Saturday, March 5, 2016

Superhits 1980-1984, Part 3

 Time to catch up on this.

“Don’t Make Me Over,” Jennifer Warnes, #67, 1/19/80
Faithful remake of the 1962 Dionne Warwick, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  The song was originally written after Warwick, who had gotten tired of singing demos for Bacharach and David and then watching them make recordings of the songs with others, angrily told the two “don't make me over, man . . . (you have to) accept me for what I am.”  David took Warwick’s outburst and made it part of the lyrics, and the song made #21.  (She probably felt better about the two than she did about her record company, Scepter, which misspelled her actual last name, Warrick, on the label, forcing a stage name change.)  In 1989, Sybil would have the biggest hit with the song, reaching #20.

“Shooting Star,” Dollar, #74, 1/19/80
The first of 14 chart hits in their native United Kingdom, but their one and only U.S. chart entry.  Dollar was the duo of David Van Day and Thereza Bazar, who had previously been part of the British group Guys ‘n Dolls.  Striking off on their own in 1977 (after having formed a romantic relationship), they would hit the British top 10 four times between 1979 and 1982 with “Love’s Gotta Hold on Me,” “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “Mirror Mirror (Mon Amour),” and “Give Me Back My Heart.”  However, they split both professionally and personally in 1983, although they’ve reunited to make a few more recordings and appearances on and off since then.  Don’t look for them to get back together anytime soon; Van Day’s appearance on the British version of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! seems to have made the break with Bazar permanent (“I really hope he swallows a worm in there and chokes on it”).

“Takin’ It Back,” Breathless, #92, 1/19/80
The one and only hit for the six-man band from Cleveland, Ohio.  Led by guitarist and singer Johan Koslen (previously of The Michael Stanley Band), this was a pretty good rocker.  Unfortunately, this was pretty much all we heard from them; they broke up after their second album.  Koslen formed a couple other bands and performed solo during the 1980s and reunited temporarily with Michael Stanley in 1993, while keyboard player Mark Avsec and drummer Kevin Valentine became members of Donnie Iris’ band, The Cruisers.  Produced by Don Gehman, who would also produce many of John Mellencamp’s 1980s records, as well as Life’s Rich Pageant by R.E.M.

“Coward of the County,” Kenny Rogers, #3, 1/26/80
Story song by Rogers, along the lines of “The Gambler.”  Written by Roger Bowling and Billy Ed Wheeler, the story concerns a young man, Tommy, who has promised his late father, who died in prison, that he wouldn’t follow in his footsteps and be a brawler.  When three local brothers attack his girlfriend, however, he faces them down and beats the tar out of them.  Rogers and the songwriters have made it clear that “the Gatlin brothers” in the story have no relation nor reflect badly on the real-life country band of the same name.

“I Wanna Be Your Lover,” Prince, #11, 1/26/80
First Top 40 hit for Prince (“Soft and Wet” barely scraped into Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1978), and it’s a good one.  The falsetto gets a little annoying at times (it took me a few years to realize the high vocals were the exception, not the rule), but it was another super-catchy R&B hit, and the lyrics were safe enough for AM radio.  (Prince wouldn’t have any further top 40 hits until 1983’s “Little Red Corvette” for precisely that reason, with that song making the grade because it was more innuendo-laden and less direct.)  This was a pretty good period for Top 40 radio, and this song was a major reason why… even if I didn’t appreciate it at the time.  However, this video, at 16 and a half minutes, may be a little much.

“Wait for Me,” Daryl Hall & John Oates, #18, 1/26/80
On the other hand, this was Hall & Oates’ seventh top 40 hit, and their only chart hit from the album X-Static.  A midtempo showcase for Hall’s vocals, this shows up on a lot of the duo’s compilations (the version on Rock ‘n Soul, Part 1 is a live version that hasn’t been released anywhere else).  Actually, at this point it looked like Hall & Oates’ career was slowing down – X-Static would be one of only two albums they released between 1975 and 1990 that didn’t go at least gold (the other would be 1977’s Livetime, which they later told biographer Nick Tosches had “nothing to do with anything”).  However, their followup album, 1980’s Voices, would yield four chart hits and turn their career around.

“Third Time Lucky,” Foghat, #23, 1/26/80
Fifth and final top 40 hit for the boogie band originally from London, all on Bearsville Records (Foghat and Todd Rundgren were the label’s mainstays; after the band temporarily broke up in 1984 and Rundgren signed a contract with Warner Brothers, the label folded).  The title refers to the lead singer’s luck with love; his first two times he didn’t know what he was doing and got burned, but he was lucky the third time.  Believe it or not, these guys still tour:  drummer Roger Earl has been there since the beginning, while bass player Craig MacGregor has had four tours of duty (including the glory years of 1976-1981); guitarists and singers Dave Peverett and Rod Price are now deceased and their places have been taken by Charlie Huhn and Bryan Bassett.  Check out the tour schedule and plans for the new album at

“Glide,” Pleasure, #55, 1/26/80
One-hit wonder band from Portland, Oregon; Pleasure was created when two soul/funk bands there merged, Franchise and The Soul Masters.  Wayne Henderson, trombone player for The Crusaders, got the band signed to Fantasy Records in 1975; they would record six albums there and one for RCA before calling it quits in 1982.  This song made #10 on the R&B charts, easily their biggest hit on both the soul and pop charts. 

Leif Garrett, “Memorize Your Number,” #60, 1/26/80
Hard to believe this guy, whose vocal abilities were limited, was on his eighth of ten chart hits.  He got his record contract during the teen heartthrob portion of his acting career, having appeared on projects as varied as Walking Tall, The Odd Couple TV series (he played Felix Unger’s son Leonard), and Three for the Road.  He might have had better luck as a singer if Atlantic Records had stuck with a single plan – his first album was primarily remakes of rock classics, his second album was mostly disco, and the third album featured pop rockers like this.  Garrett was already headed down darker paths (he had been the driver in a 1979 car crash that left a close friend of his, a passenger in the vehicle, a paraplegic), so it’s probably not a surprise his music career would start petering out over the next couple of years.

Journey, “Too Late,” #70, 1/26/80
Third single from the band’s 1979 album Evolution, which was their first album with Steve Smith on drums (previous albums had Aynsley Dunbar drumming, but he had left to join Jefferson Starship).  It’s a typical Steve Perry-led power ballad, but the band was far from being the cash cow they would become (“Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’” had just become their first top 40 hit a few months before).  This is yet another band still hitting the boards – many of their performances this summer will feature other classic rock artists, such as Santana, The Doobie Brothers, or Dave Mason.

Lobo, “Holdin’ On for Dear Love,” #75, 1/26/80
Here’s another guy who had a lot more chart hits than I would have thought.  Lobo (full name Roland Kent LaVoie) hit the Billboard charts 15 times during his career.  His two biggest hits were “I’d Love You to Want Me” (#2, 1972) and “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” (#5, 1971).  By 1980, the hits had slowed down, but there were still coming (1979’s “Where Were You When I Was Falling in Love” hit #23).  This one was Lobo’s last American hit, but he’s still touring in Asia, where he remains popular.

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