Saturday, August 9, 2014

"Making Love" by Roberta Flack

Song#:  0942
Date:  03/06/1982
Debut:  80
Peak:  13
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  After two duet singles with Donny Hathaway (released after his death), Flack returned to solo work with this theme from the film "Making Love." Written by Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager, and Bruce Roberts, the languid ballad crept up into the Top 20 while reaching #7 at AC. Although Flack would reach these heights again in duet form (mainly the 1991 #6 hit "Set the Night to Music" with Maxi Priest), this song would be her last solo work to reach the Top 40.

ReduxReview:  I remember when this movie came out (pun intended). Of course I had to see the film but no one would go with me. So I went by myself to an afternoon matinee. I think it was just me and two older ladies in the theater. It was not a good film. However, it at least spawned this song which I've always liked. It's a lovely and quiet song that always suits Flack well.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The film "Making Love" was one of the first major studio efforts to take on the subject of homosexuality and relationships. Starring Kate Jackson, Michael Ontkean, and Harry Hamlin, the film did well when it first opened, but quickly sank due to negative reviews and bad word-of-mouth. Although not a great film, it did play a role in gay culture as being one of the first mainstream gay-oriented movies that featured established actors. Several major stars were considered for the closeted Michael Ontkean role, but many passed due to the subject matter and what it might do to their career. However, Ontkean continued to work after the movie and Harry Hamlin went on to be a TV star via "L.A. Law."


Friday, August 8, 2014

"I've Never Been to Me" by Charlene

Top 10 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  0941
Date:  03/06/1982
Debut:  84
Peak:  3
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Charlene Duncan was signed to Motown in 1974 and after a failed initial single, she recorded a full album for their Prodigal label in 1977. Her first single from the LP, "It Ain't Easy Comin' Down," barely nicked the pop chart (#97). A second album (which was a basic revamp of the first) swiftly followed that included a new single, "Freddie," which didn't fare much better (#96). A second single was lifted from the LP and it too couldn't muster much business reaching #97. That single was "I've Never Been to Me." Charlene recorded another album, but it was shelved and her time at Motown ended. Or so it seemed. Fast forward a few years to when Tampa DJ Scott Shannon started to play the song at the behest of his girlfriend. It caught on, became popular, and soon Motown was on the ball and issued a new single. By this time, Charlene Oliver (remarried name) was living in England and working at a sweets shop. Motown swooped her back up, re-signed her and had her in the studio recording an album that would share the song's title. The famous track reached #3 in the US and proceeded to hit #1 in the UK and other countries. Unfortunately, Charlene couldn't quite follow-up the unexpected smash and it garnered her one-hit wonder status.

ReduxReview:  Long before the drag queens of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" were miming this song, my best friend and I were doing the same thing in the front seat of her 1978 powder blue Maverick. We loved this song! Of course I had to get the LP and her mellow AC sound was terrific. I was an immediate fan. Now when I hear it, the song has lost a lot of its initial luster. It still is a wonderfully overdone syrupy song that brings back lots of memories, but I can't really defend that it's a great song. It's kind of bad really - but in a good way. Know what I mean? I still listen to the "I've Never Been to Me" album on occasion with great fondness and I always look forward to Charlene telling me what paradise is.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This song appeared on her first album "Charlene" in 1977. It then made her revamped second album "Songs of Love." However, on that LP the famous spoken word recitation was taken out with that section of the song left as an instrumental break. That version was the single that reached #97 in 1977. When the song was released by Motown in 1982, it was the full original version with the spoken word section intact.  2) Charlene was not the first to record this song. Jazz/R&B singer Randy Crawford included it on a 1976 LP. Nancy Wilson was the first to issue the song as a single and it reached #47 on the R&B chart in 1977.  3) The song is from a woman's point of view, but a male version exists. Originally recorded by Walter Jackson in 1977, the lyrics were changed to be about an old dying man talking to a young guy. The Temptations did this version for a 1982 album.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

"Don't You Want Me" by Human League

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  0940
Date:  03/06/1982
Debut:  86
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  28
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Martyn Ware and Craig Marsh initially form the synth-based band The Future. With little interest coming their way, they added non-professional vocalist Philip Oakey and became The Human League. They were signed to Virgin Records and issued a pair of albums in 1979 and 1980. The albums and singles didn't fare well and inner tensions on musical direction lead to the group being split. Ware and Marsh went off to form Heaven 17 while Oakey retained The Human League moniker and all that came with it - including debts and a contractual tour. Oakey found a couple of girls at a night club to dance and do vocals and set out on the road. After a rough tour, Oakey kept the girls on and fleshed out the band to start recording a new album. Their initial singles from what would be come the "Dare!" album were UK hits and the album shot to #1 when issued. The US didn't get a taste of the group until this single (the fourth one from the album in the UK) came out. It was a smash on both sides of the pond and it helped earn the group a Grammy nod for Best New Artist.

ReduxReview:  Smells like the 80s!! Oh yeah. I loved this song right off the bat. It just sounded so different with all the synths along with Oakey's otherworldly voice, yet it was basically just a pop tune. Once I got the album, I totally fell for the group. Even their look was fabulous. "Dare!" is a great album and remains one of my all-time favorites. Since the song really hit in the summer, I associate it with that season and I'll usually pull this disc out during that time of year for a listen. In fact, I had just pulled this disc off my shelf to listen to right before I found out this song was on the next chart to cover! Brilliant! Desert Island Disc? Check.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The song was initially recorded with a different synth arrangement, but producer Martin Rushent didn't like it. He remixed it with a softer, poppier sound much to the dislike of Oakey who then got the song buried as the last track on the album. When the label wanted a fourth single and chose this, Oakey was vehemently against it as he considered the song the weakest on the album and thought it would kill the progress they made with their previous hit singles. But as usually happens, the label won out and the song got issued and an iconic song from the 80s was born.  2) The song has been credited with being the first #1 single that used the famous Linn drum machine.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

"Shanghai Breezes" by John Denver

Song#:  0939
Date:  03/06/1982
Debut:  87
Peak:  31
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After providing an assist to opera star Placido Domingo ("Perhaps Love," #59), Denver set out to record a new solo album. "Seasons of the Heart" featured a solo version of the Domingo duet along with this first single. While it only made the pop Top 40, the song reached #1 at AC. Denver would have a couple of more chart songs, but this one closed his Top 40 career. The album would also be his last studio album to reach gold status.

ReduxReview:  You have to hand it to Denver that he really didn't change his sound much over the years and he remained quite popular. This song would easily sit by any of his early 70s output and probably would have been a bigger hit then. I'm surprised it got into the Top 40, but that was probably due to its popularity at AC. Even though I wasn't a fan of his output during this time, I did go see him in concert that summer at Pine Knob Amphitheater. He did a lovely acoustic performance and everyone was singing along. I always remember that concert because my best friend's brother was trying to sing along but he couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. He sounded like a dying walrus (or so I imagine what one would sound like). And on the way there, we were driving with the windows down and this other person with us said "I smell a lake." We laughed, but she was right. Around the next bend was a lake. Good times.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Interested in the preservation of the ecology and environmental issues, Denver befriended ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau. Denver spent time on Cousteau's research boat and ended up writing a song about it. "Calypso" was the name of Cousteau's boat and Denver's song of the same name became a popular b-side to his 1975 #1 hit "I'm Sorry."


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Always on My Mind" by Willie Nelson

Top 10 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  0938
Date:  03/06/1982
Debut:  88
Peak:  5
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Country

Pop Bits:  By 1982, Nelson had scored 16 solo Top 10 hits on the country chart including 7 #1's. How many Top 10's did he have at pop? Zero. That is until he recorded this song. Serving as the first single from the same-titled album, it zoomed up the country chart to #1. Pop radio caught on and very soon Nelson had his first pop Top 10 hit. The song was so strong that it ended up being the #1 country single of the year and received a platinum certification. The album would peak at #2 pop and spend 22 weeks at #1 on the country chart. It would also become the second best-selling of his career behind his 1978 standards album "Stardust." The song would go on to receive three Grammy awards for Song of the Year, Best Country Song, and Best Male Country Vocal Performance. In a career filled with many peak moments, this was one of Nelson's most popular periods.

ReduxReview:  For me, Willie Nelson has one of those voices that can be both beautiful and annoying at the same time. Because of that, I didn't fully appreciate this song back in the day. Over the years it has grown on me and I've begun to hear why people enjoyed it so much. It's a well-written, pretty song and Nelson's performance is nicely vulnerable.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Published in 1972, this song was first recorded that year by Gwen McCrae and then Brenda Lee.  Lee's single version hit the country chart but only got as high as #45. Also that year, Elvis Presley recorded the song. It served as the b-side to his #20 song "Separate Ways." The song would go on to reach the pop Top 10 again in 1988 when Pet Shop Boys hit #4 with their remake.


Monday, August 4, 2014

"Don't Stop Me Baby (I'm on Fire)" by The Boys Band

Song#:  0937
Date:  03/06/1982
Debut:  89
Peak:  61
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Country Rock

Pop Bits:  Rusty Golden had been a musician since he was a kid and by his teen years he was already on tour playing drums for the gospel group The Rambos. He branched out to guitar and keyboards later and ended up playing a few gigs with his dad's group, The Oak Ridge Boys (member William Lee Golden is Rusty's father). William encouraged his son to start a group and with a couple of friends he formed The Boys Band. The trio got signed to Elektra and issued their self-titled debut LP. This first single spent a little time on the chart, but it seems it wasn't enough for the group to continue. This would be their lone single and LP.

ReduxReview:  The song straddles the line between soft rock and country. It's not too bad and the harmonies are quite nice. I wouldn't say this is outstanding in any way, but the tune is a pleasant enough listen. It probably went as high on the chart as it could as there is not too much here to really draw in a radio listener.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Rusty and his brother Chris would go on to form The Goldens later in the 80s. They would issue two albums and gain a few minor country chart entries along the way, but without the hits coming their way, the group broke up.  2) Composer Lalo Shiffrin of "Mission: Impossible" fame wrote and conducted all the string arrangements on "The Boys Band" LP.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

"The Longer You Wait" by Gino Vannelli

Song#:  0936
Date:  03/06/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  89
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Vannelli's first album for the Arista label, "Nightwalker," did quite well thanks to his #6 hit "Living Inside Myself." Work commenced on his next album titled "Twisted Heart" and Vannelli decided to branch out his sound a bit. When the final product was presented to the ever-prickly Arista head Clive Davis, he wasn't buying it. The whole artist vs. label issue ensued with Davis shelving the album and Vannelli wanting out of his contract. Vannelli did get out of his contract, but it was a costly move that would keep him off the charts for three years. However, this one song from the album did get issued as a preliminary single. Coming out with little fanfare or label support, the single died after a few minor chart weeks.

ReduxReview:  I'm not sure about this one. The retro sounding tune mixed with modern pop/rock flare is certainly interesting, but I think it is the over-the-top vocals that are bothering me. Vannelli sounds like he is trying too hard to rock out, perhaps ala Freddie Mercury. Whatever his motivation, it comes off sounding over exaggerated and odd. So I guess it is appealingly irritating.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  It has been written many times that Gino Vannelli was the first white artist to appear on the TV music show "Soul Train" in 1975. However, according to biographers of "Soul Train," Vannelli was actually the second. Session musician Dennis Coffey appeared on "Soul Train" in 1972. Having been a member of the famous Funk Brothers (the session group who backed many Motown hits in the 60s), Coffey also maintained a solo career with his Detroit Guitar Band which led to the 1971 release of his instrumental "Scorpio." The gold record hit #6 at pop/#9 at R&B and got him an appearance on "Soul Train." Vannelli appeared on the show a second time in 1978 singing "I Just Wanna Stop." That song ended up a #4 pop hit and was his best effort at R&B reaching #21.