Saturday, September 17, 2016

"Hold Me Now" by Thompson Twins

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1791
Date:  02/11/1984
Debut:  73
Peak:  3
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  The trio known as the Thompson Twins broke through in the UK with their fourth album Quick Step and Side Kick. A pair of Top 10's would help establish them on the chart. The same album (albeit with the title Side Kicks) would also get them noticed in the US with the single "Lies" making it to #30. But it would be their next album, Into the Gap, that would turn them into worldwide stars thanks to this first single that went to #4 in the UK and #3 in the US (#1 Dance, #8 AC, #9 Rock). The album would get to #1 in the UK and #10 US (going platinum in the process). The band's hair-tastic look would also make them MTV favorites.

ReduxReview:  Although mainly known as an 80s synthpop band, the use of real instruments gives this a more timeless feel rather than something stuck in that decade. I've always liked the song, but as the years have passed I've developed a deeper appreciation for the tune. It's really quite beautiful and the production is top-notch. A classic from the era.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  One song from the Side Kicks album may be familiar to 80s moviegoers. The track "If You Were Here" was used in the final scene of the 1984 Molly Ringwald flick Sixteen Candles. Although it was never released as a single, the song has remained popular thanks to its use in the film and has made appearances in TV shows like Bob's Burgers and Scream Queens. Thompson Twins' Tom Bailey mentioned in an interview that he has actually never seen the movie. He has viewed the scene where the song is used and has even met Molly Ringwald, but still has yet to see the full film.


Friday, September 16, 2016

"This Could Be the Right One" by April Wine

Song#:  1790
Date:  02/11/1984
Debut:  81
Peak:  58
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Canadian band was on a bit of a decline after scoring their biggest album in the US, 1981's platinum certified The Nature of the Beast. Their next album, Power Play, failed to secure any significant hits and as a result couldn't even reach gold level sales. They tried to rebound with their next LP, Animal Grace, but with this first single not even cracking the top half of the Pop chart and only #23 at Rock, the album did even worse. By this time, tensions in the band were at a peak and they were ready to call it a day. After a final farewell tour and live album, they called it quits. The band would reform in 1992 and issue a new album (Attitude) the following year that would be a gold seller in Canada. By that time, the band was long forgotten in the US and it was ignored.

ReduxReview:  They were no doubt trying to grab for a wider audience with this commercial-leaning song. With fellow Canadians Loverboy doing big business, it probably seemed the way to go. And it almost worked. With the exception of their 1981 #21 hit "Just Between You and Me," this is the most mainstream single they have issued. It's got a solid chorus and it rocks along quite well. It's not a fantastic song, but it should have done a little better on the chart. I just don't think the band's core audience was real thrilled with the direction of the album.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Even while the band was splitting up, lead singer and songwriter Myles Goodwyn was already prepping tracks for an upcoming solo album. However, it was discovered that the band still contractually owed their label one more album. With the help of only one other bandmate, Goodwyn used the tracks for a final April Wine album title Walking Through Fire. Oddly, the album failed to chart in Canada. However, it was a minor blip on the US chart at #174. Goodwyn did finally release a self-titled solo album in 1988. Two songs from the album were minor hits in Canada. By 1992, he was reforming April Wine.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

"Encore" by Cheryl Lynn

Song#:  1789
Date:  02/11/1984
Debut:  87
Peak:  69
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  The last time Lynn was on the Pop chart was in 1981 with the #70 "Shake It Up Tonight" (#5 R&B, #5 Dance). A couple of follow-up singles just barely missed getting on the Pop chart, but this song from her 1983 album Preppie finally did the trick. The track would be highly successful at R&B becoming her second #1 while getting to #6 at Dance. Unfortunately, it would be Lynn's final single to reach the Pop chart and her last album to get into the R&B Top 10 (#8). She would continue to record throughout the balance of the decade, but her only success would be 1989's "Whatever It Takes," which got to #7 at R&B.

ReduxReview:  I was excited to hear this as I love Jam & Lewis' work (see below). Plus, it hit #1 at R&B, so it should be pretty great. However, I was a bit disappointed. The groove is fine, but there is not much of the Jam/Lewis stamp on it and the song doesn't really go anywhere. Plus, Lynn is a much better vocalist than what is heard here. It work out well for everyone, but they have all done better work.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  For her Preppie album, Lynn co-wrote a few of the songs and produced all of the tracks except for this single. The song was written and produced by the up-and-coming team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Jam and Lewis were beginning to have success working with The S.O.S. Band (two R&B Top 10's) and others, but it was this song that finally got them a #1 hit at R&B. It would lead to more work and in a few years their songs would start topping the Pop chart. Over time, they would become the most successful songwriting and production team in chart history getting sixteen Pop #1's and twenty-six R&B #1's. Their streak began with this hit.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

"It's Gonna Be Special" by Patti Austin

Song#:  1788
Date:  02/11/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  82
Weeks:  4
Genre:  R&B, Dance, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Austin's previous chart single, a duet with James Ingram titled "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" (#45 Pop, #5 AC, #6 R&B) was featured in the film Best Friends. This next solo effort was also from a film, the Olivia Newton-John/John Travolta vehicle Two of a Kind. Although the movie was a box office dud, the soundtrack was a platinum seller thanks to two hits by Newton-John and this third single by Austin. Although this song got stuck in the basement of the Pop chart, it was a #5 Dance hit and would get to #15 at R&B. It would also serve as the first single from Austin's upcoming self-titled LP, her first after striking it big with Every Home Should Have One and it's #1 song "Baby, Come to Me." Despite an all-star team (including Quincy Jones, Narada Michael Walden, David Pack, Glen Ballard, Diane Warren and Michael McDonald) that contributed songs and production work, the album failed to generate a significant hit and it quietly disappeared.

ReduxReview:  Written by Glen Ballard and Clif Magness with production by Quincy Jones, I thought for sure this was gonna be a hit. It was an exciting song with a solid vocal turn from Austin. At the time it sounded great steeped in 80s synths and effects. So what happened? It did fine at R&B and Dance, but pooped out at Pop. It really deserved to do better. It sounds quite dated now, but I love it when it gets called up in my workout playlist. I bet this would make a killer track if all the synth sounds were taken out and a full, live horn-driven band took over. Although it could use a makeover, I'm still a fan of the song.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Despite being more of a soul artist, Austin began her music career with the jazz label CTI. For her first two albums, 1976's End of a Rainbow and 1977's Havana Candy, Austin wrote all the songs except for two. Each album managed to get a low-level single on the R&B chart. However, things changed with her third studio album for the label, 1980's Body Language. It was filled with new tunes and covers, none of which were written by Austin. Soon, she was on board the Quincy Jones commercial train and with the exception of a co-write here and there, Austin's voice was the focus, not her original material. After Austin got her big #1 hit, CTI smelled the money and in 1983 they issued a compilation of Austin's early material titled In My Life. The title track was issued as a single and it scraped the bottom of the R&B chart at #92.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"Beast of Burden" by Bette Midler

Song#:  1787
Date:  02/11/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  71
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Although her album No Frills was not a big success, it managed a feat that no other Midler album was (or would be) able to do. Three singles from the album made it to the Pop chart, including this last one. However, like the album, none of them were major hits. "All I Need to Know" did the best at AC getting to #39 (#77 Pop), while this single ended up being the best charting of the three at Pop. Although the song tanked in the US, it was a Top 10 hit in several European countries including Norway and Sweden where it peaked at #2. The video for this song, which featured a guest appearance by Mick Jagger (see below), ended up doing quite well and nabbed three MTV Music Video Award nominations.

ReduxReview:  Of course, no one is going to top the Stones' original (see below), but I think Midler does a damn fine job here. She has genre-hopped throughout her career, but the one area she could have explored more was rock. She burned up some fine rock/blues tunes for The Rose and this song certainly fit her like a glove, but other than that, she remained in the pop/AC world. I think she had the right voice and attitude to carry off some hefty rock. It was a missed opportunity for her. She could have easily pulled off a gritty rock album and it's the one thing that is missing from her discography. Luckly, she did a few teaser gems like this one.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song first recorded by The Rolling Stones. Their original version appears on the band's 1978 album Some Girls. It was released as the second single from the LP, following up the #1 "Miss You," and it got to #8 on the Pop chart. Mainly written by Keith Richards, Midler took a few liberties and made some minor changes to the lyrics. Mick Jagger joins Midler for the comedic video where the pair are a couple and Jagger announces he is ready for a breakup due to all the publicity.


Monday, September 12, 2016

"Shooting Shark" by Blue Öyster Cult

Song#:  1786
Date:  02/11/1984
Debut:  94
Peak:  83
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After a decline in popularity in the late 70s, the Cult found themselves with an unexpected hit album with 1981's Fire of Unknown Origin. The LP contained the #1 Rock track "Burnin' for You," which crossed over to the Pop Top 40 (#40). After a long tour that resulted in a live album being released the next year, the band had to get back into the studio and get a follow-up out so they could capitalize on the momentum. They came up with The Revölution by Night and the first track circulated was "Take Me Away," which got to #11 on the Rock chart. This next song was nearly as popular and it hit #16 at Rock. Released as an official single, the song sneaked onto the Pop chart for a brief few weeks. The results were not as good as their previous disc and the LP peaked at a very low #93 and failed to go gold. They would issue two more albums before their label let them go. It would mark the end of the band's main era. Over the years they would continue to be a popular tour drawn and would eventually release three more albums.

ReduxReview:  This 7-minute song was reduced to 4-minutes for the single and it was probably better for it. The song kind of rambles on with not much interesting going on. It's all a bit monotone and the lead vocal is quite dull. Pink Floyd occasionally had songs like this, but there always seemed to be something interesting going on. This one just meanders along and despite the nice guitar and sax work, it falls flat. I don't think the band had to fear the reaper at this point because they already sound pretty dead.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  The lyrics to this song were written by rock/punk/poet/singer Patti Smith. Early in the Cult's career, member Allen Lanier and Smith were in a relationship. This was prior to Smith breaking out on her own as a solo artist. At one point, Smith was even considered for the lead vocalist spot in the band. Although their relationship ended in the 70s, Smith's lyrics still found their way onto the band's albums. This was the last Cult song to feature Smith's lyrics.


"Each Word's a Beat of My Heart" by Mink DeVille

Song#:  1785
Date:  02/11/1984
Debut:  95
Peak:  89
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Although the name sounds like a person, it is actually a rock band headed up by Willy DeVille (real name Billy Borsey). Initially known as Billy de Sade and the Marquis, they change to Mink DeVille in 1975 and soon became one of the house bands at the famous CBGB's in New York. They were a popular attraction at the club and by 1977 they had signed with Capital and issued a debut album titled Cabretta (the US version was self-titled). The album was well-received by critics, but it failed to catch on and peaked in the lower half of the Top 200 Albums chart. Their next three albums would suffer the same fate, however some European countries hooked into the band and the albums sold well. By 1983, Mink DeVille just consisted of Willy DeVille and some other musicians that filled out the band. They had also moved over to Atlantic Records who, for the new album Where Angels Fear to Tread, replaced DeVille's long time producer Jack Nitzsche with their own team. At first, the new recording seemed to be headed in the right direction when this single became DeVille's first to reach the Pop chart. But it disappeared quickly as did the album. The "band" would put out one more album on Polydor, but it failed to click. Willy DeVille continued on as a solo artist and issued several albums for different labels over the years, but like before, he remained off the grid in the US while doing well overseas. DeVille died in 2009 of pancreatic cancer.

ReduxReview:  I love the opening of this song. It then goes into a groove that is like a happier version of "Every Breath You Take." It has shades of Elvis Costello as well. It's a subtle song that hooked me after a couple of listens. Mink DeVille is one of those artists that I've wanted to explore. Their first albums are often considered rock classics. I'm pretty sure this song is more commercial and tamer than their earlier material, which usually turns off a lot of critics/fans, but I like it. Seems like now might be a good time to finally dig into this band. I can already tell you that the song "Maybe Tomorrow" from their 1981 album Coup De Grace is pretty great. Check it out.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  DeVille's most recognizable song is not this lone chart entry, but one that ended up in a movie. For his first solo album in 1987 title Miracle, DeVille worked with producer Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits). Around the same time they were working on the album, Knopfler was also involved with the soundtrack to an upcoming film. A song DeVille had written for the album struck Knopfler as something that would be perfect for the movie. After they got it recorded, the song was submitted to the director, Rob Reiner. He loved the tune and DeVille's song "Storybook Love" became the love theme to Reiner's film The Princess Bride. The song got the attention of the Academy and DeVille ended up with an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. He would perform the tune on the show as well. DeVille ended up losing the award to the #1 hit from Dirty Dancing, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

"Joystick" by Dazz Band

Song#:  1784
Date:  02/11/1984
Debut:  96
Peak:  61
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  The Dazz Band's third LP, Keep It Live, would be their most successful thanks to the #1 R&B/#5 Pop/#2 Dance hit "Let It Whip." It set them up well for their next album, On the One, but it had no multi-format smash hit and the final results were a bit disappointing. They tried to regain some ground with their follow-up LP, Joystick, and this first title-track single seemed poised to help out. It did well at R&B getting to #9 and then proceeded to crossover to Pop. Unfortunately, it didn't catch on like "Let It Whip" and it stalled in the lower half of the chart. The album would end up peaking at #12 at R&B, which was the same position reached by their previous LP.

ReduxReview:  Silly euphemistic title and lyrics aside, this is not too bad of a groove, but it's nowhere near the brilliance of "Let It Whip," which was the problem. They were never able to recapture the slick, hooky, electro-funk of that song and their follow-ups just paled in comparison. They still did well and grabbed three other R&B Top 10's, but that career defining hit ended up being one they couldn't replicate.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The band's lead singer at the time, Sennie "Skip" Martin, would end up leaving the group in 1985. By 1988, he was lending his vocal talents to Kool & the Gang after their lead singer, James "J.T." Taylor, left to pursue a solo career. Martin would remain with the band until 2008. During that period, he also did double duty by rejoining the Dazz Band in 1998. He still continues to perform with the Dazz Band along with founder Bobby Harris.