Tuesday, September 25, 2018

"Talk to Me" by Stevie Nicks

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2538
Date:  11/16/1985
Debut:  66
Peak:  4
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Following the success of her second album The Wild Heart, Nicks had some time on her hands due to Fleetwood Mac's ongoing hiatus. Therefore, she moved ahead and began work on a third solo effort. In addition to her regular producer Jimmy Iovine, Nicks also worked with Rick Nowels and Keith Olsen. They helped to modernize her sound and outfit her songs in a more contemporary fashion using the new technology of the day. The resulting album, Rock a Little, had a slicker, more commercial feel to it and this first single was a perfect example. The track is one of only two on the album not written or co-written by Nicks. It was written and co-produced by Chas Sandford who had recently scored a big #1 co-writing John Waits' "Missing You." While this song wouldn't do quite as well as Waits' classic track, it did hit #1 at Rock and #14 AC while becoming Nicks' fifth Pop Top 10 outside of Fleetwood Mac. Unfortunately, it would also be her last single to reach the Pop Top 10. The album would end up at #12 and eventually go platinum, but that was a dip in sales compared to her previous two multi-platinum LPs.

ReduxReview:  This is definitely Nicks at her most commercial. This was pure pop fodder with a big memorable chorus that was meant for airplay. Apparently, Nicks was not liking the song as she was having a hard time singing it, but that certainly didn't show in the final version. She gave a great performance and the production was spot-on for the song and the time period. Iovine picked the song for Nicks and it was a solid choice. I liked it enough to immediately buy the album. That said, this song did seem like a big commercial stab with Nicks in full pop diva mode. She's not the "white which" here weaving her magic. While she made the song hers, this tune could have been knocked out by any other pop diva. I've always thought this would have been an ideal single for Belinda Carlisle. So while it was a good pop hit moment for Nicks, it lacked a bit of what made Nicks a special artist.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Nicks first started to record songs for the album back in 1984. It was to be titled Mirror Mirror after one of the songs she recorded. Nicks recorded many songs and demos for potential inclusion on the album, but when it came time to assemble the tracks, Nicks was unhappy with the way they were recorded and decided to shelve the songs and start fresh. Some of the songs from those sessions were eventually released or re-recorded for other albums including "Battle of the Dragon," a song Nicks did with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers that found its way to the soundtrack of the 1986 film American Anthem. She also did a version of the song "Tied Up" that was a #38 hit for Olivia Newton-John in 1983. That recording remains unofficially released, but it can be found on YouTube along with several others from the sessions.


Monday, September 24, 2018

"Sidewalk Talk" by Jellybean

Song#:  2537
Date:  11/16/1985
Debut:  80
Peak:  18
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  John "Jellybean" Benitez was an up-n-coming DJ/remixer in New York whose career got a significant boost after meeting a singer at a club. Her name was Madonna and it wasn't long before she and Jellybean were in a relationship. It happened at a time when Madonna was starting to get her solo career going. Jellybean would remix songs from Madonna's debut album and would produce her first Pop chart hit, the #16 "Holiday." With his name and work getting attention via Madonna's successful debut album, Jellybean decided to do a project of his own. As Madonna was beginning to prep her second LP, Jellybean asked her to write a song for his project. She dug up an idea she had initially though of for her first album, finished it off and gave it to Jellybean. The song was "Sidewalk Talk" and he got it recorded for an EP titled Wotupski!?! In addition to writing the song, Madonna provided some of the vocals. The tune was issued out as a single and it got to #1 on the Dance chart. It also did fairly well at Pop getting into the Top 20 while going to #51 at R&B. Unfortunately, Jellybean and Madonna only stayed together a couple of years. She would become a worldwide superstar while he would be an in-demand remixer/producer that would grab nine of his own Dance Top 10's including three #1's.

ReduxReview:  There was no mistake that this was a Madonna track. It definitely sounded like an outtake from her debut album, especially with her voice prominent in the chorus. It's a good track, but when it comes down to it, this became popular after folks figured out the Madonna connection. If she didn't write and sing on this track, it probably would have been tagged as a Madonna rip-off and ignored. Even today it is associated with Madonna. I mentioned the song a bit ago with friends and one person spoke up and said "oh, that's an old Madonna song, right?" I supposed that's not bad, but it does make me feel that Jellybean wasn't shy about using his Madonna connection to boost his own career. I can't blame him though. I probably would have too. Yet in the end, this tune became a forgotten relic in Madonna's history and no one speaks of Jellybean anymore. Apparently he works for SiriusXM and produces a Studio 54 show/channel.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was not Jellybean's first charting song. Just prior to this hit, another song of his, "The Mexican," became a popular club track and it ended up becoming his first #1 at Dance. The song was actually a remake of one originally recorded by the UK rock band Babe Ruth. Written by band member Alan Shacklock, it was recorded for the band's 1972 debut album First Base. The song also used portions of Ennio Morricone's score from the film For a Few Dollars More, so Morricone received a songwriting credit. While it wasn't issue as a single, it did evade obscurity to become an influential track in hip-hop music. It was sung by Jenny Haan, who Jellybean tapped to do the vocals on his version.  2) The lead vocal credit on this song was given to Catharine Buchanan. Buchanan does the verse/rap section while Madonna takes over on the chorus. Despite being prominently featured on the hit, it seems that Buchanan couldn't parlay it into her own career. She moved to London a bit later and did get to do one single in Europe for Arista titled "Love Is," but nothing came from it. Apparently, she did continue to work in music for a while and was also a florist. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2002.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

"A Love Bizarre" by Sheila E.

Song#:  2536
Date:  11/16/1985
Debut:  84
Peak:  11
Weeks:  23
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  With an assist from Prince, Sheila E. established herself with her #7 debut single "The Glamorous Life," which made her album of the same name a gold seller. Her association with Prince spilled over into her second LP Romance 1600. The first single issued from the album, "Sister Fate," didn't catch on. The song peaked at a minor #36 at R&B while not even reaching the Pop or Dance charts. With that song failing to launch, the label quickly issued out this next single to try and get things going. With Prince helping out on vocals, the jam slowly caught on and eventually became a #1 Dance track while going to #2 R&B. This time around, Pop radio embraced the tune and it nearly made the Top 10 peaking at the dreaded #11. It would be Sheila E.'s last single to get into the Pop Top 40. The hit helped spark album sales and soon it would be a certified gold seller.

ReduxReview:  On the album, this song is a very, very long 12-minute jam. For no real reason. After the main section of the song is done around the 4-minute mark, there is just a lengthy 8-minutes of not much going on. There is some noodling solo work along the way, but there was nothing to warrant such a long end to the tune, except perhaps as album filler because they couldn't get another song done in time. Whatever the reason, it's a total bore. Thankfully, there was a single version which took the monotone jam with it's four-note melody and made it listenable. In reality, there is barely a hint of a song here. However, it works because Prince created a tight jam that was interesting and it sounded unique on the radio. It's certainly fun to groove to for a few minutes, but after that, I lose interest.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although all the tracks on the album were credited as written and produced by Sheila E. (save for this song, which also credited Prince for writing/production), it was another case of Prince not taking full credit for the work. Of the album's eight tracks, Prince mainly wrote and produced seven of them with input from Sheila E. The only track Sheila E. wrote on her own was the instrumental piece "Merci for the Speed of a Mad Clown in Summer."


Saturday, September 22, 2018

"Dangerous" by Loverboy

Song#:  2535
Date:  11/16/1985
Debut:  86
Peak:  65
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After several attempts and one very close call, Loverboy finally got into the US Pop Top 10 with the title track from their album Loving Every Minute of It (#9). That #3 Rock track should have helped out this follow-up single, but it didn't. The song stalled at #23 on the Rock chart while only making it a third of the way up the Pop chart. It was a disappointment following a significant achievement for the band, but they would get back on track with the LP's third single.

ReduxReview:  This is a solid track from the band and from the Adams/Vallance team (see below), but it just didn't have that same hookiness as their previous hit. I find the start/stop arrangement of the chorus interesting and Mike Reno does his best to sell the tune, yet it is just shy of being memorable and single-worthy. It was a good addition to the album though.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance. It was another charting song for the pair who were having quite a run with Adams' singles and songs they pumped out for other artists. This track was originally called "Reckless" and was recorded by Adams. Although his version failed to make the final cut of tracks that made up his fourth album, he ended up using the song's title for the name of the album. The song was then pushed over to Loverboy for their album. Adams' original recording of "Reckless" later became available as a bonus track on the 30th anniversary edition of his Reckless album.


Friday, September 21, 2018

"This Time" by INXS

Song#:  2534
Date:  11/16/1985
Debut:  91
Peak:  81
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  INXS were quite successful in their native Australia, but it was taking time to get established elsewhere. Their third and fourth albums started to get them noticed in the US thanks to 1983's "The One Thing," which made it to #2 Rock and #30 Pop. Hoping to grow their international audience, the band recorded their fifth album Listen Like Thieves. In the US and Europe, this track was selected to be the first single. While it did okay at Rock getting to #11, the song couldn't make any inroads at Pop and it fizzled after a short stay on the chart. This certainly did not set the album up for success, but luckily for them the LP's second single would turn things around.

ReduxReview:  From the "what were they thinking?" file... I mean, they had a definite hit on their hands with "What You Need," which was the first single issued out in Australia, so why on earth would they put this track out? It's a good song in a U2-ish kind of way, but it was nothing that was going to grab them a more mainstream audience. They almost blew it with this single. It could have sunk the album, but luckily "What You Need" was strong enough to overcome this false start.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Following their tour in support of the new album, the band took a bit of a break. Some band members took advantage of the time to work on other projects. Lead singer Michael Hutchence got an opportunity to star in an indie Australian film called Dogs in Space. Appropriately, he played the leader of a band called Dogs in Space. In addition to starring in the film, Hutchence would write and perform songs for the soundtrack. The movie was not a box office hit, but it did gain a bit of a cult following in later years, especially after INXS became worldwide stars.