Saturday, March 21, 2015

"Muscles" by Diana Ross

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1203
Date:  10/02/1982
Debut:  61
Peak:  10
Weeks:  17
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Ross' second album for the RCA label, "Silk Electric," got off to a good start with this first single that just nicked the Top 10. It did a bit better at R&B where it reached #4. The song helped the album get to gold status, but it wasn't one of her most successful as indicated by its #27 peak. The song got Ross another Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female. The album's cover was created by Andy Warhol, who already had another one of his works gracing another charting album at the time - Billy Squier's "Emotions in Motion."

ReduxReview:  I think many folks have forgotten this song, but I'm pretty sure that it provided the spark for Michael Jackson's "Dirty Diana." At the time I thought this was a dumb song (and that is coming from someone who likes muscles...). I kind of like it now. I'm not sure why I judged it so harshly back in the day. I like the arrangement and it has a nice, slinky, sexy feel to it without being skanky (although a little skank doesn't hurt sometimes). It doesn't rank among Ross' best, but it's has some kinky fun going for it.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Ross' long-time friend Michael Jackson wrote and produced this song for her. Apparently, Ross had a desire to be with a guy who was loaded with muscles and that created the inspiration for Jackson. It has also been rumored that the song was named after Jackson's pet boa constrictor Muscles. Whatever the case, having Jackson's name (and voice) attached to the song certainly didn't hurt. However, this was before "Thriller" came out. Had the song been issued a year down the road during the height of "Thriller"-mania, Jackson's attachment to the song might have made it a bigger hit.


Friday, March 20, 2015

"State of Independence" by Donna Summer

Song#:  1202
Date:  10/02/1982
Debut:  70
Peak:  41
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Summer's second album for Geffen, "Donna Summer," did about as well as the first reaching the Top 20 and going gold, thanks in part to the #10 single "Love Is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)." Geffen was expecting the Quincy Jones-produced album to be a blockbuster, but it didn't even come close. This second single didn't help things by peaking at the dreaded #41 spot. It was the diva's first single to miss the Top 40 since 1978.

ReduxReview:  I truly missed this song back in the day. I don't think I actually heard it until many years later when I bought a Summer hits compilation. Something about the song hit me and I kept replaying it. And then, a few years later I discovered is was actually a Jon & Vangelis song (see below). I love both versions. It's one of those rolling songs that plays like ocean waves, undulating without any true hook. I find it alluring. However, the lack of a repeatable chorus certainly didn't help the single at pop radio. It's unfortunate because folks missed out on a pretty great song.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally done by Jon & Vangelis. It appeared on their 1981 album "Friends of Mr. Cairo." An edited version of the tune was issued as a single, but it failed to chart in the US. It did reach #67 in the UK. A 1992 version by Moodswings that featured the vocals of Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) titled "Spiritual High (State of Independence) Pt. II" reached #47 on the UK chart.  2) Quincy Jones assembled an all-star choir to provide the backing vocals on this song. Among the vocalists were Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Lionel Richie, Kenny Loggins, and Stevie Wonder.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Get Closer" by Linda Ronstadt

Song#:  1201
Date:  10/02/1982
Debut:  72
Peak:  29
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Ronstadt took a bit of a break after her last album, the platinum "Mad Love," to perform on Broadway in the revival of "The Pirates of Penzance," for which she earned a Tony nomination. Returning to the studio, Ronstadt moved away from the decidedly modern rock feel of "Mad Love" to something more along the lines of her late 70s recordings. "Get Closer" sported several remakes but also included original songs such as this title-track single. The boisterous track got off to a good start, but ran out of gas just inside the Top 30. The poor start didn't bode well for the LP which became her first to miss the Top 10 and platinum status since 1973.

ReduxReview:  I think this song has a 70s vibe to it and had it been released later in that decade, this might have been a hit. In the time period it was issued, I don't think it was what folks were into. Bluesy rock tracks were not storming the pop chart. The song became a bit more popular thanks to its use in a commercial (see below), but it was just the wrong song at the wrong time. However, Ronstadt rocks it pretty well and the 7/4 time signature is pretty unusual for a pop song.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Although the single and album were not among her biggest hits, she did get Grammy nods for them.  The title-track got her a nomination for Best Rock Vocal while the album got her a Pop Vocal nod. The album did win a Grammy award for Best Package Design, but it went to designers Kosh and Ron Larsen.  2) This song was written by Jon Carroll, who was a member of The Starland Vocal Band ("Afternoon Delight," #1, 1976).  3) Some folks may hear this song and remember that it was used in TV ads to promote Close-Up toothpaste.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Tug of War" by Paul McCartney

Song#:  1200
Date:  10/02/1982
Debut:  75
Peak:  53
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  McCartney's fourth solo album (and first after Wings dissolved), "Tug of War," was a major #1 hit thanks to the singles "Ebony and Ivory" (#1 duet with Stevie Wonder) and "Take It Away" (#10). This thoughtful third title-track single may have been a little too subdued for the time as it missed getting into the top half of the chart. Oddly, it also peaked at #53 in the UK. But it didn't matter much as the album would be a platinum seller that grabbed a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.

ReduxReview:  Why this song was issued as a single is anyone's guess. My theory is that this was kind of an important message song that held particular meaning around the time, so it may have seemed appropriate to get out to the masses. Some critics consider it McCartney's equivalent of "Imagine" (the John Lennon song). Perhaps it may be, but that doesn't mean it makes for a good single. I'm sure this sounded out of place on pop radio back then with new wave and "Jack and Diane" ruling the airwaves. It is a lovely song and I do like it, but not as a single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although eliminated from the single version, the grunts and groans heard at the beginning of the song came from a recording of an actual tug of war battle. The sounds are from the annual championship games that were held in Huddersfield. Tug of war is a worldwide organized sport that had its own international governing body. It was even an Olympic sport from 1900-1920. Although the sport may seem relatively harmless, it can cause some very severe injuries including amputations. Most famously, in 1997 two men who participated in a mass tug of war in Taipei (a holiday celebration event) had their left arms amputated below the shoulder when the nylon rope snapped and recoiled back quickly with enough force to sever their arms. Fortunately for both, surgery was able to be performed that reattached their limbs. That may make you think twice before participating in one at the annual company picnic or family reunion...


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"Right Here and Now" by Bill Medley

Song#:  1199
Date:  10/02/1982
Debut:  80
Peak:  58
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  As a member of The Righteous Brothers, Medley amassed six Top 10 hits including two #1's. His post-Brothers solo career (the duo initially split in 1968) was nowhere near as successful. The best he could manage on the pop chart was the #43 "Brown Eyed Woman" in 1968. He bounced around labels trying to get something going, but nothing seemed to work. For his second solo album of the 80s, Medley switched to Planet Records and issued the LP "Right Here and Now." Producer Richart Perry, who was riding high with The Pointer Sisters, took control and got lots of names to participate including James Ingram and Michael McDonald. There was high expectations for this first single, written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, but it couldn't make any inroads at pop or AC (where it only got to #31). It was a disappointing result and would end up being his final solo single to reach the pop chart.

ReduxReview:  This seems like it should be playing over the closing credits of a rom-com movie. There were several AC-style movie themes going on around this time period and a good chunk of them sounded similar to this song. And they were typically written by big-time songwriters (in this case Mann/Weil). Most even featured that specific keyboard sound. Several were also like this - bland and boring. Considering all those involved in this song, I expected a lot more.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Although solo pop stardom eluded Medley, he would have some minor success on the country chart. After "Right Here and Now" failed, Medley changed over to the country market for his next album "I Still Do." The album produced three country Top 30 entries including the #17 title track.


Monday, March 16, 2015

"So Much in Love" by Timothy B. Schmit

Song#:  1198
Date:  10/02/1982
Debut:  81
Peak:  59
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  On this date, three former Eagles already had songs on the chart - Don Henley, Glenn Frey, and Randy Meisner. Why not make it four? Like the others, Schmit embarked on his own post-Eagles solo career. Although not a founding member (he joined the Eagles in 1977), Schmit stayed with the band through to their breakup in 1980. Initially, Schmit got involved in session work playing bass and doing background vocals. But then came the opportunity to do this song for the soundtrack to the film "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Thanks to connections, Don Henley, Don Felder, and Joe Walsh also contributed tracks to the soundtrack, which made Schmit the fourth Eagle to participate. However, his was the only song by a former Eagles to be issued as a single from the LP. The song couldn't quite crack the top half of the chart, but it would still be included on his debut solo album that would be released two years later.

ReduxReview:  This lovely and warm classic (see below) gets turned into something bland and cold by Schmit, who, by the sound of it, provides all the vocals (most likely not, but sure seems that way). It's like Schmit cracked open a vein and let all the life blood run out of the song. There is not even anything remotely different or interesting in this version. I'm not sure who thought this was a good idea, but it wasn't. This is one lame and flightless Eagle.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  This song is a remake of a 1963 hit by The Tymes. The R&B vocal group would take the song (their debut single) to #1 on the pop chart. Then, twelve years after Schmit's version, another R&B vocal group, All-4-One, took the song to #5. Just like The Tymes, it was their debut single.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Everybody Wants You" by Billy Squier

Song#:  1197
Date:  10/02/1982
Debut:  84
Peak:  32
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The title-track first single from Squier's LP "Emotions in Motion" came close to killing the album thanks to its lowly #68 pop peak (#20 Mainstream Rock). It was not a good start. Luckily, this second single slayed the rock radio airwaves and hit #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart while reaching the pop Top 40. It's success helped the album reach #5 and become a double-platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  I'm still in shock that this wasn't the first single. I think if it was, it probably would have been a bigger hit. For me, it is second only to "The Stroke" as Squier's best song. It charges, it rocks, it halts, it whips, it has a one-note organ riff - I mean, c'mon. It just works.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Squier was going to need an image for the cover of "Emotions in Motion." He was looking for something more than just a photo of him and a guitar. So he called up Andy Warhol, who had been to one of Squier's concerts, and ask if he would create something. Warhol said okay and simply asked what colors Squier didn't like. Warhol then took some photos of Squier and then came up with the graphics that appear on the album's cover.