writing coming from a fan of the band, and not just writing a historical piece. A true fan of the band will enjoy this book as well as the casual one. Martin Popoff and ECW Press have a must-read book for metal fans in “Beer Drinkers And Hell Raisers,” whether or not the reader is a Motorhead fan.

A special thanks to ECW Press for the Advanced Reading Copy of the book. For more information about ECW Press, go to www.ecwpress.com.

For information about Martin Popoff and his other books, visit www.martinpopoff.com

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Teen Titans: Idols Who Returned To The Charts

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The term Teen Idol was used a lot in music from the 1950s-1970s, which stood for a young artist reaching stardom with a younger audience. The word “Idol” is overused today, especially thanks to those bad reality shows, but there was a time when the word was a hinder for musicians trying to shed the image of their early career. Some of the Teen Idols in music were Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Rick Springfield, Michael Jackson, Paul Anka, and even The Beatles.  However, in terms of most of these artists, they continued recording songs from their early years to later years.  I want to look at a few of the Teen Idols who had a comeback on the U.S. Charts after being away from the charts for a while.  I am not counting artists who went solo after being in a band in this list, but I want to list a few of my favorite Teen Idols who made comebacks in their later age (the age of the artist when they got their first hit to return are listed-give or take a year from the release of the single to the top chart appearance).

  1. Rick Nelson (Started age 17, returned at age 30). When discussing the term Teen Idol, you have to start with one of the first ones ever, and that was Rick Nelson, who has been termed by magazines as the first artist to be label Teen Idol. When he started on his father’s TV Show, young Ricky hit the charts with songs like “I’m Walking” (which hit #4 on the U.S. Charts in 1957) and “Poor Little Fool” (#1 in 1958). Even though he never stopped recording, The British Invasion ended his chart appearances until he hit in 1972 with “Garden Party “ (#6 U.S. Charts, #1 AC Charts).  “Party” was to be Rick’s comeback as he worked on recordings, including an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” singing a remake of “Dream Lover.” However due to record company politics, the album was held on too long before being released, and hurt the momentum.  Nonetheless, Nelson’s last chart appearances was 1964, and he waited until 1970 before getting on the charts, and then in 1972.  I happen to love his late 1960s-1970s music, which included several Bob Dylan remakes (He actually hit the charts with “She Belongs To Me”, a Dylan song, which hit #33 in 1970, but most remember “Garden Party” as the big comeback, so I’m sticking with “Party” as the comeback song). Nelson is considered the first Teen Idol, and his talent proved he hit the charts again at a later age with the right momentum.
  1. Donny Osmond (Debut age-14, returned age 32). This is one of the best comeback stories in ANY form (not just in music), and sounds like a Pro Wrestling storyline.  After hitting the charts with his brothers with songs like “One Bad Apple” in the 1970s, and his duets with his Sister Marie, Donny was a huge star.   He had hits like “Go Away Little Girl” (#1 in 1971) and “Puppy Love” (#3 in 1972), and had a successful Variety TV Show.  His resume later included being a game show host and a Broadway star. However in the 1980s, his name was basically poison when it came to making an album or single.  In 1989, a New York Radio Station started playing a song called “Soldier of Love” by an unknown artist. After getting flooded by calls, the momentum continued until the song hit #2 on the U.S. Charts. Well the mystery artist was…Donny Osmond! The album had another hit, the ballad “Sacred Emotion.”  Osmond still records and tours today, currently doing a Vegas Show with Marie. His 2001 Album, “This Is The Moment,” is a great album full of Broadway Songs (the album hit #64 on the charts) and his “Love Songs of the 1970s” hit #27 on the charts.  Osmond has a mature voice that I like even better than his teen years, and Osmond waited from his last chart single in 1976 to 1989 (13 years) to return.  His story is a great feel good inspiring tale of determination and patience.
  1. David Cassidy (Debut age-20, returned at age 40). Just like Donny Osmond, David Cassidy was one of the top Teen Idols in the 1970s with a TV Show and a huge following in the teen magazines and touring. He had hits with The Partridge Family, hitting #1 in 1970 with “I Think I Love You,” and solo hits like “Cherish” in 1971(#9).  Cassidy had an 18 year drought until he hit with the song “Lyin To Myself” in 1990, which hit #14.  Unfortunately his label Enigma Records closed shortly after the release of the self titled album. I remember getting the cassette single of “Lyin To Myself” and was fortunate to find a CD copy of the album years ago, and it is a good album that was produced by Phil Ramone.  “Lyin” was one of my favorite songs of that year. Cassidy spend time on Broadway as well during his time away from the charts, but had a great comeback single. Cassidy has been in the news lately discussing health issues, but any musician my age grew up wanting to be Keith Partridge, Cassidy’s famous persona.
  1. Neil Sedaka (Debut age-19, returned at age 36). Many know Sedaka as one of the greatest Pop Music Songwriters of all time, but some also forget that at one time he was a Teen Idol in the 1960s. He started his chart debut in 1958 with “The Diary” (#14), and had a string of hits in the 1960s with “Calendar Girl” (#4 in 1960), “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” (#6 in 1961), and the #1 Hit “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” in 1962. Even though he was writing for other artists, Sedaka came back onto the charts after an 11 year absence with 1974’s #1 hits “Laughter in The Rain” and “Bad Blood” (“Bad Blood” features Elton John on backing vocals). He also wrote the #1 hit “Love Will Keep Us Together” for Captain and Tennille in 1975.  Sedaka made music history as being the first (and only to my knowledge) singer/songwriter to have a Top 10 hit with a different version of the same song, when he hit #1 on the AC Charts, and #8 on the Pop Charts, with “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” this time as a ballad. He also had another 4 year absence from 1976-1980, when he hit the charts again with “Should’ve Never Let You Go,” (#19).  Sedaka wrote and performed some of the best Pop Songs in Rock Music.

 

  1. The Monkees (Debut age 21-24, returned age 41-42). People have their own opinion of The Monkees, but they were definitely Teen Idols who had great success on the charts. They debuted on the charts with “Last Train To Clarksville” in 1966 (#1) and “I’m A Believer” (#1) in 1966.  They also hit #1 again in 1967 with “Daydream Believer.”  After 1968, the Monkees did not hit the charts again until 1986 with “That Was Then, This Is Now” (#20), which was added to a new collection album.  Even though the band only consisted of Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork when the song was released, it still gave the band the spotlight again, with their songs shown to a new generation. The video for the song was on many video shows, including MTV, and got heavy rotation throughout the country on radio. The Monkees came back in 2016 with the great “Good Times” album, the first since the death of Davy Jones. The “Good Times” Album hit #14 on the U.S. Charts, and was #1 on the Vinyl Album Charts. After the release of “That Was Then..” the band’s TV Show started getting replayed on various TV Channels.  I strongly suggest getting “Good Times,” it was the best album I heard of the year.
  1. Dion DiMucci (Debut age 19, returned at 29). In 1958, Dion and the Belmonts hit the charts with “I Wonder Why” (#22). The group was known as one of the early Do-Wop Bands of Rock and Roll, and also charted with the smash “Teenager In Love” (#5 in 1959). Dion then went on to record hits like “Runaround Sue” (#1 in 1961) and “The Wanderer” (#2 in 1961).  Even though he was still recording songs, he didn’t hit the charts again until 1968 with “Abraham, Martin, And John” (#4).  Just like Neil Sedaka, many people do not remember that Dion was a Teen Idol at one time.

 

Many people consider the term “Teen Idol” as something that relates to Boy Bands in the 1980s, however, the term was used many decades before. In the 1970s, other “Idols” like The Bay City Rollers, Leif Garrett, Shawn Cassidy, and Andy Gibb were all over the teen magazines, however their spotlight did not last long, and they did not have another chart hit.  Some music acts, just like actors, may not be able to overcome the stereotype of the term, but this list shows that there were that did overcome, and some are still putting out quality music to this day. Go back and revisit some of these acts.

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Back In Time: Forgotten One Hit Wonders From The 1980s

 

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the-system

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Several people remember music from the 1980s as one with many One Hit Wonders. I’m sure the decade had no more or less than some of the other decades, but it seems the 80s had their share of several good ones that are forgotten. Many people think acts like The Escape Club or Men Without Hats were One Hitters, but they weren’t (at least not in the U.S.) I want to bring attention to a few acts that may be forgotten now but are still good songs, even if they did not make it past the one charted single. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. The Dream Academy. This act released the hit “Life in a Northern Town,” which hit #7 on the U.S. Charts. This was a neat song with the pop ballad feel combined with a African type chant in the chorus. The single was also produced by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. There have been a few other covers of the song since its released, from Rick Springfield to a few country acts.
  1. The System. This duo had a hit in 1987 that went to #4 on the Pop Charts and #1 on the R&B Charts in the U.S with “Don’t Disturb This Groove.” The duo had a few hits on the R&B charts before and after, but this was their only Pop Hit. The duo of David Frank and Mic Murphy went on to work with Phil Collins and Chaka Khan.  Frank worked on song “Genie in a Bottle” years later. This song was always a favorite of mine ever it came out and I love the lyrics in the song, which was different than the other R&B hits of the time with a poetic feel to the words.
  1. Moving Pictures. “What About Me” hit #29 in 1982, and #46 in 1989. I remember having the 45 single and loving the song when it was played on Kasey Casem’s “American Top 40” every week. The song was rumored to be about an autistic child being ignored at a counter waiting on lunch. The song was huge in Australia, and although the band had a single on the 1984 “Footloose” soundtrack, the band didn’t get another U.S. hit, even though the song appeared twice on the charts. The lyrics of the song talks about the total underdog who is getting ignored by the world and is looking for his break in life.
  1. The Breakfast Club. This act from New York had many band member changes, including Madonna and former American Idol’s Randy Jackson. The band started in the 1970s, and did hit the dance charts with a remake of the 1967 Soul Survivor’s “Expressway to Your Heart” hit in 1988, but didn’t really have the success after “Right On Track.”  The music video, like many from the decade, seemed to lessen how great the song really is. This has always been one of my favorite songs from the era. This is a great dance song, and one of my all time favorite songs from the decade.
  1. Oran “Juice” Jones. The Juice’s song “The Rain” was a staple in the 1980s and 1990s at my local roller skating rink. It was played all the time. The song hit #9 on the Pop and #1 R&B Charts in the U.S. The song got a remake in 2016’s movie “Suicide Squad.”  The song was just great, especially the humorous ending.
  1. Waterfront. This Welsh band broke big in 1989 with their hit “Cry” (#10 Pop, #1 AC Charts).  I have the CD and there are some other good songs on the album, but this was their only U.S. Hit and frustrates me that my local radio station does not play it much when they have their 80s weekend shows.  The band made a country version of the song in 2011. This was a great Pop/R&B song that gets overlooked.
  1. The Jump N Saddle Band. Most people forget about this band’s hit “The Curly Shuffle,” a novelty hit about the Three Stooges in 1984 (#15 Pop). The song was a regional hit in the band’s native Chicago and was later added to their album when the band signed a national deal. This song is not only for the Stooges fans, but it also was a throw-back to the 1950s and 1960s when novelty hits were always on the charts. The big band style was different from the synth-pop singles of the decade. Years later former Stray Cats member Brian Setzer hit the charts with the big band style throwback songs. One could argue that  The Jump N Saddle Band set the start to the style being brought back to a commercial success in on the U.S. Charts.
  1. Climie Fisher. This London duo hit with “Love Changes Everything” in 1988 (#23 Pop). The duo had a hit outside the U.S. with “Rise to the Occasion.” Rob Fisher worked with Rick Astley after this single before Fisher’s death in 1999, and Simon Climie went on to work with Eric Clapton, JJ Cale, Taylor Hicks, and  Michael McDonald. Climie also had a hit with “I Knew You Were Waiting For Me” in 1986, which was a hit for George Michael and Aretha Franklin.  “Love Changes” has a nice catchy hook to it, although the video discredits the song.
  1. Jimmy Harnen. In 1989, Jimmy Harnen, along with the band Synch, hit the charts with “Where Are You Now,” a song that was successful, hitting #10 on the Pop and #3 on the AC Charts, even though the band was disbanded by the time the single broke the charts.  The song was first released in 1986 and only hit #77 before the band broke up. It wasn’t until DJ Kid Kelly and his staff kept playing it due to fan requests that it broke again in 1989. Harnen is now a record executive with Big Machine, which is the label for stars Taylor Swift and Florida Georgia Line.  “Where Are You Now” was such a favorite of mine, that it took me years to find a copy of it in any form, from CD to just the 45. I found the 45 years ago when I was in college. This was a great ballad.

There were several other acts I could’ve listed that have been forgotten who had hits in the 1980s, including Johnny Lee, Joey Scarbury (who I mentioned in my blog page “Favorite Themes of the 1980s), Sylvia, Sly Fox, Timex Social Club, and Pseudo Echo.  Maybe you’ll check out more of some of the forgotten acts from the 1980s, and maybe this post brought back some memories.

 

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