One of my pet peeves when talking about music from the 1980s is when people assume acts were One Hit Wonders because their most popular song is constantly played on radio stations or on compilation CDs (along with the term “Hair Metal,” which really drives me nuts, because the band’s hair had nothing to do with their musical talents). Some people may not know but the radio format plays the same songs almost every hour, even during “Time Warp” Weekends (where radio stations play all songs from the 1980s), so it’s easy for newer listeners to assume that some of these music acts only had one hit, for instance when people think of the band Mr. Mister, they think of “Broken Wings,” but forget about “Kyrie” or “Is It Love,” which both hit the U.S. Charts, or the Australian band Icehouse, who recorded the song “Electric Blue,” but forget about my favorite of the band, “Crazy,” which hit #14 in 1987. Or even the Canadian band Men Without Hats, who we know from “The Safety Dance” hitting #11 on the U.S. Charts, but do you remember their other 1987 hit “Pop Goes The World” that charted at #20?
We can blame it on ignorance (not everyone studied music like I did, trying to know who wrote the songs or its chart position due to my childhood listening to Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” every Saturday Morning), or due to the format of radio today, but I thought I’d look (an hopefully inform) at a few British acts that are usually viewed as One Hit Wonders, but really weren’t.
Cutting Crew. This act’s big hit “I Just Died In Your Arms” was recently used in “The Lego Batman Movie”. The group broke in the U.S. with the 1986 album “Broadcast,” which had this famous song. However, the band hit the U.S. Charts with the #9 “I’ve Been In Love Before,” which is my favorite of the band. The song was actually the third single in the U.S., but was a huge hit for them. The band also was in the Top 40 with a second single from the album, “One For The Mockingbird”, but it wasn’t until they took another chance with “Been In Love” after it only hit #31 in the UK as the follow up song for “I Just Died In Your Arms.” The band still records and tours with lead singer Nick Van Eede and different lineup changes through the years. I still prefer the second single, “I’ve Been In Love Before” over the first breakout single that most people remember of the band.
The Escape Club. This band hit #1 on the U.S Charts with the single “Wild, Wild West,” but many may not know that they had another in 1991, “I’ll Be There,” which charted at #9. The band formed in 1983, and as of 2012, is still performing with singer Trevor Steel, and guitar player John Holliday. Steel was also an A&R person for Universal Records in Australia after the band’s spotlight died down. As with Cutting Crew, I prefer the second single, “I’ll Be There,” which is a better song than the first single that broke the band. “I’ll Be There” is a darker song about a death of a friend, but still has positive lyrics to the song. The song has an eerie type melody, almost a goth- feel to it, but was still main stream enough to hit the Top 10. Whenever the band comes up in my music conversations, many people have never heard this second song, which is a shame, because it is really well written.
Johnny Hates Jazz. This act hit #2 in the U.S. with the song “Shattered Dreams” in 1988, but was first released in 1987 (back in this era, it took usually time for the released song to gain airplay and move up the charts, unlike today). The act also recorded “I Don’t Want to Be A Hero”(#31) in 1988. My favorite song of the band did not chart on the Top 100 Singles, but charted at #5 on the U.S. Adult Contemporary Charts, along with #12 in the U.K., called “Turn Back The Clock.” I remember seeing this video all the time on my local video channels (we didn’t have MTV at first-it was a pay channel- but watched shows like “Friday Night Videos,” and the video show on WAKR Channel 23 in Canton, Ohio with Billy Soule as the host). To this day, it is one of my favorite videos, which shows the band looking back at their childhood and the things that they did, like hang out in a tree house. The single had backing vocals by Kim Wilde, who hit #1 in the U.S. with a cover of the Supremes’ “Keep Me Hanging On” in 1987. This song is a lost gem in my eyes of singles of the decade that many do not remember.
The Outfield. This British band had 5 Top 40 singles from 1986-1990, but yet the band is still considered One Hit Wonders due to the smash #6 hit “Your Love,” from their “Play Deep” Album. I still crank up the song whenever I hear it playing to this day. I love their 1990 album “Diamond Days,” which I happened to get the CD at a bargain bin for a great price. I loved all the songs on the CD, including the 1990 hit “For You,” which charted at #21 in the U.S. This band is underrated when it comes to 1980s band Nu-Wave Acts. They had Nu-Wave and Pop mixed together with some straight ahead Rock feel to it. Bass player and singer Tony Lewis has a great voice, and I remember seeing the cover of their 1986 Album “Play Deep” all over the record stores at the time.
O.M.D. This is another band that had several hits from 1985 -1988, including the #4 song “If You Leave” from the 1986 movie “Pretty in Pink.” The band also hit in 1985 with “So In Love,” and “Forever” in 1986, but my favorite song by the band was called “Dreaming,” that charted at #16 in 1987 in the U.S. The song has the band’s Synth-Pop beat like their other songs, but “Dreaming” just had some great lyrics in my opinion, especially the opening stanza. The band may have had a long name (Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark), but the band’s hits are still played today, even though “Dreaming” seems to be lost in that list.
Breathe. I remember hearing this London band’s single “Hands To Heaven” when it first came out and thought it was very soulful, as opposed to some of the other songs that were hitting the charts during 1987. The song charted as high as #2 in the U.S. in 1988. I also remember seeing their album “All That Jazz” all over the record stores at the time. Even though the second single in the U.S. did not chart as high on the Pop Charts, “How Can I Fall” hit #1 on the U.S. AC Charts, and #3 on the Pop Charts. Unlike some of the other acts on this list, where I liked the second single better than the first, I liked both of these singles equally. A third single from the album, “Don’t Tell Me Lies,” hit #10 on the Pop and # 5 on the AC Charts, but isn’t as played as the other two singles (in the UK, “Lies” was the first single released from the album) The band continued to record until 1992, but their three singles was the only hits they had in the U.S. The band’s work should be rediscovered for fans that like Air Supply and Rick Astley, who linked soul and jazz to their Pop sound. I really liked these songs, and still shocked why I never owned the cassette or CD in my collection.
When people think of the 1980s British acts, artists like Duran Duran, Elton John, Rick Astley, and George Michael come to mind. However this list above is often misjudged as One Hit Wonders, when in reality, they had great success. I encourage you to check out these acts’ other songs-you may find some more gems to add to your playlist that you don’t hear on local radio.
When naming female music artists from the 1980s, most will name Madonna, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, or Cyndi Lauper. Hard Rock fans will mention Lita Ford, Pat Benatar, or Joan Jett. There are some artists who had just as many hits, and were just as talented. My list of underrated female artists is just that; talented females who had several hits on the U.S. Charts but seem to be forgotten, either by music radio or by critics in general. In no particular order, here are some of the underrated (and sometimes forgotten) talents from the era.
Sheena Easton. It’s hard to believe that she is not given more credit as a top artist in the 1980s- she was everywhere in the decade. She was the first artist to have a top 5 hit on 5 different charts (Pop, Country, Dance, R&B, and Adult Contemporary). She was an actress on Miami Vice (THE show of the decade), had a James Bond hit, “For Your Eyes Only” (#4 Hit) worked with Prince on the songs “Sugar Walls” (which made Tipper Gore’s Filthy 15 list) and “U Got the Look.” She also had a #1 hit with “Morning Train (9 to 5)” Not only did she have the looks to attract the male audience, she had a great voice, from ballads to Pop songs. Her vocal range on the song “You Could Have Been with Me” is one example. Easton did it all in the era, and according to her official website she still tours.
Belinda Carlisle. She had hits with her all girl band The Go Gos (who sold over 7 million albums in a short time) and went solo in 1986 with songs like “Mad about You“ (#3 Hit), “Heaven On Earth” (#1) , and “I Get Weak” (#2). She also had a hit with “Circle in the Sand” (#7). The song “Mad about You” also had a guitar solo from Duran Duran’s Andy Taylor. Carlisle proved she could hit gold as a band member or solo act, which is rare for any artist male or female.
Debbie Gibson. When she first came onto the scene in 1987, I admit I was not a huge fan of hers; however, I did like her ballad “Foolish Beat.” Throughout the years I have gained more respect for her as an artist than when I first encountered her music. Between 1987-1988, she had 4 Top 5 hits on the charts, and was one of the youngest females to write, produce, and perform on a number one single. Since then she has been in movies for the Syfy Network and has performed on Broadway. In the era where the artists were controlled by the management and record companies, which seems more the case today than back then, Gibson had control over her music and what was put out with her name on it.
The Jets. This family act from Minneapolis is one of the most underrated acts of the 1980s. With hits like 1986’s “Crush On You” (#3), “You Got It All” (#3), 1987’s “Cross My Broken Heart” (#7) and “I Do You” (#20), and 1988’s “Rocket 2 U” (#6) and “Make It Real” (#4), the Jets were all over the airways. “You Got It All” was written by Rupert Holmes of “Escape (The Pina Colada Song” fame. Vocalist Elizabeth Wolfgramm sang lead on my two favorite songs of theirs, “Make It Real” and “Got It All.” Her soulful voice added to the great Pop ballads that the band released, which were staples at my school dances. She left the band in 1990, but they fused Dance, Pop, Latin, and R&B into their songs. The band was underrated for its time for mixing many genres.
Olivia Newton John. How can Sandy from Grease be on my list? Because most people forget how great of a singer she was in the 1980s. Her 1970s songs like “I Honestly Love You,” “A Little More Love,”and the songs from the movie Grease were well known, but some think of her as a One Hit Wonder in the 1980s with “Physical” in 1981, when in fact she had hits like 1980’s “I Can’t Help It” with Andy Gibb (#12 Pop, and #8 AC Charts), 1982’s “Make A Move on Me” (#5) and “Heart Attack” (#3), and 1980’s “Magic” (#1). She also had two soundtrack hits with 1980’s “Xanadu” (#8) and 1981’s “Twist of Fate” (#5), from the movie “Two of a Kind,” which she was cast with Grease co-star John Travolta. Even though the movie was a failure, the soundtrack had hits with John and with Journey. She also starred in Xanadu, which is considered a horrible movie, but has gained a cult following (the film actually broke even at the Box Office). Much like Sheena Easton, Olivia Netwon John was able to record and act in the era, and had one of the purest voices.
Susanna Hoffs. After the success of The Go Gos, another all girl group came onto the scene in 1986, although they formed in 1980. It took a Prince Song in 1986 called “Manic Monday” (#2) for the world to embrace The Bangles, made up of Susanna Hoffs, Vicki and Debbie Peterson. Like The Go Gos, they played their own instruments, which was rare for the time. The other hits by the band included 1986’s “If She Knew What She Wants” (#29), 1986’s “Walk Like An Egyptian” (#1) and “Walking Down Your Street” (#11), 1987’s remake of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade of Winter” (#2), 1988’s “In Your Room”( #5), and their 1989 #1 Hit “Eternal Flame.” Hoff’s also tried her luck in acting in the 1987 film “The Allnighter,” a disaster at the Box Office even with the success of Hoffs as a sex symbol. The band was even voted into the Vocal Hall of Fame in 2000. I was never a fan of “Egyptian,” preferring the more rocker songs like “In Your Room,” and “Walking Down Your Street,” however Hoffs had a unique voice and was a very good front woman for the band, which she doesn’t get as much credit for.
Hoffs went solo and had a hit with “My Side of the Bed” (#30) and still tours solo and with The Bangles. She also works with Matthew Sweet releasing cover albums. I have recently started listening to her solo stuff and they are really good, including 2012’s “Someday.” I also watched the Vh1 “Behind the Music” documentary recently which shows a unique insight to the band that I found entertaining. I recently saw a concert of the Bangles online and they, along with Hoffs, still have the great musicianship that many bands have lost throughout the years. Definitely check out Hoff’s solo work.
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I recently wrote a blog about the Most Overplayed Songs of the 1970s. As promised, I am back to give you my list of the Most Overplayed Songs of the 1980s. The 1980s had many weird songs, and One Hit Wonders, especially since the emergence of music video programs and MTV. Just like my other list, there is a regional aspect to this list; these songs may be overplayed on the radio stations in my area, and may not be in other areas. However, I think these songs are overplayed everywhere and could use a rest for a while. So here is my list of the Most Overplayed Songs of the 1980s (in no particular order).
Kokomo- The Beach Boys (1988). This #1 hit was written by Mike Love, Terry Melcher, John Phillips (of The Mamas and The Papas), and Scott McKenzie (who had a #4 hit with “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear a Flower in Your Hair) in 1967). This song was featured in Tom Cruise’s “Cocktail” movie, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. I am a huge Beach Boys fan, and they are my favorite band of all time, but this song is worn out. The song is about a fictional place, although there are places that are named Kokomo, and was written without Brian Wilson. This song has been used in many commercials throughout the years that have added to my annoyance of the song. If you are looking for something from the 1980s by the band, I suggest 1985’s “Getcha Back,” which hit #26 Nationally and #2 on the AC Charts. I’d love to hear that song on the 80s channels and give Kokomo a rest at the beach.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun- Cyndi Lauper (1983) . This song has become a female anthem, which helped make it to #2 on the charts, but the song was originally written in 1979 with a male point of view to it. This song became the “I Will Survive” for the 1980s video era, and put Lauper on the map, with her wild multi-colored hair, and helped start the Rock and Wrestling Connection with her association with the WWF. Her image distracted the fact that she really could sing and songs like “True Colors” and “Time After Time” are a better reflection of this, but those songs seemed to be lost in the shuffle when it comes to radio playlist.
Celebration-Kool and The Gang (1980). This song has been played at every wedding reception or party since it was released in 1980 and many think it was a #1 hit for weeks, when in fact, it was only #1 for 2 weeks in the U.S. (It was knocked out by Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5”). This song started a more pop feel for the band, after having hits on the soul charts like “Get Down On It” and “Ladies Night.” The band had other hits besides this one. Robert “Kool” Bell and his brother, Ronald Bell, were both from Youngstown Ohio, which is a short distance from where I live. Although the song will not be stopped playing at weddings, radio needs to play other 80s hits like “Misled” (which hit #10) and “Tonight” (#13 which also has a great groove and a rocking guitar solo) in their playlist, and save this song for the special occasions.
Don’t Stop Believin’-Journey (1981). This song has been listed on many people’s list in the past and there is a reason why. This song so extremely overplayed by everyone from radio, downloads, political rallies, and sporting events. The song is featured on Broadway as well now. The song hit #9 on the U.S. Charts and is not a bad song, but just played all the time. The album “Escape” had many other released singles that were hits that never get played like “And They Ride,” which hit #19 on the charts. Granted “Ride” is a ballad, but “Don’t Stop” is not a rocking song either. This song is one of the most downloaded songs in history, which shows that some people are not tired of it, but I am definitely tired of this song. I’d rather hear “Stone in Love” by the band.
Every Rose Has It’s Thorn- Poison (1988). Nothing says the late 1980s than the power ballad by rockers that showed their softer side. Big Hair, leather pants, jacket wearing rockers stripped down to acoustic guitars was the inspiration to the 1990s “Unplugged” craze. I like Poison, and have seen them in concert during their summer jam tours where several 1980-1990s acts have joined them. I especially like Poison’s first album “Look What The Cat Dragged In” from 1987, and the second album, “Open Up And Say Ahh” from 1988 , which was listed in a previous blog that I wrote (“Not Skipping Around-Albums That Must Be Heard” from Feb 18, 2015 available in my history, or just search the title in the search area). Even though this song was on that second album (and was a #1 hit for 3 weeks) the song has become old. Bret Michaels has included this song on many of his solo albums, including country duet versions of the song. I suggest 1987’s “I Won’t Forget You” by the band, which hit # 13 on the charts for something different but still a ballad.
Rock You Like A Hurricane-The Scorpions (1984). This song here will show an admitted bias in my selection. I never liked this band, and when I saw them on tour with Alice Cooper in 1996, I liked them even less. Even if I did not like the band, this song is overplayed in my area, from local sporting events (even high schools) to the radio. This song only hit #25 on the U.S. Charts. I view this band much like Great White, where very few people can actually pick them as their “favorite band” yet for some reason, some musicians worship the band for their musicality (and I find both of those bands annoying and boring). The Scorpions to me had cool album covers but had irritating vocals and music. People are quick to judge bands like Kiss who give out fake “Farewell Tours” but failed to discuss that this band announced their farewell tour and last album in 2010 and are still at it. If I was to choose a song from the band, it would be “No One But You” from 1982, which did not chart in the U.S. (No I’d not suggest “Wind Of Change” which Alice Cooper even joked about hoping they’d not play that song when I saw him open for them in 1996).
Free Falling-Tom Petty (1989). Petty is another artist which I do not like very much, especially with his political rants. However, it does not deter from the fact that I always disliked this boring song that hit #7 in the U.S. This was on Petty’s first solo album away from his band The Heartbreakers and came off of the #18 hit “Jammin Me” with the band. I really liked “Jammin,” which was a good rocking song. Petty then went into a mellow feel with this song, which was co-written by ELO’s Jeff Lynne. There were better songs on the album “Full Moon Fever” that I liked, even though I’m not a Petty fan. This song did not fit in the 1980s feel of music, but maybe that was the appeal of the song.
Jump-Van Halen (1984). This song was #1 for 5 weeks in 1984, and was released in December 1983. The song was one of the top songs of the year, and featured guitarist Eddie Van Halen’s start to use synthesizers on VH’s albums. It was the only Van Halen single to hit #1, even though the Sammy Hagar led band later had more album success, after singer David Lee Roth left the band after this album. There is a rumor that Eddie took the synthesizer idea from Hall and Oates’ “Kiss On My List,” but it was not confirmed one way or the other. David Lee Roth’s vocals have always irked me-yes he was a great front man, but as a SINGER- Hagar was so much better- Hagar had a better range. However back to the song-this song is too much keyboard for me especially for a rock band that gave us songs like “Running with the Devil” and “Feel Your Love Tonight.” This song is played on every 80s and Classic Rock radio formats, and is featured on numerous radio and TV commercials that it has lost its appeal. I’d rather listen to “I’ll Wait” off the same album if I want to hear some early 80s VH, which is almost never (I prefer the Hagar years especially since that was the first concert I ever saw). It shocks me when many Van Halen fans argue which singer was better, but fail to remember that the Dave era had some stinker songs (many cover songs) along with strange lyrics, which is the case as well with this song.
Pour Some Sugar on Me- Def Leppard (1988). Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” is now one of the biggest rock albums in history, yet most fans do not know that the album originally was failing on the charts, which was supposed to be a Hard Rock version of “Thriller,” where every track would be a single. This song was the last song to be added to the album and eventually made it to #2 in the U.S., being denied by the great Richard Marx at the #1 spot in 1988. This song was rumored to gain traction when it started getting played at strip clubs in Florida and then started breaking nationally in the U.S. This song is played at sporting events and every place in between, which make the song way overplayed and the song, to me, was boring even when it came out. I love the “Hysteria” album, and had numerous copies of the cassette when it came out due to overplaying it, but I always skipped “Sugar,” along with their biggest hit, “Love Bites.” I know artists would love to have the success of this song, but when it comes to radio play, I’d rather hear a “Don’t Shoot Shotgun,” or “Love and Affection” on rotation ( I know I’d never hear “Gods of War” on rotation, which has one of the best grooves on the album). This song definitely needs to be retired for at least 200 years.
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