Monday, October 23, 2017

"Only the Young" by Journey

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2201
Date:  01/26/1985
Debut:  43
Peak:  9
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack



Pop Bits:  By this point, Journey had been absent from the charts for nearly a year. After their successful Frontiers album and tour, the band took some time to recoup and do other projects. The most prolific one was Steve Perry's solo album Street Talk. While still contemplating their next move, an opportunity to contribute a song to a film soundtrack came up. Instead of recording something new, the band offered up this tune, which had originally been recorded for Frontiers but ended up bumped from the final track listing. The song was a good fit for the coming-of-age flick Vision Quest and it ended up being the first single from the film's soundtrack album. It debuted just outside the Pop Top 40 and soon became the band's fifth Top 10 single. It did even better at Rock getting to #3. The results were great for Journey, but not so good for Scandal, who had purchased the song for their Warrior album and then got locked out of being able to issue it themselves as a single.

ReduxReview:  I'm not sure why Journey bumped this song from Frontiers. This had hit single written all over it and the album could have benefited from it. My only guess is that the anthem was a bit lighter than the darkly produced tunes found on the album and it might have sounded out of place. In the end it was probably a good decision as the song got out as something brand new following Frontiers and helped to keep them active on the charts while recording their next LP. As for the song, the guitar riff, sentimental lyrics, and sing-a-long chorus were arena ready and it played well on the radio. Although I would like some of their future songs, I consider this to be their last great single. It still had that real pop/arena rock Journey sound. Their tunes after leaned even closer to commercial pop/rock, most likely due to Steve Perry's flirtations with soft rock on his solo album.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  In 1980, the Make-a-Wish foundation began to grant wishes to kids with life-threatening illnesses. Journey and this song would play a part in one kid's wish. Kenny Sykaluk was a 16-year-old who was in the hospital in the last stages of his battle with cystic fibrosis. Journey was his favorite band and his wish was to meet them. It was all arranged and in the fall of '84 the band traveled to Cleveland to meet Sykaluk. They brought along a new Walkman that had a cassette with this song on it. At the time the song was set to be issued as a single in the coming months, but no one outside of Journey's inner circle had heard the tune. Sykaluk would be the first. He played the song while the members of Journey were in the room. The visit was very emotional for the band and it hit them even harder the next day when they found out that Sykaluk and passed away. Apparently, he was still holding the Walkman when he died. Journey dedicated the song to Sykaluk and used it as the opening number on the next tour.

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

"Too Late for Goodbyes" by Julian Lennon

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2200
Date:  01/26/1985
Debut:  52
Peak:  5
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Rock



Pop Bits:  The title track and first single to Lennon's debut album, Valotte, got his career started on a high note when it reached #9 Pop, #4 AC, and #2 Rock. For a follow-up, this next track was issued. It would end up being his biggest hit reaching #5 at Pop and #1 at AC. It just missed out on the Rock Top 10 getting to #11. The two hits would help the album go platinum. In the UK, this song actually served as Lennon's first single from the album. It did well getting to #5. "Valotte" was issued next, but could only manage a #55 showing.

ReduxReview:  This bouncy, syncopated tune is still a fun listen despite the production being very dated. Phil Ramone is a terrific producer, but he was never good at synthpop style productions like this one. It's missing depth. There's just a lot of treble happening and it all sounds a tad too cold. It's like an expensive Casio playing. Regardless, the simple melody and hooky chorus made this a bit o' 80s ear candy.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Film director Sam Peckinpah was known for his violent and controversial films such as The Wild Bunch (1969) and Straw Dogs (1971), as well as slicker fare like 1972's The Getaway. He was also know for his combative personality and that along with drug and alcohol abuse didn't make him a favorite among studios or producers. In the early 80s, his career was on the decline and he was also experiencing health issues. After fighting with producers over his 1983 film The Osterman Weekend, Peckinpah had little prospects on the horizon. But then he got an offer to try his hand at directing music videos. He was asked to do two videos for the Julian Lennon songs "Valotte" and "Too Late for Goodbyes." The videos were well received and the one for "Too Late" got Lennon an MTV Video Award nomination in the Best New Artist in a Video category. Unfortunately, the two videos would be Peckinpah's last works. He died in December of 1984 from heart failure.

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

"Keeping the Faith" by Billy Joel

Song#:  2199
Date:  01/26/1985
Debut:  57
Peak:  18
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop



Pop Bits:  Joel's album An Innocent Man had already spawned five singles. With the fifth one, "Leave a Tender Moment Alone," not performing as well as the previous singles (it peaked at #27), it seemed like that would be it for the album. However, the song was the LPs fourth #1 at AC, so with support still happening at that format, the label thought a sixth single might still generate some interest. It did just that with AC taking the song to #3. Those results may not have been all that surprising, but the response at Pop was. It ended up surpassing the previous single and grabbed a spot just inside the Top 20. With that final success, Joel's Innocent Man era came to a close.

ReduxReview:  This nostalgic tune probably should have been issued before "Leave a Tender Moment Alone." It just seemed to be a better fit for pop radio and the associated courtroom video, which featured cameos by Richard Prior and Joe Piscopo, was a fun one for MTV and the just-launched VH1 channel. It's a good tune with a bit of a rock edge and a nice horn/sax section. Besides the reflective lyrics, the song isn't necessarily as retro sounding as others on the album. I guess it's supposed to pay homage to pre-British Invasion rock, but I'm not really hearing that here. Regardless, it was a nice album closer and a good single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song is about a guy who is nostalgically looking back on his years as a young man in the 50s. The lyrics contain references to certain styles and products that were popular during the era. One item mentioned was not all that familiar to a younger generation. A line in the song says "I took a fresh pack of Luckies and a mint called Sen-Sen." While folks were still familiar with Lucky Strike cigarettes, many didn't know about Sen-Sen candy.  Developed in the 1890's, the licorice flavored candy was first marketed as "breath perfume" and was meant to mask odors caused by things like smoking (hence, the candy being mentioned in the same lyric line as a cigarette). It was considered the first breath mint and was quite popular from the 30s through the 50s. Although it got pushed back on the shelves as other new candies and mints came along, it remained popular and was later marketed as a nostalgia item until the candy stopped being made sometime around 2004.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

"High on You" by Survivor

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2198
Date:  01/26/1985
Debut:  63
Peak:  8
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  Ever since Survivor hit #1 with "Eye of the Tiger" in 1982, they had been struggling to follow-up that major success. They finally regained some of their audience when the first single from their album Vital Signs, "I Can't Hold Back," reached #1 at Rock and #13 at Pop. It was their biggest hit since "Eye," at least until this second single came along. With a little momentum behind them now, this song took off and became their second Pop Top 10 hit. It also reached the same peak at Rock. With a pair of hits, it seemed that Survivor finally hit on the right formula for success.

ReduxReview:  Songwriting duties for the band fell to members Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan. When the duo was on point, they cranked out delicious pop/rock tunes like this one. Nearly every section of the song contained a hook and it was loaded with memorable melodies that all fit well together. Had they written gems like this earlier, they most likely wouldn't have had to call this hit a "comeback."

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  New lead singer Jimi Jamison would later do some solo work along with song contributions to various projects. One song he did was heard by millions on a weekly basis. Jamison co-wrote and performed the song "I'm Always Here," which served as the theme song to the popular TV show Baywatch during its syndicated run. It was also included on the original soundtrack album for the show that was released in 1994. Baywatch had an even bigger audience in other parts of the world and the song was issued as a single in several countries.

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

"Nightshift" by The Commodores

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2197
Date:  01/26/1985
Debut:  71
Peak:  3
Weeks:  22
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary, Pop



Pop Bits:  After Lionel Richie's departure, The Commodores initial attempt to regroup and forge on didn't work out well. Their album Commodores 13 would be a dud that became their worst charting effort since their 1974 debut. For their next LP, they made some changes and brought on producer Dennis Lambert. In addition to producing, Lambert also co-wrote a couple of songs for the album including this title track that he wrote with Franne Golde and Commodores member Walter Orange. After work on the album was completed, it was decided that this song would serve as the lead off single. It was a solid choice as the song became a multi-format hit reaching #1 R&B, #2 AC, #3 Pop, and #6 Dance. It would be the band's most successful single of the post-Richie era. The song helped the album reach #1 at R&B and #12 Pop, and returned them to gold-level sales.

ReduxReview:  Nostalgia sells and when matched properly to a song, it can result in a hit like this one. I think this is a strong song to being with and might have done well with different lyrics, but pair it with nice references to Gaye and Wilson and it turned into a real winner. Unfortunately, the band was never able to secure any material as good as this and they faded quickly. At least they got this one out and it is one that has continued to get airplay over the years. I'm sure when Lionel Richie heard this he was probably like, "dang - I should have come up with that one!"

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In 1984, two icons of soul music died - Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye. This song pays tribute to both artists. Although most folks were familiar with Gaye, especially the younger generation thanks to Gaye's last hit, 1982's "Sexual Healing," many were not familiar with Wilson. As one of the biggest soul stars of the 50s and 60s, Wilson's music and performance style influenced generations of musicians. After being part of Billy Ward and His Dominoes, Wilson went solo in 1957. He scored sixteen R&B Top 10's (including five #1's) and six Pop Top 10's including his final big hit 1967's "(You're Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" (#1 R&B, #6 Pop), which became a #2 Pop hit in 1977 for singer Rita Cooledge. Wilson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.  2) Over the years, The Commodores racked up nine Grammy nominations. Their only win was for this song. They received the award for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. This was without Lionel Richie, but he received his own Grammy when he won Album of the Year for Can't Slow Down.

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