Saturday, October 31, 2015

"Slipping Away" by Dave Edmunds

Song#:  1448
Date:  05/14/1983
Debut:  93
Peak:  39
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Edmunds last hit the Pop chart two years earlier with his remake of "Almost Saturday Night" (#54) from his album "Twangin..." His follow-up album "D.E. 7th" didn't feature any Pop hits, but two songs were able to reach the Rock chart including the #28 "From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)," a cover of a Bruce Springsteen song that was an outtake from his album "The River." Edmunds had historically self-produced his own work, but for his next venture he decided to collaborate with another producer. ELO's Jeff Lynne stepped in and produced two songs for Edmunds' LP "Information." Not only did Lynne produce this first single, he also wrote it. The song did well enough to become Edmunds' second (and final) Top 40 entry (#7 Rock).

ReduxReview:  You can definitely hear Jeff Lynne's ELO influence right off the bat and it worked well for Edmunds. It is even more apparent on the other Lynne-produced track "Information." I kind of dig both, but that just may be my love for most anything ELO-ish coming through. Although it is a slicker, 80s synth sound, Edmunds doesn't stray too far from his rockabilly roots, which Lynne had flirted with in ELO. I think it was a pretty inspired pairing. Edmunds must have thought so as well because he tapped Lynne to produce six songs for his next album "Riff Raff," including three written by Lynne. Very interesting and very good.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although Edmunds' album "Riff Raff" would continue his collaboration with Jeff Lynn, it would fail to produce any Pop chart entries. However, the album's opener, "Something About You," would do well on rock radio and reach #16 on that chart. The song was a remake of a 1965 hit by The Four Tops. Their original version reached #19 Pop and #9 R&B.


Friday, October 30, 2015

"Fools Game" by Michael Bolton

Song#:  1447
Date:  05/14/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  82
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Yup. You read that genre correctly. The now famous AC crooner began life in music as a hard rocker. Under his given name of Bolotin, he issued two dud albums for RCA in '75 and '76. Then he became the lead singer of a band called Blackjack (which also included future Kiss member Bruce Kulick). Their 1979 self-titled debut garnered a lot of buzz, but with its first single "Love Me Tonight" only reaching #62, the album tanked, as did their 1980 follow-up "Worlds Apart." Back on his own, Bolotin became Bolton and he got another shot at a solo career with Columbia Records. His new self-titled album moved him more towards pop/arena rock and this lead single became his first Pop chart entry. Bolton's next LP failed to do any business, but his solo career would finally take off with his 1987 album "The Hunger."

ReduxReview:  I will state right now that I am not a Bolton fan. At all. I just dislike his voice. The biggest thing that irritates me is when he goes into higher notes, it sounds like someone is grabbing and pulling on his nuts. "Baby that's what" <tug on nuts> "luuuvvvvvvv" <stop tug> "is all about!" He just overdoes it, especially on the ballads. Listen to most any of his hits and you can tell when his balls are yanked. It's like nails on chalkboard to me. He's a talented guy who has penned some really good songs, but I just don't want him singing them. But now I know why he comes off like that. He's really a rock singer. Take a listen to songs from his Blackjack days or even this tune and it makes sense. He was meant to sing rock, not AC ballads or blue-eyed soul. I find his voice far more tolerable when he is singing rock. It's just a better fit. He sounds more open, freer, and less strained. I actually kind of like this Foreigner-ish track. It's not an awesome song, but it certainly should have done a bit better. I guess I should enjoy this version of Bolton while I can because it is all downhill from here.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) A story has been around for years that Bolton actually auditioned to become the lead singer of Black Sabbath. One version is that the band brought Bolton in as a possible replacement for Ozzy Osbourne after he left Black Sabbath in 1978. Another version is that Bolton tried out in 1983 after the departure of Ronnie James Dio. In an interview, Bolton denies he ever auditioned for the band. However, in Tommy Iommi's 2012 autobiography, he states that they did bring Bolton in to audition for the band after Dio had left.  2) After Bolton broke through, folks sought out his earlier recordings and found this self-titled album. It became a popular entry in his catalog and it was eventually certified gold in 1992.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

"I'm Still Standing" by Elton John

Song#:  1446
Date:  05/07/1983
Debut:  56
Peak:  12
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  John's album "Jump Up!" returned him to gold-level sales after a disappointing period for him. John and his old pal/lyricist Bernie Taupin wrote half of the album including the #13 hit "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)." The success prompted them to continue collaborating and John's next LP, "Too Low for Zero," would be their first full album together since 1976's "Blue Moves." The album got a kickstart thanks to this song, which had a popular video shown on MTV. It also did a little business at AC and Rock peaking at #28 and #34, respectively.

ReduxReview:  John's career was experiencing a bit of a resurgence around this time and I think it had a lot to do with Taupin being back on the scene, which provided a bit more focus. Their best work was most likely behind them at this point, but with songs like this one, they proved that they could still pen a solid hit. I liked this song well enough to buy the album. In a decade where John didn't put out a lot of great albums, this one easily floats near the top of the pile.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Fans of the TV competition show "Dancing with the Stars" may recognize one of the dancers in the video for this song that was filmed in Cannes and Nice, France. Bruno Tonioli, now famous as one of the judges on "Dancing with the Stars," can be seen front and center on several shots in this video. Tonioli would dance and do choreography for several major music artists including Tina Turner and The Rolling Stones. He also directed a few music videos including ones by Bananarama and Arcadia.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"No Time for Talk" by Christopher Cross

Song#:  1445
Date:  05/07/1983
Debut:  59
Peak:  33
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Cross' second album, "Another Page," was having a rough start. The LP's first single, "All Right," did...well...alright. It peaked at #12 on the pop chart while reaching #3 at AC. It was a disappointing result following his Grammy-winning platinum self-titled debut album and his #1 Oscar winning soundtrack song "Arthur's Theme." This second single fared even worse and fell short of the Pop Top 30. Again, AC supported Cross' soft rock sound and the song made it to #10 on that chart.

ReduxReview:  This song started off well with an intense opening that reminded me of "Ride Like the Wind," but unlike that hit, this one changes tone quickly and by the chorus it seemed like a completely different song. Overall the tune is okay, however I would never peg it as single-worthy. After listening to the album, I soon realized it was pretty much the only choice for a follow-up. The LP was lacking the hit material that made his debut album soar. However, I can't really fault Cross for that. Although his debut album was definitely good, it was one that turned into an unexpected mega hit. Those are so hard to follow-up to begin with, but Cross had the extra burden in that his style of soft rock had fallen out of favor in the three years since his debut album. Instead of trying to specifically update his sound and create hits on his own or with collaborators that could help, Cross just simply wrote songs and put them out. Those who liked his songs and style would stay and listen. The rest would just move on (as I did). However, I would think that Cross is not terribly sad about the outcome. I'm sure he is still happily cashing his royalty checks.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although it did not appear on the soundtrack album, an instrumental version of this song was used in the 1986 film "American Anthem." The film starred 1984 Olympic gold medal gymnast Mitch Gaylord. His pin-up good looks were perfect for commercials and print ads, so why not a movie? It didn't work. The film, about a football player becoming an Olympic gymnast, was hated by critics and it was a bomb at the box office. Gaylord was even nominated for a Razzie for Worst New Star. The soundtrack album did better than the film reaching #91 thanks to a single by Duran Duran's Andy Taylor, the #24 "Take It Easy."


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

"We Two" by Little River Band

Song#:  1444
Date:  05/07/1983
Debut:  74
Peak:  22
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:   After LRB's lead singer, Glenn Shrorrock, left the group in 1982, they hired in John Farnham to take his place. Farnham's first single with the band, "The Other Guy" (#11 Pop, #6 AC), was featured on the band's "Greatest Hits" album. The band then set out to record its first full album with Farnham at the helm. "The Net" would not do that well becoming their first studio LP to miss at least gold status since 1977. This first single didn't help matters since it peaked shy of the Top 20 and only managed a #17 showing at AC. From this point forward, it was pretty much downhill for the band.

ReduxReview:  Farnham really tries to sell this song. Unfortunately, I'm not buying. The tune kind of goes nowhere. It seems to take forever to get started and then it develops into very little. Basically a two-chord meditation. The bridge adds a little excitement, but it can't rescue the song. It's a snoozer that pales in comparison to their best work. However, Farnham's vocals shine.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  LRB's biggest hit in the US was their 1978 song "Reminiscing" (#3). Oddly, it only peaked at #35 in their home country of Australia. But the song would end up getting into the Australian Top 10 thanks to the house music duo Madison Avenue. They covered the song in 2001 and the single made it to #9. The duo would only hit the US Pop chart one time in 2000 with their song "Don't Call Me Baby" (#88). However, this song would reach #1 on the US Dance chart as well as another tune "Who the Hell Are You." Madison Avenue would issue only one album before breaking up.


Monday, October 26, 2015

"Our House" by Madness

Top 10 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  1443
Date:  05/07/1983
Debut:  76
Peak:  7
Weeks:  19
Genre:  New Wave, Ska

Pop Bits:  This London band got started when their first single, "The Prince," became a left-field hit in 1979 reaching #16 on the UK chart. From there, the band began a streak of fourteen Top 10 hits (interrupted by one #14 entry) that included this song from their fourth studio album "The Rise & Fall." Released in November of 1982, the single would reach #5 in the UK. Meanwhile in the US, the band wasn't catching on at all. After their first three albums stiffed in the States, "The Rise & Fall" didn't get a US release. But then in the spring of '83, the song gained attention in the US and the single took off reaching the Top 10 (#9 Rock, #21 Dance). Caught with an unexpected US hit, the band's label quickly assembled a compilation of their UK singles, including this song, and released "Madness" in North America only. The LP was a good introduction to the band and hit #41 on the Album chart. Unfortunately, the band would not replicate the success in the States despite their continuing success in the UK. Although they would have a couple more minor chart entries, having this lone big hit got the group tagged a one-hit wonder in the US. They place at #29 on VH1's list of the Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s.

ReduxReview:  I fell for this song right away, but like a lot of folks in the US, I ignored the group soon after. I think many here treated this song as a curiosity rather than something from a band they really wanted to follow. They were quite British and that doesn't necessarily translate to a US audience. The same can sometimes be said in reverse. A very US band like the Eagles were not nearly as popular in the UK where they had a lone Top 10 hit with "Hotel California." Regardless, I'm sure glad that at least this song made it across the pond and hit the chart. It's a terrific, memorable song from the decade.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) How popular was Madness in the UK? If you add up all the weeks their singles spent on the UK chart in the 80s, the total number would be 214. This puts them in a tie with UB40 for the most weeks spent on the singles chart in the 80s by a group. Madness has a slight advantage overall because they accomplished the feat in a shorter time frame. By contrast, they spent 36 weeks total on the US singles chart.  2) This song served as the title of a stage musical that featured several Madness songs. "Our House" opened in 2002 and would go on to win the Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 2003.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

"Bang the Drum All Day" by Todd Rundgren

Song#:  1442
Date:  05/07/1983
Debut:  78
Peak: 63
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Singer/songwriter/producer Rundgren has had a long and successful career that started with the psychedelic rock band Nazz. They issued three albums beginning in 1968 that were somewhat successful. Rundgren then moved over to the boards and quickly became an in-demand producer. Along the way, he signed with Bearsville Records and began to issue solo albums. His biggest success came in 1972 when his song "Hello, It's Me" reached #5. The song, from his album "Something/Anything?," was an uptempo remake of a 1969 #66 chart entry by Nazz. As a solo artist, it would be Rundgren's peak moment. In 1978, his single "Can We Still Be Friends?" reached #29. It would be his last solo Top 40 entry. With the exception of his group Utopia hitting #23 in 1980 with "Set Me Free," Rundgren remained off the chart for the next five years. His last contractual album for Bearsville, "The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect," contained this song which got him on the Pop chart one last time, if just for a few weeks. It did a little better at Rock where it hit #29.

ReduxReview:  You may think that you don't know this song, but you most likely do. It takes only a few bars for the recognition to set in. In addition to its other uses (see below), it has been a popular anti-work anthem for many years. It's a fun, bouncy, party song that chugs along at a pretty good clip with its syncopated rhythm. It is a song that works much better as a party tune rather than a single on the radio. I think if I had heard this on the radio in heavy rotation, I'd probably end up hating it. However, it can be fun when it sneaks up on you once in a while.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Although this song didn't do very well on initial release, over the years it has become one of Rundgren's most recognizable tunes. This is mainly thanks to its use in TV ads, radio programs, and sporting events. If you are a Green Bay Packers fan, this song will have you cheering. For many years, it has been played at Lambeau Field after the Packers have scored a touchdown. The Indianapolis Colts used the song for a period of time as well. It has also been used recently in ads for Carnival Cruise Lines.