Saturday, July 20, 2013

"Seasons" by Charles Fox

Song#:  0462
Date:  01/24/1981
Debut:  89
Peak:  75
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Classical Crossover

Pop Bits:  The 1980 film "Ordinary People" was a success for director Robert Redford and it would soon go on to win Oscars including Best Picture. The film's music included the well-known classical piece Pachelbel's "Canon in D." Use of the piece must have made it popular at the time as composer Charles Fox created this song based on the work. Fox may not be a well-known name, but most likely you've heard some of his songs. He co-wrote (with Norman Gimble) hits like "Killing Me Softly with His Song" by Roberta Flack and "Ready to Take a Chance Again" by Barry Manilow. He also wrote the themes to TV shows like "Happy Days" and "Laverne and Shirley" that also became hit singles. This was Fox's only pop chart entry, but after winning a Grammy and an Emmy and being nominated for an Oscar, he really didn't need pop stardom.

ReduxReview:  Okay, so not as horrible as the premise sounds. Sometimes classical pieces updated to a more pop version can be just awful. However, this one is not too modernized and the main add is drums. For poppin' up a dusty classic, this is listenable.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In addition to writing/co-writing themes for TV shows like the ones mentioned above, along with "Love, American Style" (which got him an Emmy) and "The Love Boat," Fox also did themes for game shows. The one that folks may recognize even today is the theme to the hilarious "Match Game."


Friday, July 19, 2013

"Lipstick" by Suzi Quatro

Song#:  0461
Date:  01/24/1981
Debut:  90
Peak:  51
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Detroit native had minor success in her home country with only the #4 "Stumblin' In" (1979) her only big chart hit. However, in the UK/Europe and Australia she was a star with #1 songs and hit albums - to the tune of 50 million sold. She has been cited by many as a groundbreaking musician by being the first true female rocker who could write/play/lead a band and give the boys a run. Producer Mickie Most is the one who picked up Quatro and took her to the UK and kickstarted her career, but for some reason it didn't translate to major stardom in the US. For most folks here, you mention her name and they think of her portrayal of "Leather Tuscadero" in the TV show "Happy Days," most likely her biggest success here along with the one hit single. Her seventh album "Rock Hard" contained this single, which would be her last chart entry.

ReduxReview:  Written by the hit songwriting team of Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn, this is kind of odd song with attitude and interesting lyrics. It kind of reminds me of "Gloria" (the Them song, not Laura Branigan's). I think this would stand out on radio, but not sure if many pop radio fans would warm up to this song. I kind of dig it.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Quatro began her career in a band that included two of her sisters called The Pleasure Seekers. They issued a couple of singles and then later changed their name to Cradle. It was while she was in Cradle that Mickie Most spotted her and offered a contract. Her sister Patty went on to be a part of the all-female band Fanny, which were also highly influential despite a lack of hits.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

"Woman" by John Lennon

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0460
Date:  01/17/1981
Debut:  36
Peak:  2
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Woman by Jonh Lenon on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:  At the time of Lennon's murder, "(Just Like) Starting Over" was in the Top 10 as was the album "Double Fantasy." Both rose quickly to #1 after his death and spent several weeks at the top. Apparently, Lennon had already picked "Woman" to be the follow-up single and it became his first posthumous release peaking at #2 for three weeks.

ReduxReview:  I'll have to state that I don't think "Double Fantasy" is a great album. And with the events tied to it, the LP is a little hard to listen to sometimes. I've listened to it several times and the pairing of Ono's odd little tunes with some average-to-great Lennon songs just does not work for me (and yes I understand the concept - which makes his death even sadder). However, Lennon did have some solid songs and this is one of them. It was actually this song that got me to listen to the album. If pushed, I would admit that this seems a bit of a simple ditty from Lennon, but he does such a great job with it and it just works.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  When "Double Fantasy" was release, it initially received a good chunk of negative reviews including ones from Rolling Stone and The Village Voice. After his death, many publications chose to remove the bad reviews and the album went on to be a big hit and even win the Grammy for Album of the Year. And now the album has basically reach "classic" status and is typically included in many "best of" album lists. Had Lennon not been killed, chances are the legacy of the album might have been different. But with his death comes a certain attachment to the LP and perhaps even new meaning to some of the songs. Historical moments have affected music before and this is definitely one of those cases.


"Treat Me Right" by Pat Benatar

Song#:  0459
Date:  01/17/1981
Debut:  68
Peak:  18
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This third single from Benatar's album "Crimes of Passion" was her first chart single where she was credited as co-writer. The charging anthem couldn't quite follow "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" into the Top 10, but it helped to keep the album alive on the chart, eventually becoming her best-selling LP.

ReduxReview:  Although a bit more rockier and darker than "Hit Me," I think this is a solid single. But I think radio at the time and record buyers kind of preferred the pop-leaning Benatar than the full-on rock one with songs like this just getting into the Top 20. Doesn't matter though because they are still great and remain rock standards.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  One of the popular songs from "Crimes of Passion" was not released as a single, but became an airplay favorite at rock radio. Benatar's child abuse song "Hell Is for Children" (which was not autobiographical in any way) got a lot of play and attention. And due to the positive response Benatar received, a foundation for abused children was established at the time. The song was also featured in the animated film "American Pop" (1981) and on its soundtrack.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"Flash's Theme aka Flash" by Queen

Song#:  0458
Date:  01/17/1981
Debut:  79
Peak:  42
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  While their previous album "The Game" was topping the chart, Queen finished off their soundtrack album to the movie "Flash Gordon." Very few films at the time used a rock score written and performed by a specific band and Queen's venture certainly became memorable. This first and only single from the album was done in a style reflective of the cartoon-ish nature of the film and became instantly recognizable. Although the single did not reach the Top 40 and the album petered out at #23, it has become something of a cult hit - the same as what would happen with the film. Although not a major box office dud, it didn't do great business and was considered a failure in the US. However, in the UK the film was a smash hit and the song and album went into the Top 10.

ReduxReview:  "FLASH!   Aaaa...Aaaaa!" I really don't know a person who would not know what this is if I said (sang?) it. It is pure camp classic in my book. However, as a single it borders on novelty and besides the chuggin' beat and the aforementioned line, there really is little here in the way of an actual song. But it does remain a well-known oddity in the Queen catalog.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Over the years, the film and soundtrack have become pop culture touchstones and both have been used on TV shows, commercials and films. Most recently, the soundtrack was used in the 2012 movie "Ted," where the "Flash Gordon" movie is important in the plot of the film.


"Watching You" by Slave

Song#:  0457
Date:  01/17/1981
Debut:  90
Peak:  78
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  Formed in Dayton, Ohio, in 1975, this funk outfit had a #1 R&B hit (#32 pop) out of the box with "Slide" from their self-titled debut. The group had personnel changes over the years and by their third album, drummer Steve Arrington came on board and soon took over most of the lead vocal duties. Their fifth album, "Stone Jam," got them their second gold album as this first single hit #6 on the R&B chart and it became their second pop chart entry.

ReduxReview:  This is good funk, but nothing that makes my want to really shake my money maker. I just find it to be a cut above average. I think it may be missing a more solid/memorable line or chorus that would take it to the next level. I've heard far better funk, and yet far worse too.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although the group only had one Top 40 pop hit and two other lower-chart songs, they ended up having 20 R&B chart entries including one #1 ("Slide") and three other Top 10's.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"Somebody's Knockin'" by Terri Gibbs

Song#:  0456
Date:  01/17/1981
Debut:  90
Peak:  13
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Country Crossover

Somebody's Knockin' by Terri Gibbs on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:  Gibbs had been trying to break into the music business for a few years when her demo finally got her a deal with MCA Records. This title track to her debut album became a #8 country hit and crossed over to the pop Top 20. Blind since birth, Gibbs started on piano when a youngster and had her own band later in the 70s. Although this song would end up being her biggest hit, she did place several more songs on the country chart.

ReduxReview:  I've never been a fan of this song. It's got that oom-pa feel that I don't particularly like. The vocal is very laid back as well. I'm sure she is a very good singer, but based on this single I couldn't really tell if that was the case. Just not my thing.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was nominated for a Best Country Song Grammy.  2) When the CMA's began the new Horizon award, given to rising country artists, Gibbs was the inaugural recipient of the award.


"Long Time Lovin' You" by McGuffey Lane

Song#:  0455
Date:  01/10/1981
Debut:  97
Peak:  85
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Country, Country Crossover

Long Time Lovin' You by McGuffey Lane on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:  This country band from Columbus, Ohio, developed a solid following and their self-released first album sold enough to get the attention of Atco Records. Once signed, the album was reissued and this first single got a small taste of chart action in 1980. They posted a few minor country chart songs throughout the early 80s, but with personnel changes and the loss of their record deal, the group slowly disbanded as the decade wore on. Some members ended up getting together again and they have recorded a couple of reunion albums. The group still performs around the Ohio area.

ReduxReview:  I find this song slightly frustrating. For the most part, I don't care much for it. It starts off like a little country-ish shuffle and there is nothing about it that sparks my interest, including the pedal steel guitar/harmonica solo. And then after the last reading of the chorus comes this really nice little outro section that kicks up the song. But it is not enough to fully save it for me and it just remains in the bland country category.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  The band is named after the street where the house of group member Steve Reis is located.


Monday, July 15, 2013

"Toccata" by Sky

Song#:  0454
Date:  01/10/1981
Debut:  86
Peak:  83
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Pop, Classical Crossover, Prog Rock

Toccata by Sky on Grooveshark

Pop Bits:  Sky came into being after classical guitarist John Williams (not the famous composer/conductor of film scores) started branching out into non-classical music. His first non-classical album, "Changes," used some musicians with whom he became friends. Eventually this led to them becoming a group that would straddle the genres of pop, prog rock and classical. Sky's self-titled debut album came out in 1979 and was a major hit in the UK and Australia. The album featured original songs plus a re-imagining of a classical piece. Their second album was the double-LP "Sky 2," which built on the premise and expanded it greatly. The album reached #1 in the UK and this single even made it to #5. Here in the States the group did not catch on quite as well, but the song did manage to scrape the chart for a couple of weeks. It is their only chart song. The group would release three more albums before John Williams left the group to return full-time to his classical career. Sky continued on for a couple more releases, but eventually they stopped recording after 1987's "Mozart."

ReduxReview:  Hmm. I dunno. When the lines of pop/rock and classical cross, it can be interesting or hideous. I can't say that this one is hideous, but I don't find it good either. Synths in classical had already been done and adding some rock instruments wasn't necessarily inventive either. So the interest would be in the arrangement and there is just not much here that gets my attention. It's kind of like steroidal Muzak. And while I don't think it is unlistenable, I still would not want to be trapped on an elevator with it blaring.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  As Sky's first album was hitting, John Williams himself had an odd solo single reach the UK Top 10. His version of "Cavatina," written by Stanley Myers, was used in the 1978 film "The Deer Hunter" and the song ended up being a hit. Williams was already well-known, but this single certainly helped to promote the Sky project.


"Fly Away" by Peter Allen

Song#:  0453
Date:  01/10/1981
Debut:  88
Peak:  55
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Welcome to 1981!!

Pop Bits:  This Australian entertainer never gained much attention here in the US as a recording artist. Even though he consistently released solo albums from 1971 through to 1990, his only chart single was this song from his album "Bi-Coastal." However, as a songwriter he had several major hits like "I Honestly Love You" by Olivia Newton-John and "Don't Cry Out Loud" by Melissa Manchester. Allen also won an Academy Award as co-writer of the winning song "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" sung by Christopher Cross. Despite the lack of solo hits, Allen was a very popular cabaret-style performer and would often have sold-out shows here in the States, including at Radio City Music Hall. Brought to the States by Judy Garland's husband Mark Herron, Allen would eventually marry Garland's daughter Liza Minnelli in 1967. They split in 1974 and soon after Allen would come out as gay. His partner of 15 years would die in 1984 from an AIDS-related illness. Allen himself would also pass away of throat cancer, related to AIDS, in 1992.

ReduxReview:  This song was co-written by David Foster and Carol Bayer Sager, and produced by Foster. And it does reek of them. West-coast poppy, slick, adult contemporary and all done very well. However, the actual song this time around is just not very strong. Foster and Bayer Sager have both written great songs, but this is not one of their best efforts - even when combining forces. And although Allen sounds good, this slick pop style doesn't really suit him and I think his personality gets lost in the production.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Allen's life was celebrated in a documentary film called "The Boy from Oz." This was then turned into a stage musical using Allen's songs. Eventually, the show made it to Broadway in 2003 with Hugh Jackman portraying Allen. Jackman would win a Tony award for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance.