Monday, August 22, 2016

"Over My Head" by Toni Basil

Song#:  1756
Date:  01/21/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  81
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance

Pop Bits:  Basil created an 80s classic when her cheerleading skills enhanced the arrangement and video of her #1 single "Mickey." It would be a platinum seller and her album Word of Mouth would go gold. Now she had the difficult task of following up such a distinct hit. Instead of retaining producers Greg Matthieson and Trevor Veitch, Basil worked with Richie Zito to record her second album. The self-titled effort featured this first single that got to #4 on the Dance chart. Unfortunately, the less quirky, straight-ahead synthpop song didn't interest Pop listeners and it disappeared after a few weeks. It would also end up being Basil's final Pop chart entry. The lack of a hit kept the album off the chart and it would prove to be her final recording. Although her time on the charts was brief, Basil's career as a choreographer continued to thrive through to the present. Some of her more recent gigs included serving as a guest judge for two season on the Fox competition show So You Think You Can Dance and working with Bette Midler on promo performances for Midler's 2014 LP It's the Girls!

ReduxReview:  Not to diminish Basil or the tune, but "Mickey" was just one of those freak songs that was destined to be a one-hit wonder. Quirky and distinct songs like that are near impossible to follow up and artists flounder trying to get a more serious music career going. The vast majority falter and Basil did just that. Her first album was full of oddball new wave synthpop covers (three of them courtesy of Devo - her boyfriend at the time was member Gerald Casale) that really worked well together and highlighted the quirkiness of "Mickey." Her second album tried to move into a more mainstream synthpop/dance sound and it just didn't work. The interesting covers were gone and replaced with lesser new tunes - four of them co-written by Basil. This first single is really not a bad song and the production is crisp and well-done, but it wasn't one that was gonna get Basil another major hit. When it failed, it pretty much killed her music career. Yet in the end it didn't matter as music was more of a side gig for Basil and she resumed her dance career right away with a lot more name recognition. She could have gone further with the right material, but one great album and an enduring #1 hit is pretty darn good.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia: Basil and her previous production team of Matthieson and Veitch recorded a song that tried to capitalize on the famous "Mickey" sound. "Street Beat" featured marching drum lines and another cheerleader chant. Co-written by Bruce Roberts, Allee Willis, and Basil, the song was sent out for promotion after Basil's first album, but without a video or second album ready to go, the song couldn't catch a break. It would find its way onto the Toni Basil album and be formally issued as the LP's second single, but it could only manage a #63 showing on the Dance chart.



  1. I don't think anyone expected Basil to have much of a music career after "Mickey" (I was always annoyed that it prevented "Gloria" from going to #1). Even Aretha Franklin couldn't have done anything with "Mickey"'s gawd awful follow-up "Shopping From A to Z." I will say, that I did like "Over My Head" quite a bit more than you did. As you mentioned, the production was great, as was the song. I actually thought Basil was trying to be a singer on this song rather than a "performer." Like many of these minor, mostly forgotten songs that I still like, I have no idea how I even heard the song, since top 40 radio, even back then, was very restrictive.

    1. I never heard this song on the radio or even saw the video on MTV. I don't even think the actual 45 was available in my local store. I just knew that she had a new album out and I bought it soon after it was released. I think the song should have done a lot better than it did, but as you say, pop radio was a weird beast back in the day.