Saturday, June 20, 2015

"Feet Don't Fail Me Now" by Utopia

Song#:  1297
Date:  01/08/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  82
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After Utopia broke through to the charts with their album "Adventures in Utopia" (#32), which featured the #27 single "Set Me Free," the band chose to record an odd project for their follow-up. The conceptual album "Deface the Music" was Utopia' homage to the Beatles and it featured a set of songs that basically imitated the Fab Four during various stages of their career. Although critics seemed fond of the experiment, record buyers did not bite. It took two years for them to come up with the politically charged LP "Swing to the Right," which fared even worse early in '82. Later in the year the band changed labels and pretty much returned to form with their second self-titled LP. It wasn't a major rebound, but it did garner more attention thanks to this low-charting single and its quirky video that was featured on MTV. It would be Utopia's final pop chart entry. They would go on to record two more album before calling it a day in 1986.

ReduxReview:  This song seemed so familiar to me but I don't think I've ever heard it. Perhaps the XTC-like undertones makes me think I've heard it before. I could definitely hear that group do this song. And there you go - once again a Utopia single sounds like someone else! But at least they always make it enjoyable. Although not a song with massive hit potential, this could have done a little better.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Upon initial release, the 1982 "Utopia" album included a bonus EP of five songs. The EP and songs were not listed on the album cover or inner sleeve. The same five songs appeared on both sides of the 12" EP. When the album was reissued as a CD, the five songs just became part of the regular track listing and were not considered bonus tracks.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Milestone! 1982: The Year in Review

With a third year of chart songs complete, I have to say that I still love doing this project. It has been a lot of fun listening to old favorites, discovering new ones, and digging up information on artists and their songs. Regardless of any rating I apply, I like to think that by listening and writing about some of the forgotten songs/artists of the decade, it will keep their contributions and legacies alive. After all, they have done something that very few people have been able to do - get a single on the pop chart. It doesn't matter if you like the song or not. The fact that they did it is pretty darn cool. So to all those long forgotten artists who are still out there selling real estate or running a business or working in an office or even still playing in the bars, I'm listening and thanks for your work! I couldn't have this much fun without you!

The chart music of 1982 was still in a transition phase. MTV was changing the way we discovered songs and artists. Synthpop was on the verge of a major breakthrough. The British were coming! R&B artists were gaining some traction at pop but were still ignored by a lot of pop radio and even MTV. Major artists from the 70s were having difficulty adapting and getting left behind. It was all leading up to one of the most iconic years of the decade (and probably my second favorite), 1983.

As I move along in the chart years, probably the most difficult aspect is finding interesting information on artists that had several chart entries, yet the artist or their songs are...well...bland. I try to track down what I can, but sometimes there are artists who are just plain boring. When I get to another low-level chart entry by an uninteresting artist, I usually groan. I'm sure anyone reading one of those blog entries can practically hear that groan through the post! But luckily there are not too many and eventually the artist runs their chart course.

Other than that, I'm having a blast and I hope anyone who encounters the blog will have fun as well. Keep reading, pass it along to friends, feel free to send comments, and don't forget to "Rate It!" at the bottom of each post. Here is a recap of 1982:

Number of charted songs in 1982:  431  (413 in 1981)
Time it took listen/post all songs:  1 year, 24 days  (10 mo. for 1981)
Number of songs to hit #1:  15  (14 in 1981)
Number of songs to reach Top 10 (excluding #1's):  59  (61 in 1981)
Artist with the most chart entries:  Tied with 4 each  (3 artists had 4 each in 1981)
  • Kool & the Gang
  • Steve Miller Band
  • Stevie Wonder (3 solo, 1 duet) 
  • Paul McCartney (2 solo, 2 duets)
Number of gold singles:  22  (26 in 1981)
Number of platinum singles:  10  (3 in 1981)
Number of songs that won a Grammy:  12  (11 in 1981)
Number of One-Hit Wonders:  7  (5 in 1981)
Number of Rated 10 songs:  12  (9 for 1981)
Number of Rated 1 songs:  0  (1 for 1981)

Top 5 favorite chart songs of the year:
  1. "Jack & Diane" by John Cougar
  2. "Don't You Want Me" by Human League
  3. "We Got the Beat" by The Go-Go's
  4. "Edge of Seventeen" by Stevie Nicks
  5. "Eye in the Sky" by The Alan Parsons Project
Worst song of the year:  "Attack of the Name Game" by Stacy Lattisaw
Best song I didn't know existed:  (tie) "What Do All the People Know" by The Monroes and "All of My Love" by Bobby Caldwell
Favorite discovery:  Larry Lee's "Marooned" album.

Some interesting things learned (click links for more details in previous posts):
  • John Cougar was the first artist of the 80s to place two songs in the Top 10 of a year-end chart (see chart below).
  • Much derided actress Pia Zadora was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female.
  • Saga did a song cycle about insect aliens who find Albert Einstein's brain.
  • British group Alan Parsons Project never had a major hit in their home country.
  • Kim Carnes wrote a novelty song called "She Dances with Meat" and recorded it under the name Connie con Carne.
  • Writers of the 80s classic "Down Under" were taken to court for copyright infringement and lost - 28 years after the song was released.
  • Hawaiian crooner Don Ho did a cover version of Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey."
  • Tug of War is a sanctioned international sport.
  • Toni Basil's "Mickey" was actually a remake of the song "Kitty" by UK band Racey.
  • The cover art for Billy Squier's "Emotions in Motion" album was done by Andy Warhol.
  • In John Cougar's original version of "Jack & Diane," the pair were an interracial couple.
  • Devo provided background vocals for Jermaine Jackson's "Let Me Tickle Your Fancy."
  • Greg Kihn writes horror novels, one of which won an award.
  • Rocker Aldo Nova wrote songs that were hits for Celine Dion and Clay Aiken.
  • Neil Diamond got a scholarship to New York University - in fencing.
  • Charlene's "I've Never Been to Me" also comes in a male version which was covered by The Temptations.
  • Tom Petty's wife inspired Stevie Nicks' "Edge of Seventeen."
  • Survivor's Dave Bickler is the singing voice on the famous Bud Lite "Real Men of Genius" ads.
  • Olivia Newton-John's first recording contract was with the Don Kirshner-assembled group Toomorrow.
  • Joan Jett's "I Love Rock n' Roll" is a remake of a 1975 song by The Arrows.
According to the year-end chart for 1982, these were the year's Top 10 singles:
  1. "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John
  2. "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor
  3. "I Love Rock n' Roll" by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
  4. "Ebony and Ivory" by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
  5. "Centerfold" by J. Geils Band
  6. "Don't You Want Me" by Human League
  7. "Jack & Diane" by John Cougar
  8. "Hurts So Good" by John Cougar
  9. "Abracadabra" by Steve Miller Band
  10. "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" by Chicago
So long '82, hello '83!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Stray Cat Strut" by Stray Cats

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1296
Date:  12/25/1982
Debut:  43
Peak:  3
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rockabilly

Pop Bits:  The trio's US debut album, "Built for Speed," was a best-seller thanks in part to the LP's lead single "Rock This Town" (#9). This second single would give the album an additional boost and help it get to #2. It would end up being a platinum success. Both this single and the album would prove to be the peaks of their chart career. This song appeared on the band's self-titled debut album that was released in the UK. It served as the LP's third single and reached #11 on the chart.

ReduxReview:  I didn't get into their retro rockabilly at the time and this second single just made it worse for me. I thought it was supremely silly and totally hated it. These days I have a better understanding of what they were doing and can appreciate them bringing rockabilly back to the masses. As for this song, it is still not one of my favorites, but it is more than tolerable and I don't mind if it comes up in a playlist mix.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The video for this song was an MTV favorite at the time. Included in the video are snippets from the 1949 MGM animated short "Bad Luck Blackie." Considered one of the best cartoons ever made, the Tex Avery film centered on a white cat who is being tormented by a bulldog. A black cat offers to help keep the white one safe by bringing bad luck in various forms to the bulldog. It's long been played on TV, but like a few other earlier cartoons, it contains a scene that could be consider offensive or racist. In a scene, the bulldog is shoved in a stove and when his head pops out the chimney, he appears Chinese. These days when the cartoon is shown, that little portion is edited out.


"Hungry Like the Wolf" by Duran Duran

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1295
Date:  12/25/1982
Debut:  77
Peak:  3
Weeks:  23
Genre:  New Wave, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Formed in 1978, this band settled on a lineup in 1981, signed with EMI, and released their self-titled debut album. Considered part of the UK's New Romantic scene, they placed three singles on the UK chart including the #5 "Girls on Film." However, the success didn't translate to the US and the singles and album flopped. Their follow-up LP, "Rio," got released in May of '82 and started off well with the UK #14 "My Own Way," but it was this song that got them their second #5 hit. Again, US audiences remained numb to their music. However, an EP of remixes called "Carnival" gained traction in US dance clubs and it caused EMI to change their marketing strategy in the States. Most of the "Rio" album got remixed to be more dance-oriented and was reissued in the US. The remix of this single started to get airplay and with the help of an impressive (for the time) video that received heavy play on MTV, Duran Duran finally hit it big in the States.

ReduxReview:  Like most of Duran Duran's lyrics, this one is totally lost on me. I mean, I kind of get the gist, but it still makes no sense. And yet, who cares? This is just a great song and an absolute classic from the era. The Indiana Jones-ish video was a big deal at the time too. It was exotic, sexy, and well-filmed, especially for the early era of MTV. The band would go on to have other excellent singles, but this one was king of them all.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Duran Duran began playing clubs around Birmingham, England, and the one particular area had several venues. One of the clubs was called Barbarella's. Named after the campy 1968 sci-fi film starring Jane Fonda, the rock club sparked inspiration for the band's name. The movie featured the character Dr. Durand Durand and with one slight spelling modification, Duran Duran was born.  2) The stylized video for this song was highly popular and it ended up winning the inaugural Grammy award for the Best Short Form Video.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"Eminence Front" by The Who

Song#:  1294
Date:  12/25/1982
Debut:  80
Peak:  68
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Who's LP "It's Hard" started off with the #28 single "Athena." It would end up being their last Top 40 entry. This second single would then prove to be their final pop chart entry. The band would break up and a week before this single was released, they finished their "farewell" tour. The three remaining original members would reunite a couple of times for one-off appearances before committing to full tours in 1989 and 1996. Bassist John Entwistle would die in 2002 leaving Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend the last remaining original members. The pair would issue a Who album in 2006 called "Endless Wire." It reached #7 and thus far has become the last official Who studio album.

ReduxReview:  "It's Hard" was pretty much a forced effort for the band and it seems they don't really look back on it fondly. Even at the time on their farewell tour, the only song they played from the album in concert was this tune. It seemed to be the only real "keeper" out of the bunch for them. And I get that. Although I did like "Athena," this song was probably the best from a pretty lackluster album. The swirling synth sets up a nice groove that keeps this jam going. It's a moody piece that is one of their best latter-day singles.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In 1993, Townshend revisited The Who's classic rock opera album "Tommy" and adopted it into a Broadway musical. It was a successful venture that would end up winning five Tony awards including one for Townsend for Best Original Score. The show was nominated for Best Musial but lost out to "Kiss of the Spider Woman."  2) If the opening of this song sounds familiar, it may be due its use on TV, in radio spots, at sporting events and in film. It has recently been used in the TV shows "Entourage," "The Americans," and "Person of Interest," in addition to commercials for GMC trucks. It was even used as background music for The Weather Channel's "Local on the 8's" weather spots.


"Forever" by Little Steven & the Disciples of Soul

Song#:  1293
Date:  12/25/1982
Debut:  81
Peak:  63
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Boston born Steven Van Zandt became a fixture on the Jersey shore music scene early in the 70s. He co-founded the band Southside Johnny & the Asbury Dukes and stayed with them for three albums (writing and producing as well) while along the way made contributions to Bruce Springsteen's works. As Springsteen's career began to take off, it required more time and input from Van Zandt and by the time the "Born to Run" tour was in full swing, he became an official member of Springsteen's E Street Band. While working on Gary US Bonds' comeback album, Van Zandt got an offer to record his own solo project. In between doing Bonds' second album and working on Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A.," VanZandt got a band together and wrote/recorded his debut LP "Men Without Women." This first single was issued and it spend a couple months on the pop chart. The album capped off at #118. Despite not being a hit, the album was critically well-received. Springsteen and members of both the E Street band and the Asbury Dukes made guest appearances on the album. VanZandt would end up leaving the E Street Band later in 1984 (and would rejoin in 1999) and issue a few more albums while playing and writing for other artists. This song would be his only pop chart single.

ReduxReview:  Van Zandt is a great musician, personality, songwriter, actor, etc. However, his singing voice annoys the crap out of me. It's like Tom Petty on helium. He sounds good as a background vocalist, but as a lead singer - yeesh. I like this song and I think it has (had) better hit potential, but I think the Springsteen-esque arrangement along with Van Zandt's voice may have kept this from going further. His voice got less whiny as time went on, but in this early period it wore on me.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) It was for this album that Van Zandt adopted the name Little Steven. The main reason was to separate himself from his association and work with Springsteen in order to develop his own solo path and career. The "Little" was a tribute to two other artists he admired, Little Richard and Little Walter.  2) Although he never acted, Van Zandt got cast as Silvio Dante in the hit HBO series "The Sopranos." Series created David Chase was a fan of Van Zandt's music and after seeing him do a funny introduction bit at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame show, Chase called him in for an audition. Initially the audition was for the part of Tony Soprano, but Van Zandt thought that lead role should go to a real actor and not a first-timer. The roll of Dante was then created for VanZandt and his real-life wife, Maureen, would play his on-screen wife. Since then, he has acted in other TV shows and films.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"Are You Serious" by Tyrone Davis

Song#:  1292
Date:  12/25/1982
Debut:  88
Peak:  57
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B, Soul

Pop Bits:  This soul singer found success on the Dakar label in 1968 when his single "Can I Change My Mind" reached #1 at R&B and #5 pop. The gold record began a streak of R&B hits that continued throughout the 70s. Davis amassed thirteen R&B Top 10's including three #1's. His songs didn't do quite as well at pop, but he did grab another gold record with his biggest overall hit, 1970's #3 "Turn Back the Hands of Time" (#1 R&B). His streak cooled as the 80s started, but a move over to the Highrise label got him this hit. Featured on his self-titled album, the single reached #3 at R&B while almost getting to the halfway point at pop. It would be his final pop chart entry. Davis would continue to record and he would place a few more entries on the R&B chart, but this song would prove to be his last R&B Top 30 hit. He has long been considered one of the best singers of Chicago Soul. Davis died in 2005 following a stroke he suffered the previous year.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't sure about this one when it started. It sounded pretty old-school (which it kind of is), but Davis has a terrific voice and he takes this tune to the next level. The more I listen, the more I like this bedroom groove. The soul tune was probably a little too genre-specific for pop radio, but getting near the Top 50 was a pretty good showing. It should have done better though.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) His given name is Tyrone Fettson. Early in his career, he recorded singles for a few Chicago area labels prior to signing with Dakar. For those 45s, he was credited as "Tyrone the Wonder Boy." When he signed with Dakar, producer Carl Davis suggested Tyrone adopt his last name. The first single issued under the new Tyrone Davis name hit #1 at R&B.  2) Davis' younger sister, Jean Davis, had some minor success singing with the R&B band Facts of Life. They were produced by Millie Jackson and had a hit in 1977 with "Sometimes," which reached #3 at R&B and #31 pop. The song was a remake of Bill Anderson's 1975 #1 country hit.


"Take the Time" by Michael Stanley Band

Song#:  1291
Date:  12/25/1982
Debut:  89
Peak:  81
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Cleveland band was finally beginning to break on a national level when their eighth album, "MSB," was issued. Although the album would feature two charting singles, "When I'm Holding You Tight" (#78) and this song, it wasn't enough to keep up the momentum gained from their past two albums. The more polished music, courtesy of producer Don Gehman (John Cougar), didn't really click with listeners outside of their Midwest home and the album faded quickly. However, the band's loyal fan base helped to get the album to #136, which was a decline from their previous two Top 100 entries.

ReduxReview:  This song is a strange combination of Springsteen, Seger, and John Cougar (that last one thanks to Gehman). It's a good heartland rocker with a quality sax solo, but it just doesn't have that extra oomph that makes a song a hit. It's something that I think hampered MSB during this time. They were always on the verge of a breakthrough, but no matter how good their songs were, they couldn't come up with that one killer pop radio track. I'm sure Stanley and Co. would have loved to been major stars on a national level, but in the long run they maintained a huge, loyal Ohio/Midwest following that proved to be the key to their long and successful career.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia: "MSB" opens with the track "In Between the Line." Michael Stanley wrote it as a goodbye song to John Lennon. The track served as the b-side to "When I'm Holding You Tight" and has since become an in-concert fan favorite. A live version of the song was included as a bonus track on the CD reissue of the "MSB" album.


Monday, June 15, 2015

"What If (I Said I Love You)" by Unipop

Song#:  1290
Date:  12/25/1982
Debut:  90
Peak:  71
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  In the late 60s/early 70s, Manny Loiacano headlined shows in New York clubs under the name Rick Daniels. He had steady gigs at the Copacabana and even made appearances on the "Tonight Show." After he married his wife, Phyllis, the pair moved to Atlanta and began writing their own music. It was there that they ended up singing background on Bertie Higgins' 1981 debut album that featured the #8 hit "Key Largo." The duo attracted the attention of Higgins' label, Kat Family, who signed the husband and wife team. With the help of Higgins' producer Sonny Limbo, Manny and Phyllis became Unipop and recorded their one and only LP "Unilove." This first single made a slight dent in the chart, but it wasn't enough to sustain their career. Manny and Phyllis ended their Unipop days and resumed life in Atlanta.

ReduxReview:  This was the first and only song on the charts in '82 that was not available either on Spotify or YouTube. So I bought the album and got the song posted. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this. It's quite strange. It sounds like modern take on a song from the 50s. However, the odd thing about it are the voices. I just can't tell what is going on there. They sound manipulated almost in chipmunk-style but not quite so fast. Maybe the multi-tracking of the vocals caused the odd effect. Other songs on the album are voiced the same so I'm not sure if it was intentional schtick or if it really was their own voices. Whatever the case may be, it sounds strange and almost otherworldly. The song itself is kinda catchy. I didn't much care for it at first, but the more I heard it the better I appreciated it. I'm just not sure what genre to put this in. Maybe Alien Retro? Regardless, it certainly is an interesting chart entry.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Manny's main profession is that of an aural piano tuner. He has perfect pitch and is able to tune pianos by ear only. He learned this trade in the 60s working for Steinway in New York. After he moved to Atlanta, he worked for Baldwin Pianos and opened up his own tuning business. He still owns and operates Roswell Piano Tuning by Ear, which services the Atlanta metro area.


"Shame on the Moon" by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1289
Date:  12/18/1982
Debut:  40
Peak:  2
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Soft Rock, Country Crossover, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  In 1980, Seger scored his first #1 album with "Against the Wind." It would end up being a 5-times platinum, two-time Grammy winning LP that featured three Top 20 hits including the #5 title track. After a live album release, the band readied their next studio recording titled "The Distance." This first single became a multi-format hit reaching #2 at pop for four weeks, #1 AC, and #15 country. It would be Seger's biggest hit to-date. Oddly, the major success of the single didn't really boost album sales. After six multi-platinum albums, "The Distance" would peak at #5 and only reach platinum level. That certainly doesn't make the album a failure, but it was a definite drop in sales and signaled that Seger may be on the waning side of his peak period. (Note: Seger is one of the last major artists to keep his music off of streaming services, YouTube and even iTunes. He recently gave in on iTunes and allowed a few of his album to be sold on the service, but streaming is still a no-go. There are some live performances that are not blocked on YouTube like the above. It'll have to do for now.)

ReduxReview:   I find it odd that this would end up being one of Seger's biggest hits, yet I rarely hear it anywhere. It's a great offering from Rodney Crowell (see below) that fit Seger perfectly. I loved it back in the day and bought the single. I'd have to say it was the song that swayed me into being a Seger fan. So for that, I'm grateful. However, for me the song has lost a little of its luster and I'm not so enamored with it as I was back then.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Seger wrote a good chunk of his charting singles, but this big hit was actually a remake. Country star Rodney Crowell wrote this song and included it on his self-titled 1981 LP. The tune was not released as a single. A month before Seger's version was issued, singer Mac Davis covered it on his album "Forty 82." Again, it was not chosen for single release.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

"The Woman in Me" by Donna Summer

Song#:  1288
Date:  12/18/1982
Debut:  78
Peak:  33
Weeks:  16
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Summer's third single from her second LP for Geffen did slightly better than the second single, "State of Independence" (#41). It would be the diva's 18th Top 40. The song also reached #17 at AC and #30 R&B. The rock band Heart would cover the song for their 1993 album "Desire Walks On." It was released as a single, but failed to hit the pop chart. However, it did reach #24 at AC.

ReduxReview:  Summer is not really known for her ballads so this sultry number was a nice change of pace and I think it fits her well. It takes a few listens to get into the song, which is not a good thing for pop radio, but it finally lured me in. Heart's version is comparable with Ann Wilson turning in a good vocal performance (as usual). I don't think you could go wrong with either version.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  For Summer's album, David Geffen contacted Bruce Springsteen's manager, Jon Landau, to ask if Springsteen would write a song for Summer. Springsteen obliged and wrote the song "Cover Me." However, Landau thought that Springsteen should keep that one for himself and asked for another. Springsteen came up with "Protection" and recorded a version of it with the E-Street Band. Summer chose to record the song and did so with the help of Springsteen who played the guitar solo and provided backing vocals. Initially, the song was to be a duet between Summer and Springsteen and it was apparently recorded. However, the duet didn't seem to work and it became a solo song for Summer. It was issued as the fourth single from her"Donna Summer" album, but it did not chart. Springsteen's recorded version was considered for his "Born in the U.S.A." album, but got shelved. It remains unreleased although leaked bootlegs have found their way to YouTube.