Saturday, June 11, 2016

"Send Me an Angel" by Real Life

Song#:  1685
Date:  11/12/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  29
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Synthpop, New Romantic

Pop Bits:  Formed in Melbourne, this Aussie band spent some time working the clubs and gathering a following before getting a record deal that resulted in their debut album Heartland. This first single put them on the map and reached #6 in Australia while hitting #1 in New Zealand. The success of the song got them a US distribution deal with Curb/MCA and near the end of '83 the single was issued. Although it wasn't a huge hit, it did well reaching the Top 30 (#18 Rock, #54 Dance). The album was well-received and it got to #58 on the US Album chart. This track would end up getting a second chart life later in 1989 in a remix version that would do slightly better reaching #26 at Pop and #5 Dance.

ReduxReview:  This song didn't really hook me when it first hit the chart. Like several songs from the 80s that I kind of missed or ignored on the initial go-around, I ended up liking it thanks to its inclusion years later on a couple CD compilations. It takes a minute for this song to rev up, but once the chorus hits, its spooky vibe sounds pretty great. Both of its chart runs ended up in a Top 30 showing, but it really should have done better.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  When the digital song service Napster was still active, the artist for this song was misidentified. Instead of Real Life, the song was listed as by the Pet Shop Boys. Even though the Pet Shop Boys' first hit was still about two years ahead of this song, the timeline didn't matter to folks and the song started to get associated with that duo instead of Real Life. There still exists some lyric sites and even a YouTube video that mistakenly credits the song to the Pet Shop Boys.


Friday, June 10, 2016

"Twist of Fate" by Olivia Newton-John

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1684
Date:  11/05/1983
Debut:  49
Peak:  5
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Synthpop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  While Newton-John's Olivia's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 was keeping listeners busy with its new song "Heart Attack" (#3), she was busy working on her next film titled Twist of Fate. The main draw of the picture was that it re-teamed Newton-John with her Grease co-star John Travolta. It seemed like a can't-miss thing - but then it did. Critics savaged the film and it became a box office flop. However, all was not lost. A soundtrack of songs heard in the film (it was not a musical) was created and produced by David Foster. It contained two new Newton-John songs, a new duet with Travolta, and tracks from Patti Austin, Chicago, Journey, and Boz Scaggs. It would be a platinum success thanks in part to this first title-track single that became Newton-John's fifteenth Top 10 hit. Unfortunately, it would also be her last Pop Top 10 ending a successful run of hits that began in 1973 with the #6 "Let Me Be There."

ReduxReview:  I'd consider this the song that put Newton-John in full synthpop diva mode. And it was glorious. Big, brash, brazen, robotic pop in all its splendor with Newton-John giving it her all. The movie was a stinker, but thankfully she redeemed herself with this tune and her other solo contribution to the soundtrack. I'd end up liking a couple of her future singles, but as the Pop chart basically showed, this was Newton-John's last great single.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Although it served as the b-side to this song, Newton-John's duet with John Travolta called "Take a Chance" got enough airplay to reach the AC chart. It did very well hitting #3. However, the success on the AC chart didn't translate to the Pop world and it failed to make that chart.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

"Synchronicity II" by The Police

Song#:  1683
Date:  11/05/1983
Debut:  54
Peak:  16
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Police were at a career high with their #1 album Synchronicity. The eight-week reign of "Every Breath You Take" at the top of the Pop chart and its #3 follow-up "King of Pain" kept the album at #1 for seventeen non-consecutive weeks, interrupted one week by a resurgence of Michael Jackson's Thriller. To keep the album selling, this third more rock-oriented track was selected as the next single. It would hit #9 at Rock, but it fell short of the Pop Top 10 by a few notches. However, the video for the song was a hit on MTV and that kept the album selling.

ReduxReview:  Although this is a terrific song, it's not really a great single. I can kind of see why this was selected though. After releasing two mid-tempo singles, something more upbeat and exciting that showed off their rock edge would be a nice change of pace. But with a title that doesn't appear in the song (with a II on it even!) and no catchy chorus, it was most likely not going to be a major hit. It actually did a lot better than what I thought it would, which was most likely due to their popularity and the widely played video. I'm glad it did well, but it doesn't rank among their best singles.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  By this point in time, if you wanted to be a star and sell records, you needed a music video to promote on MTV and the production values of those videos were becoming more and more elaborate. They even served as launching pads for directors who would go on to make award-winning films (Spike Jonze and David Fincher, just to name a couple). For "Synchronicity II," The Police got the team of Godley & Creme (of 10cc fame) to direct the video. The three members of The Police were perched on towers above a wasteland of things. There was a lot of wind and dry ice going on and it all created a dry and combustible atmosphere that allowed some items under Steward Copeland's tower to catch fire. As the fire alarm went off and people were being ushered out of the building, the directing team yelled to keep the cameras rolling in order to capture all the action and chaos. It's unclear whether any of that footage was included in the final cut of the video.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

"Union of the Snake" by Duran Duran

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1682
Date:  11/05/1983
Debut:  59
Peak:  3
Weeks:  17
Genre:  New Wave

Pop Bits:  Following the band's highly successful second album, a belated reissue of "Is There Something I Should Know" from their debut album gave them a second Top 10 hit (#4). Fans were now anxious for their third album. With so much success, a crazy schedule, and other issues, the band was finding it quite difficult to write new songs. It would be lengthy process that would result in the album Seven and the Ragged Tiger. This song was selected as the first single and it quickly jetted up the chart and spent three weeks in the #3 position, which was the same result as their first hit "Hungry Like the Wolf." The album would arrive in stores worldwide a month later. It would hit #1 in the UK while getting to #8 in the US.

ReduxReview:  I bought Duran Duran's first three hits, but I still wasn't fully sold on the band yet. This was kind of a pivotal song because if I liked it, I would have become a major fan. If I didn't, I'd question whether or not they were the real deal or not. Unfortunately, I ended up disliking this tune. It did nothing for me. The lyrics were incomprehensible, the beat was a ripoff of "Let's Dance," and I though Simon Le Bon's vocals were very whiny. Needless to say, I didn't jump on the Duran Duran bandwagon. Over the years I'd run hot n' cold with the band. I'd like some songs while ignoring others. A few of their songs, like this one, I've come to enjoy a bit more over time. It's still not one of my favorites of theirs, but I can hang with it.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  It seems like every time there is a newfangled thing coming along in the music industry, there are doom and gloom predictions for what is existing. Around this time, the mega-rise of MTV and music videos was beginning to freak out radio stations. The whole "Video Killed the Radio Star" effect was in full swing and there was genuine worry that music videos were the future medium with pop radio becoming obsolete. So when the video for this song was issued for play on MTV a week before radio could air the song, it sent a wave of fear sloshing over radio programmers. Alas, their fears would be alleviated in years to come when MTV would pretty much become a non-music video channel. Videos are still a-plenty on new formats like YouTube and they can still generate interest in an artist and their work, but the days of becoming a breakout MTV star have been long gone.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

"Owner of a Lonely Heart" by Yes

#1 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1681
Date:  11/05/1983
Debut:  62
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Prog Rock

Pop Bits:  This English prog rock band had a long and complicated history that began with a non-charting self-titled album in 1969. Two years later, their third album, titled The Yes Album, broke them in the UK hitting #4. It set them up for a bigger breakthrough with their classic 1971 LP Fragile. It contained their only US Top 40 hit to-date with an edited version of the song "Roundabout." After that, their adventurous rock albums consistently hit the Top 10 and were certified gold. However, by 1980 the band was having internal issues and their album Drama stalled at #18 in the US and failed to go gold. The turmoil finally took its toll and the band called it quits early in 1981. A couple of members went on to form Asia, while the rest sought out other projects. But circumstances unexpectedly lured some former members back together and soon the LP 90125 was issued. Their new commercial leaning rock sound was apparent on this first single that found its way to the top of the Pop chart (#1 Rock). It helped the album reach #5 and over time it became their best selling album going triple platinum.

ReduxReview:  I thought this song was just cool as shizzle. The song was great to begin with, but all the studio techniques and effects made it stand out even more. The video was cool too and was constantly played on MTV. This is one of those songs that many, many folks could recognize just based on the first few seconds. That intro made a statement and the song lived up to it. Definitely one of the best rock songs of the decade.


Trivia:  In '82, two former Yes members got together with another guitarist and formed a band called Cinema. They began sessions for an album and as they progressed, changes in the lineup occurred. By the time the dust cleared, Cinema consisted of four former Yes member (three of them originals) and one new person. The label wanted them to change their name to Yes since four of the five were from that band and it was already an established name. After some initial objections, they made the switch and issued 90125. Although the actual band name of Cinema was gone, the new Yes recorded an instrumental track for the album called "Cinema." That song ended up winning a Grammy award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. The band also got a nomination in the Best Rock Vocal Performance, Duo or Group category for the album.


Monday, June 6, 2016

"Allergies" by Paul Simon

Song#:  1680
Date:  11/05/1983
Debut:  68
Peak:  44
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Soft Rock, Singer/Songwriter

Pop Bits:  Simon had not recorded a solo studio album since 1975's Still Crazy After All These Years. The album was a #1 hit that would go on to win the Grammy for Album of the Year thanks in part to the #1 single "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." Following that album he did a successful soundtrack to his film One-Trick Pony (1980), which yielded his last Top 10 hit "Late in the Evening." A reunion with Art Garfunkel followed that resulted in 1982's The Concert in Central Park album and video. After the successful re-pairing with Garfunkel, Simon began work on tracks that were originally pegged for a new Simon & Garfunkel studio LP. Unfortunately, the two fell out once again and Simon proceeded to make it a solo venture. The result was Hearts and Bones and this first single heralded its arrival. Despite his efforts to update his sound via synths and Linn drums, Simon's singer/songwriter style was not fitting in with the pop musical landscape at the time and the single fell short of the Pop Top 40 while only reaching #26 at AC. A follow-up single failed to chart at all and that pretty much sealed the fate of the album which topped out at an unexpected #35. It also failed to reach gold status. Simon took the failure of the album quite hard and questioned if he was still a viable artist. It was most likely his lowest point as an artist, but three years later he would get his mojo back for the most successful album of his career.

ReduxReview:  I didn't remember the actual song at all, but I do remember when I first heard it because my reaction to it was like "what the hell is this?" I thought it was an absolute dud of a song for a single. It was like Simon was trying to make one of his cerebral tunes hip by tossing in some updated 80s production and sounds. It just didn't work. I think the song is a mess. That said, I don't necessarily hate it. As an album track I think it makes for an interesting experiment, but as a single? Yeesh. Regardless, I think it would have been an uphill battle for Simon to get a hit single at this time just based on music trends and the fact his contemporaries were not doing well either. So issuing this oddball track certainly did help. The album wasn't received too well by critics back in the day, but it seems to have aged pretty well. It's not great, but there are a couple nice Simon pieces on it.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  One track on Hearts and Bones was inspired by an old photograph. Belgian photographer Lothar Wolleh took a picture of surrealist painter René Magritte with his wife and their dog. Titled "René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog During the War," it was purported to be taken during WWII, but the image was most likely from the 1960s. A second photo was taken at the painter's home in 1967 that was more simply titled "René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog." Simon was intrigued by the photos and they inspired him to write the song "René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War" (taking poetic songwriting license and changing "during" to "after"). Although not issued as a single, a video was made for the song. Despite the album's commercial and critical failures, the song has remained popular in Simon's catalog and is considered one of his best latter date compositions. (I've always like this song and the video is great too. What is even better is the acoustic demo version found on the CD reissue of the album. It is really beautiful.)


Sunday, June 5, 2016

"Joanna" by Kool & the Gang

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1679
Date:  11/05/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  2
Weeks:  24
Genre:  R&B, Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After four successful albums co-produced by Eumir Deodato, which spawned several hit singles like their 1980 #1 smash "Celebration," the Gang basically chose to keep it in the family and moved back to producing themselves on their next effort In the Heart. Having become mostly known for their funky dance tunes, it was a bit of a surprise when this romantic ballad was issued as the LP's first single. It slowly caught on and became a major crossover hit reaching #1 at R&B and #2 at both Pop and AC. It was a nice change of pace and listeners rewarded the band with another gold record.

ReduxReview:  This song couldn't have come at a better time for the band. The dance tracks with Deodato were becoming a bit stale and they needed something different to break away from that rut. This single was just perfect for accomplishing that task. I was hooked once that churning groove started. With a beautiful verse, memorable chorus, nice accent horns, and a trombone solo, there was no way this song could miss.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Although the members of the band certainly liked the song, none of them expected it to be the lead single. That changed after a performance at NYC's famed Radio City Music Hall prior to the album's release. When they played this song, the crowd response was highly positive with major reactions coming during the chorus and the horn fills. The band didn't expect getting such feedback from a brand new song and thought it was just a fluke. But performances of the song on following nights proved it wasn't and the band really had no choice but to choose "Joanna" as the first single.