Saturday, December 27, 2014

"I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton

Song#:  1120
Date:  07/31/1982
Debut:  87
Peak:  53
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Crossover Country, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Parton probably never imagined that her ode to splitting up with her singing partner Porter Wagoner would end up being her biggest hit as a songwriter. Written for her 1974 album "Jolene," the song was a #1 country hit upon release. It missed the pop chart, but that changed when Parton re-recorded the song for the movie musical "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." The new version once again soared to the top of the country chart while almost reaching the Top 50 at pop (#17 AC). It also got Parton a Grammy nod for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female. That could have been the end to the story, but the song got selected for use in the 1992 film "The Bodyguard" and was recorded by the film's co-star Whitney Houston. The single became a major hit. It stayed at #1 for fourteen weeks, won a Grammy for Record of the Year, was the top chart single of the year, and became Houston's biggest career hit. Not bad for a little song that was just meant as a heartfelt goodbye.

ReduxReview:  I love both Parton versions, but I think this one from the movie edges out the original. It's more theatrical and emotional and Parton really knocks it out of the park surpassing her own original. And although I know that Houston's version is one of the ultimate diva singles in history, I have to say that I don't really care for it. Her version is just way over the top. I mean, it is an impressive performance, but when you compare it to Parton's personal heart-on-sleeve weeping take, it just doesn't compare. Plus, now we are assaulted by countless diva wannabes trying to capture Houston's volcanic eruption. I'm thrilled for Parton that her song became a mega-hit (and got her mega-millions), but for me, I will always love her version.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) With the two Parton version hitting #1 on the country chart, she became the first artist to hit #1 on the chart twice with the same song.  2) Originally, Houston was scheduled to record "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" for "The Bodyguard." However, that song ended up being used in the film "Fried Green Tomatoes," so a different song was needed. Houston's co-star, Kevin Costner, suggested "I Will Always Love You." Houston and producer David Foster fashioned an R&B arrangement that began with an a cappella intro. The record company didn't like it, but Houston's version remained intact and became the diva's signature song.


Friday, December 26, 2014

"Seasons of the Heart" by John Denver

Song#:  1119
Date:  07/31/1982
Debut:  88
Peak:  78
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Denver got his last pop Top 40 entry with "Shanghai Breezes" (#31), the first single from his last gold-selling studio album "Seasons of the Heart." This title-track follow-up would be his last solo effort to reach the chart. It remained in the bottom part of the chart for a few weeks but lasted a bit longer on the AC chart where it reached #23. Denver would continue to record albums up until the time of his death in 1997. His final studio album, "All Aboard!," was released two months prior to his death and would end up winning him a posthumous Grammy award for Best Musical album for Children.

ReduxReview:  I think the sax sections are about the only thing interesting on this song. Other than that, it's a pretty standard folk-leaning ballad that is ultimately forgettable. Denver's music was definitely not in favor by this time and even AC listeners were beginning to abandon him. He would switch back to more country-flavored material and grab a couple of hits on the country chart ("Wild Montana Skies," #14, 1983, and "Dreamland Express, #9, 1985), but his heydays were definitely over.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  One of Denver's hobbies was that of a pilot. He logged over 2,700 flight hours and flew several types of aircraft. On October 12, 1997, he was flying a small experimental plane alone when it crashed into Monteray Bay by Pacific Grove, California. Denver was killed in the crash. The NTSB report stated the leading cause of the crash was the pilot's inability to safely switch fuel tanks. The handle was not easily accessible (it was placed behind the pilot) and the attempt to reach and turn the handle most likely caused Denver to lose control of the plane. A plaque dedicated to Denver rests on a rock near the crash site.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"Luanne" by Foreigner

Song#:  1118
Date:  07/31/1982
Debut:  89
Peak:  75
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Foreigner's #1 multi-platinum album "4" had already spawned two Top 10's and two additional Top 30 singles. Could another single climb the chart and give them a fifth Top 40 hit from the same album? They gave it a go with this song but fell short. Had the single hit the Top 40, the group most likely would have set a record at the time of most Top 40 singles from one album for a rock band. Although the soundtracks to "Saturday Night Fever," "Urban Cowboy," and "Xanadu" each had five or more singles reach the Top 40, Foreigner's "4" would have been the first artist album to accomplish the feat. But even if they had been the first, the record would not have lasted long. A little album called "Thriller" would soon crush a lot of records.

ReduxReview:  While this is a good album track, it does not make a strong single. Compared to the album's other singles, this one sounds weak in comparison, so I'm not surprised it couldn't muster much support. I'm sure the retro-ish pop made it seem like a good choice, but I think the album opener "Nite Life" probably would have been better. Either way, by this time the album had pretty much run out of gas and probably any single would have tanked. But kudos to them for giving it a shot.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Guitarist/keyboarditst Ian McDonald was not only a founding member of Foreigner, but also a founding member of the prog-rock band King Crimson. He played keyboards and woodwinds for the band and appeared on their seminal 1969 debut album "In the Court of King Crimson." It would be McDonald's only album with the band as he left after about a year with them.


Monday, December 22, 2014

"Younger Days" by Joe Fagin

Spotlight Alert!
Song#:  1117
Date:  07/31/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  80
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This UK musician played with several different bands throughout the 50s and 60s before falling into session and jingle work. Eventually he got a shot at his own solo career and got a single out in the UK in 1980 that failed to get any attention. His next deal included this single that was released in the US on the Millennium label. It spent a few weeks on the chart and would be Fagin's only US entry. He caught a break in the UK when he sang the theme song to the hit TV show "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet." The main song, "That's Living Alright," reached #3 in 1984 and would be Fagin's peak solo moment. The song would later be revamped as "That's England Alright" and used as an unofficial theme for the 2006 World Cup.

ReduxReview:  After reading about Fagin and his background, this song was not what I expected. I guess I was thinking along the lines of some kind of oldies-style pop leaning towards blues with a twinge of novelty. But what I heard was darn near close to heartland rock via Bob Seger mixed with a little "Shades of 45" from Canadian Gary O'. I was pleasantly surprised. I like his gravely voice (which reminds me of a gruff Bill Medley) and the song is quality. I'm not sure why this didn't click. It's an enjoyable surprise and one worthy of a Spotlight.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  For a time in the early 60s, Fagin played piano for the UK's Vince Taylor and the Playboys. The band was particularly popular in France, but due to Taylor's drug and alcohol issues, along with other internal band issues, the band broke-up and reformed several times. Sometime in the mid-60's, Taylor's altered state of mind (thanks to drugs) led to him joining a religious cult and his career crashed when he had a breakdown on stage and said he was the prophet Matthew. This brought a final end to the band and Taylor basically disappeared. He attempted a few comebacks over the years, but nothing panned out. He died in 1991. However, he remains famous thanks to two other music artists. The Clash covered a song Taylor wrote and recorded called "Brand New Cadillac." It appeared on their classic 1979 LP "London Calling." And David Bowie has said that Taylor was the inspiration for his character and 1972 album "Ziggy Stardust." Bowie met Taylor post-breakdown and in their conversation Taylor described himself as a combination of a god and an alien, which sparked Bowie's musical and theatrical imagination.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

"Jack & Diane" by John Cougar

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1116
Date:  07/24/1982
Debut:  69
Peak:  1 (4 weeks)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  John Mellencamp (still "Cougar" at the time) broke through to the masses with the #2 hit "Hurt So Good" from his #1 LP "American Fool." This second single did even better by spending four weeks at #1 (#3 Mainstream Rock). The certified gold record would become (and remain) Mellencamp's biggest chart hit. The hits (along with MTV video airplay) skyrocketed him to superstar status. Audiences loved him. Critics, not all that well. Tagged as a heartland rocker, many critics deemed his music as middle-country, Springsteen-lite. Mellencamp would change their minds in a couple of albums, but for now he was cresting on a huge wave of success.

ReduxReview:  I find it funny looking back now, but I didn't like Mr. Cougar at all. I didn't like him, his swagger, or "Hurt So Good." Then this song came out and I was all about it. If you were in high school at the time this came out, you could easily connect to this tune. I think everyone was either Jack or Diana, or knew them. The arrangement, full of stop and starts, laid out the story perfectly and was different from anything begin played on the radio. It's a killer song and a classic from the period that still gets attention and airplay.


Trivia:  In Mellencamp's original version of this song, Jack and Diane were an interracial couple. Jack was an African American and Diana was white. When Mellencamp handed the song into his label, they balked and asked if Jack could be something else. Initially, Mellecamp said no because that was what the song was about. But after more discussion, he reluctantly made Jack "a football star." Looking back, Mellecamp has said he doesn't regret the change as the pair ended up being one of the most famous couples in music.