Saturday, August 15, 2015

"Love My Way" by The Psychedelic Furs

Song#:  1367
Date:  03/05/1983
Debut:  73
Peak:  44
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Alternative Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  This English band formed by brothers Richard and Tim Butler came out of the late 70s UK punk scene. They would record a self-titled debut album in 1980 that hit #18 in the UK. US listeners started to catch up with the band with their second album "Talk Talk Talk," which cracked the Top 100 (#89). The band's third album, "Forever Now," would be an even bigger success thanks to this first single that came close to the pop Top 40 (#30 Mainstream Rock). Its success would push the album to #61 and eventually it would turn into a gold seller.

ReduxReview:  I didn't catch up with the Furs until their next album, so I missed this song the first time around. It's a well-produced singled that should have done better. However, I wonder at the time if Richard Butler's voice was just a bit too odd for pop listeners. It certainly is unique and I know some folks found it a bit grating. I liked his deep, English accented voice and it particularly worked well on this song. Producer Todd Rundgren helped the band refine their sound and some critics didn't care for it, but I liked it.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The memorable marimba part in the song comes courtesy of producer Todd Rundgren. The band was recording the album in Rundgren's studio and originally there were other instruments playing that melodic line. Rundgren just happen to have a marimba in the studio and tried the line out on the instrument. The experiment worked and Rundgren's idea gave the song that recognizable sound. Very few chart hits have featured the marimba. Arguably the most famous may be its use in the songs "Moonlight Feels Right" by Starbuck (#3, 1976) and "Island Girl" by Elton John (#1, 1975). Although not released as a single, Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones played the instrument on their 1966 song "Under My Thumb."


Friday, August 14, 2015

"Swingin'" by John Anderson

Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1366
Date:  03/05/1983
Debut:  75
Peak:  43
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Country

Pop Bits:  Florida native Anderson took a chance and moved to Nashville to pursue a career in country music. After several years toiling in the local clubs, he finally got an offer from Warner Bros. to join their roster. A couple of low-charting singles were issued before Anderson's self-titled debut album appeared in 1980. The fifth single from the album, "1959," became his first country Top 10 reaching #7. It started a streak of Top 10's for Anderson which included this single from his fourth album "Wild & Blue." The song was his second #1 country hit and it became so popular that it crossed over onto the pop chart where it came close to reaching the Top 40. The addition of a pop audience helped make this a gold record. It would end up being his only pop chart entry.

ReduxReview:  This was one of those songs where the genre didn't matter much. There was just something about it that made a ton of people love it regardless if they liked pop, country, R&B, hard rock, etc. The tune is just loads of fun and hard to resist, kind of like "Elvira" was for the Oak Ridge Boys. The production was solid and it still sounds fresh today. We all should be swingin'!

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) After this major hit, Anderson's popularity started on a slow descent that lasted the rest of the decade. A couple of label changes didn't help anything and by the 90s, he had been without a major country hit for several years. In 1991, Anderson made another label jump to BNA and with producer James Stroud recorded the album "Seminole Wind." The album's second single, "Straight Tequila Night," soared to #1 on the country chart while three other singles from the album reached the Top 10. The run of hits helped the album become Anderson's biggest seller eventually reaching double-platinum status. It was a solid comeback for Anderson which he would ride for the next few years.  2) "Seminole Wind" included the track "Steamy Windows." The song was a remake of Tina Turner's 1989 single from her album "Foreign Affair." While Turner's single reached the Top 10 in several countries, it could only hit #39 in the US. Anderson's version was not issued as a single.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

"Sex (I'm A...)" by Berlin

Song#:  1365
Date:  03/05/1983
Debut:  79
Peak:  62
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Inspired by bands like Kraftwerk and Devo, Berlin's roots began in L.A. in 1978 with John Crawford and Terri Nunn. With the addition of other band members, they issued an indie single titled "A Matter of Time" the following year. However, Nunn had acting aspirations and left the group. A new vocalist, Virginia Macolino, was hired and the band recorded their first album "Information" in 1980. "A Matter of Time" was issued again with Macolino on vocals. Nothing much came from the releases and soon Nunn wanted back into the fold. With a new lineup, Crawford and Nunn recorded the album "Pleasure Victim." Their first single didn't attract attention, but this second one did. The subject matter and lyrics of this song made it somewhat controversial and certain stations refused to play it. Talk about the song quickly reached ears at Geffen Records who picked up the band and gave the album and single a major label release. Despite the controversy over the song and lack of airplay, the single did well reaching #62. It also prompted folks to buy the album which would reach #30 and eventually be certified platinum. Berlin showed that a little sex and controversy does indeed sell.

ReduxReview:  I remember first hearing this in college. My dorm roommate was playing it and I was like..."what the hell?" It just seemed so graphic at the time with the lyrics and all the moaning. I think I was both shocked and titillated. I then read a review in Rolling Stone that gave the album one star. So I shrugged off the LP. That would change with their second single. I then became a big fan. But initially, this one eluded me. I caught up with it later. It was slutty fun. I still think it's a hoot. It's a goofy song that by today's standards would be considered tame.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Prior to starting Berlin, Nunn's acting career almost took off in a big way. She auditioned for the role of Princess Leia in "Star Wars." The auditions seemed to be going well, but in the end George Lucas cast Carrie Fisher. Would Nunn have been a good Leia? You can judge for yourself. Footage of her audition with Harrison Ford can be found on YouTube.


"Minimum Love" by Mac McAnally

Song#:  1364
Date:  03/05/1983
Debut:  81
Peak:  41
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  McAnally was playing music at an early age and began composing songs in his teens. By the time he was in high school, McAnally was good enough to leave and become a session player at the famed Muscle Shoals studios. During a break in a recording session, McAnally started to play some of his original material. That impromptu performance led to his first recording contract with Ariola Records. His 1977 self-titled LP featured the single "It's a Crazy World," which found its way to #37 on the pop chart. It was a promising start, but follow-up singles and albums failed to make any impact. However, he continued to be a successful studio musician and songwriter. Many artists over the years have hit the country chart with McAnally's songs including Alabama (the #1 "Old Flame" in 1981), Sawyer Brown, Kenny Chesney, and Ricky Van Shelton. His songwriting success allowed McAnally to push out a solo album every now and then and in 1983 he issued his fourth album "Nothing But the Truth." It was the first of two albums he would do for Geffen Records. The LP featured this first single that just missed out on the Top 40 peaking at the dreaded #41. It would be McAnally's last single to reach the pop chart. The '90s saw him shift to the country market and he had a few minor chart singles including the #14 "Back Where I Come From."

ReduxReview:  I like this James Taylor....oh, sorry...Mac McAnally song. I'm not sure if McAnally's or Geffen's intent was to sound like a James Taylor recording, but it is kind of what happened. In a good way, I might add. Although McAnally sounds like he got trapped into a conventional pop sound/format, it worked out pretty well for this song. There's nothing here that would make anyone go "I gotta have that record!," but it is certainly an easy going listen with a nice chorus.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) McAnally wrote the song "It's My Job" for Jimmy Buffett in 1981. The song reached #57 on the pop chart. After that, McAnally continued to write songs for Buffett and also tour as part of the Coral Reefer Band, which he continues to do so currently.  2) Although he didn't have great success as a solo artist, McAnally did finally record a #1 hit. McAnally's #70 country chart song from 1990, "Down the Road," got covered in 2008 by Kenny Chesney. Chesney recorded the song as a duet with McAnally and the song reached #1 on the country chart. The pair were also nominated for a Grammy for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.  3) McAnally continues to be one of Nashville's prime musicians. He has won the CMA's Musician of the Year award a record seven consecutive years from 2008 through 2014.


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"Escalator of Life" by Robert Hazard

Song#:  1363
Date:  03/05/1983
Debut:  83
Peak:  58
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Musician Hazard (real name Robert Rimato) played around his hometown of Philadelphia for many years before developing his band The Heroes. They had a strong set of songs, five of which appeared on an EP that they recorded. Things started to fall in place for the band when Rolling Stone writer Kurt Loder saw them perform one night. Loder wrote a little article on the band that appeared in the magazine and it wasn't long before the record companies started to knock on Hazard's door. He answered the call from RCA, who took the band's EP and remixed it for release. This song was issued as the first single and it did well enough to get near the halfway point of the chart. A follow-up song didn't fare as well, but it was enough for RCA to flip the bill for a full album.  "Wings of Fire" got released in 1984, but unfortunately the album flopped and Hazard's time at RCA came to an end. Hazard continued to perform and record up until the time he passed away in 2008 following surgery for pancreatic cancer. Although his solo career never fully took flight, he will always be remembered for one specific song (see below).

ReduxReview:  I became aware of this song thanks to an 80s compilation. Hazard kind of sounds like the American version of Peter Murphy (Bauhaus). He has one of those deep, dark voices that is very distinctive. It adds a bit of menace to his songs. I like the lyrics to this one and the first part of the chorus that includes "we're shopping in the human mall" reminds me of that scene in "Dawn of the Dead" when the zombies are on the escalator. I can't say this song should have done much better than it did, but I like it. Hearing this tune though makes it a little difficult to believe he wrote the hit mentioned below. But his original version is kind of cool and it works for him.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Hazard is responsible for one of the biggest hits of the 80s. While sitting in a bathtub in a hotel room, Hazard ended up writing "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." Told from a male perspective, he added the song to his set list and recorded a demo version in 1979. Another Philly band, The Hooters, ended up getting involved with the debut album of newcomer Cyndi Lauper thanks to her producer (and their friend) Rick Chertoff. The Philly connection seemed to bring "Girls" to Lauper's attention and with Hazard's participation, the lyrics were modified to reflect a woman's point of view. Lauper's version would be her debut single. It would go on to become a #2 platinum record and a classic of the decade. Hazard's more rock-oriented original can be heard via YouTube.


"Keep It Tight" by Single Bullet Theory

Song#:  1362
Date:  03/05/1983
Debut:  84
Peak:  78
Weeks:  4
Genre:  New Wave, Rock

Pop Bits:  This rock band from Richmond, Virginia, were not the first nor would they be the last to be done-in by the corporate machinery. Initially, they went the indie route and did their own promotion, set up their own gigs, and even self-released an EP in 1977. A couple of years later they started getting more attention when they would open for and tour with hot acts like The Pretenders, The Ramones, and Patti Smith. They were doing quite well on their own, but the lure of being on a major label was hard to ignore and after a couple of bites they settled on Nemperor Records, a subsidiary of CBS. Things went downhill from there. Unable to secure producers they wanted, folks at CBS finally forced the band into the studio with the label's choice of producer. With the label in charge, the band's sound got a bit of a revamp into commercial territory, they were put on a horrible tour with Adam Ant, and there was little money for promotion. A self-titled debut LP did get issued and this first single made it onto the pop chart for a month. A second single tested quite well and appeared to be shaping up as a bigger hit, but with the band at odds with the label, CBS decided to pull the plug and SBT's major label days came to an end. The group would also split up soon after.

ReduxReview:  I think the band was looking for a more straight-ahead rock sound, but ended up with something that was a pop-ier version of Nick Lowe or Elvis Costello. I don't think that is too bad of an area to end up in and indeed this is a catchy little tune with a fun video that seemed to be perfect for MTV. Unfortunately, I just don't think the band got promoted well enough. This song should have done better. But with the band not really wanting to play ball, it was easy for the label to just ignore them and move on to other artists. It's too bad because I think this band had a chance.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The band was originally called X-Breed, which they pronounced as "cross breed," but few people got the name right with most calling them "ex breed" or "ten breed." Apparently a friend of the band's was deep into conspiracy theories and had been researching the Kennedy assassination, which included the Warren Commission's single-bullet theory. The phrase was suggested as a band name and it stuck.  2) An early version of this song was recorded by the band and included on Planet Records' 1980 new music compilation "Sharp Cuts." The song almost got the band a deal with Planet, but they declined a contract. As with CBS, the band was not thrilled with the assigned producer. The band then rerecorded the song for their debut LP.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"You Are in My System" by The System

Song#:  1361
Date:  03/05/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  64
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Mic Murphy and David Frank first met each other when Frank was playing keyboards for the funk band Kleeer and Murphy was their manager. They later found themselves collaborating on a song and the results got them signed to Atlantic Records. Their first single, "It's Passion," reached #23 on the dance chart and it was enough for Atlantic to ask for a full album. The duo issued the album "Sweat" and this next single got them to #14 on the dance chart while hitting #10 at R&B. The song also crossed over to pop where it spent a couple of months floating around the bottom third of the chart.

ReduxReview:  Although it has a nice synthpop production, the song definitely leans toward R&B so I'm not surprised it did better there than at pop. The chorus is good, but the song as a whole is a little too slight to support the repetitive groove. I just really wanted something interesting to take the song to the next level, like a really cool bridge. I find it hard to keep still when this song plays, but I'm also not reaching for the repeat button.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Due to a favor, Frank got some studio time and it was suggested that he do some kind of dance tune. He worked one up, but needed a vocalist. So he asked his upstairs neighbor, who was in the process of developing her career. Her name was Madonna. At the time the song was called "Crimes of Passion" and everything was set for them to go into the studio. It was to be a synth-only track, but then Madonna wanted to use her drummer/boyfriend, Stephen Bray, on the track. Frank didn't want that so the disagreement led to the two parting ways. Frank then got Murphy to come in and help with the song, which ended up being "It's Passion." Soon after, the duo became The System and were signed to Atlantic. As for Madonna, it seems she was inspired enough by Frank's song to come up with her own version. Before she got signed, she recorded a song titled "Crimes of Passion" with Bray. Although only credited to Madonna as writer, the song certainly seems to be influenced by "It's Passion." Madonna's song got issued on an unofficial disc called "Pre-Madonna," independently put out by Stephen Bray in 1997. The CD consisted of early demos the pair did before she got signed. It included the early versions of two songs that ended up on her debut album - "Everybody" and "Burning Up."


"Change of Heart" by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Song#:  1360
Date:  02/26/1983
Debut:  54
Peak:  21
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Petty & Co.'s first single from his "Long After Dark" LP was the #20 "You Got Lucky." This follow-up did just about as well but ended up peaking one notch shy of becoming their fifth Top 20 single. However, it was another Top 10 at Mainstream Rock where the song reached #10. The two singles helped the album hit #9, but it signaled a dip in the band's popularity with the album only reaching gold status.

ReduxReview:  Although this song approached the Top 20, it has pretty much been ignored since then. I can understand why. It is not among Petty's best work and truly pales in comparison to his classic tracks. I'm actually surprised this song did so well. It's a good song, but it doesn't have that extra oomph of Petty-ness that just grabs your ears. Plus, Petty sounds a bit extra whiny here, which can be a little grating. The band rocks, as usual.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  During the sessions for the "Long After Dark" album, the band recorded the song "Keeping Me Alive." Petty thought it would be a good addition to the album, but producer Jimmy Iovine disagreed. He wasn't a fan of the song and eventually it got cut from the album. The song did finally see the light of day on the 1995 compilation set "Playback."


Monday, August 10, 2015

"Take the Short Way Home" by Dionne Warwick

Song#:  1359
Date:  02/26/1983
Debut:  65
Peak:  41
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Warwick grabbed her final solo Top 10 pop hit with "Heartbreaker," the title track to her Barry Gibb-produced album. Gibb co-wrote almost all of the tracks on the album including this second single. While it didn't catch on at pop (peaking at the dreaded #41) or R&B (#43), it was another Top 10 AC hit for her reaching #5.

ReduxReview:  If for some reason you couldn't hear the Bee Gees connection on "Heartbreaker," you have to hear it in this song. The staccato delivery, the groove, the harmonies, and the syncopated verse are all hallmarks of the Gibb brothers' sound. With the Bee Gees basically being ostracized around this time, that close connection may have caused this single to get overlooked despite the success of "Heartbreaker." It's a terrific song and there is no other reason I can come up with for this single not doing better. It may not be a Top 10 contender, but it deserved a better fate than its #41 showing.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Warwick's debut single was custom written for her by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Initially, the pair wrote "Make It Easy on Yourself" and one of the singers they had in mind to record it was Warwick, who had just signed with Scepter Records. However, the label thought the song was not good for Warwick's style and gave the song to Jerry Butler, who took the song to #20 pop, #18 R&B. Bacharach and David went to let Warwick know she wasn't getting the song and to let her know they would write one just as good for her. Warwick got pissed at the news and was not convinced the writing team could get her a better song. She then screamed out to them "Don't make me over, man! You have to accept me as I am!" That rant immediately sparked the imagination of the songwriters and they turned around and wrote "Don't Make Me Over" specifically for Warwick. She recorded it, but initially the label put it as a b-side. However, radio stations quickly picked up on the song and soon it was hitting the charts. It became Warwick's first hit reaching #21 at pop and #5 R&B. Bacharach and David certainly did not make her over and the three formed a hit making team that lasted for many years.


"Little Red Corvette" by Prince

Top 10 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1358
Date:  02/26/1983
Debut:  66
Peak:  6
Weeks:  22
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Prince's album "1999" got off to a good, but slow start with its first single, the title-track, making it to #4 at R&B and (initially) #44 at pop. The album would then really take off thanks to this more rock-oriented second single. Both the song and the video, which made it into heavy rotation on MTV, gained Prince a lot of new fans who in turn gave him his first pop Top 10. The hit also sent the album into the Top 10 (#9) becoming his first to do so as well. This single also marked the first time that a Prince song did better at pop than R&B. While the song hit #6 at pop, at R&B the song only managed to reach #15.

ReduxReview:  Oh yeah! Prince revved into high gear with this sexy tune. The release of this song was timed perfectly. It came at a time when both he and Michael Jackson were finally breaking down the color/R&B barriers at MTV and hitting the mainstream. Prince should have been a bigger star by this point, but the mainstream wasn't accepting him yet. They had to after this. The song was just undeniable. Not only is this an 80s classic, but a rock era classic as well.


Trivia:  It was around the time of "1999" that Prince formed his band The Revolution. Although the album is just credited to Prince, The Revolution name does appear on the cover of the album. The phrase "and the Revolution" is written backwards inside the "1" of the 1999. For this album, The Revolution included guitarist Dez Dickerson. He supplied the guitar solo for this song. Famed magazine "Guitar World" lists Dickerson's solo at #64 of the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

"Land of a Thousand Dances" by J. Geils Band

Song#:  1357
Date:  02/26/1983
Debut:  77
Peak:  60
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  "Showtime!" was the band's live album follow-up to their multi-platinum smash "Freeze Frame." The LP's first single, a remake of the 1966 R&B hit "I Do," did moderately well reaching #24 on the pop chart. For a second single, the band chose another remake and issued this classic Wilson Pickett tune (see below). It didn't get people dancing and the song disappeared after a few weeks. This would be the last charting single to featured the band's frontman, Peter Wolf.

ReduxReview:  Once again, I'll mention that I'm not a fan of live recordings. I'd just rather be there than to listen to it like an outsider. The experience doesn't always translate well to a recorded medium. Plus these recordings are often tinkered with to make them sound better, which is wrong in my opinion. Although this song seems to be well-recorded and captures a bit of the excitement, it loses steam with an audience participation section. It was probably fun in concert, but on record it doesn't work.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song famously done by R&B star Wilson Pickett in 1966. Written and originally recorded by Chris Kenner in 1963, his version initially got zero attention. Kenner then entered into a deal with Fats Domino who would record the song in exchange for a writing credit and 50% of the publishing/writing royalties. Kenner agreed and Domino recorded the song. Unfortunately, Domino's version was also ignored. However, Kenner's original got a second wind and suddenly found it's way to #77 on the pop chart. The song then got picked up two years later by Cannibal and the Headhunters who took the tune to #30. They added the now-famous "na na" part to the song thanks to lead singer Frankie Garcia forgetting the words. Thee Midniters then reached #67 the same year, but it was Wilson Pickett's 1966 version that really broke the song reaching #6 pop and #1 R&B. In 1965, the studio group Electric Indian scrapped the chart at #95 with their version. That was the last chart appearance of the song until J. Geils' made it to #60.  2) The title of the song appears nowhere in the lyrics. However, it was originally supposed to be. When Chris Kenner first recorded the tune, he included a 10-second intro where Kenner says "I'm gonna take you, baby, I'm gonna take you to a place. The name of the place is the land of a thousand dances!" But when the single was released, the intro was edited out. Most likely it was done to make the record shorter for radio airplay.