Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Gee Whiz" by Bernadette Peters

Song#:  0105
Date:  03/29/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  31
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  A Broadway legend, Peters began her career in the theater and on TV as a kid and had roles on Broadway in the 60s. She stopped the stage work in the 70s and worked primarily in TV and films - most notably in "The Jerk" with Steve Martin. Peters returned to Broadway in the 80s where she remained a fixture and cemented her status as one of the greats of the medium, in addition to being considered the best interpreter of Stephen Sondheim's work. Along the way she was nominated for seven Tony awards, winning two. In the early 80s she released a pair of pop albums with the first self-titled one generating this Top 40 single.

ReduxReview:  As much as I love Ms. Peters, this retro-Stax soul song pales in comparison to the original (see below). It's not bad at all, but Peters voice does not suit interpreting early soul/R&B songs. It kind of sounds like an outtake from the "Grease" soundtrack but a little less doo-wop-ee. It's a dish of soul served up a little cold and bland.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Soul/R&B singer Carla Thomas wrote this song and took it to #10 in 1961. She was often referred to as the Queen of Memphis Soul.


Friday, October 26, 2012

"Funkytown" by Lipps, Inc.

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  0104
Date:  03/29/1980
Debut:  89
Peak:  1 (4 weeks)
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Disco, Dance

Pop Bits:  Lipps, Inc. (lip-sync...get it?) was a studio band formed by Steven Greenberg, who wrote/co-wrote and produced all the songs. He secured a deal with Casablanca Records and recorded the debut album "Mouth to Mouth." The first single release was this disco classic - one of the last of the time to be a major #1 hit. Although considered a one-hit wonder, they did have another minor chart hit and also had action on the dance charts with other songs. They released their fourth and final album in 1983.

ReduxReview:  Try to find someone who hasn't heard this song. It's pretty awesome. From the initial keyboard riff to the processed vocals to the highly memorable chorus, it is a classic of the day - and continues to be. If you've never been to Funkytown, you need to go and shake that booty.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The vocalist for the group was Cynthia Johnson, who was crowned Miss Black Minnesota in 1976. She was also a proficient saxophone player.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Should've Never Let You Go" by Neil Sedaka and Dara Sedaka

Song#:  0103
Date:  03/29/1980
Debut:  90
Peak:  19
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Sedaka was a big pop star in the 50s and early 60s churning out classics like "Oh! Carol," "Calender Girl," and "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do." But as that style of pop declined in the mid-60s and the rise of Beatlemania, Sedaka's hits stopped with his last chart song of the era coming in 1966. Eight years later he would experience a major comeback that would give him two of his biggest hits and would sustain his career on the charts for another six years. With a sound that moved his music to the singer/songwriter mode of the day, he hit big with two #1's, "Laughter In the Rain" and "Bad Blood," plus a ballad version of his previous #1 "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" would reach #8. Twenty-two years after his first chart song, Sedaka would have his last pop hit with this duet with his daughter.

ReduxReview:   I think Sedaka is a terrific songwriter. From his Brill Building days to the 70s comeback, he has some really choice classics. My top fave from the comeback era is "The Immigrant." But, again, like most writers no matter how fabulous you are there are clunkers.  For me, this is one for him. I'm surprised it made it so high on the chart. Plus, it's a love/regret song, yet he is doing a duet with his daughter! What is up with that?  Makes it kind of icky if you think about it. Anyway, it is nowhere near the top of my Sedaka songs I dearly love.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In the few years prior to his US comeback, Sedaka released two UK-only albums that did well and he was successfully touring there. He ran into Elton John and when John found out that Sedaka had no US distribution, he offered Sedaka a contract with his own Rocket Records label. The resulting album, "Sedaka's Back," combined songs from those UK albums and started his US comeback. Elton John also provided backing vocals on the hit "Bad Blood."  2) It also helped that around the same time Sedaka's songs were becoming hits for other artists. Most famously, the #1 Grammy-winning "Love Will Keep Us Together" by the Captain & Tennille. Toni Tennille paid tribute to Sedaka on this song by singing "Sedaka is back" during the song's fade-out.


"Holiday" by Nazareth

Song#:  0102
Date:  03/29/1980
Debut:  92
Peak:  87
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock, Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  Formed in 1968 in Scotland, the hard rock group had a good string of hits in the UK but failed to make much headway in the US until their cover of "Love Hurts" (The Everly Brothers) peaked at #8 in 1975. They continued to release albums that sold pretty well in the US but they only had one other chart hit, which was this very minor entry. Luckily they got this, otherwise they would be a true one-hit wonder.

ReduxReview:  Nazareth is a band that seemed bigger than what they were. I remember kids liking them a lot back in the day but I think it was just the one album "Hair of the Dog" with "Love Hurts" on it that they had heard. No one thinks of them as a one-hit wonder, yet by the definition of a lot of those lists, they should be on one (not mine, of course). This particular song is a bit odd. It's kind of a rock n' roll song with pop elements tossed in. For some reason if this song were done today (or maybe the 90s) I'd say it might be by Soul Asylum. It's an okay song musically, but I do like the lyrics. This is a great line: "mama mama please no more facelifts- I just don't know which one you are."

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  They had some odd choices for covers along the way. In addition to "Love Hurts," they also did a rock version of Joni Mitchell's "This Flight Tonight." Released as a single, it peaked at #11 in the UK and #1 in Germany.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"We Were Meant to Be Lovers" by Photoglo

Song#:  0101
Date:  03/29/1980
Debut:  97
Peak:  31
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Photoglo is not a group but a guy named Jim Photoglo. For his debut album he just went by his last name. The self-titled debut spawned this minor chart single. Photoglo later went on to become a prolific country songwriter and co-wrote the #1 country hit "Fishin' in the Dark" for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. He still continues to write and has released an occasional solo album over the years. His last was "Is It Me?" in 2008.

ReduxReview:  I was familiar with his other chart song (to be covered sometime soon) but this one I had not heard. The song has a nice shuffle to it and a good chorus. It's not outstanding and sounds like one of the many male artists who were slinging this style of late-70s AC/soft rock at the time. And like a lot of them, he just had a couple of minor hits and then ended up doing better as a songwriter.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  When his third solo album failed to get attention, he hit the road touring as a backup singer for Andy Gibb for two years, still continuing to write songs along the way.


"Let Me Be" by Korona

Song#:  0100
Date:  03/22/1980
Debut:  72
Peak: 43
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Korona is a studio band brought together by Bruce Blackman, who previously headed up the band Starbuck ("Moonlight Feels Right," #3, 1976). After Starbuck broke up, Blackman developed Korona and recorded a self-titled debut album. This first single almost hit the Top 40 but it seems like it wasn't enough to keep the project supported and it appears like it was one album and out for Korona.

ReduxReview:  Am I hearing this right? "Everybody's little sugar daddy got to love you?" Oh dear, no. This is so far from anything I like. And this was almost Top 40? Now, I loves me some "Moonlight Feels Right," but I could barely get through this thing twice.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  This was the third group for Blackman to have a song on the chart. Prior to forming Starbuck, Blackburn was also part of the band Eternity's Children. That group hit the chart in 1969 with "Mrs. Bluebird" (#68).


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"Hearts Hotel" by Dan Fogelberg

Song#:  0099
Date:  03/22/1980
Debut:  76
Peak:  21
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  When John Denver started to drift off the charts, Fogelberg kind of took up the mantle of the back-to-nature, mountainy, country-rock guy. He had a couple of smaller chart hits under his belt before "Longer" found its way to #2 just a few weeks prior to this chart date. "Hearts Hotel" was the follow-up single. Sadly, Fogelberg passed away from prostate cancer in 2007.

ReduxReview:  I really enjoy Fogelberg's music. I'm not too keen on the dreamy AC love pop like "Longer," but this tune is something I can get into.  This song gave a hint at what was to come on his next album "The Innocent Age" - it could have easily fit on that LP. He often had excellent arrangements and I like this one very much.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  While a huge hit in the US, "Longer" only peaked at #59 in the UK and it remained his only chart song there - even when his next album produced three Top 10 hits here. I guess just as some UK artists don't translate well here, the same can be said in reverse.


Monday, October 22, 2012

"Today Is the Day" by the Bar-Kays

Song#:  0098
Date:  03/22/1980
Debut:  79
Peak:  60
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The Bar-Kays were originally an instrumental group that backed many artists at Stax Records including Isaac Hayes on his classic "Hot Buttered Soul." Their own chart hits began in 1967 when they hit #3 on the R&B chart and #17 on the pop chart with "Soul Finger." That song may sound familiar as it has been used in films ("Spies Like Us") and was covered by the Blues Brothers. They continued to land songs on the charts and changed their direction a bit to become more of a commercial funk band with vocals. Their #2 R&B album "Injoy" was released in 1979 and this song is the second single from the disc.

ReduxReview:  "Soul Finger?" Totally awesome. This song? Totally not. It sounds like something the Commodores might have recorded - any maybe rejected. Their early Stax funk instrumentals are great, but when they turned to the flashier commercial R&B, it is a mixed bag for me. I'm sure it was great to have constant R&B chart action with this stuff, but I find nothing special with it nor anything that reflected the origins of the group.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  The Bar-Kays were chosen by Otis Redding to be his backing band on tour. Unfortunately, four of the six band members were killed in the same plane crash that claimed the life of Redding and his manager. A fifth member, Ben Cauley, survived the crash while the sixth member, James Alexander, was on another plane as there was not room enough on Redding's plane. The two remaining Bar-Kays re-formed the group and continued on their successful career.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

"Train in Vain" by The Clash

Song#:  0097
Date:  03/22/1980
Debut:  84
Peak:  23
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Clash were a major force in British Punk and hugely influential. They caught fire right away in the UK with their self-titled debut in 1977, but it took the double-LP "London Calling" to finally break them in the States. Although steeped in punk, the band's music showed many influences like rockabilly, ska, soul, and reggae. "London Calling" wore all these influences well and has become a classic rock album; often cited as one of the best (Rolling Stone's list of the Greatest Albums of All Time had it as #8). "Train in Vain" was the first single of their to reach the US pop chart.

ReduxReview:  I admit that when this came out, The Clash were not on my radar. It's too bad because my musical horizons could have benefited from their music. But their style of music was not something that translated to my little hometown. I don't remember anyone being into them at all. Seems strange now. I'd finally get on the bandwagon in a few years. This is definitely one of my faves of theirs.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) "Train in Vain" was an afterthought - it was added as the last track to "London Calling" at the last minute. Artwork had already been done for the LP so the track listing on the original packaging does not list the song.  2) Although the chorus repeats "stand by me," the song was titled "Train in Vain" in order to avoid confusion with the Ben E. King classic "Stand By Me."