Saturday, January 2, 2016

"War Games" by Crosby, Stills & Nash

Song#:  1508
Date:  06/25/1983
Debut:  70
Peak:  45
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Following the success of their comeback album Daylight Again, the trio issued the mostly live album Allies. The majority of the album consisted of concert tracks from their 1977 and 1982 tours. It was also front loaded with two new songs, "Raise a Voice" and "War Games." The latter was chosen as a single and issued to promote the album. It was able to get up near the Top 40, but stopped just shy of that mark. The album did about the same business peaking at #43.

ReduxReview:  This urgent rock tune has a great sound, but it's lacking something that most pop songs need to conquer the chart - a solid chorus. One kind of exists, but it seems more like an extension of the verse rather that something you can sink your ears into.  Plus, this synth-heavy rock tune was a bit unusual for CSN who are more known for their folk-rock harmonies. I like the song, but it's certainly not a good single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was originally written for the 1983 Matthew Broderick film of the same name. It was meant to both promote the film and CSN's new album. Everything seemed to be going fine with the song being used in theatrical trailers for the movie along with an MTV video that included scenes from the film. But then at the last minute, issues arose and the song was pulled from the film and the subsequent soundtrack. CSN forged ahead with the single's release, but it wasn't a major hit. It might have done better had it been included in the film, which ended up being a box office smash.


Friday, January 1, 2016

"Pieces of Ice" by Diana Ross

Song#:  1507
Date:  06/25/1983
Debut:  72
Peak:  31
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B

Happy 2016! Here's to another year of reviving treasures from the 80s!

Pop Bits:  Ross' second album for RCA, Silk Electric, became a gold album on the strength of the Michael Jackson-penned #10 single "Muscles." For her next LP titled Ross, she chose to work with Gary Katz, who had been producer on all of Steely Dan's albums. His involvement signaled a change in direction for Ross as the songs had more of a sophisticated rock edge that she had not really pursued before. This first single offered listeners a taste of her new sound, but unfortunately not many people were biting. The song just missed the Pop Top 30 while only reaching #15 R&B and #17 Dance. The lack of a major single kept the album out of the R&B Top 10 (#14) and out of the Pop Top 30 (#32). After a streak of four consecutive gold or platinum albums, Ross failed in getting any certification. It was her worst showing since her 1978 album for Motown that also happened to be titled Ross.

ReduxReview:  The idea of Ross getting all Steely Dan'd up certainly sounded intriguing. And indeed the one track written by Donald Fagan is an interesting oddity in Ross' catalog. Other than that, the LP is kind of a bust. It just wasn't a good match for Ross. This first single is a dud. The chugging rhythm and guitars are fine, but the tune itself is just boring, especially where it counts - the chorus. It's a snoozer and Ross sounds half asleep as well. I remember looking so forward to hearing this song because I thought the title was interesting. I lost interest on first listen. On a list of her major Top 40 singles, I'd have to say that this ranks near the bottom.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Thanks to Katz, several of his cohorts show up on the album including Michael McDonald and Steely Dan's Donald Fagen. Each musician contributed a song to the album and performed on their respective track. Also present was R&B star Ray Parker, Jr. who wrote and produced two songs for the album. Out of all these star-written tunes, only one would be issued as a single. Parker, Jr.'s "Up Front" would be the album's second single. It would only reach #60 at R&B. The song would fail to reach any other chart.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

"Puttin' on the Ritz" by Taco

Top 10 Alert! 
Gold Record Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  1506
Date:  06/25/1983
Debut:  75
Peak:  4
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, Novelty, Dance

Pop Bits:  Born in Indonesia and living in various cities around the world, Taco Ockerse (yes, his real given name) eventually settled in Germany where he started his professional acting career in 1975. While acting, Ockerse formed his own band/act called Taco's Bizz. They would perform updated dance versions of old standards in clubs around Germany. After a couple of failed singles in Germany for Polydor (regular German pop), RCA took on Taco (now minus his last name) and his unique dance standards. This first single started to get attention and it began to climb the charts in several countries including the US. Eventually, the song would reach the Pop Top 10 while hitting #12 AC and #37 Dance. The single would sell well enough to reach gold level and help push his debut album, After Eight, to #23. Unfortunately, the novelty of bridging the old and new wore off quickly and Taco's follow-ups would fail to chart. This lone entry would get him tagged as a one-hit wonder. Taco's next album, Let's Face the Music, tanked and it basically killed his major label career. He would continue to record in Germany and later return to acting.

ReduxReview:  Yes - I admit it. I was one of the dorks that made this song a hit. I loved it when the song hit the airwaves. The synthpop groove mixed with the old standard was kind of irresistible and something different to hear on pop radio. I ended up getting the album, but by that time the novelty of it all wore off and I think I played it a quick couple of times. It's kind of a fascinating relic of the time now as is this song. When I hear it now, I still kinda like it, but my reaction is one of a chuckle and a "oh, remember this!" and not one of "oh this is a great song!" It's all slightly bizarre and almost otherworldly. I know some folks will absolutely hate this, but it's a novelty song I still kinda like (which is rare for me).

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This is a version of the famous Irving Berlin tune that has since become a popular music standard. Written by Berlin in 1927 and first published in 1929, the song's popularity increased thanks to its inclusion in the 1930 musical film "Puttin' on the Ritz" starring Harry Richman and Joan Bennett. Richman's recorded version of the song would be a big seller, but the song would become more associated with Fred Astaire who danced to the tune in the 1946 film "Blue Skies." The song would be sung and recorded by many artists over the years, but Taco has been the first and only to chart with the song in the rock era.  2) When this song hit the chart, Irving Berlin was still alive. At 95 years old, he became the oldest living songwriter to have a Top 10 hit.  3) The video for this song became controversial. The original version had performers in blackface and many network outlets banned the video. An alternate version was cut that replaced sections where the blackface characters appeared with other images.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"It's Inevitable" by Charlie

Song#:  1505
Date:  06/25/1983
Debut:  76
Peak:  38
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This UK band fronted by Terry Thomas got their start with Decca Records in 1973, which resulted in a lone single release that went nowhere. Three years later, they were signed to Polydor and issued their first LP Fantasy Girls. Nothing much came from it, but Polydor kept with them and a second album was recorded. No Second Chance was a blip in the UK and the band almost folded. However, news came that the Janus label in the US picked up the LP and radio support was positive. Their song "Turning to You" reached #96 and the album charted as well. Their next two albums did even better with two singles almost cracking the Top 50. Two follow-up LPs ended up tanking, but 1983's self-titled disc got the band some much needed attention thanks to this single that reached #13 Rock and just got into the Pop Top 40. It would be their biggest hit, but it just wasn't enough to keep the band going and they would split the following year.

ReduxReview:  This was a blip on the Top 40, but I do remember the song. I haven't heard it in mega years. I'm surprised it hasn't shown up on some 80s collection. It's a good tune with a solid arrangement and hooky chorus. It doesn't make me want to explore the band much further, but I wouldn't mind adding this into my iTunes.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The band originally got its name from a racehorse. Apparently there was one called Charlie Cuckoo and the group adopted that name. However, by the time it came to record and issue records, they decided to shorten their name to just Charlie.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1504
Date:  06/25/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  3
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:   This Quebec band formed in 1977 and over the next few years it was a revolving door for musicians. Through it all, the one main constant was lead singer Ivan Doroschuk. Following a 1980 indie EP called Folk of the 80s, the band signed on with Warner Canada and recorded their full-length debut Rhythm of Youth. An initial single titled "I Like" didn't get anywhere, but this second single gained a following and the song reached #11 on the Canadian Pop chart. It finally bled over into the US where Backstreet Records picked it up. The song was a slow climber, but it eventually picked up speed thanks to its English folk revival themed video. It reached #3 and stayed there for four weeks. It would also reach #1 on the Dance chart.

ReduxReview:  Besides the infectious synth groove, the other draw here is Doroschuk's voice. It's not one that you'd typically hear on the radio and it stood out. Combined with the video, it was all so odd and foreign. In fact, at the time I had no idea they were from Canada. I thought for sure they were from some small European country. I totally fell for this song and played it constantly for a while. I got the album and didn't much care for it, but later on I hooked into it and now I enjoy tossing the disc on. It has great songs like "Living in China" and "Antarctica." Many folks kind of chuckle with happy nostalgia when they hear this song, but I think it's a bit more than an 80s relic. It's a great pop song.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The inspiration for the song came from a real life encounter Doroschuk had with a club bouncer. As disco faded and new wave began to take over the dance clubs, disco dancing was out and new forms of dance were showing up. One style was the pogo. It was simple. Just stay in one place or move around jumping up and down like a pogo stick. Sometimes when groups of people all pogo, they may bump or crash into each other. Some clubs considered this unsafe and the bouncers would eject people for pogoing. This happened to Doroschuk and he used the incident as a basis for "The Safety Dance," which is basically about freedom of expression. Pogoing did lead the way to other more aggressive forms of dance such as slam dancing and moshing.


Monday, December 28, 2015

"Dead Giveaway" by Shalamar

Song#:  1503
Date:  06/25/1983
Debut:  93
Peak:  22
Weeks:  20
Genre:  R&B, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  In 1982, Shalamar grabbed a gold album with Friends. It was a #1 R&B hit thanks in part to the #8 single "A Night to Remember" (#44 Pop/#15 Dance). For their next LP, The Look, the trio (Jody Watley, Howard Hewitt and Jeffery Daniel) began to incorporate more synthpop, which is apparent on this first single. The song did well at R&B reaching #10 while almost getting into the Pop Top 20. Dance was also receptive where the tune peaked at #18. However, this new direction did not sit well with Watley and that along with other band and label issues led to her departure after the album's release. Daniel followed suit and separately left the trio as well. It would be up to Hewitt to carry on, which he did with two new members.

ReduxReview:  It was a real bummer when this failed to reach the Top 10. I thought this was a cool and catchy tune and it sounded great on the radio. It's still a great song and I love when it comes up on one of my playlists. I especially like the repetitive keyboard lick, the vocals, and the guitar solo. People missed out on this tasty track.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  At the time, the trio was actually more popular on the UK Pop chart than in the US. Their pop/R&B sound hit audiences just right and they were rewarded with four Top 10 hits and two Top 10 albums. This song would end up at #8 and become their final UK Top 10 hit.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

"Take Me to Heart" by Quarterflash

Song#:  1502
Date:  06/18/1983
Debut:  59
Peak:  14
Weeks: 16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Quarterflash's self-titled debut album was a major success thanks to three charting singles including the #3 Pop/#1 Rock song "Harden My Heart." The time came for a follow-up and the band went into the studio to record Take Another Picture. It didn't stray too far from the sound of their first album and that helped this single get into the Pop Top 20. It became their second Rock Top 10 hit peaking at #6 while also reaching #28 at AC. It was a nice start, but sluggish when compared to their platinum debut.

ReduxReview:  I had forgotten about this song. It's another quality tune from the band that ranks right up their with their other two Top 20 hits. This was definitely a Top 10 contender but it stopped just shy. I'm glad I ran across this song. It shall find a home in one of my playlists for sure.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  It's always interesting to see what choices musicians make once their days in the limelight come an end. I've seen several continue on playing locally or touring with other bands. Some end up building and running their own recording studios. Oddly, quite a few turn into real estate agents. Some turn to religious work while many others just choose regular corporate jobs. There are also those that end up teaching. For Quarterflash's keyboardist Rick DiGiallonardo, that was the path he took. He first started as a music industry program director at Virginia's James Madison University. He then moved on to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where he became Director of Music Technology. While there, he developed a Music Business program for the School of Music. He left Ball State and appears to now be operating a music artist development company called SEED Music Group.