Thursday, May 29, 2008

We Owned The 80's - Episode One : Gregory Abbott

[In case you didn't peep game yet, this is officially New Feature Week. One of the things I've wanted to blog about here for ages is my favorite decade evar, the decade when a young AB came of age. Yes party people, I'm talkin' bout The 80's. We Owned The 80's is another who-knows-how-often series that will highlight notable music, movies, and other cultural stuff I wanna shoot the breeze about. Enjoy responsibly.]

Few musical phenomenons are more puzzling than the One Hit Wonder. Rack upon rack in my local used CD store is littered with the carcasses of artists whose popularity peaked too soon, and who found that lightning in the bottle difficult to (re)capture.

The 80's had several such artists who blew up, then blew away. Just to name a few...

Junior - Mama Used To Say
Shannon - Let The Music Play
Nena - 99 Luft Balloons
Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Relax (Don't Do It)
Gwen Guthrie - Ain't Nothin' Goin' on But the Rent
Rockwell - Somebody's Watchin' Me
Oran 'Juice' Jones - The Rain
Bobby McFerrin - Don't Worry Be Happy
Jocelyn Brown- Somebody's Else Guy
Frankie Smith - Double Dutch Bus
But perhaps no 80's artist represents the Boom-Then-Bust career arc better (worse?) than Gregory Abbott, sainga of one of the greatest single hits of all time, the immortal "Shake You Down".

The song was somewhat of a throwback. Whereas most mid-80's R&B music was synth-heavy and gimmicky, "Shake You Down" was like the bass and snare-centric babymakin' ballads of the late 70's. Half-Venezuelan, half-Antiguan, Abbott also had the fortune of coming out at a time when light-skinted, good-haired dudes were generally fashionable, as well as at the height of the Miami Vice craze. His passing resemblance to Phillip Michael Thomas probably didn't hurt his appeal with the ladies. I can still hear my aunts swooning the moment that harmonica started wailing during the song's intro.

Assuming you were alive in 1986 and living on the planet Earth, there is no possible way you could have not ever heard this song. And likewise, there is no way in Hades that you weren't sick as hell of it. The song stuck around the Billboard R&B charts for a stunning 27!!! weeks, and even made it to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, a feat seldom achieved by an R&B artist not named Michael Jackson or Prince in the 80's.

The backstory on the song, courtesy of The World's Most Accurate Encyclopedia:
Abbott wrote the song along with over 30 others before striking a record deal with CBS. He recorded a demo tape and chose the best three. "Shake You Down" was released as the first single from Gregory Abbott. It went to number one on the black singles chart in October, 1986, and on January 17, 1987, it also peaked at number one on the Hot Singles Chart.

It debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 the week before topping that chart. It was not intended as the original single to promote the album, "I Got The Feeling" was scheduled to be the first single but was postponed as the follow-up (eventually peaking at #56).
And now, the goods...

[Editor's Note: As much as I'd love to have embedded the classic video in it's entirety, those litigious bastards at Sony/BMG had other plans, so here's the audio instead. If you know of an embeddable version, please hit me via email.]

On the strength of the platinum single, Abbott's debut album of the same name was a success, going platinum and topping the Billboard Hot 100. Sadly, there would be no followup to "Shake You Down". His followup single, the atrocious "I Got The Feelin (It's Over)" went triple wood, and Abbott faded to relative obscurity, only bearing mention by third-rate comedians (Arsenio Hall's "Gregory Abbott World Tour 89" joke is still kinda funny) and first-rate bloggers (that would be yours truly). He continues to release music, primarily singles, and "also moved somewhat into placement of music for films and television as well as working on film projects of his own", according to the Wiki.

AB's PR-Bullsh*t-To-Common-Sense Translation: He didn't save his "Shake You Down" chips, and prolly lives in a van down by the river.

I sure hope Souja Boy is somewhere takin' notes.

[Question: You got another We Owned The 80's post you wanna see here? Hit me you-know-where. The Request Line is open.]

Gregory Abbott [WikiPedia]

14 AverageComments™:

inkognegro said...

Joy and Pain was a legitimate Rob Base hit.

Otherwise....good post.

mynameismyname said...

First time posting here.

Great blog.

The "good hair" reference threw me for a loop but hey ...I think you were trying to make a point. Right?

Anyway, a lot of those artists that you posted weren't actually one hit wonders. Mary Jane Girls? Come on. "All Night Long"? "Boys"? "Candy Man"? That first album of theirs was classic.
Sybil, FGTH, Junior and as the above poster mentioned-Rob Base actually had multiple hits.

Hell, according to, Abbott had another Top 5 R&B hit with "I Got The Feelin' (It's Over)". So there, two hit wonder. LOL.

Everyone else on that list pretty much went to working the afternoon shift at Mickey D's after their first and only (yet still memorable) hit dissipated from the charts.

"Shake You Down" is classic though. G-Unit Rapper Tony Yayo sing some lines from it on his first hit, "So Seductive".

And for useless trivia of the day, did you know that Gregory's cousin, Diahanne, was married to Robert DeNiro for many years? She actually starred as Bobby D's love interest in Scorsese's "King of Comedy".

mynameismyname said...

Oh, according to ... "I'll Prove It To You" ...another Top 5 R&B hit for Mr. Abbott.

Three hit wonder! :)

ebonygentleman said...

The System, "Don't Disturb This Groove"

There's a one-hitter for ya.


Tiffany In Houston said...

I am mad at you for 'light-skinted'!!! You are forbidden to blog for the rest of the day!!!! LOL!!!!

mynameismyname said...

The System had a few hits. The classic "You Are In My System" being one of them.

zeezy4sheezy said...

wow! you know for the longest time I use to think this was Al Jarreau because of the scatting that he does towards the end.. Its funny that i use to think Rockwell was MJ cause Mike's voice was so identifiable back then.. I'm surprise Rockwell's career didnt keep going despite the fact that he was Berry Gordy's nephew

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Man, my dad loved this song and was always singing it to my step mother. I was in jr. high but I still remember him dancing around in the garage singing on the radio. This was his JAM!

*SMH* The 80's they sure were interesting!!


Anonymous said...

I loved this song by Mr. Abbott. I was 19, in college and this was one of the goto songs for the fellas when they tried to seduce a chick.

Mr. Johnny Kemp - "Just Got Paid" -Just watched this the other day on youtube...

Ms. Two Cents said...

Ok, so I like 90's R&B better but I will admit to being a 1st grader singing this song on the playground during recess. That just speaks to my parents having a good taste in music and why later on I was able to appreciate good music when I heard it. Rock on AB! You may have own the '80's but my generation owned the '90's!


AB, Go to you Tube. You can Download it with real player, but I don't know if you can embed it.

ebw-educated black woman said...

How about Turned Away by Chuckii Booker. :)
and anything by Troop.

Christina said...

Rockwell is actually Berry Gordy's son.

miss kate said...

Gah, that song will be in my head all day now. "eeny, meeny miney MOE!" A plague on your house, AverageBro!

Is this the dude that was married to Freda "Band of Gold" Payne, or am I making that up? That would make for an interesting pair--two fashionably "light-skinted" almost-rans.

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