Saturday, September 10, 2016

"The Language of Love" by Dan Fogelberg

Song#:  1783
Date:  02/04/1984
Debut:  59
Peak:  13
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  Fogelberg's 1981 double album The Innocent Age was one of his best sellers. It featured three Top 10's including the #7 "Hard to Say." It was followed up by a hits collection that contained two new songs, both of which reached the Pop Top 30. Now three years after his last studio album, Fogelberg got back to recording and came up with Windows and Walls. This first single kicked things off and it did about equal business at Pop (#13) and AC (#14). It was his sixth Pop Top 20 entry, but it was considered a slight disappointment since it couldn't get into the Top 10.

ReduxReview:  What a difference three years can make. Fogelberg's late-70s folk/soft rock sound was still in fashion at the beginning of the decade, but by '84, synthpop, new wave, and MTV were all the rage and Fogelberg's style suddenly seemed out of place. Critics noticed that and I remember some pretty harsh reviews for this album. While it wasn't a great album, it didn't deserve the trashing it got. There were some good songs on it like this first single. However, the problem was that this song could have easily fit on Innocent Age and now three years on, it almost sounded retro. I'm actually surprised that it got close to the Top 10. I'm not sure what Fogelberg could have (or even if he should have) done to stay more relevant at the time. He had his own established songwriting and recording style and that's who he was. Unfortunately, his sound was no longer hip with the new era of kids. He'd remain popular with the AC crowd, but this song sadly served as his final Top 40 entry at Pop. It's kind of forgotten now, which is too bad. My only real criticism? Needs more cowbell!

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Fogelberg's first manager was another Illinois native, Irving Azoff. Azoff had locally been promoting music artists and even managed an up-and-coming rock called REO Speedwagon when he found Fogelberg. After helping to get REO signed to Epic Records, Azoff thought the time was right to set up shop in L.A. In 1970, Azoff signed Fogelberg as his first client and the pair made the move to California. He got Fogelberg signed to Columbia soon after and it wasn't long before Azoff was managing the Eagles and other top acts. Over the years Azoff would continue managing artists while heading up a label (MCA), operating and developing his own label for Warner Bros. (Giant), and co-producing movies (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Urban Cowboy). According to a ranking by Billboard magazine in 2012, Azoff topped the list of the music industry's most powerful people.


Friday, September 9, 2016

"Back Where You Belong" by 38 Special

Song#:  1782
Date:  02/04/1984
Debut:  65
Peak:  20
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Southern rock band's album Tour de Force was on its way to platinum status thanks to the #1 Rock hit "If I'd Been the One" (#19 Pop) and this second single that got to #4 at Rock. It just barely made the Pop Top 20, but the dual hits were enough to keep the album selling. A third single, "One Time for Old Times," was issued, but it missed the Pop chart while only getting to #17 at Rock.

ReduxReview:  This song doesn't stray far from the pop/rock feel they set with "If I'd Been the One." It's a good tune, but the chorus isn't quite as strong or memorable as that previous hit. This formula would continue to work fairly well for them over the next few years, but it would start to get a little boring, especially by the time they reached their 1989 AC hit "Second Chance." I started to lose interest in the band around this time, as did a lot of other folks.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song along with "One Time for Old Times" was written by Gary O'Connor. He would land a few chart hits in Canada under his solo moniker of Gary O'. One of those songs, a remake of The Hollies' "Pay You Back with Interest" would cross the border into the US and get to #70. He would end up being more successful as a songwriter delivering tunes to 38 Special, Eddie Money, Kim Carnes, and others.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

"Come Back and Stay" by Paul Young

Song#:  1781
Date:  02/04/1984
Debut:  74
Peak:  22
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Young's first charting single in the US, "Wherever I Lay My Hat," stalled at a lowly #70 despite being a major #1 hit in the UK. Luckily, this next single gained an audience and almost got into the Pop Top 20 (#40 AC, #33 Rock, #42 Dance). The accompanying album, No Parlez, wouldn't do that great on the chart (#79), but it would end up being a long tail seller that did more business than it's peak position would indicate.

ReduxReview:  Young takes a solid power pop song (see below) and actually makes it better and more memorable. I didn't latch onto this song back then, but I hooked into it years later. It's definitely one of Young's best tracks and those backing vocals are just freakin' awesome (see below, again). The fretless bass lines are pretty cool too. It hit #4 in the UK and should have done at least that in the US. Not sure why it stalled short of the Top 20.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally written and recorded by Jack Lee. Lee's 1981 version would appear on his lone solo album Jack Lee's Greatest Hits, Vol. 1. Lee was originally a member of the mid-70's L.A. power pop band The Nerves. Their 1976 self-titled EP featured the Lee-written song "Hanging on the Telephone," which would later be famously covered by Blondie for their Parallel Lines LP.  2) The distinctive background vocals for this song were provided by the team of Kim Lesley and Maz Roberts. The duo were dubbed The Wealthy Tarts when they recorded and toured with Jools Holland. They moved over to do the vocals with Young and work on his tours. When joining Young, they became known as The Fabulous Wealthy Tarts. With that moniker, they tried for their own career and released a single in 1983 titled "The Last Time." It was a cover of the Rolling Stones song, but it failed to do anything.


"Field of Fire (400 Miles)" by Big Country

Song#:  1780
Date:  02/04/1984
Debut:  78
Peak:  52
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Scottish band made a big splash with their unique sounding single "In a Big Country." It would be a #3 Rock hit that also got into the Top 20 at Pop (#17). This second single from their album The Crossing wouldn't do as well and it stumbled before getting to the halfway point of the chart. Still, their unusual sound attracted record buyers and the album would eventually go gold.

ReduxReview:  Although it's not quite as grand as "In a Big Country," this song is a worthy follow-up. It's more folk-ish in nature and that may be the reason it couldn't get on the Rock chart. It probably doesn't help that the chorus only plays twice and there are quite a few instrumental passages, but I think it all works well and should have done a bit better. The album remains a favorite of mine from the era.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The band's lead vocalist, Stuart Adamson, already had a taste of success prior to co-founding Big Country. From 1977 to 1981, Adamson was a member of the Scottish punk/new wave band Skids. Their debut album, Scared to Dance, went to #19 in the UK thanks to the #10 single "Into the Valley." Although that song would be their only UK Top 10, they would place several others on the chart. Their most successful album was 1980's The Absolute Game, which would hit #9. Adamson would leave the band in 1981 and after one more LP, Skids would call it quits.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

"She Was Hot" by The Rolling Stones

Song#:  1779
Date:  02/04/1984
Debut:  83
Peak:  44
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Beginning with 1971's Sticky Fingers, the Stones took eight studio albums in a row to the #1 spot, including 1981's Tattoo You. Unfortunately, the streak stopped with their 1983 effort Undercover. Although the LP's first single, "Undercover of the Night," was able to reach the Top 10 (#9 Pop, #2 rock), it wasn't enough to push the album to the top of the chart and it would stall at #4. The album would still go platinum, but it was a disappointment and this next single didn't help matters when it got shut out of the Top 40. It did fine at Rock getting to #4, but it just wasn't enough to reignite the album.

ReduxReview:  After the experimental "Undercover of the Night," the Stones return to more familiar blues-rock territory with this song. It's a good little workout jam, but it's barely memorable when put next to their classic tunes. I like how the chorus builds, but it is just not one of those Stones songs that grabs you and won't let go. Overall, it's an acceptable entry in their catalog that really was not a very good single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The video for this song, once again edited by MTV, featured actress Anita Morris. Although she would go on to many roles in TV shows and films, Morris was more noted for her performances in Broadway shows. Specifically the 1982 hit musical Nine, in which she originated the role of Carla. She and her co-star Lilliane Montevecchi were both nominated for the Drama Desk award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical for their roles in the show. In a rare tie, they both won the award. They were then both nominated in the same category for the Tony award, but this time there was no tied and Montevecchi took home the prize. Sadly, Morris would die from ovarian cancer in 1994. Her son, James Badge Dale, took up the family business and has acted in TV shows (24, Rescue Me, CSI) and film (The Departed, Iron Man 3, World War Z).


"Don't Let Go" by Wang Chung

Song#:  1778
Date:  02/04/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  38
Weeks:  11
Genre:  New Wave, Pop

Pop Bits:  After two failed attempts to get a band off the ground, musicians Jack Hues and Nick Feldman, along with another former bandmate Darren Costin, tried again with their new band Huang Chung. They issued a couple of singles for an indie label, but the songs failed to chart. However, the tunes got the attention of Arista Records and the band was signed for a two album deal. Their self-titled debut LP came out in 1982 and promptly disappeared. Arista decided to keep them around for the second contracted album, but the band's manager got them out of the contract and moved them over to Geffen. Both the label and the band agreed on a name change and the trio moved forward as Wang Chung. They recorded their second album, Points on the Curve, and this song was selected to be the first single released in the US. Dance clubs loved the song and it became a hit reaching #1 on that chart. Rock didn't much care for it and it fizzled at #49, but it was able to hold on at Pop to become their first Top 40 entry.

ReduxReview:  With Jack Hues' unique voice taking the lead, this song stood out on radio. It's a nice piece of 80s Euro new wave with an atmospheric production and a solid chorus. It could have done a bit better on the chart, but it's not something that I'd consider Top 10 material. Still, it was a nice introduction to the band and one that I probably should have hooked into when it first came out.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  So what's with the name? It's one of those that ended up being just as famous as their biggest hit "Everybody Have Fun Tonight," thanks to the phrase "everybody Wang Chung tonight." There seems to be a few explanations floating around and even the band has stated different answers. One story is that the name is representative of the sound a guitar makes when a player hits a power chord, but that doesn't hold much water since the band's original name is Huang Chung, not Wang Chung. Band member Feldman has said in interviews that he saw the phrase "huang chung" in a book he was reading. The meaning of it varies from being Chinese for "perfect pitch" to Mandarin for "yellow bell." Whatever the exact origin, the band knew after their first album that the name was not working and once signed to Geffen they began to search for a new one. Apparently at one point, David Geffen suggested they just spell out the first word as pronounced. The band liked the idea and moved forward as Wang Chung. In regards to the new name, if asked about what it means now they usually reply that it can be anything you want it to be.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

"Looks That Kill" by Mötley Crüe

Song#:  1777
Date:  02/04/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  54
Weeks: 10
Genre:  Hard Rock, Heavy Metal

Pop Bits:  This notorious L.A. band almost became more famous for the off stage antics than they did their music. Formed in 1981, the Crüe recorded and issued their debut LP, Too Fast for Love, on their own independent label. The album and their reputation on the L.A. strip helped them to get signed to Elektra Records, who issued a new remixed version of the disc. Although it wasn't a major seller (it peaked at #77), it did well thanks to their live shows along with the publicity they received from their bad boy hijinks (some of it staged publicity stunts) and their hard livin', sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll behavior. Their second album, Shout at the Devil, caused immediate controversy with parental and religious groups thanks to the pentagram (often associated with the occult) that was displayed on the cover. Of course, controversy sells and that along with their first exposure on MTV got the ball rolling for the band. The title track was a minor entry at Rock (#30), but this first official single got better traction and made it to #12. Although their brand of metal was still a bit harsh for Pop radio, it actually did fine on the chart and almost broke into the Top 50. It helped sell the album, which peaked at #17. Eventually, the disc would go quadruple platinum.

ReduxReview:  Okay, I admit it. I was a bit of a nerdy, no trouble, good boy back in the day. So of course I gravitated towards music that was more in the mainstream and popular. The kids who liked metal music were from the rougher crowd - burnouts and rednecks with a few of the aggressive athletes thrown in the mix. Therefore, hard rock/metal music represented a lifestyle that was way out of my wheelhouse and that I didn't like, and Mötley Crüe was probably the band that typified that feeling the most. I wanted nothing to do with them. They were horrible. Lawbreakers, druggies, alcoholics, etc. Well, as time moved on I became less judgemental and metal music started to quietly creep into my collection. I even ended up with the Crüe's hits compilation on my shelf many years later. My musical taste evolved and I'm the better for it. This first burst from the band was pretty good and really showed off their AC/DC influence, but I wouldn't rank it among their best. They would have sharper, more memorable tunes in the years to follow.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  As the band came together, they needed a name. Bassist Nikki Sixx suggested that the band name should be Christmas, but the other members were not thrilled with the name. Mick Mars had previously jotted down the name Mottley Cru after someone mentioned that his previous band were a motley looking crew. With a spelling change and the false metal band umlauts added (inspiration apparently from the beer they were drinking at the time, Löwenbräu), Mötley Crüe became their official name.


"Strip" by Adam Ant

Song#:  1776
Date:  02/04/1984
Debut:  92
Peak:  42
Weeks:  13
Genre:  New Wave

Pop Bits:  Although Adam and his band the Ants struck gold in the UK with two hit albums and seven Top 10's, including two #1's, he was virtually ignored in the US until he released his first solo album Friend or Foe. That album featured the #12 single "Goody Two Shoes" and it helped gain Ant a US audience. His next solo disc, Strip, got off to a solid start in the UK when the single "Puss 'n Boots" hit #5. For the US, this title-track seemed a better fit and was issued instead. The video got some spins at MTV, but the single just couldn't get inside the Pop Top 40. Without a hit, the album ended up at a disappointing #65. Following one more album that sank away quickly, Ant left music for a while to try his hand at acting. He would return to the studio in 1990 for the LP Manners & Physique. It would supply him with his second biggest US hit with "Room at the Top," which peaked at #17.

ReduxReview:  For me, Ant was kind of a slimy character to begin with and this song didn't really do much to dissuade me from that opinion. The video was kind of pompous and obnoxious as well, so I didn't really pay much attention to this song. Hearing it now after all these years, I don't find it too bad of a pop ditty. The chorus is memorable, but I still don't care much for Ant's horny bad boy lyrics and delivery. It's an interesting relic from the time, but I can do without it.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song featured two guest artists. Phil Collins performed on drums and also co-produced the tune. He did the same for two other tracks on the album as well. The female voice heard in the song was supplied by ABBA's Anni-Frid Lyngstad.


Monday, September 5, 2016

"Breaking Up is Hard on You" by The American Comedy Network

Song#:  1775
Date:  02/4/1984
Debut:  93
Peak:  70
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Novelty

Pop Bits:  The ACN got its start when two Florida radio station co-workers, Andy Goldman and Bob Rivers, received an offer from a Connecticut company to write and produce parody bits and skits for their stations. The pair gave it a go and it ended up working out far better than expected. They ended up forming The American Comedy Network and soon stations from all over the US and Canada wanted them to write songs, parodies, fake ads, and other comedic bits to enhance their programs. One of their early pieces was this parody that became so popular, it was getting requests from all over the country. Sensing a potential hit, the small Boston label Critique Records got the tune onto vinyl and copies flew out the door. The sales and airplay of the single became big enough to get it onto the national Pop chart. Like a lot of timely novelty songs, it didn't stick around for long, but it helped establish the ACN. The group would remain in business until 2013 when they closed up shop.

ReduxReview:  This is a novelty tune that is kind of difficult to rate. First, its parody subject is of the era, so unless you were alive during this time period (I was...and this was a huge deal at the time) this will most likely not make any sense at all (unless you enjoy business history). Second, they actually do a nice job with this. I could do without the spoken word skit part, but in general it is a well-written parody. It's nothing I'd hit repeat on, but their production is very good and it plays up this event quite well. However, it is horribly out of date and practically meaningless now. As most novelties go, this one is not too bad, so I gotta give it a few points for being a decent parody.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This parody used the the Neil Sedaka hit "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" as its base. Sedaka originally co-wrote and recorded the song in 1962. It would reach #1 on the Pop chart and also get to #12 at R&B. Pop singer Lenny Welch did a ballad arrangement of the tune and it did well getting to #8 at AC,  #34 Pop, and #27 R&B. When Sedaka's career had a comeback in the mid-70's he did his own slow version of the song and it was released as a single. It reached #1 at AC and #8 on the Pop chart. The second-time-around hit made Sedaka one of three artists that got into the Top 10 twice with the same song, but in different versions. The other two were The Ventures and Elton John. The Ventures hit #2 in 1960 with "Walk, Don't Run," and then got to #8 in 1964 with their other version "Walk, Don't Run '64." John got to #6 in 1987 with a live version of his "Candle in the Wind," and then again in 1997 with his Princess Diana tribute "Candle in the Wind 1997."  2) So what does this song parody? Back in 70s, AT&T (aka the Bell System) pretty much had total control over all communications and phone equipment in the US. The US Department of Justice filed an anti-trust suit against AT&T regarding this monopoly. After a long court battle that AT&T knew they were going to lose, they made a proposal to end the case and in 1982 it was finalized. AT&T would keep their long distance, equipment company (Western Electric), and other things, but they would give up the ownership of local phone companies. These regional companies became known as "Baby Bells." This became the biggest company breakup in American history and it officially began on January 1, 1984. This song parodies the breakup of "Ma Bell." It was a big blow to AT&T, but they came out of it alright. After all, they are still in business. (I have AT&T U-verse at home...)


"That Was Then and This Is Now" by ABC

Song#:  1774
Date:  02/04/1984
Debut:  95
Peak:  89
Weeks:  3
Genre:  New Wave, Rock

Pop Bits:  The sophisticated dance-pop of this UK band's debut album, The Lexicon of Love, attracted listeners and it wound up being a gold seller, thanks in part to the #18 single "The Look of Love." It did even better in the UK where the album topped the chart. For their follow-up LP, the band decided to take a bit of a left turn with their sound. Instead of repeating the slick keyboard based pop that got them established, they veered into guitar-driven rock territory for the political-leaning Beauty Stab. They dangled this first single in the waters, but folks were not biting. It stalled at a disappointing #18 in the UK while not even getting out of the basement on the US Pop chart. The results affected the album which couldn't get into the UK Top 10. The outcome was worse in the US where the LP pretty much tanked. In the aftermath, the band would end up make changes that would benefit their next effort.

ReduxReview:  Oh, the sophomore slump. It's one of the most notoriously difficult things to overcome in the music business. Your first LP strikes gold, but can your next one tap into the same vein? It can be a make-or-break situation. Lots of careers have been killed thanks to failed second discs and ABC came dang close to the chopping block with Beauty Stab. The shift in sound for their sophomore effort was a real WTF moment at the time. It's unclear why they would mess around with the formula that made their debut a hit, but they did and it did not work. This song was actually a bright spot on a dark album, but it plays more like something from The Fixx or INXS. Gone were the lovely pop theatrics of their debut. The song is less guitar-driven than other tracks on the album, but the change was still apparent and people tuned out. Beauty Stab was not a great album, but it wasn't a total dud either. If it had been their debut, folks might have thought it was pretty good. But after the delicious Lexicon, it left a bad taste. It almost killed their career, but luckily sales were decent enough in the UK to call for a third album and they got the opportunity to turn things around.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In 2007, the BBC Radio 6 Music channel had listeners submit what they thought were the worst lyrics in pop music. After many suggestions, listeners voted on what was the worst and the channel ran a special counting down the top 10. Lyrics from this ABC song ended up in fourth place. Specifically for the lines "More sacrifices than an Aztec priest, standing here straining at the leash, all fall down, can't complain, mustn't grumble, help yourself to another piece of apple crumble." Who topped the list? British R&B singer Des'ree did with her UK #8 hit from 1998 titled "Life." She had twelve charting songs in the UK, but in the US she is known as a one-hit wonder thanks to her lone 1994 hit "You Gotta Be," which hit #5.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

"Got a Hold on Me" by Christine McVie

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1773
Date:  01/28/1984
Debut:  44
Peak:  10
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Soft Rock, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Having been a member of Fleetwood Mac since 1970, McVie has written her share of songs for the band. Her most fruitful period was after the 1975 relaunch of the band when Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks came on board. McVie wrote eight songs that hit the Pop Top 20 between 1975 and 1988 including the #3 "Don't Stop" and the #4 "Hold Me." With other band members doing their own solo projects in the early 80s, McVie decided to do one as well. Her self-titled LP featured this first single that just made it into the Pop Top 10. It was a bigger hit at AC and Rock where it topped both of those charts. The song would end up being her only solo effort to reach the Top 10.

ReduxReview:  This is just a lovely song. It's a sunny head bopper with a terrific chorus. McVie couldn't have picked a better single to restart her solo career. It doesn't stray too far from the songs she wrote for Mac, but that is okay. The song holds up on its own and it was received quite well. In some ways, I wish this could have been a Mac song produced by Buckingham. I think he would have juiced the tune up a bit and made it rock. However, the production it got gave the tune a relaxed breezy feel that made the song go down easy. It's a bummer that it was her only solo hit, but it was a good, memorable one.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Unlike Buckingham and Nicks, whose recent albums were their solo debuts, McVie's LP was actually her second solo effort. Around 1969, McVie was leaving the UK rock-blues band Chicken Shack and getting more involved with Fleetwood Mac. Before she formally joined Mac, she took a stab at a solo disc and in 1970 released Christine Perfect. Although the album's title seemed like a bold statement (like "Christine is perfect"), it was actually her given name (Christine Ann Perfect). The album didn't do well and failed to chart, but by that time she was on her way with Fleetwood Mac and married to Mac member John McVie. Later in 1976, after Fleetwood Mac hit it big, McVie's debut album was reissued and retitled The Legendary Christine Perfect Album.