Saturday, October 20, 2012

"Wondering Where the Lions Are" by Bruce Cockburn

Song#:  0096
Date:  03/22/1980
Debut:  85
Peak:  21
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Contemporary Folk

Pop Bits:  First off, for those (like me) who's humor is still at the 12-year-old boy level, the artist's name is pronounced "CO-burn." So you can stop snickering now. Although I've known about Cockburn (I mean it - dump the smirks), I've never listened to his music. He is revered in his homeland of Canada but his work has basically remained in cult status here in the US. A lot of his early work through this period reflected his Christian beliefs, but throughout the 80s that changed over to more global/political themes. This song was his best effort on the US pop chart. He would have a second minor chart song in a few years. Cockburn is still performing and recording with his most recent effort being 2011's "Small Source of Comfort."

ReduxReview:  I'm surprised this made it as high on the chart as it did. It's not your typical pop hit, which is good for a change. It is certainly more literate than most and its relaxed bouncy sound was far different from the AC, disco, and soft rock crowding the chart. But it may have been that different sound that caught listeners ears back then and they tuned in. I've tuned in too and I'm diggin' this little gem.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In 2005, CBC Radio One featured a program that determined the Top 50 essential English-language pop Canadian songs. Selections were based on celebrity and listener suggestions and then voted on by the public for the final ranking. "Wondering Where the Lions Are" made the list at #29. What was #1? Ian and Sylvia's "Four Strong Winds." (Yeah, I don't get that either...)


Friday, October 19, 2012

"The Rose" by Bette Midler

Top 10 Alert!
 Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Winner Alert!
Song#:  0095
Date:  03/22/1980
Debut:  86
Peak:  3
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The second song released from the soundtrack/film of the same name became Midler's biggest chart hit at the time and her first gold single. The song came just in time too. Midler had just released the album "Thighs and Whispers" and it was basically a flop. A chunk of the album was disco-influenced, which wasn't impressing critics or record buyers. The song "Married Men" was the single and it petered out at #40. But "The Rose" film and soundtrack (going double-platinum) quickly put her in superstar status. This song won Midler the 1981 Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.

ReduxReview:  I am famous for my rendition of this song; just not in a good way. Back in the day we played this soundtrack a lot. So we knew all the words and the dialog. One semi-drunken evening this was playing and I decided to reenact the final scene of the movie - right when she finishes up her big song and then slurs to the crowd a story and then passes out. That is when "The Rose" starts playing amid the chaos of the crowd. On the soundtrack, very soon after she passes out, you can hear someone yell "get a doctor, get a doctor!" So I passed out and then jumped up and yelled that line and then sang "The Rose." It was hysterical according to party attendees and I'm reminded about it to this day. But it was a one-show only performance. Thank god video and cell phones were not around then. Okay, so this song - I like it. It was perfect for the film and for Midler. It does get a bit annoying with the piano banging on the quarter notes all the time, but it's a sad lonely-girl-in her bedroom-crying-drinking classic. For your entertainment, here is the pre-track to the song that I...well..."performed." (?)

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Written by cabaret/stage performer Amanda McBroom, "The Rose" was submitted as a potential theme song to the film - and rejected. Producers thought it was a dull dirge and not the rock n' roll they were seeking. The musical supervisor on the film found it and between him and Midler championing the song, producers relented and the song made it to the soundtrack. 2) The single version of the song had an orchestrated accompaniment, but in the film and on the soundtrack it is just a piano/vocal version.  3) Conway Twitty did a version of the song and took it to #1 on the country chart in 1983.


"It's Hard to Be Humble" by Mac Davis

Song#:  0094
Date:  03/22/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  43
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Country, Novelty

Pop Bits:  Mac Davis has had a wide ranging career beginning as a songwriter and moving on into his own recordings, his own TV variety show, acting in movies, and even a stint on Broadway. Most of this all happened in the 70s when he had his two Top 10 hits - the #1 "Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me" and the #9 "Stop and Smell the Roses." As the 80s began, he switched labels to Casablanca and his first single release was this novelty song. It made a minor impression on the pop chart, but it became his first Top 10 country hit. Even though he had not put a song in the country Top 10 prior to this, he still won the Academy of Country Music's Entertainer of the Year award in 1974.

ReduxReview:  Man, I dunno. I remember hearing this back in the day and it would annoy the crap out of me because my dad would go around singing the chorus when he heard it. As a novelty tune it is clever and I think it is probably something good to see/hear in a live setting - just like how it was originally recorded. But it's not something I really care to hear again. In concert I'm sure it is a fun sing-along; as something that would rotate in my iTunes? Nah. I'll pass. In my humble opinion...

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Most folks my age probably remember him for his own music, TV shows and films. However, as noted above he started out as a songwriter first and Elvis Presley recorded several of Davis' song including "In the Ghetto" (#3), "Don't Cry Daddy" (#6), "Memories" (#35), and "A Little Less Conversation" (#69 in 1968 and #50 in 2002 via a remix version). He has also written hits for Kenny Rogers & the First Edition ("Something's Burning"), Bobby Goldboro ("Watching Scotty Grow") and Dolly Parton ("White Limozeen").


Thursday, October 18, 2012

"Stay in Time" by Off Broadway

Song#:  0093
Date:  03/22/1980
Debut:  90
Peak:  51
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Power Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  This group from Oak Park, Illinois, were following in the steps of that other popular band from the area, Cheap Trick. The band had a loyal following in Chicago and was able to get their first album, "On," released in 1979. This first single made it almost halfway up the chart (as did the album at #101), but the subsequent follow-up generated zilch. By 1983 the band was done for the day. However, members of the band got back together in the late 90s for a couple discs and continued to tour until 2009. For the band's 35th anniversary, a version of the group is currently playing around Chicago and has released a new song and video. They didn't make much of a dent on the charts, but their early discs are fondly remember by those who are aficionados of power-pop.

ReduxReview:  I can see the attraction here for the power-pop crowd. It has a terrific beginning which hints at something pretty grand, but it is a little lackluster after that. I was expecting something a bit more rockin' after the opening. However the chorus is good and clicks in your mind. Overall, a pretty interesting and tasty tune.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The band name comes from a suggestion that if the band were a theater show, they would probably be considered an off-Broadway one.


"Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll" by Vaughan Mason & Crew

Song#:  0092
Date:  03/22/1980
Debut:  92
Peak:  81
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Disco, Dance, R&B

Pop Bits:  Mason came up with the idea for a roller skating song by reading in the Wall Street Journal that 300,000 pairs of skates were sold each year. He went to the rink and watched skaters and transformed what he saw and heard into this R&B hit (#5). With disco on the wane, the song didn't fare too well on the pop chart, but R&B definitely laced up for the song and in later years it would be sampled by several artist like Digital Underground, De La Soul, Heavy D, and LL Cool J.

ReduxReview:  Hmm...maybe back in my skating days I might have enjoyed circling the rink to this, but it's not a very exciting jam. Plus, when you have a themed song about skating, do you really want to hear it elsewhere? Unless it is something really great, I doubt it. So this was probably nice at Rollerworld, but at other times I'd think it non-essential.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  The song was only released as a 12" single, which typically were much lower sellers than the standard 7" singles. Limited sales can affect chart position and it may have in this case. Or maybe pop radio just didn't want a skating song...


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"You May Be Right" by Billy Joel

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0091
Date:  03/15/1980
Debut:  53
Peak:  7
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Billy Joel started the 80s just coming off his double triumph of "The Stranger" and his Grammy-winning Album of the Year "52nd Street." Of course with all the attention there has to be the inevitable backlash, so the best they could come up with for criticism was labeling him as a balladeer and categorizing his music as soft rock. His response to this was "Glass Houses," an album where his focus was on rockin' the house. This lead track and first single sent the shot over the bow and it seemed to silence the critics and please listeners. The album would be his second #1 in a row.

ReduxReview:  With the glass breaking at the start and the Beatlesque opening riff, you can definitely tell that Joel was ready to come out rockin'. It also sounds like he had been paying attention to the radio with the song's new wave feel. I like it, but a rock Billy Joel is not my favorite. To me it always sounds forced and a bit over the top. Love the guitar lick though.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Behind Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and the Eagles "Greatest Hits," Billy Joel's "Greatest Hits Vol. 1-Vol. 2" is the 3rd best-selling album in the US by Platinum status (currently tied with Pink Floyd's "The Wall" and "Led Zeppelin IV" at 23x Platinum).


"Love's Only Love" by Engelbert Humperdinck

Song#:  0090
Date:  03/15/1980
Debut:  84
Peak:  83
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  With a fan-deemed nickname of "The King of Romance," Humperdinck has been recording and hitting the chart since his first pop hit, "Release Me (And Let Me Love Again)" in 1967. Although he amassed 23 chart songs, "Release Me" and "After the Lovin'" (1976) were his only Top 10's. And like other pop vocalists of the 60s/early 70s era, the 80s signaled the end of the hits for him. But he would continue to record and perform for a rabid fan base. He hit the spotlight in 2012 performing the UK entry in the Eurovision Song Contest. Although the entry finished 25th out of 26, he set a record as the oldest singer to participate in the contest at age 76. This song is the first of two chart entries he was able to snag in the 80s (and it was almost a one-week dud).

ReduxReview:  I'm not much into these guys who are more known for their performances than their hit-making abilities. Besides the occasional hit, the songs that got assigned to them were pretty dull - like this one. There's nothing really wrong with the song; it's probably just a tick better than some of the sap that passed for AC at the time. But with material like this there is a fine line between love it and leave it. I gotta vote to leave this one.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Yes, it is true folks. Engelbert Humperdinck is not his real name. He was born Arnold George Dorsey. Gordon Mills, who was Tom Jones' manager, encouraged Dorsey to change his name to that of a German 19th-century opera composer. The newly christened Humperdinck started to see his career take off and two years later had his first hit. Hmm...maybe I should change my name to Josef Suk (look him up kids...). The two of us could form a duo - Suk & Humperdinck. Now, who wouldn't go see that?


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Stomp!" by The Brothers Johnson

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0089
Date:  03/15/1980
Debut:  86
Peak:  7
Weeks:  19
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  Brothers George and Louis had worked backing up artists like the Supremes and Billy Preston before Quincy Jones came calling and hired them to play on his "Mellow Madness" album. In addition, he recorded four of their compositions. This eventually led to Jones producing four platinum albums (three R&B #1's and one #2) for the brothers from 1976 through 1980. Along the way they were able to get three pop Top 10 hits including this one. It is from their last album with Jones called "Light Up the Night."

ReduxReview:  On first listen, I didn't think I had heard this song. But when the chorus kicked in with the "everybody take it to the top," it jogged my memory right away. If this don't make your shoes groove, then you don't move - don't block the dance floor!

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The album cover for "Light Up the Night" has, in some ways, surpassed the popularity of the music. You can find several sites and lists that will mention the cover as one of the worst. It has been described as tacky, inappropriate, cheesy, laughable, or just plain bad. I'm sure the meaning of this was intentional, but it does make you wonder "what were they thinking?" I think it is hilarious. Take a look...


"Let Me Be the Clock" by Smokey Robinson

Song#:  0088
Date:  03/15/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  31
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The legendary Miracles were a fixture on the pop and R&B charts beginning with "Shop Around" in 1960. By 1970, Smokey Robinson was the focal point of the group, one of its main songwriters, and was a VP for Motown records. He planned to retire from music at that time and focus on his Motown job, but the Miracles had an unexpected hit (and their only #1 pop song) with "Tears of a Clown." Robinson stayed on for another two years and then called it a day with the Miracles in 1972. Like many artists who "retire," he got the itch to get back to music and began a solo career in 1973. Although his albums and singles did well on the R&B chart, it wasn't until "Cruisin'" in 1979 that he had is first pop Top 10. This was immediately followed up with a new album, "Warm Thoughts," and this was the first single released.

ReduxReview:  Let me say that Smokey Robinson is brilliant. Many of the songs he has written are classics. But no matter how incredible someone is as a writer, there will be occasional clunkers that come about. This is one of them for Robinson. The music is not bad - fairly typical quiet storm - but it's the lyrics that kill it for me. It is just a metaphor that goes on way too long. And it is just an awful one. I appreciate what he was trying to do here, but it doesn't work for me. "Hickory dickory dock, I want to be your clock?" Just cringe worthy. But I will say it is not as horrific as his 2009 ode to tub sex "Love Bath."

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  It was Robinson that suggested to Berry Gordy to start his own label. Gordy started Tamala Records and within a year he also began Motown Records. The two were merged in 1960 and "Shop Around" was the first single from Motown to sell a million records.


Monday, October 15, 2012

"Love On the Phone" by Suzanne Fellini

Song#:  0087
Date:  03/15/1980
Debut:  89
Peak:  87
Weeks:  2
Genre:  New Wave, Rock

Pop Bits:  This one was almost a 1-week wonder! Suzanne Fellini recorded one album for Casablanca and, as far as I can tell, it was her one and only recording. Apparently there were contract issues and her follow-up album never materialized. Can't find too much else about her except that she apparently is a music teacher at PS166 in NYC, which is the Richard Rodgers School of the Arts and Technology.

ReduxReview:  At first I didn't like this. I thought it was an imitation of Blondie (Brunettie?) with some lyrics about phone sex that I'm sure did not go over too well at the time. But the more I listened to it, the more I liked it. She is kind of punk-ish and sounds like she could rock it out; as if she was the love child of Debbie Harry and Patti Smith whose sister is Pat Benatar. Interesting for sure.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  I did find that in 1982 she provided vocals for Peter Criss' third solo album, Let Me Rock You. Due to poor sales of his previous album, it was not released in the US until it came out on CD in 1997. The cover features Criss without his Kiss makup, which pre-dates the full band doing so on Lick It Up in 1983.


"High on Your Love" by Debbie Jacobs

Song#:  0086
Date:  03/15/1980
Debut:  90
Peak:  70
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Disco, Dance

Pop Bits: This Baltimore-based disco diva recorded a couple of albums for MCA in the later disco era. Songs from both albums were able to get good airplay in the clubs and several hit the dance charts. But with the genre on the decline in the early 80s, pop was getting a bit more reluctant to break newer disco artists. However, this song was able to get her a little pop chart action. After her second and final MCA album, she recorded a few more songs in the 80s (most under "Debbie Jacobs Rock") but none made any dent in the pop chart. Today she is still in Baltimore where she serves as Executive Director of LIGHT Health & Wellness, a non-profit that provides support for children and families affected by HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, and other issues.

ReduxReview:  I'm surprised this didn't do better on the chart. It has a memorable opening lick, a great sound, and a hip-swayin', finger-pointin' groove. There were some real disco turds on the chart at the time, so it's a shame this didn't get more attention. I just have one word for this song...fabulous! Two snaps up and a disco "woot-woot!"

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In 2000, Jacobs worked with Rosabel to remix one of her original club hits "Don't You Want My Love." The remix was a #1 club airplay song.  2) Paul Sabu was the writer and producer of this song and he produced Jacobs' two MCA albums. She was his first client and he continued to produce dance/disco song through the early 80s. He then went on to release his own rock albums and found himself working with huge stars like David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Madonna, the Motels, and Shania Twain.