Saturday, February 14, 2015

"Mickey" by Toni Basil

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  1167
Date:  09/04/1982
Debut:  83
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  27
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Sometimes when an artist hits big with their first major single, it seems like they came out of nowhere. Toni Basil just showed up on MTV with a cool video and boom - #1 hit! Who the heck was she? There were plenty of folks (like myself) back then who had no idea she already had a long-standing career as a dancer/choreographer/singer/director/actor. I'd see plenty of things she had done (and seen her in them without knowing), but there is no way I would have connect them to the cheerleader in that video. Prior to "Mickey" Basil did plenty. She was a choreographer and dancer on TV music shows like "Shindig!" and appeared in major films like The Monkees' "Head," "Easy Rider," and "Five Easy Pieces." She even had a shot at a solo singing career with the 1966 single "Breakaway." But it wasn't until "Mickey" showed up that people really knew who she was. The song was actually recorded in 1980 for a UK label with the video done even before MTV began. It wasn't until she signed with Chrysalis and got a US release that the song and video broke. It was a massive, memorable hit that would go platinum. Her album, "Word of Mouth," would also do well reaching #22 and going gold. Basil also would do a "Word of Mouth" video album that would receive a Grammy nomination. Unfortunately, the lack of another Top 40 single got her labeled a one-hit wonder and years later she and the song would be placed at #5 on VH1's 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders list.

ReduxReview:  Yup. Loved it. The song was just hard to resist. Even haters of the song would still do the chant. I had no idea who she was but I loved the song and really love the album. She had a very distinct look and I ended up recognizing her on TV reruns and older movies. I think the first time I saw something older she did was on a rerun of "Laverne & Shirley." It was the 1978 episode when Laverne and Carmine were trying out for "West Side Story." Basil was in the episode and get this - her character's name was Mickie! I recognized her right away. And then I saw "Easy Rider" and noticed her again. She is still around mainly doing choreography. I saw her as a guest judge on "So You Think You Can Dance" a couple seasons ago. Anyway, most anyone alive in the early 80s knew this song. It's lost a little of its luster in later years, but the song is still fun.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song is actually a remake. The song, originally titled "Kitty," was written by Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn and recorded by the UK group Racey. It was included on their hit debut album but not released as a single. Racey's original does not include the cheerleader chant heard on "Mickey." That was an addition provided by Toni Basil (as was the new title).  2) This song was parodied by "Weird Al" Yankovic as "Hey Ricky" for his debut album in 1983. It was released as a single and became his first single to chart reaching #63.


Friday, February 13, 2015

"Take the L" by The Motels

Song#:  1166
Date:  09/04/1982
Debut:  85
Peak:  52
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This band's third LP, "All Four One," finally broke them through to the masses when the album's first single "Only the Lonely" cracked the Top 10 (#9). This follow-up got about halfway up the chart before petering out. By this time their LP had reached #16 and gone gold, but it might have done better had this single been a more significant hit.

ReduxReview:  Okay, here is another instance of me loving this song, yet thinking this was probably not the right follow-up single. After the cool balladry of "Only the Lonely," this heavy, rock-leaning tune may have confused listeners and been a bit too hard for pop radio. I think they would have done better releasing the retro-pop "Forever Mine" (which would become the LP's third single) or the new wave influenced "So L.A." I just don't think folks were ready for this dark single. Regardless, I was a fan of it and still am.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Although the band's first two albums, their self-titled debut and "Careful," were not significant hits in the US, both albums performed well in Australia where each reached gold status (sales of 35,000+). These were helped along by the #4 single "Total Control," which came from their debut album.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

"Close Enough to Perfect" by Alabama

Song#:  1165
Date:  09/04/1982
Debut:  89
Peak:  65
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  Alabama's hugely successful LP "Mountain Music" had already spawned two #1 country hits that included the #18 pop entry "Take Me Down." Their winning ways continued with this third single that became their eighth consecutive #1 on the country chart. Pop wasn't as receptive this time around and the song remained near the bottom third of the chart. They would go on to win the Grammy for Best Country Performance by Duo or Group for the album.

ReduxReview:  After a few good singles that hit the pop chart, this one is kind of a dud from the band. It's not a bad song and probably played well on country radio, but it's just not solid enough for a pop hit. Even AC ignored it. The song continued their streak of #1's, but it was a bit forgettable for me.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  The success of this LP helped Alabama become CMA's Entertainer of the Year. They were the first group artist to win the award. They would go on to win the award for the next two years. Their three-in-a-row streak would set a record that still stands today. However, they have to share the record now with Kenny Chesney who did his own streak of three from 2006-2008.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"I Need You" by Paul Carrack

Song#:  1164
Date:  09/04/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  37
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Carrack began the 80s as part of the group Squeeze, replacing longtime keyboardist Jools Holland. With Carrack on vocals, the band got their first significant US chart hit with the #49 "Tempted." But his tenure in the band would be short lived. Carrack set out for another stab at a solo career (his first solo album in 1980 went nowhere). Suburban Voodoo did well in the US and reached #78 thanks to this Top 40 single. Neither were smashes, but they got him established as a viable solo artist. Oddly, both were ignored in his UK homeland.

ReduxReview:  This Motown-ish tune didn't make much of an impression on me back then. I'm still not the biggest fan of it, but it does play better these days. And the sound is not too far away from "Tempted," which probably wasn't a bad idea. Folks may have even though this was a new Squeeze song. I really didn't care. Wasn't my bag to begin with.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although Suburban Voodoo was a solo release, around this time Carrack had joined up with Nick Lowe to form a band called Noise to Go. The band would be used to back both Carrack and Lowe on their respective solo albums. They also backed Lowe's wife Carlene Carter on her 1981 Blue Nun LP. Carrack's album and Lowe's Nick the Knife both came out in 1982 using the band as did Lowe's follow-up album The Abominable Showman. The band would eventually be called Nick Lowe and his Cowboy Outfit and would support two more of Lowe's albums. Although the Cowboy Outfit would split in 1985, Carrack continued to play on a couple more of Lowe's albums. This song was co-written by Carrack, Lowe, and Martin Belmont.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"You Don't Want Me Anymore" by Steel Breeze

Song#:  1163
Date:  08/28/1982
Debut:  67
Peak:  16
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Sacramento band got signed to RCA Records and issued their self-titled debut album in 1982. This first single got a lot of attention and debuted quite high on the chart for a new artist. It seemed destined for the Top 10 but it petered out at #16. However, it did reach #9 on the Mainstream Rock chart while the album hit #50.

ReduxReview:  I ended up liking this song much more in later years. I had basically forgotten about it until it showed up on an 80s compilation I bought. The honking keyboard riff at the beginning was instantly recognizable. It's a great song and should have been an easy Top 10'er.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The band got signed thanks to the efforts of producer/artist/impresario Kim Fowley. Fowley found Steel Breeze's demo among a bunch that were on the way to the garbage bin. With the label looking for a Journey-like band, Fowley grabbed Steel Breeze's demo of this song and played it. The band got signed and Fowley signed on to produce their debut album. Fowley died just a few weeks before this post on Jaunary 15, 2015.


Monday, February 9, 2015

"Big Fun" by Kool & the Gang

Song#:  1162
Date:  08/28/1982
Debut:  73
Peak:  21
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The band's previous album was another significant platinum hit thanks to the #1 R&B (#17 pop) single "Take My Heart (You Can Have It If You Want It)." Their next album, "As One," didn't start off as well with this first single peaking just outside of the Top 20 at pop while only reaching #6 at R&B. The LP reached #5 at R&B and only went gold, which was a bit of a drop off since their previous three albums hit #1 or #2 and went platinum. The album would be their fourth and last collaboration with producer Eumir Deodato.

ReduxReview:  To me, this just sounds like an attempt to recapture "Celebration." The problem is that it doesn't even come close to that classic. It's not a bad listen, but it's not big fun. Maybe a little fun. Or slight fun? It's really the song that closed the Deodato post-disco chapter for the group. They would move on to a different style and sound on their next LP.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Robert and Ronald Bell, brothers and co-founders of Kool & the Gang, had a younger brother, Kevin, who was also pursuing music. After Kool & the Gang started having success in the early 70s, Robert started to develop another offshoot group that he would produced called The Kay-Gees (I believe for the K and G in Kool & the Gang). Kevin would be a member of The Kay-Gees. The new band would issue their debut album in 1974, but they never really broke wide. However, over the course of four albums they did manage to put several low-level singles on the R&B chart.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

"Sweet Time" by REO Speedwagon

Song#:  1161
Date:  08/28/1982
Debut:  76
Peak:  26
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  There were high expectations for REO's follow-up to their mega-smash LP "Hi-Infidelity," but "Good Trouble" just couldn't get close to that album's success. The first single from "Good Trouble," "Keep the Fire Burnin'," did okay reaching #7, which helped the album go Top 10 (#7), but this second single faltered quite a bit and that lack of interest stalled the album at single-platinum status. Although the LP performed well by most standards, it was a disappointing follow-up to a 9-times platinum classic.

ReduxReview:  I kind of grew to like "Keep the Fire Burnin'," but this one lost me. I stopped paying attention to REO at this point. I wasn't a huge fan to begin with, but it seemed like whatever I liked about them was suddenly gone. I never really looked back either.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Like many bands, REO has had their share of personnel changes. There has only been one founding member who has stayed with the group from its inception in 1967 through to today. Keyboardist Neal Doughty co-founded the band with Alan Gratzer and filled it out with Mike Blair and Joe Matt. Although Kevin Cronin has always seemed to be the face and voice of REO, he did not join until 1972. Cronin left the band the following year, but returned in 1976. He remains with the band as does longtime bassist Bruce Hall who joined in 1977.