Saturday, April 23, 2016

"Don't Girls Get Lonely" by Glenn Shorrock

Song#:  1620
Date:  09/24/1983
Debut:  94
Peak:  69
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  His name may not be all that familiar, but his voice and certainly his former band will be. Shorrock was a founding member and lead singer of Australia's Little River Band. His voice graced their hits and he wrote one of their Top 10 hits, 1979's "Cool Change" (#10 Pop/#8 AC). As the 80s began, LRB was going through some growing pains and Shorrock decided to depart for a solo career. Staying with Capitol Records, he recorded and released his debut solo disc Villain of the Peace in 1982. The LP's first single, "Rock and Roll Soldier," was a minor chart entry in Australia reaching #39. A follow-up missed the chart completely.  However, a one-off single, "We're Coming to Get You," featuring the Aussie folk/country band The Bushwackers, became a #6 hit thanks to its use in the film of the same name. The unexpected exposure led to this new song being released. It failed to capture the same audience as the previous single and stalled at #75. However, it did become his first single to break in the US where it did slightly better. The song would be included on the US version of Villains. It would be Shorrock's only charting single in the US. He would return to LRB in 1987, but by that time the band's charting days in the US were over.

ReduxReview:  This almost sounds like a mashup of LRB with Steve Winwood. Unfortunately, it just doesn't have the pop power of either of those artists' charting hits. It's definitely not a bad song and Shorrock sounds good, but I think it is dragged down by a weak production. This might have played better with a little heavier rock sound rather than the keyboard driven arrangement.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Before becoming lead singer of LRB, the England-born Shorrock had already experienced significant success in Australia. He was part of the hit 60's pop/rock band The Twilights who enjoyed great popularity and a few hit songs. After that group folded in 1969, Shorrock became a member of Axiom. Made up of various members from several highly popular Aussie bands, they got tagged as being a "supergroup." They ended up scoring three Top 10 Australian hits over the course of two albums and in the process moved to England to get their career going there. It failed and the band split. Shorrock stayed in England for a while trying for a solo career before he got the call about a fronting a new band in Australia - LRB. Another member of The Twilights also did quite well. Guitarist Terry Britten went on to become a very successful songwriter. His biggest success was co-writing Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With It." Britten would win a Grammy award when the hit was selected as Song of the Year.


Friday, April 22, 2016

"Canvas of Life" by Minor Detail

Spotlight Alert!
Song#:  1619
Date:  09/24/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  92
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This Irish duo consisted of brothers John and Willie Hughes. In the 60s and 70s, they honed their skills with two other bands. First was a pop/rock covers band called Ned Spoone. They then moved on to a folk-hippie style acoustic outfit called Highway. Neither would bring the brothers much success and by the 80s they decided to concentrate on pop song writing and soon Minor Detail was born. They signed with Polydor Records and recorded their self-titled debut album. This first single was issued and became just a blip on the Pop chart for a couple of weeks. It did a little better in their Ireland home where it reached #25. The lack of a success took its toll and they split in 1984. A couple of years later, they tried to mount a comeback and issued a new single, but it failed to get any attention and Minor Detail broke up for the final time.

ReduxReview:  Where did this 80s synthpop gem come from? Never heard of the duo or this song. That's too bad because I would have jumped on this song back in the day. Very cool, melodic synthpop with a little Neil Young Trans vocodor tossed in. Nice arrangement too. Dang! This should have been a Top 40 contender. I was kind of surprised the album was on Spotify since a CD version is not available. I found it on Amazon as an MP3 download, so I bought that puppy as I thought the whole disc was really interesting. This, of course, is the stand-out track and definitely worthy of a Redux Spotlight, which I haven't done in a long while. This one definitely caught me by surprise and discovering little treasures like this is what I love about doing this blog project.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Minor Detail's debut album was produced by Bill Whelen. If that name seems familiar, it's most likely because he composed the score for the mid-90s theatrical sensation Riverdance. That show has been seen by millions worldwide and the soundtrack was a big hit getting platinum certification in the US.  2) John Hughes later went on to serve as the music coordinator for the 1991 film The Commitments. At the auditions, a quartet of siblings caught his attention. The four did get minor parts in the film, but Hughes saw more potential and became their manager. By 1995, the four Corr siblings released their debut album. As The Corrs, they landed on the US chart at #68 with their first single, "Runaway." A reissue of that song would come out in 1999 and hit #2 in the UK and #20 on the US AC chart. The following year they reached #1 in the UK, #14 US AC, and #34 US Pop with "Breathless." That single allowed their album In Blue to reach platinum status in the US. Hughes still manages the successful quartet.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Life Gets Better" by Graham Parker

Song#:  1618
Date:  09/24/1983
Debut:  96
Peak:  94
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Despite a long and successful career as a performer and songwriter, Englishman Parker was never fully able to break through to the masses in the way that some of his contemporaries had. After spending years gigging around various places and honing his skills, he finally got a record deal and in 1976 recorded Howlin' Wind with his new backing band, The Rumour. The critically acclaimed album was a commercial failure. Two more LPs and an EP did better, but were still largely ignored. Unhappy with his label, he moved over to Arista in hopes of gaining some commercial ground. He issued Squeezing Out Sparks in 1979 and once again, the critics were raving. Yet despite being touted as the LP that would make him a star, it did marginal business peaking at #18 in the UK and #40 in the US. His next album did about the same business with subsequent follow-ups trending downward. In 1983, he released his LP The Real Macaw. Again, it didn't light up the charts, but it did at least generate this single that got on the Pop chart for two short weeks.

ReduxReview:  If you are hearing this song for the first time, what may pop in your mind is - "hey, isn't this Elvis Costello?" Parker has been plagued by comparisons to Costello for years, yet Parker's first album pre-dates Costello's by a year. Whether or not Costello took notes from Parker is unknown, but their styles, music, and voices were undeniably similar. I've seen commentary where the fault of Parker not breaking wider was blamed on the emergence of Costello. As Parker's audience grew, they then got attracted by the shiny new guy and migrated there. But in reality, no one knows why Parker didn't become a star while others of the "angry young man" ilk, like Costello and Joe Jackson, did. Regardless, Parker had a solid career and produced some classic material. While this song and others from The Real Macaw may not rank among his best, it is still pretty darn good. I don't think this song really had much of a chance becoming a hit, but it's a solid pop tune.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is not Parker's first single on the US Pop chart. In 1977, a remake of The Trammps' 1975 hit "Hold Back the Night" (#35 Pop/#10 R&B) reached #58. It was taken from an EP titled The Pink Parker. The single would get to #24 in the UK.  2) Parker's album Squeezing Out Sparks is considered one of his best works. It topped the Village Voice list of best albums of 1979 and it was highly praised by many critics. In 2003, Rolling Stone include the album on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.  It was ranked #334.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"All Night Long (All Night)" by Lionel Richie

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1617
Date:  09/17/1983
Debut:  62
Peak:  1 (4 weeks)
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Richie's first solo LP after leaving The Commodores was a major success. The self-titled album went to #3 and yielded three Top 10 hits including the #1 gold single "Truly." To keep up his momentum, Richie got back in the studio to record a follow-up. To preview the album, this first single was issued. It was evident from the get-go that this was going to be a major hit. The song flew up the Pop chart reaching #1 and staying there for four weeks. It would also hit the top spot at both R&B and AC. The song was released in time to be considered for the 1984 Grammy Awards (the one that had the Michael Jackson sweep). It received five nominations including Record and Song of the Year. Richie was also nominated for Best Pop Vocal, Male. He would go home empty handed, but that would change the next year when the album would be eligible to compete.

ReduxReview:  Expertly written, produced, and performed, there was no doubt this was going to be a smash hit. It was the perfect song at the perfect time for Richie. Its Caribbean feel (along with Richie's fake accent) created a warm and inviting atmosphere and by the time the bridge set in, it was time to party. I fell for the song immediately and have been hooked since. For me, this was the peak of Richie's powers. Everything he learned from The Commodores to writing/producing for other artists to branching out on his own culminated in this song. He would have some good singles to come, but I think this is his best moment as a solo star.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Remember the part of the song where the lyrics seem to be sung in a foreign language? Ends up it wasn't a language of any kind. Richie stated in an interview that the words were made up. Originally, he did intend to get lyrics translated into a language, but time constraints killed the idea. So he just made up words to mimic a foreign language.  2) A memorable video for the song was filmed and it became Richie's first real MTV hit. The video was produced by former Monkee Mike Nesmith and directed by Bob Rafelson. By this time, Nesmith was running his multimedia company Pacific Arts and had become a pioneer of sorts in new video music medium. In 1981, he won the first Grammy given for Best Long Form Music Video for Elephant Parts, a comedy/music project he wrote and produced. Nesmith knew Rafelson because he had produced The Monkees' TV series and directed them in their film debut, 1968's Head. Rafelson would go on to produce and direct the classic Jack Nicholson film Five Easy Pieces, which netted four Oscar nominations including Best Picture. Although Nesmith would work on other music videos, "All Night Long" would be the only one that Rafelson would direct.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive" by Men at Work

Song#:  1616
Date:  09/17/1983
Debut:  67
Peak:  28
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Men at Work's second LP, Cargo, was another hit for them reaching #3 in the US and eventually selling triple-platinum. Getting two Top 10 hits certainly helped it along with "Overkill" going to #3 and "It's a Mistake" reaching #6. They tried for a third, but this single didn't have the same attraction as the others and it faltered just inside the Top 30 while going to #12 at Rock. It broke the band's streak of four consecutive Pop Top 10's. It also unfortunately became their final Top 40 entry on the chart.

ReduxReview:  At the time I really did not like the Cargo album. It took me a long while to realize the loveliness of "Overkill," but most of the rest still didn't entice me and I have to say that this is my least favorite of all. I'm assuming they were going for some kind of quirkiness a la "Down Under," but it just did not work. The video was equally goofy and seemed to take queues from Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me with Science." The whole thing didn't make sense to me then and it still doesn't. Their song "It's a Mistake" wasn't a mistake, but this one sure was.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This song was actually the first single from Cargo that was released in their home country of Australia. As their first album, Business as Usual, was breaking worldwide, the fans in Australia were ready for new material as that album had already been out for nearly two years. The band had already completed their second album, so to keep Aussie fans happy, they went ahead and issued this song as a single while the rest of the world caught up. It became their fourth Top 10 there reaching #6.


Monday, April 18, 2016

"Modern Love" by David Bowie

Song#:  1615
Date:  09/17/1983
Debut:  72
Peak:  14
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Bowie's "China Girl" became the legendary artist's second Top 10 hit from his album Let's Dance. It was his fourth overall US Top 10 and this third single from the album came close to becoming his fifth, but it stopped short. However, it was his fifth Top 10 at Rock where the tune hit #6. In his native UK, the song would reach #2 to become his nineteenth Top 10 hit.

ReduxReview:  This is the first posting of a David Bowie song since his surprising death on January 10, 2016. I have to admit that his death really affected me. Many artists that I have loved over the years have died (including one I worked for), but Bowie's passing seemed different. His contributions to music were historic and influential, and he was still making viable music. His passing was so unexpected and it didn't take long for me to realize that there would be no more new Bowie music. This hit me pretty hard after years of being a fan, owning all his albums and anxiously looking forward to his next venture. It was just a very strange feeling. The day after his death I was eating dinner in a bar and "Space Oddity" came on the jukebox. I came close to bursting into tears. I've never felt that way about any artist's or celebrity's passing. I spent the next three weeks constantly playing all his albums and enjoying his work. I appreciated all he did with his life and art. Getting back to his art, when this single came out I was all over it. I absolutely adored it and thought it was easily my favorite song from the album, outshining even "Let's Dance." However, these days it has lost its luster a bit and "China Girl" has kind of taken its place (even though the real classic is "Let's Dance"). I still love the song, but not like I did when it first came out. My favorite part of the song is near the end when the piano starts to go ballistic while the sax and Bowie sell the crap out of the song.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Bowie had two children. Duncan Zowie Heywood Jones was born in 1971 to Bowie and his first wife, Mary Angela Barnett. Bowie's second marriage to supermodel Imam produced one child in 2000, a girl named Alexandria Zahra Jones. Duncan Jones has gone on to become an award-winning film director. Jones wrote and directed his debut effort, 2006's Moon starring Sam Rockwell. It went on to win several awards including the BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Producer or Director. He also directed the well-received 2011 hit Source Code that starred Jake Gyllenhaal.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

"Love Is a Stranger" by Eurythmics

Song#:  1614
Date:  09/17/1983
Debut:  81
Peak:  23
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  After a less than stellar album with their group The Tourists, Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart set out on their own as the duo called Eurythmics. Their initial singles weren't getting anywhere, but then "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" was issued and it became a worldwide sensation. In the UK, the song would be the fourth single from their same-titled debut album and it would end up hitting #2. In the US, it would serve as the first single from the LP and it did even better reaching #1. This follow-up wouldn't replicate that feat, but it did come close to the Top 20 while hitting #7 Dance. Like "Sweet Dreams," the song came with another memorable video that got significant airplay on MTV.

ReduxReview:  Here is another gem by Lennox and Stewart that rightfully got into the Top 10 in the UK, but somehow couldn't manage to get that far in the US. The song is not as immediate as "Sweet Dreams," but after that hit, this song seemed like a solid follow-up. However, many folks in the US didn't connect with the single. It may have been a little too out-there or adventurous for US pop audiences or even a bit too cold. Perhaps the more urgent, blue-eyed soul of "I Could Give You (A Mirror)" might have played better. Regardless, this is a great song and it did keep interest in the duo going.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Prior to "Sweet Dreams" getting released, the duo had already issued three singles in the UK from their debut LP that failed to grab much attention. "This Is the House" was released first (in April of 1982) and it failed to make the chart. "The Walk" came next and it scraped the chart at #89. "Love Is a Stranger" was the third single and on initial release it could only manage a #54 showing. However, after "Sweet Dreams" hit #2, the song got reissued and on its second run it got to #6. It took a year and a half for their career to get revved up, but they finally netted two UK Top 10's and the album reached #3.