Saturday, August 1, 2015

"Something to Grab For" by Ric Ocasek

Song#:  1345
Date:  02/12/1983
Debut:  76
Peak:  47
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  After their tour in support of their 1981 album "Shake It Up," which featured the #4 title-track single, The Cars decided to take a little break. The band's leader, Ocasek, chose to pursue some solo work and issued his debut album "Beatitude." The album allowed Ocasek to explore different sides of his music and as a result was less pop-oriented than the previous Cars release. This first single couldn't quite crack the Top 40, but it did fine at Mainstream Rock reaching #5.

ReduxReview:  I'm thinking that in order to secure a solo album release, Geffen most likely required a good song they could promote at pop. Something vaguely Cars-ish would probably be best. And here it is. Sounding like a lost cut from their "Panorama" LP, the tune doesn't deviate too much from the Cars' formula. It's good, but like a lot of cuts on the "Panorama" album, it doesn't rank among Ocasek's best work.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Ocasek also kept busy producing records for several other artists including Bad Brains, Hole, and No Doubt. Quite possible his most famous production would be the now-classic 1994 debut album by Weezer. The self-titled LP, now more commonly known as the "Blue Album," featured the band's #18 gold single "Buddy Holly." Ocasek would go on to produced the band's third album, which was also self-titled (now known as the "Green Album.")


Friday, July 31, 2015

"Bread and Butter" by Robert John

Song#:  1344
Date:  02/12/1983
Debut:  79
Peak:  68
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  John's third album, 1980's "Back on the Streets," featured the #31 single "Hey There Lonely Girl." But that wasn't enough to generate interest in the album and it disappeared quickly - along with his EMI contract. He shopped around for a new deal but no one was buying. Finally, Motown showed some interest and John was able to get into the studio for this one-off single. A sizable hit with the song could lead to a new album. Unfortunately, a quick month on the chart wasn't enough for Motown and no further recordings were done. It would be John's final pop chart single. He made one more record in 1984, a 12" dance record called "Greased Lightning" (not the song from "Grease") for a CBS label that reached #60 on the dance chart. Again, it just wasn't enough and John's recording career came to an end.

ReduxReview:  Who the hell thought this was a good idea? I mean...really...c'mon. John basically killed his record deal with two retro remakes. Why on earth would he do this? Who was the market for this? What on earth were they smoking? Pretty much everything about this song is awful. From the corny song to the crappy production, it is just a mess. It probably doesn't help that I've hated this song since I was a kid, but at least it sounded kind of fun for the times in its original version (see below). This update just makes it worse. I'm still in shock that this actually charted. John was a gifted vocalist who, besides "Sad Eyes," just could not find the right material. What a waste. Oh, and if you think this is the worst that John could do, it ain't. Check out the aforementioned "Greased Lightning." It's a total synthpop turd.

ReduxRating:  1/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song by the vocal trio The Newbeats. They took their original version to #2 in 1964. Newbeats member Larry Henley would go on to be a successful songwriter supplying #1 hits for several country artists. But perhaps his best known work is the song "Wind Beneath My Wings," which he co-wrote with Jeff Silbar. The song would become a #1 hit for Bette Midler in 1989.  2) With his 1979 #1 hit "Sad Eyes," John set a couple of chart records. The single would tie the record at the time for the longest climb to #1 at 21 weeks (tied with Nick Gilder's "Hot Child in the City" from 1978). John also set a longevity record for the gap between his first chart entry (1958) and first #1 song (1979). Both records have long since been broken.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

"I Don't Care Anymore" by Phil Collins

Song#:  1343
Date:  02/12/1983
Debut:  86
Peak:  39
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Collins scored his first US Top 10 hit with "You Can't Hurry Love" (#10) taken from his second solo LP "Hello, I Must Be Going." To follow it up, he issued this next single that was reminiscent of his brooding 1981 entry "In the Air Tonight" (#19). Although the song would only dent the pop Top 40, it would go on to reach #3 at Mainstream Rock. It would also earn Collins his very first Grammy recognition. He would receive a nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal.

ReduxReview:  I totally fell for this song when it came out. It bubbled with a tense anger that finally boiled over and exploded. I thought for sure it would be a big hit, but then it fizzled as soon as it reached the Top 40. Perhaps it was a bit too dark for pop radio or maybe it sounded a little too much like "In the Air Tonight," part 2. At least rock radio supported it. It remains one of my faves in his solo catalog.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Before his music career took off with Genesis, Collins appeared in a few films. In two early films, 1964's "A Hard Day's Night" and 1968's "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," Collins appeared as an uncredited extra. In 1967, he was cast in a lead roll for the children's film "Calamity the Cow." However, issues between Collins and the film's director led to Collins being written out of a good chunk of the film. Collins wouldn't do any acting again until he had a guest starring role on the TV show "Miami Vice" in 1985.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"The Fanatic" by Felony

Song#:  1342
Date:  02/12/1983
Debut:  87
Peak:  42
Weeks:  12
Genre:  New Wave

Pop Bits:  Jeff Spry (given name Spirili) got his first major break when he became lead singer of Ron Asheton's post-Stooges band The New Order (obviously, not the UK one). Spry got to record one album with the band before being let go for a drug related arrest. A few years later, Jeff formed Felony with his brother Joe. After appearing in the 1981 slasher flick "Graduation Day" performing their song "Gangster of Rock," the brothers got signed to the Scotti Bros. label Rock 'n' Roll. They recorded this song that got enough attention to get it close to the Top 40. The result was good enough for their label to request an album. Their self-titled LP got issued, however by that time interest in the band waned and further singles failed to make the chart. The band would issue a couple more albums in the 80s, but those also failed to garner any attention. A new song, mainly done by Joe, had them on the verge of deal with Capitol Records, but it fell through when issues between the brothers arose. Sadly, soon after in 1992 Jeff committed suicide.

ReduxReview:  This chugging tune reminds me of early Joe Jackson. Lead singer Jeff Spry really digs into the vocals and creates a character. There is not much of a melody or tune here, but the charging beat and Spry's vocals created something that probably sounded very unique and interesting on the radio. It's a cool, forgotten tune from the new wave era.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was included on the soundtracks to two 1983 films. Initially, it was included on the soundtrack to the Pia Zadora bomb "The Lonely Lady." It was later also part of the 1994 Rhino issue of songs from "Valley Girl," the 1983 Nicholas Cage movie. Full of new wave favorites, the film initially could not get a full soundtrack released due to licensing issues. An EP of a few songs did get out at the time but it was never officially released. It wasn't until 1994 when nostalgia for the film's music sent Rhino Records to the vaults. They issued the first official soundtrack for the film, which sold quite well. It prompted a follow-up disc called "More Music from the Valley Girl Soundtrack."


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" by Journey

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1341
Date:  02/05/1983
Debut:  36
Peak:  8
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Arena Rock

Pop Bits:  Journey became superstars when their 1981 #1 album "Escape" spawned three Top 10 hits including the #2 "Open Arms." A year and a half later they readied their follow-up LP "Frontiers." This first single got things kicked off in a big way hitting #1 at Mainstream Rock while spending an unusual six-weeks at #8 on the pop chart. The album could have been their second #1, but Michael Jackson's "Thriller" blocked the top spot and Journey had to settle for a #2 peak.

ReduxReview:  This was a loud song. It sounded so big with every instrument turned to 11 and filling up the speakers. I always thought it sounded muddy on conventional radios, but when I cranked it on my home stereo it was awesome. It was as if they took the arena sound and put it right there on the record. I loved the sound, the song, and the album. Most critics panned the LP and I can understand why. It's full of big, glossy, commercial, formulaic arena rock that was meant to appeal to the masses. And it did. I bought into it as well and I still enjoy an occasional spin of the album. There's no shame in that. I remember that this album and Styx's "Kilroy Was Here" were paired up into a single review in Rolling Stone. I believe they both got two stars. I loved both albums and was so mad I sent them some hate mail - you know, back when you actually had to write a hate letter and buy a stamp and send it to someone...

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Prior to this single, the videos for Journey's songs were typically in-concert or edited stage performances. With MTV gaining popularity, the band decided to do their first real choreographed video, despite reservations from some of the band members. The video was shot on a wharf in New Orleans and featured the band lip syncing and playing instruments as a girl walked along the wharf. It did not turn out well. In addition to the video's weak concept, there were certain parts of it where the band mimes playing their instruments - aka air banding. It just didn't work. Although not a career killer, it was considered bad enough to be #13 on MTV's list of the worst videos of all time in 1999. (Note:  What was the #1 worst video on the list?  Don Johnson's "Heartbeat.") It also got skewered on an episode of MTV's Beavis and Butthead.


Monday, July 27, 2015

"So Close" by Diana Ross

Song#:  1340
Date:  02/05/1983
Debut:  65
Peak:  40
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Ross' album "Silk Electric" started off well with the #10 Michael Jackson-penned "Muscles." For her follow-up single, this tune co-written by Ross was selected. Featuring a background vocal arrangement by Luther Vandross (in which he sang as well), the song just barely made it into the Top 40. It did a little better at AC reaching #13.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't sure what Ross would come up with for a follow-up to the sexy kitsch of "Muscles," but I certainly didn't expect this doo-wop throwback. Playing sweet to the saltiness of "Muscles," I think Ross was trying to replicate the success of her 1981 remake of "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," but by this time it wasn't working. I mean, did anyone on her team even turn on a radio? "Muscles" made Ross sound current, but this one made her sound out of touch. Although over-produced, the song itself is a nice reproduction of 50s doo-wop that might have served her well a few years earlier. However, by 1983 the kids were not having it. "Silk Electric" is one of Ross' most unusual albums. The songs are all over the map. Besides the two singles, there was a Reggae influenced tune, a couple power ballads, a pop tune, a post-disco song, and oddly, a hard rock outing that sounds like Ross fronting Alice Cooper. It's all bizarre and none of it very good.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  The cover of "Silk Electric" was designed by Andy Warhol. He based it off of several Polaroids that he took of Ross. At the time, another album featuring a Warhol cover was also riding the charts - Billy Squier's "Emotions in Motion."


Sunday, July 26, 2015

"Nice Girls" by Melissa Manchester

Song#:  1339
Date:  02/05/1983
Debut:  69
Peak:  42
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Manchester scored her biggest pop hit with the Grammy-winning "You Should Hear How She Talks About You" (#5). It pushed her album "Hey Ricky" to #19, which was her second most successful chart LP. Unfortunately, Manchester couldn't score a second chart single from the album. So in order to strike while the iron was hot, Arista went ahead and issued Manchester's first "Greatest Hits" collection. In addition to her chart hits, the album included this new song that got issued as a single. It peaked just shy of the Top 40. It would be Manchester's last single to get near the Top 40.

ReduxReview:  This song kept up Manchester's new contemporary pop sound, but it just wasn't as good or catchy as "You Should Hear." To me, it sounds like a lost track from Kim Carnes' 1983 album "Cafe Racers." I like the song and its dark tone, but it's not strong enough to cut its way through to the upper reaches of the chart. I have to say that I've always felt bad for Manchester around this time. Clive Davis and her next label, MCA, tried to make her into some pop/dance diva and besides "You Should Here," it really did not work. And her songwriting credits began to disappear. She wrote/co-wrote most of the songs on her early albums, but by the time she recorded 1985's "Mathematics," she didn't have a single writing credit. She didn't find her voice again until she wrote her 2004 album "When I Look Down That Road" (which I highly recommend). Chances are had Manchester kept her AC ways after "You Should Hear," her career probably would have dropped off anyway. But at least it would have been a more comfortable and graceful path to follow than the corporate pop rabbit hole to nowhere that she got shoved down.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Manchester began to dip her toe in the acting pool around this time. She appeared in a 1984 episode of the TV show "Fame" and later found herself once again supporting Bette Midler in the 1991 film "For the Boys." Fans of the TV show "Blossom" may remember that Manchester appeared as Blossom's mom for a couple of seasons.