Saturday, January 23, 2016

"Don't Change" by INXS

Song#:  1529
Date:  07/16/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  80
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  The Australian band broke through to the US with their single "The One Thing" (#30 Pop/#2 Rock) from their third album Shabooh Shoobah. This second single made a slight indent in the Rock chart reaching #17, but it only entertained Pop audiences for a short month. The singles pushed the album to #46. It would end up being a gold-seller for them in the US while going double platinum in their Australian home.

ReduxReview:  They are given a more cinematic/atmospheric production for this song, which makes it sound rather grand. It takes a while for the tune to really resonate in the ears, but once it does it hangs around. It's not as pop-ish as "The One Thing," so I can see why it had some trouble at Pop radio. The track may not be a great candidate for a single, but it is a worthy listen.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The video for this song was directed by Scott Hicks. His involvement most likely came through an association with INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence. Hicks' first full-length directorial effort was the 1982 Australian road film Freedom. Don Walker, of the popular Aussie rock band Cold Chisel, wrote the music for the film and for a couple of songs he employed Hutchence as vocalist. One song titled "Speed Kills" was issued as a single. Unfortunately, it didn't get anywhere, but it is considered Hutchence's first solo recording. Hutchence would start recording a full solo album in 1995, but it wouldn't get issued until 1999 - two years after his unfortunate death. As for Hicks, he went on to direct the 1996 Oscar winning film Shine that starred Best Actor winner Geoffrey Rush. Hicks would be nominated for Best Director.


Friday, January 22, 2016

"When You Were Mine" by Mitch Ryder

Song#:  1528
Date:  07/16/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  87
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  This Detroit rock 'n' roll legend (real name William Levise) played with a few bands around town in the early 60s, but it wasn't until he fronted Billy Lee & the Rivieras that things began to happen. They quickly gained a big following and it wasn't long before producer Bob Crewe (of The 4 Seasons fame) picked them up and signed them to his label. Due to another group existing called The Rivieras, a name change was in order and they then became Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels. With Crewe's help, the band scored a major hit with the #10 "Jenny Take a Ride" in 1965. Over the next two years they would score two more Top 10 hits including their biggest, the #4 "Devil with a Blue Dress On." However, Crewe had plans for Ryder as a solo artist and was somehow able to convince Ryder to leave the Detroit Wheels behind. It was not a good move and it pretty much killed his recording career. Ryder finally got out from under Crewe and quickly tried to restart the Wheels, but after one album in 1971 (credited to Detroit featuring Mitch Ryder), Ryder left the music scene behind and moved to Colorado to focus on other interests. He returned to music in 1979 with an album on his own label, which triggered big interest in Europe. A series of albums followed for the overseas market that did quite well. His return to the US market came about via one of Ryder's biggest fans, John Mellencamp. Following the success of Mellecamp's American Fool album (as John Cougar), he set out to produce a set for Ryder. Titled Never Kick a Sleeping Dog, the album got some attention thanks to Mellecamp's involvement and this first single, a remake of a Prince track from his 1980 LP Dirty Mind. Unfortunately, it didn't do much business and ended up scraping the bottom of the Pop chart for a month. It wasn't quite the big return they hoped for and the single became Ryder's last to hit the chart. It would be almost 30 years before Ryder would issue another album in the US.

ReduxReview:  I remember as a kid that my brother had the 45 single of Ryder's #24 1967 hit "Too Many Fish in the Sea/Three Little Fishes." I liked playing it and especially dug the end where they are calling off all the fish. Beyond that, I didn't really get into Ryder's music. I think the key to him was to see a live performance as apparently he was the shizzle. The comeback single sounds exactly like a John Mellencamp song a la "Hurts So Good." It's almost as if Mellencamp recorded the song himself and then brought in Ryder and said "sing to this." That's not necessarily a bad thing, but besides his trademark yowling, there is not a lot of Ryder going on here. However, I really like it and the Prince song fits in quite well with the Mellencamp sound. It's a solid remake.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) How did William Levise become Mitch Ryder? The story goes that when a name change was necessary for the band, Levise opened a New York phone book and happened upon the name Mitch Ryder and decided to adopt that moniker.  2) Although John (Cougar) Mellencamp produced the album, you won't see his name credited. Instead, for the producer credit you will see the name Little Bastard. That was a self-given nickname that Mellencamp went by back in the day. He used it in credits on several recordings.  2) Winona Laura Horowitz had aspirations of becoming an actor. But not with that name. She needed a stage name. Her father happened to be a big fan of Mitch Ryder, so she decided to adopt that name and became Winona Ryder. Her screen debut came in 1986 in the film Lucas. By 1986 she won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for The Age of Innocence and received an Oscar nomination for the film in the same category.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

"Lawyers in Love" by Jackson Browne

Song#:  1527
Date:  07/09/1983
Debut:  59
Peak:  13
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  In 1982, Browne scored his biggest Pop hit when "Somebody's Baby," from the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack, reached #7. Almost exactly a year later, this first title-track single from his new album Lawyers in Love made its Pop chart debut. It would become his sixth Top 20 single and his second Rock Top 10 (#4). The tune would also be a mild entry at AC reaching #24. The single's success, bolstered by Browne's first ever MTV video, would send the album to #8. It would eventually become a platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  When this came out, the song did not make any sense to me. But I didn't care as I really liked the tune. It ended up being the one and only Jackson Browne recording I ever purchased. I like its quirkiness and meshing of new and older rock styles. "Fun" is not necessarily a word to describe Browne and his music, however I think this may be one of his most fun singles. Although it's not in the same classics league as "Running on Empty" or "Doctor My Eyes," for me it is probably his best latter career single.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The Lawyers in Love album marked a change in Browne's music. Personally, he had become more involved with world and political issues and the LP's lyrics reflect that. The anti-nuke "Say It Isn't True" is probably the tune that demonstrates the shift along with the satirical title-track single. Browne has said that "Lawyers in Love" was meant to be a humorous look at society, but it ended up confusing a lot of people with many folks misinterpreting the lyrics. Browne would become even more overtly political with his next album Lives in the Balance.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

"After the Fall" by Journey

Song#:  1526
Date:  07/09/1983
Debut:  62
Peak:  23
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After two hits from their Frontiers LP, including the #8 "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)," Journey issued this third single that came close to the Top 20. It wasn't as popular as the first two singles and it also faltered at Rock where it could only reach #30.

ReduxReview:  I thought this mid-tempo tune was a good follow-up to their epic ballad "Faithfully" (#12). The rock is dialed back and Jonathan Cain's and Steve Perry's pop sensibilities shine through. I wouldn't peg it for a major hit, but this track certainly sounded nice on the radio.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Later in the year, this song would end up in the Tom Cruise film Risky Business. Although more known for using Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" in an iconic scene, the soundtrack boasted this song plus others by Prince and Phil Collins. However, half the album was filled with selections from the score written by the German electronic band Tangerine Dream. Their experimental recordings were popular and influential, but they never made a huge impact in the US, whereas they were quite popular in other countries - especially they UK where fourteen of their studio albums charted including 1975's #10 Rubycon. Their best US Pop album chart showing came in 1986 when their score to the film Legend reached #96. However, after the US New Age chart was established, twelve of their albums would find their way on it. Their best-selling LP in the US was 1988's Optical Race, which hit #2 on the New Age chart and #15 on the Contemporary Jazz chart. (I always remember them for their eerie score to the 1977 William Friedkin film "Sorcerer." Friedkin has said that had he known of the band earlier, he would have had them score his classic film The Exorcist.)


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

"Fake Friends" by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Song#:  1525
Date:  07/09/1983
Debut:  68
Peak:  35
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  A year and a half after she hit it big with the #1 "I Love Rock n' Roll," Jett and her band were ready to introduce their new platter simply titled Album. This first single kicked things off, but it the results weren't what Jett & Co. were hoping for. The track fizzled at Rock getting to a low #18 while barely making it into the Pop Top 40. Producer/co-writer Kenny Laguna later said in an interview that he fought against this song being the first single, but the label saw it otherwise and issued the tune. Sadly, Laguna was right and the lack of a hot first single made the album stall at #20. It would be a gold seller, but following the platinum #2 I Love Rock n' Roll, it was a big disappointment.

ReduxReview:  I'd have to agree with Laguna here. While the tune is a good rocker, it's just not in the same league as her other three charting hits. It actually sounds like a remake of a smart British-leaning pop song by an artist like Kirsty MacColl (which would have been really cool to hear). Any single Jett released was going to have a tough road. She might have been better off to issue her cover tune of "Everyday People" first. Instead, we got this and it kind of sunk the album. It's just not a good single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Jett's first band, the all-female The Runaways, became well known for launching the careers of Jett and Lita Ford. Lead singer Cherie Currie later wrote a memoir title Neon Angel: The Memoir of a Runaway in 1989. The book would serve as the basis for the 2010 film The Runaways. In it, Dakota Fanning portrays Currie while Kristen Stewart play Jett. Despite failing at the box office, the film and its stars received favorable reviews.


Monday, January 18, 2016

"Human Touch" by Rick Springfield

Song#:  1524
Date:  07/09/1983
Debut: 70
Peak: 18
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Springfield grabbed his fourth Top 10 hit with "Affair of the Heart" (#9 Pop/#23 Rock), the first single from his album Living in Oz. This second single didn't connect quite as well with listeners and it faltered just after entering the Top 20. It didn't attract Rock radio that much either where is stalled at #34. However, in the UK where Springfield had not been popular at all, this song became his biggest hit there reaching #23. Unusually, it crossed over onto the US Dance chart as well where it peaked at #23.

ReduxReview:  Springfield's new almost-over-produced sound was in full effect with this rocker. Lots of synth sounds and dense layering going on. I loved it back in the day and still kind of dig it, but it almost overshadows what is a essentially a good rock tune. It really didn't need the epic treatment, which left it stuck in the 80s. But that's okay as it is still a fun listen.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Prior to his music career really taking off in the US, Springfield had some acting gigs before landing the role of Dr. Noah Drake on the ABC soap General Hospital. One of his jobs had him co-starring in the TV movie Saga of a Star World. The sci-fi movie was an expensive venture that was meant to be a lead-in to a regular TV series. Slated for a full three hours, the movie was a success despite an hour-long interruption in the broadcast by live news coverage of the Camp David Accords overseen by President Jimmy Carter. However, the movie was so expensive to make ($7 million), an edited version of it ended up being released to theaters in other countries before its US TV premiere in order to try and recoup some of the cost. The week after the movie aired, the regular series began. Titled Battlestar Galactica, the sci-fi series was initially a ratings success, but counter-programming from CBS took a major toll on the expensive show and it got cancelled after one season. Springfield played Lieutenant Zac in the original movie, but his character was killed off and did not cross over into the TV series.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

"Who's Behind the Door?" by Zebra

Song#:  1523
Date:  07/09/1983
Debut:  87
Peak:  61
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Prog Rock

Pop Bits:  Formed in 1975 in New Orleans, Zebra became a hot local act thanks to their covers of Led Zeppelin and other hard rock tunes, along with their own originals. They took a chance and moved to New York where they began to work the rock clubs on Long Island. After shopping around their demo tape, Atlantic Records bought into the band and signed them to a deal. They recorded their self-titled debut album and released this first single. The song became a hit at Rock where it reached #10. An appearance on the Pop chart followed where it lingered for a couple of months. A second single, "Tell Me What You Want," did okay at Rock reaching #29, but failed to get on the Pop chart. The exposure at Rock radio along with the fan base that they built helped the album sell well and reach #29 on the chart. Apparently, they had garnered such a supportive fan base that the album became one of Atlantic's fastest selling debut LP's at the time. Eventually, it would be certified gold. Unfortunately, their follow-up album, "No Tellin' Lies," sank quickly with only the #15 Rock track "Bears" getting any attention. After another studio album and live album failed to do any business, Atlantic dropped the group and they went on hiatus for several years. However, the band remains together and will perform the occasional show, mainly in New Orleans.

ReduxReview:  With Led Zeppelin now disbanded, who was gonna pick up where they left off? Apparently Zebra! Having covered Zeppelin tunes for years, that influence was bound to rub off on the band and their original tunes. Lead singer Randy Jackson certainly doesn't shy away from his Robert Plant-isms, especially near the end, and the tune itself sounds like a lost Zeppelin b-side complete with mystical lyrics. Whether you consider them an original band or just pale imitators, the fact is that they were pretty solid. This song reeks of Zeppelin, yet I like it. It is definitely not Top 40 fare, so the peak does not surprise me. If an artist is gonna wears their influences on their sleeve, then their output had better be good. And in this case I think Zebra did a fine job.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The band's Led Zeppelin-ish sound, in particular the vocals of singer Jackson, came in handy later on for a couple members of the band. Jackson would later hit the road with a show called "The Music of Led Zeppelin" where he fronted a band that performed Zeppelin songs as close to the originals as possible. Felix Hanemann (keyboards/bass) would end up being a member of a New York Zeppelin cover band called Hindenberg.  2) The band name came about while drinking at a New Orleans bar. While discussing a band name, someone noticed a poster on the wall. It was a replica of a 1922 Vogue magazine cover. It showed a lady riding a zebra. The guys liked it so much that they chose Zebra for the band name.