Tuesday, July 1, 2008

THE '80S REVISITED: MAGNIFICENT FAILURES


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times--at least, musically speaking. And we might never get over it. I'm talking about the 1980s. Even down here in Buenos Aires, you can't go into a bar, a store or even a taxi without hearing some throwback hit from the decade of leg warmers, Rubik's cubes and Mr. T. I recently read a Popdose post that listed the 10 worst No. 1 hits from the '80s. As I argued with some of the choices in my head, I started to think about the flipside: the best flops of the decade. Here are a few long-lost beauties that I uncovered.

Lindsay Buckingham: "Holiday Road"
Despite being the creative force behind Fleetwood Mac's hitmaking incarnation and scoring a No. 9 single on Billboard's Hot 100 pop singles chart with 1981's "Trouble," Buckingham never had the solo impact of bandmate Stevie Nicks. Too bad. He further showcased his artistic reach with this retro-'50s pop-rocker from 1983's National Lampoon's Vacation, which deserved to go much higher than No. 82. That sexy "oh oh ohoh ohoh" refrain is still sweet music to my ears.

Eric Carmen: "I Wanna Hear It From Your Lips"
In 1984, this hushed, arty ballad was supposed to be the big comeback for the singer-songwriter and former Raspberries frontman who went to No. 2 in 1976 with "All By Myself." He'd have to wait three more years until Dirty Dancing boogied its way into movie and music history and gave Carmen a Top 5 hit with "Hungry Eyes." Interestingly, Louise Mandrell (Barbara's sister) would remake "Lips" and take it to an identical peak (No. 35) on the country singles chart the following year.

Stacey Q: "Don't Make a Fool of Yourself"
If Stacy Swain had to be a one-hit wonder, it's hard to argue with the Hot 100 fortunes of "Two of Hearts," her No. 3 hit from 1986. She did, however, have several worthy follow-ups, notably "We Connect," "Shy Girl" and this No. 66 flop from 1988. I prefer the sultry electro groove of "Don't Make a Fool of Yourself," from Hard Machine (above, still one of my all-time favorite album titles and covers), to the frenetic high-energy romp for which she's best remembered, and the non-hit has aged a lot better.

The Pointer Sisters: "He Turned Me Out"
Between 1978 and 1986, during their pop-trio phase, the Pointer Sisters hit the Top 40 13 times (twice with their signature "I'm So Excited"), racking up seven Top 10's, four of them from their 1983 album, Break Out, which my mother bought me for my birthday the year after its release. By the time "He Turned Me Out," from Serious Slammin' and the Action Jackson soundtrack, arrived in 1988, their hit streak had ended, and the track only got to No. 39 on the R&B chart. I'm convinced that "He Turned Me Out" would have been much bigger had it been released at the Pointers' peak, but hey, timing is everything. (Interesting Fact: Bruce Springsteen, James Brown, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Electric Light Orchestra and the Pointer Sisters share the unfortunate distinction of having never scored a No. 1 Hot 100 single.)

Eric Clapton: "Pretending"
After a spurt of successful singles in the late '70s and early '80s, the rest of the decade wasn't so kind to Clapton. Yesterday, writing about "Forever Man," which managed a respectable No. 26 peak in 1985, got me thinking about some of Clapton's failed late-'80s efforts. "It's in the Way That You Use It," from 1986's August and The Color of Money soundtrack, was a too-obvious high-gloss bid for the Top 10 that didn't even chart on the Hot 100. But this bluesy far more subtle number from 1989's Journeyman inexplicably peaked outside of the Top 40, although the album was well-received both critically and commercially.

5 OTHER '80S SHOULD-HAVE-BEEN HITS
  1. Barbra Streisand & Kim Carnes: "Make No Mistake, He's Mine" (1985, from Streisand's Emotion)
  2. Cheap Trick: "Tonight It's You" (1985, from Standing on the Edge)
  3. Diana Ross: "Chain Reaction" (1985, from Eaten Alive)
  4. Ann Wilson: "The Best Man in the World" (1986, from The Golden Child soundtrack)
  5. Pink Floyd: "Learning to Fly" (1987, from A Momentary Lapse of Reason)
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