Saturday, May 7, 2016

"Mirror Man" by Human League

Song#:  1638
Date:  10/01/1983
Debut:  79
Peak:  30
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Human League grabbed their second Top 10 hit with "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" (#8), the first single from their stop-gap EP Fascination! Up next was this Motown-influenced song which was the band's first new material recorded after their successful Dare! album and tour. The single found its way to the Pop Top 30 (#22 Rock), but that's as far as it could get. Meanwhile, the band was in the UK desperately trying to record material for their next album.

ReduxReview:  I've always loved the retro-Motown feel of this song and thought it was a more than worthy follow-up to "Fascination." I was a bit shocked and disappointed it didn't do better on the chart. I thought for sure it would be another Top 10, or at least get close. It got overlooked then and I think it still does. It's a delicious bit of blue-eyed soul/pop candy coated in 80s synths.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Since Human League broke earlier in the UK than the US, their home audience was ready for new material. After their tour, the band quickly got back in the studio and recorded this song. It was issued in the UK late in 1982. It raced up the chart and peaked at #2. They followed it up with "(Keep Feeling) Fascination," which also reached #2. In the US, the label required some kind of album to sell before singles would be released. A promise of an EP helped to get "Fascination" released in the US and it paid off with the single going Top 10 and the EP selling well. Then, almost a year after it was issued in the UK, "Mirror Man" was finally pushed out in the US.  2) Human League leader and co-writer of this song, Phillip Oakey, later said that "Mirror Man" was about pop/rock star Adam Ant. At the time, Oakey was concerned that Ant was believing too much in his own hype and publicity and was in danger of losing touch with reality. Indeed Ant did have issues and had been diagnosed a bipolar early in his 20's. The struggle with that and the medications associated took a toll on the artist for many years.


Friday, May 6, 2016

"The Monkey Time" by The Tubes

Song#:  1637
Date:  10/01/1983
Debut:  80
Peak:  68
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After hitting an all-time high with the #10 "She's a Beauty," The Tubes followed it up with the less-than-stellar "Tip of My Tongue" (#52). They tried to get back into the upper reaches of the chart with this third single from their album Outside Inside, but unfortunately it didn't generate an audience at Pop and it disappeared after a short month on the chart. However, it did have some success at Rock where it reached #16.

ReduxReview:  This is a solid remake from The Tubes with Fee Waybill and Martha Davis trading vocals. I'm not sure why this didn't catch on more. It's a fun old tune given a nice modern update. The only real drawback to it was the female vocal controversy (see below). Davis' name and voice recognition certainly brought more attention to the song and many folks knew she was on the album version, so hearing a different vocalist on the single may have confused listeners. It's too bad because Davis does rock it out as usual. Grey did a fine job as replacement, but it could have been anybody. With Davis' voice, you knew it was her and it really helped to sell the song. Regardless, The Tubes did a nice job with this slick, David Foster-ized version of the oldie.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) For this song, The Tubes and producer David Foster tapped The Motels' lead singer, Martha Davis, for the female vocals. This version appeared on the album. However, when it came time to release the single, Davis thought having her vocals out there on another song might conflict with new singles from The Motels (their "Suddenly Last Summer" was making its way to the Top 10 at the time). So she refused permission to release the single with her voice. Foster and The Tubes reconvened in the studio and got one of their stage dancers, Michele Grey, to sing the female part. This version was the one that got released as a single. It also appeared on the first CD incarnation of Outside Inside while the Davis version appeared on the band's Best of album. (Side note: Grey went on to marry musician/producer Todd Rundgren.)  2)  This is a remake of an original recording done by R&B singer Major Lance. The song, written by Curtis Mayfield, became Lance's first hit reaching #2 R&B/#8 Pop in 1963.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

"Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)" by Paul Young

Song#:  1636
Date:  10/01/1983
Debut:  85
Peak:  70
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  British singer Paul Young originally played bass in a few bands before moving over to lead vocals in the 70s. He was part of a few popular bands including the Q-Tips, who were considered one of the best live acts in the UK in the late 70s. The band secured a record deal, but their success on stage did not equate to record sales and after two albums and several singles that failed to click, the band called it quits in 1982. Luckily for Young, his work in the Q-Tips did not go unnoticed and Columbia Records picked him up. His first two singles for the label failed to chart, but this third single took off and went straight to #1 on the UK chart. It remained there for three weeks. Soon after, his debut album No Parlez was issued and it too reached #1. Later in '83, this song was released in the US. It wasn't as successful and stalled before getting out of the basement of the Pop chart. He would have better luck with his next single.

ReduxReview:  This US debut single from Young is a good effort on a lesser Marvin Gaye tune (see below). I'm surprised that AC didn't pick up on this one as it was perfect for the format. For Pop, I don't think it's a song that grabs you right away. It takes a few spins to dig into this one, which the US pop audience doesn't necessarily have the patience to do. I admit, when I first heard it I was kind of "meh." But further listens let me pick up on Young's voice, the nice arrangement, and that fretless bass. He would have some better songs ahead, but this is a nice introduction.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of an original song co-written and performed by Marvin Gaye. The track was included on Gaye's second LP in 1962 titled That Stubborn Kinda Fellow. The album would provide Gaye with his first R&B Top 10, "Stubborn Kinda Fellow," and his first Pop Top 10, "Pride and Joy" (#2 R&B). This particular song was not issued as a single, but it did later become quite popular on the Northern Soul club circuit in the UK, which made the obscure album track popular in England. Young must have been a fan of the song and did his own version for his debut album.


"Four Little Diamonds" by ELO

Song#:  1635
Date:  10/01/1983
Debut:  89
Peak:  86
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  ELO's album Secret Messages started off a bit shaky when the first single, "Rock and Roll Is King," could only manage to reach #19. A successful second single could boost the LP, but unfortunately this song would not do the trick. It would be their first charting single to not reach the Pop Top 40 since 1978. The song didn't do any better across the pond where it reached #84 on the UK chart. All seven of ELO's studio albums since 1974's Eldorado were either gold or platinum sellers. Secret Messages stopped that streak when it couldn't manage a gold-level certification.

ReduxReview:  The retro rock of "Rock and Roll Is King" didn't fully work in their favor, but they gave it another go with this tune. It was definitely a thud on the chart, but I've always liked it. The song reminds me of some of ELO's more rock-oriented tracks from back in the day. I don't think it deserved the fate it got on the chart, but I also think it wasn't the best single choice. In the long run it probably didn't matter what they released. By this time with synthpop and new wave on the rise, ELO's big retro-style sound was not fitting in and it was almost as if they had become retro themselves overnight. Jeff Lynne would eke out one more hit in a couple of years, but ELO's heydays were certainly over.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  One thing that set ELO apart from other bands was their use of strings and choirs. They were considered integral to the band's sound and the soaring strings and vocals were prominent in hits like 1975's "Evil Woman" (#10), 1976's "Livin' Thing" (#13), and 1978's "Shine a Little Love" (#8). Since their 1974 album Eldorado, the strings and choir were conducted by Louis Clark. Clark would have success himself on the chart when he conducted The Royal Philharmonic for the #10 hit "Hooked on Classics." Although Clark did not participate on ELO's 1981 Time album, he did return for Secret Messages. It would be the last ELO album to feature Clark and the band's famous string section.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

"Don't Try to Stop It" by Roman Holliday

Song#:  1634
Date:  10/01/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  68
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Swing, New Wave

Pop Bits:  These British swing revivalists got their foot in the door with their #54 song "Stand By," which also reached #61 in the UK. The results were good enough to call for a full album and they issued Cookin' on the Roof. The LP included the majority of their self-titled EP plus several new songs. This next single appeared on both and it really attracted listeners in the UK who took it to #14. The US still wasn't that interested and kept it in the bottom half of the chart.

ReduxReview:  I didn't care too much for "Stand By" and since it didn't grab my attention, I quickly lost interest in the band. However, this song is an improvement. Why this song wasn't issued first is a mystery because it makes for a better single. It's catchy, memorable, and fun. It almost has a "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" vibe to it (and pre-dates that hit). Very enjoyable.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The band got its name from the 1953 film Roman Holiday. Starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn (her first leading role), the romantic comedy was a hit that ended up receiving ten Oscar nominations. It won three awards including Best Actress for Hepburn. It also won Best Story for Dalton Trumbo, but he did not receive the award, nor was he initially credited on the film. This was during the infamous Hollywood blacklisting days and Trumbo was on the list (of entertainment folks who were supposedly aligned with the Communist party). Due to his blacklisting, he got another writer, Ian McLellan Hunter, to take the credit in order for the film to get made. It was Hunter's name that appeared in the film and he also accepted the Oscar (with very few people knowing he was doing it in place of Trumbo). Trumbo passed away in 1976. Decades later, his name was officially restored to the film and in 1993 his family was given an Oscar in recognition of the one he should have originally received.


"Ain't Nobody" by Rufus and Chaka Khan

Grammy Alert!
Song#:  1633
Date:  10/01/1983
Debut:  91
Peak:  22
Weeks:  19
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  By 1982, Chaka Khan was free of any contractual obligations to her former band Rufus. She continued her solo career while Rufus tried to start a new one without her. But after a failed 1983 album titled Seal in Red, the band decided to call it quits. However, before parting ways for good, they wanted to have one last major concert with Khan that would result in a live album. She agreed and after three shows at the Savoy Theater in New York, the best performances were edited into three sides of a double-LP title Stompin' at the Savoy - Live. The fourth side consisted of four new studio tracks recorded by the band and Khan. One of those tracks was this song which was issued as a single. It became a major smash at R&B where it gave the band their fifth and final #1. It was also successful at Pop where it almost got into the Top 20. It would be their final Pop chart entry. Following the album's release, the band and Khan would all go their separate ways.

ReduxReview:  Even though this song was written by Rufus member Hawk Wolinski and is recorded by the band, it belongs to Khan. She always was the driving force of Rufus, but on songs like "Tell Me Something Good," the band was just as essential as Khan's voice. However, this one might as well have been a solo song for her. I'd venture to guess that if you ask someone who did this song, they will say Chaka Khan and not mention Rufus. I guess since the band was kaput anyway, it didn't really matter. Regardless, it was a terrific song to close the door on Rufus and it is one that has stuck around for many years.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The Savoy performances were filmed for a documentary film. It should have been released first followed by the LP, which would have served as the soundtrack. However, the label decided to shelve the film and just release the album.  2) Many artists covered this song include rapper LL Cool J. His version was done for the soundtrack to the 1996 animated film Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. It was issued as a single at reached #4 Rap, #27 R&B, and #46 Pop. It was also a major hit in the UK where it reached #1. Only one other artist has had a version reach the US Pop chart. Jamaican singer Diana King reached #94 in 1995 with her take on the song.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"Mama" by Genesis

Song#:  1632
Date:  10/01/1983
Debut:  93
Peak:  73
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Genesis' prog-rock sound had been evolving ever since original member Peter Gabriel left the band in 1975. Reduced to a trio in 1978, they began incorporating more commercial pop elements into their prog-rock and it resulted in charting singles like 1980's "Misunderstanding" (#14) and 1981's "No Reply at All" (#29). But many critics agree that they really stepped over into the commercial pop/rock world with their self-titled 1983 album. It paid off quite well for the trio when this first single hit #4 on the UK chart. It was (and remains) their biggest hit in their homeland. The album became their third straight #1 and was their best-selling to-date. In the US, the song did quite well at Rock reaching #5, but despite a frequently played MTV video, it failed at Pop and topped out near the lower quarter of the chart. It was a disappointing start to the album in the US, but they would turn that around with their next single.

ReduxReview:  This is a very dark and brooding song that spins a tale of young guy infatuated with a prostitute who doesn't return the same affection. Perfect for a pop single, yes? Well, the UK seemed to think so and Top 10'd it, but this was just not gonna be a hit in the US. I remember seeing the video for the first time and really liking the song, but thinking "there is no way this is going to be a hit." And besides the support from Rock radio, it definitely was not a hit. I've always been fond of this heavy track and Collins really kills the vocal, but what horribly wrong choice for a lead single.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  During the song, lead vocalist Phil Collins supplies a sinister laugh. He got the idea to do this from Grandmaster Flash's influential 1982 song "The Message." Apparently this song was a favorite at the time of Genesis' producer Hugh Padgham and he played it a lot. Collins zeroed in on the little laugh that rapper Melle Mel did around the chorus section of the rap. He thought it was great and wanted to incorporate something similar in this song.


"Guns for Hire" by AC/DC

Song#:  1631
Date:  10/01/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  84
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  After three monster multi-platinum albums produced by Robert "Mutt" Lange, AC/DC were looking to change things up. They wanted to revisit the stripped down sound of their earlier albums instead of the more beefed up and polished sheen that Lange provided. To do that, the band decided to produce the new album themselves. While Flick of the Switch did have a less refined sound, it didn't really excite critics or even their label, who didn't do much to promote the LP. Radio and listeners weren't all that enthusiastic either with this first single topping out at a minor #37 at Rock and circling the bottom of the Pop chart for a few weeks. The album got locked out of the Top 10 reaching #15. It did get certified platinum, but this was a significant decline from their previous three blockbusters.

ReduxReview:  Getting back to their original sound is not a bad idea, but they needed to keep up the same caliber of material that sold their previous discs. Unfortunately, they did not. The opening of this song was promising, but then it dissolves into a basic rock tune with nothing new to offer. It's pretty bland and generic. The tune is definitely not bad, but there is absolutely nothing here that would make me want to hear it again. For AC/DC, this is sadly forgettable.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  The slump that began with Flick of the Switch stayed with them for the balance of the decade. They finally got back into fighting form with 1990's The Razor's Edge, which reached #2 and sold 5x platinum. It featured what would end up being their biggest Pop chart hit - the #23 "Moneytalks." But there were a few bright spots during their lowly 80s days. In 1986, the band provided music for the Stephen King-directed film Maximum Overdrive. AC/DC released a full soundtrack album titled Who Made Who. The LP featured the new title-track song, selections from their previous albums, and two instrumentals they wrote for the score. The single "Who Made Who" reached #23 at Rock while the album got to #33. While the LP wasn't a major hit on initial release, it would slowly over time go on to sell five million copies. It would be their best-selling album from their 80s output.


Monday, May 2, 2016

"Somebody's Gonna Love You" by Lee Greenwood

Song#:  1630
Date:  10/01/1983
Debut:  96
Peak:  96
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  Greenwood's first single from his album Somebody's Gonna Love You, "I.O.U.," was a crossover hit going to #6 Country, #4 AC, and #53 Pop. For his next single, the title track to the album was issued this time it would make it to the top of the Country chart becoming his first #1 single. AC was on board too and the song made it to #15. However, Pop was uninterested and the song debuted and peaked at a lowly #96 for a couple of weeks. But that didn't really matter as the hit firmly established Greenwood as a country star.

ReduxReview:  Whereas "I.O.U." sounded like a Kenny Rogers imitation, this one infringes on Ronnie Milsap territory. And again, it's just not as good. The chorus is pretty solid, but the arrangement and delivery kind of drag the song down. It's an okay tune capably delivered.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by Rafe VanHoy and Don Cook. Both would have significant success as country songwriters, but not a lot of their songs would crossover to the Pop chart. However, VanHoy was able to score a sizable Pop chart hit with one of his compositions. He wrote the song "What's Forever For," which became a #19 Pop hit for Michael Martin Murphy in 1982 (#1 Country). Murphy's take was actually a remake. The song was first recorded in 1978 by England Dan and John Ford Coley, but it was not issued as a single.


"Uptown Girl" by Billy Joel

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1629
Date:  09/24/1983
Debut:  70
Peak:  3
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Joel's first single from his album An Innocent Man, "Tell Her About It," became the second #1 single of his career. The week that it reached #1 on the Pop chart this second single debuted. It was another smash that reached #3 and stayed there for five weeks eventually being certified a gold seller. It was helped along by an MTV video that became one of Joel's most popular. The song also did well at AC reaching #2, but it wasn't as popular at Rock where it topped out at #22. In the UK, this became Joel's first and only #1 hit and was the year's second biggest single there. The song also earned Joel a Grammy nod for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male.

ReduxReview:  Man, I loved this song at the time. I was a fan of The Four Seasons (see below) so this was right up my alley. My brother had a few 45's of The Four Seasons and I loved playing them. My favorite was always "C'mon Marianne" (#9, 1967). Joel did such a great job capturing that sound. I think The Four Seasons could have had a hit with this tune back in their heyday. Joel is really at his joyous best here.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This song was initially inspired by three women - Elle McPherson, Christie Brinkley, and Whitney Houston. The trio happened to be present when Joel was asked to play something on the piano at a vacation spot. While Joel was playing, he looked up and saw them lined up at the piano watching him. It led him to begin writing a song called "Uptown Girls." However, he got to know McPherson a lot better and they began to date. The song then became about a singular girl inspired by McPherson. However, they stopped dating and he began to see Brinkley and he finished the song with her in mind. Brinkley also became the star of the song's video. The pair married two years later and remained together for nine years.  2) As with other songs on An Innocent Man, Joel fashioned them after specific artists. "Uptown Girl" was an homage to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.  3) This song would end up being a #1 UK hit again in 2001 when the Irish boy band Westlife did a version. As with Joel's record, the single became the band's biggest UK hit.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

"Automatic Man" by Michael Sembello"

Song#:  1628
Date:  09/24/1983
Debut:  73
Peak:  34
Weeks:  10
Genre: Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Sembello's unexpected #1 single "Maniac," from the Flashdance soundtrack, gave him the opportunity to parlay the hit into a solo career. He quickly signed to Warner Bros. and wrote tracks for a debut album titled Bossa Nova Hotel. The LP would include "Maniac" and would be produced by Phil Ramone (Billy Joel's producer and supervisor of the Flashdance soundtrack). It seemed like a can't-miss prospect and indeed this first official single from the album started off well and headed towards the Top 40. However, once there, it sputtered out and disappeared. It seemed folks were more enamored with the "Maniac"/Flashdance phenomenon than with Sembello as a recording artist. The album came and went as did Sembello's charting career.

ReduxReview:  I actually thought this was a pretty good single, but it just wasn't the one that was gonna give Sembello a non-"Maniac" career. It just wasn't strong enough. Plus, the video was ghastly. I'm sure money was spent on it in hopes of another big hit and it was probably considered pretty good for the early days of video, but man, is it bad (or is it good in a kitschy Flash Gordon kind of way?). It's a bummer this song couldn't do better, but I don't think it was Top 10 bound to begin with. However, it's an interesting oddity from the guy who gave us a classic 80s #1.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  With the album not working out, Sembello and Warner Bros. parted ways. Over the next couple of years, he continued to write music with some of it appearing on film soundtracks. In 1985, he co-wrote the song "Gremlins - Mega Madness" for the Gremlins soundtrack. It was issued as a single, but failed to chart. The following year he contributed "Gravity" (written by his wife Cruz) to the hit film Cocoon. It too was released as a single but did not chart. However, the song was done for A&M Records and it helped get him signed to the label. He issued his second LP Without Walls in hopes of resurrecting his solo career, but the album and its singles failed to generate any interest. Sembello would continue to write and record over the years putting out a few indie albums along the way.