Wednesday, January 23, 2019

"American Storm" by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band

Song#:  2657
Date:  03/15/1986
Debut:  56
Peak:  13
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After years of putting out an album nearly every year since 1969, Seger took a bit of a break after 1982's The Distance. He remained active on the singles charts thanks to a couple of soundtrack songs including the #17 "Understanding" in 1984, but it took another couple of years before he unleashed a new studio album titled Like a Rock. This pumped up first single was issued out ahead of the album and it bolted to #2 at Rock. It also did well at Pop getting close to the Top 10. The hit would help send the album to #3 and it would become another platinum seller for Seger and his band.

ReduxReview:  It had been a while since Seger had an epic rock track on the airwaves and this anti-drug song was welcomed with open arms. The airplay at Rock along with the video certainly helped it along, but hearing a blast of Seger on the speakers was a nice change from the synthpop of the day. The band is hot and Seger wails his way through the thing with gusto. Since Bruce Springsteen's run of singles from Born in the U.S.A. was done, it was perfect timing for Seger to come along and pick up the rock 'n' roll torch. I liked the song well enough, but it has never been among my favorite Seger tracks. Apparently, it may not be among Seger's either as the hit was left off of both volumes of his Greatest Hits discs.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  With MTV growing exponentially since his last album, Seger decided to keep up with the times and film a conceptual video to help promote this song. It was his first true effort to make a video for the channel. The video consisted of Seger and his band performing the song on a stage set while scenes of what appeared to possibly be a movie were interspersed. The scenes were not taken from a real film, but it seemed like they were from a movie about drug dealers, drug users, and federal agents. To help make it seem more like an actual film, four actors whose real careers were revving up were hired for the main roles: Lesley Ann Warren, James Woods, Scott Glenn, and Randy Quaid. Warren had been nominated for an Oscar in 1982 for Best Supporting Actress in Victor/Victoria. Woods would win an Emmy and get an Oscar nod in 1987. Glenn had hits under his belt with The Right Stuff and Silverado, and Quaid had both Oscar and Emmy nominations (with a second Emmy nod coming in '87) and had established his role as Cousin Eddie in '83's National Lampoon's Vacation.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

"Take Me Home" by Phil Collins

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2656
Date:  03/15/1986
Debut:  73
Peak:  7
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Collins' album No Jacket Required scored three Top 10 hits in a row with two of them hitting #1. He then hit the top spot again in late November of '85 with "Separate Lives," a duet with Marilyn Martin that was featured on the soundtrack to the film White Nights. Then in February of '86, No Jacket Required would win the Grammy for Album of the Year with Collins winning for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, along with Producer of the Year (with Hugh Padgham). As a follow-up to the soundtrack hit and the multiple Grammy wins, Collins issued out this fourth single from his album. It would easily become his eighth Top 10 solo hit at Pop while also getting to #2 AC and #12 Rock. Helping the song along in the background are Collins' old Genesis bandmate Peter Gabriel, Sting, and Helen Terry. It would be the final single released from the album.

ReduxReview:  This rolling track became my favorite from the album. I just loved the feel of the song, the drums, the production, the melody, and Collins' performance. There's really not a lot to the song - a couple of easy chord progressions that are repeated - yet the melodies Collins wrote along with the arrangement made the song soar. I also love hearing Helen Terry's voice rise above the rest of the background singers at the end. No matter what the lyrics are meant to convey, I always get such a reflective yet hopeful feeling when I hear the song; almost like something difficult has ended and something wonderful is on the horizon. It is still one of my favorite tracks from Collins.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although only four singles were officially released from No Jacket Required, another track found its way on the Rock chart. The track "Inside Out" garnered enough airplay to reach #9 at Rock.  2) Although many folks just considered this song an ode to someone trying to find their way home, the meaning behind it was actually a bit darker. The lyrics apparently reference a person who is living in a mental institution. Collins mentioned this when he appeared on an episode of VH1's Storytellers program. The idea for the lyrics stemmed from the 1962 Ken Kesey novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. That book was adapted into a play in 1963 and later was adapted into a film in 1975. The film, which starred Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher, would go on to win five Oscars including Best Picture. Its Oscar wins were all in the top 5 categories (Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay) and it is one of only three films to win the top 5 (as of this posting date).  The other two were 1934's It Happened One Night and 1991's The Silence of the Lambs.


Monday, January 21, 2019

"Whisper in the Dark" by Dionne Warwick

Song#:  2655
Date:  03/15/1986
Debut:  89
Peak:  72
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B, Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Warwick experienced the biggest hit of her career when she headed up the charity song "That's What Friends Are For." The song would spend four weeks at #1, go gold, and win a Grammy. The song also appeared on Warwick's appropriately titled Friends album that would be a #12 gold seller. Warwick would follow up her Dionne & Friends hit with this solo track from the LP. While the track would do well at AC getting to #7, Pop and R&B audiences just didn't take to the song and it stopped early on each chart (#72 Pop/#49 R&B). There would be no further singles released from the album, which would be her final one to reach gold level sales.

ReduxReview:  I've always loved this song. I thought it was well-written, sexy, and sophisticated. It was just perfect for Warwick and the production was top-notch. I knew AC would jump on board with the song but I was really hoping that Pop would make a hit out if it. Alas, it just wouldn't catch on. Maybe it was just too mature for pop radio. It's still one of my favorite tracks from Warwick.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by Bruce Roberts and Edgar Bronfman, Jr. Roberts was a prominent songwriter with many hits under his belt including ones by Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand. Bronfman isn't necessarily known for his songwriting. Most folks know Bronfman as a business man who had successes and tumultuous times heading up companies like Seagrams, Vivendi, and Warner Music Group. He was also famously found guilty of insider trading in a French court in 2011. He paid a hefty fine, but received a suspended sentence and did no jail time. Bronfman spent time in and out of the film and music industry throughout his career. In the 70s he began writing songs, some in collaboration with Roberts. Nothing much came from them until this composition was given to Warwick. Apparently, Bronfman had a connection with Warwick as he met his first wife Sherry via the star in the late 70s. Nearly a decade later, Bronfman would score another hit with a song he co-wrote with David Foster. Celine Dion recorded "To Love You More" in 1995 and it became a big #1 hit in Japan. Although the single would not be officially released in the US, radio stations picked it up for airplay and it would get to #1 at AC. (Due to it not being issued formally as a product, it was then not eligible for the Pop chart.) For that song, Bronfman used the alias of Junior Miles. He also used that name for "If I Didn't Love You," a song Bronfman wrote with Roberts that was recorded by Barbra Streisand for her 1999 album A Love Like Ours.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

"A Good Heart" by Feargal Sharkey

Song#:  2654
Date:  03/15/1986
Debut:  94
Peak:  74
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Sharkey first came to prominence as the lead singer of the Irish pop punk band The Undertones. The group had solid success in the UK from 1979 to 1983 issuing four albums that generated several charting singles. In the US, the band had trouble finding an audience and was unable to rise above cult status. Facing label pressures and internal struggles, the band broke up in 1983. Sharkey decided to step out on his own and pursue a solo career. He released two singles that made the UK Top 30 before working in collaboration with Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics fame) for a formal debut album. The LP saw Sharkey setting aside some of his punk roots for a more commercial friendly pop/rock sound and this first single announced the change. It was greeted with open arms in the UK where the song bolted to the #1 spot. With little name recognition in the US, the challenge to break through was more difficult and indeed the song couldn't get a leg up and stalled near the bottom quarter of the Pop chart. It would end up being Sharkey's only single to reach a US chart. Back home, his follow-up single, "You Little Thief," would be a #5 hit. Sharkey would release two more albums with varying results before leaving the spotlight for work on the business side of music.

ReduxReview:  Sharkey's debut LP was one that I bought on a whim. He had an odd name, the cover was interesting, he was produced by Dave Stewart, and although I hadn't heard it, I knew this song had topped the UK chart. To get ahead of the curve, I went ahead and purchased the album. At the time I didn't care for it all that much. I thought there were a couple of good songs including this one, but that was about it. I then set it aside and didn't think much about it until many years later when I happened to hear Maria McKee (see below) perform the song on a live album. In her dialog before playing the song she mentioned it was her biggest hit. I recognized the song immediately and then it all came together in my mind. I hadn't hooked into McKee yet when I bought Sharkey's album so I never realized she wrote this song. I became a big fan of McKee's later and that led me to this rediscovery. I then went back and listened to Sharkey's album again. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it. Of course, this song is a highlight. Sadly, it was one of those that just didn't connect with US listeners. It was a major hit in many countries (even Canada took it to #4), yet folks in the US ignored it. Perhaps listeners didn't care for Sharkey's vibrato-laced warble or just didn't like the tune. Whatever it was, it's a shame it didn't get further up the chart.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was written by American singer/songwriter Maria McKee, who was having some success at the time with her band Lone Justice. Around the time the band recorded their debut album, McKee began a brief affair with Benmont Tench (keyboardist for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers). Tench was lending his skills to the album and even co-wrote a couple of tunes for it with McKee. Their short-lived relationship came to an end and McKee then decided to channel her feelings into music and wrote "A Good Heart." Eurythmics' Dave Stewart knew Tench because Stewart had produced a few tracks for Petty's Southern Accents album and that connection most likely led to "A Good Heart" getting to Feargal Sharkey. However, along with McKee's song Tench sent Sharkey a song he had written called "You Little Thief." The story goes that Tench wrote the tune about McKee in response to "A Good Heart." Smartly, Sharkey recorded both songs, put them back-to-back on his album, and then released them as consecutive singles. Both songs hit the UK Top 10 and the song/response battle between two ex's became a juicy music legend. However, many years later in the days of social media, someone brought this story back up and Tench chimed in via Twitter to debunk the story. He said that they story was a myth and that his song was never about McKee. Perhaps that is the truth, but it is certainly late in coming (and it's much more fun to believe the legend).


Saturday, January 19, 2019

"Call Me" by Dennis DeYoung

Song#:  2653
Date:  03/15/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  54
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The former Styx member scored a Top 10 hit in 1984 with the #10 "Desert Moon," taken from his debut solo album of the same name. Although the LP wouldn't be a huge seller like his works with Styx, it did well enough to call for a follow-up. In the spring of '86, DeYoung would issue out his second solo disc, Back to the World. This first single was pushed out ahead of the album and the song would be a hit at AC reaching #5 on that chart. It crossed over to Pop, but it couldn't attract a larger audience and the song sputtered out before it could get into the upper half of the chart. Without a solid Pop hit, the album then faltered and could only manage a very minor #108 peak.

ReduxReview:  I liked this song when it came out and especially dug the sax opening. It was definitely a DeYoung composition as it wasn't too dissimilar from some of the big ballads he penned for Styx. However, that may have been the problem. It seemed a bit stuck in the late 70s and the sound lended itself to an AC crowd. What might have made this song soar was a big production by someone like David Foster. If given the same treatment as some of the songs he did with Chicago around this time, DeYoung might have had a bigger hit. As-is, it's a lovely tune and a nice addition to DeYoung's catalog.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  It was DeYoung's theatrical side that certainly played a part in the dissolving of Styx, but for his solo efforts he kept things mainly in the soft rock arena. He would later feed his theatrical side when he took on the role of Pontius Pilate in a 1993 touring version of Jesus Christ Superstar. The experience spurred him to do two other projects. First up was an album of Broadway show tunes titled 10 on Broadway. Around the same time he began to write a musical based on the Victor Hugo novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He completed the show and in 1996 DeYoung issued out a concept album on which he and his sister-in-law performed all the parts. That same year, a production of the show debuted at the Polk Theater in Nashville. The response was positive and plans were developed to take the show to Broadway, but health issues sidelined DeYoung and progress of the show halted. In 2007, DeYoung got another production of the show up and running in his hometown of Chicago. The show would end up winning a Joseph Jefferson Award (for Chicago area theater) for best musical production.