Saturday, December 19, 2015

"Never Tell an Angel (When Your Hearts on Fire)" by The Stompers

Song#:  1495
Date:  06/18/1983
Debut:  88
Peak:  88
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Boston's The Stompers were another up-and-coming band with unfortunate luck and timing. They became a popular fixture in the local clubs gathering a sizable following along the way. They got the opportunity to participate in the "Rock to Riches" contest and ended up winning. The prize was a contract with Atlantic Records for a single. However, reps from Boardwalk Record were in the audience and they offered the band a full-album deal. They took it and began to record their debut album. Their first spat of bad luck came when label head Neal Bogart died and the company went into Chapter 11. This delayed the release of their album by a year. It finally got released in the summer of '83 and this first single led the way. It was able to get on the Pop chart for a month. After Boardwalk's bankruptcy, the band was acquired by Polygram Records and work began on their second album. Their second stroke of bad luck came when Polygram fired all of their promotions staff right as the album was being released. It ended up being a big mess that left The Stompers without any support. As a result, the album tanked and they lost their record deal. The band would stay together and continue to perform in the New England area, which they still do.

ReduxReview:  This is almost a mash up of Hall & Oates' "Maneater" mixed in with some Supremes and J. Geils. I like the band's retro rock sound and I think they were on to something. However, even with the best promotion in the world, this type of music can be a hard sell to the masses. You gotta have a fantastic song to make it work. This one almost gets there and it should have done a lot better than its #88 peak, but with Boardwalk closing up shop, just getting on the chart was a major accomplishment.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Before getting a major label deal, The Stompers recorded a couple of singles for the indie label Double Eagle. Their 1978 single featured the song "Coast to Coast." The tune would end up getting used in the 1980 John Sayles movie "Return of the Secaucus 7," an indie film that would influence such movies as "The Big Chill." Their second single featured the song "American Fun." This one would get used many years later as the closing credits song for the 2010 Adam Sandler comedy "Grown Ups."


Friday, December 18, 2015

"Hold Me 'Til the Mornin' Comes" by Paul Anka

Song#:  1494
Date:  06/18/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  40
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Anka's first album of the 80s, Both Sides of Love, yielded the minor Pop chart entry "I've Been Waiting for You All of My Life" (#48). RCA didn't seem that thrilled with the results and Anka moved over to Columbia for a new venture. Teaming up with superstar songwriters David Foster and Michael McDonald (The Doobie Brothers), Anka recorded the LP Walk a Fine Line. This first single was issued and it became a hit at AC reaching the #2 spot. The ballad crossed over to the Pop chart and just barely reached the Top 40. The album would produce one more AC chart entry with "Second Chance" (#14), but this song would be the legendary performer's final Pop chart entry.

ReduxReview:  Yeah, this has Foster's hand all over it. I'm surprised he didn't produce the recording as it sounds quite similar to what he was doing for Chicago at the time, especially with Peter Cetera's voice on board (see below). In this case, it is a good thing as it's arguably the best song Anka had done since his 70s comeback period. It should have done a bit better, but I'm sure Pop radio wasn't all that interested in promoting an old guard artist. If this had been given a full Foster production and done as a "duet" with Chicago, this would have done a lot better. Regardless, it was a solid song to end Anka's Pop chart career.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) David Foster co-wrote this song with Anka. But even though Foster did not produce the tune, his connections came in handy. Peter Cetera, the lead singer of Chicago, dropped in to sing the vocals on this track. Foster had helped to revitalize Chicago recently guiding them to their first #1 hit in six years, "Hard to Say I'm Sorry." Michael McDonald also lent his pipes to three of the songs he co-wrote with Anka for the album.  2) During the sessions for this album, Anka co-wrote a song with Michael Jackson. Intended as a duet, "I Never Heard" was recorded in a demo version by the pair. Issues arose (a long story about Jackson allegedly stealing the master tapes from Anka's studio) and the project was shelved. In 1991, the song did see the light of day when Puerto Rican singer Sa-Fire recorded it for her album I Wasn't Born Yesterday. Then in 2009, to help promote his upcoming tour Jackson recorded a song titled "This Is It." Unfortunately, his death put a halt to everything and the song was not released. Later, Sony revived the song to help promote the film "Michael Jackson's This Is It." With Jackson's brothers adding vocals, the song was issued to radio stations for airplay. Very quickly, listeners recognized the song as being the same as the one Sa-Fire recorded. The unfortunate thing is that Anka was not given credit. Apparently, no one on Jackson's estate team realized that the song was originally written and recorded by the pair since the title had been changed and only Jackson's name appeared on the recording. Anka called foul and the estate recognized the mistake and fixed it. In 2013, Anka released his duet version with Jackson keeping the "This Is It" title. It appeared on Anka's Duets LP.  Another song the pair wrote was later uncovered called "Love Never Felt So Good." It was reworked for the 2014 posthumous Jackson album Xscape and got issued as a single. It reached #9 on the Pop chart.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

"Juicy Fruit" by Mtume

Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1493
Date:  06/18/1983
Debut:  92
Peak:  45
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Funk, R&B

Pop Bits:  Percussionist James Mtume's career got a major boost when he began recording and performing with jazz great Miles Davis in 1972. After his association with Davis ended, Mtume set out to record with his own group. After a couple indie jazz releases, Mtume developed a funk/soul band that featured an old pal from the Davis days, guitarist Reggie Lucas, and vocalist Tawatha Agee. They signed to Epic records and issued their debut LP, Kiss This World Goodbye, in 1978. It didn't set the world on fire, but its follow-up, In Search of the Rainbow Seekers, got enough attention at R&B and Dance to call for a third album. Juicy Fruit would prove to be the band's breakthrough when this title track single would hit #1 at R&B. The song would stay at the top of that chart for eight weeks. Although it would end up being shut out of the Pop Top 40, the song would be popular enough to be certified gold.

ReduxReview:  I remember this being a huge R&B hit back then, but sadly I never got to hear it. Being from a small town where R&B was not one of the local radio formats, chances were slim I was gonna hear this song unless I caught it on TV somewhere or bought it. The group name and song title intrigued me, but I didn't pursue it. I didn't get to hear the song until years later. By that time it sounded like a lesser effort from Prince so I wasn't that hip on it. I do like the tune and recognize its influence, but it's not one of my favorites.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Before they hit big with this song, Mtume and Lucas were already Grammy winners. The pair wrote and produced the 1980 Stephanie Mills hit "I Never Knew Love Like This Before" (#6 Pop, #3 R&B). The song would win the Grammy for Best R&B Song.  2) While this song was riding high on the charts, Lucas was busy co-writing and co-producing an album for a new artist by the name of Madonna. He would have a hand in the hits "Lucky Star" and "Borderline," as well as four other tracks on Madonna's hit debut LP.  3) This song has been highly sampled over the years and was used in two other R&B #1 hits. The Notorious B.I.G. used the song in his debut single "Juicy" in 1994 and singer Keyshia Cole used it in her 2007 #1 hit "Let It Go."


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"Stand By" by Roman Holliday

Song#:  1492
Date:  06/18/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  54
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Swing, New Wave

Pop Bits:  The swing revival sound of this seven-man British band got the attention of Arista Records who signed the band to their offshoot Jive label. They prepared a self-titled debut EP that featured this first single. With lots of interest in retro styles (thanks to the rockabilly revival of The Stray Cats), the song got some attention at radio and on MTV. It was enough to get the single near the top half of the Pop chart. The song would stall at #61 in their UK homeland.

ReduxReview:  I don't mind me some good revival of a style once in a while, but I'm not real crazy about this one. I have a feeling that this band was probably far better in concert than on record where their energy couldn't be fully captured. The song is just okay. It's one that doesn't stick in my head for very long. I know I've got this on an 80s comp that I've played several times, but I couldn't remember a thing about it. Even after hearing it again, it still didn't ring a bell. That's usually not a good sign.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  There were rumors that this band was initially a vehicle for singer Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits, who scored 11 Top 10 hits from '64 to '67. Unfortunately, the rumor is not true. When the band began to form in 1980, they did have a bassist named Peter Noone, but it was not the famous singer. In their heyday, Herman's Hermits rivaled the Beatles in popularity and sold out venues all over the place. There is also a famous story that when The Who did their very first US tour in 1967, they were the opening act for Herman's Hermits. This one is true. Hard to believe now.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"Hot Girls in Love" by Loverboy

Song#:  1491
Date:  06/11/1983
Debut:  60
Peak:  11
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  With two successful multi-platinum albums under their belt, Loverboy set out to record their third. Keep It Up would be another hit for them reaching #7. It would eventually go double platinum thanks in part to this first single that just barely missed out on the Top 10. It would be their second #2 Rock hit ("Working for the Weekend" was their first).

ReduxReview:  I thought this was a dumb song. I liked Loverboy's previous singles, but this one was completely lost on me. I considered it insipid horny teenage boy fodder, which it was. And still is. Fortunately it's not as horrible as I remember. It's a solid rock song with a slight blues boogie that did its job in expanding Loverboy's fan base. However, I'd rather listen to their other hits.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was covered by the glam rock band The Cherry Bombz in 1985. The band was made up of members of the Finnish rock bank Hanoi Rocks and singer Anita Chellemah. Chellemah, previously known as Anita Mahaderlan, sang in the British new wave vocal group Toto Coelo (aka Total Coelo in the US). The group had a hit with the oddball tune "I Eat Cannibals" in 1983. The Cherry Bombz released several singles including a remake of this Loverboy song, but nothing caught on and the band broke up the following year. Hanoi Rocks were known in the US, but had not yet broke through on the charts. They issued five albums between 1982 and 1985 before breaking up after their drummer, Razzle, died in a car accident. Mötley Crüe's Vince Neil was driving the car that struck another vehicle. Razzle died at the scene while the two people in the other car suffered major injuries. Neil was charged vehicular manslaughter and DUI.

Monday, December 14, 2015

"Cuts Like a Knife" by Bryan Adams

Song#:  1490
Date:  06/11/1983
Debut:  69
Peak:  15
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Adams broke through on the Pop chart with the single "Straight from the Heart," taken from his third LP Cuts Like a Knife. The song would become his first Top 10 hit reaching #10. This second title-track single did almost as well, but fell just short of the Top 10. It would reach #6 at Rock. In his home country of Canada, the rocker still hadn't scored a Top 10 hit, but this one got close reaching #12.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't really diggin' Adams when "Straight from the Heart" came out and this one didn't do much to change my mind. I do think this is a better song though. I admit I'm a sucker for most any tune that does a good "na na na" section and it's the best part of the song for me. Beyond that, it's a good rock tune that shows Adams' potential.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Adams and his writing partner Jim Vallance wrote songs not only for Adams, but other artists as well. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. Earlier in the 80s, Adams and Vallance collaborated with Kiss member Eric Carr on a song titled "Don't Leave Me Lonely." Carr ended up recording a demo of the song for possible inclusion on the 1982 Kiss LP Creatures of the Night. Unfortunately, the style of the song didn't fit with the others selected for the album and it ended up not getting recorded by the band. Adams revived the song and recorded it for Cuts Like a Knife.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

"Rock of Ages" by Def Leppard

Song#:  1489
Date:  06/11/1983
Debut:  75
Peak:  16
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  With the help of producer Robert "Mutt" Lange, Def Leppard refined their metal sound and scored a #1 Rock hit (#12 Pop) with "Photograph," the lead single from their third album Pyromania. This next single supplied similar results reaching #1 at Rock and hitting the Pop Top 20. It was a one-two punch that made them worldwide stars and put pop-metal on the map.

ReduxReview:  This was a terrific follow-up song to "Photograph" and another classic in their catalog. Back in the day I actually kind of got sick of these singles from the group as they were so popular in my area and on MTV. The songs just got played to death. So for a long while after I didn't have much interest in listening to Pyromania. Enough time has past that now I can hear these once again and totally love them.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Mutt Lange is one of the great rock producers, but he is very precise. His want for perfection typically leads to numerous takes of a song. During the recording sessions he would typically begin each take with a count off like "one...two...three...four" and the band would start. While recording "Rock of Ages," there were so many takes that soon Lange was just using nonsensical words for the count off. On one specific take he channeled the German language and said something like "gunter glieben glauchen globen." Again, the words were meaningless, but the band liked it so much that they decided to not edit it out and left Lange's mutterings at the beginning of the song.  2) Apparently, Joe Elliott came up with the song title thanks to a hymn book left by a member of a children's choir that had just used the studio. He saw the hymn titled "Rock of Ages" and though it would fit with a song they had been working up.