Saturday, October 22, 2016

"No More Words" by Berlin

Song#:  1826
Date:  03/10/1984
Debut:  86
Peak:  23
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Even though Berlin's three singles from their LP Pleasure Victim would not be major chart hits, the songs and the band drew enough interest to boost sales and the album became a platinum seller. Poised for a bigger breakthrough, the band set out to record their next album. What they wanted to do was to grab a big name producer to help shape their music and the one they had in mind was Giorgio Moroder. Moroder's time was expensive and the band didn't have the budget to secure him for a full album. However, they thought working with Moroder was important, so they asked him to come on board for two songs. Moroder did and along with co-producer Richie Zito, produced the tunes "No More Words" and "Dancing in Berlin." The balance of the album was produced by Mike Howlett, who had recently had success with A Flock of Seagulls. The completed LP, Love Life, would be released with "No More Words" selected as the first single. It became a hit at Dance reaching #6, yet despite a popular MTV video, the song failed to get into the Top 20 at Pop or Rock (#25). Still, it was their first Top 40 entry and their association with Moroder would later lead to a major hit.

ReduxReview:  I'm still a bit peeved this didn't get into the Top 10. It's an awesome slice of synthpop with beefy guitars, a great chorus, and nice vocal turn by Terri Nunn. The production by Moroder and Zito was top notch and the thing sounded awesome cranked to eleven. Everything, including the video, was in place for this one and it should have easily sailed into the Top 10. Why it did not is a mystery to me. Folks still remember it, so I guess that is good, but it deserved a far better fate. The album was one of my favorites at the time and I about played the grooves out of the vinyl. Dialing this song up will most likely send me on a Berlin binge...again.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  I remember hearing a story about how this song was chosen for the album's first single. I believe it was from Casey Kasem's American Top 40 show. Apparently, there was some debate regarding the lead single and a tape of the choices were playing on a loop. For whatever reason, this was done at a place where someone owned a parrot. While still discussing the issue, everyone left the room but the loop of songs kept playing. They returned to the room after being gone a while and finally shut off the loop. Not long after, out of the blue the parrot started saying "no more words" over and over. The band figured the song must have the strongest and most memorable hook, so why not give it a shot? Now, I can't confirm this old story, but it is hard to dispute something coming from Casey Kasem. However, if I were to guess I'd say it was a publicity story and the real deal was that in order to work with Moroder, they were contracted to issue his productions as singles. After all, the b-side to "No More Words" was Moroder's other production, "Dancing in Berlin." How convenient.


Friday, October 21, 2016

"Illegal Alien" by Genesis

Song#:  1825
Date:  03/10/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  44
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The second single from Genesis' self-titled album, "That's All," became their first US Pop Top 10 getting to #6. This follow-up got a little action at Rock getting to #21, but unfortunately it stalled short of the Pop Top 40. It would do similar business in the UK where it reached #46.

ReduxReview:  Every once in a while, Phil Collins will sing a song in a certain voice or accent and for the most part, it is quite annoying. I guess he is trying to embody a character, but this ain't a movie or Broadway music. Just sing the damn song and let the lyrics do their own work. He should have done that here. The song itself it kind of fun and perky, but Collins' delivery is just...well...bad. If you are going to do a vocal from the point of view of the person in the lyrics and don an accent, then you have to commit and carry it through. Collins doesn't. He pops in and out of this weird accent and it just doesn't make sense. It's a total distraction that nearly ruins the song.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Apparently, this song was a bit controversial upon release. The lyrics are basically a satirical look at what illegal aliens from Mexico have to go through. Yet some found the song offensive and it didn't help that Phil Collins sang it in some kind of accent. Worse yet was a part of a verse where someone who wants to cross the border offers up his sister to an agent in order to get through. This section of the song was edited for radio and single release. It added up to a song that some folks did not appreciate. Specifically, the folks at Blender magazine were not thrilled with the tune. In 2004, they published a list of the 50 worst songs of all-time. This song placed at #13 on the list. What was #1?  No shock - Starship's "We Built This City."


Thursday, October 20, 2016

"Baby Come Back" by Billy Rankin

Song#:  1824
Date:  03/10/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  52
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Scottish guitarist Rankin had been professionally playing in bands on the pub circuit since he was fifteen. By 1980, he was a member of the rock band Nazareth. He stayed on for three albums before leaving for a solo career. He signed with A&M and issued his debut album Growin' Up Too Fast. This song was chosen as the first single and it did okay getting to #22 at Rock and almost breaking into the top half of the Pop chart. Unfortunately, follow-up singles failed to get any attention and after one more album for A&M, Rankin's major label solo days were over. He found his way back to Nazareth in 1990 and stayed with them for another four years.

ReduxReview:  I saw the title and immediately thought that I was in for a remake of the 1977 #1 hit by Player. Alas, it was not even close to that classic soft rock ballad. However, I do like this urgent tune that was written by Rankin. It's certainly more interesting and more pop-oriented than anything he was doing with Nazareth. It almost butts up against Billy Squier territory and oddly it reminds me of Barry Manilow's "Some Kind of Friend," but better. It should have gone a bit further up the chart.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  After leaving Nazareth in 1994, Rankin seemed to drop out of the music scene. Apparently, he worked a regular job as a truck driver and played gigs with a couple of bands on the weekends. He got a call in 2007 about a job as a radio personality on Scotland's first classic rock station and he remained with them until 2011 when the station changed hands. Rankin then moved over to host a rock music show called The School of Rock on a digital radio streaming site, which he still does as of this posting date. He has also written a book that features a lot of the stories he has shared over the years on his radio program.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

"Sister Christian" by Night Ranger

Top 10 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1823
Date:  03/10/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  5
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Night Ranger's second album Midnight Madness got off to an okay start when its first single, "(You Can Still) Rock in America," reached #15 at Rock and #51 Pop. The LP seemed in danger of disappearing quickly and the band needed a solid performing single to boost the album. They took a chance on this ballad that was written and sung by the band's drummer Kelly Keagy. It proved to be the right move with the song hitting #2 at Rock and #5 at Pop. It would be their biggest hit and help to push album sales to platinum level. Not only was it a hit when it first came out, but it has been a popular track since appearing in many TV shows, movies, and even in a Broadway show (Rock of Ages).

ReduxReview:  We were certainly "motoring" when playing this song! I remember those warm summer evenings on the Ave with the windows rolled down and this blasting from the speakers of the freshly installed Kenwood cassette car stereo. Then, in later years when we would hit the bars it never failed that the band would get around to playing this song and the dance floor would fill up. It was just an awesome song that hit at the right time for me and my friends. It's a classic from the era that has continued to live on way after its prime hit days.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Keagy wrote this song for his sister, Christy. She was ten years younger than him and on a visit home he couldn't believe how fast she had grown up. Keagy then went home and wrote this coming-of-age tune. The original title was "Sister Christy," but somehow when Keagy was singing it, the band thought he was saying "Sister Christian." The misheard lyric stuck. Initially, the band recorded the song in 1982 and contemplated putting it on their debut album. However, when it got down to selecting tracks, the band thought the ballad might strip them of their rock cred, so they shelved it. Luckily, they revived it for their second album and it became their signature song.  2) One phrase in the song has confused folks over the years. The chorus opens up with "You're motoring - what's the price for flight, in finding Mr. Right." It's the "motoring" that confounded listeners. What was it? Ends up it is just another word for cruising. Apparently, when Keagy was growing up in Oregon, "motoring" was a common term for cruising around in a car trying to pick up a date.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

"Perfect Combination" by Stacy Lattisaw & Johnny Gill

Song#:  1822
Date:  03/10/1984
Debut:  95
Peak:  75
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Teen star Lattisaw had been posting hits on the R&B chart since 1980. Four of her songs crossed over to Pop with "Let Me Be Your Angel" doing the best getting to #21.With five albums under her belt, Lattisaw was ready for a sixth. But instead of another solo outing, Lattisaw was paired up with another teenage vocalist, Johnny Gill. With Narada Michael Walden co-writing most of the songs and producing, the duo recorded the LP Perfect Combination. This title track served as the album's first single. It was just able to reach the R&B Top 10 at #10. It got enough attention to crossover to the Pop chart where it hung around the bottom quarter for a couple of months. Two more singles from the LP would be lower-level R&B entries, but both would miss the Pop chart. The album would be the only one from the duo, however Gill would team up with Lattisaw for a song from her 1989 album What You Need. The track "Where Do We Go from Here" would be issued as the LP's second single and it would hit #1 on the R&B chart.

ReduxReview:  It's kind of odd how Lattisaw still sounds like a young teen yet a seventeen-year-old Gill sounds like someone twice his age. His deeper voice is a good foil for Lattisaw's bright tone. Walden was getting better at songwriting and this age-appropriate ballad fit the pair quite well. It's not an outstanding song, but it has a good chorus and both singers do their best to boost it up a level.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  It was actually Lattisaw who "discovered" Gill. The pair were childhood friends and sensing that Gill had talent, Lattisaw encouraged him to record a demo. The tape made its way around Atlantic Records (most likely thanks to Lattisaw) and Gill ended up getting signed to their subsidiary Cotillion, which was also conveniently Lattisaw's label. Gill issued a solo debut in 1983 and would up with a couple of mid-charting R&B singles. Then came the duet album with Lattisaw, which gave Gill his first R&B Top 10 hit. After one more solo album in 1985, Gill then got the chance to join New Edition in 1987. When that group took a hiatus in 1989, Gill released a self-titled solo disc. It would be a big hit the following year when the single "Rub You the Right Way" would reach #1 R&B and #3 Pop.


Monday, October 17, 2016

"Miss Me Blind" by Culture Club

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1821
Date:  03/03/1984
Debut:  40
Peak:  5
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  Culture Club grabbed their biggest hit with the #1 "Karma Chameleon," the second single from their album Colour By Numbers. This follow-up debuted directly in the Top 40 and would end up reaching the Top 5. In doing so, it became their sixth consecutive Top 10 hit. Unfortunately, it would also be their last to get to that level on the chart.

ReduxReview:  This was another solid track from the album that was destined for the Top 10. For a change, I agree with the record label that this was the right single choice to release (see below). As much as I love "Victims," I really don't think it would have played well on radio here. Who knows. Perhaps it could have taken off, but I think the US audience liked their Boy George boppin' around and not being all sad and reflective. As a result of the choice, the Club grabbed one last Top 10 hit, which is certainly not a bad thing.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In the UK, the single chosen to follow-up "Karma" was the stark ballad "Victims." It did very well getting to #3 on the chart. However, Culture Club's record label thought the song was too depressing for the US market and opted to release "Miss Me Blind" instead.  2) R&B singer Jermaine Stewart provided background vocals on this song. By chance, Stewart met Culture Club's Mickey Craig and after discovering Stewart's talent, Craig helped him with a demo tape. Stewart also got the chance to record with the band. Thanks to his new connections, Stewart got a record deal. It would take a few years, but he would end up with a Pop Top 10 later in 1986.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

"Leave It" by Yes

Song#:  1820
Date:  03/03/1984
Debut:  60
Peak:  24
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Prog Rock

Pop Bits:  The reformed band put a pop spin on their classic prog rock and ended up with an unexpected #1 smash with "Owner of a Lonely Heart." It was from their album 90125 as was this second single. It was another hit for them at Rock reaching #3, but the song didn't catch fire at Pop like "Owner" and it stopped short of the Top 20.

ReduxReview:  It was going to be tough for them to follow up "Owner." It was such an interesting song with excellent production and it really stood out on the radio. The band gave it a go with this song and it was a pretty solid choice. Again, great arrangement and production, but it didn't quite have that zing of the first single. The standout part of this song is the vocal arrangement. Apparently it took them weeks to get it all down on tape and mixed, but it certainly paid off.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The band didn't just shoot one video for this song, they shot a total of eighteen. All directed by Godley & Creme, the videos featured the band basically standing and miming the song. However, there were differences between the videos. In some, the band was backwards while in others certain members had closeups. Godley & Creme also began using computer technology in the productions to manipulate the band's image. The one that was considered the "official" video had the band upside down and their bodies contorted and manipulated by the computer effects. All of this led to a promotion with MTV, of course, including a special on the making of the videos and showing all versions in a row.