Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Back to the 60's" by Tight Fit

Song#:  0771
Date:  10/10/1981
Debut:  89
Peak:  89
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  This "group" came about when UK producer Ken Gold decided to cash in on the new medley craze (ala Stars on 45). He assembled some studio singers, created this medley of hits from the 60s, and listed it as by the group Tight Fit. It became a hit in the UK reaching #4 with a Part 2 follow-up getting to #33. The following year another producer used session singers for a version of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and issued it under the same moniker. The song was an unexpected hit reaching #1. The success called for an actual group to be formed and so a trio of singers were hired to become the real Tight Fit. They had one additional success with the single "Fantasy Island" (UK #5), but after one album the group splintered due to royalty and contract issues and eventually they were done. In the US, this was Tight Fit's only chart entry and it was very minor since it debuted and peaked at the same low position.

ReduxReview:  Bleh - another one. The thing about this one is that they seem to try and mimic the originals but really don't even come close. At least Stars on 45 did quite well at imitating the original recordings. I guess if I had to say anything positive, it would be that the tune is well-constructed. Other than that, besides trying to make money off of a fad, there was no reason for this to exist.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  One of the session singers for this song was Martin Page. He later had success as a songwriter ("We Built This City" by Starship and "These Dreams" by Heart) and as a solo artist. His single "In the House of Stone and Light" reach #14 in 1994.


Friday, March 28, 2014

"Run to Me" by Savoy Brown

Song#:  0770
Date:  10/10/1981
Debut:  90
Peak:  68
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  This UK band began life in 1965 with guitarist Kim Simmonds forming the group. As part of the whole British blues-rock movement going on at the time, the band was successful, but never really broke wide into the mainstream like some of their contemporaries. It took a while for them to make some inroads in the US but they finally got into the Top 100 of the album chart with 1969's "A Step Further," (#71) which featured the #74 single "I'm Tired." Despite constant personnel changes, the group continued to put albums on the chart over the next decade. The German pressing of their 1981 LP "Rock 'n' Roll Warriors" featured this single that would be their best (and last) pop chart entry.

ReduxReview:  This in no way sounds like British blues-rock. I'm sure things changed over the years for the group and this single may be an oddity in the catalog. I actually like the tune and it has a nice retro-60s girl group sound that gets amped up. I can't say I'd dive into their catalog at all after this, but I did enjoy this single.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was a cover of the 1980 single from the UK group Smokie (not to be confused with the Bee Gee's #16 hit from 1972). It was released as a single only and not included on any of Smokie's proper studio LPs.  2) The group was famous for featuring a new/altered line-up of members practically each year. Throughout the band's history, only founder Kim Simmonds remained as the only original member. More than 60 other musicians were considered a member of the band at some point in time. This inconsistency has been long considered a contributing factor as to why the band didn't achieve wider popularity. In 1970, as a four-member band they recorded the album "Looking In." Soon after, three members left the group to form Foghat, which left Simmonds by himself and forming a completely new Savoy Brown.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Physical" by Olivia Newton-John

#1 Alert!
Platinum Alert!
Song#:  0769
Date:  10/03/1981
Debut:  66
Peak:  1 (10 weeks)
Weeks:  26
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  With two major hits in 1981 spending nine weeks each at #1 ("Bette Davis Eyes" and "Endless Love"), what were the chances an even bigger hit would come along? Not likely - but it happened. Newton-John's image and music had been changing to more mainstream pop with her #1 hit "Magic" foreshadowing what was to come. But no one expected this title-track to her new album to take over the airwaves and be a pop culture reference for years after. The song was an immediate smash and its 10-week #1 run tied the longest streak in the rock era originally set by Debby Boone's "You Light Up My Life" in 1977. The song would go on to be the #1 song for 1982 and after the decade finished, it would be the #1 chart song and best-selling single of the 80s. Newton-John would also receive a Grammy nod for Best Pop Vocal Performance Female.

ReduxReview:  This is a classic 80s hit, but I can't say that it is one of my favorites. I did like it when it came out and everyone was talking about the video, but I never really understood why it was such a huge hit - except for the fact that it was around this time the aerobics movement was beginning and Jane Fonda's video was about ready to be unleashed. The song holds up surprisingly well and I enjoy it when it plays, but for me there are several other ONJ songs that I think are better than this single.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This song was originally pitched as "Let's Get Physical" and suggested for Rod Stewart.  2) The lyrics are tame by today's standards, but in 1981 they caused a stir with some radio stations banning the song.  3) The comical video which played up the physical aspect at a gym caused issues on its own when at the end the now in-shape guys ignore Newton-John and walk out hand-in-hand. The gay nature of the ending caused some stations who played the video to cut out of it early. And despite the comedic nature, some considered it too sexy and it was banned by some stations in Canada and the UK. Newton-John's full video of the album, "Olivia Physical," would win a Grammy for Video of the Year.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Promises in the Dark" by Pat Benatar

Song#:  0768
Date:  10/03/1981
Debut:  71
Peak:  38
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Benatar's second single from her #1 LP "Precious Time" reached the Top 40, but couldn't get near the Top 20 like the first single "Fire and Ice" (#17). However, it did reach #16 on the Mainstream Rock chart. Written in 1980, it was considered for her "Crimes of Passion" album, but it was saved and fully finished for "Precious Time."

ReduxReview:  This ballad-into-rock song is a good one in her catalog, but the shifts the song makes along with her heavier rock sound were probably not suited for the more straightforward pop radio. It was the first chart single co-written by Benatar and her guitarist/very-soon-to-be husband Neil Giraldo.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Like her previous two albums, "Precious Time" featured a couple of interesting remakes. She covers Paul Revere and the Raiders' "Just Like Me" (#11, 1965) and the Beatles' "Helter Skelter" (1968).


"I Want You, I Need You" by Chris Christian

Song#:  0767
Date:  10/03/1981
Debut:  82
Peak:  37
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Christian first enjoyed some success in music via the Mike Curb-assembled group Cotton, Lloyd and Christian. The trio hit #66 in 1975 with "I Go to Pieces," a remake of Peter & Gordon's #9 hit in 1965 (written by Del Shannon). A few years later he was the first artist signed to Boardwalk Records (soon to be home of Joan Jett) and his self-titled debut album was issued that featured this first single. It made the Top 40 and also reached Top 10 at AC. He would continue to record over the years but soon his main focus turned to songwriting and producing for many major artist like Olivia Newton-John, The Pointer Sisters, Sheena Easton, and Natalie Cole.

ReduxReview:  I remembered the song title and name but couldn't remember the song - that is until the chorus kicked in. Then it all came flooding back. This is a solid entry in that pop/AC singer/songwriter area where folks like Stephen Bishop or Robbie Dupree hung out. It still sounds nice and I may have to add it to my iTunes so it doesn't get forgotten again.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The background vocals on this song were done by Cheryl Ladd (of "Charlie's Angels"). She originally moved to Hollywood to pursue a music career and was the voice of Melody on the cartoon "Josie and the Pussycats," which led to more acting gigs. But her success in "Charlie's Angels" allowed her to record an album and the single "Think It Over" reach #34 in 1978.  2) Fittingly, Christian later turned to the Christian market and released several albums. He was also responsible for signing Amy Grant and he produced her debut album.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Let's Groove" by Earth, Wind & Fire

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0766
Date:  10/03/1981
Debut:  83
Peak:  3
Weeks:  24
Genre:  R&B, Funk, Dance

Pop Bits:  The group's previous release, the double-LP "Faces," signaled a decline with none of its three singles reaching the pop Top 40 and the album only reaching gold status (after six straight platinum/multi-platinum efforts). While certainly not a failure, it's performance prompted the group to look at the new musical landscape of the 80s and to try and incorporate some of the new sounds into their formula. The result was the album "Raise!" and although it wasn't a big critical success, the LP reached #1 at R&B and #5 pop (their last to reach the Top 10). This first single had a lot to do with the album's success as it spent five weeks at #3 on the pop chart and eight weeks at #1 on R&B. It would be their final pop Top 10 hit and their last to go gold.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't all that into EWF, but I did like this song. I was surprised it did so well in the anti-disco days, as this really is based in disco. It's got a jammin' groove and is probably their best latter-day offering. It still holds up well and I always keep it in my Jamz playlist.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The song got the group a Grammy nod for Best R&B Performance Duo or Group.


"A Lucky Guy" by Rickie Lee Jones

Song#:  0765
Date:  10/03/1981
Debut:  84
Peak:  64
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop, Singer/Songwriter

Pop Bits:  Jones burst on the music scene in 1979 with her #3 self-titled debut album that featured the #4 hit "Chuck E.'s in Love." The effort won her the Grammy for Best New Artist with the song getting nods for both Record and Song of the Year. With a hefty spotlight now on her, Jones issued her sophomore effort "Pirates." Although it wasn't as big a seller as her debut, it still went gold and reached #5 on the album chart. This first single couldn't replicate the success of her previous hit and it would be the only song from the album to reach the pop chart. However, two other songs from the album did get onto the Mainstream Rock chart.

ReduxReview:  I remember discovering "Pirates" a couple years after it came out. I didn't think I cared that much for Jones since I didn't really get "Chuck E.'s in Love" at the time. But it was her third release, the 10" EP "Girl at Her Volcano" that I bought on a whim, that lead me back to "Pirates." I remember borrowing it from the local library. I was floored by it. It was beautiful, challenging, and so different from anything I had been listening to at the time. I was an instant fan. This album and her debut still remain two of my all-time favorite albums. "Pirates" didn't really have single material so this song may have been the best to give it a go. It's a great song, just not a good single. I wished they would have issued the upbeat "Woody and Dutch" first. It might have done a little better.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  A few songs from the album (like "A Lucky Guy") were inspired by the breakup of her relationship with musician Tom Waits. They met in 1977 and eventually lived together in L.A. After their breakup, Jones moved to New York City and commenced the writing and recording of "Pirates."


Monday, March 24, 2014

"Leila" by ZZ Top

Song#:  0764
Date:  10/03/1981
Debut:  85
Peak:  77
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After their first album to go platinum, 1979's "Deg├╝ello," the bearded gentlemen returned with "El Loco." Although it wasn't as popular, only reaching gold status, the LP was one that marked a slight shift in their sound and really previewed what was to come. Incorporating synths into the track "Groovy Little Hippy Pad" gave it a new wave feel that would really take hold with their next album "Eliminator." But before that mega-hit there was this single from "El Loco" that spent a short month on the chart.

ReduxReview:  This pop ballad release was a bit unusual for a band known for their blues-rock boogies. For me, it is not their forte. It's just an okay song with little personality to it. The recording is so slight it almost sounds like a demo. The softer side of ZZ Top is not something I necessarily needed to hear.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Although ZZ Top could only manage this minor pop chart entry from "El Loco," the album contained two Mainstream Rock chart hits. "Tube Snake Boogie" reached #4 while "Pearl Necklace" peaked at #27. As you can probably tell from these titles, the album had its share of not-so-subtle double entendres.


"Fire in the Sky" by The Dirt Band

Song#:  0763
Date:  10/03/1981
Debut:  86
Peak:  76
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Soft Rock, Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  The Dirt Band (aka Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) maintained their soft rock path and their shortened name with the album "Jealousy." Unfortunately, it seemed that it all wasn't working for them as the LP couldn't get into the Top 100 and this first single remained in the basement for a month. This prompted a reevaluation of their direction and in 1982 they returned to their original full name and a move back to their country beginnings with the LP "Let's Go." The change would be the right move as the album was a hit and they started a streak of 15 consecutive country Top 10 hits including three #1's. But the success at country didn't translate to pop and this single would be their last to reach the chart.

ReduxReview:  This band is full of great musicians and I think this song is a bit simplistic for them. Their decision to move towards pop/rock was probably not their best move, but sometimes you have to do that in order to find out where you belong. Other similar soft rock bands at the time had far better material and this one pales in comparison.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) On initial release, this single failed to reach the country chart. After their successful direction change, the group would revisit this tune for their "Twenty Years of Dirt" hits collection and re-record it in a country style. It was issued as a single and reached #7 on the country chart.  2) When Steve Martin appeared on SNL and did his hit tune "King Tut," The Dirt Band was the backing band for the appearance. They were billed as The Toots Uncommons.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

"Magic Power" by Triumph

Song#:  0762
Date:  10/03/1981
Debut:  89
Peak:  51
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Canadian band Triumph never really set the charts a-fire (they ended up with two minor Top 40 entries), but their relentless touring garnered them lots of fans who would get their albums to reach gold status. Their fifth album, "Allied Forces," became their peak moment hitting #23 on the chart and going platinum. It was helped along by this single which almost tipped into the top half of the chart. It wasn't a big pop hit but at rock radio it reached #8 and their follow-up song "Fight the Good Fight" reached #18 (though not charting at pop).

ReduxReview:  Had this made the Top 40 back then when I was all over it, I'm sure I would have latched onto this song pronto. It is right up my alley. But I actually didn't hear this song until a few years later when I caught it on a rock radio station. I didn't know who it was and it took me a while to find out, but I went and got the album when I discovered it was Triumph. The bulk of the album I really didn't care for, but this song was a favorite and I still enjoy it.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Vocalist/Guitarist Rik Emmett got the odd spelling to his first name by accident. The credits on the band's first album was supposed to be Rick Emmett. But due to an error it ended up as Rik. Instead of pulling/reprinting albums or causing further confusion, he just adopted the spelling and remained as Rik throughout his career.