Saturday, September 19, 2015

"She's a Beauty" by The Tubes

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1406
Date:  04/09/1983
Debut:  82
Peak:  10
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  The Tubes moved away from their punk roots towards a more mainstream sound with their 1981 album "The Completion Backward Principle." The album became their highest charting to-date (#36) thanks to their first Top 40 single "Don't Want to Wait Anymore" (#35 pop, #22 Mainstream Rock). Despite some members of the band wanting to go back to their art-rock days, the decision was made to continue down the more commercial path that they had started. Once again, producer David Foster came in and assisted them with their next LP "Outside Inside." It was a successful venture for them as this initial single became their first Top 10 pop hit (#1 Mainstream Rock). The song helped propel the album to #18. Both the single and album would be the band's peak moment.

ReduxReview:  It's hard to rectify that this is the same band who did "White Punks on Dope," but the move to mainstream pop/rock certainly provided us with some great tunes like this one. I skipped buying this single and went right for the album. It's arguably their most commercial effort and I liked it. The LP was full of solid pop/rock tunes including this Beauty. They also maintained some of their silliness with the oddball track "Wild Women of Wongo." But like a lot of bands, once they reached their peak, things would fall apart afterward and sadly, that was the case with The Tubes. Luckily, they left behind a pretty great body of work.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The song was certainly helped along by its video. Directed by Kenny Ortega, it was considered a high quality video for the time. Lead singer Fee Waybill plays a carnival barker who is luring men to a ride where they can view beautiful women. A young boy steps up and takes the ride. That boy was 12- year-old Robert Arquette, brother of actors Rosanna, Patricia, Richmond, and David. Years later, Robert became Alexis and began to live life as a trans woman. She continued to act in many films and TV shows. Many folks may remember her in 1998's "The Wedding Singer" where she played a Boy George-alike and sang "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" at a wedding reception.

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Friday, September 18, 2015

"Reap the Wild Wind" by Ultravox

Song#:  1405
Date:  04/09/1983
Debut:  85
Peak:  71
Weeks:  5
Genre:  New Wave, Synthpop



Pop Bits:  This British band's origins started in 1974 as Tiger Lily, but by 1976 they were a solid unit that would sign with Island Records as Ultravox! Over the course of three albums (and minus the exclamation), the band did little to impress record buyers despite being a popular live act. They were on the verge of calling it quits when three members decided to soldier on and hired a new lead singer in Midge Ure. Their fourth album, "Vienna," was their breakthrough in the UK with the title track single reaching #2 and the album hitting #3. Their next album was also a Top 10 hit, but in the US they were virtually ignored. Their sixth album, the George Martin produced "Quartet," finally got them a little recognition in the US when this single reached #27 at Mainstream Rock and crossed over to the pop chart (#12 UK). It would end up being their only song to reach the US pop chart. However, in the UK they continued to have hit songs and albums until their initial breakup in 1988.

ReduxReview:  Why oh why did "Vienna" not catch on in the US?? Ugh! It's such a great song and a synthpop classic. It's not a conventional pop song, but that is what makes it great. It was their biggest hit in the UK and #1 in at least three other European countries, yet the US just didn't get it. Apparently what we did get was this single which briefly rode the chart. It's got a nice cinematic sound and is one of their better songs, but it's no "Vienna." It's not even as good as their other main hit "Dancing with Tears in My Eyes" (#3 UK). While those songs have lived on past their time, this one had fallen to the wayside and I can understand why. It's a good tune, just not a great one.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although this was their only US chart entry, the band is more famous for two other songs: "Vienna" and "Dancing with Tears in My Eyes". These two UK hits have been on several 80s compilations and have become more popular in the US over time. "Vienna" is also famous for its video which used 1949's film noir "The Third Man" as inspiration. 2) Lead singer Midge Ure maintained a solo career while in Ultravox.  His 1985 single "If I Was" became a UK #1 hit. He left the band in 1988 and continued his solo career. He scored a few more UK chart entries and even briefly appeared on the US pop chart in 1989 with "Dear God" (#95). Perhaps his biggest moment in music was being the co-writer of the 1984 UK charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas." The song remains the second biggest selling single in UK history, only surpassed by Elton John's Princess Diana tribute "Candle in the Wind 1997."

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Count on Me" by Gerard McMahon

Song#:  1404
Date:  04/09/1983
Debut:  87
Peak:  85
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  Born in England, McMahon mostly grew up in the US thanks to a move his family had made. By the early 70s, he was already a seasoned performer who picked up solid work as a session musician. A move to Colorado prompted him to front his own band called Gerard. They became quite popular in the area and that lead to a contract with Caribou Records. Their 1976 self-titled debut album got a little notice with the single "Hello, Operator" just missing the pop chart (bubbling under at #109). The band would split after one more album and McMahon went back to session playing and songwriting. He got a shot at a solo career with Columbia Records in 1980, but after one album he was dropped. Warner Bros. picked him up next and McMahon issued the LP "No Looking Back." This single from the album became his first (and only) to reach the pop chart. It wasn't enough for Warner to keep him, so McMahon moved on to Atlantic for an LP (under the name Gerard McMann) that also went nowhere. McMahon then shifted his focus to writing music for TV and films. He would later record under the moniker G TOM MAC and issue a few albums and EPs.

ReduxReview:  Knowing that McMahon has contributed a lot of songs to soundtracks, including "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," this song makes sense. It kind of sounds like something that would play in a buddy movie or some teenage comedy. It's a good song, but I would not peg it for single release. It's missing that bit of flare that is needed to really shine on the pop chart. Perhaps in the hands of another artist/producer, something better could have been done. As-is, I find it likable, but average.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In 1987, McMahon (going by McMann at the time) co-wrote and performed the song "Cry Little Sister" for the film "The Lost Boys." It served as the film's theme song. The soundtrack would be a hit reaching #15, however McMahon's song would not be issued as a single despite being quite popular. The song has been covered by several artists and a sample of the song was used by Eminem for the track "You're Never Over" from his 2010 album "Recovery."  2) McMahon wrote the song "Bad Times," which was the very first song I covered for this blog. McMahon wrote and performed it for the film "Defiance." Tavares picked it up for their album "Supercharged." It was a #10 R&B hit (#47 pop).

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"Rio" by Duran Duran

Song#:  1403
Date:  04/02/1983
Debut:  58
Peak:  14
Weeks:  13
Genre:  New Wave, Synthpop



Pop Bits:  The band's first US chart single, "Hungry Like the Wolf," was just peaking at #3 when this song debuted. Bolstered by another memorable video, the single took off and came close to reaching the Top 10. It was also a hit at Mainstream Rock where the song made it to #5. By this time in the UK and other parts of the world, Duran Duran had already moved on from the "Rio" album. Three singles from the album had already hit the Top 10 in the UK ("Hungry" #5, "Save a Prayrer" #2, and "Rio" #9). The US was playing catch-up. Initially, "Rio" flopped in the US the same way that "Hungry" did on first release. But after the remixed "Hungry" hit, "Rio" would then follow suit. In order to keep up with the rest of the world and the band's growing popularity, there was no time for other singles from the album to be released in the US. However, in a couple of years "Save a Prayer" would see a belated US release and the single would hit #16.

ReduxReview:  Of course I loved "Hungry Like the Wolf," but when this song first came out I liked it even more. The synth arpeggios were so cool and I loved the chorus. But over time this one has faded a bit whereas "Hungry" has kept its 80s glow. I still really like this song but I'm not so enamored with it as I was back in the day.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Although the song lyrics make it sound as if Rio was an actual girl, it is actually a metaphor for the US. The band was striving to be popular in the States and the lyrics were meant to express that desire. The final line of the song pretty much sums it up with "hear them shout across the land, from the mountains in the north down to the Rio Grande."

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Flashdance...What a Feeling" by Irene Cara

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Oscar Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1402
Date:  04/02/1983
Debut:  77
Peak:  1 (6 weeks)
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Pop, Dance, Soundtrack



Pop Bits:  That steel town girl on a Saturday night turned a minor romantic drama into box office gold and along with it, a major hit soundtrack. "Flashdance," starring Jennifer Beales, opened to critical pans in April of 1983. But many folks loved the story of a welder by day, exotic dancer by night trying to get into ballet school and it became a $200 million box office sensation. It also helped that the film had a terrific pop music soundtrack that topped the album chart thanks to this lead single. Co-written by Cara, Keith Forsey, and producer Giorgio Moroder, the song was a smash that would be Cara's first (and only) #1 hit. It would also reach #1 on the dance chart and #4 AC. The tune would go on to score an Oscar for Best Original Song and a Grammy for Cara for Best Pop Female Performance. Although the use of pop songs in films was not a new idea (see "Saturday Night Fever"), the success of the soundtrack (from a movie that technically was not a musical) started a trend. Movie studios recognized the cross marketing appeal of a good pop soundtrack and its potential for making even more money from the film. A slew of pop soundtracks would follow over the years including #1 albums from "Footloose" and "Top Gun." But the spark for the soundtrack explosion began with "Flashdance" and this single.

ReduxReview:  Even my cynical, new wave, rock lovin' BF totally fell for this song. So how can anyone hate on this tune? You just can't. It may not be something you put in your playlists, but I'm sure you have to be boppin' along when this hits the speakers. From it's quiet start and "slow glowing dream" to Cara wailing on the final outro, the song is an iconic piece of 80s pop music. It's as irresistible now as it was then. Slip on your leg warmers and torn sweatshirt and let's get dancin'! I can have it all!

ReduxRating10/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The "Flashdance" soundtrack was hitting its peak during the summer months. At the time, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" had been riding the #1 spot for 17 weeks. The soundtrack finally overtook the top spot from "Thriller" and remained there for 2 short weeks before "Thriller"-mania continued and returned to #1. Oddly, it would be another soundtrack that would finally topple "Thriller" for good. After an additional 20 weeks at #1 (which was interrupted along the way by The Police's "Synchronicity," Quiet Riot's "Mental Health," and Lionel Richie's "Can't Slow Down), "Thriller" relinquished the top spot for the final time to the soundtrack from "Footloose."  2) Originally this song was recorded by vocalist Joe Esposito, who had worked with Moroder before on songs for Donna Summer. However, after hearing the song the movie studio wanted it done by a female singer. Irene Cara was contacted for the work. She helped to reform the lyrics into something from a female perspective and then recorded the tune. Although Esposito lost on out this tune, he still got a song on the soundtrack. He sang the ballad "Lady, Lady, Lady."

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Monday, September 14, 2015

"Gimme All Your Lovin'" by ZZ Top

Song#:  1401
Date:  04/02/1983
Debut:  79
Peak:  37
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Blues-Rock



Pop Bits:  After the tour for their 1981 album "El Loco," this trio took a bit of a hiatus. When they reconvened to record their next LP, the band decided to pursue more of the synth-driven sound that they explored on their previous album. The results would be titled "Eliminator" and this first single became their third pop Top 40 entry. The song would be a big hit at Mainstream Rock reaching #2. It was a highly successful start that would push the album to #9. At this point they began to recognize the importance of MTV and ventured into videos. The video for this song was the first in a series of three from the album. It went into heavy rotation on MTV and featured items that would become iconic such as the Eliminator car, the fuzzy guitars, and the ZZ Top key chain.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't having any of this ZZ Top stuff at the time. To me it sounded like horny, middle-aged men trying to be cool by boosting their mediocre blues tunes with New Wave-ish synths. No thanks. Okay, so I was probably a little harsh on the guys. While I still don't ache to hear them, I have developed a bit of a fondness for the trio and will boogie with them when an "Eliminator" hit gets played.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  "Eliminator" is a word used to describe the winner of a drag race. It is also the name of the car featured on the album's cover art. The customized 1933 Ford coupe was owned by band member Billy Gibbons. In addition to being used in the album artwork, the actual car would make appearances in their videos. The car became so popular that Gibbons had a second one made that could be taken along on tours and appearances.

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

"Try Again" by Champaign

Song#:  1400
Date:  04/02/1983
Debut:  83
Peak:  23
Weeks:  20
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary



Pop Bits:  The Illinois group got their recording career off to a great start with the #1 AC hit "How 'Bout Us" (#5 R&B, #12 pop). It was the title track to their debut album. A follow-up single couldn't muster much support so the group went back to the studio to record their next album, "Modern Heart." This first single from the album came close to replicating the success of their debut single. It peaked just outside the pop Top 20 while reaching #2 R&B and #6 AC. But once again, they could not follow it up. Their third album, 1984's "Woman in Flames," would contain the #10 R&B single "Off and On Love," but it failed to make a dent in the other charts. The group would go on hiatus after that and then reunite in 1990 for a new album. But neither the album or the lead single would garner much attention and Champaign's charting days came to an end.

ReduxReview:  "How 'Bout Us" was a very good song and this one matches it. However, the pair of smooth R&B tunes may have backed them into a corner with folks wanting more of the same. They tried some other funkier singles, but they failed despite being pretty good. It seems they just couldn't find the right song to break them out of the AC ballad mode. If they had, I think their career could have gone on for a lot longer. Regardless, they scored a couple of terrific hits that people will remember.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Lead singer Pauli Carmen left the group for a solo career in 1985. He would grab a couple of minor R&B chart entries from his debut solo LP the following year. "Dial My Number" would do the best reaching #26. He would reunite with the group in 1990. He still continues to perform and record under the Champaign moniker.

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