Saturday, October 15, 2016

"Don't Answer Me" by Alan Parsons Project

Song#:  1819
Date:  03/03/1984
Debut:  70
Peak:  15
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  After their LP Eye in the Sky became a hit thanks to the #3 title track, the Project released a hits compilation while working on their follow-up album. When Ammonia Avenue was completed, this track got issued as the first single. It was well-received at AC where it peaked at #4. Pop and Rock liked it too and the tune reached #15 on both charts. Although it wouldn't be as big of a hit as "Eye in the Sky," it would do well enough to help the album get to gold level. In the group's UK homeland, this single would actually be their best charting effort getting to #58.

ReduxReview:  I totally loved this Spector-esque, retro, wall-of-sound song. Those warm chords draw me in every time. It didn't hurt that it had a terrific chorus, a great video, and that familiar Eric Woolfson vocal. I was surprised that it stopped short of the Top 10. It really deserved to get in there. It's one of their best singles and ranks among my favorite songs in Project catalog.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Apparently, on a plane flight to New York, Project co-leader Eric Woolfson met John Harvey Jones, who was the chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries in England. Jones invited Woolfson to tour one of the company's plants located in Billingham thinking that it might provide the musician with some kind if inspiration. When Woolfson arrived at the plant, the first thing he encountered was a street lined with miles of piping with zero signs of life anywhere, including trees, plants, etc. The only other item that stood out was a sign that said "Ammonia Avenue." Obviously, it was the area of the plant that made ammonia. The strange industrial environment had an affect on Woolfson and it did inspire him in the making of the Project's album that was titled after the street he had encountered.  2) The video for this song was the first one done for the Alan Parsons Project. The animated video centered around a fictional comic strip titled The Adventures of Nick and Sugar. It was drawn and directed by Michael Kaluta, who had created many covers for DC Comics. The video would grab an MTV Video Music Award nomination for Best Experimental Video at the very first ceremony.


Friday, October 14, 2016

"A Fine Fine Day" by Tony Carey

Song#:  1818
Date:  03/03/1984
Debut:  77
Peak:  22
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Carey saw a little chart action when two singles from his second album I Won't Be Home Tonight peaked in the bottom half of the Pop chart. It was his first album pushed out on the Geffen label and now he had to assemble a follow-up. Once the album was put together, it got played for folks at Geffen. Although two songs stood out for single contention, someone at the label wasn't happy with the lyrics - or even the LP itself. Sensing that nothing much was going to come from Carey's work, Geffen made a deal with MCA and pushed Carey off on them. MCA went ahead and issued Carey's new LP, Some Tough City, as it was recorded. This first single was released and the results kind of gave Carey the last laugh. The tune became a #1 hit on the Rock chart while almost getting inside the Pop Top 20. In doing so, it would become Carey's biggest hit.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't into this story song when it came out, but I've grown to like it over the years thanks to its appearance on a couple 80s collection I bought. It has a little of everything - a bit of Springsteen, a dusting of Tom Petty, a sprinkle of John Mellencamp. Carey was a prolific writer and quite inventive (see his Planet P works). The more streamlined rockers on Some Tough City worked well and told some good tales of the down-and-out. It's too bad Carey didn't break wider have have more hits.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Carey's solo LP wasn't the only issue Geffen had. Carey had also readied the follow-up to his side project Planet P. The first Planet P album did well for Geffen and resulted in the #64 Pop/#4 Rock track "Why Me." For the next Planet P project, Carey decided to do a rock opera. Titled Pink World, the opera was about a dystopian society that was being kept save in a special zone that was created psychically by a seven-year-old kid. Of course, the government gets involved and things happen from there. Folks at Geffen were not fans. Their dislike for the album along with the issued they had with Some Tough City prompted the to move Carey off the label. MCA would issue both albums. While Pink World was not a significant seller in any way (the song "What I See" got to #25 at Rock), it did gain a sort of cult status over the years and was notable for being first issued on pink vinyl.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

"To All the Girls I've Loved Before" by Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson

Top 10 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Song#:  1817
Date:  03/03/1984
Debut:  79
Peak:  5
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Adult Contemporary, Country Crossover, Pop

Pop Bits:  This singer/songwriter was already a superstar on the Latin music scene, especially in his home country of Spain. His debut album came out in 1969 and he had been steadily releasing albums since. However, the one area he had not been able to break into was the English pop market. With a move to Miami in 1979, Iglesias began to record in other languages but it wasn't until his 1984 album 1100 Bel Air Place that his focus turned to English language pop. With the help of A-listers like Diana Ross, The Beach Boys, and Willie Nelson, Iglesias and producer Richard Perry assembled an album that was aimed directly at the international pop audience. This first shot, a duet with country superstar Willie Nelson, directly hit the target. It would be a multi-format smash hit going to #5 Pop, #3 AC, and #1 Country. The hit pushed the album to #6 and over time it would become a 4x platinum seller. Although it was a Pop hit, it was even more popular with the Country crowd and come awards season, Iglesias and Nelson won the CMA for Duo of the Year and the song won Record of the Year at the ACM's. The song would be Iglesias' only one to reach the US Pop Top 10, but the hit truly established him as a worldwide superstar. (And his offspring Enrique hasn't done too bad either...)

ReduxReview:  I could not stand this song when it came out. I thought it was one of the worst recordings I'd ever heard. The pairing of Iglesias and Nelson was absurd and their voices did not compliment one another. Loaded with accents and vibrato, it was unbelievably ear shattering. I just couldn't believe this was a hit. Years later, I feel...the exact same way. I'd even say that time has made this song even worse for me. I dreaded that I had to hear it again just to write this post. I don't like the old-fashioned corny song or lyrics either. I know a lot of people love this tune and that is okay. Y'all can keep it for your enjoyment. To each their own. As for me, I'd be happy to never hear it again. Excluding novelty songs and strange one-hit wonder stuff, I would have to rank this as one of the absolute worst hits of the decade (and probably beyond). Strangely enough, I listened to the original recording of this (see below) and I have to admit that I didn't mind it. The original is like a cross between Terry Jacks' "Seasons in the Sun" and The Beatles' "Penny Lane." It didn't make me a fan of the song, but I appreciated it far, far more than this turd of a duet. Let the hate mail commence...

ReduxRating:  1/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song written by Hal David and Albert Hammond. It was originally recorded by Hammond for his 1975 album 99 Miles from L.A., but it was not issued as a single. The song got picked up by singer Bobby Vinton for his 1979 LP Encore, but again, it was not chosen for single release. The third time was the charm when Iglesias and Nelson recorded the tune.  2) Around the same time Iglesias and Nelson recorded this song, they also recorded a duet on the standard "As Time Goes By." It would be included on Nelson's 1983 album Without a Song. The performance earned them a Grammy nomination for Best Country Performance by a Duo or a Group. They would team up once again in 1988 for a duet on another standard, "Spanish Eyes." Taken from Nelson's What a Wonderful World album, the song would be issued as a single and would reach #8 on the Country chart.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"You're Lookin' Like Love to Me" by Peabo Bryson & Roberta Flack

Song#:  1816
Date:  03/03/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  58
Weeks:  11
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Bryson and Flack scored a gold album when they got together for Born to Love. It reached #8 R&B/#25 Pop on the strength of the single "Tonight, I Celebrate My Love" (#4 AC, #5 R&B, #16 Pop). This follow-up tune was a success at AC where it topped out at #5, but R&B (#41) and Pop (#58) were far less interested.

ReduxReview:  This is a pleasant enough song written by Four Seasons vets Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio. The tune was a lock at AC with its smooth pop sound, but I can certainly understand why missed the other charts. It was just a bit too old fashioned and "adult" to fit in at R&B and Pop at the time. The arrangement is quite dated and it sounds like something two celebs would sing together on an 80s variety TV show. It's a perfectly fine song, but it's not interesting enough to make me reach for the repeat button.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  A few years before Bryson and Flack recorded their duet album, they both appeared on a track by R&B star Minnie Riperton. Riperton passed away from cancer in 1979, but prior to that she had already been in the studio recording material for a new album. Her husband/producer Richard Rudolph and her label Capitol decided to complete the album for posthumous release. It would be titled Love Lives Forever. All of Riperton's vocals were retained, but the music was rerecorded. For the song "Here We Go," Bryson came on board and helped to turn the tune into a duet. In addition, Flack came in to fill out some of the background vocals. Once completed, the song was issued as the album's first single. It reached #16 on the R&B chart in 1980. For anyone who doesn't know, Riperton's daughter has become a star in her own right. Maya Rudolph joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2000 and remained on the show for seven years. She earned an Emmy nomination while with the show. She has appeared in several films and TV shows since.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"Do You Love Me" by Andy Fraser

Song#:  1815
Date:  03/03/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  82
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock, Pop

Pop Bits:  Fraser was only 15 when he became the bass player for John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. He left after a short year and with three other teenagers formed the band Free. Their first two albums were virtually ignored, but their third, 1970's Fire and Water, would be a significant hit thanks to the #4 single "All Right Now," which was co-written by Fraser. It would be their only hit in the US, but they would continue to place songs on the UK chart up until their disbandment in 1973. Fraser went on to form the band Sharks and recorded one album with them. After a couple more failed LPs under the Andy Fraser Band moniker, Fraser sat back and concentrated on songwriting. By 1983 he decided to get back into the spotlight and signed with Island Records for a solo album. Titled Fine Fine Line, the LP featured nine songs written or co-written by Fraser and one lone cover - this first single. Stepping into the MTV generation, Fraser filmed his first video, but it didn't seem to help as the single barely made a dent in the Pop chart. The LP's second single was the title track, which got to #43 on the Rock chart, but failed to reach the Pop chart. The album would be Fraser's last major label effort. He would pass away in 2015 after long battles with cancer and AIDS.

ReduxReview:  I wish I knew what possessed Fraser to cover this song. I've listened to the LP and this song is nothing like the others Fraser wrote for the album. My guess is the usual - some record exec didn't hear a hit and "suggested" doing a rock cover of an old hit so they can promote the album. It just smells of label intervention to me. Fraser is a solid musician and a good songwriter, so there was no real reason to do a cover tune. The balance of the album is pretty good. It is true that there isn't a surefire hit among the other tracks, but even the title track was far better than this forced cover. It's pretty bad. The song is nearly unrecognizable. Trying to turn an old R&B hit (see below) into a near-hard rock arena anthem was just a bad idea. All the soul got sucked out of the classic and the video was equally horrible. What a shame.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a 1962 hit done by The Contours. Their original recording hit #3 Pop/#1 R&B. Thanks to its use in the 1988 film Dirty Dancing, the song became popular again and got reissued. In it's second chart appearance, the single made it to #11 Pop. The Dave Clark Five reached that same #11 position in 1964 with their version.


Monday, October 10, 2016

"The Sun and the Rain" by Madness

Song#:  1814
Date:  03/03/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  72
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  With two Top 40's to their credit, including the #7 "Our House," this UK band was set to issue their next LP for the US market. Keep Moving would be released and this song was pushed out as the album's first single. Despite being a hit in the UK the previous year (#5), the tune didn't catch on overseas and it faded after a few weeks. Their chart fortunes in the UK began to decline as well and after some personnel changes and other issues, the band parted ways in 1986. Like many bands of the era, the band reformed in later years and ended up getting one more UK Top 10 hit in 1999.

ReduxReview:  I like the jaunty piano opening and the feeling it gives throughout the song, but the tune itself is not all that memorable. It's a pleasant and summery listen. I just don't get much else from it. The song is also very British, which can be a hard sell in the US unless the tune is undeniably catchy and/or interesting. "Our House" was one of those songs and it wound up in the Top 10. This one doesn't come close to that 80s classic.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Also included on the Keep Moving album was the song "Michael Caine." After writing the song, the band approached the movie star about making a guest appearance on the recording. At first, Caine turned the band down, but then he was convinced to do it by his daughter who happened to be a Madness fan and loved the song. Basically, all the actor does is say "I'm Michael Caine" or "my name is Michael Caine." Released as a single in the UK, it reached #11 on the chart. The concept for the video for this song was based on Caine's 1965 spy film The Ipcress File, a movie that placed at #59 on BFI's list of the 100 best British films of the 20th century.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

"No Parking (On the Dance Floor)" by Midnight Star

Song#:  1813
Date:  03/03/1984
Debut:  93
Peak:  81
Weeks:  8
Genre:  R&B, Funk, Dance

Pop Bits:  Midnight Star's fourth album became a double-platinum hit due to a pair of R&B Top 10's that included the #2 "Freak-A-Zoid" (#66 Pop). They tried to keep the ball rollin' with this third single that served as the album's title track. Unfortunately, it didn't come close to matching the success of the previous two singles capping out at #43 R&B, #44 Dance, and #81 Pop.

ReduxReview:  I thought this was a much bigger hit than the lowly peaks at R&B/Pop would suggest. I'm not sure why I remember this song so well, but it must have received enough airplay somewhere to get ingrained in my brain. If you had asked me to name Midnight Star's biggest hit, I'd most likely say this one, but that was far from the case. Regardless, it is my favorite groove of theirs and I have included it in several of my playlists. It should have done a lot better on all three charts. Luckily, I think it has had a pretty good after-chart life so it is definitely not forgotten.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Several artists have sampled this song in their own recordings including the band Sugar Ray. They used samples of the song in their 2003 track "Mr. Bartender (It's So Easy)." That song would serve as the lead single from their fifth album In Pursuit of Leisure. It would reach #20 on the Top Adult Pop Songs chart, but it would fail to make the main Pop chart.