Too Late the Hero

(After this post, we’re taking a hiatus. Posting will resume during the week of January 23.)

In addition to its weekly Hot 100, Billboard publishes a “Bubbling Under” chart. In this ongoing series, we’ve been checking into artists who never made the Hot 100, and whose only Bubbling Under single peaked at #101. We started with songs dating back to the 50s, and with this installment, we’ve reached the mid 80s, and the end of the series.

“It’s Over”/Teddy Baker (10/24/81, four weeks on chart). Teddy Baker is quite obscure, even by the standards of this series and our earlier one covering one-hit wonders who peaked between #90 and #100. He led a couple of popular bands around Atlanta in the late 70s, one of which was “borrowed” wholesale by Paul Davis for the album that became Cool Night. “It’s Over” (heard in a live version here) sounds like the sort of well-made radio pop song that sounded good on a music director’s turntable but never struck much of a chord with the audience.

“Too Late the Hero”/John Entwistle (11/14/81, three weeks). As drummer (ed: bassist, you dumb bastard) for the Who, Entwistle charted a lot, of course, but he also released five solo albums between 1971 and 1981. “Too Late the Hero” is the title song from the last one, made in the early video age and sounding like a generic power ballad of the time. It could be by anybody.

“Last Night a DJ Saved My Life”/Indeep (3/26/82, three weeks). It’s easy to understand why “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” was an enormous club hit. It finds the groove in the first nanosecond and rides it for four minutes. The DJ rap in the middle is a bit lame—in the video, the guy doesn’t come across as the superhero type—but it’s nice to see one of the brethren getting some credit.

“Just Another Saturday Night”/Alex Call (6/4/83, seven weeks). Alex Call was a member of Clover, a band best remembered for backing Elvis Costello on My Aim Is True and for some famous alumni, including Huey Lewis and Sean Hopper of Huey Lewis and the News and John McFee, who joined the Doobie Brothers. Call also wrote or co-wrote several Lewis hits, as well as Tommy Tutone’s “867-5309/Jenny.” “Just Another Saturday Night” has the feel of a Lewis record with a little more guitar edge, and also a more serious lyric: “Just another high school killing on a Saturday night/Somebody got caught in someone’s sights.” Of all the records we’ve discussed in this series, this one might be the most perplexing failure—it should have been a monster.

“Young Hearts”/Commuter (8/25/84, one week). “Young Hearts” was the lone hit single from the movie The Karate Kid, and features some trendy electronics before the synthesized 80s percussion kicks in. It’s not bad, really; it’s exactly the kind of thing that would punctuate 30 seconds of a movie in the mid 80s and be forgotten as soon as the dialogue resumed. Inspirational lyric line: “Young hearts die young when they’re all alone and there’s no turning back now.”

“Rock You”/Helix (9/15/84, five weeks). By some scientific process, this Canadian metal band distilled the essence of what it means to be a 15-year-old boy and then transmogrified it, first to a song and then to a music video. “Rock You” has got everything—a primal beat, monster riffs, shouted vocals, cavemen, fire, and tits. (I will not title this post “Cavemen, Fire, and Tits,” but damn, I want to.)

“So Fine”/Marc Anthony Thompson (10/20/84, four weeks). Marc Anthony Thompson recorded two albums in the 80s, including the one containing “So Fine.” He later formed an avant-garde musical collective called Chocolate Genius, which at one time or another included John Medeski from Medeski, Martin and Wood, and Vernon Reid from Living Colour. Precisely what “So Fine” sounds like, we’re left to guess.

“I Want to Know What Love Is”/New Jersey Mass Choir (2/23/85, two weeks). The New Jersey Mass Choir backed Foreigner on “I Want to Know What Love Is,” and also put out their own version of it, which bubbled under while Foreigner’s original was still in the top 10. Lead vocals are shared by Donnie Harper and Sherry McGee; despite being gospel singers, they emote less than Lou Gramm does on the original, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

So here we are at the end of this particular line. Early football picks for the weekend are on the flip.

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