Thursday, April 26, 2018

"Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits

#1 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  2385
Date:  06/13/1985
Debut:  87
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  Since 1978, this UK band had released four albums that reached either gold or platinum sales. They did quite well, but they didn't become superstars until the release of their fifth album, Brothers in Arms. It was mainly due to the huge success of this first single. The song, which featured a guest vocal appearance by The Police's Sting, caught on thanks in part to its associated MTV video that quickly went into heavy rotation. The single went to #1 at both Rock and Pop. The album also got to #1 and stayed there for nine consecutive weeks. The album would win a Grammy for Best Engineered Record while the band would win one for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group for this song. The album would be nominated for Album of the Year and this song for Record of the Year. The album would be a big worldwide success and eventually become one of the biggest sellers of all-time moving over 30 million copies.

ReduxReview:  This song disappointed me so much when I first heard it. I absolutely loved the mysterious sounding opening with Sting's haunting vocal and the big drum/synth build up to that hooky, ZZ Top-inspired guitar lick. But very quickly the song settled into a little dorky blues-rock jam about some guy working at an appliance store watching MTV on the various display TVs. That build up was so amazing and cool, I thought it was going to lead some to something, dark, hooky, and massive. It didn't. I thought it was a stupid song and I avoided it. Hearing it now, I'm still not the biggest fan of it, but I can appreciate how it all came together. It was just the right song with the right MTV-oriented lyrics, the right video, and the right guest star (Sting). Yet I'm still in search of the song that actually matches that intense, awesome opening.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) The band's leader, Mark Knopfler, is also their sole songwriter. There are only two songs on the band's studio albums where another writer was given a credit. "Money for Nothing" is one of those songs. When Sting contributed his vocal part, it was basically the melody from The Police hit "Don't Stand So Close to Me." Because of that, Sting got a songwriting credit even though Knopfler had really written the whole song.  2) According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Brothers in Arms album was the first to sell a million copies on the new CD format. It was also among the first to be digitally recorded.  3) Mark Knopfler really didn't like music videos and initially refused to do one for the song. But at MTV's prodding, he finally relented. Steve Barron directed the song's innovative video, which used an early form of computer animation. It would go on to win the award for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards. It ended up beating out another inventive video also directed by Barron; a-ha's "Take on Me."

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

"Summertime Girls" by Y&T

Song#:  2384
Date:  07/13/1985
Debut:  90
Peak:  55
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Hard Rock, Arena Rock



Pop Bits:  This Californian rock band mainly played cover tunes when they first formed around 1972. They soon developed their own sound and songs and got signed to London Records in a few years later. They recorded two LPs for London, but nothing much came from them. They switched to A&M and began recording for the label in 1981. Despite not selling many albums, the label stuck with the band and soon it started to pay off. Their third album for the label generated a Rock radio hit with the title track "Mean Streak" (#25) and they began to collect up more after that. Their biggest break came with this studio track that appeared on their first live album Open Fire. The song gained a lot of airplay and ended up getting to #16 on the Rock chart. It was also able to cross over to the Pop chart for a while where it nearly got inside the Top 50. The song would also appear on their next studio album, Down for the Count, but the album failed to really do anything. After that, the band moved over to Geffen for a couple of albums before calling it quits in 1991. Like many bands, they would later reunite and record more albums, but their charting days were behind them.

ReduxReview:  Oddly, this guy sounds like a cross between David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar. It's a shame this song didn't catch on more. It was popular in my area at the time and I thought it had a terrific hook and solid production. The track was a hot slab of windows open, cruising, radio-friendly rock and it really should have done a lot better on the chart.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  When the band secured their first gig, they still didn't have a name. Apparently, when trying to think up a name one of the band members was playing a Beatles album and thought its title would be a good name. The album was Yesterday & Today and that became the band's name. Their first two albums for London were credited to Yesterday & Today, however when they signed with A&M, they decided to shorten it to simply Y&T as that is what fans would chant and call the band during their live shows.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

"Take on Me" by a-ha

#1 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  2383
Date:  07/13/1985
Debut:  91
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  27
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave



Pop Bits:  This Norwegian trio formed in 1982 and soon after made a move to London in order to try and jump start their career. A demo of a song they had titled "Lesson One" got the attention of some industry folks and soon the band was signed to Warner Bros. The band then revamped their demo song and it turned into a new one titled "Take on Me." Produced by Tony Mansfield, who recently had success with Naked Eyes, the song was issued as a single in several European countries. It failed miserably in all of them except one - Norway, where it got to #3. It was promoted by a video that had the band simply performing the song in front of a blue background. That might have been it for the song, but the US arm of Warner Bros. thought the trio had something and decided to give them a shot. They ended up re-recording the song with producer Alan Tarney and a new, innovative video was shot to accompany the single. The video brought attention to the band and soon the single was picking up airplay. It was a slow starter, but the tune finally caught on and began topping charts around the world, including the US. It would make a-ha the first act from Norway to hit #1 on the US chart. It also got to #4 at AC. The hit would push their debut album, Hunting High and Low, to #15 and eventually it would go platinum. It would also earn the band a Grammy nod for Best New Artist. Unfortunately, it would end up being their only major hit and despite a follow-up that reached #20, this indelible track ended up getting the band tagged as a one-hit wonder in the US (#3 on VH1's Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s and #8 on their All-Time list). The band would remain hugely popular in Europe scoring eight Top 10's in the UK alone.

ReduxReview:  This song was destined to be a hit, but it took a new recording and a cool video to make it happen. If you listen to the original version first released, the song is there and is still good, but the production by Fairlight expert Mansfield does not make the song soar. It's very tinny and one-dimensional. It took the skills of Tarney to transform the song into something bigger and better. Now, whether the song would have caught on without the video is another question. I think it might have, but perhaps it wouldn't have been as big of a hit. It goes without question that the video certainly sold this record. In this case, I don't think it was a bad thing. This is a great tune with excellent production and the wonderful, soaring vocals of Morten Harket. In addition, the band was more than this one song. Their debut album Hunting High and Low was excellent and remains a favorite of mine. It's too bad that this is really the only song that is remember from them in the US. They had a lot more to offer.

ReduxRating10/10

Trivia:  If anyone at the time needed proof that a video could make a song a hit, this would be it. The animated pencil sketch video directed by Steve Barron fascinated viewers and it quickly became an MTV favorite. It would eventually go on to win six MTV Video Music awards, but it missed out on Video of the Year, which was won by Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing." The video remains a classic from the time and has even been parodied by TV shows like Family Guy, which had the character Chris getting caught up in a similar black-and-white pencil animation.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

"We Don't Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)" by Tina Turner

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2382
Date:  07/06/1985
Debut:  52
Peak:  2
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Rock, Soundtrack



Pop Bits:  After Turner's major comeback with her hit album Private Dancer, other opportunities came flying her way including film roles. One that she was seriously considered for was the part of Shug Avery in The Color Purple. She ended up turning it down as did other singers like Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, and Diana Ross. The role went to Margaret Avery, who walked away with an Oscar nod for her work. Although Turner wasn't interested in playing Shug, she did decided to take on the role of Auntie Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. The character was written with Turner in mind and she ended up signing on to the picture. Of course since she was a huge music star at the time, she was also tapped to provide a couple of songs for the film's soundtrack. This theme song was written by Terry Britten and Graham Lyle, the same team that wrote Turner's #1 comeback hit "What's Love Got to Do with It," and it became the first single released from the soundtrack album. It would be a multi-format smash getting to #2 Pop, #3 AC, #3 R&B, #23 Dance, and #29 Rock. The song earned Turner a Grammy nod for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. The movie did well at the box office and Turner was critically praised. However, she didn't parlay it into other roles. She wouldn't be seen on screen again until 1993 in The Last Action Hero, which was her last acting role outside of guest appearances where she played herself, including on the hit TV show Ally McBeal in 2000.

ReduxReview:  Okay, this song gets points for the writers being able to actually include "Thunderdome" in the lyrics! Britten and Lyle gave the song a "What's Love" kind of feel but then amped up the rock and tympani-style percussion for the chorus. It was a perfect fit for Turner and as usual, she sold it like no one else. Frankly, this song was the most memorable part of the film - and it was just played over the end credits! The film was fine, but it was so tame and Hollywood-ish when compared to the previous two films (especially the original, which was quite brutal). This song still stand up well today and I consider it among Turner's best.

ReduxRating:  9/10

TriviaThunderdome is the third film in the Mad Max series that began with the original Mad Max in 1979. Starring the relatively unknown actor Mel Gibson, the film was a worldwide hit that grossed over $100 million. With the cost of making the film estimated at around $400,000, its cost ratio to gross profit got it listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most profitable film of all time.  Years later, two horror flicks, The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, would each take over that distinction. The Road Warrior was the second Mad Max film and it was also a box office hit. Thunderdome did well, but it was the weakest performing of the three. The franchise would get a reboot in 2015 with Mad Max: Fury Road. This time around, the part of Max was played by Tom Hardy. The film was a major hit and ended up receiving ten Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. It would win six awards in the technical categories.

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Sunday, April 22, 2018

"Invincible" by Pat Benatar

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2381
Date:  07/06/1985
Debut:  61
Peak:  10
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack



Pop Bits:  After Benatar's album Tropico ran its course with three charting singles including the #5 hit "We Belong," she was ready to head back into the studio to record a follow-up. But prior to that, she had an opportunity to record a song that was written for an upcoming film titled The Legend of Billie Jean. Written by Simon Clime and Holly Knight, "Invincible" would serve as the theme song to the movie. Benatar got it recorded with producer Mike Chapman and it was released as a single a few weeks prior to the film's debut. The song was a hit at Rock getting to #4 and would become Benatar's fourth and final Top 10 on the Pop chart. With the song being a success, it was added to the track listing for Bentar's upcoming new LP Seven the Hard Way, which would be released later in the fall. The song would also earn Benatar her fifth Grammy nomination in the Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female, category. She won that category for four straight years, but this time she was bested by Tina Turner.

ReduxReview:  This was exactly what Benatar should have been doing on Tropico instead of the meandering half-songs that mostly populated the disc. It's a rockin' song with a great chorus that is right in line with some of her earlier hits. It's an empowerment anthem that worked so well and it has stood the test of time. The production is great without being too overdone and as usual Benatar kills it on the vocals. The movie was a total stink bomb, but luckily this song didn't need the film. Although "We Belong" and "Love Is a Battlefield" are great songs, this one is what you come to Benatar for - solid radio-ready rock. She would have some good songs yet to come, but for me this was her last truly great single.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Benatar was lucky that the song was strong enough to stand on its own as the movie was a box office bomb. The film starred Helen Slater as a teen who mistakenly gets into trouble with her brother and goes on the lam. In doing so and trying to prove her innocence, she becomes a teenage martyr. Slater's brother in the film was played by newcomer Christian Slater. Although they share a last name, they are not related. But for many years, folks assumed they were related due to the last name and the fact they were brother/sister in the film. Christian Slater was fifteen years old at the time and it was his first leading role in a film. For Helen Slater, it was her second box office bomb in a row. In 1984, she was selected to play the title role in Supergirl, but that film tanked. Also in the cast of Legend was Yeardley Smith. Smith was twenty years old at the time, yet she portrayed a fourteen year old kid. Smith would act in several films and TV shows, but her biggest role would come in 1987 when she voiced the character of Lisa on The Simpsons when it debuted as a short on The Tracey Ullman Show. She has continued to voice the character since and as of this posting, The Simpsons is in its 29th season. It is the longest running scripted television show in US TV history.

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