Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"Who's Holding Donna Now" by DeBarge

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2348
Date:  06/01/1985
Debut:  75
Peak:  6
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, R&B

Pop Bits:  After two gold albums that produced three Top 10 R&B hits including the #1 "Time Will Reveal," the family group finally made the Pop Top 10 with the #3 "Rhythm of the Night." It was taken from their fourth album of the same name as was this follow-up single. The song would become their second biggest overall hit reaching #6 Pop, #1 AC, and #2 R&B. The double hits would help the album reach #19 Pop/#3 R&B and become their third gold seller.

ReduxReview:  After a terrific detour into something more upbeat with "Rhythm of the Night," the group gets back to the smooth ballad style that first made them famous. This is a lovely little tune with a good chorus and a solid vocal from El DeBarge. The song was co-written by David Foster and Jay Graydon along with Randy Goodrum. It's funny - just a few posts ago I was bitching about a song that Foster and Graydon (with Glen Ballard) wrote for Jack Wagner called "The Lady of My Heart" and how three very talented folks could write and record such a dud. Well, Foster and Graydon redeemed themselves with this track. It just goes to show you that even the best songwriters can have dogs in their closet.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  DeBarge's previous two albums were mainly family affairs with various siblings writing the songs and El DeBarge producing most of the material. However, when sessions for Rhythm of the Night started, the family element wasn't quite there. Outside producers would be brought in and out of the nine songs on the album, only three were written by members of the family. At first, the reason cited for this change was because the group was busy on tour with Luther Vandross. However, it was later revealed that drugs were really the issue behind the lack of involvement. Nearly every member of the group was having addiction issues at the time and that affected participation in the sessions. Only El would escape the drugs at the time and Motown relied on him to get the album done, which he did. Unfortunately, later in the 90s El would later face his own addiction demons after being prescribed prescription pain meds. Eventually he would get hooked on cocaine and end up in prison for thirteen months. He was released in 2009 and the following year released the solo album Second Chance, which received two Grammy nominations.


Monday, March 19, 2018

"19" by Paul Hardcastle

One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  2347
Date:  06/01/1985
Debut:  78
Peak:  15
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Synthpop, Electronic

Pop Bits:  This British electronic music wiz garnered some attention in the US with the unexpected #2 Dance/#5 R&B/#57 Pop single "Rain Forest." By the time a quick album of the same name was assembled for the US market, Hardcastle was already signed to Chrysalis Records and ready to issue a new self-titled album. This Vietnam-themed track was selected as the first single. It was an immediate #1 hit in many countries including Hardcastle's UK home. Stateside it began to shape up as a big hit as well getting to #1 Dance and #8 R&B. However, on the Pop chart the song stalled before it could get inside the Top 10. Apparently sales of the single were strong enough to send the song higher on the chart, but airplay stats were much lower thanks to some radio stations refusing to play the song due to its subject matter. Since the Pop chart combines sales and airplay, the song's overall placement took a hit. Despite the lack of airplay, the single sold and the video did well on MTV. The distinctive track would be Hardcastle's only one to be a significant hit and he ended up getting tagged as a one-hit wonder (#72 on VH1's list of Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s).

ReduxReview:  This was such an unusual song at the time. The use of clips from shows, movies, other songs, etc., wasn't a new idea, but the way that it was done in this track along with the serious subject matter certainly made it unique. Not only that, it was weirdly catchy and memorable with the stuttering "19." My good friend and I took the song quite seriously and even learned all the dialog. It was at a time when the Vietnam War was being revisited and focus was finally turning to the vets and after-war effects like PSD. It was all a bit controversial and even this song got caught up in it a bit. What I find odd is that it hit #1 at Dance. I mean, I can't really imagine being in a club, having the song come on and me going "oh I love this song!" and then heading to the dance floor to shake my booty with a smile on my face and a gin and tonic in-hand. Just doesn't seem right. But alas, it apparently happened. Frankly, its kind of a bummer of a song, but it was a well-done message tune that many folks still remember and talk about.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Hardcastle got the idea for this song after watching an ABC news documentary titled Vietnam Requiem, which dealt with the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder in Vietnam vets. It was commented in the show that the average age of a Vietnam soldier was 19. Hardcastle was a bit stunned by that stat and used it as the basis for creating the song. He used snippets of dialog from the show within the song including the narration voice of Peter Thomas, who ended up getting royalties for the use of his voice.  2) Right around this time, Hardcastle met a Chrysalis A&R guy named Simon Fuller. Fuller decided to leave the label to start his own management company and he wanted Hardcastle to be one of his first clients. Fuller decided to name his company after this hit - 19 Entertainment. If Fuller and 19 Entertainment sound familiar, it's because Fuller later created the hugely popular TV competition shows Pop Idol (UK), American Idol (US), and So You Think You Can Dance.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

"Reaction to Action" by Foreigner

Song#:  2346
Date:  06/01/1985
Debut:  82
Peak:  54
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Foreigner's album, Agent Provacateur, would be their sixth to spread into multi-platinum territory. It was helped along by two hits including their career best effort, the #1 "I Want to Know What Love Is." Following the #12 peak of the second single "That Was Yesterday," this third track was issued out. Unfortunately the song didn't attract listeners and it stumbled at Rock (#44) while not even cracking the top half of the Pop chart. Without the support of a third significant single or radio track, the album could only reach the 3x platinum mark. While that was still a great achievement that most any artist would envy, it was a slight a disappointment for the band since all of their previous album sold in the 5-7 million range. It would end up being their last studio album to receive multi-platinum certification.

ReduxReview:  While Foreigner isn't a stranger to have a harder rocking tune becoming a hit, this one just didn't have the same commercial radio appeal as something like "Juke Box Hero." It also wasn't in the same league as the album's previous two singles and listeners tuned out. It's a solid album track, but it definitely wasn't the right choice for a single.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  English musician Mick Jones co-founded Foreigner and has been the only original member to fully remain in the band over the years. In his early career days, Jones moved to France and worked as a musician and songwriter. He worked with some of the biggest names in French pop including Francoise Hardy, Sylvie Vartan, and rocker Johnny Hallyday. Jones wrote/co-wrote and produced several songs for Hallyday (under the name Mickey Jones) and toured with him as well. He left France and went back to England in 1971 where he was part of a few groups, but it would be when he formed Foreigner in 1976 that his career really took off.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

"Let Him Go" by Animotion

Song#:  2345
Date:  06/01/1985
Debut:  84
Peak:  39
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This band grabbed a hit right out of the gate with their debut single "Obsession" (#6). The instantly catchy tune would help send their self-title album to #28. They tried to keep the momentum up with this next single. While it wouldn't get near the Top 10, it did well enough to sneak just inside the Top 40. Unlike "Obsession," which was written by Holly Knight and Michael Des Barres, this track was written by band member Bill Wadhams. Wadhams wrote or co-wrote seven of the nine songs that appeared on their debut album.

ReduxReview:  While "Obsession" was pure synthpop candy, this one has a bit more of a rock edge. This one sounds like the product of a band rather than a bank of synths, even though it is certainly dressed in them. The production is excellent and the song is good, but it just doesn't have that extra-catchy ooph that "Obsession" had.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Animotion's keyboardist at the time of this album was Paul Antonelli. He had been a member since the band's inception in 1983 and would stay through to 1985. Around the same time, he started getting work as a composer of music for films and TV shows. Beginning in 1984, Antonelli began working as a musical director/supervisor on the hit daytime soap General Hospital. This led to several other gigs on various other soaps. He was consistently employed over the years and as of the time of this posting was still working on the shows Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless. He has been nominated for twelve Daytime Emmy awards over the years winning two.


Friday, March 16, 2018

"You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" by Dead or Alive

Song#:  2344
Date:  06/01/1985
Debut:  88
Peak:  11
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Hi-NRG

Pop Bits:  After a few iterations, this UK band led by Pete Burns finally came to life in 1980. They honed their chops in clubs while releasing some indie singles along the way. After one of their songs reached the UK indie chart, Epic Records came calling and the band signed up with them. They recorded their debut LP, Sophisticated Boom Boom, and one of the songs from it, a remake of KC & the Sunshine Band's "That's the Way (I Like It)," got to #22. Three other singles reached the lower rungs of the chart and that was enough for Epic to keep them on for another album. Their second effort, Youthquake, would be their breakthrough with this first single zooming up to #1 early in '85. The song finally found its way Stateside in the summer and it became a #4 Dance hit. The tune crossed over to Pop and it wound up peaking just outside the Top 10 in the dreaded #11 spot. The success of the single helped the album reach gold-level sales.

ReduxReview:  I remember when this song hit the airwaves. Its charging, in-your-face synths and urgent beat sounded like everyone involved had too much caffeine and speed. Add in Burns' deep monotone-ish vocals and the results were like nothing else on the radio. I bought into it and got the single. It was a fun track, but also one that could easily wear on you after repeated listens. It's a Hi-NRG song that actually takes a lot of NRG to listen to it. I nearly feel hyperactive after hearing it. The SAW sound (see below) would become a bit tiresome over the decade, but when it was in full bloom like this song, it was hard to resist.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This was the first US chart entry for the British songwriting/production team of Stock Aitken Waterman. Mike Stock, Matt Aitken, and Pete Waterman formed when Waterman asked the other two to join his production company. Their main focus was Hi-NRG dance music and they began producing and/or writing tracks for various artists in 1984. Their first significant hit in the UK was Divine's "You Think You're a Man," which got to #16. Right after that, they wrote and produced the #4 hit "Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go)" for singer Hazell Dean. This Dead or Alive track, which they produced but did not write, would be their first project to reach #1 in the UK. Many more hits would follow including tracks by Bananarama, Rick Astley, Kylie Minogue, and Donna Summer. The SAW sound would be a staple throughout the 80s.  2) The chorus of this song was famously used/sampled in the 2009 #1 "Right Round" by Flo Rida, which featured additional vocals by Kesha. It was Flo Rida's second song reach #1 on the Pop chart and it stayed in that top spot for six weeks.