Saturday, February 6, 2016

"Crazy" by The Manhattans

Song#:  1543
Date:  07/30/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  72
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Despite the New York name, The Manhattans formed in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1962. The vocal group would have some middling chart success from 1964-1972, but they would hit their stride when they signed with Columbia Records in 1973. They would have a streak of 27 R&B charters through their tenure with the label, which ended in 1987.  Along the way they would grab eleven R&B Top 10's including their biggest hit, 1975's "Kiss and Say Goodbye." They were far less successful at pop where only three of their songs made the Top 40. However, two of those did reach the Top 10 - "Kiss and Say Goodbye" hit #1 and 1980's "Shining Star" reached #4. After "Shining Star," it would take the group three years to get another Pop chart entry. This single from their Forever By Your Side LP couldn't make much headway at Pop, but at R&B it would reach #4. It would be their final R&B Top 10 hit.

ReduxReview:  I think even in 1983, this was probably considered old-school R&B. There are some modern flourishes to it, but the song just sounds stuck in the 70s. The song is pleasant enough to hear, but it does nothing for the vocal group and it doesn't rank anywhere near their best material.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  One track from the album, "Just the Lonely Talking Again," was revived later in the decade by a major star. Whitney Houston would record a version of the song for her second album in 1987 that was titled Whitney. The LP would be her second biggest studio album hitting #1 and selling almost 10 million copies in the US (25 million worldwide). I'm sure the song's writer, Sam Dees, was very happy that his song got rediscovered  and recorded by Houston.


Friday, February 5, 2016

"Human Nature" by Michael Jackson

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1542
Date:  07/23/1983
Debut:  48
Peak:  7
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Among the many records that Thriller set during its run, "Human Nature" holds one of them. It became the LP's fifth Top 10 single - a feat that had not been accomplished up to this point. The tune reached #7 at Pop and did even better at AC hitting #2. Co-written by Steve Porcaro (Toto) and John Bettis, it was the last song select to be on the Thriller album. Initially, a song called "Carousel" (written by Michael "Maniac" Sembello) took the spot, but then it was decided that "Human Nature" would take its place. "Carousel" would eventually surface in an edited form on the 2001 special edition reissue of Thriller with the full-length version becoming available on iTunes in 2013.

ReduxReview:  I have to say that whoever made the call to oust "Carousel" in favor of "Human Nature" was spot on. While "Carousel" is a nice tune, this one is by far better. It's beautifully written and it made for a terrific single. "Carousel" would not have made a good single. The choice helped set a record and brought this excellent song to the masses. It also still sounds damn good today.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Jackson was the first to get five Top 10's from one album and that ushered in a new era of trying to maximize singles from LPs. Within a span of a few years, other artists were able to accomplish the same including Bruce Springsteen, Lionel Richie, George Michael, Madonna, and Jackson's own sister, Janet. Actually, Janet would go on to set a record that bested her brother's. Her 1989 album Rhythm Nation: 1814 would generate seven Top 5 singles - a record that still stands today.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

"Tip of My Tongue" by The Tubes

Song#:  1541
Date:  07/23/1983
Debut:  72
Peak:  52
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After eleven years and six albums together, The Tubes finally scored their biggest hit with the #10 "She's a Beauty" (#1 Rock). It would help their album Outside Inside reach #18 and become their best-selling studio album. They tried to keep up the momentum with this next single, but it stopped just shy of the top half of the chart. Unfortunately the slide would continue for the band and they would never see the Top 40 again.

ReduxReview:  Following up the delicious pop/rock of "She's a Beauty" was not going to be easy. I don't think any other song on Outside Inside was in the same league as that hit, but there were a couple of choice tunes that might have worked. I probably would have stayed in the rock vein and tried "No Not Again," but this heavily David Foster-ized production was chosen. It wasn't necessarily a bad choice, but the switch to an R&B-leaning track was lost on the rock audience. It didn't even crack the Rock chart. I think that hurt its chances to make more of an impact at Pop. I enjoy the song, but it just may have not been the best choice for a second single.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  If this horn-laden funky track reminds you of Earth, Wind & Fire, there is a reason for that. EWF's Maurice White co-wrote this song with Michael Synder and The Tubes. White also provides some uncredited background vocals on the track. In addition to his work with EWF, White produced and wrote (or co-wrote) for many other artists including major pop stars like Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, and Neil Diamond. One of his biggest hits outside of EWF was the 1977 #1 hit "Best of My Love" for The Emotions. The song would win that band a Grammy.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"Sharp Dressed Man" by ZZ Top

Song#:  1540
Date:  07/23/1983
Debut:  80
Peak:  56
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Blues-Rock

Pop Bits:  The Texas trio scored their third Top 40 entry with "Gimme All Your Lovin'," the first single from their Eliminator album. This second single couldn't quite reach the same level, but it was a hit at Rock reaching #8. The video for this song was very popular and it continued with the same theme that was set in the video for "Gimme." MTV would be a very good thing for the band as it would help make Eliminator their most successful album.

ReduxReview:  For me, the band hit the peak of their powers with this track. It was where their Southern boogie blues melded perfectly with their new synth-driven sound. I would never be a big fan of the group, but it is hard to deny something as tasty as this song. I'm actually surprised that it peaked at #56. It is one of those songs that I thought for sure did a lot better - especially because it was all over our local radio and the video was constantly played on MTV. Really, the peak became irrelevant because everyone knew this track and Eliminator found its way to millions of stereos.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  In 1977, the trio was set to take a quick three-month break that somehow turned into a 2-year hiatus. During that time, two members of the band, Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill, grew out their beards. The lengthy facial hair became a trademark that they have maintained ever since. The band's drummer refrained from growing his out, which is a bit ironic because his name is Frank Beard.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

"You're Driving Me Out of My Mind" by Little River Band

Song#:  1539
Date:  07/23/1983
Debut:  81
Peak:  35
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  LRB's first album with new lead singer John Farnham, The Net, was not meeting expectations. In their Australian home, it would be their first album since their 1975 debut to miss the Top 10. In the US, after four consecutive gold/platinum albums, The Net, sold poorly and tanked at #61. Partial blame could be placed on the weak showing of the album's singles. "We Two" could only manage a #22 showing while this single flaked just inside the Top 40. The results and changes within the band would lead to founding member Beebs Birtles leaving the group after the supporting tour for the album. This single would be LRB's last to reach the US Top 40.

ReduxReview:  I thought "We Two" was a weak song and this one is not much better. It's an oddly funky tune that just seems out of step with music trends and the rest of LRB's catalog. It's not a bad tune and is certainly acceptable for an album track, but as a single it just doesn't work. LRB was going through changes and this album made that fact very clear.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  In 2002, Birtles would reunite with two other original LRB members, Glenn Shorrock and Graeham Goble, to form a new band. Their intent was to name the group The Original Little River Band. Unfortunately, when each member left LRB they took a pay-out to relinquish rights to the name. The LRB name was owned at the time by guitarist Stephen Housden, who had joined the band in 1981. Without access to the LRB name, the trio then just relied on their own names and called themselves Birtles Shorrock Goble. They released one album titled Full Circle in 2003 and remained together until 2007.


Monday, February 1, 2016

"Lady Love Me (One More Time)" by George Benson

Song#:  1538
Date:  07/23/1983
Debut:  87
Peak:  30
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Benson's In Your Eyes album started off with the #3 R&B hit "Inside Love (So Personal)." Unfortunately, Pop didn't care for the tune and it faltered outside of the Top 40 at #43. This second single fared much better reaching the Pop Top 30 while getting to #4 at AC. Although the song was being embraced by pop audiences, this time around R&B was not all that interested. The single petered out at #21.

ReduxReview:  Although smooth pop songs like this were losing traction at Pop this one ended up doing okay, but it should have done better (and it should have been the album's lead single). "Inside Love" was fine, but ultimately forgettable - I couldn't even hum you a single part of the tune. However, this one I knew right away. I've probably heard this song a very minor few times since its initial release and yet it stayed with me and when I saw the title, the chorus popped in my head immediately. For me, it is Benson's last great pop-leaning single.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Benson's In Your Eyes LP begins with a very groovin' take of Roberta Flack's 1974 smooth classic "Feel Like Makin' Love." Flack's version was a multi-format hit that reached #1 at Pop, R&B and AC. It was also nominated for three Grammys including Record and Song of the Year. Benson's more upbeat take was issued as the third single from his album, but it failed to chart in the US. It did manage to make an appearance on the UK chart at #28. However, Benson had better luck in the UK with the title-track, which reached #7. That single made a brief appearance on the US AC chart at #30.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

"Shiny, Shiny" by Haysi Fantayzee

Song#:  1537
Date:  07/23/1983
Debut:  88
Peak:  74
Weeks:  5
Genre:  New Wave, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This UK duo with the odd name (pronounced HAY-zee fan-TAY-zee) consisted of Jeremy Healy and Kate Garner. Their music followed in the new wave steps of acts like Bow Wow Wow and Adam & the Ants and their style would influence other artists like Boy George (who was a school friend of Healy's). Their first single, 1982's "John Wayne Is Big Leggy," became an unexpected hit that reached #11 on the UK chart. A follow-up single didn't fare quite as well, but this third outing was a success reaching #16. The singles led to a debut album called Battle Hymns for Children Singing, which hit #53. Across the pond, they didn't really catch on. This song would end up being their only single to crack the US chart. The duo would split up later in 1983 with both artists heading out on solo careers.

ReduxReview:  Strange name, strange song. It's almost like Dexys Midnight Runners merged with Adam & the Ants. It's a bizarre combination. The chorus is like a childish taunt while the rest of lyrics are hard to follow. Despite the upbeat disposition of the song, the lyrics seem to point towards something darker that I can't quite figure out. I first heard this on an 80s new wave compilation and wasn't sure if I liked it or not. I still don't. I compare it to a clown (p.s.: I don't like clowns) where something deep and dark is wrapped up in a fake, happy package. It's a bit unsettling, but alluring in a weird way.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) After her music career fizzled, Garner would pursue photography. She would end up photographing many celebrities and would even do shoots for album covers. Probably her most famous cover shot was the one that graced Sinead O'Connor's 1987 debut album The Lion and the Cobra.  2)  The duo's UK hit "John Wayne Is Big Leggy" somehow escaped being banned by the BBC when initially released. One part of the satirical song imagines John Wayne having his way with a Native American woman. She complains that his gun holster is in the way and asks him to take it off. He refuses and tells her to turn around and he'll show her another way to have fun. Of course, this is a not-so-subtle reference to anal sex. Meant to be a commentary on the treatment of indigenous people by European settlers, the lyrics (set to a bouncy tune) passed through BBC censors without issue. The duo performed the song on Top of the Pops and it was even played on a Saturday morning children's show (thanks to its cowboy theme).