Artist: Checkmates, Ltd.
This is an EXTREMELY rare, obscured indeed! The Checkmates, Ltd., to my understanding was a group discovered by the late Nancy Wilson. This was a very talented group in my opinion, it was such a shame that they broke up just barely a year after forming the group. Their biggest hit was a song called “Black Pearl (1969),” which was written and produced by the infamous Phil Specter. The song reached #13 on the pop charts. The also had some success with a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.” BTW, no….. Everybody assumes this was Tina Turner’s original, it’s not. Around 2008, Universal Studios suffered a major fire, and many original recordings were completely destroyed. Unfortunately, that included almost all works by the band, and many more artists as well. Check out this lost treasure album, I think it’s really nice piece of forgotten history.
So much great oldies in the digital world it’s ridiculous!! Absolutely no one should be crying they don’t have money to buy their favorite song or album! Because guess what? You virtually don’t need money any more these days. Just take the initiative and search Spotify or YouTube! Today’s musicians are the legendary Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. You may remember Marilyn as off and on lead singer for “The Fifth Dimensions.” Her long time husband Billy Davis Jr. founded the group some time in 1965. However they first came out under a different name. In 1965 they were first known as “The Versatiles.” A year later, they changed the name to “The Fifth Dimensions.”
Both Were Affiliated With The Fifth Dimensions!
The group has been known for many many huge hits, such as “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” and “Up Up And Away,” just to name a few. The group was so huge back in the day, and I’ve always associated Marilyn McCoo with the group. However, I tend to forget that McCoo actually had both a few solo and duet albums with her husband. Unfortunately, she only had one real hit outside of “The Fifth Dimensions.” In my opinion, this was her most memorable song (in my age group) it’s called “You Don’t Have To Be a Star (To Be In My Show) (1976).” I played this song so many times as a kid, I’m surprised that 45rpm did not turn in to dust and disappear!
I Often Forgot That Marilyn Had Albums Outside Of The Fifth Dimensions!
Now, this doesn’t make any sense. Unless I’m missing something, or Billboard can’t give me the information I need. I remember as a young boy how huge his song was; almost every Black household was playing this song, yet Billboard did not have this song registered. That is impossible. It was too popular not to be registered anywhere on there. I’ll try a little longer and see, but I just can’t find it. Anyway, before I get sidetracked, I’d like to make a quick comment about their album “Marilyn & Billy.” I believe this album was released around 1978, then digitally re-released in 2014. I did not personally own this album, so I was in catatonic shock, when I discovered that a song McCoo sang, “Saving All My Love For You,” was performed originally by her! I don’t even think I heard her version on the radio. I assumed this was originally recorded by the late Whitney Houston! You see, we all learn something new every day!!
Song: Oh Sherrie
Artist: Steve Perry
Album: Greatest Hits + 5 (1998)
Now, of course, many people are going to have different opinions about this, but just keep in mind that this is my own personal opinion. As both a blogger and a heavy music fan, when it comes to rock music, I feel that Steve Perry is one of the very few greatest rock voices that ever lived (at least in my generation). Steve has a voice that demands attention. I mean, the only other person I can think of, that has a voice powerful enough (and better even) could even dare challenge him, would have been the late Freddy Mercury of QUEEN (that would have been a spectacular concert if that indeed happened, yes?) That’s my opinion. Let’s face it, very few male 80s rock “singers” could actually sing, without interpreting their output as pure yelling!
I’ve Heard Very Few Male 80s Rock Singers, That Didn’t Scream Their Way Through!
You know, I looked at Steve, and never thought that an amazing voice could come out of that tiny body. 🤣 I think it’s safe to say that Steve truly made his mark as lead singer of Journey, with the following two songs. The first, a song called “Open Arms (1982),” which reached #2 on the Top 100 chart. The second song was called “Never Stop Believin’ (1981),” which peaked at #9 on the Top 100. You know, after the fact, it seemed very strange that this song peaked at only #9 considering this song was remixed and played so many times. At times it seemed more popular than “Open Arms.” Then again, I guess I have to remember it depends on the environment I’m in. Because in the clubs, they played “Never Stop Believin'” a lot. In fact, many “Bring To Action” type groups used this song as their anthem.
What a great song it was though. There’s no doubt that this song was and still is extremely inspirational. After Steve left the group Journey, he produced two songs from his solo career that became my ultimate favorites. The First Song is called “Oh Sherrie (1984),” and peaked at #3. I loved this song. Not only was the music great, I loved the way he sang it. I thought the way he emphasized the “N” sound, in the lyrics “You Should Have Been Gonnnnnnnnnnnnneeeeee” was absolutely hilarious! 🤣 Since he partly written the song, I guess some of that was personal experience (as most songs where back in the day). The last ultimate favorite is called “Foolish Heart (1985).” I think this was a really nice rock ballad. It only reached #18 (which isn’t bad). I’ll tell you one thing, all those classic rock stations playing love songs from back in the day, usually this song would bound to popup at some point.
Song: Sitting In The Park
Album: TWO (1980)
Another amazingly talented band that has been forgotten. Even when I’d visit 70s/80s parties, maybe once or twice I’ve heard their music played. This awesome band formed in the Bronx, New York, sometime in the late 60s. Their history is hard for me to trace, as they’ve performed under different names & different music labels. Their music genre was mostly disco. They almost had a Chic, sound to their music in my opinion.
They’ve Produced 2 Unforgettable Hits!
Most older folk would probably remember their monumental #1 R&B hit “Disco Nights (Rock Freak) (1979).” I used to dance the hell out of this song. One of the very few songs I’ve heard where R&B and Disco merged beautifully (in my opinion). You may also remember their cover of Billy Stewart’s 1965 classic “I Do Love You (1979).” Their rendition did very well, reaching #5 on the R&B chart. However, from that same year (I believe) there was another cover they did by Billy Stewart, and I don’t recall the song receiving a whole lot of buzz. It’s called “Sitting In The Park (1980).” They did a beautiful job with this song as well, and I appreciated how they kept the essence of the song in tact, without changing the song completely. It reached #9 on the R&B Chart. Unfortunately, the groups ended before 2000. Keith Crier (above, first left) passed away, and the remaining group members eventually went their separate ways doing other things. So sad.
Song: Mr. Blue Sky
Artist: Electric Light Orchestra
Album: Out Of The Blue (1977)
Guys, please don’t judge their name! Although their name sounds like they belong to some sort of circus or novelty act, this England born band produced beyond amazing music when I was growing up. And the proof in that, is their staggering streaming numbers. The song “Mr. Blue Sky” was released in 1977, how the hell did it manage to gather 360M streams from Spotify alone? Are you kidding me? That’s the kind of streams that only someone like Whitney Houston, or Michael Jackson got. Yet, if you ask the average person who they are, they draw a blank! Most people don’t have a clue.
How Can A Group Get So Much Plays, Yet People Barely Remember Them?
That’s mind boggling to me. Either this is an example of how complicated an artist/band stats are, or streaming is moving so incredibly fast, that we are missing a major part of our music history! Don’t you think? To throw an even bigger wrench into the equation, they never had a number one hit! But they do have 7 Top Tens under their belt.
Despite “Mr. Blue Sky” being so successful, the song was at the bottom when it came to my favorites. The song that I think is probably most known/remembered was from their album “A New World Record,” the song is called “Telephone Line (1976).”It also happens to be one of my top favorites. This peaked at #7 on the Top 100, and was their highest ranking song on the charts. Also, from that same album was another favorite of mine called “Livin’ Thing,” and it only peaked at #13 (which is not bad). It’s a really nice album, I recommend it. Check out some of their other hits, “Don’t Break Me Down,” and another great song of theirs “Evil Woman.”
Artist: Pat Benatar
Album: Crimes Of Passion (1980)
Genre: Alternative Rock
You know, technically, I don’t think Pat Benatar is a forgotten artists per-say. At least not from the standpoint of her music being obscure. However, I do think she’s a forgotten artist from the standpoint of her being a woman within the rock genre. Like rap, the 80s was really tough for female rockers, in a male dominated genre. She had (and still has) the voice for rock music, but unfortunately this very talented rock artist never had a number one, and as far as I know, never been inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame. However, that didn’t stop her from obtaining 4 awesome Top 10 Hits! As I’ve said earlier, I’ve never had any particular interest in borderline hard rock. But, Mrs. Benatar was one of those rare acceptations.
Such Power In Her Voice, Yet She Never Had A #1 Song!
And one of the 4 Top Tens, happens to be today’s song pick. “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” from her 1980s “Crimes Of Passions” album. This song peaked at #9, and in my opinion, is probably one of the most memorable songs of her career. To my understanding, this song was actually her first Top 10 Hit. The song was so popular, it was heard during many sports games and sports commercials. Another hit I loved was her song “Love Is A Battle Field (1989).” I thought the video was awesome too. While I mentioned her video, I want you to check it out. One of the dancers has a striking resemblance to Stephanie Mills. I’ll give you one more favorite. The song “We Belong (1985),” was a badass song back in the day. I used to listen to it all the time. This amazing song reached #5 on the Top 100 Chart.
Artist: Ronnie Dyson
Ronnie sang what became one of my favorite childhood songs growing up ever!! You know, I perceived Ronnie to be very androgynous back in the day. When I first heard him sing my ultimate favorite, “(If You Let Me Make Love To You) Then Why Can’t I Touch You” as a child, for a very long time I thought he was a woman. Unfortunately, the face of my 45rpm record was damaged, and I had not learned his name yet. Even after years later when I finally saw his picture, I still was not sure, as there were many female artists that performed with male energy. I perceived him with a Nina Simone type energy. But, it didn’t matter to me because all I knew was, I loved this song!
For Quite Some Time I Mistakenly Thought Ronnie Was A Woman
I guess what drew my attention, was the slight caribbean background sound. The song reached #8 on the Pop Chart, and #9 on the R&B chart. Not sure where the song fell on the Top 100/200. I would imagine it would have been in the top #10 – #30 range. This was one of his most memorable hits in my opinion. Another popular hit of his was a song called “I Don’t Wanna Cry (1970).” Very nice fast paced and rhythmic beats. Honestly, I don’t remember hearing this song growing up, but I really love this as well.
There is one last hit that I do remember. I heard my late grandpa play this quite a few times too. The song is called “The More You Do It (The More I Like It Done To Me) (1976).” This song was the sh*t back in the day! But once again, Ronnie’s voice fooled me again. He had such vocal range that I thought it was a completely different person singing this. The high notes made me think it was actually Billy Paul or someone like that. The song reached #6 on the R&B Chart. Unfortunately, Ronnie passed away from heart failure at the age of only 40 years old, on November 10th, 1990.
Song: I Love The Rainy Night
Artist: Eddie Rabbitt
Genre: Traditional Country
Well, I can say for sure, the majority of my young listening don’t have a single clue about who the late Eddie Rabbitt was. Those who did not listen to country music back in the 80s have no idea just how huge Eddie Rabbitt was. He was truly a talented hit maker! In fact, his music at times didn’t even sound like country, it sounded more like borderline pop music. I love to hear that kind of diversity in an artists music. Eddie has made quite a few popular favorites of mine. I haven’t listened to any of his music for a long time; and listening to it recently just reminded me just how fun it was to listen to his work.
My Absolute Favorite Was His Duet With Crystal Gayle!
I love his song “I Love The Rainy Night (1981),” because it’s a song for everyone, whether you’re young or old. Almost everyone can relate to it in someway. So much of country music consisted of artists singing about either a broken heart, or something they like to do on their farm or something. This song was in essence about enjoying life, and enjoying the moment. Everybody can relate to that! The song shot up to #1, and stayed there for 2 weeks.
Another deep favorite of mine, is the duet Eddie did with the legendary Crystal Gayle. A song called “You And I (1983).” I thought this was such a beautiful song. Crystal’s voice was definitely on point for this song. Man, all these great potential wedding songs, and growing up I had not heard anyone play them in my surroundings. What a shame. This song shot up to #7. Another great hit he had was called “Drivin’ My Life Away (1980).” This was a very catchy tune. This song hit #5 on the Top 100. I didn’t realize until today that Eddie passed away some time in 1998 of a failed liver. So sad to read that we’ve lost such a great talent.