Saturday, April 13, 2013

"I'm Coming Out" by Diana Ross

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0321
Date:  09/06/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  5
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Pop, Dance

Pop Bits:  The same week her previous single, "Upside Down," hit #1, this second single from the highly successful "diana" album hit the chart. The success of this album came at the right time. Ross was looking to get out of her contract with Motown and this album (plus a few songs for a compilation album) would fulfill her obligations to the label. She was courted by several labels but she finally signed with RCA who offered a $20 million deal - at the time the biggest contract ever signed by a recording artist. The huge success of the "diana" album probably played a big role in securing this massive contract. Ross' desire to leave Motown most likely stems from her strained relationship with label head Berry Gordy. It has been said that this song held extra meaning for Ross after leaving the label because she was coming out from under Gordy's rule.

ReduxReview:  Another highly infectious dance number from "diana" and one that is celebratory, as opposed to the sexy groove of "Upside Down." I don't consider it as good as "Upside Down," but it is a terrific song and certainly a worthy follow-up. Unfortunately, years ago my childish brain created the alternate lyrics of "I'm throwin' up! I want the world to know, I got some chow to blow!" Ugh - it is still in my head whenever I hear this song. My apologies, Miss Ross.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Co-writer Bernard Edwards got the idea for this song when he was at a NYC club and he saw three different drag queens dressed as Ross. In the gay community (already in love with Miss Ross), "coming out" was the act acknowledging and accepting who you are, as in "coming out of the closet." This song fit right in to that sentiment and has been a popular gay anthem since.  2) Prior to this hit, Ross had already amassed 20+ solo chart songs, but only five of them were Top 10 hits - and all five hit #1.  This song was Ross' first Top 10 hit not to reach #1.


Friday, April 12, 2013

"You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC

Song#:  0320
Date:  09/06/1980
Debut:  89
Peak:  35
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Hard Rock, Arena Rock

You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:  This Australian rock group, formed by brothers Malcolm and Angus Young in 1973, were at the top of their game as 1980 rolled in. They were just coming off of their biggest album to date, "Highway to Hell," when tragedy hit the band during preparations for their next album. Lead singer Bon Scott unexpectedly died from excessive alcohol consumption. The band was initially going to breakup, but at the urging of Scott's parents to continue, they found a new singer, Brian Johnson, and continued to finish the album. "Back in Black" came out five months later and it would prove to be their biggest success. This single kicked things off in a big way and has become one of their signature tunes. Worldwide, the album was a massive success and since its release it has become the second biggest selling album of all time with 50 million copies sold. In the US, it ranks as the sixth highest of all time with 22 million copies sold.

ReduxReview:  As a kid I had a severe dislike for this group. Mainly because all the burnouts loved AC/DC and constantly played songs like "T.N.T." and "Highway to Hell," which I thought were just horrific and I was going to have no part of this burnout devil rock (you see, I was a total geek hangin' with the smart kids). It took me years to finally relent and start listening to them. I will say that I did develop an appreciation for their work and can now listen to them without feeling like I need a bath or my soul saved, but I'm still not the biggest fan. I do think this song is one of their best and I've rocked my nerd ass out to it on several occasions.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Malcolm and Angus' older brother George was the first to have a successful music career. He was in the 60s group The Easybeats and co-wrote their biggest hit, 1967's "Friday On My Mind" (#16). He later helped his brothers with their group and ended up producing their first five albums.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

"The Breaks" by Kurtis Blow

Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0319
Date:  09/06/1980
Debut:  98
Peak:  87
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rap

Pop Bits:  Even though this song only peaked at #87, it is historic in many ways. Rap/hip-hop was just in its infancy in the lat 70s and it started to get more attention when The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" became the first nationally successful rap song hitting #36 (#4 R&B). Kurtis Blow then became the first rapper to sign to a major label (Mercury) and his first single, "Christmas Rappin'," was a solid seller. But it was this second single that really made an impact. It was the first major label solo rap hit to get on the chart and also the very first to reach gold status (mainly for its 12" version). It's also one of the lowest peaking pop entries to go gold (although it did hit #4 R&B and #9 Dance). The song was both historic and influential as was Blow's self-titled debut album.

ReduxReview:  I didn't hear this song until many years later. After all, our local pop radio station was not going to toss this in between Air Supply and Olivia Newton-John. But eventually I got to hear it and not only does it have historical value, it is just a dang good memorable record. I don't know how many times over the years in certain situations I've just said "well these are the breaks!"

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Unlike a lot of rap songs that would follow, "The Breaks" does not use samples of other songs for its background. The beats are all original. And because it is original, the song itself ended up being sampled in other rap recordings.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Midnight Rocks" by Al Stewart

Song#:  0318
Date:  08/30/1980
Debut:  69
Peak:  24
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  This Scottish artist's early music leaned towards folk-rock and tended to incorporate historical events or people. He released his first album in 1967, but it wasn't until he began working with producer Alan Parsons for 1975's "Modern Times" that Stewart's sound began to transform into short story pop works. The following year's album "Year of the Cat" brought him to the peak of his fame with the #8 title track and 1978's "Time Passages" got him another title track hit (#7). But his first album of the 80s, "24 Carrots," didn't do as well and this lead single peaked outside the Top 20. It would be his last single (and studio album) to hit the chart. Stewart continued to record albums and tour while maintaining a loyal fan base.

ReduxReview:  His previous two Top 10's are really choice songs of the time. This one, not so much. It has a similar feel to the others, but the song just doesn't hook you in quite as well and overall is not as strong. The quality is there but I think it's just difficult for an artist who is not really a pop song writer to keep churning out radio hits like his two most famous songs. The sax solo is pretty great though.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Apparently in the pre-fame days, Stewart bought his first guitar from another musician who would go on to great success - Andy Summers from The Police.


"Rebels We Are" by Chic

Song#:  0317
Date:  08/30/1980
Debut:  77
Peak:  61
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Disco, Dance, R&B

Pop Bits:  With the anti-disco backlash in full swing, many artists who scored big in the era found their careers at an end and Chic was unfortunately a casualty of the time. They were one of the biggest disco/dance acts of the late 70s, grabbing four Top 10 hits including two #1's, "Le Freak" and the highly influential "Good Times." They also had one gold and two platinum albums. But the 80s started real rough and this first single from their fourth album, "Real People," pretty much tanked as the disco fallout hit. They would not recover and after a couple more low charting songs, the group called it quits 1984.

ReduxReview:  This song is not as immediately catchy as their big hits and kind of lags in the middle, but it is definitely danceable and it's kind of hard to not shake your thang with this going. It's just not as killer as some of their other songs.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although the group was done, it was only the beginning for the driving forces of the group, Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers. They began a successful run as writers and producers for other artists like Diana Ross. Rodgers also produced famous albums like David Bowie's "Let's Dance" and Madonna's "Like a Virgin." The two were nominated for a 1981 Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues song for writing "Upside Down," the Diana Ross hit


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"Leaving L.A." by Deliverance

Song#:  0316
Date:  08/30/1980
Debut:  81
Peak:  71
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Three brothers, Danny, Ken and Paul Janz, were the main members of this group. Although originally from Canada, the group was formed in Germany as a Christian pop/rock band. They released three albums in that genre before recording "Tightrope," their first LP to not be Christian based. The mainstream album generated this single which didn't make too many waves here, but did a bit better in Canada. Unfortunately, lawsuits regarding their name and copyright issues took a toll on the band and they split in 1981.

ReduxReview:  I have to agree with some comments I've read about this song in that it sounds like a leftover track from an Andy Gibb session; not quite a BeeGee's tune, but like something Barry produced for Andy. It's a breezy tune and a pleasant listen, but nothing that really leaves a big impression. It just kind of makes me want to listen to the BeeGees.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Paul Janz continued on with a successful solo career and release a string of chart singles in Canada including the #5 "Every Little Tear" (1990). After his last recording in 1992, Janz left the music business. He is currently a Professor of Philosophical Theology at King's College London.


"Can't We Try" by Teddy Pendergrass

Song#:  0315
Date:  08/30/1980
Debut:  82
Peak:  52
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Early in his career, Pendergrass was recruited to join Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes as their durmmer. The group had still been struggling to find success at the time, however Pendergrass soon ended up on lead vocals and that along with signing with Philadelphia International records made all the difference. In 1972 the group had their first major hit when "If You Don't Know Me By Now" hit #3 on the pop chart. They would have further success, but by 1977, internal and financial issues caused Pendergrass to leave the group for a solo career. He was a success from the start and although he never really scored a big pop hit, he would go on to have thirteen R&B Top 10's and four consecutive platinum albums. This song was the first single from his "TP" album and it reached #3 on the R&B chart.

ReduxReview:  I actually prefer Charlene's version (see below) which is much more dramatic and diva-oriented. But Pendergrass does a nice job as well with a more slow-burn feel to it. He has a great voice so most any good song he does can sound pretty darn good.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Pendergrass had a major life changing event in 1982. He was involved in a car accident and as a result he was left paralyzed from the waist down. He would eventually resume his recording career and have further R&B hits.  2) This song was remade in 1982 by Charlene. After her song "I've Never Been to Me" became a surprise hit years after its initial release, Motown rush a new album out and "Can't We Try" was included. Why was this song chosen? Most likely because both songs share the same writers, Ken Hirsch and Ron Miller, with Miller co-producing.


Monday, April 8, 2013

"Whip It" by Devo

Gold Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  0314
Date:  08/30/1980
Debut:  85
Peak:  14
Weeks:  25
Genre:  New Wave

Pop Bits:  Devo may have just remained a popular cult band had it not been for this unexpected hit. The Ohio band's name revolves around "de-evolution," the concept that society is no longer evolving, but regressing. This would be reflected in their music and in their live performances that contained satirical humor and social commentary. Their first two albums (the first one produced by Brian Eno) were highly influential and showed a progression to move towards electronic music. When their next album "Freedom of Choice" came out, the streamlined electro-pop truly announced that the 80s had arrived and this single shot the group into the mainstream. Although the group would remain quite popular for years to come, this was the peak of their charting efforts.

ReduxReview:  Devo were a major part of my high school years. They were really the one cult-ish group that we latched onto when no one else did. We burned through several cassette copies of their albums and loved the whole de-evolution concept. We even watched their early film called "The Truth About De-Evolution" that came out two years before their full-length debut album. They were odd, had a bizarre look and concept, and we ate it up. "Whip It" is a classic of the 80s and it is the song everyone knows from them. But if you haven't listened to their earlier stuff like "Jocko Homo" or even some later songs like "Through Being Cool," you really don't know Devo.


Trivia:  When this song hit the mainstream, many took its lyrics to be about S&M. And their video for the song didn't really do much to dissuade that interpretation as it featured the group using whips to remove the clothes from a woman (that in itself was based on a live entertainment husband/wife act done on an Arizona dude ranch). The song was not about S&M, but the lyrics (written by group member Gerald Casale) were meant to mimic the type of parody that author Thomas Pynchon used in his book "Gravity's Rainbow," and appears to be about overcoming adversity.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

"Lola" by The Kinks

Song#:  0313
Date:  08/30/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  81
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This single is not to be confused with the #9 hit in 1970 that The Kinks had. This is a live version of the song from their album "One For the Road." At the time, the studio version of "Lola" had been the last Top 10 hit in both the US and the group's native UK. Although the 60s saw this highly influential British Invasion group recording some of the most critically acclaimed albums of the time, the 70s found the group in a major decline and the 80s didn't start off well either. But a slight resurgence would come about in a couple of years and get them back on the map for a while.

ReduxReview:  I've mentioned before that I don't care too much for live recordings. It is just rare that the feeling of being there translates to a recording and a lot of the time there is nothing in the live version that takes the song(s) to a different level or adds to them. And this falls in that category for me. It's a classic song, but there is nothing here to make me wish I was in the audience or make me want to listen to it again. All I wanted to do was go back and hear the original. Maybe that is a good point about live records - they make you want to go back and get the originals playing again.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:   In the original opening line lyrics for "Lola," it was recorded with the words "Coca-Cola." The BBC refused to air the song because of their product placement policy. So Ray Davies quickly went into the studio and replace the line using "cherry cola." Both versions of the song can still be found.