Saturday, September 24, 2016

"Girls" by Dwight Twilley

Song#:  1798
Date:  02/18/1984
Debut:  61
Peak:  16
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Twilley certainly traveled the rough road in the music business. Initially, he and friend Phil Seymour started a band called Oister in the late 60s. After trying their luck in Nashville, the pair moved to L.A. and got signed to Shelter Records where the label changed their name to the Dwight Twilley Band. Initially they had some success when their single "I'm on Fire" made it to #16 in 1975. But then a slew of label issues, missed opportunities, and a couple lackluster albums killed any momentum they had garnered. Seymour left the band later in '77 and Twilley moved on to a solo career. Again, two LPs for two different labels failed, but his third effort, Jungle, would provide a second career opportunity for Twilley when this song would hit #2 at Rock. It got picked up by Pop and became his second single to reach #16. Once again, the stars didn't fully align and it would take two years and another label switch before he could follow up the album. By that time, the glow from this song faded and the new album tanked. Twilley continued to record and tour over the years, but this single would prove to be his last significant chart entry.

ReduxReview:  This is a solid rock song, but for some reason it doesn't stick in my brain. I know I heard this back in the day several times, but I just couldn't remember it. Then, after listening to it a few times now, I still had a hard time recalling it afterwards. I don't really know why. I guess it just doesn't make an impression on me even though I do think it is a good rock tune.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) When Twilley was signed to Shelter, he became good friends with a labelmate that was just starting out as well, Tom Petty. Although Petty left Shelter after two well-received albums, he and Twilley remained friends and occasionally worked together. Petty makes an appearance on this single supplying vocals.  2) Twilley's musical partner, Phil Seymour, would go on to a solo career as well. He was able to score one Pop chart hit in 1981 with "Precious to Me."


Friday, September 23, 2016

"Radio Ga-Ga" by Queen

Song#:  1797
Date:  02/18/1984
Debut:  65
Peak:  16
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's Hot Space album signified a big decline in sales in the US. It could only manage gold level reaching #22.  This was a sharp downturn following their last studio album The Game, which was a 4x platinum #1 hit. After a small hiatus, the band got back into the studio to record their next LP. Title The Works, it was introduced by this first single that reached #2 in the UK. In the US, the song's fortunes were not that good. It missed out on the Pop Top 10 while only getting to #22 at Rock and #28 Dance. While the video was popular on MTV, it didn't translate into sales. The album would do about the same as Hot Space getting to #23 and eventually going gold. Meanwhile, in the rest of the world the album did very well hitting the Top 10 in many countries including #2 in the UK.

ReduxReview:  Queen keeps up their synthpop experimentation with this song and I think it works out rather well this time around. In fact, as time went on I got to like this song more and more. It has a sweet melody with a great build to the chorus. I actually think one of the things that made this a lesser hit in the US was the title. I remember people saying back then "what a stupid title" and making fun of it. The rest of the world embraced it, but a lot of folks here just couldn't get past the title. It's too bad because I think it is one of their best latter career songs.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  That title! Where did that come from? Apparently, Queen's Roger Taylor was driving around one day with his three-year-old son in the car. A song came on the radio that his kid didn't much care for and the boy blurted out "radio ca ca." That little phrase prompted Taylor to pen a song that revolves around radio and how it had gotten ignored when TVs became the rage. It also applied to this time period when music videos were in fashion and it seemed radio was once again getting the shaft. Although it wasn't a huge hit in the US, a part of the song's title would later inspire a new superstar's name - Lady Gaga.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

"The Kid's American" by Matthew Wilder

Song#:  1796
Date:  02/18/1984
Debut:  79
Peak:  33
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Wilder's career got off to a great start when his single "Break My Stride" hit #5. It was from his debut solo album I Don't Speak the Language, as was this second single. The song was able to make it into the Top 40, but that's as far as it would go. The results were a bit disappointing after having a breakout smash, but it was enough for his label to flip the bill for a second LP.

ReduxReview:  "Break My Stride" was a pretty distinctive song, so Wilder needed something just as strong (if not stronger) to truly make his mark on the chart. Unfortunately, this song wasn't it. The tune isn't bad at all. It bounces around nicely (kind of like a Pointer Sisters jam) and the handclappy chorus is fun. However, it's just not as interesting or memorable as his breakthrough hit. It also didn't help that it failed to make any other chart whereas "Break" found its way onto the AC, Dance, and R&B charts.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Back in the mid-90s, Disney was prepping their next animated feature, Mulan. Composer Stephen Schwartz, who wrote songs for Disney's Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (and Broadway's Wicked), was tapped to do songs for Mulan. However, after writing a few song, Schwartz got an offer to work on DreamWorks' The Prince of Egypt and moved over to that project. Left without a songwriter, a Disney executive happened upon a demo tape of a project that Wilder had been working on. It left an impression and soon Wilder had an offer to work on Mulan. Working with David Zippel, Wilder co-wrote five songs for the film. The work earned him, Zippel, and score composer Jerry Goldsmith an Oscar nomination for Best Musical or Comedy Score. Unfortunately, none of the songs were nominated for Best Original Song. In an odd twist, the winner for Best Original Song that same year was "When You Believe" from The Prince of Egypt written by...Stephen Schwartz.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

"Make My Day" by T.G. Sheppard with Clint Eastwood

Song#:  1795
Date:  02/18/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  62
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Country, Novelty

Pop Bits:  Sheppard had a streak of eight Country #1's in a row that included the #58 Pop crossover "Finally." The streak ended when his remake of the 1971 Nilsson hit "Without You" stopped at #12, but he got right back to the top spot when the title track from his album Slow Burn was issued as the album's first single. For that song's follow-up, this novelty song got released. The tune was based around the popular catchphrase uttered by Clint Eastwood in the fourth Dirty Harry film, Sudden Impact. The movie was the highest grossing in the series and the "go ahead, make my day" line was quoted everywhere. Even then President Ronald Reagan used it in a speech on taxation. So why not turn it into a song? Sheppard was on board with it as was Eastwood, who appears on the song quoting his character's famous line and others from the film series. The event single petered out before getting into the Country Top 10 (#12), but it got enough attention to crossover on to the Pop chart for a few weeks. In doing so, it became Sheppard's last single to reach that chart. Sheppard would remain successful on the Country chart for the balance of the decade grabbing nine more Top 10's including a final #1.

ReduxReview:  Ugh. I could have totally done without this. I remember when this song came out. I thought it was stupid at the time and I don't feel much different today. It's a jump-on-a-fad thing that got old real quick. It gets an extra point for having Eastwood actually appear on the song (whoever talked him into this should sell used cars...), but one listen was more than enough for me. What I think kind of sucks is that the person who wrote the line, screenwriter Charles B. Pierce, doesn't get any credit. I can only assume that there had to have been some payment made to him and/or the movie company for use of the phrase, but perhaps not. Regardless, the guy got no credit on the single and really should have. The tune itself is okay and not too far out of line from some other country honky-tonk singles from the period, but it is mediocre at best and adding Eastwood doesn't help. What makes my day is that after this, I'll never have to hear this song again.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1)  This song was written by Dewayne Blackwell. Blackwell had been a successful songwriter since the 50s supplying tunes to artists like the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Bobby Vinton, Conway Twitty, and others. One of his biggest hits came in 1990 when Garth Brooks recorded a song Blackwell co-wrote with Earl Bud Lee titled "Friends in Low Places." That single would spend four weeks at #1 on the Country chart. 2) The "make my day" phrase was such a cultural phenomenon that in 2005, AFI placed it at #6 on its list of the top 100 movie quotes.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"Walking in My Sleep" by Roger Daltrey

Song#:  1794
Date:  02/18/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  62
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Daltry's last solo album was his soundtrack to the 1980 film McVicar. It featured what would be his biggest solo hit on the Pop chart, the #20 ballad "Without Your Love." After that, he returned to The Who for It's Hard, the band's final album before their initial breakup. Following The Who's farewell tour, Daltrey was completely out on his own and began work on his next solo LP, Parting Should Be Painless. As the title might suggest, the album was filled with songs that reflected his frustrations following the breakup of The Who. Not really being a songwriter, Daltrey enlisted some A-listers to contribute songs including Bryan Ferry, Eurythmics, and Nicky Chinn. This first single was issued and Rock radio responded well taking it to #4. However, it didn't click at Pop and the song fell off the chart after a couple of months. The lack of a bigger hit and negative reviews doomed the album, which became his lowest charting at #102.

ReduxReview:  This song is a bit boring. I typically like Daltrey's vocals, but he just sounds pinched and restrained here. It almost sounds like he is limiting his vocals in order to match the weak production. The song itself is not all that interesting, but I think it could have been better with a different arrangement. Imagine if a band like The Fixx took this on. Something along those new wave lines would have boosted the tune. As-is, the single is a snoozer and I'm not surprised it didn't do well.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  This song was co-written by Jack Green and Leslie Adey. Green had been a member of T. Rex and The Pretty Things in the 70s before going solo in 1980. In 1983, he issued his third album Mystique, which featured the original version of this song. The LP went unnoticed, but this song made it to Daltrey and it got a second chance.


Monday, September 19, 2016

"Thriller" by Michael Jackson

Top 10 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1793
Date:  02/11/1984
Debut:  20
Peak:  4
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Dance, R&B

Pop Bits:  Just when you thought Jackson's Thriller album was out of gas after spawning a record-setting six Top 10 singles, this monster song comes along. Helped by a 13-minute video that made a big splash on MTV, the song debuted at #20 and headed directly for the Top 10, peaking higher than the LP's previous three singles. It also became the album's third platinum selling single. Of course, the song hit #1 at Dance while also getting to #3 R&B and #24 AC. The hype over the song and the video pushed Thriller back into the #1 spot for an additional seventeen weeks before it finally gave up the spot to the Footloose soundtrack. It was an amazing way to close out the historic run of the album. It would be over three years before Jackson would again start another amazing run of singles from his album Bad.

ReduxReview:  Here is the genius of Michael Jackson. He's thinking: "Okay. I've already set records and it's been amazing, but I still think there is room for more. What can I do to really push this thing over the finish line. I know! I'll do an expensive conceptual horror music video with a movie director and really play it up and even film how I'm doing all this as another movie!" I'm guessing some folks thought he was nuts, but in the end this was a marketing person's wet dream. It was just a brilliant move. First off, the song was great. It was an epic dance track that was better than Thriller's previous few singles. Second, the video. We all knew this was happening and the countdown just to see the damn thing got more press than the real news. The hype was amazing. And it delivered. Lastly, if the video wasn't enough, there was also the "making of" documentary. What?? Of course I'll watch that! All of this was just unheard of at the time and it paid off handsomely. I remember gathering with friends on the day of its MTV premier (December 2, 1983) and anxiously awaiting for the video to start. We had already been in love with the song for months already, so a horror-themed video was just icing on the cake for us. It truly was a spectacle and a great way to finish the whole Thriller era.


Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This song was written by Rod Temperton whose two other contributions to Thriller were the only ones not released as singles - "The Lady in My Life" and "Baby Be Mine." Initially this song was written with the title "Starlight Sun" (or alternately just "Starlight"). However, producer Quincy Jones didn't like the title and since Temperton's previous composition for Jackson, "Off the Wall," ended up being that album's title, Jones was looking for another song that would also double as the new album's title. Initially Temperton came up with "Midnight Man," but then he woke up one morning with the word "thriller" in his head. It seemed to click and the song progressed from there. One of the early demos of "Starlight" can be heard on YouTube. 2) The famous spoken word part of the song came courtesy of horror movie legend Vincent Price. When looking for an actor to do the part, Jones suggested Price as he was a friend of his then-wife Peggy Lipton. Price agreed and he recorded the famous "rap" in two takes. For his services Price was offered a flat fee of $20,000 or a cut of the album's royalties. Unfortunately, the aging actor just decided to take the flat fee and ended up missing out on millions of dollars in royalties. Price would pass away in 1993.  3)  The video for the song was directed by John Landis. Mostly known for his 1978 hit National Lampoon's Animal House, Landis also did 1980's An American Werewolf in London. Jackson had seen that horror flick and like the way Landis did the transformation scenes. He wanted to incorporate something similar into the video, so he asked Landis the helm the shoot.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

"Livin' in Desperate Times" by Olivia Newton-John

Song#:  1792
Date:  02/11/1984
Debut:  64
Peak:  31
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Synthpop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Although Kenny Loggins and Jennifer Warnes get tagged as the era's king and queen of soundtracks, Newton-John was the one who really ruled the chart when it came to hit singles from films. From 1978 to 1984, Newton-John would get nine soundtrack songs on the US charts. Of those, four would reach the Pop Top 10 while two would hit #1. Three songs would be from the musical Grease, three from Xanadu, and three from Two of a Kind. Of course, it helped that she appeared in all three films and was a major music star already, but these results truly made her the ruler of the soundtrack single. This track would be the last of her film songs to reach the Pop chart. It was her second from the Two of a Kind soundtrack following the #5 "Twist of Fate."

ReduxReview:  I thought this would be another solid hit for Newton-John. It's well-produced synthpop with an urgent beat and a good, memorable chorus. But for some reason, it didn't click with folks and it stopped just short of the Top 30. I do wonder if tempo played a part in its lack of support. The song is fairly speedy, which made dancing to it a bit difficult. It is rather frantic sounding, but I like that. Although it doesn't rank among her classics, it's still a pretty good blast of synthpop.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In 1990, Grease was first issued for sale on VHS video tape. To help celebrate the occasion, a medley of three songs from the film were spliced together into the single "The Grease Megamix." It consisted of the tunes "You're the One that I Want," "Greased Lightnin'," and "Summer Nights." It would be a big hit in Australia (#1) and the UK (#3). However, it was not issued in the US. The hit sparked a follow-up titled "Grease - The Dream Mix," which featured "Grease," "Sandy," and "Hopelessly Devoted to You," but it failed to catch on. Later in 1996, the original "Megamix" found its way on to the popular CD compilation Pure Disco. Again, the song was not issued as a single in the US, but DJ's were issued a promo pressing of the song to spin and it was so popular that it reached #12 on the US Airplay chart.