Saturday, December 12, 2015

"Solid Rock" by Goanna

Song#:  1488
Date:  06/11/1983
Debut:  87
Peak:  71
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Australian band led by Shane Howard made a big statement with this politically charged single. Kicking around since 1977, the group gained a following and even did an Australian tour supporting James Taylor. Warner Bros. took notice and signed the band. Initially, the label was a bit gun shy in releasing this song as Goanna's first single, fearing that its serious topic and tone was too heavy for pop radio. But Howard convinced them to release it and the tune struck a nerve. It would end up reaching #2 on the Australian chart. Its success prompted Warner to release the single in other countries including the US. Hopes were not high that the very Australian tune would catch on, but it did better than expected with Rock radio supporting the tune (#31). The exposure there helped the song get on the Pop chart for a few weeks. It would be their lone chart entry. Goanna would have a few more chart entries in Australia, but it was this song that would make them a part of their home country's cultural history.

ReduxReview:  I had never heard of this song and I wasn't sure what to expect. An Australian political rock song with didgeridoo wasn't really enticing to me. I was kind of expecting something akin to "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" (Rolf Harris, #3, 1963) crossed with "Blowin' in the Wind" (Bob Dylan, 1963), but what I heard was a terrific song that had more in common with U2 or Midnight Oil. The driving beat, anthematic chorus, and potent lyrics make this a winner.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Howard's inspiration for the song came from a camping trip he took to Uluru (aka Ayers Rock) near Alice Springs. He was shocked at how the indigenous people there were treated and the inequality between them and the main population that had funneled in from Europe. In many ways, it was similar to what happened with the American Indians in North America. Being from a port city near Melbourne, Howard had little first-hand experience with the plight of the Aborigines, but his trip provided a lot of insight. He put it all to song and "Solid Rock" became one of Australia's most famous political rock songs.  2) From what I can tell, this is the first rock tune on the US charts to feature a didgeridoo. The Australian wind instrument can be heard at the very beginning. Although the didgeridoo has been included in other songs (such as Kate Bush's 1982 song "The Dreaming," which hit #48 UK/#91 AU), it seems to have made its US chart debut with "Solid Rock."


Friday, December 11, 2015

"Space Age Whiz Kids" by Joe Walsh

Song#:  1487
Date:  06/11/1983
Debut:  89
Peak:  52
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Walsh grabbed his last Pop Top 40 hit (#1 Rock) in 1981 with "Life of Illusion" from his LP There Goes the Neighborhood. It was his fifth solo album and his fifth to hit the Top 20. Two years later, Walsh issued the follow-up You Bought It - You Name It and this first single led the way. Unfortunately, it didn't get very far. The song stopped halfway up the Pop chart while only getting to #21 at Rock. It would end up being his last song to hit the Pop chart. The lack of interest affected the album becoming his first to miss the Top 20 (#48). Walsh would go on to record several more albums and grab four more Rock Top 10 songs, but nothing would do as well as his earlier releases.

ReduxReview:  Walsh's ode to his pinball generation vs. the new arcade gamers is kind of a fun tune with some studio trickery helping it along. It's not a great song and the lyrics are more comedic than serious commentary, but that's basically what I'd expect from Walsh anyway. I was kind of bummed when his 1991 song "Ordinary Average Guy" didn't crack the chart. I thought it was his best effort since his heyday and a good candidate for the Top 40 (at least it hit #3 at Rock).

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Beginning in 1997, Walsh made guest appearances on TV sitcom "The Drew Carey Show." Walsh first appeared on an episode as himself then later became a recurring character named Ed. He appeared in six episodes between 1998 and 2001.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

"Every Breath You Take" by The Police

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1486
Date:  06/04/1983
Debut:  36
Peak:  1 (8 weeks)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This trio had their biggest hit to-date when "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" hit #3 in 1981. It helped to make their album Ghost in the Machine their best showing as well (#2, multi-platinum). After a brief respite, the band got back together to record what would end up being their final LP, Synchronicity. By this point they were already worldwide stars, but the new album would take them to a whole new level of stardom. It all began with this biting first single that debuted within the Top 40. With the help of a heavily rotated MTV video, the song skyrocketed to #1 (#1 Rock, #5 AC) and stayed there for a solid eight weeks. It would become the #1 chart single of the year and the best-selling single of the year. The album was hugely successful peaking at #1 for seventeen weeks. It would receive a Grammy nod for Album of the Year, but it happened to be the same year as Michael Jackson's Thriller sweep. This song would be nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year with Sting taking home the trophy for Song of the Year. The band would also walk away with one more trophy for Best Pop Vocal Group.

ReduxReview:  I think what made this such a hit was its cross-genre/cross-generation appeal and the fact that it was a simple song. It has an easy chord structure under a great melody that most anyone can sing and remember. It is near perfect pop. The odd thing is how misinterpreted the lyrics are. The tune is about an obsessed stalker, yet many folks hear it as a love song. It has even been played at weddings. If I was getting married and my partner suggested this for a wedding song, I'd probably run away. I was already diggin' The Police at the time, but this song and album made me a big fan (along with millions of others...).


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Around this time the band was not getting along and tensions were high. Each member ended up recording their part in separate rooms. Sting and Stewart Copeland were really at odds and their arguments became more intense and started coming to blows. At one point during the recording of this song, the band almost pulled the plug on the whole thing. But their manager (who happened to be Copeland's brother Miles) intervened and the band agreed to move ahead.  2) In 1997, Puff Daddy recorded his tribute song to The Notorious B.I.G. "I'll Be Missing You," which samples this song. It was a case of do now, ask forgiveness later as Puff Daddy released the song without getting permission from Sting to use the sample. Luckily, it worked out fine and Sting got a writing credit. The song would top the chart for 11 weeks. Combine those weeks with the 8 from the song's original release, and at 19 weeks the composition could be considered the longest running #1 in chart history, based on multiple recordings. (By contrast, the single that has spent the most weeks at #1 was the Boyz II Men/Mariah Carey duet "One Sweet Day," which spent 16 weeks at #1 beginning in 1995.)


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"Is There Something I Should Know" by Duran Duran

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1485
Date:  06/04/1983
Debut:  57
Peak:  4
Weeks:  17
Genre:  New Wave

Pop Bits:  Although it took a while to do, Duran Duran finally broke through to the US market when "Hungry Like the Wolf" made a splash reaching #3. The delayed reaction accompanied with a US remix of their album "Rio" left UK fans in a waiting period. To close the gap between their second and third albums, this stand-alone single was issued. It more than did its job in the UK where it became the band's first #1 single. The US responded well taking the song to #4 (#3 Rock, #34 Dance). In order for the US to catch up on Duran mania, their self-titled debut album was reissued in the US with this track added. The LP would reach #10 two years after its initial release in the UK.

ReduxReview:  It's hard to ignore a song that has such a big opening blast. Luckily, the rest of the song supported it and the band ended up with another major hit. I'm sure it was a lack of money that kept me from purchasing their first two albums, but I had the singles and loved them. They certainly knew how to toss out some great riffs and memorable choruses. "Hungry" was their classic and "Rio" was a quality follow-up, but if I had to choose one of their songs to listen to, I'd probably pick this one.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  If you are both a "Star Wars" and Duran Duran fan, you are in luck! For the b-side to this song the band recorded an instrumental titled "Faith in This Colour." On the initial 7-inch pressings of the single, this song included unauthorized sound samples from the film "Star Wars." Of course, it immediately got pulled and a non-sample version was issued. However, the Alternative Slow Mix of the song, which can be found on their "Singles Box Set 1981-1985," seems to contain some modified sounds from the film in the final minute.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

"Stand Back" by Stevie Nicks

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1484
Date:  06/04/1983
Debut:  60
Peak:  5
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Nicks' debut solo album, Bella Donna, reached #1 and would be a multi-platinum seller thanks to four Top 40 hits including the #3 "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around." After Fleetwood Mac got off the road from their Mirage tour, Nicks headed back into the studio to record her follow-up. The Wild Heart would be another multi-platinum success for her reaching #5. This first single peaked at the same position to become her third Top 10 solo hit. It was also a smash at rock radio reaching #2.

ReduxReview:  Oh man I loved this song. This was the first track on side 2 of the album and I think I wore out the groove. There was also something really great about that album mix that sounded fantastic through my stereo. The synths were really meaty and it all had some extra reverb that made it sound like you were in an arena. It's one of a few recordings that to me never translated well to CD/digital. I still absolutely love it, but I'll never forget this song blasting through my Pioneer speakers and shaking the floor.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Nicks' inspiration for this song actually came on her wedding day. She and her new husband were driving when Prince's "Little Red Corvette" played on the radio. She got an idea for a song immediately and that evening recorded a quick demo. When it came time to record the song, she called Prince and told him the story. He then came to the studio and played the synth part for the recording. Nicks has said that Prince arrived, put down the synth track, and then just quickly left. She said it was like being in a dream. He would end up with a writing credit on the song thanks to its similarity to his "Little Red Corvette."


Monday, December 7, 2015

"1999" by Prince

Song#:  1483
Date:  06/04/1983
Debut:  70
Peak:  12
Weeks:  15
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  This song was initially the first single released from Prince's album of the same name. First impressions at pop left it locked out of the Top 40 while Dance (#1) and R&B (#4) loved it. But then along came "Little Red Corvette" (#6 Pop, #15 R&B, #17 Rock) and things changed. Prince's star rose quite a bit after that hit and pop stations started to re-spin "1999." This time the song clicked at Pop and on its second chart go-around it just missed out on the Top 10.

ReduxReview:  There is not much more I can add to what I wrote in the earlier post for this song. However, since that original post, Prince has gotten stingy with his music on streaming services. All of his stuff has been removed from Spotify and even YouTube has been cleared. So I guess unless you already have a copy or wanna buy one (or join whatever freakin' service he's deemed worthy of his music), you won't be partying here like it's 1999.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The b-side of "1999" was the non-album track "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?" The ballad quickly became a fan fave and it ended up being covered by several artists including Alicia Keys. Keys recorded the song for her 2001 debut album Songs in A Minor. She adjusted the title to "How Come You Don't Call" and the tune was issued as the third single from the album. It would reach #59 Pop and #30 R&B.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

"China Girl" by David Bowie

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1482
Date:  06/04/1983
Debut:  74
Peak:  10
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Bowie's "Let's Dance" was sitting in the #2 spot awaiting its turn at #1 when this follow-up hit the chart. It would slowly make its way to #10 (#3 Rock, #51 Dance) and in doing so became the first time that Bowie scored back-to-back Top 10's from the same album. The success of these singles pushed the Let's Dance album to #4. After securing five gold LPs in the 70s, this one would be Bowie's first platinum certified studio LP.

ReduxReview:  Looking back, it's weird that I didn't fully hook into this song at the time. I kinda liked it, but mainly just shrugged my shoulders at it. As the years past, this song slowly crept up on my radar and has since become one of my favorites in the Bowie catalog. I love the mysterious groove, the sparse arrangement, the Nile Rodgers production, Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar, and Bowie's vocal. Actually, if given the choice, I'd rather hear this song over "Let's Dance," but whereas "Let's Dance" is a classic of the era, this one falls just slightly short in the world of 80s pop. So I'll rate accordingly. But really, it's a 10+ for me.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  This is actually a remake of a song co-written by Bowie and Iggy Pop that first appeared on Pop's 1977 album The Idiot. Apparently, Pop had been fascinated with a Vietnamese woman and she provided the inspiration for the song. This took place during Bowie's "Berlin years," the period he lived in the city ('76-'79) and recorded a trilogy of albums (Low, Heroes, and Lodger). Bowie also co-wrote and produced two albums for Pop including The Idiot and Lust for Life.