Old Music Friday: 7/5/84

Looking back at the new singles that debuted on the Hot 100 this week in 1984

Old Music Friday: 7/5/84
Memories of Tower Records magazine racks

Happy Friday, folks! I hope you're in the midst of a long weekend rather than back at work after having July 4 off. Here at Jefitoblog HQ, I'm just about back to regular scheduling, and honestly a bit antsy to get into my regular routine again; as for today, however, I'm a bit short on time, so I haven't yet made my way completely through the week's New Music Friday playlist. I'm thinking I might finish it off tomorrow, and if I end up with enough recommended tracks to fill a post, I'll write those up and publish them a day late; in the meantime, I thought it might be fun to take the Old Music Friday route again.

The Hot 100 chart for the week ending 7/7/84 only included nine debuts, some of which went on to become pretty big hits... and some of which I will be hearing for the very first time as I write this. How exciting!

"Don't Do Me," Randy Bell
One particularly astute YouTube commenter says this song is "half Devo, half Billy Idol," which is as humorous as it is accurate (which is to say: very). I'd never even heard of Randy Bell before today, and it's easy to explain why — after making enough of a local splash to attract the attention of Epic Records and signing what was allegedly a "long-term, multi-album" contract, he ran full speed at the Hot 100 with "Don't Do Me"... and peaked either at No. 93 or No. 90, depending on which website you believe. This was still the era of giving artists multiple shots at the big time, but for whatever reason, Epic decided to cut its losses, and ol' Rand left the roster about as quickly as he joined it. There's nothing wrong with this song, but by the same token, it's easy to understand why it never took off — although each individual component is wholly competent, the end result still sounds like the kind of thing you'd hear if a TV cop went to a nightclub in the '80s.

"99 1/2," Carol Lynn Townes
Speaking of artists who lingered on the commercial margins for an extended period, here's Carol Lynn Townes, who put her first (and, unfortunately, largest) dent in the Hot 100 nearly a decade after releasing her debut album. Townes first broke out as the lead singer for a group called Fifth Avenue; after their sole single, "Wheeler Dealer," failed to chart, she wandered the label desert for an extended period prior to finally latching on with Polydor as a solo artist. Her first release under the new deal was "99 1/2," a cut from the Breakin' soundtrack that crawled up to No. 77 on the Hot 100 after debuting this week at No. 91. Not the most impressive run, but "99 1/2" did better on the R&B and Dance charts, and Townes was also asked back to sing for the sequel, the immortal Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. A pair of solo albums followed, neither of which sold well; by the early '90s, her recording career had run out of rope. A sad story, but not an original one — and much the same could be said of "99 1/2," which is fairly generic electro-dance pop.

"I Didn't Mean to Turn You On," Cherrelle
An early hit from the chart-dominating duo Jam & Lewis, "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On" ran out of gas pretty quickly on the Hot 100 in its original incarnation — Cherrelle's version, debuting at No. 90 this week, crawled no higher than No. 79 before stalling out, although it was a much bigger hit on the Hot Dance Club and Hot Black Singles charts. Shortly thereafter, it was covered by Robert Palmer for his megaplatinum Riptide LP; coasting on the afterburners of "Addicted to Love," his version — the album's fifth single — went all the way to No. 2. Prior to writing this, I would have bet money that Cherrelle was way too young to record the song when she cut her version; I swear that's the story I've always heard. Turns out she was actually in her mid-20s, which is far less interesting.

"Mama Weer All Crazy Now," Quiet Riot
On one hand, it could be persuasively argued that Quiet Riot doesn't get nearly enough credit for making the Top 40 safe for metal; on the other hand, it could also be persuasively argued that whatever stature they may have earned by sending Metal Health to No. 1 was speedily undone by their return the following year with Condition Critical, an album that wanted nothing more than to serve up a complete carbon copy of its six-times-platinum predecessor. The band had label bosses to appease and they were exhausted after a year of touring, so it would be unreasonable to pin all the blame on them, but still — if your name's on the record, the buck stops with you. Anyway, after scoring a smash pop hit with their cover of Slade's "Cum On Feel the Noize," Quiet Riot went straight back to the well and covered Slade's "Mama Weer All Crazy Now," which naturally ended up being Condition Critical's leadoff single. Although it was a middling hit on the rock chart, it petered out at No. 51 on the Hot 100 after debuting this week at No. 88. The album went platinum; it would be the band's last to do so. (Things got very strange and very sad after that, but I'd have to fill up a whole post to do that story justice. Perhaps another day.)

"Still Loving You," Scorpions
For a long time, labels trying to break a hard rock act into the mainstream followed a simple yet effective playbook: Establish inroads with a catchy rocker that Top 40 couldn't deny, then follow it up with a big power ballad that was sensitive enough for audiences of all persuasions. Mercury followed this to a tee with Scorpions; after they finally cracked the Hot 100 with "Rock You Like a Hurricane," from their ninth LP Love at First Sting, the label aimed for lighter-waving glory with "Still Loving You." The gambit didn't pay off: After debuting this week at No. 86, the song stalled at No. 64, and Scorpions remained largely absent from the pop charts until 1991, when they released their career-defining ballad "Wind of Change." Why did the pop audience shrug at "Still Loving You"? I don't have any official answers for you, although I tend to think Scorpions singer Klaus Meine just isn't the type of vocalist you want crooning sweet nothings in your ear — his adenoidal teutonic wail is far better suited to songs that promise to rotchoo like a violent weather system.

"All of You," Julio Iglesias and Diana Ross
If you wanted to make a calculated bid for Top 40 glory in the '70s and '80s — and you couldn't afford David Foster — you could do a hell of a lot worse than hiring Richard Perry, the producer whose string of chart successes includes big fat hit records for Harry Nilsson, the Pointer Sisters, and... oh hi, Julio Iglesias. The Perry-helmed 1100 Bel Air Place took no chances; aside from positioning Iglesias as a tuxedoed crooner of soft-focus English-language ballads, it found him working with an array of American luminaries that included the Beach Boys, Diana Ross, and Willie Nelson. While it's the Nelson duet "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" that most people remember from 1100 Bel Air Place, "All of You" did pretty well too, peaking at No. 19 after debuting this week at No. 85. It isn't much of a song if you ask me, but in the context of this chart, it's pretty interesting as an example of an older, grandparent-friendly style of music existing more or less comfortably on the airwaves alongside more aggressively modern sounds.

"My Oh My," Slade
Here's record company synergy for you. By the early '80s, Slade had long since proven themselves to be an almost entirely European phenomenon, with nary but a tiny handful of exceedingly minor U.S. hitlets to show for their lengthy discography. But when Quiet Riot turned their version of "Cum On Feel the Noize" into a gargantuan Top 40 smash, that band's label licensed Slade's 11th studio album, The Amazing Kamikaze Syndrome, retitled it Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply, and released it in the States in the spring of '84. The experiment didn't pay enormous dividends, but it wasn't a failure — leadoff single "Run Runaway" gave Slade their biggest American hit, with "My Oh My" later squeaking into the Top 40 after debuting this week at No. 80. It's kind of a plodder, but it really isn't a bad song; in retrospect, it's a little surprising that it wasn't a bigger hit, given that it sounds vaguely like Queen in the same way that the Outfield's "Your Love" sounds vaguely like the Police.

"Leave a Tender Moment Alone," Billy Joel
1984 is fondly remembered as a year stuffed with blockbuster albums and movies that went on to be widely regarded as classics, and although Billy Joel's An Innocent Man LP was released in August of '83, it deserves to be part of that conversation, given that the album's preposterous chart run continued throughout the following year. Two of its six singles were released in '84, including this one — my favorite of the Innocent Man hits, and also the only one to miss the Top 20, going no further than No. 27 after debuting at No. 72. You can keep your "Uptown Girl" and "Tell Her About It" — I'll be happy over here with this thoughtful early-courtship ballad, graced with the effortlessly beautiful harmonica stylings of the one and only Toots Thielemans.

My main memory regarding "Leave a Tender Moment Alone" might be apocryphal, but I'm sharing it here anyway: From what I recall, although there was no official video for the song, MTV planned a live premiere of the concert clip embedded below — and then the timing got all screwed up because Thielemans was somehow held up on his way to the venue. It certainly looks to me like there's a little rushing going on at the start of the clip — not that you hear it in Thielemans' ever-flawless playing.