Saturday, March 5, 2016

"Bad Boys" by Wham! U.K.

Song#:  1571
Date:  08/20/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  60
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Pop, Dance

Pop Bits:  This British duo of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley met in school and started their musical career with a ska band called The Executive. When the band split, Michael and Ridgeley set out on their own and while still teenagers, they got signed to Innervision Records. Their first single, "Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do)" initially tanked, but their next one, "Young Guns (Go for It!)," caught on and hit #3 on the UK chart. "Wham Rap!" was then reissued and it reached #8. "Bad Boys" would follow into the Top 10 to #2 while a fourth single, "Club Tropicana," would go to #4. The four Top 10's sent their debut album Fantastic to #1. Unfortunately, the duo's leather-clad rebellious image and catchy dance tunes that carried some lite social statements were lost on the US audience. The best they could manage was this single which couldn't even break into the top half of the Pop chart (#28 Dance). Better days were ahead, but at this point US record buyers had very little interest in the duo.

ReduxReview:  At one point in college I shared a house with four girls (I'm sure they sensed I was no threat...). One of them, Jackie, dug music and would somehow hear songs or artists that I missed. I remember one time just after "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" came out and I was playing it. She liked it and asked who it was and I said Wham! She then said, "oh, the 'Club Tropicana' guys." I was totally confused. As far as I knew, "Wake" was their first single. She was all like "no, no - they did 'Club Tropicana' and a couple of other songs." I didn't really believe her and back in the day there was no fancy thing like the internet to look up this crap. Of course, I found out quickly that she was right. She loved "Club Tropicana," but the song was ignored in the US and the only real taste of Wham! we got was this middling chart single. It's actually not a bad intro to the duo. The tune is catchy and fun, but when compared to their later work (George Michael's, really), their immaturity shows through. And their "bad boy" persona was kind of ridiculous. They quickly shed that image and refined their sound for their massive-selling next LP.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Before Wham!'s music could cross the pond, they had to solve an issue. At the time there was already a band called Wham in the US. That Nashville funk/disco band recorded one album in 1978 that failed to get much attention. However, they retained rights to their name in the US. Therefore, a name change was in order for Michael and Ridgeley. Of course, they went with the easiest thing that several bands had already done before, the ol' - just add "UK" to the end. Boom! New name! The record company issued "Bad Boys" under the new moniker while stickers were added to the front of Fantastic to cover up the original name. Later in 1984, the duo bought the rights to the name from the US band and for their next album, they were able to release it under their true Wham! name.


Friday, March 4, 2016

"Bad, Bad Billy" by Snuff

Song#:  1570
Date:  08/20/1983
Debut:  93
Peak:  88
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Country Rock

Pop Bits:  This Virginia-based band began as a trio in the late 70s. By the time they were signed by Curb Records, they had expanded to six members. In 1982, they released their self-titled debut album. One track, "(So This Is) Happy Hour" made a slight dent in the Country chart at #71. Then the following year they released the EP Night Fighter" This single was issued and it quickly came and went on the Pop chart. The results were not encouraging and the band's recording days came to an end. They continued to be a popular act in clubs around the Virginia/DC area.

ReduxReview:  This band has an interesting sound thanks in part to the addition of the violin (and I say violin, because it is not like country fiddlin'). It's rock with a lean towards country and even folk. Almost as if Dexy's were from the US. I'm not surprised that it popped on and off the chart quickly because it is not that strong of a song. However, I do like what they are trying to do here. They just needed some better material. Unfortunately, they didn't get another chance to write or find some.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  As happens with artists whose chart careers are brief, some stay in the music biz while others go on to different careers. Snuff's violinist, Cecil Hooker, got involved in film production not long after the band's shot at the big time ended. He moved over to the technical side and began editing. He quickly became an expert at color/shade enhancing and editing programs such as Flame and Smoke. He has worked on a myriad of commercials, films, music videos, and TV programs such as the CBS Evening News and CBS This Morning.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

"Scarlet Fever" by Kenny Rogers

Song#:  1569
Date:  08/20/1983
Debut:  94
Peak:  94
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Country

Pop Bits:  Although Rogers' We've Got Tonight album was still a platinum success, its mix of pop and country crossover seemed to confuse listeners and radio stations. While multiple formats embraced the hit title track (#6 Pop, #1 Country, #2 AC), follow-up singles seemed to draw division lines. "All My Life" was a bit of a miss at Pop (#37) and Country (#13), but did well at AC (#2). This third single failed to chart at AC while barely making the Pop chart. However, it returned Rogers to the Country Top 10 reaching #5. He would continue to straddle the formats with his next two albums, but like this one, the results would be varied.

ReduxReview:  If Rogers had released this song a few years earlier, it probably would have done better at Pop. By this time in the 80s, this style of country was not playing well on Pop radio and it got ignored. I don't think it would have been a major hit, but I think Pop would have embraced it in the same way it did for something like "Coward of the County" (1979, #3 Pop, #5 AC, #1 Country). But chances are this single was meant to keep Rogers relevant on the Country chart after two big pop-oriented singles and its Pop results really didn't matter. The tune itself it very well-written. It's not a song that grabs you and makes you want to hit the repeat button several times, but it is quality material.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Mike Dekle. He originally recorded the tune as a solo artist in 1982 and released it as a single. Despite being recommended by Billboard magazine in its weekly picks, the song failed to make the Country chart. However, it did get a little airplay and one person to hear it on the radio was Kenny Rogers, who ended up recording it for his next album. Dekle continued to record as a solo artist, but he could only manage to put two singles in the lower rungs of the Country chart in 1984. He would have better success selling his songs to other artists. "Scarlet Fever" was his biggest hit as a songwriter until 2011 when Dekle co-wrote "Country Must Be Country Wide" with Brantley Gilbert and Colt Ford. Gilbert would take the song to #1 at Country and #50 Pop.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"Freak-A-Zoid" by Midnight Star

Song#:  1568
Date:  08/20/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  66
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Funk, R&B

Pop Bits:  This funk outfit came to the attention of Dick Griffey who signed them to his SOLAR label in 1978. The band's 1980 debut album didn't make much of an impact, but their next two LPs would begin to slowly break them on the R&B chart. It set them up well for their fourth platter No Parking on the Dance Floor. This first single would become a major hit at R&B reaching #2. The attention there and at Dance (#44) helped the song gain a little ground at Pop. The song would also propel the album to #2 (#27 Pop) and eventually it would be their best selling disc going double platinum.

ReduxReview:  I'm not sure when I first heard this song, but it was a while after it was initially released. I loved it, but I didn't add it to my collection until a few years ago (along with a couple other Midnight Star songs). Although the full 12-inch version runs a bit long, this is one of those synth-induced funk tunes that is hard to resist. It's still a lot of fun to hear.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Midnight Star's No Parking LP featured the song "Slow Jam." Although it wasn't released as a single, it was a popular track that received a lot of airplay. The song was co-written by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and it was his first significant songwriting credit for another artist. Babyface did help write material for his first two bands, Manchild and The Deele, but "Slow Jam" was his first success on his own as a songwriter. Babyface would later enjoy huge success as a solo artist and as a songwriter/producer churning out hits for Bobby Brown, TLC, Toni Braxton, and many others.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

"Tell Her No" by Juice Newton

Song#:  1567
Date:  08/13/1983
Debut:  65
Peak:  27
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Newton's blend of pop and country served her well over two hit albums. With two Country Top 10's and four Pop Top 10's, she was ready to continue the streak with her next album Dirty Looks. Her success at Pop most likely prompted her to move more in that direction as the album had far less crossover appeal. This first single signaled the change and indeed her rockier sound left the country crowd out in the cold and the song failed to chart. The tune was ready-made for Pop contention, but listeners didn't seem all that thrilled either with the single peaking just inside of the Top 30. AC seemed a bit interested, but after six consecutive Top 10's in that format, this one missed the mark and stalled at #14. What seemed like a logical progression to pop may have been the wrong move.

ReduxReview:  Although Newton was no stranger to remakes, this one was an odd choice (see below). Making it even more strange was turning the classic tune into a synthpop jam complete with a marimba break (!). It runs a bit on the weird side, but I can't say I dislike it. However, I don't think it was the smartest choice for a single. It ran just a bit too far off the beaten path. The song killed her country career (for the time being) and it confused pop fans. I admit that it threw me for a loop as well and I began to lose interest in Newton. It was fine if she wanted to turn into a pop diva, but this wasn't the way to do it.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song is a remake of a 1964 hit by The Zombies. Featured on the British band's debut album, the single was their second US Top 10 peaking at #6. Although Newton kept the title as-is with "her" in it, other gender references were changed in the song. The update gave a new spin to the song's original meaning. Hopefully, you like the word "no" as it is sung over 60+ times in the song.


Monday, February 29, 2016

"High Time" by Styx

Song#:  1566
Date:  08/13/1983
Debut:  81
Peak:  48
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After grabbing two Top 10 hits from their rock-opera-ish LP Kilroy Was Here, this third one was issued in hopes of keeping the album's momentum going. Unfortunately, the song couldn't find a place at Pop and it peaked outside the Top 40. Rock radio ignored the track completely. The single's performance did little to continue the promotion of the album, which would stop at the platinum level. Their previous four platters were all multi-platinum sellers. With Tommy Shaw departing the band after the tour and Dennis DeYoung heading out on solo work, Kilroy would close out the main and most successful era of the group.

ReduxReview:  It's kind of unfortunate that this got issued as a single (see below). This track works better on the album as part of the concept. I'm sure it got selected because of the hook, but in reality there was no reason to release it. The band was done and the album had its day. Just take the two Top 10's, drop the mic and leave.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was not originally slated for single release. Initially, the third single was to be the Tommy Shaw composition "Haven't We Been Here Before." In preparation for the single, the label even paid for an expensive video to help promote the song. However, when it came time for the single to be released, Shaw balked and blocked the song from being issued. The label then decided that of the remaining tracks on the album, "High Time" might have the best shot at being a hit. But with no video to help promote the track on MTV, the single sank quickly.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

"The Night' by The Animals

Song#:  1565
Date:  08/13/1983
Debut:  82
Peak:  48
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This British blues rock band fronted by Eric Burdon had its heyday in the mid-to-late 60s. They burst onto the US chart in 1964 with their #1 rendition of "House of the Rising Sun." Other classics would follow: "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" (#15, 1965), "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" (#13, 1965) and "See See Rider" (#10, 1966). By 1968, the group had experience enough personnel and musical changes that a split was inevitable. Later in 1977, the original members reunited for an album and tour, but then promptly went back to their own projects. A second reunion would happen in 1983 and the result was the album Ark. This first single was issued from the LP and it became their first to hit the US chart since 1968. It would also get onto the Rock chart at #34. Unfortunately, the album and single would get ignored in their native UK. After the supporting tour, the members would once again move on to other things. While there would be further incarnations billing themselves as The Animals, the Ark LP and tour would end up being the final reunion of the original members.

ReduxReview:  This was...well...weird. I'm not sure what to make of it. It's almost like J. Geils and The Kinks had a power pop baby. I'm familiar with the hits of The Animals and while I wouldn't expect them to replicate their 60's sound, I didn't expect them to sound like this either. It's often hard to judge something like this where an older act records again years later and attempts to stay fresh while keeping some hint of their former glory. Is this song bad? Not really. If a no-name band did it, I'd probably think it was pretty good. However, my brain is trying to factor in that this is The Animals and it is not quite making sense. Like Pat Boone trying to get the kids on-board with his album of heavy metal covers. This one is not that extreme, but it is slightly strange.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Eric Burdon would go on to form his band War. They would have a major hit in 1970 with "Spill the Wine" (#3 Pop, #2 Rock). The song came about thanks to band member Lonnie Jordan who spilled a glass of wine on the mixing board at the studio where they were recording. Burdon found this incredibly funny and used the flub as inspiration. The song would appear on their debut album. Burdon would record one more LP with War before departing. War would continue without Burdon and go on to have six Top 10 hits.