Wednesday, August 15, 2018

"To Live and Die in L.A." by Wang Chung

Song#:  2496
Date:  10/12/1985
Debut:  84
Peak:  41
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Synthpop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Following the success of their second album Points on the Curve, Wang Chung received an unusual offer. Oscar-winning Director William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) was a big fan of the band and personally sought them out to see if they would write the score to his upcoming film To Live and Die in L.A. The band was up for the challenge and proceeded to write songs and instrumental tracks for the movie. The soundtrack would then become the band's third album. It consisted of three newly written tracks, a song from the Points album ("Wait"), and four instrumentals. To help promote the soundtrack and film, this title-track song was issued out as a single. It made some inroads at Rock getting to #21. At Pop, the song just missed out on the Top 40 peaking at the dreaded #41. However, it was a long-lasting chart entry spending 18 weeks on the chart, which was unusual for a single that didn't even come close to the Top 10.

ReduxReview:  This is a song that kinda breaks a cardinal rule of pop songwriting. It has an exciting, upbeat verse, but the feel and tone of the bridge and chorus doesn't match or exceed that intensity, which is really should. However, in rare cases this can actually work and I think it does in this song. After the jittery verse, the song opens up into something more mysterious and atmospheric. It's like the bustle of the city during the day followed by the more relaxed evening. I loved this song from first listen and I still incorporate it into several playlists. The writing and production are excellent and still hold up. I was hoping it would do better on the Pop chart, but I knew all along that it wasn't a big, hooky contender.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Originally Friedkin didn't want an actual theme song for the film and rejected the idea of one. However, after the band saw the rough cut of the film they wrote this song and presented to a dismayed Friedkin. Yet after hearing the track, Friedkin change his mind and wanted the song for the film. Although it wasn't a huge success at the box office, the film did well enough to cover the budget twice over.  2) For this song, Wang Chung hooked up with up-n-coming producers Tony Swain and Steve Jolley. The pair were making a name for themselves producing hit albums by artists like Alison Moyet, Spandau Ballet, and Bananarama, who had just reached the US Top 10 with "Cruel Summer."


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"Que Te Quiero" by Katrina and the Waves

Song#:  2495
Date:  10/12/1985
Debut:  85
Peak:  71
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Katrina and the Waves were riding a wave to stardom thanks to their ever bright #9 hit "Walking on Sunshine." Their associated self-titled album made it to #25 on the strength of that song and the Top 40 follow-up "Do You Want Crying." They tried for a third solid charter with this track from the album. Unfortunately, it didn't catch on as well and it spent only a few short weeks near the bottom quarter of the chart.

ReduxReview:  This tune is a bit more subdued than their first two singles. I like the retro rock feel of the song along with the castanets and Spanish chorus. Paired with lyrics about heading to Mexico to meet up with a guy, the whole song has kind of a vacation vibe - like something you'd hear playing at a Jimmy Buffett Magaritaville bar. It's a fun tune, but perhaps not the strongest single contender.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In 2000, lead singer Katrina Leskanich decided to add acting to her resume and took on the lead role in the stage musical Leader of the Pack. The show toured around the UK in 2000 and 2001. The show was based on the life of famous songwriter Ellie Greenwich, who co-starred in the original 1985 Broadway production. Also among the Broadway cast was Dinah Manoff (Empty Nest) as the young Ellie, Darlene Love (as herself), and Jasmine Guy, who would soon have her own hit TV series A Different World. The show wasn't received all that well and only ran for 120 performances. It did get a Tony nomination for Best Musical, but it was in a year where there was a derth of new musicals. In fact, for the first time in the history of the Tonys, the Lead Actor and Actress in a Musical categories were eliminated due to the lack of candidates. Apparently, there was only one person eligible for the Best Actress award and the nomination committee decided there wasn't enough worthy Actor performances to nominate. The Choreography category was also scrapped that year. It was a low point for Broadway musicals, but two years later they came roaring back with two shows that would last for years - Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera.


Monday, August 13, 2018

"Everybody Dance" by Ta Mara and the Seen

Song#:  2494
Date:  10/12/1985
Debut:  87
Peak:  24
Weeks:  21
Genre:  R&B, Dance, Electro-Funk

Pop Bits:  Early in 1985, former member of The Time Jessie Johnson happened to catch a show by a new Minneapolis band called The Seen. He liked what he saw and wanted to take them under his wing. With clout he built up at his label (A&M) thanks to a successful debut solo album, Johnson got them signed. Using a Prince-ly move, Johnson gave lead singer Margie Cox the new name of Ta Mara and adjusted the band's name accordingly. He then set out to produce and co-write a self-titled debut album with the band. This track was selected to be the LP's first single and it did quite well at R&B getting to #3. It also fared well at Dance reaching #9. The song was then able to cross over to the Pop chart where it made it into the Top 30. The album was a modest seller, but the results encouraged A&M to spring for a follow-up album (with Johnson still working with them) in 1988 titled Blueberry Gossip. However, the three-year gap seemed to stop the momentum of the band and the album sank without a trace. They broke up soon after.

ReduxReview:  I remember the name of the band, but I don't remember this song at all. Probably because it's not all that great. Johnson was still wearing his Prince/Time influence on his sleeve and this was just another branch on the Minneapolis sound tree, which was becoming a bit boring by this time. I actually preferred the band's follow-up mid-tempo single "Affection" (#19 R&B), which had a bit more R&B flare to it. The Minneapolis sound was gonna stay around for a while, but unless there was something special about a song, I wasn't all that interested.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) After the band split, Margie Cox (Ta Mara) began to work with Prince. She was recruited to front a new band he was developing to potentially be called Flash or MC Flash. Cox recorded around 25 songs with Prince, but the project never got launched. None of the songs would see the light of day until 1994 when Prince released a compilation of artists he had signed or worked with over the years titled 1-800-NEW-FUNK (which was an actual number to call for Prince related products). The track "Standing at the Altar" from the sessions was included on the album and credited to Margie Cox. It was released as a single with the flip side being another track they did, "Whistlin' Kenny." It failed to chart.  2) The guitarist for Ta Mara and the Seen was Oliver Leiber. If that last name seems familiar, it is due to his famous songwriting dad Jerry Leiber. Along with his composing partner Mike Stoller, the elder Leiber wrote a string of hits in the 50s and 60s for artists like Elvis Presley ("Jailhouse Rock"), The Drifters ("There Goes My Baby"), Ben E. King ("Stand By Me"), and many others. Oliver continued in the music business writing and producing. He caught a break when a demo of his was played for a choreographer who wanted to make an album. Paula Abdul loved his song "The Way That You Love Me" and Leiber got hired to produce the song for Abdul's debut album. He would also write and produce the hit singles "Forever Your Girl" and "Opposites Attract." It was also the Leiber connection that got Margie Cox and Jessie Johnson involved in the project as well. A song the pair wrote together titled "I Need You" was picked up by Abdul. Johnson produced the track.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

"I'll Be There" by Kenny Loggins

Song#:  2493
Date:  10/12/1985
Debut:  88
Peak:  88
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Loggin's fifth solo album, Vox Humana, just wasn't meeting expectations. With the title-track first single halting at a low #29 and a follow-up single barely making the Top 40, the album stalled early at #41, which made it his lowest peaking album to-date. Luckily, his popularity at the time carried the album to gold-level sales, but coming on the heels of his biggest hit (the #1 "Footloose"), it was a disappointment. This third single from the album didn't do much to turn things around. It peaked where it debuted on the Pop chart and fell off after two short weeks. It was also a non-starter at AC getting to #33.

ReduxReview:  Nope - this is not a remake of the famous 1970 #1 song by The Jackson 5. However, that would have been much better. This song evokes the feel of Loggins' 70s tunes, but that is about all it does. It actually sounds more like an outtake from an old Doobie Brothers session. The song was not a bad one; it just wasn't good enough to be a single. In fact, it's pretty forgettable. I'm not sure if Loggins was rushed to get the album out or not, but it features a lot of weak songs like this. Luckily, movie songs would keep him afloat for a few more years, but he was just never able to capitalize on them with his own solo albums.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Sometimes songs not intended as Christmas fare end up being associated with the holiday years later, such as Joni Mitchell's classic tune "River." Loggins has a song in his catalog that has gained favor on radio stations during the holiday season. The title track to his 1977 debut album Celebrate Me Home has slowly crept into the Christmas standards territory mostly due to the song's first line, "home for the holidays." The remainder of the lyrics have nothing to do with Christmas, the holidays, or even winter, but that first line along with thoughts of being home have made it catch on during the season. Other artists such as LeAnn Rimes (with Gavin DeGraw) and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles have now covered the track and included it on their Christmas albums. Despite never being released as a single, the song has become a popular moneymaker in Loggins' catalog.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

"You're in Love" by Ratt

Song#:  2492
Date:  10/12/1985
Debut:  89
Peak:  89
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  This glam metal band just barely scratched the Pop Top 40 with "Lay It Down," the first single from their second album Invasion of Your Privacy. The LP would be a double-platinum seller that peaked at #7 thanks to that song and this second single, which made it to #34 on the Rock chart. It didn't do as well at Pop peaking where it debuted and only spending a couple of weeks on the chart.

ReduxReview:  This album-opening track shouldn't (and definitely wouldn't) be confused with the sweet Wilson Phillips #1 of the same name! The song is another quality effort from the band and I'm a little surprised it didn't do better on the charts. It has a hooky chorus and a jammin' groove, so I'm not sure why it didn't get a lot more attention. Sure, it's not to the level of "Round and Round," but it was certainly radio-ready rock.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The woman who appeared on the cover of Invasion of Your Privacy is model Marianne Gravatte. She also appeared in the video to "Lay It Down." Gravatte gained national attention when she became Playboy's Playmate of the Year in 1983. Ratt lead vocalist Stephen Pearcy spotted her and got her hired on to play his girlfriend in the video along with being on the album cover. That cover came out at a time when the PMRC (Parents Musical Resource Center) was on the rampage to get labels to assign ratings to their products. Although Ratt wasn't as big of a target as artists like Prince or Madonna, they were called out for the album cover due to its image and its voyeuristic title.