Saturday, January 24, 2015

"Steppin' Out" by Joe Jackson

Top 10 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1146
Date:  08/21/1982
Debut:  88
Peak:  6
Weeks:  27
Genre:  Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Englishman Jackson began playing in bars when he was 16 and two years later he receive a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music. By the time he left school, he was in a signed band that would issue a couple of singles. Nothing came from the singles and the band split. He picked up some cabaret work that earned him enough money to record his own demo. That demo got the attention of A&M Records who signed him. His 1978 debut album, "Look Sharp!," was not an immediate success. It's initial singles failed and the album appeared to be fizzling. But a re-release of the albums first single, "Is She Really Going Out with Him?," finally caught on (#21) and sent the album to #20. It eventually went gold. His next three albums, while all selling well, did not feature any chart singles. That changed when he released this first single from his LP "Night and Day." It was a slow climber that finally found it's way to #6 (#4 AC), his first and only Top 10 appearance. It was a major success for Jackson that lead to two Grammy nominations - one for Record of the Year and one for Pop Male Vocalist.

ReduxReview:  "Night and Day" is one of my favorite albums of the 80s (actually, one of my all-time faves as well). It's meant to represent a 24-hr period in New York City with side 1 being the "Night" side and the flip the "Day" side. This song, which is about the anticipation of heading out on the town, plays like great cab ride through the city. The low keyboard chugs like wheels while the bright piano/bells chime in reflecting the exciting city lights. It's just brilliant. Everyone should play this in the car as they leave for an awesome night on the town.


Trivia:  Jackson's given first name is David. Joe was a nickname that he acquired in the mid-70s. He got the nickname due to his resemblance to the lead character in the marionette-based British TV show "Joe 90." The sci-fi show revolved around nine-year-old Joe who was a schoolboy that turned into a superspy thanks to an invention of his father's. It lasted for 30 episodes between 1968-1969.


Friday, January 23, 2015

"Up Where We Belong" by Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Oscar Alert!
Song#:  1145
Date:  08/21/1982
Debut:  89
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Written specifically for the Taylor Hackford film "An Officer and a Gentleman," this duet featuring Cocker's gruff warble against Warnes wispy voice became an unexpected hit earning a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Duo or Group, and an Oscar for Best Original Song. Warnes manager recommended her for the song to his friend Hackford, but he balked at her voice calling it too sweet. However, when Cocker got suggested as a duet partner, that changed things. The pair recorded their vocals together and the finished song played behind the final scene of the movie. The film was a big hit which certainly helped this song take off and finally reach #1 (#3 AC). For both Cocker and Warnes, it would be the biggest hit of their respective careers. And for Warnes, the second Oscar-winning song she had sung (following 1979's "It Goes Like It Goes" from the film "Norma Rae").

ReduxReview:  This song really shouldn't have worked. The singers were an odd coupling, the song was pure sentimental pop, and the film's ending was bordering on sticky tree sap. This seemed to indicate potential disaster. But it all worked - quite well. The opening piano line was instantly memorable along with the Beauty & the Beast vocals. It's actually a little sad hearing it as I write this because the news just recently came out that Joe Cocker had passed away. I'm sure many people have said that he is now up where he belongs.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  This song almost didn't make it into the film. Producer Don Simpson wasn't a fan of the tune and wanted it removed. He did not think it was a hit. Luckily for the artists, writers, and the film itself, his request was denied.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

"He Could Be the One" by Josie Cotton

Song#:  1144
Date:  08/21/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  74
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Texan Cotton packed up her notebook of songs and demos and headed out to California in search of fame. A one-off single written by Cotton's boyfriend and his brother, the controversial "Johnny, Are You Queer?," got the attention of Elektra Records who ended up signing Cotton. A reissue of that single prompted the full album "Convertible Music" and this next single was released. It circled the bottom quarter of the chart for a while and would become Cotton's highest peaking tune. Both songs got further exposure thanks to the 1983 movie "Valley Girl," in which Cotton performed the songs in the film during a prom scene. The tunes made it to the soundtrack album along with a third.

ReduxReview:  This is a tasty slice of girl group-influenced new wave that should have gotten more attention. It's the kind of thing that Tracey Ullman cashed in on the following year. Cotton's mousy voice is a great fit for the style. Although she didn't write this one, her own compositions on "Convertible Music" are just as good. If you like this song, check out Cotton's two albums for Elektra. They are full of solid retro pop.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although not a pop chart hit, "Johnny, Are You Queer" got Cotton a lot of attention (both good and bad). The Paine brothers (Larson and Bobby) came up with the retro tune and gave it to a band they were managing - The Go-Go's. It became part of the band's live set and the intent was for them to record the song. However, things happened and The Go-Go's and the Paines parted way leaving the song in limbo. Cotton lobbied hard to the brothers (she was dating Larson at the time) to let her sing the song. They finally relented and it got released as a single on Bomp! Records in 1981, which led to Cotton's contract with Elektra.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"Hold On" by Santana

Song#:  1143
Date:  08/14/1982
Debut:  72
Peak:  15
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Santana's first album of the 80s, the more rock-oriented album "Zebop!," put them back in the Top 10 (#9), returned them to platinum status, and netted them their first Top 20 hit in a decade with the LP's first single, "Winning" (#17).  The band's next LP, "Shang√≥," didn't stray far from the formula and this first single also found its way into the Top 20. Unfortunately, the album wasn't received quite as well and it could only manage a gold showing peaking at #22. Regardless of this hit single, the album marked the beginning of a decline for the group that would continue throughout the 80s and 90s.

ReduxReview:  I think the problem for Santana around this time is the loss of identity. In keeping with the times and trying to remain popular, the band (and specifically Carlos Santana himself) seem to have lost what made them special. It certainly doesn't hurt to try and adapt a more updated, current sound to get some records our the door, but if you sound like everyone else, it just doesn't work. This is a good tune, but it's practically faceless with only minor shades of Santana visible.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song written and recorded by Canadian rock artist Ian Thomas. Thomas' original version was issued as a single in 1981 and it reached #28 on the Canadian pop chart. Santana's version became their most successful single in Canada to-date reaching #4. Thomas had a successful career in his home country charting with several singles both solo and with his group The Boomers. His biggest chart hit was 1973's "Painted Lady," which reached #4 in Canada. The song was his only to cross over to the US chart where it reached #34.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

"Workin' for a Livin'" by Huey Lewis & the News

Song#:  1142
Date:  08/14/1982
Debut:  73
Peak:  41
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This third single from the band's album "Picture This" almost followed the other two into the Top 40, but fell a notch short peaking at the dreaded #41. But by this time the album was already a hit having reached #13 on the album chart and getting certified gold. Its success was mainly due to the LP's first single, the #7 "Do You Believe in Love."

ReduxReview:  This frantic organ-driven tune was not a favorite of mine from the band. At the time they kind of lost me with this song. I preferred the terrific pop of "Do You Believe in Love" and their follow-up singles lead me to believe that perhaps "Do You" was not representative of their sound. So I kind of wrote them off for the moment and skipped the album.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This song was revived in 2007 when country superstar Garth Brooks record it as a duet with Huey Lewis. It appeared on Brooks' "The Ultimate Hits" album and was chosen for single release. Although it failed to get on the pop chart, it did reach #19 on the country chart.


Monday, January 19, 2015

"Night Shift" by Quarterflash

Song#:  1141
Date:  08/14/1982
Debut:  83
Peak:  60
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Soft Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Thanks to the successful run of their debut LP (#8), Quarterflash got the chance to record the title theme to the 1982 comedy film "Night Shift." The song was select for single release but it didn't perform well and ended up peaking lower than any of their previous singles.

ReduxReview:  Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager co-wrote the tune with Quarterflash's Marv Ross. It sounds like they were all trying to replicate the band's "Harden My Heart" with a lean towards AC radio. It kind of worked. The song is good with a few Bacharach-isms thrown in, but a weak chorus keeps this from being a real contender on the chart.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  "Night Shift" was Ron Howard's second directorial effort and his first after leaving the hit show "Happy Days." He got his "Happy Days" co-star Henry Winkler to star in the film along with Michael Keaton - his first major role. Also in the film was a pre-"Cheers" Shelley Long and an extra named Kevin Costner who played "Frat Boy #1." The film got some positive reviews and did well at the box office.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

"You Dropped a Bomb on Me" by The Gap Band

Song#:  1140
Date:  08/14/1982
Debut:  85
Peak:  31
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  The Gap Band were at the peak of their powers with their album "Gap Band IV," thanks to the #1 R&B hit "Early in the Morning," which became their biggest pop entry reaching #24. This second single was another significant hit for them reaching #2 at R&B and peaking just shy of the pop Top 30. The song is probably their most recognizable hit thanks to its use on several movie soundtracks and at various sporting events.

ReduxReview:  This electrofunk tune is just awesome. Really, the song just repeats the same four bars over and over, but The Gap Band does plenty to keep it interesting. Usually something this repetitive can get boring quickly, but when it's done this well, you just want to keep groovin' along - at least I do.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  After the 9/11 attacks, radio conglomerate Clear Channel issued a list of songs to their stations that they thought might be insensitive and suggested the songs should not be played. While not a mandated ban on the songs, the list did cause some controversy. Among the 165 songs listed, this one from The Gap Band was included.