Saturday, December 5, 2015

"Love Never Fails" by Greg Kihn Band

Song#:  1481
Date:  06/04/1983
Debut:  77
Peak:  59
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Kihn scored the biggest hit of his career when "Jeopardy" made it to #2. In turn, it made the album Kihnspiracy his best showing on the chart reaching #15. A second major hit single might have pushed the LP into the Top 10, but this follow-up tune would end up stalling outside of the Top 50.

ReduxReview:  Kihn's albums are strange. There is typically one hit-worthy song and then the balance is filled with good tunes, but nothing even close to being a chart contender. It's not a bad thing. One pop-oriented song to sell the album and then solid rockers to fill it out. It worked for him, but the lack of a follow-up hit kept him from reaching the upper echelons of rock stars. Here is another example. After the excellent "Jeopardy," this lesser quality tune was released. My guess it was chosen because it has a groove somewhat similar to "Jeopardy," but that doesn't translate into a hit. I think he would have had a better chance if the lovely pop track "Someday" was chosen instead. Other than that, there wasn't a good single contender on the LP to follow up the hit. Regardless, we were fed this weak one-chorded jam and it unsurprisingly failed.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Thanks to "Jeopardy" hitting #1 on the Dance chart, this song got some spins as well. It wouldn't do great, but it did manage a #30 showing on the chart.  2) This song was the basis of a parody done by "Weird Al" Yankovic. "I Lost on Jeopardy" appeared on Yankovic's second album and it was issued as the LP's third single in 1984. It peaked at #81. By this time, the TV game show "Jeopardy!" had been off the air since 1979. However, four months after the release of Yankovic's song, the syndicated version of the show hosted by Alex Trebek premiered. It is still on the air and remains hugely popular. It is now the second longest running game show in history, right behind "Wheel of Fortune."


Friday, December 4, 2015

"Stop in the Name of Love" by The Hollies

Song#:  1480
Date:  06/04/1983
Debut:  79
Peak:  29
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  This British Invasion group initially formed by schoolmates Allan Clarke and Graham Nash, scored seventeen Top 10 hits in the UK beginning in 1963. Although it took them a few more years to break in the US, eventually they did score six Top 10's Stateside. Their prime years were when Nash was with the band, but after he left in 1968 their fortunes dwindled. They were able to score a few hits like 1974's "The Air That I Breathe" (#2 UK, #6 US), but their heyday was long gone. As the 80s started, Nash got back together with the band to record a new song. That led to a full-on reunion and new album titled What Goes Around... This first single was issued and it became their first US Top 40 entry since 1974. It would also prove to be their last one as well. Nash stayed on for a tour and a live album, but departed once again. They would have more personnel changes over the years, but the band has never once split up. They continue to perform and occasionally record with original members Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott leading the way.

ReduxReview:  I have loved The Hollies ever since I was a kid. I remember getting to play my brother's 45s and I was obsessed with "On a Carousel" (#11, 1967). He also had "Jennifer Eccles" (#40, 1968), which was pretty great too. Years later I bought a hits album by the group and played it to death. Since then I've gotten all of their Nash-years recordings and quite a few of their post-Nash outings. They didn't hit the mark all the time (their very early years were mostly meh remakes and the later years only had a few highlights), but when their formula added up, they were hard to beat. Their vocals and harmonies were awesome and many times (as on "Carousel") they sang with reckless abandon. It was magical and exciting. So when Nash rejoined the band, of course I was having fits! This is going to be so great! Well, some things are better left alone. Although not a total disaster, the album was not good. It was overproduced with screeching synths and included zero originals from the band. Even this first single just did not recapture the magic of days gone by. It's okay and there are certain passages different from the original that I like, but even their harmonies seem a little plastic and studio-ized. I was highly disappointed, but I took solace in listening to their prime era classics.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Unless you've spent the last 50 years living in the backwoods with Nell, then you obviously know this is a remake of the 1965 Supremes hit. Their original version was the trio's fourth #1 in a consecutive string of five. Although the song has been covered by many artists, only The Hollies and soul singer Margie Joseph have charted with versions of the song (I'm discounting the song's appearance in a medley by the cast of "Glee" in 2010 - in fact, I discount most everything the "Glee" cast did). Joseph barely got on the chart with her single in 1971. It peaked at #96.  2) When Graham Nash was still with The Hollies, they experimented with their sound and issued the psychedelic album Butterfly. It was a failure. Undeterred, Nash wanted the group to record his new song "Marrakesh Express." The band didn't want to do it and preferred going back in a more pop-oriented direction and set out to record an album of Bob Dylan covers. Nash recorded one song with them, "Blowin' in the Wind," and then left the group. He then got together with Stephen Still and David Crosby and the trio recorded "Marrakesh Express." It would serve as Crosby, Stills & Nash's debut single. It reached #28 in 1969.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

"Maniac" by Michael Sembello

#1 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  1479
Date:  06/04/1983
Debut:  89
Peak:  1 (2 week)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Synthpop, Soundtrack, Dance

Pop Bits:  Philly musician/guitarist Sembello was quickly becoming a seasoned session player in his late teens. His work led to being the lead guitarist on the majority of tracks for Stevie Wonder's seminal 1976 album "Songs in the Key of Life." He also began to write songs that got picked up by several high-profile artists included Diana Ross and Donna Summer. As the 80s got underway, Paramount Pictures began searching for songs that would be included in their upcoming film "Flashdance." Sembello's wife gathered some of his demos and sent them to the studio. However, she mistakenly included a song called "Maniac," a crazy tune that Sembello had written with Dennis Matkosky. The studio loved the song and after a change in lyrics, it got included in the film and on the soundtrack. Featured in a famous montage scene in the movie, the song became popular enough to serve as the soundtrack's second single. The tune made a slow climb until it finally reached the top spot of the Pop chart (#6 Dance, #34 Rock, #34 AC). It would also be nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song (it would be beaten out by Irene Cara's title-track). It made Sembello a star, but only briefly. Although he would grab a slight Top 40 follow-up, this lone hit got him labeled a one-hit wonder (#22 on VH1's list of Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s).

ReduxReview:  Yeah, I loved this song back then. It wasn't as good as the title song, but the production was great and it zipped right along at a frantic pace. I loved the background "crazy crazy crazy" after the first chorus and the guitar solo was a highlight. I find it more of a relic of the times than something I'd really choose to listen to now, but the song was great for the movie and the era.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The original inspiration for this song came from the 1980 slasher film "Maniac." The low-budget thriller set the wheels in motion for co-writer Matkosky and with Sembello the song took form and was completed. The original lyrics pertained to a serial killer, but Flashdance album producer Phil Ramone asked if the song could be about a woman who is manic about dancing (i.e., kind of what the film was about). The lyrics were updated and eventually the song became an 80s #1 classic.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"Love Is the Key" by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly

Song#:  1478
Date:  06/04/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  80
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Soul, R&B

Pop Bits:  This California soul outfit, founded by lead singer Frankie Beverly, began as Raw Soul in the early 70s. The band recorded some singles at the time, but nothing panned out. Meanwhile, their reputation as a live act grew and eventually caught the attention of superstar Marvin Gaye. He took the band on the road with him and also suggested they make a name change to Maze. The newly christened group signed with Capitol Records and issued their debut album in 1977. It was a gold-level success and they were on their way. Although they continually scored gold albums and Top 10 R&B singles, they were never very successful at crossing over to the Pop chart. Their biggest success would be 1979's "Feel That You're Feelin'," which would reach #67. Their fifth studio album, "We Are One," would be their best charting Pop album hitting #25 (#5 R&B) thanks in part to this single that spent a few weeks on the Pop chart. It would be their fifth R&B Top 10 and their biggest hit to-date getting to #5.

ReduxReview:  The party noises seem to be a nod to Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" (#1, 1977), but it's not nearly as classic or fun as that single. However, it is another quality entry from the band who, although highly successful, never got the crossover recognition that other R&B bands of the time did (i.e., The Gap Band, The Commodores, etc.). They may have been a little bit too soul-heavy for pop and that didn't necessarily fit well with the pop/new wave of the time. I read somewhere that they were once called "the best kept secret in R&B" and I can believe that. They stealthily grabbed hits and gold albums for more than a decade without really reaching superstar status (outside of the R&B market).

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Between 1977 and 1993, Maze released eight studio album. All made it into the R&B Top 10 with two of them hitting #1. All of the albums reached gold level. Since they did not record any further studio album past 1993, that means all of their studio output sold at gold level. They also had a live album and a compilation hit gold as well.


Monday, November 30, 2015

"China" by Red Rockers

Song#:  1477
Date:  06/04/1983
Debut:  92
Peak:  53
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This New Orleans band began in 1979 and immersed themselves in the sounds of the new punk scene. Their first two indie releases, an EP and a full-length, were critical successes and they found themselves touring with the likes of The Clash. Their second full album, "Good As Gold," brought about an affiliation with Columbia Records and a change in sound. They toned down the punk and moved into a more polished new wave style that caught critics and fans off guard. However, MTV and radio approved of the change and this first single reached #19 at Rock while almost hitting the Pop Top 50. It would end up being their only Pop chart entry. The band's sound continued to evolve on their next album, but it failed to do any real business and soon after they called it a day.

ReduxReview:  Listening to this I'd never suspect these guys were initially a Clash-lite punk group. They sound very Euro-new wave here with more in common with The Psychedelic Furs. (To hear the difference, check out "Teenage Underground" from their first album on YouTube.) Hardcore fans most likely hated the change to a more mainstream sound, but I think it suits them just fine. I like the song and the ringing, almost epic production. While they probably lost fans due to the change, they may have picked up more thanks to this song. Yeah, it may not be as intense, political or pointed as their earlier punk outings, but there is a lot here to like as well.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  How drastically had the Red Rockers' sound changed? So much so that one track from "Good As Gold" wound up on the Dance chart. "'Til It All Falls Down" would be a blip on the chart reaching #45.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

"Fade Away" by Loz Netto

Song#:  1476
Date:  06/04/1983
Debut:  92
Peak:  82
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Netto initially found a bit of fame with the band Sniff 'n' the Tears. The London band had a hit 1979 with "Driver's Seat," which reached #15 in the US. It was their only chart entry. Netto left the band after their second album to pursue a solo career. He got signed to Polydor and recorded his debut LP "Loz Netto's Bzar." This first single got some notice and made it to the Pop chart for a few weeks. It was enough to call for a second album, but it failed to generate any interest. Netto issued a couple more albums on other labels such as Atlantic, but nothing really came from them. This song would be his only solo chart entry.

ReduxReview:  I guess the best thing I can say about this tune is that it is interesting. I like the production and the guitar hook in the latter half, but as a whole it's not strong enough to be a chart contender. It chugs along just fine, but there is little here that remains memorable. A nice effort and pleasant listen, but that's about it.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The Sniff 'n' the Tears hit "Driver's Seat" was a hit in several countries but could only muster a mild #42 in their UK homeland. It seems that the plant making the vinyl singles of the song had issues and could not press them. So after the band appeared on "Top of the Pops," there were no singles to be sold. The lack of product helped cause the song to fade out early on the chart. Fortunately, the single reached the Top 20 in several countries including the US. In the Netherlands the song reaching #8. It got a second life there in 1991 when it was featured on a TV commercial. The tune became popular all over again and a single was issued. This time it reached #1 on that country's chart.  2) Netto's debut album included the song "Slow Dancing." The song ended up getting recorded by Chaka Khan in a duet with Rick James. It was included on Khan's 1982 self-titled album. It was not issued as a single. Former Eagles member Joe Walsh also recorded the song for his 1985 album "The Confessor."