Saturday, September 20, 2014

"Only the Lonely" by The Motels

Top 10 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1000
Date:  04/24/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  9
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Pop

**Milestone! This is the 1,000 song to hit the chart in the 80s and therefore, my 1,000 song posting. How fitting that it lands on one of my all-time favorites songs from the decade. With still over 7-1/2 years yet to cover, I've got a long way to go. But I've made it this far and I have really enjoyed the journey. I hope it has provided some kind of entertainment for others out in the inners-nets as well.

Pop Bits:   An early version of The Motels formed in Los Angeles in the late 70s and they were offered a contract from Capitol Records. The group ended up declining the deal and then disbanded. In 1978, the band's lead singer and songwriter, Martha Davis, revived The Motels name and a new group was formed. Offered another contract with Capitol, this time they signed and a self-titled debut came out the following year. While not a significant release in the US, the LP was a hit in Australia as was their follow-up, "Careful," which ended up cracked the US Top 50. They were poised for a breakthrough and they did with their third album, "All Four One." Thanks to this Top 10 lead single, the album reached #16 and went gold.

ReduxReview:  Oh how I loved this song - and still do. Martha Davis' voice is one of those that just hits me. It resonates with emotion and the tone is deep and rich. She would go on to write some terrific songs, but she knocked it out of the park with this one. I have never gotten tired of the song and just hearing the opening riff is enough to melt me. One of my absolute favorites of 1982, if not the decade.


Trivia:  When sessions for their third album began, Davis and Co. wanted to expand artistically and the results became "Apocalypso," an LP with a heaver tone and atmosphere. Produced by Val Garay ("Bette Davis Eyes"), the band submitted the album to Capitol. The label balked calling it weird and not commercial enough. The Motels headed back to the studio and re-recorded six of the "Apocalypso" tracks while added four new songs. The resulting "All Four One" went on to became the band's biggest album. Shelved for years, the original "Apocalypso" album finally saw the light of day in 2011 on the Omnivore label.


Friday, September 19, 2014

"Heat of the Moment" by Asia

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  0999
Date:  04/17/1982
Debut:  68
Peak:  4
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Arena Rock

Pop Bits:  Oh what to do when the major British prog-rock bands have all split up? You supergroup it! John Wetton (King Crimson) and Steve Howe (Yes) got paired up for this project and brought on board Geoff Downes (Yes) and Carl Palmer (ELP) to form a super-prog band called Asia. However, when their self-titled debut album came out, critics and fans of the band members' previous groups were not enthusiastic. Instead of intricate, artistic prog-rock, what came out of the speakers was pretty much MOR arena rock. Their core audience may have balked, but the rest of America ate them up. This first single became a rock radio staple and shot into the pop Top 10 while the album spent nine weeks at #1. For some, this band was a WTF moment while for others they were pure 80s rock gold (or 4x platinum, in this LP's case).

ReduxReview:  I have to be honest and say that back in the day had you mentioned any of the names above to me, I'd have no idea who they were. Let's just say that prog-rock was not real popular where I came from. Although I may have heard of Yes or ELP, it was doubtful that I knew even one of their songs. That changed years later, but as for Asia, they were like a new, unknown group to me and having no preconceived notions on what they should sound like was a benefit. I just accepted them as fab arena rock and ate this album up (as many did). Yeah, it's not "Fragile" or "Brain Salad Surgery," but it's a meaty rock album that I still listen to and love. This single got things started with a bang.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The "Asia" album was hugely popular at rock radio. Including this single, which hit #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart, five other songs from the LP crashed the airwaves and rock chart:  "Only Time Will Tell" (#8), "Sole Survivor" (#10), "Wildest Dreams" (#28), "Here Comes the Feeling" (#40), and "Time Again" (#43).


Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Rosanna" by Toto

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  0998
Date:  04/17/1982
Debut:  81
Peak:  2
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Successful session musicians David Paitch and Jeff Porcaro decided to give it a go with their own band. Recruiting other session players, Toto was formed and they issued a self-titled debut in 1978. The LP was highly successful reaching the Top 10 and spawning the #5 hit "Hold the Line." Their next two albums were not nearly as successful and the band was feeling a lot of pressure to produce a hit. "Toto IV" not only revived the group, but far exceeded expectations by going triple platinum and scoring six Grammys including Album of the Year. This first single spent 5 weeks in the #2 spot and would nab the Grammy for Record of the Year. Oddly, "Toto IV" would end up peaking at #4, which would end up as their best showing on the album chart.

ReduxReview:  I consider the "Toto IV" album to be the apex of 80s California cool studio soft rock. Oddly, this sound's mastermind, David Foster, did not work on this project, so it makes this accomplishment even more pronounced. They hit a sweet spot with this track and never looked back. Some folks didn't like the excessive sheen emitted by Toto's polished music, but I don't mind. If it's done right, as this was, the results can be awesome. A classic from the time period that still sounds pretty sweet.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Popular music-lore has it that this song was about actress Rosanna Arquette. She was dating band member Steve Porcaro around this time. But that is not fully the case. The song's writer, David Paitch, has said that the song was based on few different women and having met Arquette via Porcaro, he just liked her name and ended up using it for the song.


"Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)" by David Bowie

Song#:  0997
Date:  04/17/1982
Debut:  83
Peak:  67
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  After his 1980 LP "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)," Bowie did a few high-profile side projects before recording a new album. On the acting front, he famously took over the role of "The Elephant Man" on Broadway, while in music he collaborated with Queen on the hit single "Under Pressure" (#29). Another music project was this single which served as the theme song to the 1982 film "Cat People" starring Nastassja Kinski. With music by Giorgio Moroder (who composed the film's score), Bowie added lyrics and recorded the song. While it wasn't a major hit, it was Bowie's best solo chart entry since 1976. Although it got nominated for Best Original Song at the Golden Globe awards, it missed out on an Oscar nod.

ReduxReview:  I love Bowie and I really like this song, but I can't say it makes a great single. Which is not usual for Bowie. He had some amazing songs but he really wasn't a singles artist (he had only four solo Top 10 hits in his career). So I can't say that this one should have done better. I think it was just a little too out-there for pop radio at the time. His second version (see below) may have done better since it is a straight-ahead rocker, but this original soundtrack version is the one I prefer. Not a great single, but a good entry from Bowie.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Moroder was contracted with MCA Records, so the soundtrack and single were issued on that label (Bowie was on EMI at the time). When it came time for Bowie to record his next album, "Let's Dance," he had to re-record this song in order to include it on the album. Therefore, the brooding, atmospheric soundtrack version (heard above) got a make-over into a more rockin' version that featured Stevie Ray Vaughan on guitar. The new version served as the b-side to Bowie's title-track lead single from the album.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Turn on Your Radar" by Prism

Song#:  0996
Date:  04/17/1982
Debut:  85
Peak:  64
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  With their new vocalist, Henry Smalls, Prism's album "Small Change" got off to a good start when the LP's first single, "Don't Let Him Know," hit the Top 40 (#39). It would be their only Top 40 hit. This second single was less successful and it became their final pop chart entry. After the album, all members quit the group save for Smalls. He carried on as Prism, but it was more or less a solo effort. Smalls hired session musicians to fill out the "group" and released an album in 1983. It failed to do any business and that ended the main era of the band. Versions of the group would reunite and record over the years, but their heyday had past.

ReduxReview:  This song is nothing like the rock of their previous single, which was co-written by Jim Vallance and a pre-stardom Bryan Adams. This soft MOR entry contradicts their other Foreigner-ish material. It's a pleasant, understated tune that I could hear an 80s British synth band do. Just imagine the chorus in a British accent with a female added. You'll probably hear what I mean then.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The band's first single, 1977's "Spaceship Superstar" (#63 Canada, #82 US pop), was selected by NASA to be used as one of the morning wake-up songs for the space shuttle Discovery's crew. It was used during Discovery's last mission in 2011 before the shuttle was retired.


"Friends in Love" by Dionne Warwick and Johnny Mathis

Song#:  0995
Date:  04/17/1982
Debut:  86
Peak:  38
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After issuing a live album the previous year, Warwick began work on her third studio album for Arista. The resulting album, "Friends in Love," was a bit of a disappointment (peaking at #83) after two successful LPs for Clive Davis & Co. This lead single seemed like a no-brainer with two legendary singers performing a bit AC duet, but the song didn't catch fire and fizzled just inside the Top 40 (#22 R&B). It did well at AC reaching #5, but it wasn't enough to get album sales going. A second single, "For You," would catch some airplay at AC and hit #14, but it didn't chart at pop or R&B. As for Mathis, he didn't fare much better. His LP which included this single tanked at #147. This single would also be his last Top 40 pop entry.

ReduxReview:  The pairing of these two vocalists was a great idea and certainly when they belt the chorus together, it works. But overall, the song is just not strong enough to really showcase either vocalist. The verses and bridge are drab and unmemorable making it difficult for either of them to do anything interesting. It was a good idea that wasn't well executed.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Warwick's "Friends in Love" album included the song "Never Gonna Let You Go." Looking back, she probably wishes this had been released as a single as it later became a #4 hit in 1983 for Sergio Mendes. Originally pitched to Earth, Wind & Fire, they turned it down. The song found its way to Warwick's LP as well as one by R&B artist Stevie Woods.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

"Old Fashioned Love" by Smokey Robinson

Song#:  0994
Date:  04/17/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  60
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Robinson's LP "Yes It's You Lady" faltered peaking at #33, which broke a string of three consecutive Top 20 pop albums. The main reason was most likely due to the first single, "Tell Me Tomorrow," only getting to #33 on the pop chart. This second single did even worse while only getting to #17 on the R&B chart. It would take several years before the legend could make a comeback.

ReduxReview:  Leaning more towards pop, this just doesn't come close to the quality of his other hits from this era. He tries to sing his way out of this wreck, but it's just not working. Robinson penned most of his hit songs, like "Being with You," whereas this song and "Tell Me Tomorrow" were contributions from other writers. It's odd that his popularity at the time didn't attract better material. Robinson was having some personal issues during this time, so that most likely hurt his own creativity. But you'd think someone could get him some top-notch material to keep the hits coming. These songs certainly were not worthy.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Robinson's first marriage produced two children. His son was named Berry, after Motown head Berry Gordy, and his daughter was named Tamla, which was Gordy's first record label.


"Sing a Little Song" by West Street Mob

Song#:  0993
Date:  04/17/1982
Debut:  92
Peak:  89
Weeks:  4
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  After the moderate success of their debut album, which featured the crossover single "Let's Dance (Make Your Body Move)" (#88 pop, #18 R&B), the group put out this one-off 12" single. It reached #44 at R&B and sold enough to make a short appearance on the pop chart. It would be their final entry on the pop chart. The trio would get a few more minor R&B chart entries from their next album, but that would be it for the group.

ReduxReview:  The group applies a similar groove from their previous hit to this funk remake (see below). It works okay, but the voice manipulation wears on me over the course of 5+ minutes. In other words, stick with the original.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song by Sly and the Family Stone. Their 1968 original served as the b-side to their #1 hit "Everyday People." However, the tune got enough attention and airplay to also chart. It reached #28 on the R&B chart and #89 at pop - the same position reached by the West Street Mob version.


Monday, September 15, 2014

"The Visitors" by ABBA

Song#:  0992
Date:  04/17/1982
Debut:  95
Peak:  63
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Although it wasn't known at the time, "The Visitors" would be ABBA's final studio album. It's first single, "When All Is Said and Done," didn't impact the chart in any significant way only reaching #27. This second title-track single couldn't even get near the Top 40 and it became their final chart entry. The quartet went back into the studio and recorded a few songs for a planned follow-up album, but the LP never materialized. They did have two new recordings released in late 1982 on a compilation called "The Singles: The First Ten Years" with one song, "The Day Before You Came," getting to #3 in the UK. On December 11, 1982, the group performed via remote from Sweden on a UK TV show, which became their last performance together. After that, the group just kind of went their own ways and never officially announced a breakup. The group's two women, Anni-Fryd (Frida) and Agnetha, went on to solo work while the two men, Benny and Bjorn, would go on to co-write the award winning musical "Chess." While hugely popular in Europe, they were not as successful in the US. That changed when their music found its way into films and even a Broadway show ("Mamma Mia!"). The revival arguably gave them more popularity in the US than when they were active. It lead to them being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

ReduxReview:  I really like this opening track from the album. With its spacy verses and charging chorus, it is one of the more interesting songs in their catalog. I can't say that it makes a terrific single though. There is not much of a hook here to grab onto and if I was hearing this for the first time on the radio, I'd have no idea what it might be called. I'd probably look for something called "Crackin' Up," as that is what is most repeated. Although not hit-worthy, its a nice entry in their catalog.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Just how popular were ABBA in Europe? So much so that an entire 25-room interactive exhibition called ABBAWORLD was opened in 2010 in London. The exhibition toured several cities in Europe and was approved by the members of ABBA.


"Ebony and Ivory" by Paul McCartney with Stevie Wonder

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  0991
Date:  04/10/1982
Debut:  29
Peak:  1 (7 weeks)
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  After his group Wings officially dissolved, McCartney set out to record his fourth solo album. "Tug of War" was a platinum hit that reached #1 on the album chart, thanks mostly to this first single. A McCartney penned tune, he had Stevie Wonder in mind for a duet partner and the two recorded the song together in the studio. Oddly, scheduling conflicts kept the two from appearing in the video together, so their parts were filmed separately (these days it is very common for the opposite to happen - record separate, appear in the video together). The single debuted in the Top 30 and shot to #1 quickly. The song's 7-week run in the top spot would be both artists' longest stay at #1 (as solo artists). Inevitable Grammy nominations followed for Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Pop Vocal Performance. "Tug of War" would also nab a nom for Album of the Year.

ReduxReview:  This ended up being one of those loath it/love it songs. I admit that back in the day I totally loved it. The whole theme, the duet, the video, etc. seemed so awesome. It was like an event. But over the years it has lost a lot of its initial charm and it's more cloying and annoying than a great piece of music. Derided not long after its initial chart run, the song has made several "worst songs" lists over the years. I can't say that it is one of the worst songs ever to be a hit, but I find it unfortunate that it became McCartney's biggest solo chart hit. I have a tendency these days to hit the forward button when listening to a McCartney playlist, but it does have some nice nostalgia attached.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The song's racial harmony come courtesy of the black and white keys on a piano. McCartney got the idea for the song after hearing a routine by comedian/musician Spike Milligan where Milligan was pointing out on a piano that there could only be harmony when the black and white keys worked together. 2) McCartney and Wonder recorded another duet for the "Tug of War" album. "What's That You're Doing?" was co-written by the pair and it received a Grammy nod for Best R&B Performance.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

"Work That Body" by Diana Ross

Song#:  0990
Date:  04/10/1982
Debut:  73
Peak:  44
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop, Dance

Pop Bits:  Ross' first album for RCA, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," did well thanks to a pair of Top 10 hits including the title-track cover. This third single helped it along by almost getting into the Top 40. Although not a big hit in the US, it was highly successful in the UK and reached #7. The album would become a platinum seller for her, but unfortunately it would be her last LP to reach those heights in the US.

ReduxReview:  I'm almost tempted to put a Novelty genre on this one. That is basically what it is, minus the humor, of course. It's a time capsule song. One that you hear and go, "Oh, yeah! Remember our leggings and headbands? What were we thinking?!" It evokes a time, a place and a fad, but that's about it. It's completely silly and I hope that is the spirit in which it was written (I'd hate to think they were creating art here...). Like the clothing inspired by the fad, so many years later it's a bit cringe inducing. Frankly, it wasn't very good back then either...

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Like any decade, the 80s had its share of fads and crazes. One from the early 80s was the fitness craze. Aerobic exercise was all the rage and businesses were popping up all over the place. It was egged on by celebrities and fitness gurus with the craze even making the cover of Time magazine in 1981. Music was a big part of the exercise routines and songs like Olivia Newton-John's "Physical" led the way. Ross took things a step further by co-writing this song which basically mimics an aerobics class. Although the song's chart performance wasn't that great, the song became a standard in most fitness clubs.