Thursday, May 23, 2019

"Venus" by Bananarama

#1 Alert!
Song#:  2777
Date:  06/28/1986
Debut:  89
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Dance-Pop



Pop Bits:  This UK trio got their first US Top 10 hit with "Cruel Summer," the first single from their self-titled second album. Further singles from the LP failed to do much of anything, but with one hit under their belt, the trio was eager to score another. For their next album, True Confessions, they again mainly worked with the songwriting/production team of Tony Swain and Steve Jolley. However, after hearing Dead or Alive's hit "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" (#11 Pop), Bananarama wanted to work with that song's producers, the team of Stock, Aitken and Waterman. They were able to grab some time from SAW and together recorded two songs for the album. One of the tracks they did was this cover tune (see below) that got issued out as the album's first official single. While it took a minute to catch on, it began to take off thanks in part to a popular MTV video. It would then reach #1 on both the Pop and Dance charts. It was also a minor entry at AC getting to #29. The hit then pushed the album to #15 and it would be a gold seller. It would be Bananarama's peak moment.

ReduxReview:  When I was a kid I had heard the original version of this song someplace and was entranced by it. The opening guitar lick, the chuggin' electric piano, and Mariska Veres' vocals (very Grace Slick-like) caught my attention. I remember going to a couple of record stores to see if I could find a copy of the single, which I did. Then the original Stars on 45 "Medley" single began with this song's opening lick and that took me back to the original song again. When I heard Bananarama was doing a cover, I wasn't sure how it would turn out. Apparently, both sets of their producers didn't think it was a good idea either but the trio finally convinced SAW to help them do an update. It ended up working out quite well. The song was a fit for Bananarama's unusual vocal approach and SAW's dance production totally worked. It resulted in a #1 hit. Many folks derided the cover saying the trio took the soul out of the tune and made it sterile, but I disagree. I think they took a 70s classic that they loved and updated just perfectly for themselves and for the time period.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally recorded by the Dutch band Shocking Blue. Written by their guitarist Robbie van Leeuwen, it was in initially released as a single in Holland and a few other European countries in 1969. It became a major hit reaching #1 on several charts. US Promoter and producer Jerry Ross discovered the band on a trip to Europe and signed them to his Colossus label. "Venus" was issued out as a single in the US in 1970. After a slow start, the song took off and became a #1 hit that would earn a gold certification. Ross then assembled an album for the US market that included the hit plus songs from the band's previous European releases. The self-titled album would get to #31 in the US. After that, it was downhill for the band. Two further singles were minor blips on the Pop chart and that wrapped up their career in the States. The lone hit then got them tagged as a one-hit wonder. They had better luck back home where they scored several hits, but by 1974 the band folded. There's one other interesting tidbit about the original recording of "Venus." With English not being the band's first language, when van Leeuwen wrote down the lyrics to the song, he mistakenly wrote for the first line "the godness on the mountaintop" instead of "goddess." Lead singer Mariska Veres then sang it as written. Although the band would correct this on later recordings, the original version with the mistake was the one that became a hit.  2) This is one of only nine songs recorded by different artists where both versions reached #1 on the Pop chart. The first time it happened was in 1971 when Donny Osmond's version of "Go Away Little Girl" hit #1. It was originally a #1 hit for Steve Lawrence in 1963. As of this posting, the last song to do this was "Lady Marmalade." It hit #1 in 2001 in a version by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya, and P!nk. The original version by Labelle reached #1 in 1975.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

"Rock 'N' Roll to the Rescue" by The Beach Boys

Song#:  2776
Date:  06/28/1986
Debut:  92
Peak:  68
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop



Pop Bits:  The Beach Boys' 1985 self-titled album was their first effort in five years. It was modestly successful due in part to the #26 single "Getcha Back." The band's return to the Top 40 sparked further interest in their back catalog and that along with a looming 25th anniversary in the biz led to them signing back up with their original home label, Capitol. Their last album for Capitol was 1969's 20/20, which came at a tumultuous time for the band and stalled at #68. Their first release after rejoining the label would be a new compilation album done for their anniversary titled Made in U.S.A. The band would record two new tracks for the disc including this first single. The song couldn't quite find an audience and it fizzled after a few weeks on the chart. While the compilation would only get to #96, it would continue to sell copies over the years and in 2003 it was certified double platinum.

ReduxReview:  I think if Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys drove on the wrong side of the road in London and crashed head-on into Jeff Lynne and Electric Light Orchestra, this would be the mess leftover from the wreck. Whoo-boy. The band had been slinging out some dreck in this time frame and this one didn't help matters. Their 60s surf music combined with 80s technology was not a match made in heaven. It just sounded awkward, weird, and messy. If they really wanted to emulate ELO, they should have brought in Jeff Lynne to produce. They also needed a better song. It might have been a cool venture, but instead we are left with this bizarre experiment that just didn't work.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  The band's last album for Capitol, 1969's 20/20, would later be somewhat associated with one of the most notorious crimes of the decade (and beyond). The song "Never Learn Not to Love" would be on the album and would also serve as the b-side to their #61 single "Bluebirds Over the Mountain." While the composer credit for the song simply lists Dennis Wilson, it was actually a reworked version of one written by Charles Manson. Wilson and Manson had struck up a bit of a friendship in 1968 when Manson was looking to be a recording artist. Wilson was interested in perhaps signing up Manson to The Beach Boys' new label Brother Records. Manson had written a song with The Beach Boys in mind titled "Cease to Exist." Wilson then made a deal with Mason for the publishing rights to the song. In exchange for cash and a motorcycle, Manson gave up ownership of the tune. Wilson then reworked the song a bit, gave it a new title, and got it recorded by The Beach Boys. Apparently, Manson was not happy that Wilson made the changes, especially the title, and made threats toward Wilson who then decided to end his dealings with Manson. The 20/20 album came out in February of 1969. Later that August, the Tate-LaBianca murders occurred and not long after Manson and his "family" would be charged for the crimes. Manson's notoriety put a bit of a spotlight on Dennis Wilson, The Beach Boys, and this song that now infamously hangs like a dark cloud over the 20/20 album.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"Victory Line" by Limited Warranty

Song#:  2775
Date:  06/28/1986
Debut:  93
Peak:  79
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Rock



Pop Bits:  This Minneapolis band started to form in 1979. Fleshed out to a five-man group, they began to work the club scene developing their performing and songwriting skills. They ended up auditioning for the hit TV talent show Star Search and landed a spot in the show's third season competing in the Vocal Group category. They made it to the finals in 1985 and ended up winning the $100,000 prize. The money helped them record an indie single of a song they wrote titled "This Is Serious." It got some airplay in the Midwest and that plus their Star Search win got them signed to ATCO Records. The label sent them to England to record their self-titled debut album with producer/engineer Brian Tench and this first single got issued out. While winning Star Search certainly helped get them a record deal, it didn't necessarily translate to record sales. The single could only manage a couple of months at the bottom of the Pop chart while the album slipped away to little notice.

ReduxReview:  These guys had a bit of Euro new wave to their sound. There's shades of Duran Duran, Tears for Fears, Go West, and even a little a-ha in the mix. It kind of makes sense since their single "This Is Serious" was produced by former Psychedelic Furs drummer Vince Ely and a chunk of their debut album was recorded in England. It's too bad this song didn't do better. It's got a good chorus and nice production. I also like Dale Goulett's voice. It doesn't necessarily scream Top 10, but it was a solid effort from a newbie band. They had a knack at writing hooky tunes too. The album has several nice cuts. These guys had the goods. It's just too bad it didn't fully gel for them.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although their debut album didn't do well, ATCO wanted to give it another shot and the band prepared to record a second LP. However, the label seemed to lose interest before anything was recorded and the band was dropped. They were able to sign a deal with EMI America, which soon became EMI Manhattan after a merger. New management entered the picture and after hearing a few demos the band did for a new album, the label decided to not move forward and dumped the band. After that, the band just slowly dissolved with members going on to other projects and careers.  2) The group that Limited Warranty beat at the Star Search finals was a female vocal trio called Jailbait. The trio consisted of sisters Yassmin and Karmine Alers and Kim Harlan. They did well on the show, but after their loss the rumor mill started spinning and some opined that the shows producers weren't fond of the trio's name and somehow pushed to give the tamer-named Limited Warranty the win. While it made for a good rumor, it just didn't make sense because when the trio was selected for the show, the producers could have easily told them to change their name if they wanted to be on the show. That obviously didn't happen, so any shenanigans seem unlikely. Jailbait did record a single for Atlantic called "Be the One," but is seems nothing came from it. Yassmin Alers would later find work as an actor and would appear in Broadway shows. Karmine Alers also found some acting work that included Broadway and touring shows. Karmine would try for a music career again as a member of another vocal trio called 3rd Party. They recorded a debut album in 1997 titled Alive. It spawned two chart entries - "Can U Feel It" (#43 Pop/#42 Dance) and a remake of Gary Wright's "Love Is Alive" (#61 Pop/#19 Dance). The lead singer of the trio was Maria Christensen, a songwriter who had released a solo album in 1993 to little notice. She co-wrote four songs for the album including the track "Waiting for Tonight." That song got picked up by Jennifer Lopez in 1999. It was on her debut LP On the 6 and was the album's second single. It reached #8 Pop/#1 Dance.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

"The Captain of Her Heart" by Double

.Song#:  2774
Date:  06/28/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  16
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Sophisti-Pop, Adult Contemporary



Pop Bits:  This Swiss duo was made up of Kurt Maloo and Felix Haug. They were previously in a trio called Ping Pong that had a some minor success with an album in 1982. The pair then took off on their own and formed Double. They released three singles and a 1983 EP before recording their full-length debut LP, Blue. This track would be the first single released from the album and it started to make waves in Europe reaching the Top 10 in several countries. The duo's album got picked up by A&M for US release along with this single. It was a slow starter debuting low on the Pop chart, but it eventually made its way into the Top 20. It would do very well at AC reaching #4. A second single, "Woman of the World," got to #37 at AC, but failed to make the Pop chart. The album did surprisingly well getting to #30. Unfortunately, further singles failed to do anything and their follow-up album Dou3le sank without a trace. The duo attempted a third album, but decided to go their separate ways. They reunited a couple of times and tried to record some new tracks, but nothing really got off the ground. Haug would die of a heart attack in 2004.

ReduxReview:  This is one sweet, soft rockin' jam. It's so easy, relaxing, and even sensual. The tune really set a mood. I love the dreamy piano lines and the sax. Maloo's vocals are soothing as well. A song like this was a bit unusual to hear on the radio, which made it stand out. It was also a great song to have on when cruising around the countryside on a hot summer night with the windows down. Easy, breezy, beautiful.  (Cover Girl!)

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Apparently, Double was the first Swiss act to reach the Top 40 of the Billboard Pop chart.  2) The duo's name is not pronounced the same as we would say it in English. With German as the majority language in Switzerland followed by French and Italian, they decided to give it a bit of European flair and the band name is pronounced doo-BLAY.  It basically rhymes with the last name of superstar singer Michael BublĂ©.  3) If you watch the US version of the video for this song, you might be able to spot a future star. A 15-year-old Denise Richards can be seen in the video. She sports cropped blonde hair and looks like a punk rocker. Richards started working in films and on TV shows in the early 90s. Her biggest break came when she co-starred in the 1997 sci-fi film Starship Troopers. In 2008, she would have her own reality show, Denise Richards: It's Complicated, that ran for two seasons. Her tumultuous marriage to Charlie Sheen (2002-2006) provided a lot of fodder for the tabloids.

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Sunday, May 19, 2019

"This Is the Time" by Dennis DeYoung

Song#:  2773
Date:  06/28/1986
Debut:  97
Peak:  93
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack, Adult Contemporary



Pop Bits:  DeYoung's second solo album, Back to the World, got off to a slow start when its first single, "Call Me," stalled at a low #54. It would do much better at AC getting to #5, but that didn't do much to boost album sales. Next up was this single that would serve double duty. It would be both the second single from DeYoung's album while also being the second single from the soundtrack to The Karate Kid Part II. The film would be a hit and its signature song, Peter Cetera's "Glory of Love," would be a big #1, but neither of them helped out DeYoung's single. It stopped at #32 on the AC chart while spending a very minor three weeks at the bottom of the Pop chart. Consequently, DeYoung's album tanked at #108. This single would be DeYoung's last solo effort to reach the Pop chart. He would switch labels from A&M, where he'd been with Styx since 1975, to MCA for 1989's Boomchild, but the album and its singles failed to chart and DeYoung found himself without a label. He would try his hand at Broadway tunes for 1994's 10 on Broadway, which generated the #36 AC track "On the Street Where You Live."

ReduxReview:  This is just pure DeYoung. It wasn't necessarily the most chart-worthy tune he'd ever written, but nearly all of his songwriting go-tos were present. Sweet melodies and chord changes, keyboard arpeggios, sections that charge forward, and a big arms-open freeing ending to the chorus. I do like the song. It was a highlight from a dull album. However, it just wasn't strong enough to make an impression as a single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Although DeYoung's solo days on the Pop chart ended here, it wouldn't be his last time on the Pop chart. After the failure of his album Boomchild, DeYoung reunited in 1990 with his former band Styx (minus Tommy Shaw who had commitments with his other band Damn Yankees). They recorded the album Edge of the Century. It's first single, "Love Is a Ritual," only got to #80 at Pop (#9 Rock), but the second single, "Show Me the Way," became an unexpected hit reaching #3 at Pop and AC. Released just prior to the Gulf War, the sentiment of the song fit the time period and it quickly became associated with the war. The hit made Styx one of the few bands to have Top 10 hits in three consecutive decades (70s, 80s, 90s). A follow-up song, "Love at First Sight," got to #25 Pop/#13 AC. Then as quickly as they reformed, Styx split up again due to their label (A&M) being purchased and the new label dropping them. They reformed again in 1995, this time with Shaw on board, and toured. A concert LP, Return to Paradise, would be a surprise seller that reached gold status. A new studio album, Brave New World, would follow in 1999, but it fell flat. Old tensions rose again in the band and once more they split. Shaw would continue with the band over the years, but the bad blood would keep DeYoung from reuniting with them.

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