Oct 282012

I came across this 1981 performance of “When She Was My Girl” by The Four Tops, on Fridays, ABC’s failed answer to Saturday Night Live. I’d forgotten this single was released so late, during the period when the romantic grooves made popular by The Sound of Philadelphia and early disco had long turned to Germanic robo-funk and early rap. Someone with a better knowledge of release dates may shoot my thoughts down rightfully, but this song seems like it was released a good 2 or 3 years past its musical style’s expiration date. I would have thought that McFadden and Whitehead‘s 1979 hit “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now,” for instance, was the last of its kind. Smokey Robinson‘s “Cruisin'” is another 1979 single that I remember fitting in with the last run of mid-’70s soul. By 1981, I recall veteran soul artists moving into smooth jazz, stuff like Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Withers‘ “Just the Two of Us.” I suspect many of you won’t see the difference between that song and this Four Tops number. Oh well.

Can you think of other “last of its kind” hit songs, not retro-styled songs by a band like The Stray Cats or records by totally out-of-touch and unpopular local bar bands, but contemporary releases that came on the tail end of a certain movement and managed to make a splash on the charts? For instance, there must be a “last new wave song” or a “last hair metal song” or a “last psychedelic song.”


  7 Responses to “Last of its Kind?”

  1. cliff sovinsanity

    I just drafted a lengthy essay about “One Night In Bangkok” being the last New Wave song, when I realized the futility of it all. New Wave was a movement rather that a style. Could we break it down a little into other genres of the movement (original punk, Post-punk, pub rock, new romantic…).
    I’m having a lot of trouble determining when the spirit of punk gave birth to college and then became alternative. Not too long ago we discussed that bands like Gang of Four are still kicking it old school.

    I might post my One Night In Bangkok submission (edited) even though it doesn’t hold a lot of water.

  2. Roll it out, cliff! There are many gray areas in new wave. I’m a hard-ass but clearly not empowered to pass a judgment anyone will accept. It seems like you’re tuned into what I’m getting at. The least we can do is argue over these topics, and that’s good.

  3. cliff sovinsanity

    In 1989, the same year that non-new wave artists like Soundgarden, Nirvana and Green Day released their first albums we also had surviving new wave artists release successful new wave sounding albums…
    XTC – Oranges and Lemons
    B-52’s Cosmic Thing
    The Jesus and Mary Chain – Automatic

    Am I thinking too hard ??

  4. Not at all! I didn’t realize Cosmic Thing, for instance, came that late. That sounds like it could have been released much earlier in the decade. These are exactly the kinds of albums or songs I’m getting at.

    Even later, I might hold that Del Amitri’s “Roll to Me” is the last hit song with a clear “new wave” sound.

  5. cliff sovinsanity

    Damn, too late. I accidentally deleted it from my clipboard.
    My theory was that the song put to death New Wave and gave birth to “80’s music”.
    Then I had one of those arguments with myself where I poke holes in my own argument.

  6. Uncertain if this fits. I think Chuck Berry is rather well known for writing 50s sounding song hits into the sixties. Some examples being “Sweet Little Sixteen”, “Nadine” “No Particular Place to Go” “You Never Can Tell”

  7. diskojoe

    I remember that 4 Tops song fondly. How about “Night Shift” by the Commodores, which was a post Lionel Ritchie hit (1985) which was pretty good.

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