Thursday, May 24, 2018

"Jesse" by Julian Lennon

Song#:  2413
Date:  08/03/1985
Debut:  75
Peak:  54
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Lennon's debut album Valotte was a platinum success thanks to three Top 30 singles including two Top 10s. Thinking that there still might be a little life left to squeeze out of the album, Lennon's label, Atlantic, decided to push out this fourth single. It got a little bit of airplay at Rock and made it to #24, but it just didn't get enough support to get inside the top half of the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  This song about a guy hooked on drugs and not willing to get out of his current lifestyle seemed like an odd choice for Lennon. It's a pretty good song, but it is dragged down by a weak production from Phil Ramone. It's filled with synths and effects, which really don't add anything to the tune. Even Lennon's reading is a bit on the shrill side. Had this been done in a more brooding, mysterious style with more of a rock edge and far less synths, I think the track would have been more successful. As-is, the arrangement and Ramone's production turned a good song into something bland and forgettable.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  All the songs on Valotte were written or co-written by Lennon except for this track. This song was written by singer/songwriter China Burton. The British songwriter was a little late to the game, but tried to start a solo career in the late seventies doing disco music. He was able to get one record released on the small UK label called Logo titled "Don't You Care (About Our Love)." It didn't make the charts, but the song later gained a following and the original vinyl recording became somewhat of a prized collectable for disco music lovers. According to an interview with Lennon, he met Burton at a nightclub and Burton though that his song "Jesse" would be a good fit for Lennon's voice. Lennon listened to the track and took it in the studio to see what might come of it. Burton's original demo had the song as a ballad, but Lennon decided to do a more uptempo take with a bit of a rock edge. It ended up being good enough to be included on the album and be issued as a single. Burton continued to write songs for other artists and another one of his compositions ended up being recorded by three artists and charting twice. Burton co-wrote "Do You Want It Right Now" with Nick Straker and it was originally recorded by Siedah Garrett for the soundtrack to the 1985 film Fast Forward. It was released as a single and it got to #3 at Dance and #63 R&B. The song was then covered by singer Taylor Dayne for her 1988 debut album. Her version was not issued as a single. Then in 1992, the NYC band Degrees of Motion recorded a version that got to #7 Dance, #75 R&B, and #94 Pop.


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

"Oh Sheila" by Ready for the World

#1 Alert!
Song#:  2412
Date:  08/03/1985
Debut:  85
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  Hailing from Flint, Michigan, this band gathered up some solid local attention via a song they recorded called "Tonight." The success of the single around the Detroit area got the attention of MCA Records who promptly signed the band. As the band was readying their self-titled debut album, a couple of singles were issued out. Both "Tonight" and "Deep Inside Your Love" would hit #6 at R&B, but neither would get on the Pop chart. That would change when this third single was released. The song took hold of the airwaves and soon it reached #1 at R&B, Pop, and Dance. The hit would help send the album to #3 R&B and #17 Pop. Eventually it would become a platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  Now c'mon. Prince couldn't get this close to imitating a Prince song! I remember hearing this on the radio for the first time and was confused. It sounded so close to a Prince song and it threw me off because I knew this was not on his then current Around the World in a Day album. Was it some one-off single? But then again, there was something a little off about the tune that made me thing it wasn't Prince. Indeed it was not. It was a band from Flint and the song was a total knock off of Prince's sound.We all should have been incensed at the near-rip off imitation, yet the song was so hooky and irresistible that any ire towards the band quickly subsided. I certainly gave in. I loved this track. The arrangement and production were terrific and it was perfectly mixed. It sounded so damn good on my home stereo and even in the car. I still get a kick out of this song when I hear it.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) After the band first recorded a demo tape that included the song "Tonight," they took it directly to a popular DJ in Detroit to get his feedback. The Electrifying Mojo (aka Charles Johnson) was a progressive DJ for Detroit's urban station WJLB. He loved what the band did and began spinning their tracks. He also hooked them up with some folks and that eventually led to a contract with RCA.  2) In sections of "Oh Sheila," lead singer Melvin Riley speaks in some sort of accent. The reason for his unusual vocal choice has never really been clear. While some folks consider it a bad faux-British accent, others think it is supposed to be Australian. This is due to the use of "Sheila" in the song, which in Australia is a slang term for a woman. Hence, the use of an Australian accent. Whatever the reason, Riley once said in an interview that some people thought the band was British because of the accent - that is until they saw the video for the song.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

"In and Out of Love" by Bon Jovi

Song#:  2411
Date:  08/03/1985
Debut:  88
Peak:  69
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  The band wasn't all that happy with the way their second album 7800° Fahrenheit turned out. It was a rushed effort and they just let the producer run the show. Luckily, fans of the band were not deterred and they turned out to give the band a second gold album (later platinum). They needed their fans as the LP's first single, "Only Lonely," and this second one really didn't do all that well. This follow-up single could only get to #37 at Rock while roaming around the bottom third of the Pop chart for a few weeks. The band would put this album behind them and in a year's time would be on their way to becoming worldwide superstars.

ReduxReview:  Just like "Only Lonely," this album opening track his a hooky rock song that probably didn't sound too bad on Rock radio. However, it's nothing special and besides Jon Bon Jovi's voice, there isn't anything here that makes the band stand apart from other rock bands of the day. The chorus line of the song sounds like something out of the AC/DC playbook while the talky section brings to mind something David Lee Roth might do. They needed something far better than this to really break through and luckily for them they found their signature sound on their next album.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  The band would release one more single from the album. "Silent Night" (an original song, not the holiday carol) would conveniently be released late in the year and out of the album's three singles it would do the best on the Rock chart getting to #24. Unfortunately, it didn't make the Pop chart. The album also contained Bon Jovi's first charting single in the UK. The track "The Hardest Part Is the Night" would not be a single in the US, but it would be issued in the UK and a few other European countries. The song would be a minor entry on the UK chart reaching #68.


Monday, May 21, 2018

"Some People" by Belouis Some

Song#:  2410
Date:  08/03/1985
Debut:  89
Peak:  67
Weeks:  6
Genre:  New Wave, Dance, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  The UK singer/songwriter's debut LP Some People started off with the #4 Dance hit "Imagination." Unfortunately, it didn't make much of an impact on the Pop chart peaking at a low #88. This follow-up title-track song would once again light up the Dance chart (#8) and also once again fail to really catch on at Pop. It would be his last single to reach the Pop chart. Some released a self-titled follow-up album in 1987 that generated two more Dance hits including the #6 "Animal Magic," but neither song could make the Pop chart. A third and final album would appear in 1993, but it disappeared quickly as did Some's recording career.

ReduxReview:  His song "Imagination" was a nice slice of Brit sophisti-pop that I enjoyed. This one leans more towards synthpop. While I prefer the sound and feel of "Imagination," this is a pretty good track as well. Some had pretty much everything going for him - he was a solid songwriter, the productions were good, he looked like a star, and his videos were interesting. Why his career never fully took off is unknown. It's a shame as he had a lot to offer. If you like either of his charting singles, seek out his Some People album. It's a bit of a lost gem.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) While Some's video for "Imagination" sparked controversy due to its use of nudity, there ended up being a more commercial appeal with the video for "Some People" - quite literally. Swatch watches were taking the market by storm and they began pairing up with music acts for promotional purposes, especially with the new MTV generation of fans. Having been a sponsor on some of Some's tour stops, Swatch got further involved with the artist when he went to film the video for "Some People." In addition to the regular video being filmed, Swatch paid for an extra version that included some alterations, which included extras wearing Swatch watches. The Swatch version of the video would be played in their stores and a 30-second spot was created for use on TV. Some was one of several artists that Swatch used in their campaigns at the time. The Thompson Twins and The Fat Boys were others that got involved.  2) If folks don't remember Belouis Some from his charting songs, they may remember a song of his that was in the 1986 film Pretty in Pink. Some contributed the song "Round, Round" to the film's soundtrack. That album would be a gold seller thanks mainly to the #4 Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark hit "If You Leave."


Sunday, May 20, 2018

"It's Gettin' Late" by The Beach Boys

Song#:  2409
Date:  08/03/1985
Debut:  90
Peak:  82
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After regrouping and issuing their first proper studio album in five years, The Beach Boys found themselves back on the charts with the single "Getcha Back" (#26 Pop/#2 AC). For a follow-up, this next track was selected. It didn't do nearly as well getting to #20 at AC while spending a few weeks near the bottom of the Pop chart. Even though both songs got a lot of airplay at AC, that didn't necessarily make the album fly off shelves. It ended up peaking at a lackluster #52. Apparently, the results didn't impress their label, CBS, who decided to let the band's contract run out. After recording hit songs and albums for over twenty years, the Beach Boys were without a home label.

ReduxReview:  The updating of The Beach Boys' sound to the 80s continues with this track. While it sounds slick and the band's trademark harmonies are present, it just sounds odd. The song itself is pretty good despite not having a definitive, catchy chorus, yet it all just sounds so forced and overdone. The track could have greatly benefited from being produced in a more classic style by Brian Wilson. It still most likely would not have been a good single candidate, but I think it would have sounded far better and could have been remember as one of their better album tracks. As is, it sounds like someone forced The Beach Boys through a Play-Doh Fun Factory of 80s processors.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Beach Boy Carl Wilson co-wrote this song with Myrna Smith and Robert Johnson. Smith had collaborated with Wilson on songs for his 1981 self-titled solo debut album. Nothing much came from the LP except a #20 AC single, "Heaven." Smith and Wilson also did some songs for his 1983 follow-up, Youngblood. Again, the album came out to little notice and could only manage the #72 Pop single "What You Do to Me," which was not written by the pair. In the 60s and 70s, Smith also maintained a singing career. She was a member of the R&B vocal group The Sweet Inspirations. In addition to recording their own records, the group was famous for backing up many artists over the years both on recordings and on tours. Their biggest hit came in 1968 with the #5 R&B/#18 Pop hit "Sweet Inspiration." The group was initially founded by Cissy Houston, the mother of superstar Whitney Houston, and Cissy's sister Lee Warrick, mother of Dionne Warwick. Smith joined them in 1965. Smith had her own connection to the family as she was the cousin of Whitney and Dionne.