Monday, November 16, 2015

"Drop the Pilot" by Joan Armatrading

Song#:  1464
Date:  05/28/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  78
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Born in Saint Kitts, Armatrading found her way to England with her family when she was still a kid. She began writing songs as a teenager and soon after began performing. She signed with Cube Records in 1972 and issued a debut album. Neither it nor its follow-up, "Back to the Night," did any business, but after a label change to A&M, her career took off with her 1976 self-titled album that featured the #10 UK hit "Love and Affection." Although the single didn't take off in the US, the album did well reaching #62. Throughout the rest of the 70s and into the 80s, Armatrading put singles on the UK chart and scored Top 10 albums. Still, major success in the US eluded her. She finally got some attention when her album "The Key" sported this single, which became her only US Pop chart entry. The song would hit #11 in the UK. Her US success was short-lived, but she continued to be a major star in the UK. The album would get Armatrading a Grammy nod for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female.

ReduxReview:  This is a pretty terrific pop outing for Armatrading. It should have done a lot better but for some reason it just didn't click with a US audience. A few months ago I discovered a version of this song by pop singer Mandy Moore. I was surprised at how much I liked it. She amps up the rock side of the song does a terrific job. Since it resides in my workout playlist, I've been hearing this song a lot lately. Armatrading got ignored for the most part in the US and that is unfortunate. She is an excellent artist/songwriter and this song is one of her top pop efforts.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Armatrading's label was not really happy with the songs she recorded for "The Key." Produced by Steve Lillywhite, the album was considered non-commercial and they asked her to come up with a couple songs that could be promoted at pop radio. Armatrading obliged and wrote two more songs. "Drop the Pilot" was one of them. She recorded the songs with producer Val Garay ("Bette Davis Eyes") and the new tunes were included on the album. The song and album would become two of her biggest worldwide successes.  2) I love when a song includes a word I'm not familiar with. The lyrics for "Drop the Pilot" include the line "drop the mahout, I'm the easy rider." If you don't know what a mahout is (I didn't), it is a person who works with, rides, and tends to an elephant. Apparently, Armatrading had remember the word from its use in Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book."


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