Bruce wasn’t the only chart topper of 1984 whose worst songs also happen to be his most popular. The Billboard 100 singles chart for that year represents a tremendous amount of talent pissed away on “Ghostbusters” and “I Just Called To Say I Love You.” Here are some redeeming tracks for you to consider from the class of ’84:
“Funky Stuff,” Kool & The Gang: By 1984 the band had long forgotten their funky roots, choosing instead the bland sounds of “Joanna” (#24) and “Tonight” (#90). Two hits for the year is pretty impressive, but you, sir, have lost my business. Here they are in their much funkier incarnation.
“Rock On,” Raydio: Before Ray Parker, Jr. was scoring with “Ghostbusters” (#9) and “I Still Can’t Get Over Loving You” (#77) he was a member of Raydio. They had their cruddy hits, too, but “Rock On” is a pretty sweet slice of late seventies funk. Listen to that thumping bass line, cowbell, and talk box.
“I Believe (When I Fall In Love),” Stevie Wonder: I don’t know if any cut can undo the damage done to Stevie’s reputation by “I Just Called To Say I Love You” (#25), which is a shame because the Wonder catalog is rich with gems. This track is one of my favorites — you might remember it from High Fidelity.
“Women In Love,” Van Halen: “Jump” (#6) brought Ed and Diamond Dave a whole new audience, but this underappreciated track from Van Halen II is one I always come back to. Michael Anthony’s classic harmonies really make this track.
“Fallout,” The Police: Probably the deepest cut in the Police catalog, and also one of their punkiest. Miles from the AOR of “Wrapped Around Your Finger” (#85).
“To Live And Die In L.A.,” Wang Chung: “Dance Hall Days” (#74) left me cold, but the following year’s To Live And Die In L.A. soundtrack was solid. I still pull this one out every couple of years. Here’s a very cool acoustic take.
“Ready, Steady, Go,” Generation X: Before he started dancing by himself, Billy Idol was the lead singer of Generation X. I don’t have any quarrel with “Eyes Without A Face” (#37), but I still prefer Gen X.
“Machine Gun,” The Commodores: Lionel Richie, what happened? How did you go from this funk masterpiece to “Hello” (#7), “All Night Long (All Night)” (#12), “Stuck On You” (#32) and “Running With the Night” (#53)? You know what? Never mind, just go. I can’t look at you.
“Nasty Dogs and Funky Kings,” ZZ Top: The Little Ol’ Band From Texas wasn’t a household name before “Legs” (#60) and the other slick hits from Eliminator, but they were better when they were dirtier.
“(I Know) I’m Losing You,” Faces: Rod Stewart once had the greatest voice in rock and roll. Why he chose to waste it on “Infatuation” (#58) is a mystery. And let’s not forget the Rolling Stones’s Ronnie Wood laying it down on guitar. I’ll take any Faces cut over “Undercover of the Night” (#93). If only The Who had a 1984 hit we’d have a trifecta of underutilized Faces talent. Listen here for Faces/Who drummer Kenny Jones’s classic solo.
So there you have it. Shitty pop music circa 1984 was made by some crazily gifted musicians who were phoning it in. Also, Rockwell had a hit.
Do you have a favorite redeeming cut from a maligned artist? I’m listening.