Category Archives: 1987

One Hit Wonders: Billy Vera and the Beaters

At This Moment by Billy Vera and the Beaters

by Robert Mishou

This One Hit Wonder was originally recorded in 1981 (reached #79), but did not receive any attention until 1986 when is was used in the sitcom Family Ties as a love theme for Alex Keaton (Michael J. Fox) and his on screen girlfriend (and future real life wife) Ellen (Tracy Pollan). The exposure that the song received from this popular TV show catapulted it all the way to #1 in January of 1987. The song is has a clear bar band sound with a piano and bass accompanied by an excellent horn section (with a great sax solo). Lyrically, the song is a lament for a fading relationship. The man is agonizing over his love moving on and finding someone else:

What did you think
I would do at this moment
When you’re standing before me
With tears in your eyes
Tryin’ to tell me that you
Found you another
And you just don’t love me no more

He explains to her that he is hurt, but still loves her too much to anything crazy. Yes, he does miss her and wants her back, but he is not going to yell and scream at her or he would never hurt her. His desperation is clear in the last verse (my favorite):

What do you think
I would give at this moment
If you stay I’d subtract twenty years from my life
I’d fall down on my knees
Kiss the ground that you walk on
If I could just hold you again

The song ends with Billy Vera singing his desperate pleas, finally going quiet as the band belts out one final burst. I have never purchased or even listened to an entire Billy Vera and the Beaters album and I most likely never will; but if you only get one hit – one minute in the sun – then this song is a great one to do it with. Every time I hear it I think of Family Ties and bask in ‘80s nostalgia. Of all the One HIt Wonders, I am most glad that this song resurfaced and claimed the honor of being a One Hit Wonder in this decade.

hese five make a total of fifteen One Hit Wonders over the last three weeks – these songs would make quite a mix tape – hey, not a bad idea. I will round out the first mix tape next week with five more great songs that fit into this beloved category of the ‘80s.

One Hit Wonders: Midnight Oil

Beds are Burning by Midnight Oil

I am including this song despite it reaching only #17 on the AT40. Despite being monsters in their native Australia, this is their only song to make any sort of dent on the American charts. The lead singer, Peter Garrett, quickly, albeit temporarily, became the most recognizable part of this band short lived 1988 success. His large frame, bald head, and jerky dance moves helped this song remain in high rotation on MTV. The band shines lyrically. The have used their talents and this musical medium to make people aware of political and social issues in Australia. This song won several Australian music awards in 1988 and discusses the touchy subject of the Australian indigenous population. In a nutshell, Australia was colonized by British who moved (or were sent) to the continent, lived on the land using the resources, and displaced those that were there first – sounds somewhat similar to what happened in the United States with the Native American population. Midnight Oil makes their stance on this issue very clear, pulling no punches:

The time has come
To say fair’s fair
To pay the rent
To pay our share
The time has come
A fact’s a fact
It belong to them
Let’s give it back

In case this is not clear enough, listen to the chorus, “How can we dance when our world is turning? / How do we sleep when out beds are burning?” While I like this song, it has never been one of my favorites. I bought the album with one of my penny purchase from Columbia house. I did not like the album much, but at least I did not pay the full price. I do admire the way Midnight Oil uses the their music to do more than just set a beat. They understand the power the medium has to influence people and change minds.

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1987 – Bourgeois Tagg

“I Don’t Mind at All” by Bourgeois Tagg

Bourgeois Tagg was a band led by Brent Bourgeois and Larry Tagg. Their self-titled debut album got a little attention on college radio, and that was about it. But in 1987, the band recorded the album Yoyo with Todd Rundgren as the producer. This spawned their biggest, and only hit – “I Don’t Mind at All”. The song peaked at #38 on December 5, 1987. The follow-up single “Waiting for the Worm to Turn” failed to chart in the U.S.

Then tensions rose in the band, and they broke up. Brent Bourgeois went on to a solo career, and is currently involved in Contemporary Christian music. Larry Tagg released two solo albums, With a Skeleton Crew and Rover. Guitarist Lyle Workman tours with Todd Rundgren, and scored such films as Jon Favreau’s 2001 comedy “Made,” and the 2005 hit comedy “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Drummer Michael Urbano played with the group Smash Mouth from 2000 to 2006.

Let’s Return to the band’s happier days when they had this hit, “I Don’t Mind At All”:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1987 – Jonathan Butler

“Lies” by Jonathan Butler

Jonathan Butler was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa during Apartheid. He started singing and playing acoustic guitar as a child. He began touring at the age of seven when he joined a travelling stage show, and eventually became a local teen idol.

Butler was signed to Jive Records in 1977. In the early ’80s he moved to the U.K. In 1987, he had his international breakthrough with his Grammy nominated hit single, “Lies”, which peaked at #27 on August 29, 1987.

He has not had another hit in the U.S., but does still have a loyal following in South Africa, the United States and Europe. He still records R&B music, as well as Gospel music.

So let’s Return to 1987, and see if Jonathan Butler’s “Lies” can lure you into becoming a fan:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1987 – Partland Brothers

“Soul City” by the Partland Brothers

The Partland Brothers – G.P. and Chris – was a Canadian duo. They played in several bands around the Toronto area before forming a bar-band called Oliver Heavyside. In 1982, they entered and won the “Q107 Homegrown” contest, which attracted the attention of Capitol Records. They then just called themselves the Partland Brothers, and released their first album in 1986, called Electric Honey. Their first single was a huge success, hitting the Top 10 in Canada, and reaching the Top 30 in the U.S., peaking at #27 on June 27, 1987. This earned them tours with the Moody Blues and the Beach Boys in the US, as well as headline gigs of their own at home in Canada.

However, there were management issues, and they did not release their next album until 1990. Their sound changed to be more acoustic. They released their last album in 1993. They still play, now with their brother Robin on drums, and back up Ronnie Hawkins on the road in Canada and the US.

Here is the Partland Brothers’ lone hit, “Soul City” :

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1987 – Breakfast Club

“Right on Track” by Breakfast Club

Breakfast Club was a band that was formed in New York in the late ’70s, by Madonna (!) and her boyfriend at the time, guitarist Dan Gilroy. Madonna left the band in the early ’80s to form a new band called Emmy. But, the rest of Breakfast Club remained intact.

In the mid-80s, Breakfast Club finally landed a contract with ZE Records, and released their self-titled debut album in 1987. The album featured their hit song “Right On Track” which peaked at #7 on May 30, 1987. They were nominated in the category of Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards in 1988, losing out to Jody Watley.

The band went on to record a second album, but it was never released. They did have a cover of the The Beatles’ “Drive My Car“, used in the film, License to Drive. Shortly after that, the band broke up.

Now, let’s Return to 1987, and check out Breakfast Club’s smash it, “Right On Track”:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1987 – Hipsway

“The Honeythief” by Hipsway

Hipsway was a Scottish band that was formed in 1984 by ex-Altered Images guitarist Johnny McElhone on bass, and featuring Grahame Skinner (vocals), Pim Jones (guitar) and Harry Travers (drums). They were signed by Mercury Records, and released their self-titled debut. The album did pretty well, with the single
“The Honeythief” peaking at #17 on the U.K. charts, and peaking at #19 in the U.S. on April 4, 1987.

The band was not able to capitalize on this success. Johnny McElhone left to found the band Texas. By the time Hipsway released their second album, 1989’s Scratch the Surface, Harry Travers also left the band. The album did not do well at all, and the band split up.

So let’s Return to 1987, and catch Hipsway’s brief moment of glory – “The Honeythief”:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1987 – Bruce Willis

“Respect Yourself” by Bruce Willis

In 1987, Bruce Willis hopped on the actor-turned singer bandwagon, joining John Schneider, Eddie Murphy and Don Johnson. Willis was at the height of his Moonlighting role of David Addison when he recorded his debut album, The Return of Bruno. It was an R&B album that was released by Motown, and did pretty well. It peaked at #14 on the Billboard 200 album chart. A big part of that success was due to the single “Respect Yourself” which reached all the way up to #5 on the charts on March 7, 1987. The song was a remake that was originally performed by The Staples Singers in 1971. Bruno did a great job covering the song, but it didn’t hurt that June Pointer sang some verses with him.

His follow-up singles “Young Blood” and “Under the Boardwalk” did not fare nearly as well, peaking at #68 and #59, respectively. However, “Under the Boardwalk” did well in the U.K. peaking at #2 there.

Bruce Willis’ career skyrocketed the following year when Die Hard came out. The rest is history.

So let’s Return to the glory days of 1987 and listen to Bruce Willis’ lone U.S. smash hit, “Respect Yourself”:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1987 – Chico DeBarge

“Talk to Me” by Chico DeBarge

Chico DeBarge is the younger brother of the family band, DeBarge. He was ot a member of the band, but had his own solo career. In 1986, he released his self-titled debut album, ad had his lone top-40 hit off that album, called “Talk to Me”. It peaked at #21 on February 21, 1987. Before Chico’s career could really take off, he was arrested on drug conspiracy charges. He didn’t get out of prison until 1994. After his release from prison, he started his music career back up. He has been to rehab, and continues to record and perform today.
It is possible for him to score another top-40 song. But, in the meantime, let’s Return to the ’80s, and listen to his hit song “Talk to Me”:

One Hit Wonders of the ’80s: 1987 – Georgia Satellites

“Keep Your Hands to Yourself” by Georgia Satellites

“Keep Your Hands to Yourself” was a very distinctive and very polarizing Southern Rock smash hit for The Georgia Satellites. The song was in heavy rotation on MTV, and on the radio. They guitar riff, and Dan Baird’s unique vocals made the song very popular. People tended to hate this song, or love it. It peaked at #2 on February 21, 1987. It was kept out of the #1 spot by Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”.

Georgia Satellites followed up with some more songs and albums that received good reviews, but did not do well commercially. Baird left the band in 1990 to pursue a solo career. Georgia Satellites returned in 1993, without Dan Baird. Led by original band members Rick Richards (lead guitar and vocals) and Rick Price (bass and vocals), with Kenny Head on keyboards and Todd Johnston on drums, they continue to perform.

Now let’s Return to 1987, and see what the story is about this “free milk and a cow”: