Saturday, July 6, 2013

"Once a Night" by Jackie English

Song#:  0442
Date:  12/20/1980
Debut:  97
Peak:  94
Weeks:  4
Genre:  R&B, Soul, Soundtrack



Pop Bits:  There is very little information around for this singer. From what I can tell, she has written songs for R&B artists and was also in a studio group called Siren with fellow singer/songwriter Beverly Bremers. As Siren, they released the single "Morning Music" in 1979 that went on to win the American Song Festival. The two continued to write songs together and this particular one was featured in the 1980 film comedy "Hopscotch," which starred Walter Matthau. This song and it's b-side appear to be the only solo recordings from English.

ReduxReview:  Here is the second song of 1980 where I could not find a single snippet or anything of the song. So what did I do? Buy the 45 online! Then copied it over to YouTube. Was the purchase worth it? Sure. It's not a great song, but it is not awful either. For a disco-ish song used in a movie, I'd say it is a cut above some of the other background songs movies have used before. The b-side of "Please Let Me Be the Other Woman" is actually a bit better. It was fun to find this single and get it posted. With a lowly peak of #94, it certainly is an obscure single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Although there is not much about English, her writing partner Bremers has an interesting background. She appeared on Broadway in "Hair" and also in the original Tony-nominated Broadway production (and on the cast album) of "The Me Nobody Knows" (1971). Then she signed with Scepter Records and had three pop chart songs including the #15 "Don't Say You Don't Remember." The rest of the decade she didn't seem to have much luck and her collaborations with English didn't really hit big. However, she did very well when she co-wrote "Mousercise" for Disney, a platinum seller. She also had a couple of songs for RCA under the  name Barbara Ann  that became Northern Soul hits.

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Friday, July 5, 2013

"Same Old Lang Syne" by Dan Fogelberg

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0441
Date:  12/13/1980
Debut:  75
Peak:  9
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary



Pop Bits:  Fogelberg's previous album yielded his first and biggest Top 10 hit, the #2 "Longer," along with the #21 "Hearts Hotel." To herald his upcoming album "The Innocent Age," this single was released far in advance of the double LP. Due to the nature of the song (see below), it may have been rush released ahead of the album in order for it to fit in to the holiday season. It payed off as the song became Fogelberg's second Top 10 hit.

ReduxReview:  What a terrific story song. Everything just comes together with the Michael Brecker sax solo at the end tying everything up with a bow. It is a bowl full of introspective melancholy, but it just seems so real, which it was (see below). Even though it wasn't his biggest hit, I think it will be the one that endures the most.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  This song tells the story of a musician who runs into his old girlfriend at a hometown grocery store on Christmas Eve. The song is based on an actual even that happened to Fogelberg. While visiting his family in Peoria, Illinois, for the holidays, he was sent out to look for whip cream and the only place open was a convenience store. An old girlfriend from high school just happened to be out an an errand as well and they ran into each other at the store. The story in the song is pretty much the way it happened with the exception of a few minor details. The woman who is the focal point of the song admitted to being the person following Fogelberg's death in 2007 and verified the story of the song. Since it takes place on Christmas Eve, the song often gets played during the holiday season and is becoming a standard for that time of year.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

"I Ain't Gonna Stand for It" by Stevie Wonder

Song#:  0440
Date:  12/13/1980
Debut:  79
Peak:  11
Weeks:  19
Genre:  R&B



Pop Bits:  Wonder's album "Hotter Than July" got off to a good start when the reggae-influenced track "Master Blaster (Jammin')" hit #5. This follow-up single just barely missed the Top 10 (oh, those pesky #11 peaks!) but it did reach #4 on the AC chart. "Hotter Than July" was Wonder's first album to be eligible for platinum certification, which it did get awarded after the success of these singles.

ReduxReview:  Once again I'll state that Wonder is a genius. However, I just don't understand this song at all. The pedal steel guitar, his weird vocals in the verses, and the country-meets R&B/AC thing is just too strange. I really don't know what he was trying to achieve here and for me it doesn't work. Is he mocking country music? Is he experimenting and trying to get in on the "Urban Cowboy" movement that was happening at the time? Whatever the though process or inspiration, knowing it probably wouldn't change my mind about not liking the tune.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Although "Hotter Than July" only yielded three chart singles included one Top 10, in the UK the album became his most successful. The LP peaked at #2 and spawned four Top 10 hits including this single which reached #10.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"Fool That I Am" by Rita Coolidge

Song#:  0439
Date:  12/13/1980
Debut:  81
Peak:  46
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack



Pop Bits:  After her two Top 10's in 1977, "(You're Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher" and "We're All Alone" (both cover songs), Coolidge's chart fortunes dwindled. She couldn't seem to get back into the Top 30 and her last single, a duet with Glen Campbell, stalled at #42 ("Somethin' 'Bout You Baby I Like"). She issued her "Greatest Hits" LP in 1980 and it included this single release which was from the film "Coast to Coast." It was not a stellar pop chart showing, but it did reach #15 on the AC chart.

ReduxReview:  Although it has good songwriting pedigree with Bruce Roberts and Carol Bayer Sager co-writing, it is quite a bland ballad. I can't say it is a bad song, because it is well-written. But there is just nothing here to latch on to and remember. Nice, but forgettable.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  As her career was beginning, Coolidge met Kris Kristofferson and the pair married in 1973. They also recorded together and ended up winning two Grammy awards for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group in 1974 and 1976. The pair divorced in 1980.

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"Breakfast in America" by Supertramp

Song#:  0438
Date:  12/13/1980
Debut:  82
Peak:  62
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  After three successful singles from their mega-hit album "Breakfast in America," Supertramp released a live album and issued the single "Dreamer" (#15). The second live single was "Breakfast in America," but somehow that did not catch on. Instead, the song was issued from the same-titled album as its fourth single. By that time, the album had pretty much finished up its run and this song peaked far lower than the other three issued singles. However, this song was issued far earlier in the UK as the album's second single and it peaked at #9 there.

ReduxReview:  I know folks recognize this song, but many probably have no idea what the title is. That is probably because it is one of those rare chart songs where the actual title of the song is not included in the lyrics. That makes it kind of hard to request to hear..."um, yeah, can you play that Supertramp song - you know - the one that takes a look at a girlfriend..?" And without a catchy definitive chorus, it makes the song a rather unfortunate choice for a single. Regardless, it is still really good Supertramp from a classic album.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Apparently the French loved this album. It has become the biggest selling English language album in that country. It beats out Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" and Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

"Set the Night on Fire" by Oak

Song#:  0437
Date:  12/13/1980
Debut:  85
Peak:  71
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Pop, Rock



Pop Bits:  New Hampshire's Oak had their first and only Top 40 hit when "King of the Hill" peaked at #36 earlier in the year. (I chose the song as a Redux Spotlight selection.) Trying to keep the momentum going, the group had a personnel change and then released their second album "Set the Night on Fire." The lead title-track single made it to the chart, but it couldn't capitalize on the success of their previous single. The band dissolved once their label, Mercury, dropped them.

ReduxReview:  I found some info on the group that said they wanted to expand on their sound from the first album. And with this single, it seems like that was the case. The first album was quite fun and had interesting pop tunes. This song is a bit darker and is almost reminiscent of the Alan Parsons Project's "Games People Play," which hit the chart the week before. It's an average rock tune, but I kind of like it. Just not as much as I enjoyed the material on their debut album.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In a newspaper article on the band from 1981 featured in the Lewiston, Maine paper, it said that in Stephen King's book "The Dead Zone," there is a scene where a bar burns down. Apparently the band mentioned playing in the bar was Oak. I've never read the book, but something to look for if you do!

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"A Little In Love" by Cliff Richard

Song#:  0436
Date:  12/13/1980
Debut:  88
Peak:  17
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Pop



Pop Bits:  After a massive career in the UK beginning in the late 50's, Richard finally got some recognition in the US with a string of hits starting with 1976's "Devil Woman" (#6). This second single from his "I'm No Hero" album couldn't quite reach the Top 10 and it brought an end to his US hit days as it would be his last Top 20 song.

ReduxReview:  I love this song just as much as his previous hit, the #10 "Dreaming." Again, just a solid, well-done pop song. It should have gone Top 10, but his duet with Olivia Newton-John "Suddenly" was still climbing the chart at the same time so it may have had an effect on this single's performance. But doesn't really matter. It is a wonderful piece of pop.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was written and produced by Alan Tarney. In the late 70's he was part of the Tarney/Spencer Band which ended up putting three low-peaking singles on the pop chart between 1978 and 1981. Also during this time he was also a musician working with Cliff Richard. It ended up being Tarney's composition "We Don't Talk Anymore" that started the resurgence of Richard's career in 1979. The song was such a hit that Tarney was then asked to write and produce Richard's next album, "I'm No Hero," which featured this hit plus "Dreaming." Tarney would do one more album with Richard and then later he would hit again producing the hit albums and singles by a-ha.

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Monday, July 1, 2013

"Ah! Leah!" by Donnie Iris

Song#:  0435
Date:  12/13/1980
Debut:  90
Peak:  29
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  Already hugely popular in his native Pennsylvania, Iris formed his backing group The Cruisers and issued this first solo album. Initially released on the small Midwest Records label, the album and this track became popular in midwest markets and got the attention of MCA Records. They signed Iris and reissued the album and single nationally. The song proved popular on rock radio and crossed over to the pop chart where it peaked just inside the Top 30. Although it wouldn't be his highest peaking chart entry, it proved to be his most popular song and remains a rock radio favorite.

ReduxReview:  The song was really good at the time, but I think this is one that has grown better with age. The sound is terrific and is punctuated by crunchy guitars and cool vocals in the chorus and the bridge. Iris and his group didn't get the full national recognition they deserved, but at least this song continues to live on.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  In the mid-60's, Iris helped form a group that became locally popular by covering R&B tunes. The group began writing their own songs and released a locally successful album in 1969. But their second album in 1970 put the group on the map. The Jaggerz issued the album "We Went to Different Schools Together" which featured the #2 pop chart hit "The Rapper," written by Iris. Despite the title, the song does not have any actual rap in it (this predates rap by quite a long time). Rapping was the term for having a conversation and in this case it referred to how a guy talks to and seduces women. The hit became the only Top 10 for the group and follow-ups failed to replicate the success. The group disbanded in 1977.

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"What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?) by The Star Wars Intergalactic Droid Choir & Chorale

Song#:  0434
Date:  12/13/1980
Debut:  91
Peak:  69
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Novely, Christmas

What Can You Get a Wookiee for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb?) by Star Wars on Grooveshark

R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas by Star Wars on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:  Typically, each year there is a song on the chart that is based off of some pop culture thing. And then there are ones that come out for the holidays. But singles that are a combo of both are quite rare and that is what we have here. Capitalizing on both the Star Wars trilogy phenomenon and Christmas, RSO Records issued the album "Christmas In the Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album" for the 1980 holiday season. Overseen by Meco, who hit the charts with his discofied versions of "Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band" (#1, 1977) and "Empire Strikes Back" (#18, 1980), the album actually sold well and this single had enough support to spend some time on the chart. The album had Christmas-related songs and also narration that told the story of droids in a factory that make toys.

ReduxReview:  What a lump of Christmas coal. This was just a stupid idea. I mean, probably for little kids who loved Star Wars it was kind of fun. And the tunes seemed to be geared towards that crowd - simplistic melodies and structures where anyone can sing along. But really, this is just awful. In fact, I don't want to insult coal. I'd say it is more like a stocking full of turds.

ReduxRating:  1/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The co-producer of the album was Tony Bongiovi. Tony got his cousin John to sing the lead vocals on the song "R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Thus, it became the first professional recording of superstar rocker Jon Bon Jovi. (Bonus track above for listening pleasure!)  2) Composer Maury Yeston wrote most of the original music on the album. He would go on to write the music for the Broadway hits "Nine" (1982) and "Titanic" (1997), and would win Tony awards for each for Best Original Score.

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

"Spend the Night in Love" by Frankie Valli & the 4 Seasons

Song#:  0433
Date:  12/13/1980
Debut:  96
Peak:  91
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop



Pop Bits:  As The 4 Seasons, this group started their chart career in 1962 with the #1 "Sherry." They would continue on and have hits throughout the 60s and 70s racking up 15 Top 10 hits including 5 #1's. Their resurgence in the mid-70s was of particular note as a good part of the lead vocals on their hits went to Gerri Polchi with Frankie Valli providing backing vocals. However, Valli was also having solo success with hits that were recorded with the same production team. The resurgence ended up being short-lived as they failed to follow-up their last hit, 1975's #1 "December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)" with anything significant. The group started the 80s with a double LP of live recordings called "Reunited Live." Although primarily all concert performances, there were two studio songs included (even though the recording seems to make them out to be part of the concert). This first single was one of them. Unfortunately it couldn't crawl out of the chart basement and it ended up being the group's final pop chart entry.

ReduxReview:  With echoes of the BeeGees, this song just sounds like a cheap knock-off. It's a pretty lazy groove and performance. There is no energy or anything to this recording. It's not a great song to begin with, but at least I'd expect a vibrant performance by the group instead of this snooze-fest. It's a sad last chart entry for a truly amazing group.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Discounting a one-off holiday single, The 4 Seasons were the first rock group to have three consecutive singles hit #1 on the chart. In 1962 and 1963, they hit with "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry," and "Walk Like a Man." The singles spent a combined total of 13 weeks at the top of the chart.  2) In 2005, the stage musical "Jersey Boys" debuted on Broadway. The show, which was about the group's beginnings through to their breakup, was a hit and ended up winning four Tony awards including Best Musical.

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