Thursday, October 21, 2021

"You Came" by Kim Wilde

Song#:  3650
Date:  09/17/1988
Debut:  84
Peak:  41
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Dance-Pop


Pop Bits:  Nearly five years after she first reached the US Pop chart with 1982's "Kids in America" (#25), British singer Wilde grabbed her biggest hit with the #1 Supremes remake "You Keep Me Hanging On." The track was taken from her fifth album Another Step (#40). For her follow-up LP, Wilde entered the studio with her songwriter/producer brother Ricky along with producer Tony Swain (of the Jolley/Swain production team behind Bananaram's second album featuring "Cruel Summer"). The siblings would co-write most all of the songs on the new LP titled Close with their dad Marty joining in on a few of them. It was a more consistent effort than Another Step, which had featured several producers and songwriters, and in the long run it proved to be vastly more successful - at least in other countries. In the US, the album got kicked off with this first single. While it would do well on the Dance chart getting to #10, the song ended up stopping at the dreaded #41 spot on the Pop chart. Sadly, it would be Wilde's last Pop chart single in the US. With that lackluster result, the album peaked at #114 and became her last to reach the chart. Close may have been a bust in the US, but elsewhere it did very well and overall it would be the biggest selling solo album of her career worldwide hitting the Top 10 in many countries. At home in the UK it would get to #8, go platinum, and spawn three Top 10 hits including "You Came" (#3).

ReduxReview:  It was such a shame that Close got so overlooked in the US. It was much better than the scattershot Another Step and was one of her most consistent efforts. This first single was a good choice to push out. It had been a big hit in the UK and its pseudo Stock Aitken Waterman sound was just right for the time. It may not have been a slam dunk for a Top 10, but it should have at least make the Top 20. The bigger mystery is why the first single in the UK, "Hey Mister Heartache," only got to #31 there, which then prevented it from being released first in the US. That tune had even better hit potential and I think it would have done well in the US. It's a terrific, funky lost gem. The LP also had some other solid tracks like "Four Letter Word" (#6 UK) and the urgent "Never Trust a Stranger" (#7 UK). Each of those should have spent some time in the US Top 40. It was her best selling album in many countries except the US, which was highly disappointing.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) While Wilde's career in the US pretty much halted with Close, she continued to have some success in the UK and other countries. Her next two albums sold far less, but still managed to generate a few charting singles. Her last major hit came in 1993 when her remake of Yvonne Elliman's 1977 #1 "If I Can't Have You" got to #12 in the UK. It became a platinum #3 hit in Australia. It was a new track included on Wilde's compilation LP The Singles Collection: 1981-1993. The song would also become Wilde's final single to hit a US chart; it got to #14 at Dance. Wilde would continue to record albums over the years and in 2018 she got her first UK Top 30 album in twenty-six year when Here Come the Aliens reached #21. As she did with many of her albums, Wilde worked closely with her brother Ricky. He would produce the LP while the pair would co-write most of the songs.  2) Wilde had long held an interest in gardening, but in 1997 while taking a break from music and pregnant with her first child, she took it more seriously and attended horticultural classes. With her expertise in creating gardens along with her celebrity status, it wasn't long before TV stations came calling and after appearing on five episodes of Channel 4's Better Gardens show, the BBC hired her on for a two-season stint on the game show/garden renovation series Garden Invaders. Wilde would then go on to compete in several garden/flower shows around England and would win awards for her work. She would also author two books on gardening.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2021

"Hands on the Radio" by Henry Lee Summer

Song#:  3649
Date:  09/17/1988
Debut:  85
Peak:  85
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock


Pop Bits:  This Indiana rocker's self-titled major label debut album performed fairly well (#56) thanks to the #1 Rock/#20 Pop hit "I Wish I Had a Girl." A follow-up single, "Darlin' Danielle Don't," would be another winner at Rock getting to #9, but it failed to reach the top half of the Pop chart (#57). Still, that result was good enough for his label to push out this third single. It would stall at #28 at Rock while making very little impact at Pop. The single would close out promotion of the album. Despite the lack of a second mainstream hit, the label seemed pleased with the results and ordered up a second disc from Summer that would come out in the summer of '89.

ReduxReview:  I think folks missed out on both "Darlin' Danielle Don't" and this song. While neither were as immediately catchy as "I Wish I Had a Girl," both had solid Top 40 potential and I'm not exactly sure why the tunes didn't catch on in a bigger way. Heartland rock wasn't all that in fashion at the time unless you were John Mellenamp, so there may have just been a limited audience for Summer's style of rock. That was too bad as Summer had a knack for writing catchy heartland rock tunes and he sold them well with his soaring, slightly gravely voice. The LP had other good highlights including the yearning "Just Another Day." It is worth checking out.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Summer (real name Henry Lee Swartz) was born in the small town of Brazil, Indiana. It is located just outside the city of Terre Haute at the junction of state highways 59 and 40. The farm town is the county seat of Clay County and has a population of around 8,000. A 2018 study declared that Brazil was the poorest town in Indiana with nearly 32% of the residents living under the poverty line. Yet despite that, the small town has had its share of celebrity residents besides Summer. Infamous union leader Jimmy Hoffa was born in Brazil. He left the town when he was eleven as his family made the move to Detroit. Later on, Hoffa would become president of the Teamsters. His legendary disappearance in 1975 has been the subject of books, TV shows, and films. Orville Redenbacher was born in Brazil and grew up on his family's farm where he occasionally sold popcorn out of the back of his car. The agriculture scientist and businessman would go on to form his own popcorn brand that became wildly successful. Redenbacher became a celebrity of sorts in his own right when he appeared in commercials for his own product.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

"A Word in Spanish" by Elton John

Song#:  3648
Date:  09/17/1988
Debut:  86
Peak:  19
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary


Pop Bits:  Touted as a comeback effort, John's '88 album Reg Strikes Back did help to revive his career following the abysmal performance of his '86 LP Leather Jackets and the throat surgery he successsfully had early in '87. The album would become a #16 gold seller thanks to the #2 Pop/#1 AC hit "I Don't Wanna Go on with You Like That." To try and keep the momentum going, this next track was issued out as a single. It would do well at AC hitting #4. Over at Pop it didn't catch on quite as well and it stopped just inside the Top 20. Oddly, a third single from the album was not release in the US. In the UK the track "Town of Plenty" was issued out as the second single prior to "A Word in Spanish" (#91 UK), but it only got to #74. Perhaps that result along with the fact that a duet single with John and Aretha Franklin was set to debut early in '89 made the record company choose to not push out a third single in the US. Still, Reg Strikes Back would help to right the ship and it would set John up well for his next LP.

ReduxReview:  Here's a forgotten single in John's catalog. How it ever cracked the Pop Top 20 is a mystery. I assume it just rode the wave created by "I Don't Wanna Go on with You Like That" and was able to somehow cruise up the chart. It was a nice album track, but it really was not single material. However, it probably did have the best shot because the LP was not ripe with single candidates. It had the one surefire hit and the balance was fairly tepid, but listenable John/Bernie Taupin compositions. Seriously, do you even remember this song on the radio? I sure don't and it seems that after its run was done, it quickly disappeared. It is certainly one of John's least memorable and least played Top 20 hits.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  During much of Elton John's prime period, he had a steady backing backing band that consisted of Dee Murray on bass, Davey Johnstone on guitars, and Nigel Ollson on bass. While other side players would come and go, the three musicians would form the core of the band that stayed with John through most of the 70, then later in the 80s. For Reg Strikes Back, Johnstone would stick around on guitars, but Murray and Ollson would only contribute background vocals. For Murray, it would be his last project with John as he would die of a stroke while battling cancer in '92. Over the years, the three musicians would work on projects with other artists besides John, but only Ollson would take a legit stab at a solo career. Although Ollson issued out a prog rock album in 1971, it was after he started working with John that he got a chance to try for a solo career. He signed on with John's label, Rocket Records, and in 1975 issued out a self-titled LP. A single from it, "Only One Woman," would only get to #91 and the album failed to chart. Then a 1978 album for Columbia came and went to little notice, but a 1979 album for Bang Records simply titled Nigel did better. It spawned a pair of Pop Top 40 entries with "Dancin' Shoes" getting to #18 (#8 AC) and "Little Bit of Soap" making it to #34 (#9 AC). A second album for Bang in 1980 was a bust and that result basically ended Ollson's main attempt at a solo career. He would then pick back up with John and also work with other artists.

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Monday, October 18, 2021

"Never Let You Go" by Sweet Sensation

Song#:  3647
Date:  09/17/1988
Debut:  92
Peak:  58
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Freestyle, Dance-Pop


Pop Bits:  This NYC vocal trio's debut album Take It While It's Hot had thus far spawned three singles. Two of them would make the Pop chart including the title track, which peaked at a minor #57. Still looking for a bigger breakthrough, this fourth single was issued out. It certainly caught on in the clubs with the tune becoming the trio's first and only to reach #1 on the Dance chart. Yet a more mainstream audience was still ambivalent about the group's material and for the third time they were unable to make it into the top half of the Pop chart. It wasn't looking good for trio, but luckily their label stuck with them and a fifth single would help get them on the map.

ReduxReview:  This was another good, yet unremarkable, freestyle track from the trio. I can hear how this might ignite the dance floor in clubs, but it still wasn't the right song to break them in a more mainstream way. When compared to charting songs by other freestyle female groups of the time, this one melded in with the pack and didn't stand out. Ted Currier's production was quite good, but the lead vocals were average and the tune just okay. It sounded like it was geared towards club play with a lot of instrumental passages that focused on beats and production. The melody/chorus seemed more like an afterthought. While this was good for the dance floor, it wasn't necessarily right for pop radio and indeed it failed to make a big impression.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  When their debut album was released, the trio consisted of sisters Margie and Mari Fernandez and Betty Lebron. However, as things began to heat up for the group, Mari was getting uncomfortable with how their career was being developed and handled. According to an online interview with Mari, it seemed that her vision for the group was that each member would have a chance to equally showcase their skills. Yet the company behind the group began pushing Betty out front making it more of a trio with a lead singer. That didn't sit well with Mari. Then the company told them to cut ties with songwriter/producer David Sanchez, the person who initially helped the trio get started and produced two tracks for their debut LP. Mari and David had become good friends and she wasn't about to just toss him aside because someone told her to do so. Frustrated with all that was happening with Sweet Sensation and the path they were being forced down, Mari decided to quit in late '88. Her sister Margie decided to continue on with Betty and they hired in Sheila Vega as Mari's replacement. Around this time, "Never Let You Go" had reached #1 at Dance and their fifth single was shaping up to be a hit. So instead of waiting to fully integrate Vega until the next LP, the record company chose to introduce her by replacing the cover of Sweet Sensation's debut album with a new photo that got rid of Mari and included Vega. In '89, new pressings of the album were sent out with Vega on the cover. However, even though Vega appeared on the cover, she would not be heard on the album as none of the tracks were updated with her voice. The songs all remained intact with Mari's vocals. The new trio would then go on to record a new album that would be issued out in '90.

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Sunday, October 17, 2021

"Edge of a Broken Heart" by Vixen

Song#:  3646
Date:  09/17/1988
Debut:  96
Peak:  26
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Hard Rock, Glam Rock


Pop Bits:  The roots of this band go back to guitarist Jan Kuehnemund's high school days in the early 70s in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her first band was called Lemon Pepper. They turned into Genesis, but then later became Vixen to avoid any issues with the successful UK band Genesis. Vixen didn't stick together long and broke up in '74. As the 80s rolled in, Kuehnemund decided to revive the Vixen name and set out to create an all-female rock band. Janet Gardner would come in as lead singer sometime in '83 while three other women filled out the other roles. As the quintet started to hone their skills, they got the opportunity to be in a movie. Vixen got cast as a band called Diaper Rash in the '84 sex comedy Hardbodies. It wasn't long after that the group moved to L.A. and began working the clubs. A couple years later, Vixen would become a quartet with the steady lineup of Kuehnemund, Gardner, Roxy Petrucci, and Share Pedersen. They worked the Sunset Strip clubs and were one of the bands interviewed in Penelope Spheeris' documentary The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years. In '88, they finally landed a record deal with EMI Manhattan and work began on a self-titled debut album. When completed, this first single was issued out. It would do fairly well getting to #24 Rock while making the Pop Top 30. Some good MTV coverage helped the song along with some press about the track's writer/producer (see below).

ReduxReview:  With the glam/metal scene basically a boys club, an all-female hard rock band seemed more like a novelty than something legit, but Vixen certainly made their mark and proved they had the skills to hang with any other band on the circuit. However, I think this single was a bit polarizing. While it was a terrific song that featured some high flying vocals from Gardner, it really was a pop song at heart dressed up in glam metal clothes and hair. Then the fact that it was a Richard Marx tune seemed to take away some of the band's cred. I remember some folks sort of ripping on the band basically saying that they were not the real deal because they got this pop guy to help mold them into something commercially viable for the sake of publicity and record sales - basically selling out. That wasn't necessarily true, but Marx was brought in to supply a breakthrough tune, which he did and did well. If a band of guys had done this, I doubt they would have gotten the same flack and that really sucks. Regardless, Vixen got their deserved break and I think this song went on to become more popular and well-known over time than what its chart peak would indicate. It really should have been a Top 10 hit.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  After Vixen had recorded most of the tracks for their EMI debut album, their manager Allen Kovac liked what they had come up with, but thought they lacked a surefire hit. Kovac then reached out to one of his other clients who also happened to be signed to EMI, Richard Marx. Marx had been a successful songwriter for hire before his '87 debut album became a major hit and made him a star. While out on tour to support the LP, Marx got a call from Kovac who asked him to supply a potential hit song for Vixen. Kovac sent a couple of tracks from the album to Marx, who liked what the band was doing. He particularly liked Janet Gardner's lead vocals. While on a two-day break from his tour, Marx sat down and quickly came up with the music for "Edge of a Broken Heart." However, all he had for lyrics was the opening line of the chorus. Needing help to fill out the rest of the song, he called up Fee Waybill, the lead singer of The Tubes, who took the song and was able to quickly come up with the balance of the lyrics. Kovac loved what he heard and then asked Marx if he could produce the song during another tour break. Marx did and the end result was this Top 30 hit.

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