Saturday, October 25, 2014

"Do I Do" by Stevie Wonder

Song#:  1053
Date:  05/29/1982
Debut:  52
Peak:  13
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Wonder's duet with Paul McCartney, "Ebony and Ivory," was in the #1 slot when this solo single was issued. It was the second single from Wonder's hits compilation "Original Musiquarium I" (the first single being the #4 "That Girl"). While it was another smash at R&B hitting #2, it peaked just short of the pop Top 10.

ReduxReview:  For me, this marked the end of Wonder's classic period. Any of his work after this just could not compete with his amazing 70s output. There would be a bright spot now and then, but I think most folks would agree that "Musiquarium" closed out the era of his most impressive work. This is a terrific song and one that doesn't get played much any longer. I prefer the single version to the lengthy album version as it drones on a bit too long.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  On the album, this song runs more than 10 minutes. That version includes a rap done by Wonder near the end and also features jazz great Dizzy Gillespie doing a trumpet solo. Both of these sections were cut for the single version.


Friday, October 24, 2014

"Island of Lost Souls" by Blondie

Song#:  1052
Date:  05/29/1982
Debut:  66
Peak:  37
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Following the success of their album "Autoamerican," which featured the dual #1 hits "Rapture" and "The Tide is High," members of the band took a hiatus. However, they all kept busy with different projects of their own with the most high profile one being Deborah Harry's first solo album. When it came time to reconvene for the next Blondie album, dynamics had changed in the group and they were fractured at best (a lawsuit didn't help matters). They rallied to fulfill their label contract with a concept album of-sorts titled "The Hunter." This first single was issued and it debuted fairly high on the pop chart. However, its initial success was short-lived as the song petered out just inside the Top 40. Without a major hit, lackluster interest from fans, and dismal critical reviews, the album limped to #33 and tanked. The disappointment coupled with drug use, illness, and media focus always on Harry weighed on the band and by November the group announced their breakup. They would reform many years later for the 1999 album "No Exit," which included their final pop chart entry "Maria" (#82).

ReduxReview:  Okay, so "The Tide Is High," which was a remake, was well-done, catchy, campy fun. This song sounds like they were trying to capture that magic again via a calypso style. In what universe would this be a good idea? Harry and Chris Stein wrote it, so I would think the blame for this mess resides with them. Blondie liked to genre hop throughout their albums, but on this one they just took it one hop too far and landed in the drink. And that is basically what this song sounds like - a once-great band drowning and dying.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Before her music career, Harry was a Playboy Bunny - the term coined for the wait staff at one of Hugh Heffner's Playboy Clubs (thanks to their outfits). She worked in the New York club from 1968-1973. At the time she had long brown hair.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Abracadabra" by Steve Miller Band

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1051
Date:  05/29/1982
Debut:  75
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Miller's previous LP, "Circle of Love," was certified gold, but its showing was a disappointment coming on the heels of three platinum (or multi-platinum) releases. The lack of a true hit didn't help, so for his next album, Miller decided to change out of his blues-rock roots to try on something a little more poppy. The result was the album "Abracadabra" and this title-track turned into a crowd pleaser that became his third #1 as well as his biggest pop chart hit. It was a terrific comeback for Miller, but it would be short-lived. Not only was the single his last Top 10 hit, but he would never even reach the Top 40 again.

ReduxReview:  I did not like this song whatsoever. I thought it was supremely (pun intended, see below) stupid and dorky. I mean, c'mon. The guy who wrote classics like "Fly Like an Eagle" and "Rock'n Me" put out this claptrap shizzle? No thanks! But like several hit songs I hated back then, I've relented a bit and can hear it differently as an ol' geezer. I'm still no fan of the tune, but I do like the chugging rhythm and for the time period the production and sound was kind of cool. It's no "Jet Airliner," but at least I don't run for the fast-forward button when it plays any longer.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Apparently, this song was inspired by Diana Ross and the Supremes. Miller had met Ross when they performed on the TV show "Hullabaloo" in 1966. Years later, Miller spotted Ross while skiing in Sun Valley. According to an interview with Miller, he said he had written some pretty awful lyrics to a piece of music and after seeing Ross, he skied down for lunch, was thinking of the Supremes, and in 15 minutes he had the lyrics to "Abracadabra." (Note - if you can make some connection between this song and the Supremes, then good on ya. Makes zero sense to me. But inspiration can come from unlikely sources, so I guess you never really know.)


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"What Do All the People Know" by The Monroes

Spotlight Alert!
Song#:  1050
Date:  05/29/1982
Debut:  80
Peak:  59
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  You can add The Monroes to the list of "could have been" bands whose unfortunate luck derailed their potential success. This San Diego group got picked up by the Japanese-based label Alfa. Alfa had opened a US subsidiary in 1980 and was able to get a few singles on the chart including the original release of Billy Vera's "At This Moment" (#79). The Monroes recorded a self-titled EP for the label that featured this first single. The track was off to a good start and was expected to do very well. Unfortunately, as the track began to climb the chart, Alfa decided to close their US office. The closing took away all promotion and everything the group needed to secure a hit. Without the label's support, the single took an immediate dive and it left The Monroes in the lurch. The band did get picked up by CBS (Alfa's distributor), but lack of support from them kept their recordings on the shelf. They soldiered on for most of the decade, but by 1988 they finally called it quits.

ReduxReview:  Was it bad luck or just fated to be? That question gets asked when this happens to a promising artist. I think this group had potential and this song should have really kicked it off for them. It's a little bit of Elvis Costello mixed with a tidge of Squeeze. I love the dual lead vocals. It's a shame this didn't get further. It's a cool lost 80s track that could use a revival. Therefore, a Spotlight was in order.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although called The Monroes, there wasn't anyone in the band with the real name of Monroe. The closest was Bob Davis who maintained a stage name of Bob Monroe. Before joining the band, he was in another group called Rick Elias and the Monroes. When Elias decided to be a solo act, he allowed Davis to retain The Monroes moniker and Davis then used it for the new group. Davis continued to use the name Bob Monroe and lead vocalist Jesus Oritz adopted the name Tony Monroe. A few years later, the band was successfully sued for using the name by another band called The Monroes. Forced into a name change, they came up with Man to Man.


"Right Kind of Love" by Quarterflash

Song#:  1049
Date:  05/29/1982
Debut:  82
Peak:  56
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After two successful singles from their self-titled debut album, including the #3 "Harden My Heart," the band issued a third. This ballad-leaning tune, featuring lead singer Rindy Ross' sax playing, didn't catch fire and remained in the bottom half of the chart.

ReduxReview:  I'm not sure a third single was really necessary. The two strongest songs from the LP were already hits and while the balance of the album had some good material, there was nothing left that was truly single-worth. This one was probably the best of the remainder. It's a good song, but I think they would have been better off to quickly get a solid lead single released from their next album.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The group's name is rooted in Australian slang (despite the band being from Portland, Oregon). It is a take on a phrase that was used in reference to new immigrants who were "one quarter flash and three parts foolish." Group founders Marv and Rindy Ross apparently found the phrase in a book at their producer's house.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Dance Wit' Me - Part 1" by Rick James

Song#:  1048
Date:  05/29/1982
Debut:  83
Peak:  64
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  James hit a career peak with his multi-platinum album "Street Songs," which featured the #3 R&B hit "Super Freak" (#16 pop). His next LP, "Throwin' Down," contained the already-released Temptations collaboration "Standing on the Top" (#66 pop, #6 R&B), so this song could be considered the second single from the album. Although it did as well as "Super Freak" at R&B, peaking at the same #3, its pop fortunes were not as bright. Without a significant stand-out hit, the album could only manage a gold showing, which was a disappointment following the highly successful "Street Songs."

ReduxReview:  James was still pushing out solid pieces of funk and this one is no exception. However, none could come close to the high standards he set with "Super Freak" and "Give It to Me Baby." He would end up wearing down his own formula over the next couple of albums, but during this time it was still fresh and fun.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  James became a staff songwriter for Motown in 1968. Under the name Ricky Matthews, he would work with the Spinners, Marvelettes, Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers, and others. He eventually would get a record deal with A&M as Rick James and record a single in 1974 called "My Mama." Lack of interest from that label, and a couple others, lead him back to Motown where his debut LP for them, "Come Get It!," became a platinum seller in 1978.


Monday, October 20, 2014

"The Very Best in You" by Change

Song#:  1047
Date:  05/29/1982
Debut:  84
Peak:  84
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  After a couple successful albums, Change began to...well...change their music. They started to move away from their disco roots and focus more on R&B and funk. With Luther Vandross officially gone, the band issued their third LP, "Sharing Your Love." This first single was met with a shrug only getting to #16 at R&B and debuting/peaking at a lowly #84 at pop. It would be their final pop chart entry. Change would continue to release albums over the next few years and grab a few R&B chart entries, including 1984's "Change of Heart" (#7), but by 1985 the chart entries stopped. They officially closed up the band in 1986 with the death of Jacques Petrus. Petrus served as Change's executive producer and developed the group along with songwriter/producer Mauro Malavasi.

ReduxReview:  This subtle dance track is quite competent with a nice vocal turn by James Robinson. However, I don't find it very memorable. There is nothing here to make it stand out on radio. The shift in sound is nice, but they needed something far stronger to keep them on the radar.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  On this third LP, Deborah Cooper replaces Jocelyn Brown on vocals. Cooper later would work with the duo Clivilles & Cole (of C+C Music Factory) and would supply vocals on their double-sided single "A Deeper Love" (#44) and "Pride (In the Name of Love)" (#54) - the latter being a remake of the U2 song. She also worked with C+C Music Factory and sang on the 1992 #1 dance track (#83 pop) "Keep it Comin' (Dance Till You Can't Dance No More)" which was included on the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" soundtrack.


"I Want Candy" by Bow Wow Wow

Song#:  1046
Date:  05/29/1982
Debut:  85
Peak:  62
Weeks:  7
Genre:  New Wave

Pop Bits:  Sex Pistol's manager, impresario Malcolm McLaren, was also managing Adam & the Ants. Seemingly always looking for the next promotion, McLaren convinced the Ants of leaving to form their own band. Obviously, McLaren would guide them, dress them in friend Vivienne Westwood's clothes, and court promotional controversy. McLaren's lengthy search for a lead singer lead to a 13-year-old discovered working in a dry cleaning shop. Burmese born Annabella Lwin was hired on and the band got signed to EMI. But after a dispute with the label, the band moved over to RCA. They scored their first major hit in the UK with "Go Wild in the Country" (#7). After two LPs, the band did a stop-gap EP called "The Last of the Mohicans" which featured this single. It would be their second UK Top 10 (#9) and their first to hit the US pop chart. While not wildly successful at the time of release, their version of the tune (see below) has turned into an 80s music staple and has been used in ads, TV shows, and films.

ReduxReview:  I thought this was a stupid song back then and I still do. However, now I see it as fun-stupid. The beat is infectious and the guitar licks are nicely done. I don't go out of my way to hear this song, but I ain't mad if it comes up on a playlist. My favorite version of the song is actually done by The Simpsons. On an episode where they do fictional pilot episodes for spin-offs of "The Simpsons," one is called "The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour." It plays like one of those really bad variety shows from the 70s and they break into this song. It's pretty classic.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of the original tune by The Strangeloves. Their 1965 Bo Diddley-beat inspired single reached #11 on the pop chart. The Strangeloves were a fictitious trio formed by a US songwriting/production team. Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein, and Richard Gottehrer promoted themselves as The Strangeloves, three brothers from Australia - Giles, Miles, and Niles Strange. After "I Want Candy" became a hit, the trio had to actually form a band and tour. Before coming up with The Strangeloves, the trio had a major success when they wrote and produced the #1 song for The Angels, "My Boyfriend's Back" (1963).  2) McLaren and the group courted a major controversy with the cover to the group's second LP "See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang, Yeah. City All Over! Go Ape Crazy." The cover was a photographic recreation of the famous painting "The Luncheon on the Grass" by Manet. The paining features a nude woman sitting. In the photo recreation, Annabella Lwin portrayed the nude woman. She was 15 years old at the time the photo was taken. This caused Lwin's mother to make exploitation accusations which prompted an investigation by Scotland Yard. Besides some minor agreements regarding the photo and touring, nothing major came out of the investigation - well, except for all the promotion and attention it brought to McLaren and his group. The same photo would eventually be used for the "Last of the Mohicans" EP in the US.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Route 66" by Manhattan Transfer

Grammy Alert!
Song#:  1045
Date:  05/29/1982
Debut:  86
Peak:  78
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Crossover Jazz

Pop Bits:  The Transfer's last chart entry was their biggest pop hit, the #7 "Boy from New York City," from their album "Mecca for Moderns." Before issuing a proper follow-up, the vocal group recorded this standard that was featured on the soundtrack to the Burt Reynolds film "Sharky's Machine." Although it spent only a few weeks on the pop chart (and #22 AC), the Transfer scored a Grammy award for this song in the Jazz Vocal Performance Duo or Group category.

ReduxReview:  This popular chestnut has been a crowd pleaser for decades. The Transfer's low-key version is a winner thanks to their vocals. It's surprising to see it on the pop chart, but the vocal group's popularity at the time plus the film being a major hit probably helped. When I worked with Andy Williams at his Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri, he did a version of this song as "Highway 76," which was the main drag of Branson and location of the theatre. He changed the lyrics to be about the areas folks traveled from to get to Branson, along with the various local attractions. Andy usually introduced his band during this song.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  !) This pop/R&B standard was originally recorded in 1946 by Nat King Cole. Many artists ranging from Chuck Berry to The Rolling Stones have covered the song. In the rock era, only Manhattan Transfer and Depeche Mode have reached the pop chart with the song. Depeche Mode's version was in remix medley with their own song "Behind the Wheel." That single reached #61 in 1988.  2) Musician Bobby Troup wrote this song after making the trek along the famous road in a move to California. His second marriage was to singer Julie London in 1959. London's big 1955 hit "Cry Me a River" (#9) was produced by Troup. Both of them were mainly music artists and performers but dabbled in acting as well. They are probably most famous for both being on the hit 1970's TV show "Emergency!" Oddly, it was the show's creator (and London's ex-husband), Jack Webb, who cast the pair. Webb and London had divorced in 1954.