Saturday, July 30, 2016

"Nightbird" by Stevie Nicks

Song#:  1734
Date:  12/17/1983
Debut:  63
Peak:  33
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Nicks was doing well with her second solo album The Wild Heart. It reached #5 thanks to a pair of hits - "Stand Back" (#5) and "If Anyone Falls" (#14). She kept the ball rolling by releasing this third single that featured Sandy Stewart on vocals. It would get into the Top 40, but that would be it. The song did about the same at AC (#39) and at Rock (#32). It would be the final single released from the LP. While the overall results for the album were good, it couldn't match the performance of her #1 solo debut Bella Donna. That album had four Top 40 singles with two of them placing in the Top 10.

ReduxReview:  As much as I like the album, it wasn't as singles-deep as Bella Donna. Despite that, to me there were a couple of other songs that I thought were better candidates for singles than this one. I like this tune, but it sounds like an outtake from Fleetwood Mac. It seems weird because a good chunk of her solo work doesn't necessarily sound like the tunes she wrote for Mac. I can't even imaging Mac doing "Stand Back" or "Edge of Seventeen." I think that is good thing as she created her own persona and style outside of the band. But this song is certainly Mac-ish. It's lovely, but not a very good single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The first single from Nicks' debut album was her duet with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," a #2 smash was co-written by Petty. Nicks and Petty teamed up once again for The Wild Heart with the song "I Will Run to You." Written by Petty, the song wasn't released as a single, but it got enough airplay at Rock radio to place it at #35 on that chart. Two other non-single tracks from the album would also do well at Rock. "Enchanted" would hit #12 and "Nothing Ever Changes" would go to #19.


Friday, July 29, 2016

"Girls Just Want to Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper

Top 10 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1733
Date:  12/17/1983
Debut:  80
Peak:  2
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Lauper had a bit of a rough road getting to this point. She co-founded the band Blue Angel and their demo got them signed to Polydor. They recorded a self-titled debut in 1980 that got good critical notices, but it went unnoticed by record buyers and disappeared quickly. They fired their manager, who turned around and sued them and that left Lauper bankrupt. The band then split and Lauper was on her own. She returned to being a server and singing in clubs just trying to make a living and perhaps catch a break. She finally got one when a guy who saw her sing in a local bar wanted to become her manager. He got her signed up Portrait Records (Epic) and a debut album was soon in the works. She's So Unusual was the finished product and this song was selected as the album's first single. It would turn out to be a major hit reaching #2 for two weeks. A video for the song quickly became an MTV favorite and it seemed that overnight Lauper was a star. It also didn't hurt that she had a quirky personality and a unique fashion style and endeared her to a lot of folks. The album would be a big success as well reaching #4 and eventually selling six million copies. The Grammys came a-knockin' and Lauper answered with a win for Best New Artist. This song would get her two additional nods for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. The LP would be nominated for Album of the Year.

ReduxReview:  Everything about this song was spot-on. The tune, the production, Lauper's voice, her style, her personality, the video - just everything came together in this moment to create a true 80s classic. Not only was the song hard to resist, but Lauper was too. I was completely attracted to her big voice that still sounded girly and I loved her kooky persona. I ran out and got the album as soon as I could. The album is a near-classic. The first six track are perfection - brilliant 80s new wave/pop. The last three actual songs just aren't up to the same standard so the LP peters out near the end. It's still a terrific album and Lauper quickly became one of my faves.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) I mentioned this in a previous post, the original demo version done by the song's writer Robert Hazard was a more rocked-up new wave tune. The lyrics were from a male perspective so when the song got to Lauper, she decided to change the lyrics in order to make it an empowering song from a woman's point of view. Hazard's original version is up on YouTube for viewing.  2) The video for this song won Lauper the Best Female Video at the very first MTV Music Video Awards. It also featured wrestling star "Captain" Lou Albano playing Lauper's father. The wrestling connection came courtesy of Lauper's boyfriend/manager Dave Wolff, who was a wrestling fan. Lauper would stay connected with pro wrestling for quite a while making appearances at events and even having Hulk Hogan show up as her "bodyguard" sometimes.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

"Let's Go Up" by Diana Ross

Song#:  1732
Date:  12/17/1983
Debut:  85
Peak:  77
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Ross' album Ross was definitely in need of resuscitation. It's first single, "Pieces of Ice," was locked out of the Top 30 at Pop and couldn't hit Top 10 at R&B. Her next single, "Up Front," fared even worse by peaking at #60 at R&B while missing the Pop chart completely. There were hopes that perhaps this third single would help rescue the album, but it just wasn't going to happen. Although the song did get on the Pop chart, it was only for a few weeks. It stalled early on the R&B chart as well peaking at #52. With lackluster single results, the album tanked and failed to even get close to gold level.

ReduxReview:  This is not too bad of a tune and is actually one of the better ones on a very dull album (and one of the very few of her LPs not issued digitally, which speaks volumes). However, it's better as an album track rather than a single. There is really nothing here that would make this song stand out on radio. It's got a nice shuffle groove and Ross actually sounds engaged, but other than that there is nothing here to hook an audience. Pleasant, but in the end, forgettable.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  In July of 1983, Ross was set to perform a free concert in New York's Central Park. The show would be filmed as a special to be aired on Showtime. Proceeds from the show/taping were to benefit a children's park that was going to be built in Ross' name. But not long after the concert began a torrential downpour started. Ross famously continued on wanting to stay (getting drenched in the process), but the rains proved too much and the concert had to be shut down. She vowed to return the next night, which she did, and the show was completed. However, after all was said and done, the proceeds from the first night had to be used to do the show on the second night and most all the merch that had been for sale was destroyed in the rain. With no profits from anything, there was no money for the park. To make matters worse, her reps refused to just go ahead and pay for the park. When this was discovered, Ross was dogged with poor publicity. She then decided the best thing to do was to go ahead and pay for the project herself, which she did. The Diana Ross Playground was built in Central Park and opened in 1986. It remains there today.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

"Sweetheart Like You" by Bob Dylan

Song#:  1731
Date:  12/17/1983
Debut:  90
Peak:  55
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Singer/Songwriter

Pop Bits:  When an artist such as Dylan has a long career, both the person and their music will change along the way. After being in the music business for almost twenty years, Dylan had a major shift in his life when he became a born-again Christian in the late 70s. Of course this would be reflected in his music and his first LP of Christian-leaning songs, 1979's Slow Train Coming, was well-received hitting #3 thanks to the Grammy-winning single "Gotta Serve Somebody" (#24 Pop). But his next two efforts, Saved and Shot of Love, were not greeted with the same critical fawning or sales and they burned out quickly. Folks were wondering if this was the end of Dylan. Alas, it was not. He decided to return to secular music with his album Infidels. Although reviews were mixed, most would agree that it was definitely a step back in the right direction. The LP reached #20 and put him back in gold territory thanks in part to this single that came close to the top half of the Pop chart. It would end up being Dylan's last charting single. His albums would be up-and-down affairs over the next decade and a half, but he truly returned to form with his 1997 album Time Out of Mind, which ended up winning the Grammy for Album of the Year.

ReduxReview:  Alright, this will tick off some folks, but I can't help it - I don't dig Dylan. Never have and most likely never will. His voice is just grating to me and I just can't get into his 10-minute mumbling epics where I need Cliff Notes to get through them. Now, I do understand and appreciate the importance of some of his albums and songs in the history of American music, but it doesn't mean I have to like 'em or listen to them. Actually, I do like several of his songs, but that usually happens when another artist covers them - such as this one. Dylan's original is not too bad. I can recognize an actual song behind his "singing" and Mark Knopfler's production/guitar work is solid. However, Rod Stewart's reading of this song on his 1995 album A Spanner in the Works is far, far better. Stewart always knew how to interpret lyrics and pull out all the emotion from them and he does a very fine job with this song. As far as Dylan goes, I can hear a song going on once I put my Dylan vocal filter on.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Many critics and fans liked the album, but thought that Dylan missed out on releasing a true classic. When Dylan is in the studio, he will typically record several songs and ideas and the completed songs will be pared down to the tracks that will form an album. The remaining tracks are just set aside. Some of them may get revived in newly recorded versions while some never really see the light of day. A few have ended up on various vault collections released by Dylan. For Infidels, one track in particular caused some controversy with fans. Originally pegged to be on the album, "Blind Willie McTell" was ejected at the last minute along with another tune "Foot of Pride" in favor of the song "Union Sundown." Some critics and fans felt that the original track listing with "Blind Willie McTell" could have turned a good album into a great one. Many considered the song good enough to be ranked among his classics. Yet Dylan didn't think he had the song right and eliminated it from Infidels. Both "Blind Willie" and "Foot of Pride" would get an official release on on his first Bootleg series compilation in 1991.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"Let's Pretend We're Married/Irresistible Bitch" by Prince

Song#:  1730
Date:  12/17/1983
Debut:  91
Peak:  52
Weeks:  10
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Prince was three hit singles deep into his 1999 album when the decision was made to issue a fourth single, "Let's Pretend We're Married." It peaked about the same at Pop, R&B (#55), and Dance (#52). Along the way, programmers began spinning the b-side of the single, "Irresistible Bitch." It picked up just as much airplay as the a-side, so the single became a two-sided entry on the charts. The songs might have done a bit better, but some stations were reluctant to play the sexually charged songs. Many folks also knew that although "Let's Pretend" was highly edited for radio, the seven-minute album version was quite explicit and contained a certain line that was arguably the most lascivious thing Prince has ever said on record. It certainly wouldn't be Prince's first (or last) controversy (pun intended...).

ReduxReview:  Well, the video above may disappear quickly so check it out while u can! It's another good song from 1999, but I wouldn't rank it among Prince's best singles. It was probably the best bet left on the album to release, but by the time it was, the album had pretty much run out of gas. Is it me or does this sound like the inspiration for The Pointer Sisters' "Neutron Dance?" Hmmm...let's pretend we didn't cop from this song...

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) "Irresistible Bitch" was initially recorded in 1981. The song segued into another tune called "Feel U Up." Both were shelved at the time and not used. Prince revived "Irresistible" with an updated recording for the b-side to this single. "Feel U Up" would also see the light of day later in 1986.  2) Tina Turner used to cover "Let's Pretend" while on tour. A live recording of the song would be used as the b-side to her 1985 single "Show Some Respect."


Monday, July 25, 2016

"Electric Kingdom" by Twilight 22

Song#:  1729
Date:  12/17/1983
Debut:  95
Peak:  79
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Electronic, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Gordon Bahary was a determined teenager. He pestered a Motown receptionist to speak with Stevie Wonder until finally Wonder gave in and talked with the teen. Bahary told Wonder that he wanted to be a producer and after Wonder took the time to talk to Bahary and hear some of his music, Wonder invited the teen to the studio. This happened during the sessions for Wonder's classic album Songs in the Key of Life. Bahary, who became an expert at the new synths and electronic sounds, would then assist Wonder with the synths and sequencing on his next album Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants. The association with Wonder helped Bahary get work with other artists like Herbie Hancock. With his resume expanding, it was time for Bahary to step into the limelight. He got together with his friend Joseph Saulter and the pair developed Twilight 22. They were signed to the Vanguard label and this first single was issued. It became a hit at Dance and R&B reaching #5 and #7, respectively. The song got some minor attention at Pop and spent a couple of months on the chart. A self-title album would follow along with two other lower charting singles at Dance and R&B. Unfortunately, at some point after the album's release, Twilight 22 decided to part ways. Bahary would return to supporting artists behind the scenes until 2012 when he would issue his first solo album title Unbreakable.

ReduxReview:  Apparently, this song and the album were influential within the electronic music community. I can kind of hear why. It's like one big experiment. Various electronic sounds, synthesized vocals, rapping, and even Arabic sounding melodies. It all adds up to one strange track. I can't say I dislike it, but it's also nothing I'd really toss in my playlists either. The synthpop part of the song I enjoy, but the rapping is not great. It's definitely ol' school rap, but it sounds forced and too rigid. It almost kills the song for me, but luckily there was enough of the electronic passages to keep me interested.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Bahary's partner and co-writer (and lead vocalist) in Twilight 22, Joseph Saulter, would continue on in music, but ended up acting as well. He made appearances in several Broadway shows and in 1977 he won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical for his work in I Love My Wife. Saulter was an audio production expert and also became involved with the video game industry. He eventually became CEO of 3-D video game development company.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

"Pink Houses" by John Cougar Mellencamp

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1728
Date:  12/10/1983
Debut:  45
Peak:  8
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Mellencamp's album Uh-Huh produced his third Top 10 hit "Crumblin' Down." It would hit #9 at Pop and #2 at Rock. This follow-up single would do just as well reaching #8 Pop and #3 Rock. The hits helped to get the album to #9, which was a bit of a dip after his #1 LP American Fool, but it was still highly successful selling 3 million copies over time.

ReduxReview:  I knew I kind of liked this song back in the day, but because I was a bit anti-Mellencamp at the time I chose to ignore it. What a dope. After I finally became a Mellencamp fan, this song quickly became a favorite from his catalog. I always found it kind of funny that this song is about how the American dream had kind of disappeared, yet folks will use it as some kind of pro-America anthem. The same thing would happen with Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." I think this song speaks volumes and is still relevant today. It's one of Mellencamp's best songs.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Here is another song that got stuck in an interesting cross promotion for MTV. The channel decided to hold a contest where the winner would actually get a pink house in Mellencamp's home state of Indiana. A pink house was found for sale and purchased at what seemed like a bargain price. Unfortunately, there was a reason for the low cost - the house was located across from a toxic waste dump. Not wanting the bad publicity and everything that went with the house's location, another home was found and purchased. However, it was not pink so they had to have it painted. A winner was chosen to receive the house. The other home by the dump remained in the possession of MTV for years after until they were finally able to get rid of it.