Saturday, April 25, 2015

"Down Under" by Men at Work

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Song#:  1238
Date:  11/06/1982
Debut:  79
Peak:  1 (4 weeks)
Weeks: 25
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  The Australian group broke through in a big way with their #1 hit "Who Can It Be Now?" from their #1 debut album "Business as Usual." This second single continued the #1 streak and spent four weeks at the top spot. The accompanying video was an MTV favorite and the lyrics, which contained a lot of Australian references, fascinated folks in the US. It all helped them win the Grammy for Best New Artist.

ReduxReview:  Like a lot of other pop fans, I was all about this song when it came out. The video was fun, the sound of the song was great, and the cultural references were cool. It's a classic from the time, but despite it being the bigger hit, I do think "Who Can It Be Now" is a better song. This one almost butts up against novelty, but luckily Men at Work kept it from going over the top and created a fun tune.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Decades after this song was released, a question featured on an Australian game show prompted a lawsuit regarding this song. The question posed on the show "Spicks and Specks" was "what children's song is contained in the song 'Down Under'?" The answer was "Kookaburra," a song written by a teacher in 1932 about an Australian bird. This comparison was not lost on the company that owned the rights to "Kookaburra" and they sued the writers of "Down Under," Men at Work's Colin Hay and Ron Strykert, for copyright infringement. At issue was the repeated flute riff in the song. Large portions of it were said to be the same as the children's tune. The issue went to court and in the end, Hay and Strykert lost. Over the course of 28 years, no one seemed to notice or care about any similarities between the songs, including the original writer of "Kookaburra" who was alive for several years after the initial release of "Down Under." Had the game show not used that question, most likely none of this would have come up.


Friday, April 24, 2015

"I Know There's Something Going On" by Frida

Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1237
Date:  11/06/1982
Debut:  88
Peak:  13
Weeks:  29
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Anni-Frid Lyngstad, aka Frida, started as a professional singer in the late 50s with a Swedish dance band. She continued to work throughout the 60s and by 1971 she released her first solo album, produced by her fiancĂ© Benny Andersson. Soon the couple would join forces with another and become ABBA. During their successful run, Frida released another solo album, "Frida ensam," that became a #1 hit in Sweden. But her most notable solo work came as ABBA was on a break (one that unexpectedly ended up being permanent). Produced by Phil Collins, her LP "Something's Going On" was her first English language solo album and it became a major hit in Europe thanks to this single that hit the Top 10 in several countries. In the US, the song was a slow climber and ended up lingering on the chart for a lengthy 29 weeks. It would end up being her only US solo chart single. Due to the song's enduring popularity, this has lumped her in the "one-hit wonder" category despite her success with ABBA.

ReduxReview:  I just loved, loved, loved this song. The massive reverb, Phil Collins' gated drums, the rough guitars, and Frida's piercing siren voice created an epic piece of pop. This is a pop song you just have to blast. This should have easily gone Top 10. I still love to crank this in the car. ABBA never sounded like this.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although the single missed the US Top 10, it's lengthy time on the chart allowed it to finish at #20 on the year-end list of top chart singles for 1983.  2) Each member of ABBA has done solo work, but most were Swedish releases. This song remains the best charting solo single in the US by any member of ABBA.  3) Thanks to Phil Collins' distinctive production, drums and vocals on this song, many thought he wrote it as well. It was actually Russ Ballard who wrote the song. Ballard had his own solo chart entry in 1980 with "On the Rebound."


Thursday, April 23, 2015

"Theme from Dynasty" by Bill Conti

Song#:  1236
Date:  11/06/1982
Debut:  89
Peak:  52
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Synthpop, Soundtrack, Instrumental

Pop Bits:  Composer/conductor Conti already had a few film scores under his belt when he got the call to compose the music for a small film called "Rocky." The movie was an unexpected hit and its success put more focus on Conti's score, specifically the scene where Rocky runs up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The inspirational music behind the scene was spun off into a single titled "Gonna Fly Now" which hit #1 in 1977. Conti then benefited from another pop culture phenomenon this time from the TV world. Conti composed the theme music to the nighttime soap "Dynasty." The show's popularity was skyrocketing by the time the third season started, so why not push the theme song as a single? Unfortunately, it wasn't the orchestral version heard on TV but a synth-based replica done by Conti. The single stalled before getting into the Top 50, but it did get Conti on the pop chart one last time. He has since gone on to score many other works and even won an Oscar in 1984 for his score to the film "The Right Stuff."

ReduxReview:  I'm sure the thought behind this was to make it more marketable to a pop audience, but the whole synth thing completely takes away from the grandness of the original theme. It probably sounded interesting back in the day - almost a cousin to "Chariots of Fire" - but today it sounds like one of those crappy karaoke background tracks done in someone's basement. It's pretty awful. And not even campy awful. Sadly, this sounds more like "Duck Dynasty" than the real "Dynasty." What a way to ruin a great score.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) At the same Academy Awards show where "Rocky" won Best Picture, Conti was asked to be the conductor for the show's orchestra. It was the first of a record-setting 19 appearances he would make as the Oscar's conductor.  2) Initially, "Dynasty" was titled "Oil" and it would star George Peppard. But as things got rolling, Peppard wasn't happy with playing the unlikable Blake character and dropped out.  John Forsyth jumped in and the show, with a new title, was off and rolling.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"You've Got Another Thing Comin'" by Judas Priest

Song#:  1235
Date:  11/06/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  67
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  Formed in 1969, this British band moved away from their original blues-based sound towards hard rock that culminated in their 1974 debut LP, "Rocka Rolla." Featuring lead singer Rob Halford's nearly operatic voice, the band slowly gained a following over the course of four more albums. Their dark brand of metal was far more popular in the UK than the US, but that began to change with their more streamlined 1980 effort "British Steel" (#34). With an ear towards a more commercial sound, they reached their apex with 1982's "Screaming for Vengeance," which yielded this lone pop chart entry for the band. The song also hit #4 on the Mainstram Rock chart. The song's success helped the album become their biggest success in the US reaching double-platinum status.

ReduxReview:  I've never really explored the Judas Priest catalog, but I certainly know this song. How can you not? It's a rock radio classic. This is the one that put them in the same league as AC/DC and other major hard rock band. It may have been their only successful single, but it was a doozy. And they didn't need much after this to remain popular.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In 2006, VH1's list of the Greatest Metal Songs include this song in the #5 spot. The band was surprised by the song's popularity. The album was finished but there was room for one more song. So they placed this tune on the LP's second side never thinking it would catch fire.  2) The band was famously put on trial as defendants in a 1990 civil suit that involved the suicide attempts of two young men. In 1985, the two men were intoxicated when they shot themselves. One instantly died, the other lived but killed himself three year later with painkillers. The men had been listening to Judas Priest at the time. One family contended that the song "Better By You, Better Than Me" contained a subliminal message that said "do it" and that prompted the men to commit suicide. After a three week trial, the judge ended up dismissing the case stating that if a subliminal message did exist, it was not responsible for the actions of the men.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"It's Raining Again" by Supertramp

Song#:  1234
Date:  10/30/1982
Debut:  31
Peak:  11
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  It had been a little over three years since Supertramp released their most successful LP, the #1 "Breakfast in America." They were due for a follow-up and it came out in the form of "...Famous Last Words." The band's main songwriters, Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson, were a bit at odds as to the concept of this album. Davies wanted to return to the band's more prog-rock days while Hodgson wanted to continue the commercial zone of "Breakfast in America." What came out was a mixed bag that would end up being the last Supertramp album to feature the classic line-up of the band. Hodgson would leave following the supporting tour. This first single got off to a great start, but fizzled at the dreaded #11 spot. It signaled that the late 70s sound of the band was perhaps not as viable in the 80s. The LP peaked at #5, but only mustered gold status; a steep drop from the multi-platinum success of "Breakfast."

ReduxReview:  I thought this song was just okay when it came out, but something about the album's cover image attracted me and it was getting a lot of press, so I made the purchase. I soon found out that it wasn't my cup of tea. I remember being highly disappointed by the songs and didn't revisit the album for years. I still don't think it is a good album, but this song is fun in a goofy, Supertramp-y way and the best track of the bunch.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Initially, it seemed that the return of Supertramp was more than welcome as this single began its run on the chart at a very high #31. As a result, this ended up being the highest debuting single on the chart for 1982. Unfortunately, the welcome seemed to be short-lived as the song got shut out of the Top 10.


Monday, April 20, 2015

"Dirty Laundry" by Don Henley

Top Ten Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1233
Date:  10/30/1982
Debut:  73
Peak:  3
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Henley's debut solo album, "I Can't Stand Still," got off to a lackluster start due in part to the low #42 peak of its first single, "Johnny Can't Read." But this second single kicked things into high gear and would establish Henley as a viable solo artist. The song would spend three weeks at #3 on the pop chart while reaching #1 at Mainstream Rock. Henley would go on to have a few more Top 10 hits in the decade, but this song ended up being his biggest chart success as a solo artist.

ReduxReview:  Henley rocks it out on his second single and it pays off. I loved this song right off the bat and I think it was the first solo product of an ex-Eagle I ever purchased. The groove is furious, the production great, and Henley really sounds energized - he means it folks! It still remains one of his best efforts.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song is basically Henley's ode to tabloid news and the writers, reporters, and anchors who do everything they can to get the popular dirt. Since Henley was part of a massively successful band (Eagles), he had to deal with all the fame that came with it, which included being fodder for the tabloids. 2) There is a line in the song that says "is the head dead yet." This is a phrase used in print journalism to ask if changes can still be made to a major headline and article. Therefore, if the "head" is "dead," that means that the headline is already being printed and no changes can be made.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Africa" by Toto

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1232
Date:  10/30/1982
Debut:  75
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Toto's album "Toto IV" started off with the band's second Top 10 hit, "Rosanna," which spent five weeks at #2. Unfortunately, the LP's second single became a bump in the road when "Make Believe" could only muster a #30 showing. Luckily for them, they had this next single in the queue and it ended up being their first (and only) #1 hit. Before this single was issued, the album had fallen out of the Top 10 and was quickly fading. The success of this song regenerated interest in the LP and it bounded back into the Top 10.

ReduxReview:  This song really stood out on radio. There was nothing like it at the time. The wailing chorus, rhythms, and nonsensical lyrics all added up to something different and unique. I totally bought into it and the 45 quickly became a favorite. I think it still holds up and runs neck-and-neck as my favorite Toto song with "Rosanna." Of course we wanted to sing along with this song so we had to try and figure out the lyrics. But the line "sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti" totally threw us off. I think we thought it was "rises like an empress above the Saragayee," and we had no idea what or where Saragayee was. Ah yes, the days before the internet provided you will all this info.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  This song almost did not make the album. At the time, co-writer and band member Steve Lukather didn't really like the song and though it didn't fit well with the other tracks on the album. But they were in need of a closing song and a label guy at CBS convinced them to add the song saying that it would be a hit. Toto reluctantly agreed and to their surprise, it became a major hit around the world.