Saturday, September 29, 2012

"Sexy Eyes" by Dr. Hook

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0056
Date:  02/16/1980
Debut:  71
Peak:  5
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Dr. Hook had a good decade run on the charts. Originally known as Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show, the name was shortened after they declared bankruptcy in 1974, which got out of their record contract. Signed to Capitol next, they continued to have hits like "Sharing the Night Together." The band's initial sound was a mix of rock, country and folk (sometimes bordering on novelty), but they turned to a smoother pop sound in their Capitol years. "Sexy Eyes" was their sixth and last Top 10 hit.

ReduxReview:  Probably because the band's main hits were all in the 70s, I didn't realize this was on the chart in 1980. At the time I remember not really liking the song and I wasn't a big fan of the group. Their smooth pop was like "mom music" where a mom hums and dreamily sways around the house when this is on the radio. I'm still not a big fan, but I appreciate the song better now and it does have a jazzy, sensual groove that is alluring.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The group got their break when they were asked to perform the songs for the film "Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?" The songs were written by Shel Silverstein (poet, cartoonist, author of "A Light in the Attic). The association continued after the film as Silverstein wrote the songs for the groups first two albums.


Friday, September 28, 2012

"Voice of Freedom" by Jim Kirk & the TM Singers

Song#:  0055
Date:  02/16/1980
Debut:  73
Peak:  71
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Easy Listening, Pop

Pop Bits:  Jim Kirk produced and created a lot of music for the American Top 40 and American Country Countdown radio shows. He also wrote and produced a ton of jingles and promos for radio and TV stations and corporations like Coca-Cola. Roy Disney hired him as creative director for TM Productions where a huge amount of his work was produced. During that time this song came about as a benefit for the American Red Cross. Later on, he co-founded Corporate Magic which specialized in producing major corporate events.

ReduxReview:  Okay, this is just such an easy target that I wonder if it is even worth commenting on. Oh, but I will. Right from the start you can tell this was done by a jingle writer. It sounds so radio spot/TV commercial/theme park-y. I want to be nice because this song benefited a worthy cause, but this is just so hideous. I've heard some pretty awful pop in my day but this just sets a new record. I actually made it through this tripe twice without my head exploding into little puffs of red, white and blue cotton candy. I'm gonna have to listen to some Metallica just to get the caked-on, dried up saccharine cracked off of my ears. Oh, the humanity...

ReduxRating:  0/10

Trivia:  At one time, Corporate Magic was acquired by Gaylord Entertainment - the folks who own such places as the Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry. Later on, Kirk re-purchased the main stake in the company and now is back to heading up the company he started.


"Women" by Foreigner

Song#:  0054
Date:  02/16/1980
Debut:  77
Peak:  41
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock, Arena Rock

Pop Bits:  Foreigner was successful from the get-go as their debut album spawned two Top 10 hits, as did their follow-up album "Double Vision." For their third album, "Head Games," they put forth a more straight-ahead gritty rock sound and the first single "Dirty White Boy" set the tone. It went to #12, but the set is more known for the title track, which surprisingly only made it to #14. A third single failed to click, but this fourth single was able to make it on the chart and peaked just shy of the Top 40. Although a hit album, "Head Games" was a slight decline for the band. That would soon be addressed with their first album of the 80s.

ReduxReview:  I like a lot of Foreigner's hits, but I've never fully connected with their albums. The only song I really like off of "Head Games" is the title track. "Women" is a rock n' rave-up that lacks some of the dirtiness that perhaps a hot Southern rock band could inject. For me, it just doesn't fit the band and sounds a little awkward.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  The band name came from co-founder Mick Jones. Since the sextet had three members from the UK and three from the US, he said that no matter what country they were in, half the band were always going to be foreigners.


"Call Me" by Blondie

#1 Song Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0053
Date:  02/16/1980
Debut:  80
Peak:  1 (6 weeks)
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Rock, New Wave, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  While their album "Eat to the Beat" was still fresh and its second single "The Hardest Part" (see Song #0033) was just hitting the chart two-weeks prior, this Giorgio Moroder and Deborah Harry collaboration was released. This major blast of new wave served as the theme song to the Richard Gere movie "American Gigolo" and stormed up the chart. The naughty nature of the film combined with Harry's sexy delivery helped to make it Blondie's biggest hit.

ReduxReview:  In the 60s there was a song with the same title that was an easy listening standard. Most notably done by Petula Clark, Chris Montez had a #22 hit with it in 1966 and it has been covered countless times since then. The innocent chorus invites to "Call me...don't be afraid, just call me." I've always considered Blondie's song the dirty cousin who demands "Call me!" and to "roll me in designer sheets." Oh how the times change. In 1966 she is letting a lonely guy know she is available, but in 1980 she is asking for a lil' sumpin' sumpin' anytime, day or night. As a naughty boy, I prefer the dirty girl. This is a hot song that hasn't lost a single bit of its sizzle.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot! 1) Blondie had a total of four Top 10 hits - each of them peaked at #1. Other than these four #1's, they did not have any other song go higher than #24. 2) "Call Me" was the #1 chart song for 1980.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Cars" by Gary Numan

Top 10 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  0052
Date:  02/16/1980
Debut:  81
Peak:  9
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Pop, Electronic, Synthpop

**Here is the first One-Hit Wonder of the 80s! Just to be clear, my definition of a One-Hit Wonder is an artist who had a Top 10 hit with their first chart song and then never made another appearance on the Hot 100. Other lists are more liberal and consider just charting in the Top 40 and not hitting the Top 40 again to be the standard, but I'm strict on this!

Pop Bits:  In his native UK, Numan was definitely not a one hit wonder. He had 39 chart hits with six of them Top 10's. Here in the States he is basically only known for the highly influential "Cars" and his severe, mechanical look and performance. The single is from his album "The Pleasure Principle" which was a rock album that had no guitars - keyboards with pedal effects drove the album. Although there were previous chart songs that were synth, moog, or keyboard driven, arguably "Cars" is the first real shot of synthpop to really hit and it set the tone for a lot of 80s pop to come.

ReduxReview:  I remember hearing this on the radio and thinking this was the coolest thing ever. There was nothing like it at the time. Both the song and Numan were creepy too, which was an added bonus. This is a synthpop classic and to me it doesn't sound dated. There are current bands who have learned a thing or two from this and are applying to their own music. Goldfrapp and Metric come to mind. Other groups in the 80s would be more popular with this sound, but Numan really hit it out of the park first.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Numan's distinctive look at the time came about by accident. Plagued with some acne before a TV show appearance, the makeup folks caked him up with a bunch of white makeup to cover it up and then used black for the eyes. Combined with his self-conscious stage presence and glam outfits, it worked with the music and the androgynous look stuck.


"What I Like About You" by The Romantics

Song#:  0051
Date:  02/16/1980
Debut:  85
Peak:  49
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock, Power Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  This is one of those songs you would swear was a Top 10 hit; yet it couldn't even get into the Top 40. Its legacy obviously grew after its chart run as this was all over rock radio for years. It was the breakout song for the Detroit group debuting the same week as their hometown bros The Rockets single "Desire" (covered in a previous post). The Romantics' polished new wave rock and heavy hooks pushed them nationally into the spotlight leaving The Rockets behind. They had a quick rise and fall, but it was a big enough legacy to keep them going and you can still catch them on tour as of this writing.

ReduxReview:  When I first heard this back in the day I thought it was The Kinks. I knew it wasn't, but it sounded so Kink-ish to me (notice I did not use "Kinky"). The sound is so retro and there are influences from all previous decades of rock crammed in a short three minutes. It's a massive blast of power pop that sounds just as good today as it did then.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  From 1987 to 1993 the band was unable to record due to a lawsuit against their management for misappropriation of funds; in particular the licensing of this hit song. They ended up winning their case.


"Small Paradise" by John Cougar

Song#:  0050
Date:  02/16/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  87
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Before he told the tale of "Jack & Diane" and before he returned to his Mellencamp name, Cougar was a young musician trying to find his place in the major label music world. His first album "Chestnut Street Incident" failed and his follow-up "The Kid Inside" didn't get released (although it did once he became a star). He was dropped by MCA and picked up by the small Riva label. His first album for them, "A Biography," was not released in the US. It did contain "I Need a Lover" which became a #5 hit in Australia and was subsequently put on his next US album "John Cougar." The song was a minor US hit (#28) and it got him on the chart. Critics were not impressed and he was considered a Springsteen wannabe, but that would all change in a few short years. "Small Paradise" was his second chart single.

ReduxReview:  Back in the day labels usually gave artists with potential a chance to grow. Luckily Mellencamp was given that opportunity as it really took five albums to start finding his footing. Today that probably would not have happened. I will say that Mellecamp is one of my all-time favorite artists. However, on the early career albums I mostly agree with critics. With minor exceptions the material just wasn't there. Less epic than "I Need a Lover," "Small Paradise" is more dramatic and has a dark tone. Not a good choice for a single. "Miami," which was the next single in Australia, would have been the better choice.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot! 1) His first albums were listed as by "Johnny Cougar," which he disliked but was goaded into using. He got it down to "John Cougar" for that self-title album. It would still take years and a lot of albums sold before he could reclaim his given name. It was 1991's "Whenever We Wanted" that he was finally billed as John Mellencamp. 2) "I Need a Lover" was covered by Pat Benatar on her debut album and it became a rock radio hit in 1979.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Desire" by The Rockets

Song#:  0049
Date:  02/16/1980
Debut:  89
Peak:  70
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Rockets came together in 1972 when two members of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels struck out and formed the band. They were popular and had a very good following in Detroit, along with Michigan in general. Their biggest national hit was the #30 Fleetwood Mac cover "Oh Well" in 1979. Five studio albums and one live set couldn't push them any further on the national radar and the band split in 1983.

ReduxReview:  I could see where this song would go over well on the bar circuit. It's kind of a good head nodder. It grew on me after repeated listens, but they still sound like a local band. Nothing really wrong with that, but there has to be a more universal sound if the plan is to break onto the national scene. Otherwise, this is pretty good Detroit rock.

(Side Note: I have a pet peeve of someone using "desire" and rhyming it with "fire" or "higher." It worked for The Doors, but that is about it. Otherwise, it's lazy lyric writing that has been used countless times. At least come up with a better rhyme. I prefer "I have a great desire - to win the lottery and retire."  See - much better.)

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Band member Dennis Robbins went on to better success as a country songwriter with several big hits including the #1 country songs "Two of a Kind (Working On a Full House)" by Garth Brooks and "The Church on Cumberland Road" by Shenandoah.


"You Are My Heaven" by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway

Song#:  048
Date:  02/16/1980
Debut:  91
Peak:  47
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, R&B

Pop Bits:  Flack and Hathaway recorded together several times during the 70s and scored Top 10 hits with "Where Is the Love" and "The Closer I Get to You." They released a full duets album in 1971 and won a vocal performance Grammy for "Where Is the Love." They began recording a second full duets album in 1979 and had two tracks done before Hathaway committed suicide. The tracks were included on the "Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway" album where she filled out the balance with solo material. This song, written by Stevie Wonder, was released and was the last recording Hathaway made.

ReduxReview:  This does sound like one of those breezy Stevie Wonder tunes he would write in about two minutes. Just kind of wistful and pleasing - nothing more than that. It sounds like something that was picked up out of a rejected Wonder song pile. Had Flack and Hathaway finished the complete album, I think this might have been relegated to an album cut. But due to the circumstances and sentiment in the song, this was probably seen as the proper choice for a single; albeit a bland one.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Flack is only one of two artists who won back-to-back Grammys for Record of the Year. She did it in 1973 with "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and again in 1974 with "Killing Me Softly." The other artist who did this?  U2 in 2001 ("Beautiful Day") and 2002 ("Walk On").


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"Brass in Pocket" by The Pretenders

Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  0047
Date:  02/16/1980
Debut:  92
Peak:  14
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Although an Ohio native, Chrissie Hynde formed the Pretenders in London in 1978. Their self-titled debut album is often on lists of the best albums in rock history and features this classic song that put them on the map. It was a #1 hit in the UK and has been a rock radio staple ever since.

ReduxReview:  I knew of this song back in the day but I don't think I really heard it for some reason - very odd since I was deep into the Pretenders' "Learning to Crawl" album around that time. This is a weird way to latch onto a song, but I remember watching "The Tracey Ullman Show" mid-80s and she did a sketch where she was outside a pizza joint and she started flirting and dancing with a guy in the parking lot. I can't remember much else about it, but I definitely remember that the song they did their dance to was "Brass in Pocket." For whatever reason, that song just clicked with me and it quickly became my favorite Pretenders song. If that opening guitar line going dat-dat-dat-dahh and Hynde singing "I got pocket" doesn't grab you, then I don't know what will. Smooth, jammy, hooky, and sexy as hell, this is one brilliant pop song. Enough to give it my first 10 rating of the decade.


Trivia:  Double Shot! 1) The "brass" in the title is a reference to money, so brass in pocket is essentially saying I've got some money on me. 2) This was the seventh video played the day MTV hit the air in 1981.


"Baby Talks Dirty" by The Knack

Song#:  0046
Date:  02/09/1980
Debut:  73
Peak:  38
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Many artists over the years catch fire quickly and then slowly fizzle out, but probably the poster child for flash and burnout would be The Knack. They hit it huge out the gate with their #1 (for 5 weeks) debut album "Get the Knack" and #1 single (for 6 weeks) "My Sharona." At the time it was the fastest selling debut album in the US since 1964's "Meet the Beatles." This instant success usually has its share of backlash and The Knack practically got bludgeoned to death. There was talk of them being Beatles rip-offs, lyric content controversies, and accusations of being arrogant. A "Knuke the Knack" campaign even started. It was a heavy toll to pay for their success and the group basically imploded in 1982 after their third album. They are perceived as a one-hit wonder, but they did have a #11 follow-up with "Good Girls Don't" plus some middling chart entries like this first single from their second album.

ReduxReview:  Let's get real here. Even if the backlash didn't happen, The Knack probably would have lost popularity anyway. This song is basically a retread of "My Sharona" gone very wrong. Overall The Knack were just a fun retro-rock band with new wave attitude, but that can only carry you so far, as they found out. Although meant to be fun (and maybe funny), this song borders on self-parody and I don't think folks got the joke - at least I certainly didn't.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Lead singer Doug Fieger's brother is Michigan attorney Geoffrey Fieger who is best known as the defense attorney for Dr. Jack Kevorkian.


Monday, September 24, 2012

"And the Beat Goes On" by The Whispers

Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0045
Date:  02/09/1980
Debut:  79
Peak:  19
Weeks:  15
Genre: R&B, Dance

Pop Bits: The Whispers are an L.A. vocal group that had some consistent success throughout the 70s on the R&B chart. They barely scraped the pop charts during that time, but they finally found success with this #1 R&B and dance hit. Most likely due to its crossover success on the dance chart, this is one of the rare records that reached gold status without hitting the pop Top 10. Although charting since 1970, The Whispers would find their best success in their second decade.

ReduxReview:  Well, I have to admit I was looking forward to an R&B remake of the Sonny & Cher hit. Alas, it is not. But it does have a good groove and is a solid dance tune. It's still a little on the bland but I can definitely cut a rug with this one.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although they began charting songs in 1970, the group has been together since 1964. 2) Will Smith used a sample of "And the Beat Goes On" for his single "Miami" in 1998.


"Lost In Love" by Air Supply

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0044
Date:  02/09/1980
Debut:  81
Peak:  3
Weeks: 23
Genre: Pop, Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Here is the song that started a winning streak of seven Top 10 hits in a row for these mellow Australians. Although they had some success in their native country, the group was not getting a footing in other regions. They got a big break when Arista's Clive Davis heard "Lost In Love" and signed them. The resulting album and title track finally broke them in the States and the group was off and running with a series of major hits.

ReduxReview:  I totally remember riding the school bus and hearing this song. The girls loved it. The guys - not so much. I remember one burnout saying during the song "someone needs to cut off their air supply," which I thought was hilarious. But I had to keep my chuckles to myself as I was a nerd and didn't want to draw unwanted attention. Anyway, at the time I was a fan of good ol' AC easy pop and was a devout supporter of the Captain & Tennille and the Carpenters. But this Air Supply song just didn't do it for me. I thought it was too dreamy and whiny. A few hits later I got on board the Supply train for a smooth and easy ride. I like this song much better now, but it is still not one of my top faves of theirs.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The original version of "Lost In Love" was a 5+ minute song recorded for their album "Life Support." This version peaked at #13 in Australia. Clive Davis had the song remixed to a shorter version and then released it worldwide on Arista.


"Even It Up" by Heart

Song#:  0043
Date:  02/09/1980
Debut:  82
Peak:  33
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Heart was on a roll in the 70s with four platinum albums out of the gate. But the 80s began with label problems, producer issues, and changes within the band. Their first album of the 80s was "Bebe le Strange" and it signaled a definite decline only reaching gold status. Although they continued to put some songs on the chart like "Even It Up," this began a low period in the band's history. A drastic change would take place mid-decade that would push them to superstardom, but for the early 80s they were struggling with their musical identity and losing ground quickly.

ReduxReview:  Oh how I loves me the Wilson sisters! Even though they slumped at the beginning of the decade, they still put out some quality songs. This straight-forward rock and roll jam is a highlight off of the mixed bag "Bebe le Strange" and it showed they still had some gas left in the tank. Tower of Power (see below) are a bit lost in the mix unfortunately, but overall I think it is a quality song in the Heart catalog.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The horn section heard on this song is from the famous Tower of Power R&B/Funk group. TOP provided backup a slew of top recording artists like Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Rod Stewart, and Aerosmith.