Sunday, May 1, 2016

"Automatic Man" by Michael Sembello"

Song#:  1628
Date:  09/24/1983
Debut:  73
Peak:  34
Weeks:  10
Genre: Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Sembello's unexpected #1 single "Maniac," from the Flashdance soundtrack, gave him the opportunity to parlay the hit into a solo career. He quickly signed to Warner Bros. and wrote tracks for a debut album titled Bossa Nova Hotel. The LP would include "Maniac" and would be produced by Phil Ramone (Billy Joel's producer and supervisor of the Flashdance soundtrack). It seemed like a can't-miss prospect and indeed this first official single from the album started off well and headed towards the Top 40. However, once there, it sputtered out and disappeared. It seemed folks were more enamored with the "Maniac"/Flashdance phenomenon than with Sembello as a recording artist. The album came and went as did Sembello's charting career.

ReduxReview:  I actually thought this was a pretty good single, but it just wasn't the one that was gonna give Sembello a non-"Maniac" career. It just wasn't strong enough. Plus, the video was ghastly. I'm sure money was spent on it in hopes of another big hit and it was probably considered pretty good for the early days of video, but man, is it bad (or is it good in a kitschy Flash Gordon kind of way?). It's a bummer this song couldn't do better, but I don't think it was Top 10 bound to begin with. However, it's an interesting oddity from the guy who gave us a classic 80s #1.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  With the album not working out, Sembello and Warner Bros. parted ways. Over the next couple of years, he continued to write music with some of it appearing on film soundtracks. In 1985, he co-wrote the song "Gremlins - Mega Madness" for the Gremlins soundtrack. It was issued as a single, but failed to chart. The following year he contributed "Gravity" (written by his wife Cruz) to the hit film Cocoon. It too was released as a single but did not chart. However, the song was done for A&M Records and it helped get him signed to the label. He issued his second LP Without Walls in hopes of resurrecting his solo career, but the album and its singles failed to generate any interest. Sembello would continue to write and record over the years putting out a few indie albums along the way.


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