Monday, June 17, 2019

"Dancing on the Ceiling" by Lionel Richie

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2802
Date:  07/19/1986
Debut:  40
Peak:  2
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Richie's second solo album, Can't Slow Down, was a massive success spawning five Top 10 hits and selling over ten million copies. It also snagged the Grammy for Album of the Year. Richie then had the daunting task of following up that mega hit. It took him nearly a year and a half to write and record his third album, Dancing on the Ceiling. As he was prepping the LP, he grabbed his fifth #1 single with the Oscar-winning White Nights soundtrack song "Say You, Say Me." While that tune would end up as a track on the new album, it wasn't considered the LP's first official single. This title track was promoted as such and upon release it made a splash debuting on the Pop chart in the Top 40. It easily sailed up the chart and seemed to be headed for #1, but a couple of other songs ended up blocking the top spot and Richie had to settle for a #2 hit (#3 AC/#6 R&B). The album, of course, would be immediately successful and it quickly reached #1. While it wouldn't be as popular as Can't Slow Down, it was still a big hit selling over four million copies - the same amount as his 1982 debut solo album.

ReduxReview:  Richie started to lose me a bit with "Say You, Say Me." I just didn't care for the tune and I was hoping this track would renew my interest in his music. Alas, this song didn't do it. In fact, it further distanced me from Richie. I thought it was a weak, forced attempt to recreate the magic of "All Night Long (All Night)." That song sounded free and easy, but this one seemed so stiff and staged. From Richie's weird opening "whoo!" to the near robotic crowd noises, the track felt a bit cool and calculated. I just couldn't get into it. I still can't. He certainly had a big job to try and follow up Can't Slow Down and in general he did fine as the LP was a hit. However, the weaker material never fully caught my ear. I didn't pay much attention to Richie after this.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  In 1951, Stanley Donen directed the MGM musical comedy film Royal Wedding, which starred Fred Astaire and Jane Powell. With songs by Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner, the film was a box office hit in MGM's long line of successful musicals. The film is perhaps best known for one of Fred Astaire's solo dance numbers. As he performs the tune "You're All the World to Me," he begins to dance up the walls and on the ceiling of a room he was in. Apparently, Astaire had been thinking of the wall/ceiling dance concept for years and was finally able to develop it for this film. A custom set was built where the room could rotate. A camera was attached to the room to provide the steady shot. As the room turned, the walls then became the floor. Same for the ceiling. Astaire could navigate his dance to the new "floor" as the room turned. The camera stayed with the room as it circled. When footage is viewed, it appeared like the room didn't move yet Astaire defy gravity and could dance up the walls and on the ceiling. It was quite the effect. For the video to "Dancing on the Ceiling," Richie hired Donen to direct and together they recreated the effect. However, this time around it wasn't a solo piece and the cast of the video had to navigate the turning room as well. It made for a fun and memorable video that went right along with the lyrics.


Sunday, June 16, 2019

"If Looks Could Kill" by Heart

Song#:  2801
Date:  07/19/1986
Debut:  81
Peak:  54
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Heart's 1985 self-titled comeback album would be their biggest selling studio effort with sales of over five million in the US alone. By this point in time, the LP had generated four consecutive Top 10 hits including the #1 "These Dreams." Thinking that there might still be a little gas left in the tank, the band's record company decided to release this fifth single from the LP. It wasn't the smartest move as the single couldn't crack the top half of the Pop chart. It even missed the Rock chart completely. Still, the four Top 10's were impressive and their multi-platinum hot streak would continue with their next two albums.

ReduxReview:  This was a big, bold album opener for Heart that combined their harder edged rock with an updated 80s production. It was a terrific tune and I was always surprised that rock radio didn't jump on this track from the start. I think it may have been a bit too gritty for pop who had gotten used to their more mainstream sound via the previous hits. It made for a killer album track, but it really wasn't a great single. What is most interesting is the song's transformation from a dance floor stomper to a hard rock track (see below). The dance version is pretty good, but it ended up being a better rock tune. It just goes to show you that a good song can work well in various genres.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by singer Pamela Stanley. Her Hi-NRG dance version got to #23 on the Dance chart in 1985. The Philly-born singer got signed to a German label in 1979 and her debut LP, This Is Hot, gained enough attention to get it picked up for release by EMI America in the States. The title track would get to #16 on the US Dance chart in 1979. Yet it seems that wasn't good enough for the label and Stanley was dropped. She returned in 1983 with the indie release "I Don't Want to Talk About It," which got to #13 at Dance. "Coming Out of Hiding" would follow in 1984 and it would become her biggest hit reaching #4 at Dance. The hit got her signed to Mirage Records and her first effort for them was "If Looks Could Kill." The tune would get to #23 on the Dance chart while also appearing in the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Raw Deal. That dance track was picked up by Heart and given a heavy rock treatment for their self-titled album. Stanley would have one more single reach the Dance chart in 1986. She would later leave dance music behind and continue to perform and record various styles of music including jazz, country, and adult contemporary.


Saturday, June 15, 2019

"Anotherloverholenyohead" by Prince

Song#:  2800
Date:  07/19/1986
Debut:  86
Peak:  63
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Prince's second single from his Parade album, "Mountains," wasn't a major hit. It stalled at #23 Pop and #15 R&B. The album doubled as the soundtrack to Prince's film Under a Cherry Moon and it would be a good seller going platinum. It could have sold better if it had more hits along the lines if its first single, the #1 "Kiss," yet "Mountains" and this third single couldn't maintain the momentum. This tune was able to crawl into the Top 20 at R&B (#18), but it was basically a flop at Pop. It couldn't even get into the top half of the chart. It would be Prince's lowest peaking single since 1981's "Controversy," which got to #70.

ReduxReview:  As I've mentioned before, Parade wasn't an album chock full of hooky singles like "Kiss." It was an eclectic set that was interesting as a whole, but several of the songs just didn't stand on their own. This one wasn't a terrible choice from the remaining tracks for single contention. The problem though was that it definitely had a heavier soul/funk sound and that wasn't going to win much favor at pop stations. Prince was a huge star at the time, but that didn't mean anything he released was going to be a hit. This one certainly demonstrated that if Prince wanted to continue to conquer all the charts, he needed to make a few more of his songs a bit more accessible for all ears. He professed that he didn't necessarily care about making hits and just wanted to grow as a musician and experiment, but c'mon. The guy had a huge ego and he knew he wouldn't be able to maintain his superstar status without hits. His next album would get him back into hit making mode. In the meantime, this tune was less than satisfactory as a single.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  In the UK, the second single from Parade was the funky track "Girls & Boys." It did well nearly cracking the Top 10 (#11). Yet in the States the label issued out "Mountains" instead. "Girls & Boys" would be relegated to the b-side of "Anotherloverholenyohead." The 12" single of the two songs would do well in clubs and it would be a double-sided entry at Dance getting to #21.


Friday, June 14, 2019

"Money's Too Tight (To Mention)" by Simply Red

Song#:  2799
Date:  07/19/1986
Debut:  87
Peak:  28
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  It took nearly a year for UK's Simply Red to finally win over a US audience. Back home they had limited success with four singles, but none of them got attention in the States. Their third UK single, "Holding Back the Years," was a bit of a dud upon release in 1985 getting to #51, but then a reissue of the song caught on and it got to #2. The tune was then issued in the US and it went on to become a #1 hit. Since none of their other singles charted in the US, it gave the label options for a follow-up. This track, which was their very first single in the UK (#13), was selected for release. It was able to crack the Pop Top 30, but it didn't get any further than that. It did better at Dance getting to #2. Although no further singles from their debut album Picture Book would reach the US charts, its two hits would make it reach #16 and go platinum.

ReduxReview:  This song is a bit of a lost soul classic (see below) and Simply Red basically does a pretty faithful cover of it. The production gets an upgrade, but Simply Red doesn't necessarily capture the grittiness of the original. These days the subject of the song (Reaganomics) is out of date, but parts of it still resonate. I wasn't a big fan of the tune when Simply Red put it out, but I do enjoy the groove even though the original was superior.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally written and recorded by US duo The Valentine Brothers. Their 1982 version reached #41 on the R&B chart. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, brothers John and Billy Valentine formed a duo in 1975. Their 1979 self-titled debut album didn't do anything, but their second album, First Take, featured this charting song along with a follow-up "Let Me Be Close to You" (#43 R&B). Their third album in 1984, Have a Good Time, contained what would be their biggest hit, "Lonely Nights" (#28 R&B). They would record one more album in 1987 before going off on their own career paths.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

"Oh, People" by Patti LaBelle

Song#:  2798
Date:  07/19/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  29
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, R&B

Pop Bits:  LaBelle scored the biggest hit of her solo career with the #1 Pop/#1 R&B "On My Own," a duet with Michael McDonald. The smash would drive her album, Winner in You, to #1 as well and it would become a platinum seller. To keep things rolling, this second single was issued out from the LP. The song did well at R&B getting to #7 becoming her seventh solo Top 10 on that chart. However, the tune didn't do quite as well at Pop and it stalled just inside the Top 30. Unfortunately, it would be LaBelle's last record to get inside the top half of the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  This was a pleasant, easy going mid-tempo song with a nice message, but I found it a bit boring. It was the album's opening track and as such it was fine, but I didn't think it was single material. The chorus is not all that memorable and it just kind of blends in with the verse instead of standing out on its own. The bright spot of course is LaBelle's vocals. She definitely tries her best to make something out of nothing and she comes out a winner. However, the song does not. I'm assuming the label didn't release the upbeat dance track "Something Special" as the second single because it was going to be used in a movie at the beginning of '87, but I think that song would have done better as a follow-up to "On My Own" than this one.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Two more singles would be issued out from LaBelle's album, but neither would reach the Pop chart. However they would do well on other charts. The third single, "Kiss Away the Pain," would do well at R&B getting to #13. A fourth single, "Something Special (Is Gonna Happen Tonight)," would get to #10 on the Dance chart while making a small impression at R&B (#50). That song gained a little attention due to its appearance in two films. It was actually considered the theme song to the hit 1987 comedy Outrageous Fortune, which starred Bette Midler and Shelley Long. It also could be heard in the 1986 Alan Alda comedy Sweet Liberty.