Sunday, December 15, 2019

"Coming Up Close" by 'til tuesday

Song#:  2982
Date:  01/10/1987
Debut:  90
Peak:  59
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Alternative Rock, Folk-Rock

Pop Bits:  This Boston band's second album, Welcome Home, got started with it's first single, "What About Love." While it would be a hit at Rock getting to #9, it didn't do as well at Pop where it fizzled at #26. It was a disappointing result, but hopes were high that this next single would do better. Unfortunately it stalled early at Rock only reaching #37 while not being able to crack the top half of the Pop chart. That left the album peaking at #49 and failing to reach the same gold level sales of their 1985 debut.

ReduxReview:  With the band shedding the new wave of their debut album for a more mature alt-folk rock sound, getting a hit single was going to be difficult. Indeed neither the first single nor this second one performed very well, which is too bad. Both were excellent tracks from an album that was far superior to their debut. Mann was feeling more comfortable in her writing and she grew leaps and bounds with Welcome Home and its follow up. Critics were handing out accolades, but pop radio and listeners didn't pay much attention. They were looking for "Voices Carry, Pt. 2" and it didn't happen. Yet it was probably a good thing. Mann went on to a brilliant solo career that earned her two Grammys and an Oscar nod (see below). That might not have happened had she stayed on the commercial 80s new wave/synthpop trail. This lilting folk-rock track was the logical choice for a second single from the album, but it just wasn't going to do very well on a chart that was being dominated by massively hooky tunes by the likes of Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Bon Jovi. Still, it was another quality song from Mann.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Following the band's 1988 third album, Everything's Different Now, they went out on tour. Personnel changes took place and they needed a guitarist. They hired on a musician who had recently moved to Boston named Jon Brion. After 'til tuesday broke up, Brion started to pick up session work. Then when it came time for Aimee Mann's solo album, Brion co-wrote three songs with Mann and co-produced the LP. He then co-write five songs for Mann's second solo effort and produced it. It raised his profile and more session and production work came his way. He would work for a big list of artists including Fiona Apple, Melissa Etheridge, Peter Gabriel, The Wallflowers, Macy Gray, and Rufus Wainwright. He also branched out to scoring music for films. In 1999, both he and Mann would work on music for the Paul Thomas Anderson film Magnolia. Brion wrote the score while Mann contributed songs. Their work on the film would earn them Grammy nominations while Mann would receive an Oscar nomination for the song "Save Me." Brion would go on to co-produce the 2005 album Late Registration by Kanye West. Brion would receive a Grammy for his work when the LP won for Best Rap Album


Saturday, December 14, 2019

"Shelter" by Lone Justice

Song#:  2981
Date:  01/10/1987
Debut:  93
Peak:  47
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock

**Welcome to 1987! 1986 started with the abysmal "Superbowl Shuffle." Luckily, '87 gets started with a terrific song. Let's get going!**

Pop Bits:  This band headed up by Maria McKee was touted as being the next big thing prior to their 1985 self-titled debut album. Unfortunately, their introduction proved to be underwhelming with the album stopping #56 and the single "Ways To Be Wicked" sputtering at #29 Rock and #71 Pop. In the aftermath, two of the four members took off leaving McKee and guitarist Ryan Hedgecock to soldier on. They padded the band with three new members and set off with producers Steve Van Zandt and Jimmy Iovine to record a second album. It would be called Shelter and this title track would be its first single. It would get to #26 at Rock while cracking the Pop Top 50. A second single, "I Found Love," would fail to chart at either Rock or Pop. With nothing much to promote it, the album stopped at #65. The band that was once a hot commodity had turned cold and not long after Shelter failed to boost their career, the band split up.

ReduxReview:  This slick, radio-ready song is quite a distance away from the band's cowpunk origins. Their debut album was kind of a tamped down version of their country/blues/rock sound while Shelter was a more commercial-leaning rock album. Frankly, I love all iterations of the band and I really dug the Shelter album when it came out. Especially this sweeping single and its ghostly opening. I think Iovine, Van Zandt, and the band's label, Geffen, really wanted to make rock stars out of the band, but it just wasn't meant to be. Early fans of the band didn't like the sleek Shelter with its synths and non-countrified tunes, but I thought it was great. Especially the devastating "Wheels," which I've sung and cried to in my car countless times. As much as I liked Lone Justice, the main attraction for me was Maria McKee's voice and songs. Her self-titled debut solo album is one of my all-time faves and each album after was varied in sound and textures (in a good way). She is just brilliant. While this song may not reflect the sound of Lone Justice from the early 80s, it was still a solid tune that should have at least made the Top 20. Ages ago a friend of mine sang in a bar band and my group of friends would go see them and drink n' dance. She knew I loved this song and for a while after it came out, she always made sure to play it sometime during the night. I always appreciated that.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Maria McKee would embark on a solo career following the breakup of Lone Justice. Her self-titled debut arrived in 1989. One song from the LP, "I Forgotten What It Was in You (That Put the Need in Me)" got to #29 on the Rock chart. The album would peak at #120. McKee would end up having two major hits. Her first one was as a songwriter. She penned the song "A Good Heart" that was recorded by Feargal Sharkey. It was a hit in the UK (#1) and in other countries, but it was virtually ignored in the US (#74). Her second hit was one she co-wrote and performed. She contributed the song "Show Me Heaven" to the soundtrack of the 1990 Tom Cruise film Days of Thunder. It would be released as a single around Europe and it would hit #1 in several countries including the UK. It was never officially released as a single in the US, but airplay on AC radio helped the song get to #28 on that chart. McKee would go on to release several albums including the highly acclaimed Bowie-esque Life Is Sweet in 1996.


Friday, December 13, 2019

Milestone! The Year in Review: 1986

Wow. It is hard to believe that I've been at this for a little over seven years now. Things have changed since I first started in September of 2012. There is more info available on artists from the decade and the availability of tunes on streaming services has significantly increased. Years ago when I first started the blog, there were times I had to purchase a vinyl copy of a 45 or album in order to hear the song. I haven't had to do that in a long while as most significant artists are all on Spotify. There were major artists who were resistant to streaming for years (Prince, Bob Seger), but they are all on services now. There are still a few obscure tunes not available there, but thus far I've been able to find them on YouTube. I'm sure in another seven years things will have changed again.

As for 1986, it was a good transition year. Run-D.M.C. and Beastie Boys raised the rap game while the Stock Aitken Waterman production team developed their dance-pop formula via Bananarama and were on their way to Rickrolling us in '87. Janet Jackson came into her own as her producers/co-writers Jam & Lewis started their string of hits for Jackson and other artists like the Human League. Madonna matured a bit yet still courted controversy via "Papa Don't Preach." Hard rock and hair metal kept edging its way up the chart. Peter Gabriel and his former band Genesis went head-to-head and both came out with #1 songs. MTV was still going strong as music videos were becoming more elaborate (Gabriel's award-winning "Sledgehammer") and essential.

For me, '86 was pretty much on par with '85. There were definitely a lot of quality songs that made the year enjoyable. However, I didn't own as much Top 10's as I had in previous years. I believe at one point I only owned five songs in the Top 10 for a few weeks, which was low. I rated eight songs at a ten, which was the same as '85, but I'd have to say that even though the tunes deserved the rating, I'm not sure if any of them will make my Top 20 list for the decade. I have a suspicion that '87 will prove to be slightly better as classics from U2, Michael Jackson, and George Michael will shake things up.

I'm still enjoying this project and I hope anyone who encounters the blog will have fun as well. Keep reading, pass it along to friends, feel free to send comments, and don't forget to "Rate It!" at the bottom of each post. Here is a recap of 1986:

Number of charted songs in 1986:  401  (405 in 1985)
Time it took listen/post all songs:  1 year, 36 days  (1 year, 39 days for 1985)
Number of songs that debuted in 1986 to hit #1:  30  (28 in 1985)
Number of songs that debuted in 1986 to reach the Top 10 (excluding #1's):  81  (74 in 1985)
Number of gold singles:  17  (17 in 1985)
Number of platinum singles: 1  (2 in 1985)
Number of songs that won a Grammy:  6  (8 in 1985)
Number of One-Hit Wonders:  6  (5 in 1985)
Number of Rated 10 songs:  8  (8 for 1985)
Number of Rated 1 songs:  0  (1 for 1985)

Top 5 favorite chart songs of the year:
  1. "Human" by The Human League
  2. "Like Flames" by Berlin
  3. "On My Own" by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald
  4. "What Have You Done for Me Lately" by Janet Jackson
  5. "Live to Tell" by Madonna
Worst song of the year:  "Lead a Double Life" by Loverboy
Best song I didn't know existed:  "Stay True" by Sly Fox
Favorite discovery:  Wax

A few other fun stats:

Highest debut:  #40 - "Dancing on the Ceiling" by Lionel Richie (peaked at #2) and
                                  "True Blue" by Madonna (peaked at #3)
Lowest debut:  #99 - "In Between Days (Without You)" by The Cure (peaked at #99)

Longest climb to peak position:  Both "Take My Breath Away" by Berlin and "At This Moment" by Billy Vera & the Beaters climbed 95 positions from #96 to #1

Longest trip to #1 for a song debuting in 1986:  "Holding Back the Years" by Simply Red took 15 weeks to reach #1
Quickest trip to #1 for a song debuting in 1986:  "Amanda" by Boston took 7 weeks to reach #1.
Most weeks at #1 for a song debuting in 1986:  4 - for two songs, "Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Bangles and "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi

Most weeks on the chart for a song debuting in 1986:  27 - "Something About You" by Level 42 (it peaked at #7).

Average number of weeks a song spent on the chart:  13
Position on chart where the most songs debuted:  #88, #94, #95 - 23 songs debuted at those spots (11 hit Top 10, 3 made it to #1)
Longest song title:  "One Sunny Day/Duelling Bikes from Quicksilver " by Ray Parker, Jr. and Helen Terry
Shortest song title:  "Bop" by Dan Seals and "War" by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band

A few artists who got their first chart single in 1986:  Falco, The Cure, Pet Shop Boys, Fine Young Cannibals, The Jets, George Michael (solo), Belinda Carlisle (solo), Bruce Hornsby & the Range, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam (with Full Force), Run-D.M.C., The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Cinderella, Anita Baker, The Art of Noise.

Runners-Up:  13 songs peaked at #2, 1 songs peaked at #11, and 5 songs peaked at #41

Some interesting things learned (click links for more details in previous posts):
  • The story of Peter Frampton's lost guitar is pretty amazing.
  •  John Cougar Mellencamp's "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A." mentions a musician whose death is clouded in mystery.
  • Partridge Family member Danny Bonaduce sort of recorded a solo album during the show's run.
  • Solo hit maker and Wax band member Andrew Gold's mother was a singer who made significant contributions to a few classic films.
  • Writers of the Whitney Houston's hit "Greatest Love of All" were nearly sued for plagiarism by another famous artist.
  • A member of the Aussie band the Models won a bunch of money on a game show.
  • A now-famous Oscar-nominated director got his start making 80s music videos including one for Jermaine Stewart
  • Kenny Loggins was the fifth artist asked to record the Top Gun soundtrack hit "Danger Zone."
  • Also not the first choice - Berlin on "Take My Breath Away."
  • Actor Danny Aiello, who appeared in Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" video, recorded an answer song to the hit.
  • Before becoming a charting artist himself, Bruce Hornsby was a member of Sheena Easton's backing band an appeared in a couple of her videos.
  • Heart's rockin' track "If Looks Could Kill" was original a charting dance tune.
  • Steve Perry's parents owned a radio station.
  • Don Johnson's hit "Heartbeat" was originally recorded by a hit making 70s AC artist.
  • A Bonnie Tyler track was repurposed for Bon Jovi's breakthrough hit "You Give Love a Bad Name."
  • The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde wrote "Don't Get Me Wrong" for a tennis pro with a bad boy image.
  • Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" was originally demoed as a mid-tempo ballad.
  • Elton John wrote a song with Cher...well, sort of.
  • A hit for The Jets was written by an artist who had a couple of Top 10s at the turn of the 80s.
  • Debbie Harry's "French Kissin'" was written by a now-famous TV writer/producer.
According to the year-end chart for 1986, these were the year's Top 10 singles:
  1. "That's What Friends Are For" by Dionne & Friends
  2. "Say You, Say Me" by Lionel Richie
  3. "I Miss You" by Klymaxx
  4. "On My Own" by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald
  5. "Broken Wings" by Mr. Mister
  6. "How Will I Know" by Whitney Houston
  7. "Party All the Time" by Eddie Murphy
  8. "Burning Heart" by Survivor
  9. "Kyrie" by Mr. Mister
  10. "Addicted to Love" by Robert Palmer

So long '86! I'm pretty sure you will be eclipsed by '87, but I ain't mad atcha!


Thursday, December 12, 2019

"Without Your Love" by Toto

Song#:  2980
Date:  12/27/1986
Debut:  77
Peak:  38
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Soft Rock, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Toto's 1984 album Isolation was a disappointment following the massive success of their 1982 Grammy-winning Toto IV. It peaked at #42 and struggled to go gold. Their next LP, Fahrenheit, would do about the same business getting to #40 and going gold, but it boasted one thing that Isolation didn't have - a hit. The LP's first single "I'll Be Over You" would reach #11 at Pop and #1 AC. For a follow-up, the band kept with the soft rock sound of their previous single and released this track. It would do well at AC getting to #7, but it didn't click as well at Pop and the tune stalled just inside the Top 40.

ReduxReview:  The band continued to keep the yacht rock waves ebbing and flowing with this lilting tune. It is pure So.Cal soft rock and like their previous hit it sounded pretty good. It was a slightly darker tune and floated just a bit closer to smooth jazz, so I'm not surprised it didn't catch on as well at Pop. Much like in the way Chicago realized their 80s bread n' butter was big ballads, Toto seemed to accept that listeners wanted to hear their brand of soft rock and it paid off for them with these two singles.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by band member David Paich. He also wrote or co-wrote the band's three biggest hits, "Hold the Line" (#5), "Rosanna" (#2) and "Africa" (#1). In addition to being a six-time Grammy winner, Paich is also an Emmy winner. A few years prior to Paich being a co-founding member of Toto, he was working with his father, jazz pianist/composer/arranger Marty Paich. Marty Paich would go on to become a Grammy nominated arranger and work with a myriad of artists including Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Neil Diamond, and Linda Ronstadt. Back in the 60s, Marty began to work as an arranger and orchestra leader for TV shows like The Smothers Brothers and Sonny & Cher. He also began composing music for TV shows and as his son David developed his musical inclinations, Marty began mentoring and working with him on projects. A composition the pair wrote for a 1974 episode of the TV drama Ironside would go on to win an Emmy for Best Song or Theme.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

"Candy" by Cameo

.Song#:  2979
Date:  12/27/1986
Debut:  80
Peak:  21
Weeks:  17
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  It took twelve albums and nearly ten years for Cameo to finally land a Top 10 hit on the Pop chart. "Word Up," the first single from their album of the same name, made it to #6 at Pop while reaching #1 at both R&B and Dance. The hit also helped the album become their first platinum seller (#8 Pop/#1 R&B). Hoping for another crossover hit, the band released this follow-up single. Although it would become their third chart topper at R&B, it couldn't do as well as "Word Up" on the Pop chart and stalled just shy of the Top 20. Still, the back-to-back hits raised the band's profile and put them at a whole new level.

ReduxReview:  While not as massively hooky as "Word Up," this was an interesting follow-up. There was something alluring and mesmerizing about the song that kept your attention. From Larry Blackmon's strangely accented voice to the waves of synths to the sax breaks, the tune was a bit odd. It wasn't a track that I would say was a hit, yet there was something about it that made you want to hear it again. Blackmon's production certainly set the song apart and it sounded great when cranked. It was an unusual single that actually worked.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The sax on this song was performed by jazz musician Michael Brecker. In addition to playing on a multitude of tracks by big stars like Frank Sinatra, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Dire Straits, and Steely Dan, Brecker would be nominated for 28 Grammy awards for performance and composition. He would win 15. Brecker would die in 2007 due to complications from leukemia.  2) Feel like you have heard parts of this song before? You most likely have. It has been sample many times over the years by artists like 2Pac, Will Smith, The Black Eyed Peas, and BeyoncĂ©. Perhaps its most heard use was when it was sampled on Mariah Carey's 2001 hit "Loverboy." That song, recorded for the soundtrack to her film Glitter, became a #2 hit. However, "Candy" was not the first sample choice for Carey's record. She initially wanted to use a sample of "Firecracker," a 1978 track by the Yellow Magic Orchestra. Around this time, Carey had left Colombia Records for Virgin and had divorced her husband Tommy Mottola, who was working for Sony. He started working with Jennifer Lopez and when he got wind of Carey using "Firecracker," he sought permission to use it for a Lopez song. Indeed they did and samples of the song were used on Lopez's 2001 #1 hit "I'm Real." It ended up getting released prior to Carey's original "Loverboy," so she scrapped that version and started over again with the sample from "Candy." Regardless of the shenanigans, both artists ended up with significant hits.