Saturday, January 3, 2015

"Oh Julie" by Barry Manilow

Song#:  1125
Date:  07/31/1982
Debut:  81
Peak:  38
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Although Manilow's previous album "If I Should Love Again" produced three Top 40 singles, including the #15 "The Old Songs," it seemed his easy listening, big ballads were falling out of favor. Manilow went back to the studio and recorded this upbeat tune and played it for Arista label head Clive Davis. Davis loved it and ordered up an EP to market the song. Manilow obliged and filled out the balance of the EP with three more uptempo songs. With it's release, Manilow became the first mainstream pop artist to issue an EP, a format that was gaining in popularity around this time. This single from the EP got a tepid response and barely made it into the Top 40 (#24 AC) and the EP didn't fare that well either reaching #69 and breaking his string of gold and platinum albums.

ReduxReview:  This is certainly a change for Manilow. I don't think he had really done this style of rock 'n' roll before. I think Manilow tries his best to mimic a 50's rock vocal, but overall it just comes off as an interesting oddity in his catalog. For the most part, this EP has been overlooked in later years. It has never been issued on CD and two of the songs, "Oh Julie" and "Heaven," have never appeared on a CD in the US (a Japan CD of his next album "Here Comes the Night" did feature "Oh Julie"). The other two songs on the EP did show up on "Here Comes the Night." This could be due to rights issues or maybe Manilow just has preferred to ignore them. If the latter, can't say I blame him.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song by Welsh rock 'n' roll artist Shakin' Stevens who reached #1 on the UK pop chart earlier in 1982 with this song. Stevens had a streak of hit singles in the UK beginning with 1981's #1 "This Ole House." His 33 chart singles, which included four #1's and ten other Top 10's, made him the UK's top selling artist of the 80's. Although hugely popular in the UK, his success did not cross over to the US, where he was unable to get any single on the pop chart. However, he did write "Oh Julie," so he did have a US hit as a songwriter.


Friday, January 2, 2015

"Sara" by Bill Champlin

Song#:  1124
Date:  07/31/1982
Debut:  82
Peak:  61
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The first single from Champlin's second LP "Runaway" got him near the top half of the chart. "Tonight, Tonight" reached #55 and would be his best solo success. This second single did about as well hitting #61. Neither of the songs really put him on the map, but it helped extend his relationship with producer David Foster and that association led to Champlin becoming a member of Chicago. He would contribute songs to the band and sing lead on several singles including the 1988 #1 hit "Look Away." He remained with the band until 2008.

ReduxReview:  This song seems less Foster-ized than "Tonight, Tonight" and runs along the lines of West Coast pop. It's a good song that has some nice moments and is certainly a pleasant listen, but there's nothing special about it that could raise it out of the pop chart basement.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Champlin co-wrote this song with a guy more famous for his TV role (and being a famous musician's dad) than his music. Canadian Alan Thicke had been working in TV since the 70s hosting game shows and even producing/co-writing shows like "Fernwood 2-Night." American audiences were introduced to Thicke via his 1983 late night talk show attempt "Thicke of the Night." The show failed after a season, but then he went on to star in the hit TV show "Growing Pains." Along the way, Thicke worked on music and with his wife at the time, soap actress Gloria Loring, he co-wrote several TV show themes including "Diff'rent Strokes" and "The Facts of Life." This co-write with Champlin is one of Thicke's few legit pop forays. Music ended up running in the family as Thicke's son, Robin, went on to have one of the biggest hits of 2013 - the controversial #1 "Blurred Lines."


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Calling All Girls" by Queen

Song#:  1123
Date:  07/31/1982
Debut:  83
Peak:  60
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Queen's second single from their "Hot Space" album, "Body Language," just missed out on the Top 10 peaking at the dreaded #11. It provided some momentum for this next single, but unfortunately the song did not catch on and could only manage a #60 showing. The band's drummer, Roger Taylor, wrote the song. Although the band had recorded several of Taylor's compositions, this was his first to be chosen for single release.

ReduxReview:  Although not a great song, I find it far more tolerable than the insipid "Body Language." The chorus has a bit of an ELO feel to it and the groove is nice. The tune makes for a solid album track, but I'm not sure it has "hit single" written all over it.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The video for this song was inspired by George Lucas' 1971 directorial film debut "THX 1138." Queen members Brian May and songwriter Roger Taylor were not fans of the video saying the futuristic plot and robots had nothing to do with the song itself.


Monday, December 29, 2014

"Never Been in Love" by Randy Meisner

Song#:  1122
Date:  07/31/1982
Debut:  84
Peak:  28
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Meisner's second LP after he departed the Eagles, 1980's "One More Song," scored two Top 30 singles including the #19 "Hearts on Fire." His self-titled third album featured this lead single that just made it into the Top 30. It would be his last solo pop chart single and his last solo album until he issued a pair of LPs in 2002 and 2005. He would make a return to his former group Poco later in the 80s and be part of their final pop chart single, 1989's "Nothin' to Hide" (#39), on which he sang the lead vocal.

ReduxReview:  Some of Meisner's solo work was not too far from Eagles territory, so it was nothing that piqued my interest since I wasn't an Eagles fan. But this song was something different. It hooked me right off the bat with the piano opening and when it crashes into the chorus, it comes close to arena rock territory. It is easily Meisner's best song and is one of my favorite solo songs by any member of the Eagles. I really don't know why this song did not do better on the chart. I pegged this as an easy Top 10 and I remember being bitterly disappointed that it barely got inside the Top 30. This song needs a revival stat!

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Around 1970, Meisner was ready to throw in the towel on the rock 'n' roll dream. He had basically been fired from Poco and his marriage was failing due to him being gone and her left on her own in Nebraska (Meisner's home state). He moved back home and began to work in a John Deere dealership. But the lure of music was too much and when he got an offer to play in Linda Ronstadt's backing band, he couldn't refuse and took off again. That backing band soon became one of the most famous bands in rock - the Eagles.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

"Themes from E.T." by Walter Murphy

Song#:  1121
Date:  07/31/1982
Debut:  85
Peak:  47
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop, Instrumental

Pop Bits:  The film "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" was release to theaters on June 11, 1982, and everyone quickly realized the film was going to be a blockbuster. This included folks who saw the film as a way to market their own products. What Meco was to film scores (his disco-ish "Star Wars Theme" hit #1 in 1977), Walter Murphy was to classical music. He stormed the charts in 1976 with a disco take on Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. "A Fifth of Beethoven" reached #1 and led to Murphy arranging and transforming other classical pieces. When "E.T." came along, it seems Murphy beat Meco to the punch by quickly getting out a danceable version of themes from the film's score. The film's popularity most likely gave this single a boost and it came close to hitting the Top 40. It would be Murphy's final pop chart entry.

ReduxReview:  Murphy is an excellent arranger and musician, but man, this is just ripping off Meco's territory something fierce. However, Meco's "Star Wars" was almost a rip of "A Fifth of Beethoven." So I guess what goes around... I don't particularly like these types of singles. They usually come off as cheezy, cash-in products. This one is no exception. However, I will say that Murphy's arrangement - in particular the Bacharach-ish, easy listening mid-section - is well done. And he at least refrains from using dorky sound effects. So even though it is a pop culture marketing product, it's quality ranks it higher than others of the ilk.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Murphy's hit "A Fifth of Beethoven" was basically a fluke. He had long been supplying music and arrangements for commercials and while working on a disco theme for an ad, it was suggested to him that updating a classical piece might be interesting. Murphy worked up a demo and shopped it around. Private Stock Records showed interest and signed Murphy. Originally the single was listed by Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band, which didn't exist. Murphy basically performed the song himself but the label thought a group name would make it sell better. The song went on to hit #1, but subsequent releases were then just credited to Walter Murphy.  2) Murphy has done a lot of music for TV as well. Most famously, he has worked on all of Seth MacFarlane's shows including "Family Guy," which got him an Emmy. He also got an Oscar nod for Best Original Song for co-writing "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" from MacFarlane's 2012 film "Ted."