Saturday, February 28, 2015

"A Penny for Your Thoughts" by Tavares

Song#:  1181
Date:  09/18/1982
Debut:  78
Peak:  33
Weeks:  21
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The Tavares brothers had solid success in the 70s and began the 80s with the #10 R&B hit "Bad Times" (#47 pop). But things went downhill from there and they struggled to get anything significant on the charts. The guys decided to make a change and moved to the RCA label where they issued the LP "New Directions." This first single did provide a slight bump in their popularity by getting into the pop Top 40 and reaching #16 at R&B. It also garnered them a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. Unfortunately, the success would be short-lived with this single becoming their final pop chart entry. They would continue to place a few minor songs on the R&B chart, including the #10 "Deeper in Love," but by 1984 their recording career was done.

ReduxReview:  This is such a sweet single. There were a handful of terrific pop/R&B ballads hitting the charts around this time and this was one of them. It really deserved to do much better. Although they had significant hits, Tavaras has pretty much fallen off the radar these days. It's not all that surprising as they were underrated even in their heyday. Check 'em out if you get a chance.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The brothers began working together in the 60s and initially called themselves Chubby and the Turnpikes. They had a couple of locally successful singles in the late 60s for Capitol Records. By 1973, they were just known as Tavares and they scored with the #5 R&B hit "Check It Out." Victor Tavares sang lead on the single, but decided to quit the group soon after. The remaining brothers carried on. Four of the brother became know by their nicknames - Chubby (used in their original group name), Pooch, Butch, and Tiny. The lone nickname holdout was Ralph.


Friday, February 27, 2015

"I'm So Excited" by The Pointer Sisters

Song#:  1180
Date:  09/18/1982
Debut:  79
Peak:  30
Weeks:  16
Genre:  R&B, Pop

Pop Bits:  The Sisters' album So Excited! was not generating much excitement on the chart with its first single, "American Music," stalling out at #16 and this next single only reaching the Top 30. After a pair of gold albums, So Excited! flatlined at #59 and couldn't get near a certification. It would be just a minor bump in the road for them and both the Sisters and this song (see below) would rebound quickly.

ReduxReview:  I have to admit that the first time this came out I was like - ehh. I though it was a little silly and seemed a little variety show-like. It still kind of feels a bit like that, but I grew to like it more on re-release. I think the remix (though a slight one) boosted the "excitement" factor enough to make it seem more urgent. It's a good hit and one that most people recognize (and associate with the Sisters), so you gotta give them props for knowing the song had more potential than a lowly #30 peak.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  I can hear folks now - "hey - wait a minute! Wasn't this a big hit and isn't it like their signature tune? What's up with the #30 peak?" Well, yeah, it was a bigger hit - the second time around. This first time, the album's title track didn't really catch on (it did even worse at R&B hitting #46). The Sisters' (who wrote the song) were very disappointed and felt the song should have done better. So after scoring two major hits from their next album, Break Out, they went back and did a slight remix of the song, which was then issued as a single. This time around, it grabbed folk's attention and it bounded into the Top 10. Although not originally included on the Break Out album, after the song hit, later pressing of the LP included the song.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

"Rock This Town" by Stray Cats

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1179
Date:  09/18/1982
Debut:  80
Peak:  9
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Rockabilly

Pop Bits:  Although this Long Island trio were rockin' clubs in NYC, they took off for the UK where a 50s revival (including styles and music) was taking off. Eventually they met revival rock fan Dave Edmunds, who had his own chart entries with "Almost Saturday Night" (solo, #54) and "Teacher Teacher" (with Rockpile, #51), and he offered to work with the trio. They signed with Arista and issued a self-titled debut in the UK in 1981. Two singles from the album hit the Top 10 while another reached #11. This helped the album get to #6. The band issued a quick follow-up album, "Gonna Ball," later in the year, but it was not as successful. However, Arista thought it was enough to try and break the group in the US, so they took six track from their debut, five from "Gonna Ball," and an unreleased track to assemble their US debut LP "Built for Speed."  This first single was issued and it slowly caught on eventually reaching #9 (it earlier hit #9 as their second single in the UK). The album became a smash hitting #2. The success would garner them a Grammy nod for Best New Artist.

ReduxReview:  It's funny looking back on what music I loved and what music I hated. I absolutely hated this song. I wasn't a fan of early rock/rockabilly and this loud revival tune really hit me wrong. And I hated everything about the band - the music, the look, the videos, etc. I wanted no part of it. Of course, as time goes by tastes change and as I got more familiar with the genre, I began to appreciate the sound. Although it is still not one of my favorite genres, I definitely don't hate it any longer. So now I can hear this song with different ears and appreciate it much more. Plus, Brian Setzer is just a fantastic musician.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The Cats' lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter, Brian Setzer, was in an earlier rockabilly band called The Tomcats, which also featured his brother Gary. Their breakup lead to Brian forming the Stray Cats. Although The Tomcats had no official studio releases, a live performance of the group from 1980 was recorded and eventually released in 1997 as "High School Confidential" by Brian Setzer & The Tomcats


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Situation" by Yaz

Song#:  1178
Date:  09/18/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  73
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This UK duo of Alison Moyet and Vincent Clarke formed after Moyet's previous band broke up and Clarke left Depeche Mode. Moyet placed an ad looking for new band mates and Clarke, who was looking for a voice to record a demo, was the only person to respond. Clarke was hoping to retain his recording contract with Mute Records and he thought a demo of Moyet singing his song "Only You" would do the trick. It did. The label called for a proper single followed by an album. The song was issued in the UK and it was a major success reaching #2 on the chart. Their follow-up single "Don't Go" reached #3 while the proper album "Upstairs at Eric's" was a #2 platinum smash. Unfortunately, their start in the US wasn't so good. Much to their protest, their first single in the US was this song, which was originally the b-side to "Only You" in the UK. A remix of this song had gone to #1 on the US Dance chart and so the label chose to make this song Yaz's US debut single. Although the dance crowds loved the remix, pop radio wasn't that fond of it and the song spent a short couple of months on the chart.

ReduxReview:  I can't blame them for being pissed that this would be their US debut song. It doesn't matter that it was a dance hit (in a remix version). There are plenty of times where #1 dance songs could not crossover (or were even meant to). Why the label thought this one would hit is a mystery. It just does not have the makings of a good pop song. It has long instrumental sections and barely the hint of a real chorus. In fact, the song title is only said in the opening line. I do like the song, but I'd have to agree with Yaz - what on earth was the label thinking? Moyet is pretty terrific though.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The duo originally named themselves Yazoo. Moyet was a blues aficionado and was fond of the US label Yazoo Records, which featured many early blues artists. So she used that for the duo's name. Well, Yazoo Records didn't like that very much and threatened a major lawsuit. Also in the mix was the fact that there was already a minor US band called Yazoo. The double dose of trouble led the duo to shortening their name to just Yaz for the North American market. Elsewhere, they remain Yazoo.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"Heartlight" by Neil Diamond

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1177
Date:  09/11/1982
Debut:  69
Peak:  5
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  E.T. mania was in full swing at this time with the film ("E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial") still at or near the top of the box office chart and related products crowding the shelves. It seemed most everyone loved the film and that included Diamond who saw a screening of it with songwriters Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager. The trio were so moved by the film that afterwards they wrote this song that would become the title track to Diamond's latest LP. The timing of the release was just about perfect and the song rode the mania wave right into the Top 10. It would also spend four weeks at #1 on the AC chart. The single would be Diamond's final pop Top 10 and last AC #1. The album also did well going to #9. It would be his last non-holiday studio album to reach the Top 10 until 2005.

ReduxReview:  Since over half the album was written by Diamond, Bacharach, and Bayer-Sager, I can only assume this album was already in process when they saw "E.T." and wrote the song. I'm sure Diamond is very thankful it did because the other singles from the LP tanked. His pop career was already in decline so not having this timely single would probably have meant disaster. But the song saved him - for now. Yeah, back then I was all about the movie and I totally loved this song. But I listen to it now and think - this was really a hit? You tell me - had this not had the "E.T." tie-in, do you think it would have been a Top 10'er? I mean, if the song was about doin' it for the first time with someone Diamond would sing "turn off your lamp light...," would you buy it? Or about a prostitute? "Under the streetlight..." I wouldn't have. So as a memento of a time/place/event, it can provoke a cheezy, fun smile out of me. But as a legit hit...bleh.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although the song does not specifically call out any character from the film, the lyrics regarding "turn on your heartlight" and "take a ride across the moon" were unmistakably inspired by scenes from the movie. And for the film's studio, MCA, maybe a little too much. With significant merchandising money to be made (including an "E.T." story album featuring Michael Jackson), MCA was not pleased with Diamond's composition and sought to protect their product. In the end, Diamond agreed to pay MCA a fee of $25,000 for using the film as inspiration for the song.


Monday, February 23, 2015

"I Get Excited" by Rick Springfield

Song#:  1176
Date:  09/11/1982
Debut:  75
Peak:  32
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This single from Springfield's LP "Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet" became the album's third Top 40 entry following "Don't Talk to Strangers" (#2) and "What Kind of Fool Am I" (#21). Although it was the lowest peaking of the bunch, it caught the attention of Grammy voters who handed Springfield a nomination for Best Rock Vocal, Male.

ReduxReview:  This one has shades of "Jessie's Girl" right off the bat, but it settles into its own song soon enough. Actually, I thought this should have been the LP's second single. I think it would have done much better than it did as the third single. Regardless, Springfield was tossing out some solid pop/rock tunes at the time that still sound pretty darn good.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Springfield's "Success" album featured the song "Black Is Black." This was originally a hit for the band Los Bravos in 1966. The single reached #4 on the pop chart and in doing so, Los Bravos became the first Spanish rock band to have a major international chart hit.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

"The Look of Love (Part 1)" by ABC

Song#:  1175
Date:  09/11/1982
Debut:  77
Peak:  18
Weeks:  25
Genre:  New Wave, Dance

Pop Bits:  This UK band began as Vice Versa in 1977 and then with the addition of lead singer Martin Fry, they evolved into ABC. They recorded the single "Tears Are Not Enough," which did well in the UK reaching #19. This prompted a full album produced by Trevor Horn called "The Lexicon of Love." Their next single, "Poison Arrow," broke the into the UK Top 10 (#6) and then this single kept the streak going reaching #4. Here in the US, this single was our introduction to the band. Their cinematic new wave sound and accompanying video got a lot of attention and the single made it into the Top 20 while reaching the #1 spot on the Dance chart.

ReduxReview:  Looking back, it's just weird to realize this did not go Top 10. The song has had such a long life that it just seems like it was a major chart hit. I think I like it even more now that I did back then. It is certainly a classic from the period. I like to think of this song as "sophisticated new wave."

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The 12" single for this song consisted of Parts 1-4.  Part 1, which is this single, is the album version of the song. Part 2 was an instrumental version, Part 3 a vocal remix, and Part 4 a short instrumental section from the song. Parts 1 and 4 appeared on the album while 2 and 3 were only available on the 12" single.