Saturday, January 9, 2016

"How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" by Laura Branigan

Song#:  1515
Date:  07/02/1983
Debut:  87
Peak:  12
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After grabbing her second Top 10 hit with "Solitaire" (#7), Branigan released this second single from her album Branigan 2. It was a major hit at AC reaching the top spot and staying there for three weeks. At Pop, the song just missed out on the Top 10 by a couple of spots. The two hits helped the album get to #29. It would also become her second gold certified album.

ReduxReview:  This is the first hit version of the song and it remains the best. It has a great arrangement with a terrific vocal turn from Branigan. Unlike Michael Bolton's remake (see below), Branigan's performance is emotional and under control. I remember buying Branigan 2 for "Solitaire" and when I first heard this song I knew it could be a hit. Sadly, it kind of gets overlooked now in favor of Bolton's heavy-handed version.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was the first hit for the fairly unknown Michael Bolton. Although he had just released a self-titled solo album and reached #82 on the Pop chart with "Fools Game," Bolton was certainly no household name at the time. Bolton co-wrote the song with Doug James and apparently it was first performed by Lisa Hartman for the TV show "Knots Landing." Then Arista head Clive Davis got his hands on the tune and it was pegged to be recorded by Air Supply. However, Davis wanted lyric changes and Bolton resisted. It put the song in a limbo state for Air Supply. In the meantime, Branigan picked up the tune and got it recorded with lyrics in-tact for her second album. Later in 1989, Bolton recorded the song himself and released it as a single. It would reach #1 at Pop for three weeks becoming his biggest solo hit.


Friday, January 8, 2016

"Do You Compute?" by Donnie Iris

Song#:  1514
Date:  07/02/1983
Debut:  88
Peak:  64
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Iris' album The High and the Mighty yielded one Pop chart single, the #57 "Tough World." It was a step down from his biggest hit, the #29 "My Girl." Iris' label, MCA, swooped in on the promotions side to try and help boost his next effort. MCA proceeded to team up with video game/computer make Atari to help promote Atari's new 1200XL home computer. Iris' newly recorded song "Do You Compute?" seemed like a great fit for a cross promotion and a deal was struck. Even before the song was released as a single, the tune and the computer were being used in ads, artwork, and Iris' MTV video. It didn't quite go well for either party. The computer was a sales flop and the song couldn't muster up much support at Pop. The only slightly bright spot was that the tune made it to #20 at Rock. Still, these weren't the hits that Atari, MCA, and Iris were hoping for. The song would be the only one from Iris' album Fortune 410 to reach any chart.

ReduxReview:  Iris tosses out another gem of a rock track and yet it pretty much goes nowhere. Rock radio was into it for a bit, but it did not compute with Pop listeners. Yes, it may not be the perfect song for Pop contention, but it certainly should have done better (as should have most of Iris' singles). The highlights here are Iris' soaring vocals and the booming mid-section break, which is pretty darn badass.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The name of the album comes from the style of glasses that Iris wore. Made by the Liberty company, the Fortune 410's were a classic men's frame that typically came in black. They resembled ones worn by one of Iris' favorite artists, Buddy Holly. They became a trademark look for Iris. Apparently, the Fortune 410's were also worn by Henry Kissinger.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

"Shy Boy (Don't It Make You Feel Good)" by Bananarama

Song#:  1513
Date:  07/02/1983
Debut:  89
Peak:  83
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop, Dance, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Childhood friends Sara Dallin and Keren Woodward formed this British girl group in 1979 along with Siobhan Fahey. By 1981, the trio was taking residence above a rehearsal studio that was used by friend and former Sex Pistol member Paul Cook. He would end up co-producing their first recording, a remake of a 1975 Black Blood song sung in Swahili called "Aie a Mwana." It was meant to be a demo, but ended up getting released as a single that hit #76 on the UK chart. The attention led to them supporting another group, Fun Boy Three, on their single, the #4 "It Ain't What You Do (It's the Way That You Do It). The trio got signed to London Records and eventually issued their debut album Deep Sea Skiving. This song was the third single released from the album and it hit #4 on the UK chart. It then got a little attention in the US where it reached #14 on the Dance chart and made a brief appearance at Pop.

ReduxReview:  Their girl group sound was a bit unusual due to them singing in unison most of the time instead of doing harmonies. But it gave them a unique sound that served them well over the years. I think most folks thought they were just an arranged group that kind of sang while everyone else did the work, however for the most part they co-wrote their material and they were in charge a good chunk of the time. I've always enjoyed them especially when they toss out fun singles like this one. Although written and produced by the Jolley & Swain team, it was a terrific link between old girl group songs and new wave. I'm not sure why this did not catch on more at Pop. It deserved to be a bigger hit.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) So - the group name. Apparently, it got started thanks to the tropical feel of their first song "Aie a Mwana." Banana seemed quite tropical and flowed with the Swahili that they phonetically learned in order to sing the tune. But "banana" just wasn't enough for a band name. They then added the "rama" to the end, which was inspired by the Roxy Music song "Pjamarama" (UK #10, 1973). There are stories that the "banana" part came from the children's TV show "The Banana Splits," but in a USA Today interview, the group confirmed that was not the case.  2) The video for this song was directed by two members of the British band Ultravox, Midge Ure and Chris Cross. Ultravox was riding high at the time with their album Quartet, which would spawn four Top 20 UK singles. One of those singles, "Reap the Wild Wind," became their first and only US Pop chart entry. It hit #71 in April of '83.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

"Waiting for Your Love" by Toto

Song#:  1512
Date:  07/02/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  73
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  More than a year after it was released, Toto was still trying to squeeze out a little more life from Grammy-winning LP Toto IV. They had recently grabbed at #10 hit with the album's fourth single "I Won't Hold You Back," so why not see if a fifth single would click? It didn't. This song could barely get out of the bottom quarter of the chart while stiffing at #27 at AC.

ReduxReview:  Ah, yes. Soak up that SoCal soft rock sound while you can as the rest of the 80s is pretty much done with it. This was kind of a wasted single. There was no reason to release it. The song is not single-worthy and by this time everyone was over the album. It was an obvious move from the label to milk the LP as much as possible. The song is just so-so as are most on the album with the exception of the main hits. It sounds like something Michael McDonald could fart out in his sleep. Forgettable and unnecessary.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  After Toto IV died out and their tour was done, the band was offered an interesting job. They were picked to compose the score to the upcoming film version of the 1965 Frank Herbert sci-fi novel, Dune. Minus their lead singer, the band co-wrote the score and recorded it with Vienna Symphony Orchestra and Vienna Volksoper Choir. Toto did the whole score save for one track called "Prophecy Theme," which was co-written and performed by Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois, and Roger Eno. The David Lynch directed film debuted in December of 1984 to critical pans. It would would also be a box office bomb, which certainly didn't help sell the soundtrack.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

"West Coast Summer Nights" by Tony Carey

Song#:  1511
Date:  07/02/1983
Debut:  91
Peak:  64
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Carey's second solo album, I Won't Be Home Tonight, was moving a few units thanks to the title track, which reached #8 Rock and #79 Pop. This second single did a little better at Pop, but unfortunately missed the Rock chart completely. The album was originally recorded and released the previous year and by the time it caught on, Carey's label, Rocshire, was closing up shop due to the death of its promoter and an embezzlement investigation. Luckily, he got signed to Geffen and began work on his third solo LP and his other project, Planet P, who would reached #64 with the single "Why Me."

ReduxReview:  This is a fun charging song with the right feel and title for an evening cruise in a convertible. It was a great candidate for hitting the Top 40, but I think all the issues with his label probably hindered promotion. The fact that it even got on the chart and the video got airplay on MTV was most likely considered a win at the time. It's a lost song that needs to get dug up on your next windows-down joyride.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Carey joined Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow in 1975 and stayed with them until 1977. He would end up revisiting the Rainbow catalog later in 2008 when a few former Rainbow members got together along with Blackmore's son Jurgen to tour and perform Rainbow songs. Called Over the Rainbow, the band had tour dates lined up in Russia and Europe. On a leg of the tour, Carey fell ill and had to drop out of the band. It ended up that he had a severe form of bladder cancer. After weeks of treatment, Carey made a full recovery. Oddly, one of his old Rainbow bandmates, Ronnie James Dio, died from stomach cancer not long after Carey's recovery.


Monday, January 4, 2016

"Night Pulse" by Double Image

Song#:  1510
Date:  07/02/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  92
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Not much can be found on this band. The song itself was written by Gabriel Katona, Patrick Bolen, and Bill Butler. Katona and Bolen also wrote the flip side, "S.O.S." However, in looking up the writers, they mention each other but say nothing about being in a band called Double Image. I did see that Katona had worked with the producer (Bob Gaudio of The Four Seasons fame) before, so it makes me think that Gaudio got them to write songs for this band. The other possibility is that these guys did perform the track simply as a studio band. Whatever the case, Double Image came and went quickly. This single was their one and only released recording.

ReduxReview:  That repetitive synth line at the beginning is just sooo 80s! I love it. It gave me high hopes for this song, but I didn't fall in love with it like I thought I might. It's a decent rock tune steeped in 80s sounds with a catchy chorus and nice guitar work (all things I love), yet the song and lyrics are not quite in the same league as other popular 80s rock bands. It's very second tier. Still, it's a fun listen and an interesting find.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) I did read in some mock-up of a book about Mike Curb (of the Mike Curb Congregation and head of Curb Records) that CBS exec Tony Martell (who later founded the T.J. Martell Foundation) was looking for a techo-rock band to sign. Curb had apparently signed Double Image and Martell suggested that CBS and Curb form a new label and issue the single. This seems to be how CBS Associated Records came into being. CBS Associated would go on to sign Ozzy Osbourne, ELO, Joan Jett, and Henry Lee Summer.  2) I also found that this song was picked up and recorded by a guy named Roger Love. His version appeared in the 1984 Jamie Lee Curtis flick "Grandview U.S.A." Love apparently went on to be a vocal coach to the stars (Adam Levine, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, and many others) and has a coaching program that can be purchased.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

"Rock and Roll is King" by ELO

Song#:  1509
Date:  06/25/1983
Debut:  57
Peak:  19
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Although ELO's album Time was not a major hit in the US (#16), it did well enough to go gold thanks in part to the #10 single "Hold on Tight." The LP did far better in their native UK where it reached the #1 spot. For their next venture, leader Jeff Lynne had plotted a double album. The last time ELO did a double LP was 1977's Out of the Blue, which was a #4 platinum success in the US (it has sold in excess of 10 million worldwide). Unfortunately, their label balked at the project saying it was too much of an expense at the time to manufacture a double album. Lynne was then forced to cut tracks in order to create a single LP. When the chopping was done, Lynne handed in Secret Messages. This first single got things going, but it wasn't as successful as "Hold on Tight" and it stalled just inside the Pop Top 20 (#19 Rock, #36 AC). The lack of a solid single and promotion (the band did not tour to support the LP) did little to help the album and it became their lowest peaking disc since 1973 (#36). It did better in the UK where it reached #4 and went gold.

ReduxReview:  I really didn't like this song when it came out. It was a retro rock tune that seemed to almost be a rehash of "Hold on Tight." It disappointed me because I loved the Time album so much and couldn't wait to get this LP. Even though I wasn't fond of this tune, I still got the album and initially it disappointed me as well. I just didn't connect with it at all. But as the years went by I rediscovered the album and it has grown to be one of my favorites from ELO. I'm still not the biggest fan of this song, but I like it better now. However, there are far stronger songs on the album. "Bluebird" probably ranks in the top 10 of my favorite ELO songs and "Secret Messages" is not far behind.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Although not a concept album, the inspiration for Secret Messages had to do with the backmasking controversies that were happening around the time. Backmasking is the practice of recording vocal backwards. It's a cool effect, but there are groups of people who claim there are satanic messages hidden in songs using this method. Lynne and ELO had been a target of Christian groups for this on a previous albums, which they had done as a response/parody to the whole thing. Since the backmasking issues had recently come up again thanks to Judas Priest and Styx, Lynne dedicated a whole album to the controversy, which employed the technique. In addition, the UK edition of the LP contained a fake warning stamped on the back cover art that said "Warning - Contains Secret Backward Messages." It was poking fun at the whole situation, but word spread about the apparent warning and by the time the album was set for release in the US, the fake warning had to be removed due to the pre-concerns and complaints.