Saturday, December 29, 2012

"Back of My Hand" by the Jags

Song#:  0199
Date:  06/07/1980
Debut:  86
Peak:  84
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Power Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  This UK group formed in 1978 and got quickly signed to Island records. They released an EP in the UK that featured this single. At the time, Elvis Costello was being considered the new king of UK pop and, perhaps unfairly, the Jags drew constant comparison to Costello. It dogged them through their debut disc in 1979, "Evening Standards," but this first single was strong enough to hit #17 on the UK chart. And even though Costello would get albums on the chart in the US, the Jags were quick to point out that they were able to get a song on the US pop singles chart before Costello could. This is true, but just barely as this song was almost a one-week wonder. After one more album the group would call it a day.

ReduxReview:  This is kind of a lost power pop song that probably should have gotten more attention. It's jangly, quirky, jittery, and pretty cool. It kind of reminds me more of The Romantics than Costello - or maybe an odd combo of both with a little Nick Lowe tossed in.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Their debut album was co-produced by Jon Astley (no relation to Rick Astley) who would go on to put a couple of songs on the pop chart in 1987-88. He also produced albums for Eric Clapton and Deborah Harry. His sister was married to Pete Townsend from 1968 to 2009.


Friday, December 28, 2012

"Sisters of the Moon" by Fleetwood Mac

Song#:  0198
Date:  06/07/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  86
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  The Mac's experimental 1979 "Tusk" album was still lingering on the album chart in 1980 after a lackluster appearance. Considered a failure at the time, especially when compared to "Rumours," fans and critics have come to embrace the epic album and have elevated it from cult status to a full-fledged classic. This fourth single - from an album with very little single-worthy songs - was issued and barely made a dent in the chart. The group would go on a brief hiatus during which time various members would go on to release solo albums with Stevie Nicks having the greatest success.

ReduxReview:  This is a pretty intense Nicks song for a single. I can see why it was not a chart success. Although some of the Nicks-penned Mac hits had their own dark feel, I don't think any of them were as grey as this one. Plus, there is no real hook to it - just a meandering melody. And Buckingham's screeching guitar solo doesn't help. It makes for a quality album cut, but for a radio single it seems a little too bleak and distant.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  There is a famous video of the 1982 Mirage tour where the group performs this song and turns it into an 8+ minute epic. At the end of her vocal performance, Stevie Nicks starts singing in an indecipherable manner. Because of that, the video performance became known as the "speaking in tongues" version of the song. Fans consider this one of her most intense and best performances.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

"I Can Survive" by Triumph

Song#:  0197
Date:  06/07/1980
Debut:  91
Peak:  91
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Hard Rock, Prog Rock

Pop Bits:  This Canadian power trio were often compared to their fellow countrymen Rush. But unlike Rush who had their critical successes, Triumph rarely got love from reviewers. That hardly mattered as they gained a large and loyal fan base through their tours and managed to sell ten consecutive gold or platinum albums in Canada. Breaking through to the US proved more difficult, but with their touring reputation and a few minor chart entries, the group managed to sell some albums here as well. This single from their album "Progressions of Power" came close to being a one-week wonder on the chart.

ReduxReview:  Besides being a Canadian rock trio, I don't find much in common with Rush. Especially since I like Rush. Triumph is more straight-ahead hard rock as demonstrated with this song. They are a talented group that have fired off a couple of good songs, but overall I tend to side with critics who were not impressed with their material. This is an okay song but it could be any rock band performing this. Triumph just didn't have that extra thing that makes a band identifiable.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Guitarist Ric Emmet had many influences and is proficient at many styles such as classical, bluegrass, and jazz. Each Triumph album has an instrumental song that showcases Emmet. On "Progressions of Power," that song is "Finger Talkin'," which highlights a flamenco style combined with a little folk/country.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"More Love" by Kim Carnes

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0196
Date:  05/31/1980
Debut:  75
Peak:  10
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Before Carnes has a successful solo career, she had already been a player in the biz for several years. She was a member of the New Christy Minstrels in 1966 (along with Kenny Rogers) and was writing songs that were getting attention. Eventually, she and her husband Dave Ellingson co-wrote Kenny Rogers' concept album "Gideon," which featured the hit duet "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer." But with other songwriting successes and a couple of albums to her credit, solo success eluded her. This remake changed that and she finally hit the Top 10 on her own.

ReduxReview:  I will warn you ahead of time that I have been obsessed with Kim Carnes for many years. I think she is a terrific songwriter and artist. Although she obviously had some pretty big successes, I think she should have had a few more - although she actually did as others had hits with songs she wrote. Remaking a Motown classic is tricky, but I think she hits the mark with this one. And it should be noted that the original by Smoky Robinson and the Miracles only peaked at #23 in 1967, so Carnes's version did far better.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Earlier in the 70s, Carnes and Ellingson co-wrote some songs with David Cassidy. These appeared on two of his albums that came out during his heyday as a teen idol - "Rock Me Baby" and "Dreams Are Nuthin' More Than Wishes." The pair would also tour with Cassidy during that time.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

"Gimme Some Lovin'" by The Blues Brothers

Song#:  0195
Date:  05/31/1980
Debut:  77
Peak: 18
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B, Blues-Rock

Note: There will be no posts for the Christmas Eve/Christmas holidays. Have a very merry 80s Christmas!

Pop Bits:  I doubt it ever crossed their mind that when Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi donned bee costumes and performed a blues tune in a sketch on Saturday Night Live they would go on to revive some great soul/blues tunes, have a #1 album, and create a feature film as The Blues Brothers. But they did and did it well. The Bros phenomenon would be short-lived as the death of Belushi in 1982 would put a stop to the original duo, but the Bros would live on in different incarnations over the years featuring Ackroyd and others "brothers" such as Jim Belushi and John Goodman. The movie was a smash hit and the soundtrack featured this take on the Spencer Davis Group classic.

ReduxReview:  There were many back in the day that just considered The Blues Brothers a gimmick - a promotional/money making Hollywood thing. But really Ackroyd (and later Belushi) really listened to and studied blues and soul music. They were the real deal and not only performed on SNL as the musical guests, but also did tours and other live performances. I think their live shows were better than their studio work, but it is still not bad. Plus, it is hard to ruin such a great song as this. I wasn't a huge fan of the Blues Brothers, but I appreciate their work and the fact that they helped introduce a new generation to some great soul and blues classics.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  "The Blues Brothers" was the first film to be based off of characters stemming from Saturday Night Live. It is still the second-highest grossing of all SNL-based films behind 1992's "Wayne's World."