Saturday, April 18, 2015

"Used to Be" by Charlene & Stevie Wonder

Song#:  1231
Date:  10/30/1982
Debut:  76
Peak:  46
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After her dead and buried single "I've Never Been to Me" got unearthed and became a left-field hit (#3 pop), Charlene had the arduous task of following up the unexpected hit and sudden revival of her singing career. Working with her original label, Motown, and the writers of "I've Never Been to Me," she introduced her new album with this title-track single that became a duet with her labelmate Stevie Wonder. It seemed like a surefire hit on paper, but the song fizzled and couldn't reach the pop Top 40. It didn't do any better at AC peaking at a lowly #31. As a result, the album was a non-starter and disappeared quickly. Motown attempted to move Charlene into a more modern pop direction with her next album, "Hit and Run Lover," but it got zero attention. This song would be her last charting single.

ReduxReview:  I remember being so excited for this song. I was all about Charlene at the time and ran out to get this album when it was released. Charlene with Stevie Wonder - it has to be awesome! Well, it wasn't. This preachy ballad sounds like a four-minute afterschool special. Remember how great it "used to be?" But, oh, "used to be" wasn't really that great either. I dunno. It's just a message song gone horribly wrong. The two singers try to breathe life into the tune and I actually like the music, especially when it revs up, but the lyrics just drag it down. Very unfortunate as it kind of killed Charlene's career.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  In addition to updating Charlene's sound, Motown also put her in a film. Berry Gordy co-produced the martial arts film "The Last Dragon" and he used several Motown artists for the soundtrack. In addition to Charlene's song contribution, "Fire," she also performed it in the film. Unfortunately, it didn't do anything to further her career and she was dropped from the label soon after.


Friday, April 17, 2015

"Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye

Top 10 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Song#:  1230
Date:  10/30/1982
Debut:  78
Peak:  3
Weeks:  21
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  As the 80s opened, Gaye was having all kinds of issues. In addition to drug use, a failed marriage, and tax problems, the master demo tapes to Gaye's next album were taken and given to his label (Motown). The label remixed the demos and released them without Gaye's input or consent. After learning that "In Our Lifetime" was released, Gaye stated he would never record for Motown again. After the dust settled, Columbia Records bought Gaye out of his Motown contract and settled all his other financial issues. Now given a fresh start, Gaye began to work on an album that would bring him back to commercial prominence. "Midnight Love" shied away from his more introspective work and focused on audience appeal. This first single threw down the gauntlet and became the biggest hit of his career spending ten weeks at #1 on the R&B chart and hitting #3 at pop. The song would get three Grammy nods winning two including Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. It would end up being Gaye's final pop chart entry. Sadly, less than two years after his comeback, Gaye was killed when his father shot him after an altercation.

ReduxReview:  I don't like to admit this, but I hated this song when it came out. At this point, I can't even tell you why I didn't like it. Obviously, I've changed my mind since then. The slinky groove along with Gaye's "baaayyybeee" wails are way too good to resist. It's sexy as hell and a bedroom classic.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The ten-weeks at #1 on the R&B chart not only made this song his biggest hit, but it would end up being the biggest R&B hit of the 80s.  2) Gaye's real name was actually just Gay. Of course that name lead to much teasing over the years, so once he got signed to a label (Motown's Tamala), he added the "e" to the end of his name to help temper the teasing and any rumors about his sexual orientation.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

"Let's Go Dancin' (Ooh La, La, La)" by Kool & the Gang

Song#:  1229
Date:  10/30/1982
Debut:  79
Peak:  30
Weeks:  15
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The band's first single from their "As One" album, "Big Fun," was successful at R&B reaching #6, but stalled just outside the pop Top 20 at #21. This next single did about the same business by reaching #7 at R&B and just barely making the Top 30 at pop. The dual Top 10's/Top 30's allowed the album to go gold, but that was a let down compared to their previous albums.

ReduxReview:  As a faithful, weekly listener to "American Top 40," I'm sure I heard this song several times. Yet I have zero recollection of the tune. I think I know why - it is just an unremarkable standard R&B jam. By this point in their recording career, they seemed to be retreading their own work and it all started to run together. The slip in sales of the album and single seemed to indicate others were taking notice as well. Plus, the lyrics state "let's go dancin', reggae dancin'" but this certainly ain't a reggae beat. So what's up with that? Would have made a more interesting song if they did reggae it up. Luckily, they would finally change things a bit with their next album.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Another track on the album, "Hi De Hi, Hi De Ho," wasn't pushed as a single in the US, but was marketed in the UK where reached #29. A portion of the song's popularity stemmed from a hit British TV show called "Hi-de-Hi!" Characters in the program, which was about a late 50s/early 60s holiday camp, used the title phrase to greet campers. It became a very popular catchphrase in the UK during the shows nine-season run from 1980-88. Although Kool & the Gang's song was not used in the TV show, the single benefited from the show's catchphrase.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"1999" by Prince

Song#:  1228
Date:  10/30/1982
Debut:  81
Peak:  44
Weeks: 12
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  Almost a year to the date after his last pop chart entry ("Controversy," #70 pop, #3 R&B), Prince returned with the title track to his double-LP "1999." The single did well at R&B reaching #4, but seemed to fade after a #44 peak at pop. If you are looking at this and thinking - hey, wasn't this a pretty big pop hit? - you'd be right. It got a second lease on life the following year (see below). The album became his first pop Top 10 reaching #9 and it grabbed Prince a Grammy nod for (oddly) Best Pop Male Vocal.

ReduxReview:  I'm not really sure why this song did not catch on the first time around. My thought is that pop radio was still not into tha funk and it just didn't get to the masses. But the doors blew open after "Little Red Corvette" and it finally got the audience it deserved. It's a brilliant jam. Just try to stand still while listening to this. I dare you.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  When this single was first issued, it just missed out on the pop Top 40 and disappeared after 12 weeks. After the LP's second single "Little Red Corvette" hit it big, "1999" got promoted again and the single re-entered the pop chart  in the spring of 1983. This time around it did much better and peaked at #12 on the pop chart. The single was also reissued late in 1998 to capitalize on the song's upcoming title year. It did well enough to get on the pop chart for one week where it hit #40. To-date, it remains Prince's last pop Top 40 entry.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"Stand or Fall" by The Fixx

Song#:  1227
Date:  10/30/1982
Debut:  84
Peak:  76
Weeks:  8
Genre:  New Wave

Pop Bits:  In the early days of this band, they released a few singles under the names Portraits and The Fix. Although the songs didn't chart, they did grab the attention of MCA records who signed them. Now known as The Fixx, the group issued their debut album "Shuttered Room." This song was their first single to chart in both the US and UK. While it was not a major hit in either country (#76 US, #54 UK), it did get significant airplay on US rock radio and peaked at #7 on the Mainstream Rock chart.

ReduxReview:  I am fairly certain I heard this on the radio way back when, but I don't think it really stuck with me until after they hit it big with "One Thing Leads to Another." When that happens, then older songs start to get a little more action due to interest in the artist. It's hard to forget the arena-ready chorus, but the verse lacks a bit and just isn't as memorable. It's still a good introduction to the group.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  When they signed to MCA, the band's name was The Fix. The name stems from a term in aviation, as in "getting a fix" on a location. However, MCA balked a bit at the name as it was a term associated with drug use. The band and the label compromised on the addition of the extra "x."


Monday, April 13, 2015

"I Wouldn't Beg for Water" by Sheena Easton

Song#:  1226
Date:  10/30/1982
Debut:  86
Peak:  64
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Easton tried to get out of the ballad rut with upbeat "Machinery," the first single from her album "Madness, Money & Music." Unfortunately, it didn't connect with listeners and it peaked at a low #57. This second single returned her to more familiar ballad territory, but it too couldn't muster much of a showing at pop. However, it did at least reach #19 at AC. Easton's fortunes were dwindling and she needed a reversal stat. Luckily, she would score big with a duet soon.

ReduxReview:  I've always thought this was a nice ballad and Easton goes all diva to the rafters with her epic note. Sadly, I think folks were getting tired of her big ballads and started to ignore her. After some significant success, she seemed to be in a rut. But I think this slow burner is worthy of another listen.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Later in the 80s, Easton began to dabble in acting. One of her first major rolls was on the hit TV show "Miami Vice." In season four, she had a five episode stint as Caitlin Davies. Her character married Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson), but she ended up getting killed by one of Crockett's enemies.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

"Bad Boy/Having a Party" by Luther Vandross

Song#:  1225
Date:  10/30/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  55
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Vandross' debut album was a double-platinum, #1 R&B smash that also crossed over to the pop chart (#19). The album contained the #1 R&B hit "Never Too Much" (#33 pop) plus another R&B Top 10. His second album, "Forever, For Always, For Love," continued his R&B hit streak hitting #1 and going platinum. It also did well at pop reaching #20. The success of the album is mainly attributed to this first single which reached #3 on the R&B chart. At pop it hung around the bottom half of the chart for three months, which is a pretty good run despite the low peak. The album got Vandross a Grammy nod for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male.

ReduxReview:  I really like how this song starts out with the party noise and then settles into the groove of "Bad Boy." When it switches to "Having a Party," the crowd noise gets a little overwhelming. It makes me wonder how it sounded on the radio as I'd imaging it was a little jumbled. However, the combo of songs is a great idea with lyrics of "Bad Boy" feeding right into the other tune. I wouldn't consider this on the list of best Luther songs, but it is a cool jam.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song is a medley made up of a song written by Vandross and Marcus Miller ("Bad Boy") plus a tune originally written and recorded by Sam Cooke. Serving as the b-side to his hit "Bring It on Home to Me" (#2 R&B, #13 pop), the song caught on and also became a hit. It reached #4 at R&B and #17 pop. After its release, Cooke began to use the song as his closing number in his live shows. He continued to do that until his death in 1964.