Saturday, June 6, 2015

"I Knew You When" by Linda Ronstadt

Song#:  1280
Date:  12/11/1982
Debut:  77
Peak:  37
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Ronstadt's LP "Get Closer" didn't get off to a good start with the title-track first single fading out at a low #29. This second single fared even worse but did make it into the Top 40. At least this time the song became a multi-format entry with it reaching #29 at AC and #84 at country. It was enough to get the album to gold status, but that is as far as it got.

ReduxReview:  I knew this song was done by Donny Osmond (see below). The song didn't hit me then and I didn't hook into Rondstadt's version either. That's kind of too bad because she rocks this out. I'm not sure why I ignored Ronstand's work during this time. Really, I should have bought both "Mad Love" and "Get Closer" as they contain some of her most interesting work of the period. I'll have to rectify that quite soon.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song written by singer/songwriter Joe South. It first got recorded in 1965 by Billy Joe Royal. He took the song to #14. In 1971, Donny Osmond recorded the tune and it was chosen as the b-side to "Hey Girl." As a double-sided single, the songs reached #9 on the pop chart. Joe South would record his own version in 1969 for his album "Games People Play," but it was not issued as a single. In addition to this hit, South wrote "Rose Garden" for Lynn Anderson (1970, #3 pop, #1 country), "Down in the Boondocks" by Billy Joe Royal (1965, #9 pop), "Hush" by Deep Purple (1968, #4 pop), and "Yo-Yo" by The Osmonds (1971, #3 pop). South would get his own pop hit in 1969 when "Games People Play" reached #12. The song would win him a Grammy for Song of the Year. Two years later he would get another Song of the Year nod for "Rose Garden."


Friday, June 5, 2015

"Pass the Dutchie" by Musical Youth

Top 10 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder!
Song#:  1279
Date:  12/11/1982
Debut:  80
Peak:  10
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Reggae

Pop Bits:  This English teenage quintet consisted of two pairs of brothers (the Grants and the Waites) plus lead singer Dennis Seaton. They were already playing pubs and issuing local singles before a spot on John Peel's BBC Radio 1 show helped them secure a contract with MCA. The boys then recorded their debut album, "The Youth of Today," and this first single got released in the fall of '82. It quickly took off and reached #1 in the UK and in several other European countries. It was eventually released Stateside a few months later where it just barely made the Top 10 - an unusual showing at the time for a reggae-based song. It was enough to get them a Grammy nod for Best New Artist. In the UK, the group would have six more chart songs including the #6 "Never Gonna Give You Up" before breaking apart after the release of their second album. Their follow-up singles were not as successful in the US and despite having one more low-level chart entry late in '83, this lone Top 10'er got them tagged as a one-hit wonder.

ReduxReview:  Frankly, I didn't really know what reggae music was back then. I may have heard of Bob Marley, but I doubt I ever heard his music or knew what a reggae beat was (except for maybe in a song by The Police or Culture Club). Plus, it was definitely not a popular tune where I grew up. So this song was lost on me. Didn't get it - didn't care for it. I don't mind it so much now. It's a nice add to a summer playlist.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song is combo cover of two other songs. It combines portions of "Gimme the Music" by U Brown and "Pass the Kouchie" by the Mighty Diamonds. In the Diamonds' original song, the "kouchie" referred to is a cannabis pipe and they lyrics pertain to the recreational use of the drug. For Musical Youth, this was obviously changed. "Kouchie" became "dutchie," which is slang for a Jamaican cooking pot, or Dutch oven, and the lyrics reflected on poverty with the line "how does it feel when ya got no food" repeated (instead of the original drug reference lyric that had "herb" instead of "food"). Despite the changes, some listeners still though the song was about drugs and later on "dutchie" did become a drug term meaning a blunt that was rolled in a wrapper from a Dutch Masters cigar.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

"Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" by Wolf

Song#:  1278
Date:  12/11/1982
Debut:  82
Peak:  55
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Studio musician Bill Wolfer, aka Wolf, had his sights on moving out from the shadows and into the spotlight. Armed with demos of his own songs, Wolfer got signed to the Constellation label (an offshoot of Solar Records) and readied his debut album titled "Wolf." Although Wolfer wrote/co-wrote nine songs on the album, it was this tenth one, a remake, that got slated for single release. Credited to just Wolf, the song got near the halfway point on the chart before dropping. It would be Wolfer's lone pop chart single. He continued his work as a musician and producer before issuing a few new age/jazz albums beginning in 1989. Later in 2000, he founded the traditional Cuban jazz band Mamborama. The band has issued three acclaimed CDs.

ReduxReview:  This synth-laden version of the song is certainly interesting. Usually, I can do without the vocoder on most songs, especially like this where it is the entire vocal. But it doesn't bother me so much on this one. I think it is because Wolfer's jazz-funk playing enhances everything. His solo is pretty sweet too. I can't say this is an outstanding version of the song, but it's well done and a fun listen.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although is name may not be familiar, a good portion of the people on this planet has heard Wolfer play. In addition to work he did with Stevie Wonder, Wolfer played on Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Most notably, Wolfer performed the synth and synth programming heard on "Billie Jean." Wolfer also went on to produce several recording including Shalamar's #17 contribution to the "Footloose" soundtrack, "Dancing in the Sheets" (1984).  2) This is a remake of The Temptation's classic #1 hit from 1972.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

"Give It Up" by Steve Miller Band

Song#:  1277
Date:  12/11/1982
Debut:  84
Peak:  60
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Miller's second single from his "Abracadabra" album, "Cool Magic," couldn't replicate the success of the #1 title track. It's #57 peak was a disappointment and this third single didn't do any better. Despite the lack of follow-up hits, the album continued to do very well peaking at #3 and it returned Miller to platinum status.

ReduxReview:  This is a weird song. It has a retro-ish verse and then a kooky chorus that sounds like a schoolyard tune. And it is all set to a circusy synth beat. I can't get into this. I actually find it quite annoying. I don't really know what Miller was going for here but whatever it was, I'm just not getting it.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Miller's first #1 single, 1973's "The Joker," didn't catch on in other countries. However, that changed in 1990 when a British TV commercial for Levi jeans featured the song. The spot created so much interest in the song that the single was reissued in the UK and other European countries. The single ended up hitting #1 in the UK and that set an usual record for Miller. The span of time from when Miller first hit #1 in the US until he got his first UK #1 hit (16+ years) was the longest gap ever for an artist. That record almost didn't exist because of Miller's single "Abracadabra." It came very close to capturing the top spot in the UK, but it ended up peaking at #2.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"Don't Stop Trying" by Rodway

Song#:  1276
Date:  12/11/1982
Debut:  84
Peak:  83
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Synthpop, Electronic

Pop Bits:  British-born Steve Rodway's career began with this electro-new wave tune from his debut album "Horizontal Hold." The single bobbled around the bottom of the chart for a few weeks and that was about it. His album went nowhere and further singles failed to get any attention. For many artists, this might have been it - one minor charting single, usually dumped by the label, and no others interested. For Rodway, the rest of the 80s kind of went like that. But the 90s and beyond would be different (see below).

ReduxReview:  I find this pretty interesting for early-80s synthpop. It's quite Human League-ish meets Thomas Dolby, which is probably when I like it. Had I heard this back in the day, I probably would have bought into this. I may have to seek out this LP. It's not the most catchy pop song, but it should have done a bit better. I think his label, Millennium, was having issues at the time so there was probably zero promotion, which doesn't help. Nice discovery.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This early album from Rodway has long been forgotten since it got eclipsed by his 90s persona, Motiv8. As Motiv8, Rodway turned to dance music and started his own label. His 1993 single "Rockin' for Myself" took off the following year and reached #18 in the UK. But his career really kicked in when he began remixing songs. After hitting #37 on the UK chart in 1994 with a remix of The Doobie Brothers' "Listen to the Music," Rodway became an in-demand remixer. He has remixed for artists like the Spice Girls, Erasure, Pulp, Diana Ross, Robert Palmer, and Pet Shop Boys. He also continued songwriting and had a hit in 1996 when Gina G. reached #12 in the US with "Ooh Aah...Just a Little Bit."


Monday, June 1, 2015

"Funny How Time Slips Away" by The Spinners

Song#:  1275
Date:  12/11/1982
Debut:  86
Peak:  67
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  After a comeback at the turn of the decade where they grabbed a couple of Top 10 medley hits including the #2 "Working My Way Back to You/Forgive Me Girl," the group's fortunes quickly dwindled. The hits dried up and record sales slumped. Their LP "Grand Slam" did manage to feature this one last pop chart entry, but it did nothing to reverse the decline. In 1989, they would release their final studio album. They remained a popular touring act, but their hit making days were done.

ReduxReview:  This is some old-school R&B that The Spinners can really jam on. The lead vocal (I think by Bobby Smith, not sure) hits all the right notes and the supporting vocals and arrangement are great. It's really a nice version of the song. The problem is this just seems so out of place on an early-80s pop chart. Even at R&B it wasn't a winner only getting to #43. It's a good listen, but as a single in the 80s, it just doesn't fit.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song written by Willie Nelson. It was first recorded by country singer Billy Walker in 1961. His single reached #23 on the country chart. Nelson would record his own version the following year, but it was not issued as a single. The song has been recorded by many artist over the years. On the pop chart, the best showing was in 1964 when soul singer Joe Hinton reached #13 (the song was just titled "Funny" and it hit #13 at R&B as well). Narvel Felts had the best effort at country hitting #12 in 1975 while the best R&B showing came the following year when Dorothy Moore's version reached #7.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

"Back on the Chain Gang" by The Pretenders

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1274
Date:  12/11/1982
Debut:  88
Peak:  5
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Pretenders self-titled debut album was a major success reaching the Top 10 and spawning the #14 single "Brass in Pocket." It turned into a classic over the years and it has been included on many "best albums" lists. Their second album wasn't quite as well received, but it would be a gold-level success. Soon after, the quartet ran into issues. Leader Chrissie Hynde fired bassist Pete Farndon for his drug use. Then two days after that, lead guitarist James Honeyman-Scott died from heart failure due to cocaine use. (Sadly, 9 months later Farndon died of an overdose as well.) The remaining two members regrouped with two other musicians and recorded this song, which Hynde dedicated to Honeyman-Scott. It would become their biggest hit in the US hitting #5 pop while also reaching #4 at Mainstream Rock.

ReduxReview:  Another slice of brilliance from Ms. Hynde & Co. I liked this one right from the start, but it took some time for me to really fall in love with the song. By the time it appeared on their "Learning to Crawl" album in '84, I was all about it. With its warm chords, great melody, and nice sentiment, the song easily ranks among their best.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Hynde was in a relationship with Ray Davies (The Kinks) and pregnant with their child during the making of this song. Initially she intended this song to be about Davies, but after the death of Honeyman-Scott she changed it into a memorial song for him.