Saturday, November 21, 2015

"I.O.U." by Lee Greenwood

Song#:  1469
Date:  05/28/1983
Debut:  77
Peak:  53
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Country Crossover, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Greenwood's music career began in the early 60s with his band The Apollos. After a name change to the Lee Greenwood Affair, he got a chance to make records courtesy of the Paramount label. A couple of singles were released, but nothing came of them. The band later broke up and Greenwood spent time on the casino circuit. He could be found dealing blackjack during the day and playing music at night. It was at a casino in Reno that Mel Tillis' manager saw Greenwood and took him on as a client. Greenwood was then signed to MCA and in 1981 he released his debut album "Inside Out." The album would end up being a gold seller thanks to three Country Top 10 hits. For his next effort, "Somebody's Gonna Love You," Greenwood added a bit more crossover appeal via this first single. It paid off quite well with the song hitting #6 at Country and #4 AC. It couldn't quite reach the top half of the Pop chart, but the extra exposure was enough to get Greenwood his second gold album.

ReduxReview:  This song is without a doubt reaching for the Kenny Rogers audience. It sounds exactly like something Rogers would record at the time and even Greenwood's vocals sound similar to Rogers'. It didn't quite hit like a major Rogers crossover tune, but it did do well and expanded Greenwood's fan base. It's a lovely tune with a solid chorus that definitely made it hit-worthy. I'm not a big fan of Greenwood's vocals (they are a bit too laid-back for me), however it is a quality tune.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Greenwood's most famous song would end up hitting the Pop chart seventeen years after it was first released. His 1984 single "God Bless the USA" would initially be a #7 country hit, but the song would be a lasting patriotic anthem that would gain in popularity during significant historical events. The song saw popularity during Operation: Desert Storm in 1991 and then again after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The song became such a popular anthem in 2001 that it was reissued as a single. The song would find its way to #16 on the Country chart, #12 AC, and #16 Pop. The Top 20 showing would make the song Greenwood's biggest hit at Pop.


Friday, November 20, 2015

"Saved By Zero" by The Fixx

Song#:  1468
Date:  05/28/1983
Debut:  80
Peak:  20
Weeks:  16
Genre:  New Wave, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  The Fixx's debut album "Shuttered Rooms" yielded their first chart entry with "Stand or Fall" (#76 Pop, #7 Rock). Their next album, "Reach the Beach," got off to an even better start with this first single. It just made the Pop Top 20 while hitting #9 at Rock. Oddly, the song struck out in their native UK and failed to chart. The band would always remain more popular in the US than in the UK. Their biggest hit at home would end up being the #54 peak of "Stand or Fall."

ReduxReview:  This mysterious sounding track grew on me over time. Initially, I thought it was a bit boring with not much happening. However, the song has a groove that kind of gets embedded in your brain and it becomes hard to ignore. Plus, Rupert Hines' dense production is pretty awesome. I probably should have been a bigger fan of this group than I was.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  As the recording of "Reach the Beach" commenced, The Fixx's bass player, Alfie Agius, decided to leave the group. By that time, he had co-written all of the songs slated for the LP and performed on four tracks, including this one. Due to his departure, he was not listed as a band member on the album credits.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

"The Metro" by Berlin

Song#:  1467
Date:  05/28/1983
Debut:  88
Peak:  58
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Berlin's controversial single "Sex (I'm a...)" definitely got the band noticed. The song wasn't a major Pop hit (#62), but it did well at Rock (#10) and Dance (#8). This follow-up single did just about as well peaking a few notches higher. Despite not featuring a big chart hit, their album "Pleasure Victim" peaked at #30 and became a big seller reaching platinum status.

ReduxReview:  What surprises me is that this song was not a hit in Europe (actually I don't think it was even released there). It seemed perfect for that market with its Euro-synthpop sound and references to the Metro (subway) and Paris. I think what may have helped the song get on the chart in the US is the video. It was popular on MTV at the time. In some circles, this track is considered a synthpop classic. I don't know if I'd go that far, but I do love this song.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was originally released as a stand-alone single in 1981 on the MAO label. It didn't get a lot of attention, but it did help sell the band to Enigma Records. A slightly remixed version of the song then appeared on the "Pleasure Victim" album, which was first issued by Enigma that same year. Not much happened with the release, but then Geffen Records found it interesting and reissued the LP the next year. "Sex" got promoted as the first single and then this song was released as the follow-up. It got the band on the map and the album would end up being the biggest selling of their career. (It also helped that the album bordered on being an EP with seven songs and that it got priced lower than typical full-length LPs.)


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

"The Celtic Soul Brothers" by Dexys Midnight Runners

Song#:  1466
Date:  05/28/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  86
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  After this unusual band grabbed a left-field #1 hit with "Come on Eileen," they had the difficult task of trying to follow it up. They were successful in doing so in the UK when their cover of Van Morrison's "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When You Smile)" (#61, 1972) reached #5. For the US market, the label chose this song instead, which had already been issued as a single in the UK prior to "Come on Eileen" (it reached #45). It nicked the chart briefly and became their last single to do so. After some personnel changes, the band would return in 1985 with a new, sleek suit-and-tie look and the new album "Don't Stand Me Down." Leader Kevin Rowland initially refused to let any song be released as a single, which hurt promotion of the album. Eventually he relented, but by that time it was too late and the album tanked. They broke up the following year. In 2012, Rowland would rally a few old bandmates and issue the album "One Day I'm Going to Soar." Credited to just Dexys, the album would hit #13 in the UK, but get ignored in the US.

ReduxReview:  Dexys were in a tough spot. "Come on Eileen" was an oddball hit with a specific sound. While folks loved it, sometimes just that one single is enough for them. The band's rag-tag hippie look and fiddle-heavy folk/soul attracted folks, but they quickly lost interest after the hit in favor of the latest shiny new thing. So no matter what song the band chose for a follow-up, it was going to have a difficult time. While this song was a good choice, it just couldn't compare to "Come on Eileen" and it died quickly. I think it might have been smarter to try the Van Morrison cover. It's retro-rock style might have found an audience, especially with those familiar with Morrison's catalog. The song probably would have failed as well, but it might had a better shot. As for this song, I liked it right off the bat when I heard it as the first track on the "Too-Rye-Ay" album.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) It's been said that this song helped inspire author Roddy Doyle when he was writing his 1987 novel "The Commitments." The book, about an unemployed group of young adults who form a soul band, became a best-seller and the 1991 film based on the novel was also a hit (as was its soundtrack which reached #8).  2) By this time, the three members that made up the horn section of the band decided to quit and move on. They formed The TKO Horns. They toured with Paul Young and Elvis Costello, and would also be featured players on Costello's 1983 album "Punch the Clock." The trio can also be heard on recordings by Howard Jones, Squeeze, and The Fixx.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"Dancing in the Shadows" by After the Fire

Song#:  1465
Date:  05/28/1983
Debut:  91
Peak:  85
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  It was bad timing for this band who broke up before they scored a major hit with "Der Kommissar" (#5 Pop, #4 Rock, #17 Dance). They decided not to reform after the hit so that basically sealed their fate as a one-hit wonder. Their record label tried to capitalize on the single's success by issuing this 1981 song, but it fell off the chart after a minor few weeks.

ReduxReview:  I'm not exactly sure what I was expecting from this band after "Der Kommissar," but this certainly was not it. Any of the Europop/New Wave goodness that was in that song is sorely missing here. It sounds like a mid-70s album cut from a second-tier rock band. I started to think that "Der Kommissar" was just an oddity in the catalog, but they have some other good songs like "Laser Love" or "Sometimes." While they may not have been hits, they were better than this retro-rock track.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Although the full band could not be reunited after "Der Kommissar" hit, lead singer Andy Piercy decided to try and continue as After the Fire. He recorded a full album of material with one single being released. It failed to get any attention and that prompted CBS to shelve the album. Later in 1997, Piercy produced the album "King of Fools" for the UK Christian rock band Delirious? It would be a highly successful album reaching #7 on the US Christian Album chart and #13 on the UK Album chart. Two singles from the album would reach #20 on the UK Pop chart.


Monday, November 16, 2015

"Drop the Pilot" by Joan Armatrading

Song#:  1464
Date:  05/28/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  78
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Born in Saint Kitts, Armatrading found her way to England with her family when she was still a kid. She began writing songs as a teenager and soon after began performing. She signed with Cube Records in 1972 and issued a debut album. Neither it nor its follow-up, "Back to the Night," did any business, but after a label change to A&M, her career took off with her 1976 self-titled album that featured the #10 UK hit "Love and Affection." Although the single didn't take off in the US, the album did well reaching #62. Throughout the rest of the 70s and into the 80s, Armatrading put singles on the UK chart and scored Top 10 albums. Still, major success in the US eluded her. She finally got some attention when her album "The Key" sported this single, which became her only US Pop chart entry. The song would hit #11 in the UK. Her US success was short-lived, but she continued to be a major star in the UK. The album would get Armatrading a Grammy nod for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female.

ReduxReview:  This is a pretty terrific pop outing for Armatrading. It should have done a lot better but for some reason it just didn't click with a US audience. A few months ago I discovered a version of this song by pop singer Mandy Moore. I was surprised at how much I liked it. She amps up the rock side of the song does a terrific job. Since it resides in my workout playlist, I've been hearing this song a lot lately. Armatrading got ignored for the most part in the US and that is unfortunate. She is an excellent artist/songwriter and this song is one of her top pop efforts.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Armatrading's label was not really happy with the songs she recorded for "The Key." Produced by Steve Lillywhite, the album was considered non-commercial and they asked her to come up with a couple songs that could be promoted at pop radio. Armatrading obliged and wrote two more songs. "Drop the Pilot" was one of them. She recorded the songs with producer Val Garay ("Bette Davis Eyes") and the new tunes were included on the album. The song and album would become two of her biggest worldwide successes.  2) I love when a song includes a word I'm not familiar with. The lyrics for "Drop the Pilot" include the line "drop the mahout, I'm the easy rider." If you don't know what a mahout is (I didn't), it is a person who works with, rides, and tends to an elephant. Apparently, Armatrading had remember the word from its use in Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book."


Sunday, November 15, 2015

"The Woman in You" by Bee Gees

Song#:  1463
Date:  05/21/1983
Debut:  49
Peak:  24
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The Bee Gees were kind of in a no-win situation. The disco backlash killed their career and their previous album, "Living Eyes," couldn't muster a major hit and sold poorly. With radio stations not wanting to play any of their music, the brothers were at a crossroads as to what their next move should be. Then Sylvester Stallone has an idea. He writes a sequel to "Saturday Night Fever" and plans to direct it as well. It would be named after the Bee Gees hit from the first film, "Stayin' Alive." With John Travolta on board, it seemed like a good idea to also get the Bee Gees to do more songs for the soundtrack. They agreed and wrote five new songs for the film. The balance of the soundtrack would be co-written by Stallone's brother Frank. This first single was released prior to the film to generate interest. It didn't quite work. The song remained locked out of the Pop Top 20 while reaching #31 AC and #77 R&B. Then, the film came out. Although it was blasted by most every critic, the lure of Travolta revisiting the Tony Manero character allowed the film to do well at the box office. The soundtrack would end up doing well reaching #6, but not due to the Bee Gees. Frank Stallone's hit "Far From Over" would help sell the soundtrack. The project would end up making money, but it quickly became the butt of jokes for many years after.

ReduxReview:  This whole thing was just a bad idea. Besides the movie itself, why on earth at this point in time would the Bee Gees want to revisit what made them musical pariahs in the first place? Maybe it seemed like a good way to recapture magic in an updated way. After all, if the film ended up be a well-reviewed blockbuster, it might get the Bee Gees back on good footing in the music world. Although the film was a decent hit, the Bee Gees ended up locked out of everything. Their music was relegated to the background with all the attention going to the Stallone brothers and how bad the film really was. It didn't promote the Bee Gees, but it didn't further damage them either. Still, it probably wasn't the best choice for them. I didn't like this song at all and I still don't. I love the Bee Gees, but most everything about this song is wrong. At the time they were writing great songs for other artists so it is really surprising that this is what they came up with for themselves. For me, it ranks among their worst singles. They admitted in later years that their hearts were not really into the film's music and this song totally conveys that feeling.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  In addition to their work with other artists, the individual Bee Gees were doing their own solo recordings. Both Barry and Robin would issue solo albums in 1984 with each album featuring a Top 40 entry. Although Maurice would never record an album, he did issue a solo single the same year. Originally, the song "Hold Her in Your Hand" was recorded by the Bee Gees in their sessions for the "Living Eyes" album, but the song was not used. Maurice re-recorded the song on his own and it was used in the Kathleen Turner film "A Breed Apart." The film was not a hit and neither was the single release of the song. It would be one of only two solo records from Maurice ever released. The other was the 1970 single "Railroad." It also failed to chart in the US and UK, but went Top 10 in a couple of other countries. At that time, Maurice had recorded a full album, but it ended up remaining on the shelf.