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Published on July 27th, 2011 | by Hugh Hession


The top 30 obscure rock/pop ballads of the 70’s and 80’s: Part 1–The 80’s

One thing I loved about the 1970’s and 80’s was the album format. This was the age of AOR or what used to be known as Album Oriented Rock. Used to be, that there was a large legion of music fans that would buy albums, as opposed to merely singles, which in that time were released on 45 RPM’s.

There were some great rock and pop ballads written throughout these two decades. My aim is to capture not only some of the best, but more importantly, more obscure songs that you very may never have heard of. This can provide a fresh approach when looking for a selected cover song to record and make your own.

So here is the deal. There are things to realize about this post.

First, these lists are obviously subjective, but at the same time, understand that this is coming from someone (me!) who sat for hours upon hours in their bedroom as a kid listening to records, and not just hit songs, but entire albums! I am no doubt, a music freak.

Secondly, depending who you are, there are a few of these songs that may not seem obscure at all. Granted, some of these songs were hits (most of them were not), but the main premise, is that these songs were all classic tunes that you either don’t hear anymore, or were literal “B” sides that were, well…just plain great songs. Fans of these bands certainly know these songs. That is something that has changed completely in the age of singles.

Thirdly and most importantly, I posted these for you to perhaps record for yourself. C’mon. Do some re-arranging, make one of these your own…be creative! A great song is timeless, not matter what the time period. So don’t pay attention to the dress or style of these time periods – that is irrelevant. There are some gems in here, that in my opinion, you may be able to use, provided you look beyond the production and think more of how you could develop a particular song to fit your genre and the current time period.

First, let’s look check out the 1980’s. Here are my picks. Your comments are welcome. Yes, go ahead. Leave a comment!

The Top 15 Obscure Rock/Pop Ballads of the 1980’s

1. Hold On (When You Feel You’re Falling)-Spys (1982)

Founded by ex-Foreigner members Ed Gagliardi and Al Greenwood, Spys were one of the best rock bands of the early 80’s regardless of how much of a splash they made. Too often, people make assumptions of the quality of a band or song based upon their chart status. If you know anything about the business, you’ll be chuckling at that last statement. There were way too many great bands of that day that didn’t get promoted the way they should of. The Spys were one of these bands.

2. It Ain’t Enough-Corey Hart (1983)

Corey Hart broke out on the scene in the early 80’s with his hit Sunglasses At Night. A prolific songwriter and emotional performer, It Ain’t Enough was on Hart’s first record First Offense (1983). As an alternative to the original link, this is the acoustic version with Corey on the piano. (Please note that there is a 1 minute personal intro to this version).

3. Letting Go-Straight Lines (1982)

Straight Lines was a pop act from Canada. Writers Robert Buckley (keys and sax) and David Sinclair (guitars and vocals) were nominated for Composer’s of the Year at the 1983 Juno Awards. Though only a select few radio stations played this song, it always surprised me that it never truly broke out stateside.

4. More Than Just The Two of Us-Sneaker (1981)

The band Sneaker from the West Coast, hit the Top 40 in 1981 with this song, produced by Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan guitarist Jeff Baxter. One element I love is the presence of piano in so many of the ballads of that day. Great melody, vocal delivery and those stacked backing vocals!

5. Why Not Me-Fred Knobloch (1980)

Knobloch is no stranger to the industry, having penned songs for George Strait, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Etta James and more. In 1980, his song Why Not Me was a radio favorite reaching #1 on Billboard’s AC charts and #18 on the Hot 100. Though the production is obviously incredibly dated, the song remains identifiable. Knobloch has a way of personalizing his songs so the listener can connect – one of the qualities of a great songwriter. This song has truly been lost in time, awaiting for someone to come along and breathe life back into it!

6. Heart Over Mind-Van Stephenson (1984)

If you were a kid back in this time, the name probably doesn’t register, but the song Modern Day Delilah may. On the same album, was the “B-side” ballad Heart Over Mind. Van Stephenson was a decent writer and like many of that time, a talented vocalist.

7. Without You-Franke and the Knockouts (1982)

Most identify Franke Previte, lead singer of his band Franke and the Knockouts with his hit song Sweetheart (that’s the band completely live, mind you). Though Previte always seemed to dress like a pimp back then (I’m sure he cringes at those old pictures – just pickin’ at you Franke), he had an incredible voice and a knack for writing great melodies and hooks. I remember summer nights as a teen listening to this song with my girlfriend while we were…

8. Falling in Love Again-Michael Stanley Band (1981)

Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio – home of the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame, Stanley never could break out of the Midwest, but because of the bands hardcore following, they managed to hold major label contracts with Epic, EMI and Arista throughout their heyday. MSB still holds attendance records at the (now demolished) Coliseum at Richfield and The Blossom Music Center. Known for the Top 40 hit song He Can’t Love You, Stanley wrote this country-rock ballad which was always a long-time favorite of his fans.

9. Stay Awhile-Journey (1980)

What more can I say about this legendary band? Their staying power is proven and are still one of the best selling acts of today. From their album Departure (1980), Stay Awhile was one of Steve Perry’s best, however it is often overshadowed by the likes of Open Arms and Faithfully. Definitely doable for any band today wanting a memorable but simple love song to put on their next record.

10. It’s Never Easy-Loverboy (1983)

At one time, Loverboy ruled the charts with songs like Workin for the Weekend, Get Lucky and Queen of The Broken Hearts. They came right before the hair band/glam rock thing became fashionable and were MTV favorites. It’s Never Easy has always been on my list for one of the best unknown ballads. Vocalist Mike Reno delivers.

11. Into The Night-Benny Mardones (1980, 1989)

Mardones actually was lucky enough to have a major hit with Into The Night, twice; once in 1980 and then 9 years later, in 1989. One thing about this song, is that although it was popular, it is often forgotten until you hear it, and then it’s like “I’ve heard this!” Most however, never know the songwriter and artist.

12. Alone Tonight-Genesis (1980)

Genesis went through many artistic transformations through the years. From the eccentric, Peter Gabriel era to the hit pop/rock machine of Phil Collins, Alone Tonight comes from a period in between the two. From Duke (1980), This is one of Collins’ early ballads.

13. Why Can’t This Night (Go On Forever) –Journey (1986)

This song was the last cut on the 1986 album Raised on Radio – the record that American Idol’s Randy Jackson played on. The song never really got its due because of the tour getting cut short, in addition to the band parting ways. Love this power ballad. Wish they would bring this one back. I’m sure Arnel would nail it.

14. Time-Alan Parsons Project (1980)

Best known as the producer for Pink Floyd’s Darkside of the Moon, Parsons had a few radio hits back in the early 80’s, however Time was one of his best. The production effort is superior for that decade, surreal and multi-dimensional – typical of his style.

15. I’ll Be Over You-Toto (1986)

As accomplished studio players and producers, the members of Toto were on some of the biggest albums known to man (Michael Jackson’s Thriller being one), however most people rarely knew it. Toto was a pet project that members launched in the late 70’s and made impact with  Hold the Line, and I’ll Supply The Love.  Their album IV, released in 1984 was probably their most commercially successful, earning 6 Grammy awards and yielding the hit songs Rosanna, Africa and I Won’t Hold You Back. Although I’ll Be Over You peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100, it has quickly been forgotten by many over the years. A great song that no doubt, holds up to anything on Toto IV.

Go to Part 2: Top 15 Obscure Rock/Pop Ballads of the 1970’s.

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About the Author

owns and operates Emerging Artists Entertainment Marketing & Consulting, LLC - a company devoted to cultivating aspiring music artists, He is also the head of Hession Entertainment Group, LLC (artist management) and the Music Industry Liaison for the artist discovery site, TalentWatch ( He has over 25 years experience in the music business as a performer, composer, producer and artist manager. Hugh holds a BA in Marketing and is a professional member of NARIP and a voting member of The Recording Academy. He often speaks at seminars and workshops on artist development.

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