Saturday, February 13, 2016

"Making Love Out of Nothing At All" by Air Supply

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1550
Date:  07/30/1983
Debut:  62
Peak:  2
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Air Supply were not necessarily on the skids, but their soft rock was losing favor. Their album Now and Forever got them their seventh consecutive Top 5 hit with "Even the Nights Are Better," but the streak ended with that song. Their next two singles both peaked at a lowly #38. Feeling the pressure to keep the hits going, Air Supply got a chance to record this song written by Jim Steinman (the guy behind Meat Loaf's hits). The epic Steinman-produced tune would fill out the band's upcoming Greatest Hits LP while an edited version would be set for single release. The song debuted on the Pop chart two weeks after another Steinman track hit the chart - Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Unexpectedly, Steinman found his two songs battling it out for chart supremacy. The two bombastic ballads would go neck-and-neck, but ultimately "Total" reigned supreme hitting #1 for four weeks. It's place at the top kept "Making Love" at the #2 spot for three of those weeks. At AC though, Air Supply would reach #2 while Tyler would hit #7. The song became Air Supply's third gold record and it made their Greatest Hits album their best-selling reaching 5x platinum. It was a triumphant return for them, but it was short-lived as it would be their last to reach the Pop Top 10. Steinman would benefit the most of anyone as the dual hits made him an in-demand writer/producer.

ReduxReview:  As much as I love this song, I had to give the win to "Total" as well. It just had that extra oomph (production, Tyler's raspy voice, etc.) that made it perfect. But this tune is no slouch. It's probably the most rockin' Air Supply has been and singer Russell Hitchcock's big voice and range was tailor-made for a Steinman epic. Even people I knew who hated the "lame" Air Supply admitted that they liked this song. It was just that good...and it still is. What ticks me off is that, yet again, Air Supply was denied a Grammy nod. It should have, at very minimum, received a Pop Group Vocal nomination thanks to Hitchcock's performance. Arrgh. Stupid Grammys.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Like several of Steinman's compositions, this song has its roots in another one of his works. In 1980, Steinman wrote the score to a small film called A Small Circle of Friends. He used the main title theme from that score as the basis for this song. The film, starring Brad Davis, Karen Allen, and Jamison Parker, was not a hit. However, first-time director Rob Cohen would go on to helm the hits Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and the original The Fast and the Furious.  2) Later in 1995, Bonnie Tyler would take a crack at this song for her album Free Spirit. Her version (produced by Steinman) would be released as the first single from the album, but it failed to make any impression here in the US.  However, it did reach a few charts in Europe including the UK (#45) and Belgium (#2).


Friday, February 12, 2016

"Far From Over" by Frank Stallone

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1549
Date:  07/30/1983
Debut:  69
Peak:  10
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The Sylvester Stallone-directed Staying Alive, the sequel to the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever, was much maligned by critics, but audiences made it a respectable hit. The film's soundtrack, which brought back the Bee Gees, reached #6, but it was a far cry from the Grammy-winning landmark soundtrack to the original film. It got off to a shaky start when the Bee Gee's failed to recapture the magic of the original movie's music with "The Woman in Me" (#24). This next single did much better in promoting the soundtrack. Co-written and performed by Sylvester Stallone's brother, Frank, the tune surpassed the Bee Gees' attempt and just barely made it into the Top 10. Although it seemed that Frank came out of nowhere to assist his brother on the film, he already had a music career going and even hit the Pop chart in 1980 with a remake of Joni Mitchell's "Case of You" (reaching #67). But the nepotism, the song, and the MTV video ended up with Frank becoming the butt of many jokes (most famously on SNL). This hit should have been a springboard for Frank's music career. Instead, it became his one and only Top 10/Top 40 entry.

ReduxReview:  Was the skewering of this song and Frank valid? Maybe. Was it fair? Not really. Although it did make for some great jokes (the SNL synchronized swimming skit in particular), I don't think the song got its due thanks to the brotherly effect. If anyone else had sung the song, it probably still would have been a hit and might have been taken more seriously. It also might have disappeared into the 80s background soon after. However, all the fuss with Frank and such has kept the song alive for many years. So, I'm not sure which would have been better. Regardless, what gets missed is that it's actually a good song. It tries a little too hard to be exciting in an "Eye of the Tiger" kind of way and is a bit theatrical in the mid-section, but I've always liked it. For me, it was the only good thing to come out of a truly horrible movie. C'mon - show Frank some love and crank it up.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although it seemed Frank just popped up out of nowhere doing songs for his brother's film, he actually had been composing music and songs for Sylvester's films ever since the original Rocky. Frank also appeared in the film singing in the opening segment. Frank would also do the occasional acting gigs including the two Rocky sequels and Staying Alive. Arguably, his best role came in the 1987 film Barfly where he played the bartender who spars with patron Mickey Rourke. 2) Frank was in a band in the early 70s called Valentine. Another member of the group went on to fame and fortune as half of Hall & Oates - John Oates. The connection almost got Hall & Oates a track on the original soundtrack to Rocky. They were to lend their song "Grounds for Separation" to the film, but because it was going to take too long to get the movie done and the soundtrack out, they declined used of the song (most likely they wanted to tie it in with their latest album, which was ready to go). The song appeared on their fourth album, Daryl Hall & John Oates.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

"You Belong to Me" by The Doobie Brothers

Song#:  1548
Date:  07/30/1983
Debut:  82
Peak:  79
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  The Doobies broke up not long after their 1980 album Real Love with members Michael McDonald and Patrick Simmons headed out for solo careers. But before they all finally called it quits, they agreed to go out on one more tour together. Billed as the "Farewell Tour," the band hit the road to give fans one last hurrah. Of course they and their label (probably more their label) recorded the tour and after it was done, a live concert album was edited together and released. Titled after the tour name, it was the Doobie's first ever live LP. To promote the disc, this first single was lifted for release. The single spent a month on the chart peaking at #79. The LP reached that exact same position as well. Of course, it would not be the last we would hear from the Doobies as before the decade would end, a reformed version of the band would be riding the charts again.

ReduxReview:  Even though Michael McDonald co-wrote this song, it took Carly Simon to give it groove and soul (see below). She and producer Arif Mardin knew exactly how to take the song to a higher level. Although the original Doobie recording was not too bad, this live version is so straight and soulless (and waaay too perfect for a "live" recording) that it actually makes them sound like a band who was just totally done with the whole thing and overdue for retirement. It's listless and lifeless. Apparently, it was time to move on. Fantastic song, boring performance. It's the musical equivalent of watching paint dry. I'm rating this real low because, frankly, these guys are far, far better than this (and they know better...). For me, the whole live album/tour thing was not a "hey, guys - let's get the band together one last time" thing, it was an exercise in milking that Doobie cash cow before she's given the final axe. Just forget this even happened and keep on rockin' to their classics.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  You may hear this and think - oh, this is a cover of the 1978 hit done by Carly Simon (#6 Pop/#4 AC). Technically, that is not correct. It was Simon's single that was actually the cover tune. Simon co-wrote the tune with Michael McDonald and it was first recorded by The Doobie Brothers for their 1977 album Livin' on the Fault Line. The band did not release the song as a single. Simon then recorded her own version for her album Boys in the Trees (#10). The song served as the album's lead single and it became a major hit. It also got Simon a Grammy nod for Best Pop Vocals, Female (the album won a Grammy for Best Album Package).


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"Burning Down the House" by Talking Heads

Top 10 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1547
Date:  07/30/1983
Debut:  84
Peak:  9
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Rock, New Wave, Art Rock

Pop Bits:  Formed in NYC in 1975, this band would release an acclaimed debut LP in 1977 titled Talking Heads: 77. A single from the album, "Psycho Killer," would be a blip on the singles chart at #92. However, their second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food, would spawn their first Pop hit when a remake of "Take Me to the River" (an album track recorded in 1974 by Al Green) reached #26. The album did well, as did their next two, but mainstream acceptance and success eluded them (despite being critical darlings and having a rabid fan base). However, that would change when this first single from their fifth studio album, Speaking in Tongues, found its way to the Pop Top 10 (#6 Rock). Exposure on MTV certainly helped as the video became a favorite and was put into heavy rotation. The album would be their highest peaking reaching #15 and it would become their first to go platinum.

ReduxReview:  Around this time, I knew about the Talking Heads, but I'm not sure if I'd heard any of their music. I just knew the critics ate them up and pretty much 5-starred anything they did. So like many folks, this was probably my first real exposure to the band. And what an introduction. I liked it when it came out, I absolutely love it now. It is just a freakin' brilliant track. From the groove, to David Byrne's delivery, to that awesome breakdown section, it is perfect piece of pop/rock/new wave. The band had several other brilliant songs, but since this is the one that lured me into them, it remains my favorite track of theirs.


Trivia:  The title for the track was inspired by a performance by another band. Talking Heads member Chris Frantz went to see the funk band Parliment-Funkadelic and during the show the crowd chanted "burn down the house!" Later, the Heads were in a jam session and Chris Frantz repeated the chant. David Byrne liked it and then later updated it to "burning down the house." As the jam took form into a song, Byrne would say nonsensical things over the music and just assembled the lyrics based on what fit the groove and what lines seemed to create a theme. Therefore, the finished lyrics, while fitting well with the music and sounding great, don't necessarily make a lot of sense.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

"Cold Blooded" by Rick James

Song#:  1546
Date:  07/30/1983
Debut:  86
Peak:  40
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  James' album Throwin' Down, the follow-up to his massively success Street Songs, was a bit of a disappointment. Despite support from R&B with a couple of Top 10's, the album failed to be another crossover hit with none of its singles able to crack the Pop Top 40. As a result, the LP stalled at the gold level. Like Throwin' Down, his next effort didn't stray too far from the Street Songs sound and the results were similar. A minor bright spot was that this time around this title-track single reached the Pop Top 40 - just barely. It would reach #1 at R&B (for six weeks) as would the album, but the lack of a solid follow-up single once again kept the album from doing better than gold.

ReduxReview:  James relies more on synths this time around and it works out okay. It's a good groove, but James doesn't really add much to keep it interesting. I kept waiting for something cool to happen that would elevate the song, but it never came. I got bored with it after a couple of minutes. Although he had some good songs to offer up in the coming years, it was pretty apparent by this point that he wasn't going to get back to the creative peak of Street Songs.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Around this time, James had been dating actress Linda Blair (The Exorcist). Blair was in her early twenties at the time and the affair would be fairly brief. Blair has said that she left the relationship in 1984 due to James' continued drug use. At one point while they were together in James' studio, Blair showed interest in how to write music. James began tinkering on a synth and soon the formation of a song began. He ended up writing this track and has said that Blair was the inspiration for the lyrics.


Monday, February 8, 2016

"A Million Miles Away" by The Plimsouls

Song#:  1545
Date:  07/30/1983
Debut:  88
Peak:  82
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  This California band became a solid draw on L.A.'s power pop music scene around the turn of the decade. An indie EP got the attention of Richard Perry's Planet Records and they signed on for a full self-titled album that was issued in 1981. It was a blip on the album chart, which didn't do a whole lot to further their career. Back on their own, they worked up songs for a new album including this one that was released independently as a single in 1982. Not much seemed to come from it, but the song and their local popularity got them a spot in an upcoming movie. Portions of the teen rom-com Valley Girl were filmed in an L.A. club and The Plimsouls were asked to play during the scenes. This song was highly featured while bits of two other songs were heard as well. The gig landed them a deal with Geffen Records and the band quickly re-recorded this song and others for their second LP Everywhere At Once. This first single got a bit of a push thanks to Valley Girl and it hit #11 at Rock. The song was then able to cross over to Pop for a minor few weeks. Unfortunately, by the time Valley Girl and their album were making headway, the band had broken up. However, this song would remain a popular 80s track that would keep The Plimsouls name alive for years to come.

ReduxReview:  I saw Valley Girl, but the band's appearance apparently didn't stick with me because I ended up discovering them through my obsession with The Go-Go's. The Plimsoul's lead singer/songwriter Peter Case used to date Go-Go Charlotte Caffey and they co-wrote (with Jane Wiedlin) "Tonite" for Beauty & the Beat (in turn Caffey helped co-write a tune for The Plimsouls). The connection led me to the band's album. While I wasn't a big fan of the LP, there were some great songs on it including the title track and this one. I'm not sure why this did not do better at Pop. Maybe it was a little too gritty? Whatever the case, it's a shame as this is a great 80s track. It has remained popular over the years, which is cool, but it never really got its due in its day.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The band's name comes from a UK term for a specific type of shoe. Known as a plimsoll or plimsole, the shoe was basically rubber bottomed and canvas topped and were typically used in phys-ed classes. The US equivalent would be the style of Converse shoes or Vans. The band used the shoe reference and just adjusted the spelling.  2) The Plimsouls' lead singer, Peter Case, began a solo career after the break-up and issued his self-titled debut LP in 1986 on Geffen. The critically lauded album began a streak of solidly reviewed albums that has continued through 2015's Hwy 62. His only charting song came in 1992 when "Dream About You" hit #16 on the Alternative chart.


Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Get It Right" by Aretha Franklin

Song#:  1544
Date:  07/30/1983
Debut:  89
Peak:  61
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Franklin's Luther Vandross-produced album Jump to It and its title-track single were considered a bit of a comeback for the diva, especially at Pop where the song became her first Top 40 hit (#24) in six years. Both the LP and single would reach #1 at R&B and the album would go gold. With some momentum established, Franklin once again called upon Vandross to write and produce her next venture. The pair came up with Get It Right and its title-track was issued as the first single. Although it would be another #1 hit at R&B for Franklin, it got ignored at Pop and peaked way outside of the Top 40. The album sold far less than Jump to It, failing to hit the gold mark, and it peaked at #4 R&B/#36 Pop. It was considered a disappointment and it led Franklin and her label (Arista w/Clive Davis) seeking a new direction...again.

ReduxReview:  This is a good Luther jam, but it doesn't have quite the same magic as "Jump to It." For me, it could use a better hook. A hot groove is great, but if has nothing memorable, it ain't gonna make it very far at Pop, which this one didn't. This one probably should have made a quick appearance in the Top 40, but that's about it. The tune is not too bad, but it's not a stellar moment in Franklin's discography.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  A song titled "Giving In" was included on Franklin's Get It Right album. The song was written by her eldest son, Clarence. Franklin gave birth to Clarence soon after she turned 14. The identity of Clarence's father and that of Franklin's next child, Edward (who came along a year later), were never revealed.