Saturday, April 30, 2016

"Love Is a Battlefield" by Pat Benatar

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1627
Date:  09/24/1983
Debut:  78
Peak:  5
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Benatar's album Get Nervous was another platinum hit thanks to three Top 40 hits including the #13 "Shadows of the Night." Although still based in rock, the LP incorporated some modern pop-synth touches that gave the songs a more commercial sheen. Those pop elements would become even more prominent on this single, which was one of two new studio tracks added to Benatar's first concert LP, Live from Earth. Setting aside her more harder edged rock for this song was a bit of a risk, but it paid off quite well. The song would end up becoming her biggest charting Pop hit, her first (and only) #1 at Rock, and her second gold single. It would also nab her a fourth consecutive Grammy for Best Rock Performance, Female.

ReduxReview:  Everything about this song was just right. The timing, the arrangement, the video, etc. Benatar really needed this shot in the arm. She wasn't necessarily hurting, but Get Nervous was a bit of a dip after two major multi-platinum albums that hit #1 and #2. She had to stay fresh for the 80s and this song more than fit that bill. Even though I have never been a fan of live albums, I ran out and got Benatar's just because this song was on it. I played this track a lot while playing the balance of the album maybe twice. She rolled the dice on a pop song and came up winning.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Benatar was looking for a hit song to record and reached out to the songwriter Mike Chapman. He was working with another songwriter at the time, Holly Knight, and the pair came up with this song. It was originally conceived as a ballad, but once handed over to Benatar and her husband/producer Neil Geraldo, the song got a makeover that included an upbeat tempo change. When Chapman first heard Benatar's version, he was upset. He hated it. He wasn't the only one. Benatar's label was not fond of it either and didn't want to release it. After much convincing from Geraldo, the song got issued. To everyone's surprise, it became a smash hit and one of Benatar's signature tunes. Chapman has since become a fan of the song even though it's style did not match his or Knight's original vision. (I'm sure the royalty checks can help change minds real quick...)  2) The video for the song was a hit on MTV as well. Featuring an actual storyline, it was one of the first popular videos to incorporate dialog in order to move the plot along.


Friday, April 29, 2016

"Tender Is the Night" by Jackson Browne

Song#:  1626
Date:  09/24/1983
Debut:  79
Peak:  25
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Jackson' album Lawyers in Love got off to a good start when the title track reached #13 at Pop and #4 Rock. This next single couldn't do quite that well and faded before getting into the Top 20. It did about the same business at AC where it reached #24. It did slightly better at Rock going to #18. The album would make it to #8 and go platinum, but it was a slight disappointment coming off of three consecutive multi-platinum sellers.

ReduxReview:  With the exception of a few songs, I really don't connect with Jackson Browne's music. He certainly has classics like 1978's "Running on Empty," but most of his songs are lost on me. For every great song like "Lawyers in Love," there is a tune like "Boulevard" that is bland and forgettable. This retro-rock track arrives at about the midpoint between the two. It's a song that I have remembered, yet it is not one I'd consider to be great. Don't hate it, don't love it. It's just acceptably fine.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In 1983, Browne began dating actress Daryl Hannah. At this point in her career, she was just getting established in Hollywood. Her first role of note came when she played the character Pris in the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner. The next year she was elevated to leading lady status with her turn as a mermaid in the hit comedy Splash. Hannah has worked steadily since. Browne and Hannah remained together for nine years, splitting in 1992. Browne would not be the only musician Hannah would seriously date. Hannah has been in a relationship with rocker Neil Young since 2014.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

"Send Her My Love" by Journey

Song#:  1625
Date:  09/24/1983
Debut:  87
Peak:  23
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Journey's third single from their Frontiers album, "After the Fall," was a middling hit for them reaching #23 Pop and #30 Rock. For the fourth single, they went back into ballad mode and released this song. It would end up peaking at the same #23 as "After the Fall" while missing the Rock chart completely. However, it would make an appearance at AC getting to #27. While not as big as their 1981 #1 Escape album, Frontiers would still be a major hit reaching #2 and eventually going 6x platinum.

ReduxReview:  This dark ballad was a good choice for a single and thought it would end up doing quite well, but it faltered before getting into the Top 20. I think by this time, interest in Journey and Frontiers was fading and the song wasn't strong enough to really regenerate interest in the way that "Open Arms" did. Still, it's a solid song for the band that continues to get airplay on retail music channels.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Journey's American arena rock never really caught on in the UK. They could only manage four low-level chart songs over the years. For a long while, their best charting song was 1981's "Who's Crying Now," which reached #46. However, they finally got a belated Top 10 hit in 2009 when a reissue of "Don't Stop Believin'" reached #6. The song's sudden popularity was due to its use in a British TV show. The band's albums suffered a similar fate. By the time Frontiers was issued, only two of their previous seven LPs charted with Escape doing the best at #32. For some reason, even though no singles from Frontiers reached the chart, the album unexpectedly hit #6. It remains their only Top 10 LP in the UK. Results like this were typical for the band across Europe. Japan was a different story where the band scored three gold albums and one platinum.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"Masquerade" by Berlin

Song#:  1624
Date:  09/24/1983
Debut:  88
Peak:  82
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Berlin's Pleasure Victim album, initially released in 1982, finally picked up momentum after the controversial single "Sex (I'm A...)" caused a fuss and reached #62 on the Pop chart. Reaction to the single, both good and bad, put a spotlight on the album and with the help of their new label, Geffen, the album was reissued and it reached #30. A reissued second single, "The Metro," grabbed some attention as well hitting #58 (#10 Rock/#8 Dance). The songs and controversy made the album sell and it eventually went platinum. Before the group reconvened to record their next album, this third single was issued. Results were less favorable and it disappeared after a few short weeks on the chart.

ReduxReview:  I distinctly remember hearing this song for the first time. I knew about Berlin before this, but didn't pay much attention to them. Then, one night I was watching TV in my dorm room at college. There was this new show on (I can't remember the name of it and I think it was only on a couple times) that showcased new, upcoming hot acts. Berlin came on and did this song. Watching Terri Nunn and hearing this song bowled me over. I can still see her in my mind doing this song. I absolutely loved it. I think the next day I went out and bought Pleasure Victim. They won me over and I became a big fan. I thought for sure this song would be a sizable hit for them, but it got ignored. It is easily one of my favorite Berlin tracks.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Despite being considered a founding member of Berlin, Terri Nunn was not the band's original lead singer. A young artist named Toni Childs held that position first. Childs was with the band long enough to co-write songs that would end up being on their 1980 debut album. However, she longed for a solo career and informed the band she was leaving. That's when the remaining members found Terri Nunn. But not long after Nunn joined, she changed her mind and dropped out of the band in favor of an acting career. In her place, Virginia Macolino took over on vocals. Macolino and the band recorded the album Information, which featured five songs co-written by Childs. The indie album didn't get much attention and soon Macolino was out and Nunn rejoined. Their next album, Pleasure Victim, became their breakthrough. Childs did go on to have a successful solo career, but it didn't take off until her 1988 debut album Union was issued. It would end up being a gold seller bolstered by the #17 Modern Rock hit "Don't Walk Away" and a Grammy nod for Best New Artist.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"Major Tom (Coming Home)" by Peter Schilling

One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  1623
Date:  09/24/1983
Debut:  89
Peak:  14
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Germany's Peter Schilling encountered the same crossroad that Rod Stewart also happened upon. As young men, both were deciding on whether they should become football (soccer) players or musicians. For both, the answer became music. Stewart would have massive worldwide success while Schilling's popularity was more localized. The one exception was this single taken from his English-language debut album Error in the System. The LP was originally recorded in German in 1982 as Fehler im System and released in that country. The single "Major Tom (Völlig Losgelöst)" became a #1 hit in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Its success spurred Schilling to record a version of it in English, which he did along with an English version of the album. The single and MTV video gained popularity in the US and eventually the song would reach the Pop Top 20. It would also be a hit at Dance (#2) and Rock (#8). Unfortunately, despite one other lower-charting single later in 1988, Schilling would not be able to significantly follow up the song and ended up getting tagged as a one-hit wonder in the US.

ReduxReview:  I was all over this song when it came out. I loved that cold, synth-driven Europop sound. It fit perfect with the eerie lyrics. I'm not sure what possessed Schilling to usurp another artist's character and story for his own tune (see below), but I'm glad he did. I was fascinated with the retelling and the song's arrangement. Although this would end up being Schilling's only major hit, it was a terrific and memorable one.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Although the music and lyrics are Schilling's original work, the song does have its roots in another famous composition. David Bowie's 1969 song "Space Oddity" was the first to explore the plight of Major Tom, an astronaut who after a successful launch into space encounters issues that seem to spell certain doom. Schilling's version basically retells the story with a few additions such as folks on Earth mourning Major Tom's death and not knowing he is actually still alive drifting around in space. Bowie's song was his first to hit #1 in the UK and his first to chart in the US. It reached #15. Schilling's version was pretty much ignored in the UK (#42), but it was able to get one notch higher than Bowie's original in the US. Bowie would revisit the Major Tom character a couple more times in his career. Both 1980's "Ashes to Ashes" (#1 UK) and 1995's "Hallo Spaceboy" contained references to the doomed astronaut.


Monday, April 25, 2016

"You Know What to Do" by Carly Simon

Song#:  1622
Date:  09/24/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  83
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Simon had not had a significant hit since "Jesse" made it to #11 in 1980. She also hadn't released an album of originals since then. She finally returned to the studio in 1983 to record her album Hello Big Man. This first synthy single was meant to keep her current and on the chart, but unfortunately the results were minor staying near the bottom of the Pop chart for a month and only getting to #36 at AC. The lack of a significant single hurt the album (despite positive critical reception) and it became her worst peaking to-date topping out at #69. It was a big disappointment and not long after the album's release, Simon's contract with Warner Bros. ran out. It was a period of upheaval for Simon with her divorce from James Taylor getting finalized and her manager quitting to work with Roseanne Barr. She was left looking for new management and a new label.

ReduxReview:  I had completely forgotten about this song. The title seemed familiar, but I thought maybe this one passed me by. However, once I heard the chorus, it came right back to me. The tune is pretty sexy and has a solid chorus, so I'm not exactly sure why it didn't do better, especially at AC. But this was a weird time in music with a lot of 70s pop singer/songwriter stars starting to get lumped into the oldies bin and younger listeners doing the "oh, that's what my parents listen to" thing. So a new Carly Simon single was probably not going to light up the request lines and I think radio stations knew that. It left the careers of artists like Simon in flux. The playing field would equal out in years to come with more baby boomers joining the AC crowd and reconnecting with artists they used to love, but for the fickle 80s, it was difficult as this song proves.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although the Hello Big Man album found Simon returning to the pop sound that graced her hit 70s albums, she did take some detours. Most notably are this first single, which took a contemporary synthpop path, and two reggae diversions. First was a remake of Bob Marley's classic 1978 song "Is This Love?" Then a Simon composition called "Floundering" was given the reggae treatment. All of this came courtesy of the famous rhythm/production duo Sly & Robbie (Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare). Working with a slew of artists, the pair were in-demand as a rhythm section and as producers. They also recorded several of their own albums with 1998's Friends grabbing a Grammy win for Best Reggae Album. Over the years, they would grab another 9 nominations in that category.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

"Should I Love You" by Cee Farrow

Song#:  1621
Date:  09/24/1983
Debut:  93
Peak:  82
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Born in Germany, Christian Kruzinski's striking looks got him work as a model. Wanting to break into the music business, he moved to the US in the early 80s, adopted the stage name of Cee Farrow, and began writing and performing. He got the attention of Rocshire Records and they signed Farrow. He recorded his debut album, Red and Blue, and this first single was issued. It lingered around the bottom of the Pop chart for a few weeks before disappearing. It also spent a short time on the R&B chart reaching #91. Farrow might have had another shot at stardom, but unfortunately Rocshire encountered major legal problems and was forced to shut down completely in January of 1984 (see below). He attempted a comeback in 1991 and issued a new single, but it failed to do any business. Farrow died in 1993 from an AIDS-related brain disease.

ReduxReview:  Farrow came up with an interesting sound here. It's like Bananarama-meets-ABC fronted by Falco. It even includes a little pseudo-rap! The song is kind of all over the place, but it congeals into an interesting flavor of pop jello. The song might have done better if it had been promoted more. It has a fun noir-style video that seemed to be perfect for MTV, but somehow got ignored. Perhaps pop radio wasn't quite ready for this style of Euro-synthpop. I wouldn't peg it for a major hit, but I think it should have done better on the chart.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Rocshire Records was making a name for itself and spending a lot of money on their artists (Tony Carey was an early signing). Where was that money coming from? It seems the label owner's wife maintained her job as an accountant at Hughes Aircraft. While there, she embezzled millions of dollars to help finance the label. Someone caught on and the Feds moved in and closed the record company. In doing so, they seized all master tapes from the label, including Cee Farrow's. Apparently, all these master tapes are still locked in a vault somewhere and this action has made them unavailable for reissue all these years. It's the main reason this song hasn't shown up on any 80s compilation. The label closure killed the careers of several artists, including Farrow's.  2) In 1984, Farrow got married. Although a marriage of convenience (Farrow was gay and seeking his citizenship), the pair would end up running a few hot spot night clubs in the L.A. area throughout the 80s.