Sunday, July 22, 2018

"Broken Wings" by Mr. Mister

#1 Alert!
Song#:  2472
Date:  09/21/1985
Debut:  84
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's debut album I Wear the Face wasn't a hit, but it did get them noticed and the #57 showing of their single "Hunters of the Night" was enough to keep their label interested for a second album. The band, led by Richard Page, then came up with Welcome to the Real World and this track was issued out as its first single. It made a steady climb up the Pop chart until it finally reached the #1 spot for a couple of weeks. The song would also get to #3 at AC and #4 Pop. Grammy folks took notice of the song and the band was given a nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group.

ReduxReview:  This moody song has a mystical aura about it that hits just the right tone thanks to strongly written verses and a hooky chorus. The production is top-notch and it still sounds excellent even today. It was a bit risky to push this dark tune out as the first single. It seems like it would have been safer to make it single #2, which is what the label wanted, but apparently the band lobbied hard for it to go out first and the gamble paid off. The song stood out on radio and it got people's attention, as did the MTV video with all of its bird imagery. It certainly caught my ear back then and I still love to hear this every now and then.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The lyrics for this song were inspired by a novel by Lebanese-American poet/writer Khalil Gibran. His 1912 work Broken Wings was a tragic love story set it Beirut. It was written eleven years before his most famous work, 1923's The Prophet. It's been said that Paul McCartney also used Khalil's Broken Wings as inspiration for his song "Blackbird" from The Beatles' self-titled 1968 album (aka The White Album). While the themes in McCartney's song could also apply to Khalil's work and "broken wings" is in the song lyrics, it seems possible that McCartney could have had the book in mind at the time, but he has never confirmed the rumor. However, both "Blackbird" and Mr. Mister's "Broken Wings" do contain the same lyric line of "take these broken wings and learn to fly."


Saturday, July 21, 2018

"Eaten Alive" by Diana Ross

Song#:  2471
Date:  09/21/1985
Debut:  88
Peak:  77
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  After her 1983 album Ross failed to produce a sizable hit single, Diana Ross returned to gold-level sales with her next effort Swept Away. It featured three Top 20 hits including the #10 "Missing You." With momentum swinging her way, she decided to work with Barry Gibb on her next album. Gibb had been having great luck writing and producing hit singles and albums for stars like Barbra Streisand, Kenny Rogers, and Dionne Warwick, and it seemed like he could do the same for Ross. Gibb and his brothers went ahead and wrote a set of songs specifically for Ross. The project would be titled Eaten Alive and the title track would be issued out as the first single. In addition to Gibb co-writing, co-producing, and performing backing vocals on the track, Michael Jackson joined in and contributed to the writing, producing and vocals as well. With the dream team of the Gibb brothers, Jackson and Ross creating this song, it seemed like it would be a slam-dunk, surefire hit. Yet oddly, the song tanked at Pop. It couldn't even get out of the bottom quarter of the chart. Elsewhere, it did fine getting to #3 at Dance and #10 R&B, but even with the Michael Jackson name attached, pop radio listeners were just not interested in the song and promptly ignored it. The lack of a sizable Pop hit didn't help sales of the album, which also struggled on the chart.

ReduxReview:  I think the old proverb "too many cooks spoil the broth" applies to this song. It was just way overdone and Ross is practically swallowed up by it all. In the chorus, especially the last go-rounds, you can't even hear her. You mainly hear Jackson's voice. That's not too surprising since apparently Jackson's contribution to the song was reworking the chorus, which sounds like something he would have recorded for himself. Yet even the Gibb brothers' verse work doesn't contain their usual signature melodic moves or phrasing. Ross tries to get through the song, but she is totally lost and there are points you can't even understand the words. The production is jarring and overwhelming as well with a bunch of synth fills and even a disturbing bone crunching chomp at the end. Top it all off with a crazy video featuring an overacting Ross with fangs and panther eyes and what you end up with is a giant mess. That said, there is still something about the song I kinda like. Perhaps I just get a kick out of it because it is such a fascinating, crazy-ass disaster. It was a giant misstep by everyone involved, yet I don't mind hearing it every once in a great while and chuckling that they all thought this was a good idea.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The elaborate video for this song was based on H.G. Wells' 1896 sci-fi classic The Island of Dr. Moreau in which a shipwrecked scientist finds himself on an island where the main inhabitant, Dr. Moreau, is experimenting on animals giving them human traits through painful surgeries. The novel was first adapted into a movie in 1932 as Islands of Lost Souls. That version featured a woman that was created via a panther, which is the character Ross plays in her video. The story was revived for a 1977 film under the novel's title. It starred Burt Lancaster and Michael York. Then there was the 1996 version starring Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer that was an infamous box office bomb. In Ross' video, the shipwreck survivor was played by actor/singer Joseph Gian. Gian would later go on to work on several TV shows and films including a recurring role on the hit nighttime soap Knots Landing. He also competed on the talent show Star Search in 1986. He was the male vocalist champion for a five week run and was a semi-finalist at the end of the season. In the "Eaten Alive" video, he ends up getting..well...eaten Diana Ross after she turns into a panther.


Friday, July 20, 2018

"Janet" by Commodores

Song#:  2470
Date:  09/21/1985
Debut:  89
Peak:  87
Weeks:  4
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The Commodores' second LP following the departure of Lionel Richie would be their best effort. Nightshift would be a gold album thanks to the Grammy-winning #3 title track single. Unfortunately, their follow-up singles from the album didn't fare as well. This third single stalled at a low #65 at R&B while making a brief appearance at the bottom of the Pop chart. It was, however, a solid hit for them at AC getting to #8, which was their final Top 10 for them on that chart. Nightshift would also be the Commodores' final album for Motown, the label they had been recording with since 1974. They would move over to Polydor for their next LP.

ReduxReview:  This song is far better than their previous single "Animal Instinct," which seemed like an attempt to fit in with other pop/rock hits of the time period. It didn't work and perhaps because of that, this song didn't get a real shot to make an impact. It really should have been the second single. While it's not something that would burn up the charts, it should have done much better. It's a nice groovin' tune with a good hook and wasn't all that far away from what Earth, Wind & Fire were doing at the time with songs like "Joanna." At least AC got a good dose of the song.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The Nightshift album was also the debut of the band's new lead singer, British-born J.D. Nicholas. On their first post-Richie album Commodores 13, three members of the band shared lead vocal duties. Feeling that they needed a steady lead singer, they sought to hire one for their next album. One person that came to mind was Nicholas, who had been the lead singer in the UK funk/disco band Heatwave. Nicholas was also hired in as a replacement singer for that band when it's lead vocalist and founder Johnny Wilder became paralyzed from a car accident. Wilder would still provide vocals on the band's recordings, but Nicholas would handle them in concert. The Commodores later scooped up Nicholas after an audition and he has remained with the band ever since.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

"One in a Million" by Eddie and the Tide

Song#:  2469
Date:  09/21/1985
Debut:  90
Peak:  85
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Bay area band was started up by singer/songwriter Steve Rice. Wanting to get involved in the music industry, Rice put out an ad in the local paper looking for other musicians who wanted to do the same. He rounded out the band with four other guys and initially they were called The Suburbs. Unfortunately due to another band having the same name, they were forced to make a change. After making lists of potential names, Rice went to bed and had a dream about a band named Eddie and the Tide. That ended up being the band name and Rice then became "Eddie." A club owner showed interest in the band and eventually became their manager and helped them to record an indie EP in 1982 and a full album in 1984. Both recordings became solid sellers locally and that along with their growing fan base got them signed to Atco Records. Within a year's time, the band had recorded their major label debut album Go Out and Get It. This first single was pushed out and it got some attention at Rock getting to #22. The song was able to cross over to the Pop chart, but just for a very minor two weeks. Despite the tepid results, Atco kept them on for a second LP, 1987's Looking for Adventure. Nothing happened with it and the band was dropped. They recorded two more indie albums before breaking up sometime around 1993.

ReduxReview:  This mysterious sounding track takes a couple of listens before it hooks you. The verses are the best part and they really set a cool tone. The chorus is solid, but I think it needed a little more oomph production-wise to really make it snap and stand out. This certainly could have done better on the chart. I wonder if the title was an issue as The Romantics had a Top 40 hit just the previous year with the same title. Sometimes that causes confusion especially if people think the second song is a remake of the first one. Regardless, this one was strong enough to stand on its own.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Their first album for Atco got a helping hand from another Bay area resident, rock star Eddie Money. Money produced the majority of the album and co-wrote three songs with Rice. Although Money had produced some of his own records and perhaps a song or two for other artists, it seems that this was Money's first gig producing a full album for someone else. Having Money's name attached to the project most likely helped draw some attention to the band.  2) Before they signed with Atco, the band submitted a video to MTV for their "battle of the bands" series MTV Basement Tapes. The show featured videos from unsigned acts that would compete for viewer votes. Six videos would be shown each episode and the one with the most votes would move on to the next stage of the competition. In 1984, Eddie and the Tide's video for their song "Running Wild, Running Free" made it to the finals and seemed to be the odds on favorite to win. But in an upset, a band called TRAK made up of the four DeRita brothers ended up winning for the video to their song "Dancin'." Although the band won some kind of recording contract with EMI, it doesn't seem like they recorded anything for the label. Their lead singer was 13-year-old Kurt. Around the same time, Kurt also appeared on another competition show, Star Search. He competed in the junior vocalist category.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

"Lover Come Back to Me" by Dead or Alive

Song#:  2468
Date:  09/21/1985
Debut:  94
Peak:  75
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  This UK band's second album Youthquake was doing quite well thanks to its first single, the #11 Pop/#4 Dance hit "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)." This next track was selected to be the second single and it did fairly well at Dance getting to #13. However, it just couldn't make much of a dent in the Pop chart and it stalled after making it a quarter of the way up. Despite the lack of a significant follow-up, the album still sold very well and ended up being certified gold.

ReduxReview:  The production team of Stock, Aitken and Waterman (SAW) applied their studio magic to the band's excessively hooky "You Spin Me Round" and it worked out very well. SAW do the same with this track, but the song is not nearly as strong. The opening beats have the feel of an updated version of Donna Summer's "I Feel Love," yet the verse and bridge are quite weak. The chorus isn't too bad with its defiant "kick right down," but the track as a whole just doesn't stay in my mind for very long.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although this second single didn't go anywhere on the Pop chart, a third single was pushed out. "My Heart Goes Bang (Get Me to the Doctor)" couldn't reach the Pop chart, but it was another winner for the band at Dance getting to #15. Although their success on the Pop chart was very limited, the band did quite well filling up the dance floors. They would end up with seven Top 10's on the Dance chart including two #1's.