Monday, June 18, 2018

"Lonely Ol' Night" by John Cougar Mellencamp

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2438
Date:  08/24/1985
Debut:  40
Peak:  6
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  After scoring his second multi-platinum album with Uh-Huh, Mellencamp set out to record an album of songs that had more lyrical depth and that incorporated certain aspects of 60s rock music. He emerged from the studio with his eighth album, Scarecrow. To get things started, this track was issued out as the first single. It immediately shot up to #1 at Rock and stayed there for five weeks. It also was a hit at Pop and it became Mellencamp's fifth Top 10. The album would just miss out on the top spot peaking at #2. Eventually it would sell over five million copies tying the amount that his breakthrough 1982 hit album American Fool sold.

ReduxReview:  Although I loved "Jack & Diane," I wasn't a real fan of Mellecamp's music and the tracks from Uh-Huh didn't change my mind. So when it was announced Scarecrow was coming out, I didn't really care. That was until I heard this first single. I can't pinpoint why, but I immediately connected with this tune. Then when I saw the stark album cover with Mellencamp hanging out by an old farm fence looking down and contemplating, I knew I had to have it. The LP was the first time I actually "got" Mellencamp's music. From that point on, I was a diehard fan and he has remained near the top of the list of my favorite artists. That is all thanks to this hit that I quickly got to know via the radio while driving around Boston delivering singing telegrams (yeah, you read that right...).

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Mellencamp was adamant about getting a certain 60s rock sound for the songs on the album and he thought the only way that he and his band could accomplish that was to actually learn and play songs from that era. So Mellencamp gathered up about a hundred 45s from the time period and got his band to learn and replicate the songs as close to the originals as they could. The band did this for about a month prior to recording the album. The experimental lesson paid off when the band was quickly able to adopt the sounds and techniques they learned into Mellencamp's songs.  2) The song's title and another small line in the lyrics were inspired by the 1963 movie Hud, which starred Paul Newman. Mellencamp was a big fan of the film and a certain piece of dialog from the script stuck with him. In the movie, Hud (Paul Newman) and his nephew Lonnie (Brandon deWilde) are heading into town one evening when Lonnie says: "It's a lonesome ol' night, isn't it?" Hud then replied, "Ain't they all." Those lines got reflected in Mellencamp's song. Hud would go on to win three Academy Awards including Best Actress for Patricia Neal. Neal is actually on screen for only around 20 minutes of the film's 112 minute running time, yet her powerful and memorable performance was enough to get her pushed to the lead actress category instead of supporting. She still holds the record for the shortest screen time by an Oscar winner in a lead category.

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Sunday, June 17, 2018

"Fortress Around Your Heart" by Sting

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2437
Date:  00/00/1985
Debut:  51
Peak:  8
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  Sting's solo debut album The Dream of the Blue Turtles got off to a solid start when its first single "If You Love Somebody Set Them Free" got to #3 at Pop and #1 at Rock. That set him up well for this next single which became his second #1 at Rock while making the Pop Top 10. The song also made a brief appearance at AC reaching #32. The album just missed out on the top spot peaking at #2. This would also happen to two other of Sting's albums and as of this posting date he still has yet to score his first #1 solo album. He did make it to the top spot with his former band The Police via their #1 classic album Synchronicity.

ReduxReview:  I'm fairly certain that this is at the top of my list of favorite Sting solo songs. The chorus is so strong and I love the imagery of the lyrics. It sounds like something The Police might have done, but with an added pop/jazz element via someone like Joni Mitchell. Branford Marsalis' sax just adds another excellent layer to the track, which has a regal, majestic, old-world sound to it. While Sting would have better albums and other terrific songs, this track has always stuck with me.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Although The Dream of the Blue Turtles officially launched Sting's solo career, it wasn't the first time he recorded as a solo artist. In 1982, Sting appeared in the film adaptation of Brimstone and Treacle, a 1976 BBC television play that didn't actually air until 1987. Sting would also contribute songs to the film including his remake of "Spread a Little Happiness," which was originally written for the 1929 music Mr. Cinders, a gender-switching update of the fairy tale Cinderella. The track was issued as a single and it got to #16 in the UK. It failed to chart in the US.

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Saturday, June 16, 2018

"Lovin' Every Minute of It" by Loverboy

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2436
Date:  08/24/1985
Debut:  59
Peak:  9
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  The Canadian band nearly grabbed their first US Top 10 Pop hit with "Hot Girls in Love," the lead single from their third album Keep It Up. The track stalled just shy at #11. However, this title-track first single from their fourth album finally got them in the Top 10 when it reached #9. The song would be their fourth one to reach the Rock Top 10 getting to #3. The hit would help drive the album to #13 and over time it would be a double-platinum seller - their fourth in a row to at least reach that level.

ReduxReview:  This was a good song choice for the band and it paid off for them. I actually would have preferred if this had a heavier rock production, but that might not have worked in their favor. First, the song definitely had a Def Leppard feel to it so beefing up the production may have made it sound way too much like Leppard, therefore it was probably good Lange did not produce it (see below). Second, a rock heavy record may not have done as well as this more pop radio friendly take. Overall, it was a solid moment for the band and it finally got them in the Top 10.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  On their previous three LP's, all the tracks were co-written by various members of the band. For their fourth album, they reached out and got a couple of songs that were written by other people. This hit was one of them. It was written by Robert John "Mutt" Lange, who had been having major success producing acts like Def Leppard, AC/DC, and The Cars. Lange would typically produce songs that he wrote, but around this time period his schedule was packed so a few of his songs got picked up by artists and recorded without Lange's participation, as was the case with this song. It was produced by Tom Allom, who stepped into the chair after Loverboy's previous producer, Brian Fairbairn, couldn't do it due to schedule conflicts.

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Friday, June 15, 2018

"Four in the Morning (I Can't Take It Anymore)" by Night Ranger

Song#:  2435
Date:  08/24/1985
Debut:  66
Peak:  19
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  Night Ranger got their second Top 10 Pop hit with the big ballad "Sentimental Street," the first single from their album 7 Wishes. For a follow-up, this more upbeat track was selected for release. It would do well at Rock getting to #13 while becoming the band's fourth Top 20 Pop entry. The hit would help the album continue to sell and by November it would be certified platinum.

ReduxReview:  While not an excessively strong song, this one was a pretty good choice to follow up "Street." Originally seen as just "Four in the Morning" on the album, the subtitle was added for single release most likely because that chorus line was more recognizable than the actual title. It was a tactic used to help DJs, radio listeners, and record buyers remember and request the song and it seemed to work. The song leans a little towards the pop/rock style of 38 Special, but maybe not quite as catchy. I originally thought it was lower Top 40 material so it surprised me when it got to #19.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia: This song was written and sung by band member Jack Blades. Inspiration for the title came when Blades suddenly woke up at four in the morning with a song idea in his head. The chorus, which starts "I can't take anymore," immediately came to him and he though it was pretty good. However, he didn't want to title the song after that first line of the chorus and started to think about a better title. That's when his inspirational wake up time of four in the morning came to mind and he used that as the title and the opening line of the song. This isn't the first song that was titled after the time of its inspiration and/or writing and its not the most famous one either. That would most likely be Chicago's 1970 #4 hit "25 or 6 to 4." Robert Lamm's ode to writing a song in the middle of the night got its chorus-ending title when he checked his watch at one point during the writing of the song and it was around 25 or 26 minutes to 4 in the morning.  Hmmm...four a.m. seems to be a good time to write a hit song for some folks!

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

"Be Near Me" by ABC

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2434
Date:  08/24/1985
Debut:  76
Peak:  9
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Synthpop



Pop Bits:  This UK band's second album, the more rock-oriented Beauty Stab, didn't set the charts a-fire and performed far less well than their debut LP The Look of Love. By the time Beauty Stab had run its course, the band was down to just two core members - Martin Fry and Mark White. They decided to continue on and hired two new members including the band's first and only female member, Eden (aka Fiona Russell Powell). Although the newbies were credited as members, Fry and White still did the bulk of the work including all the songwriting. The quartet went into the studio and recorded the new album How to Be a...Zillionaire! In the US, this track would be issued out as the first single from the album. The song caught on and soon it would become ABC's first Top 10 hit in the States. It would also be their second #1 at Dance while getting to #11 AC. The hit pushed the album to #30, but it ran shy of becoming a gold-level seller.

ReduxReview:  While leaning a bit more towards synthpop, this song and even the album got ABC back to they style of music they debuted on The Look of Love. I found this song irresistible with its warm chord structure and silky production. I bought the single and then the album when it came out later. The album in particular is underrated in their catalog as far as I'm concerned. It has some lovely tracks like this one along with a few hooky synthpop stompers. It was definitely a bright light after getting through the darkness of Beauty Stab. "Lovely" is not necessarily a word you'd use to describe a synthpop song, but in this case I think it fits very well.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  For this album, Martin and White came up with a concept that gave the band a new look. Both for the album package and for the video to the first single in the UK "(How to Be A) Milllionaire," the band members were turned into cartoon characters similar to the ones found on 70s Saturday morning TV shows.  Apparently, the look was some sort of commentary on the artificiality of the 80s. Gone was the sophisticated gold-suited look ABC donned during their Look of Love days and that seemed to disappoint a chunk of their UK fans. The "Millionaire" single stopped at a tepid #49 while "Be Near Me" stalled at #26. In turn, the album didn't sell all that well. However, they would be back in good graces when they would return to their original look for 1987's Alphabet City. That album would be a Top 10 gold seller in the UK.

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