Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Let's Stay Together" by Tina Turner

Song#:  1761
Date:  01/21/1984
Debut:  72
Peak:  26
Weeks:  15
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  After a year-long court case, Tina Turner was finally granted a divorce from her husband Ike in 1977. The pair were established R&B stars, but after the divorce Tina was left with a mountain of debt and the prospect of starting a solo career from scratch. Over the next few years, she toured, made guest appearances on TV shows and released two failed solo albums. Not much was going right and she needed a new direction, which she got when she took on Roger Davies as her manager in 1980. Davies directed her to do rock music and shows and after a 1981 performance at The Ritz in New York, things started happening. Performances with Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones gave her a spotlight and record labels began to show interest. Turner signed on with Capitol Records and this song got issued as a single. It gained an audience and soon it reached #1 on the Dance chart and #3 at R&B. The single was strong enough to crossover to the Pop chart where it got inside the Top 30. It was an unexpected hit that caught the artist and label off guard. Capitol quickly signed her to a better deal and wanted an album right away. By the summer, Turner would be in full comeback mode with a huge hit single and album.

ReduxReview:  I think because "What's Love Got to Do with It" was such a big single, it gets attributed as being Turner's comeback song. But really, this was the song that did it. If it had failed, chances are Capitol would have let Turner go and there would have been no "What's Love" or Private Dancer. So let's give a little credit to the record that really brought Turner back. Sadly, it's kind of gotten set aside in favor of her bigger hits. Produced by Martyn Ware (Heaven 17) and Greg Walsh, it has a terrific 80s glossy sheen that fits Turner perfectly. And as usual, she is giving it her all. She'd have bigger hits, but this is the one that truly began the most successful period of her career and helped to move her towards superstar status.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song co-written and first recorded by Al Green. His 1971 original got to #1 on both the Pop and R&B charts. It would remain at #1 on the R&B chart for nine weeks. The following year, soul star Isaac Hayes would release a version that would get to #25 at R&B and #48 Pop. Although this song has been covered and recorded by many artists, only Green, Hayes, and Turner have been able to get the song on the Pop chart.


Friday, August 26, 2016

"New Song" by Howard Jones

Song#:  1760
Date:  01/21/1984
Debut:  73
Peak:  27
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Englishman Jones began in music at an early age and as a teen formed a band with his brothers called Red Beat. He later joined his first real band, a prog rock outfit called Warrior, but it wasn't long before Jones was out on his own doing shows at the local clubs. He was basically a one-man band and after securing a few opening spots for other established artists, Warner Bros. took a chance on the keyboard wiz. He recorded this first single and soon after its release in August '83, the song would reach #3 on the UK chart. Another Top 10 followed and that led to his debut LP, Human's Lib, taking over the top spot on the UK chart. The success prompted the label to release this song in the US. It did fairly well for a debut single getting into the Pop Top 30 (#58 Rock), but it was a solid hit at Dance reaching #4.

ReduxReview:  This is one of those songs that just makes me happy. It's so upbeat and positive with music that sounds like it could grace any good children's album. It was a bit unusual to hear on pop radio at the time as was the whole concept of being a one-man band. I quickly jumped on board and got the album as soon as it was released. It remains a favorite of mine. There were better songs on the album, but this ditty made for an interesting and memorable introduction to Jones.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Jones and fellow Brit Thomas Dolby, are considered pioneers in keyboard/electronic music. Each were among the first popular artists to be fully contained one-man bands. Jones' performances mainly consisted of him singing and playing behind large banks of keyboards and other equipment. However, he came up with an idea to make his shows more visual. At one of his early club stops, Jones noticed a guy dancing and doing mime to his songs. It sparked Jones' interest and he struck up a conversation with the guy. Soon after, artist Jed Hoile began to perform alongside Jones doing improvisational and choreographed dance and mime routines to Jones' songs. The visual element was a welcome addition and Hoile would remain a fixture in Jones' shows through to 1987. (I saw Jones twice back in the day. The first time was the summer of '84 and he opened for Eurythmics. It was just him on a revolving circle stage of equipment and the mime. It was pretty great and I found the mime fascinating. I saw him again a couple years later and it was him and the mime again, but he had a couple side musicians by that point.)


Thursday, August 25, 2016

"You Make My Heart Beat Faster (And That's All That Matters)" by Kim Carnes

Song#:  1759
Date:  01/21/1984
Debut:  84
Peak:  54
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Dance

Pop Bits:  Carnes just barely scraped the Pop Top 40 with "Invisible Hands," the first single from her album CafĂ© Racers. She moved into dance-pop territory with this second single and the response in clubs was pretty good. The tune was able to reach #15 on the Dance chart. However, it wasn't as enticing to Pop listeners and the single stalled near the halfway point.

ReduxReview:  I like the urgent arrangement of this song and the production is quite nice for a mid-80s tune. It's not one of my favorites from Carnes and I was always peeved that this song got issued over the far better "Hurricane" (see below). I think the one thing that held this song back though is the title repetition. Sure, she makes it so you can't forget it, but the constant repeating of the title can be annoying for some listeners. I think this song may set a record of sorts. The full title gets repeated twenty-five times (and that's not counting all the extra "heart beats"). There are songs with shorter titles that have repeated more, but this is one dang long song title to be singing over and over again. I almost get out of breath just hearing it! It's not one of her best moments, but it's far from being one of her worst.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In addition to this song, Carnes was able to reach the Dance chart with another tune from the album. "Hurricane" would do well enough to reach #16. Although it was moderately successful, it wasn't enough to prompt the label to issue the song as a single for Pop chart contention.  2) The video for this song features actor Ian McShane. Although he had appeared in TV programs and films since the early 60s, he became a star on British television thanks to the long running series Lovejoy. American audiences are probably more familiar with his work on the HBO series Deadwood. McShane won a Golden Globe award for Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his role on the show. He also recently appeared in the hugely popular series Game of Thrones.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"Runner" by Manfred Mann's Earth Band

Song#:  1758
Date:  01/21/1984
Debut:  86
Peak:  22
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  South African born Manfred Mann (born Manfred Lubowitz) was originally a jazz musician, but ended up forming his self-titled British pop/R&B band in 1962. As part of the British Invasion, the band would score a #1 hit in 1964 with "Do Wah Diddy Diddy." Despite getting thirteen UK Top 10's, they could only manage one other in the US when their cover of Bob Dylan's "Mighty Quinn" reached #10 in 1969. That same year, Mann decided to dissolve the band and start a new more jazz oriented outfit called Manfred Mann Chapter Three. After two unsuccessful albums, Mann made a move towards prog rock and started a new group in 1972 titled Manfred Mann's Earth Band. Their first six albums tanked in the UK, but saw a little chart action in the US. They finally scored a major hit when their cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded By the Light" hit #1 in 1976, but once again, a significant follow-up didn't happen. After three more albums, Mann decided to pay homage to his South African roots and recorded the LP Somewhere in Afrika. Released in the UK and Europe in early 1983, the conceptual album did okay despite having no charting singles. But the band's new US label, Arista, wanted a hit to push the album so two new songs were added to the US version including this single. The hit strategy worked fairly well with the song almost getting into the Top 20 and the album going to #40. Both were the band's best efforts since 1976. Unfortunately, each would also be their last charting recordings. The band initially called it a day in 1987, but has returned on several occasions since.

ReduxReview:  This one pretty much hits all the check boxes for me. Great song, terrific arrangement, solid vocals, etc. It's an exciting and mysterious song that really delivers. It's also a plus that it still sounds so good and not stuck in the 80s. I'm not sure how Mann felt about boosting the commercial potential of the album with this song, but I'm certainly glad he did. I don't think it got enough airplay back then and it still doesn't. It's a bit of a lost song that needs to be rediscovered.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Like most of their US hits, this song is also a cover tune. Written by Canadian artist Ian Thomas, it served as the first single from Thomas' 1981 LP The Runner. That album featured another song that would reach the US chart via another artist. Santana got to #15 in 1982 with "Hold On."  2) Lead vocals on this song and the Earth Band's other major hit "Blinded By the Light" were done by Chris Thompson. Thompson joined the band in 1975 and initially stayed until 1986. While still in the band, Thompson would branch out and grab two Top 20 hits of his own with his band Night including the #17 "If You Remember Me" (1979). 


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"Body Talk" by The Deele

Song#:  1757
Date:  01/21/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  77
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This Cincinnati, Ohio, sextet was formed in 1981 when three members of the local band Pure Essence decided to stay together after that band dissolved. Padded out with three new members, they signed with Dick Griffey's SOLAR Records and began work on their debut album Street Beat. The LP's first two singles were middling affairs on the R&B chart, but this third single broke them through to the Top 10 (#3). It was popular enough to crossover to the Pop chart for a couple of months. It was a solid success, but it would take another four years before the group would return to the R&B Top 10 and then grab their first Pop Top 10.

ReduxReview:  You could hear that this band had something good going on, but the material wasn't quite there yet. The sound and production here is solid for mid-80's synth-based funk. It's almost an updated mash up of Kool & the Gang with Earth, Wind & Fire. But the song kind of wears out its welcome fairly fast and after five minutes, I was pretty much done with it. There just wasn't quite enough bang here to keep Pop listeners interested.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Two of The Deele's members would become highly successful after leaving the band. Antonio "L.A." Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmunds began writing and producing for other artists while still in The Deele. That side job was going so well that the pair quit the band and started their own label called LaFace Records. As a branch of Clive Davis' Arista Records, LaFace had major success with artists like TLC, Toni Braxton, and Outkast. Along the way, Babyface scored his own solo hits while the pair continued to write and produce for many artists. Reid would have a more public face when he became a judge for the first two seasons of the music competition TV show The X Factor.


Monday, August 22, 2016

"Over My Head" by Toni Basil

Song#:  1756
Date:  01/21/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  81
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance

Pop Bits:  Basil created an 80s classic when her cheerleading skills enhanced the arrangement and video of her #1 single "Mickey." It would be a platinum seller and her album Word of Mouth would go gold. Now she had the difficult task of following up such a distinct hit. Instead of retaining producers Greg Matthieson and Trevor Veitch, Basil worked with Richie Zito to record her second album. The self-titled effort featured this first single that got to #4 on the Dance chart. Unfortunately, the less quirky, straight-ahead synthpop song didn't interest Pop listeners and it disappeared after a few weeks. It would also end up being Basil's final Pop chart entry. The lack of a hit kept the album off the chart and it would prove to be her final recording. Although her time on the charts was brief, Basil's career as a choreographer continued to thrive through to the present. Some of her more recent gigs included serving as a guest judge for two season on the Fox competition show So You Think You Can Dance and working with Bette Midler on promo performances for Midler's 2014 LP It's the Girls!

ReduxReview:  Not to diminish Basil or the tune, but "Mickey" was just one of those freak songs that was destined to be a one-hit wonder. Quirky and distinct songs like that are near impossible to follow up and artists flounder trying to get a more serious music career going. The vast majority falter and Basil did just that. Her first album was full of oddball new wave synthpop covers (three of them courtesy of Devo - her boyfriend at the time was member Gerald Casale) that really worked well together and highlighted the quirkiness of "Mickey." Her second album tried to move into a more mainstream synthpop/dance sound and it just didn't work. The interesting covers were gone and replaced with lesser new tunes - four of them co-written by Basil. This first single is really not a bad song and the production is crisp and well-done, but it wasn't one that was gonna get Basil another major hit. When it failed, it pretty much killed her music career. Yet in the end it didn't matter as music was more of a side gig for Basil and she resumed her dance career right away with a lot more name recognition. She could have gone further with the right material, but one great album and an enduring #1 hit is pretty darn good.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia: Basil and her previous production team of Matthieson and Veitch recorded a song that tried to capitalize on the famous "Mickey" sound. "Street Beat" featured marching drum lines and another cheerleader chant. Co-written by Bruce Roberts, Allee Willis, and Basil, the song was sent out for promotion after Basil's first album, but without a video or second album ready to go, the song couldn't catch a break. It would find its way onto the Toni Basil album and be formally issued as the LP's second single, but it could only manage a #63 showing on the Dance chart.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

"Jump" by Van Halen

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1755
Date:  01/14/1984
Debut:  47
Peak:  1 (5 weeks)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Van Halen had their best charting album to-date when their fifth studio LP Diver Down reached #3. It featured their biggest Pop hit up to that point with the #12 remake of Roy Orbison's "(Oh) Pretty Woman." However, the album wasn't necessarily a smash with critics and tensions arose between Eddie Van Halen and lead singer David Lee Roth on the direction of the band. Roth and producer Ted Templeman were not very open to Eddie's ideas and forged ahead with what they wanted. Eddie caved and went along with it, but to help curtail the issue for the next album, Van Halen built a studio at his house and started recording his own material, which fleshed out his idea of adding more keyboards to the arrangements. Van Halen and Roth were still at odds, but the factions compromised and the band set out to finish their new LP titled 1984. This first single certainly highlighted a more pop-friendly Van Halen with an opening synth riff that heralded a new sound for the band. Listeners responded enthusiastically sending the song to #1 at both Pop and Rock. A now-classic MTV video would prove to be popular and set a standard for performance-style videos. The successful single would push the album to #2 where it would be stuck behind Michael Jackson's Thriller for five weeks. Eventually, it would become their biggest selling album receiving a diamond award (10 million). The single and album would be the band's peak commercial moment. The song would also garner the band a Grammy nod for Best Rock Vocal Performance.

ReduxReview:  Yeah, it took about 5 seconds of a synth line to make me go nuts for this tune. I kind of understand why the band didn't really want to tread into keyboard territory. With a patented guitar/drum sound and Eddie shredding it up, adding keys could have taken them to a place already occupied by more commercial-leaning bands like Journey. However, the way they introduced the keyboard with this song worked so well. I don't think they gave up an inch of their identity. In fact, I think they improved upon it. It was a brilliant move and it came along at the exact right time. Millions loved the new sound, but a few did not. I remember when I was DJ-ing at a roller skating rink and a teen came up to the booth and asked me to play some rock. I had this song handy and tossed it on. Soon after it started, the kid skated by the booth and yelled "I said play some rock, not organ music!" It totally cracked me up.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song began life as a keyboard riff that Eddie Van Halen wrote sometime in 1981. At the time, the band was not interested in pursuing the idea. Although the band had padded some of their songs with keyboards in the past, Eddie wanted to push the keys to the forefront. The band was reluctant thinking that the resulting sound would make their music too commercial and appear as if they were selling out. However, after hearing the demo that Eddie made at his own new studio, the band changed their minds. David Lee Roth wrote the lyrics and the song was completed.  2) Apparently, the inspiration for Roth's lyrics came from a news story. He heard a report about a man threatening to commit suicide by jumping off a building. Imagining the situation, Roth thought that someone in the crowd watching the scene might yell something like "go ahead and jump!" It seemed to fit Eddie's music, so Roth incorporated the thought into the lyrics about a guy picking up a woman.