Saturday, September 15, 2012

"You Might Need Somebody" by Turley Richards

Redux Spotlight Alert!
Song#:  0025
Date:  01/26/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  54
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Originally from Charleston, West Virginia, Richards is a respected singer/songwriter who found his way on nine different record company rosters, including Warner and Atlantic. Unfortunately, none turned him into a major recording star. This song was the last and highest charting of his three hits. His given name is Richard Turley, but after a dyslexic musician accidentally flipped the name, he ended up keeping the new version. Now located in Louisville, Kentucky, Richards still performs, records, and offers lessons for singers and songwriters in his studio.

ReduxReview:  Although not a strong song for hit contention, I kind of dig the groove and like his voice. I can hear Michael McDonald's voice singing this. With a little more of an R&B feel, this could have been a nice album track for The Doobie Brothers. But this single doesn't even hint at his real vocal skills. For an added bonus I'm including his 1969 appearance on the Carson show. He does "Summertime" and blows it out. It kicks into high gear about the 2:15 mark - and make sure you stay for the end. It's just crazy.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  An unfortunate accident with a bow and arrow left Richards blind in one eye at the age of four. An infection then spread to his other eye and his sight declined to the point where he was fully blind by his late 20's.


Friday, September 14, 2012

"Special Lady" by Ray, Goodman & Brown

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0024
Date:  01/26/1980
Debut:  89
Peak:  5
Weeks:  18
Genre:  R&B, Soul

Pop Bits:  This was their lone Top 10 song and was a #1 R&B hit. Although they continued have some minor success on the R&B chart, this was their pop peak.

ReduxReview:  Don't remember it. I can usually remember Top 10 songs from the 80s, but this one slipped by me somehow. Didn't recognize it. Maybe because it is kind of bland. They sound like a very good vocal group but I'm not connecting to this song.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The group was originally called The Moments, but due to a label change and a lawsuit the group had to change their name. As The Moments, the had a #3 pop hit in 1970 with "Love On a Two-Way Street" along with several R&B hits.


"Him" by Rupert Holmes

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0023
Date:  01/19/1980
Debut:  72
Peak:  6
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Coming on the heels of his #1 single "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)," Holmes got a second Top 10 hit with another cheaters song, "Him." He was never able to follow up the success of these songs, but he continued to do well as a songwriter with works of his hitting the chart by other artists. He would also have success as a writer for stage and TV shows.

ReduxReview:  I always preferred this song over the kitschy "Escape." It has a nice R&B-ish groove, clever lyrics, and a terrific chorus. My one bone of contention? That vocal solo in the mid-section. I guess it works because you certainly don't forget it, but I've always disliked it. Regardless, I remain a fan of this song.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Holmes was already a successful songwriter in the early 70s with songs like "Echo Valley 2-6809" by The Partridge Family. But it was his song written for The Buoys in 1971 that became a notorious, unexpected hit. The little song called "Timothy" about 3 men trapped in a mine with 2 of the men eating the third caused quite a stink, but that was the intended effect. The Buoys were not getting any label support so Holmes came up with this as an attention getter for them. It worked, as the song's reputation and eventual banning pushed it to #17.


"Too Hot" by Kool & the Gang

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0021
Date:  01/19/1980
Debut: 76
Peak:  5
Weeks:  18
Genre:  R&B, Soul

Pop Bits:  Kool & the Gang went through a slump after their last big hit, "Hollywood Swinging," hit #6 in 1974. Sometimes a couple minor changes is all that is needed to get back on track and that is what K&tG did. New member James "J.T." Taylor got bumped up to lead singer and they refined their sound by reducing the funk and adding more pop. It paid off well as the album and single "Ladies Night" were hits. This was the sound that would stay with them throughout their 80s hit-making period. "Too Hot" was the follow-up single to the #8 "Ladies Night."

ReduxReview:  Smooth and slinky, this song is kind of hard to resist. Plus that opening guitar lick is instantly recognizable. This is date night music to be played while sitting in front of a fire with a bottle of wine...and it gets too hot (and I don't mean from sparks catching the rug on fire and soon there is a 911 call).

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  With "Ladies Night," they also brought on board a new producer, Eumir Deodato, whose background was in jazz (as was the original K&tG). Deodato had his own #2 pop hit in 1973 with his funkified, jazzy version of "Also Sprach Zarathustra."


Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)" by Pink Floyd

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0021
Date:  01/19/1980
Debut:  77
Peak:  1 (4 weeks)
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Rock, Prog-Rock

Pop Bits:  Here it is - the first song to debut in the 80s that made it to #1. Even though they sold scads of albums, Pink Floyd's songs were rarely single-worthy. Their only other chart entry before this song was almost seven years earlier when "Money" reached #13. So I imagine it was a bit of a shock to see this part of their classic rock opera "The Wall" climb to #1. By this time in their career, Roger Waters was pretty much in control and "The Wall" was truly larger than life with an extravagant stage show and even a movie version. But turmoil was brewing behind the scenes and the 80s brought changes to Floyd and even a momentary breakup.

ReduxReview:  I was in junior high when "The Wall" came out and the album and this song just screamed bad-ass. All the cool kids were into it so you either owned this album or at least was listening to it somewhere. It was rock and art that was complex yet approachable and druggy and psychedelic and rebelious. At the time...I didn't get it. Yeah, I wasn't one of the cool kids. And I still don't get a lot of the Pink Floyd stuff, but over the years I've come to appreciate it a much more - especially this song. 

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia: When it was time to do a new album, Roger Waters approached the band with two conceptual ideas. The first, which he already had a demo for, was called "Brick in the Wall." Obviously, the band chose this path. The second idea ended up being put to good use on Waters' debut solo album in 1984, "The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking."


"When a Man Loves a Woman" by Bette Midler

Song#:  0020
Date:  01/19/1980
Debut:  80
Peak:  35
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Already a Grammy and Emmy winner, Midler was a star when she got her first movie gig playing the Janis Joplin-like lead character in "The Rose." The film was supposed to be about Joplin, but the family denied producers the rights to her story; so it was rewritten as a fictionalize account. Midler was a sensation and won a Golden Globe and got an Oscar nom as well. The soundtrack featured live performances with dialog (all except the title track).  This Percy Sledge classic was released as the first single.

ReduxReview:  All of Midler's performances in the film were overwrought, explosive, and exaggerated. That's what the characterization called for...acting! But it was built from a base that was really pure Midler and it was all very exciting. Unhinged and over the top, this may not be everyone's ideal version, but I love how she takes it to the brink...and then just keeps going. Want a real treat? Listen to her version of "Stay with Me" on the soundtrack. You'll even be passing out by the end of it.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Y'all should know this by now, but here it is again. In 1970, Midler started to perform in the Continental Baths (a gay bathhouse) in NYC. Her pianist during those shows was none other than Barry Manilow. He went on to produce her Grammy-winning debut album "The Divine Miss M."


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"I Thank You" by ZZ Top

Song#:  0019
Date:  01/19/1980
Debut:  81
Peak:  34
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock, Blues

Pop Bits:  Already a successful touring group with a couple of Top 10 albums and a few minor chart hits like "Tush," the rock-boogie band took an extended break in '77 and came back with a new look and a more focused sound with the album "Deg├╝ello." It wasn't a huge success but sold well and it started them toward what would become their signature sound for the 80s. The first single was this Sam & Dave cover.

ReduxReview:  Their cleaned-up sound and beefier production gave this R&B tune a boost. It also helps to have a seductive groove that feels a little dirty and reminds me of dancing at Ludwig's bar in Jackson after midnight. Just as a bonus visual, Ludwig's had red shag carpeting and mirrors on the walls.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  I wrote this post one day after ZZ Top released their latest disc "La Futura" to positive reviews. The Rick Rubin-produced set put the focus back on their rock-boogie days. Still bearded, still going.


"I Wish I Was Eighteen Again" by George Burns

Song#:  0018
Date:  01/19/1980
Debut:  83
Peak:  49
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Easy Listening, Novelty, Country

Pop Bits:  Whatever possessed the then 84 year-old comedian (his manager, most likely) to record a country album is beyond me. But the sentimentality of this song and his popularity at the time in films like "Oh, God!" helped to kick this off into his only pop hit that made it to #15 on the country chart. I'm sure your grandma and grandpa were humming right along with this.

ReduxReview:  Oh, God! is right. This is just...well...ugh. Not my thing. I don't think I will ever be old enough to be rocking in my chair and humming this tripe. If I am, then my mind has already gone to another world. Feel free to unplug me.

ReduxRating:  1/10

Trivia: The writer of this song was Sonny Throckmorton who has had at least a thousand of his songs recorded by country artists. It's been written that between 1976 and 1980, he had at least one song written by him on the country chart almost every week. This would have been one of them!


"Got to Love Somebody" by Sister Sledge

Song#:  0017
Date:  01/19/1980
Debut:  85
Peak:  64
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B, Pop, Disco

Pop Bits:  Sister Sledge scored big in 1979 with a disco staple ("He's the Greatest Dancer") and an eventual pop anthem ("We Are Family"). Maybe it was the decline of disco or that "We Are Family" just overshadowed anything they could come up with, but their follow-up song and new album couldn't continue the hit streak and they never had another Top 10 hit. They still had some success on the R&B chart (this song hit #6), but they just could not replicate the success set by the previous songs.

ReduxReview: How on earth do you follow up a song like "We Are Family" with its killer hook, groove, and message? Not like this. With disco on the outs, they might have been better off issuing a slinky ballad instead of this bland track. It is not really a bad song, but it doesn't stay in memory. And having a similar groove to the two previous songs doesn't help it stand out. (C'mon admit it - after listening to this you are gonna queue up "We Are Family...")

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song and their two mega-hits were written/produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, aka Chic. After Chic had their major success, Atlantic allowed them to pick any artist on their roster to produce. They chose Sister Sledge and the union was a success - at least for a couple albums.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Back On My Feet Again" by The Babys

Song#:  0016
Date:  01/19/1980
Debut:  87
Peak:  33
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock, Arena Rock

Pop Bits:  Originally a British foursome featuring John Waite, by the time this single came out the originator of the group, Mike Corby, was let go and replaced by 2 Americans including Jonathan Cain (later of Journey fame). In either incarnation, with middling hits and modest sales, The Babys are known more for being the launching pad for Waite and Cain. But they left behind a few good songs including this one.

ReduxReview:  When someone mentions The Babys I say "oh, I love them!" And then I think, well, actually I don't. I love about 3 songs of them. None of their albums fully hook me in and I'm always disappointed when I go back and re-listen to them. However, this huge slice of arena pie I can eat again and again.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  After one more album, The Babys called it quits. But 3 of them (Waite, Cain, and Ricky Phillips) ended up as part of the rock supergroup Bad English in 1989.


"Give It All You Got" by Chuck Mangione

Song#:  0015
Date:  01/19/1980
Debut:  89
Peak:  18
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop, Easy Listening, Instrumental, Jazz

Pop Bits:  Quick - name the last fully instrumental hit song you remember. I bet anything you came up with was from the 80s or before. Like a lot of things, the 80s was really the last decade where an instrumental could hit (or even top) the pop chart. This instrumental was the final entry for the jazzy Mr. Mangione. Youngsters today know him as that trumpet (actually flugelhorn) playing dude on the animated series "King of the Hill." But he was big deal back in the 70s and the one who brought smooth jazz to the masses. So who is to blame for Kenny G? This guy...

ReduxReview:  I admit I did have a thing for the sweet sounds of Chuck back in the day since I was in high school jazz band. I even saw him in concert. These days I only dig certain songs like the great "Bellavia." However, this one is not too bad. I'd consider this the hipper, groovier (and more fun) cousin to his bland mega-hit "Feels So Good."

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia: "Give It All You Got" served as the theme song to the 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid.


"I Pledge My Love" by Peaches & Herb

Song#:  0014
Date:  01/19/1980
Debut:  90
Peak:  19
Weeks:  19
Genre:  R&B, Soul

Pop Bits:  The 70s were successful for Peaches & Herb thanks to the boogie of "Shake Your Groove Thing" and the chart topping "Reunited." But it all came to a halt with this final chart entry. The 80s were not kind to them and they called it a day after their last album in 1983. Herb even went back to his former career as a law enforcement officer. He returned to music in 2009 (with a new Peaches) after a royalties lawsuit ended in his favor giving him the money to do so.

ReduxReview:  This kind of became a wedding staple back in the day but is forgotten now (thankfully...sorry). The song has that late 50s doo-wop waltz feel that probably would have made it a bigger hit in that era. For 1980, it probably garnered fans who fondly remembered the 50s with it's old-fashioned sound and sentimental lyrics. For me, it ain't my thang. I will not be reuniting with this one anytime soon.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Peaches & Herb formed in 1966 with Herb Fame and Francine "Peaches" Hurd Baker. They called it a day in 1970, but Herb decided to revive the duo and got a new Peaches - Linda Greene. It was with Greene that they had their chart success. Over the years, there has been a total of six "Peaches."


"I Don't Want to Be Lonely" by Dana Valery

Song#:  0013
Date:  01/19/1980
Debut:  93
Peak:  87
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop, Easy Listening

Pop Bits:  Here is one potentially interesting song, but unfortunately I can't find a lick of it anywhere. I did find the B-side, but nothing else from this time period. Dana Valery was actually quite popular in the mid-60s and had some Northern soul hits in the UK casinos. Her top song was a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's  "You Don't Know Where Your Interest Lies," which was a pretty good stomper. Born in Italy and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, she was active in musical theater and also appeared in the States on several TV shows. Her brother was the late actor Sergio Franchi. She now lives in New York and is an energy healer doing techniques such as Reiki.

ReduxReview:  Sad to say I can only guess on this one. Since she seemed to veer into AC territory and since the B-side mentioned above was a cover of "Rainbow Connection," I'm thinking this was a typical saccharine ballad of the day, which was what a lot of female vocalists who had some success with 60s pop ended up singing. The song link above is not this chart song, but is the S&G cover which I think is pretty great and worth a listen. (Note:  A reader let me know that this tune is on YouTube now. I included it above. It's not quite as bad as I had expected, but it is not great either. It definitely has that late-70s pop ballad feel to it. The chorus is good and Valery sounds terrific. Overall I could re-rate this at a 5.)

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia: Valery was a panelist on the TV show "What's My Line?" and the contestant on that episode was then-Governor Jimmy Carter.


Monday, September 10, 2012

"Too Late" by Journey

Song#:  0012
Date:  01/12/1980
Debut:  81
Peak:  70
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock, Arena Rock

Pop Bits:  This was the third chart song from Journey's "Evolution" album following their biggest hit at that time, the #16 "Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'." Although they had some rock radio staples in their pocket ("Lights," "Wheel in the Sky"), Journey was somehow not burning up the pop chart. That would obviously change in a big way in about another year and a half.

ReduxReview:  This has that same feel as "Lights," but it doesn't make you want to sing along to it. And like "Lights" it served as the album opener (minus a little minute instrumental intro). Starting a rock album with a ballad doesn't seem like the best idea, but it worked for them. And this sounds like they were trying to recapture the previous formula. It's quality Journey, but not really single-worthy.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Journey began as a prog-rock/fusion band and had three (unsuccessful) albums under their belt before refining their sound and gaining Steve Perry as lead vocalist in 1977. This began the classic era of Journey and the sound that made them rock arena royalty.


"Let Me Go, Love" by Nicolette Larson

Song#:  0011
Date:  01/12/1980
Debut: 82
Peak: 35
Weeks: 11
Genre: Pop

Pop Bits:  Previously a session vocalist with Emmylou Harris, Commander Cody, Neil Young, and others,  Larson had a great hit right out of the box with Young's "Lotta Love." Unfortunately, she could not maintain the momentum and this lead single from her second album didn't help matters. Michael McDonald co-wrote and sang on the song but that didn't help much and her hit days on the chart were pretty much over.

ReduxReview:  Since the Doobie's under McDonald were hot-hot-hot at the time, they probably thought the double coup of having McDonald write and sing would be enough to make this a hit. That was a miscalculation and no one probably want to tell him that he wrote a really boring song. This is a smooth-pop snooze fest with his vocals burying hers. She sounds nothing like the "Lotta Love" singer. Just how forgettable is this song? I listened to it 5 times and a few minutes later - I couldn't even hum a single note of it.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Larson got a lot of great help on her first album including guitar work from none other than Eddie Van Halen on "Can't Get Away from You." She returned the favor by being the only female vocalist to appear on a Van Halen album when she contributed to "Could This Be Magic?" from their "Women and Children First" album.


"Remember (Walking in the Sand)" by Aerosmith

Song#:  0010
Date:  01/12/1980
Debut: 84
Peak: 67
Weeks: 6
Genre: Rock, Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  Aerosmith was in bad shape when 1980 arrived. Joe Perry had left mid-way during the recording of "Night in the Ruts" and the band seemed to be destined to fade away with a lack of material and other internal struggles. This remake of the Shangri-La's 1964 hit was the only single from the album and the last to reach the pop chart until 1987.

ReduxReview:  What an odd choice of song to cover. Should have been re-titled "Remember (When We Had Good Songs)." Want to know what a band sounds like right before they implode? This comes close to it. A lazily done remake of a girl-group hit sounds like desperation. Even Grand Funk's version of "The Loco-Motion" sounds inspired against this. Thankfully, this was not being Aerosmith's swan song.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Mary Weiss, one of the original Shangri-La's, contributed an uncredited vocal to this recording.