Saturday, June 15, 2013

"The Winner Takes It All" by ABBA

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0411
Date:  11/22/1980
Debut:  81
Peak:  8
Weeks:  26
Genre:  Pop



Pop Bits:  Sweden's ABBA were worldwide superstars with #1 hits in many countries beginning with 1974's "Waterloo" (#6 US). And although the group had good success in the US, it seems odd now with their enduring popularity that they only had four Top 10 hits here including their only #1 "Dancing Queen" in 1976. By comparison, they had nine #1's in the UK and multiple #1's in other countries. As 1980 rolled in, the group was experiencing changes. Most notably, one of the two husband-and-wife couples that comprised the group divorced in late 1979. But the foursome remained intact as a musical act and issued their "Super Trouper" album featuring this initial single. It became their fourth and last US Top 10 hit.

ReduxReview:  I've stated many times to folks that ABBA created perfect pop music. Songs like "Dancing Queen" are some of the best examples of pop writing and recording from the era. It's taken folks in the US years to realize this, but thanks to nostalgia and films/musicals featuring their music, ABBA has finally gotten some well-deserved respect. So much so that they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010. This song is another great example of what they could create. It's a huge ballad done in their unmistakable style with solid lyrics. For me, it is one of their top songs.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The two women of the group, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad (aka Frida), were solo artists before ABBA fully came together. Each had songs reach #1 on the Swedish charts. After ABBA's break-up, each one would have a solo hit reach the Top 30 in the US.  2) Although the song (written by ABBA's two men Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson) is considered a reflection of Ulvaeus and Fältskog divorce, the couple both deny that the song is their story. Regardless, it struck a chord with folks and in two separate polls, the song was voted as the UK's favorite ABBA song.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Friday, June 14, 2013

"Teacher Teacher" by Rockpile

Song#:  0410
Date:  11/22/1980
Debut:  84
Peak:  51
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  Rockpile had a bit of an unusual formation and history. The name stems from group member Dave Edumnds' first solo album in 1972 and he used the name for his backing band for that tour. That group disbanded after the tour but after working with Nick Lowe, the band was revived and consisted of Edumuds, Lowe, Terry Williams, and Billy Bremner. Together they recorded material that would be released on albums billed as by Edmunds or Lowe, in addition to supporting each artist's tours. In fact, it was Rockpile that recorded "Cruel to Be Kind," a #12 hit for Nick Lowe in 1979. They had a chance to formally record an album as Rockpile in 1980 when they issued "Seconds of Pleasure." It is the only studio album credited to the band. This first single from the album would be the only Rockpile song to hit the chart, making it halfway up. Unfortunately, issues within the group caused a break-up the following year, but Edmunds and Lowe would work together again later in the 80s.

ReduxReview:  If you just want some good ol' rock n' roll, this is pretty terrific. For anyone who likes Edmunds or Lowe's style of rock, Rockpile will be right up your alley. That is, if you haven't already heard the group. The two musicians are masters at the style of music they write/perform and together they are explosive.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  With the initial pressing of the LP, a bonus EP was attached called "Dave Edmunds & Nick Lowe Sing the Everly Brothers." They covered four Everly songs including "Crying In the Rain" and "When Will I Be Loved." Subsequent CD reissues include these tracks.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"My Mother's Eyes" by Bette Midler

Song#:  0409
Date:  11/22/1980
Debut:  85
Peak:  39
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack



Pop Bits:  After Midler's highly successful film debut in "The Rose," with it's hit soundtrack and title song (#3), her next venture also combined film and music. "Divine Madness" was a concert film of Midler's stage show. It featured musical performances along with stand-up routines that highlighted some of the characters she brought to life like Dolores Delgado, a singing mermaid, or her imitation of the bawdy comedianne Sophie Tucker. The soundtrack album featured this single which just barely cracked the Top 40.

ReduxReview:  Although it drips with sentimentality, this is quite a pretty song. Midler does a great job as usual, but we always used to cringe and kind of make fun of her last note in the song. She does a swoop-up to the final note that a lot of singers from the 40's-50's used to do. When we would say something that include the word "eyes," we would imitate Midler.  So something like "oh, the fumes from that onion really burned my aahhyyeeeezzzz..."  But c'mon. It's Bette Midler. She is truly the Divine Miss M and always will be.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although on the soundtrack and released as a single, this song did not make it into the final cut of the film.  2) Midler had a backing group called The Harlettes. The line-up changed over the years but had included Melissa Manchester, who broke into her own solo career, and Katy Sagal, famous for her character Peg Bundy on TV's "Married with Children" (and now on the successful show "Sons of Anarchy"). Segal is in The Harlettes for "Divine Madness" as well as soon-to-be dance/R&B star Jocelyn Brown.

_________________________________________________________________________________

"He Can't Love You" by the Michael Stanley Band

Song#:  0408
Date:  11/22/1980
Debut:  86
Peak:  33
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  Cleveland native Stanley had been recording music since 1969 when his first group Silk release their debut album. A few years later, Stanley struck out on his own and released a couple of solo discs. By 1975, he had formed a group and the Michael Stanley Band released their debut album for Epic. Throughout the 70s, the group would release a string of albums that nicked the lower reaches of the chart with no singles sparking nationally. However, in Stanley's hometown and in the Midwest, they were hugely popular. National recognition finally arrived when their 1980 album "Heartland" was released. This single from the LP got them their first real taste of national success and became their best effort on the singles chart.

ReduxReview:  Although released at the end of November, this just screams summer to me. It's a nice rockin' song that kind of reminds me of a solid Kenny Loggins tune mixed with a little Huey Lewis. And it sounds very movie-theme-y too.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was written by band member and co-lead singer Kevin Raleigh. After the group disbanded in 1987, he issued a solo album in 1989 that yielded the #60 pop chart entry "Moonlight on Water." Laura Branigan covered the song and took it to #59 in 1990. However, Raleigh did not write the song. It was written by Andy Goldmark and Steve Kipner. Kipner was co-writer of one of the most famous songs from the 80s - Olivia Newton-John's "Physical."  2) The sax solo was played by E-Streeter Clarence Clemons.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Killin' Time" by Fred Knobloch and Susan Anton

Song#:  0407
Date:  11/22/1980
Debut:  87
Peak:  28
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Country Crossover

Killin' Time by Fred Knoblock & Susan Anton on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:  Knobloch's pop chart follow-up to his Top 20 "Why Not Me" (#18) was this one-off single duet with actress/singer Anton. Although it was a minor pop hit, the song did reach #10 on the country chart. This would be his last song to get on the pop chart, but he did release two more singles that did well at country - the #10 "Memphis" and the #33 "I Had It All." This was Anton's one and only chart song.

ReduxReview:  The thing about this song is that their voices are so different. He is high and twangy and she is low and sultry. It doesn't sound bad, just a little odd. This ballad kind of lumbers along and I can hear how it might have worked better at country radio than pop. Overall, not bad but not great.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Besides her numerous TV appearances, Anton also became famous in the early 80s for her relationship with actor Dudley Moore. What grabbed headlines and attention was their height difference. Anton was about 8-inches taller than the short-of-stature Moore and it provided good fodder for tabloids and comedians. They remained together for about five years.

_________________________________________________________________________________

"Easy Love" by Dionne Warwick

Song#:  0406
Date:  11/22/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  62
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary



Pop Bits:  This second single from Warwick's "No Night So Long" album couldn't drum up much support to move far up the pop chart, but it did well at AC peaking at #12. Although this song didn't hit the R&B chart, its flip side "We Never Said Goodbye" did peaking at #41.

ReduxReview:  This is a nice, breezy tune for Warwick. It doesn't come close to the heights of her major hits, but it's a respectable outing and enjoyable. I'm not sure if it was the best choice for a single though.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In 1980, Warwick became the weekly host of the TV show "Solid Gold." The show featured a countdown of the week's top songs and had performances by musical guest artists. Warwick would sometimes perform duets with the guests. She also sang the title song. The show was famous for the Solid Gold dancers who would come out and do routines to the countdown songs. (Side note: I knew a Solid Gold dancer!)

_________________________________________________________________________________

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"I Need Your Lovin'" by Teena Marie

Song#:  0405
Date:  11/22/1980
Debut:  90
Peak:  37
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B



Pop Bits:  Marie was one of the few white artists signed by Berry Gordy for his Motown label. When starting on the label, she ended up connecting with soul/funk star Rick James and he ended up producing and writing most of her debut album "Wild and Peaceful." Oddly, the album featured no photos of Marie (a marketing ploy so she would not get dismissed by R&B fans and radio) and initially listeners thought she was black, due to her soulful voice and music. But that cover was quickly blown when she became the first white female artist to guest on TV's "Soul Train" where she performed her #8 R&B hit "I'm a Sucker for Your Love" with Rick James. Her next album "Lady T" was a gold seller as was its follow-up "Irons In the Fire," which featured this song - her first pop chart entry. "Irons" was her first album that she fully wrote and produced and it also became her first R&B Top 10 album peaking at #9. Although she had very few pop chart songs, she continued putting singles on the R&B chart where she would rack up 29 entries. Sadly, she passed away in 2010 of what was considered natural causes at age 54.

ReduxReview:  I don't know very many Teena Marie songs, but I'm thinking I really should. She is a terrific singer/musician and can write some solid tunes. This one I seems vaguely familiar in the chorus, so I must have heard this at some point. I wasn't so much into R&B/soul back in the day, so I'm sorry I missed out on this song and Marie. This is an excellent groove and really should have been a Top 10 hit.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Marie's real name was Mary Christine Brockert, but she was basically known as Tina. This eventually turned into Teena and by the time her debut album came out, she was known as Teena Marie. Later on, she also got the name Lady Tee (or Lady T) from Rick James. With her success in the R&B field, she also gained the title of the "Ivory Queen of Soul."

_________________________________________________________________________________

"Turn and Walk Away" by The Babys

Song#:  0404
Date:  11/15/1980
Debut:  79
Peak:  42
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  The Babys' previous album "Union Jacks" only yielded one Top 40 song, the #33 "Back on My Feet Again," and while on tour for the album, the group recorded the follow-up. "On the Edge" would prove to be their final studio album and this first single their last chart entry. The lack of major success seemed to be a contributing factor/decision to disband the group. For some reason, the group just couldn't get the popularity and accolades they sought, so instead of continuing on they went their separate ways.

ReduxReview:  I think The Babys were always just on the edge of being hugely successful. They had some terrific singles that should have done much better ("Isn't It Time" and "Back On My Feet Again" both reached #13), but they lacked a full killer album and one major hit to put them over the top. But I guess it wasn't meant to be. This final chart single wasn't quite as good as some of their previous efforts, but it was a solid tune and good addition to their catalog.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  After the break-up, a couple of members went on to more successful careers. Jonathan Cain join Journey for their most successful period and John Waite found himself at the top of the chart in 1984 with "Missing You." Both Cain and Waite would later form the supergroup Bad English who reached #1 in 1989 with the power ballad "When I See You Smile."

_________________________________________________________________________________

Monday, June 10, 2013

"The Tide Is High" by Blondie

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0403
Date:  11/15/1980
Debut:  81
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  26
Genre:  Pop, Reggae



Pop Bits:  Blondie recently had their biggest hit with the #1 "Call Me" from the "American Gigolo" soundtrack. Their next proper album, "Autoamerican," was issued soon after and this reggae-tinged first single became their third #1 chart song. The sound shift from the power-dance/rock of "Call Me" to this leisurely island-ish tune was quite striking, but it played well on several formats (it hit #3 AC) and was certainly different from anything else on the radio. As would be their next hit.

ReduxReview:  Whenever I hear this, I just want to be on the beach in a lounge chair under an umbrella with a cocktail in my hand. It's a great summer song and a surprising venture from Blondie. It's also one of those tunes that people say they hate, but when it starts playing they are bopping along by the chorus. This wasn't the only odd song from Blondie's "Autoamerican" album. The whole thing was all over the place and most critics hated it. But it did give us a couple of classic singles like this one.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  I didn't know this for years, but this song is actually a remake. The Jamaican band The Paragons originally recorded this in 1967. It was written by group member John Holt, who went on to have a successful solo career after the group broke up in 1970. Although not a hit in the US, this song was quite popular in the Jamaican music scene. Blondie were not the only ones to cover the song. Among the artists who remade the tune are reggae artist Gregory Isaacs (in 1978) and British girl group Atomic Kitten, who hit #1 in the UK with their take in 2002.

_________________________________________________________________________________

"Gotta Have More Love" by Climax Blues Band

Song#:  0402
Date:  11/15/1980
Debut:  86
Peak:  47
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  This UK group was originally called the Climax Chicago Blues Band and their sound was rooted in the UK blues movement of the late 60s. They ended up dropping the "Chicago" part of their name (thanks to another US group with that name...) and changed their sound from blues-rock to a sleeker pop/rock approach. This resulted in their biggest US hit with 1977's "Couldn't Get It Right" (#3) from their album "Gold Plated." Subsequent albums didn't produce much in the way of chart songs and this lead single from their "Flying the Flag" album wasn't a big success. However, the second single from the album would soon give them their second biggest hit.

ReduxReview:  I think they were trying to recapture a bit of "Couldn't Get It Right" here, but it doesn't come close. It's an interesting synth-ee rock tune, but there is just something lacking here - perhaps it is the vocals. They are just not strong enough for this forceful tune. It's a decent listen, but not essential.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  After the band split, group member Pete Haycock was recruited to be in Bev Bevan's group Electric Light Orchestra Part II. He also became active in film scores including collaborating with Hans Zimmer on the soundtrack to "Thelma & Louise."

_________________________________________________________________________________

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Real People" by Chic

Song#:  0401
Date:  11/15/1980
Debut:  89
Peak:  79
Weeks:  3
Genre:  R&B, Dance



Pop Bits:  Things cooled off for Chic when the lead single from their "Real People" album, "Rebels Are We," peaked at a lowly #61. This second title single did even worse and couldn't grab an audience. The lack of singles support made this the first Chic album to not even reach gold status. And although it did peak at #8 on the R&B album chart, it was their lowest peaking pop album at the time reaching #30. The "Good Times" were certainly over for the group.

ReduxReview:  Their previous single "Rebels Are We" wasn't great, but it still made you wanna groove a bit. This doesn't even come close to that. It's kind of a message song done at an almost mid-tempo speed that is just flat. This is a song that maybe The Pointer Sisters and their producer Richard Perry could have cleaned up on and made exciting, but as-is, Chic is just sounding tired. Although I will give props to some nice guitar work in the last third of the song.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Although it debuted as just "Real People" when it hit the chart, the single turned into a double-sided entry the following week as the b-side "Chip Off the Old Block" got some attention. But even that was short-lived and both songs fell off the chart a couple weeks later.

_________________________________________________________________________________