Saturday, February 20, 2016

"True" by Spandau Ballet

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1557
Date:  08/06/1983
Debut:  67
Peak:  4
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Soft Rock, Blue-Eyed Soul, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The basis of this English band formed in 1976 as The Cut. The next few years saw the band changing names a couple of times along with their style, which ranged from punk to power pop. Honing their skills in clubs, the band finally settled on Spandau Ballet as their name and they found their musical stride in the New Romantic movement. After being courted by several labels, they settled on Chrysalis and issued a debut album titled Journeys to Glory. Two songs from the LP reached the UK Top 10 as did the album. More hits followed with their second album Diamond, but it would be their third effort that would break them worldwide. Their album True had already spawned a UK Top 10 single with "Lifeline," but it would be the title track single that would take them to #1. The hit would quickly fly across the pond and capture the attention of US listeners who would make it a multi-format hit (#4 pop, #1 AC, #34 Rock, and #76 R&B). The hit helped push the album to #19 on the US chart (#1 UK). Although the song would be the band's only US Top 10, in the UK they would grab ten Top 10 hits in the 80s.

ReduxReview:  A mandatory high school dance/prom song if there ever was one. I can almost hear the shuffling of feet and scrunching of satin and taffeta gowns in the background. The band's brand of sophisti-pop never really took off here with the exception of this lovely track. How can you not get starry-eyed when this comes on? It's a dreamy song made all the better by Tony Hadley's yearning vocals. This is another one of those songs where when mentioned or played someone will start laughing or go "oh, god, no," but by the second verse they are jammin' to it. I know this much is true - it's an 80s classic.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Although this song didn't hit #1 in the US, it eventually would as part of another recording. In 1991, the hip hop band P.M. Dawn used samples from "True" as the basis for their hit "Set Adrift on a Memory Bliss." The song would be a major hit reaching #1 at Pop. It would also have the distinction of being the very first #1 song after Billboard changed its chart methodology from manual sales and airplay reporting to using Neilsen's SoundScan system of accounting. P.M. Dawn's video for this song features a brief cameo of Spandau Ballet's lead singer Tony Hadley.


Friday, February 19, 2016

"Big Log" by Robert Plant

Song#:  1556
Date:  08/06/1983
Debut:  86
Peak:  20
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Plant kicked off his post-Zeppelin career with his debut solo effort Pictures at Eleven. The album was a solid hit reaching #5 and going platinum. Pop singles were hard to come by ("Burning Down One Side" at #64 and "Pledge Pin" at #74), but Rock radio embraced several songs. It set the stage for his second album The Principle of Moments. This first single was another Rock hit for him reaching #6. At Pop, the languid ballad was a better fit than his previous rock singles and it became Plant's biggest hit reaching #20. It would help the album become another platinum success reaching #8.

ReduxReview:  I found this to be an odd song when it came out. I didn't like it all that much, but I didn't hate it either. If its slinky groove came on the radio, I'd listen. However, there was nothing that enticed me any further. I think the most memorable part of the song is the guitar melody, which is pretty sweet. I can get into it more these days as it does set a mysterious mood quite well. It's a good midnight, top-down, cruising song on a hot summer night on an empty road - all along and thinking of past loves...

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Six of the eight tracks on The Principle of Moments featured Phil Collins on drums, including this track. When Plant toured the US in the fall of 1983, Collins went along with him and played drums in the band. Despite have major success at the time with Genesis and as a solo act, Collins remained simply as the hired drummer and did not perform any of his own material during the tour.  2) So, what's with the title? It doesn't appear in the song nor does it seem to relate to the lyrics in any way. One interpretation is that the title comes from the term used for the log book that truckers used to record their hours on the road. With lyrics that open as "My love is in league with the freeway," it seems there is a correlation between time spent on the road and time spent in a relationship and Plant is reflecting on the time spent with his former love - via the big log.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

"Change" by Tears for Fears

Song#:  1555
Date:  08/06/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  73
Weeks:  6
Genre:  New Wave, Rock

Pop Bits:  This English duo consisting of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith, began their journey as part of a band called Graduate. They issued one album in 1980, but after disappointing results, Orzabal and Smith left to form their own outfit. Initially calling themselves History of Headaches, the pair changed the band name to Tears for Fears and got signed to Phonogram Records. Their first two singles tanked, but a third called "Mad World" caught the ears of UK listeners who pushed the single to #3. The hit drew attention to their debut album The Hurting and it catapulted to the #1 slot. This song was their follow-up and it did just as well reaching #4. Their success got some folks in the US interested and this song would reach #22 at Rock while spending a few weeks on the Pop chart. As a result, their album would reach a respectable #73 and it would set them up for further success.

ReduxReview:  I never got to hear this song when it first came out. I'm sure the opening keyboard riff would have immediately caught my attention and I probably would have pursued the band. Although this is a good tune, I'm surprised that "Mad World" didn't catch on here - it's a superior song. It seems like the single was issued in the US, but not sure if it came before or after "Change." Now, everyone knows "Mad Love," thanks to various cover versions, while this song has gotten lost in the shuffle. The Hurting is pretty great and more experimental than their commercial-leaning follow-ups. I'm glad I know it now, but I wish I could have jumped on it back in the day.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In their early days before forming Graduate, Orzabal and Smith played along with a group called Neon. That band also included Rob Fisher and Pete Byrne. That pair of musicians would also go their own way and eventually become Naked Eyes. The duo would end up scoring the #8 hit "Always Something There to Remind Me" early in '83.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"Holiday Road" by Lindsey Buckingham

Song#:  1554
Date:  08/06/1983
Debut:  92
Peak:  82
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Fleetwood Mac's Buckingham kept busy during the band's break and issued his first solo album in 1981. Law and Order would do well thanks to the #9 showing of "Trouble" (#12 Rock, #14 AC). Following the success of his solo LP and the Mac's new Mirage disc, Buckingham contributed two songs to the soundtrack for the comedy film National Lampoon's Vacation. This song, which was released as a single, and the track "Dancin' in the USA" served as bookends on the soundtrack LP. Despite the film being a big hit, both the single and soundtrack failed to get attention and disappeared quickly.

ReduxReview:  This is a cute little ditty that worked well for the film, but as a single it comes up a bit short - almost quite literally coming in at just over 2 minutes. It's a fun tune with a catchy chorus that conjures up images of the Griswolds and their wacky vacation. Beyond that, there is little to grab onto here. 

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The film was a hit on initial release, but its popularity grew over the years thanks to home video and airings on TV. Because of that added exposure, the song became synonymous with the movie. In fact, it's basically been recognized as the movie's unofficial theme song. The tune would then end up getting used in all of the Vacation sequels, including 2015's revamp with Ed Helms.  2) When Buckingham goes solo, sometimes he really goes solo. Besides his co-producer Richard Dashut, Buckingham did everything else on these tracks - writing, playing, recording, etc. A veritable one-man operation.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"Maybe This Day" by Kissing the Pink

Song#:  1553
Date:  08/06/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  87
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:   This London-based band had been flirting with experimental synthpop since 1980 before getting signed by Magnet Records a couple years later. At first, their music wasn't catching on, but then their tune "The Last Film" reached #19 in the UK, which allowed their album Naked to sell a few copies and reach #54. Breaking into the US marked proved difficult with only this track able to indent the lower region of the Pop chart. Follow-up singles and albums failed to make any impression on UK audiences, but later in the 80s the band would score a significant US Dance chart hit.

ReduxReview:  This is certainly an odd track. I do like the vibe quite a bit. It almost plays like a theme from some modern film noir or strange TV show like Twin Peaks. I'm a little surprised a song like this was even able to get on the chart. It's not necessarily a Pop hit contender. However, it is kind of fascinating and after a few listens it won me over. I don't think folks will walk away humming this track, but it is certainly intriguing and would make an interesting entry in a playlist.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Members say that the band's name came from a phrase that was used as commentary in Snooker games (a type of billiards game) broadcast on a TV show. It is used to describe a very soft shot. Apparently, the band didn't know at the time it was also an adult slang term for oral sex, but after finding out they still kept it. However, it would later cause issues and they ended up going by KTP on later releases.


Monday, February 15, 2016

"Tell Her About It" by Billy Joel

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1552
Date:  07/30/1983
Debut:  38
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  With his album The Nylon Curtain, Joel had something to prove. He wanted everyone to know that he could be a serious songwriter and not just an entertaining pop piano man. For the most part it worked with the album hitting the Top 10 and receiving a Grammy nod for Album of the Year. But its dark tone shut out some listeners and sales of the album were far less than that of his three previous studio albums. It didn't help that singles from the album only did minor business with "Allentown" doing the best at #17. With that out of his system, Joel then decided to pay tribute to music styles from the 50s and 60s that influenced him as a teenager. The far more upbeat An Innocent Man would reignite Joel's pop star thanks to this first single that became his second Pop #1 (#1 AC/#17 Rock/#38 Dance). The album would be a major hit reaching #4 and eventually selling over 7 million copies. It's success led to a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.

ReduxReview:  As much as I loved The Nylon Curtain, it really did suck all the air out of the pop room. Many folks didn't know what to make of it and even wondered if it might have lost him a chunk of his audience. And then Joel opened a window and let this big breath of fresh air in. There seemed to be a collective sigh from everyone when this hit the airwaves. It was a brilliant move by Joel to go retro and present it in and updated pop/rock way. It had cross-generation appeal and a video that secured heavy rotation on MTV. I don't think he could have released a better song at the time.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The video for this song has Joel and his band performing as "B.J. and the Affordables" on a 1963 episode of The Ed Sullivan Show. A Sullivan impersonator introduces the band after the famous Topo Gigio finishes (for those who don't know, Topo Gigio was a talking mouse from an Italian children's show that became internationally famous thanks to Sullivan's show). Sullivan's variety show ran from 1948 to 1971 on CBS and he is credited for introducing major stars like The Beatles to audiences. The video's scenario worked perfectly for Joel's retro song. 2) Each song on An Innocent Man was meant to pay homage to a different artist and style from the 50s/60s eras. This song was meant to be a take on the Motown sound and groups like The Supremes and The Temptations.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

"Don't Cry" by Asia

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1551
Date:  07/30/1983
Debut:  50
Peak:  10
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Supergroup Asia's self-titled debut album was a big hit reaching #1 and going multi-platinum. It was certainly helped along by the #1 Rock track "Heat of the Moment" (#4 Pop). Expectations were high for their follow-up and this first single from their album Alpha returned them to the top of the Rock chart and the Pop Top 10. This seemed like a good omen, but the album just didn't seem to have the same legs as their debut. It peaked quickly at #6 and would eventually only garner platinum status. The album was no bomb by any means, but the drop in sales and popularity was certainly a disappointment.

ReduxReview:  I remember being excited about the new album as I loved their debut so much. The first sign of trouble was this single. I liked it, but didn't love it. I thought it was rather weak when compared to their more intense prog-rock-ish tunes from the first album. But there has to be something to sell the album, so I still couldn't wait to get it. I'm sure it would be far better. wasn't. For me, the material just wasn't there. It felt like they were pushed to write more commercial fare and it showed. What made them special had pretty much disappeared. While I like this song, it is just a pop tune wrapped in loud keyboards and reverb. Sure, their debut had hooky tunes, but there was something more to them and they had a real majestic feel. It was all just disappointing. Based on sales, I wasn't the only one who felt that way.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Later in '83, songwriter and lead singer John Wetton left the band. Stories conflict as to whether he left on his own or if he was forced out, but it seemed the lacks of sales for the album and concert ticket sales (the fall leg of their US tour was cancelled), took a toll (as did his drug use it seemed) and Wetton was out. Another prog-rocker, Greg Lake (of Emerson Lake & Palmer) took over lead duties, specifically for a Japan tour and live satellite concert event. It didn't go all that well and Lake took off. The group made up with Wetton and he rejoined in time to record their third LP.