Saturday, November 5, 2016

"When the Lady Smiles" by Golden Earring

Song#:  1840
Date:  03/24/1984
Debut:  84
Peak:  76
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Nearly a decade after getting their first US chart entry, this Dutch band finally reached the Pop Top 10 with "Twilight Zone" (#10). The hit sent their album Cut to #24, which was their second best showing on that chart. Once again, they were poised to break wider in the US and hopes were high for this first single from their next LP N.E.W.S. The song did well at Rock reaching #9, but Pop didn't latch onto it and the single folded after a month in the bottom quarter of the chart. Of course, it was a big hit in their home country becoming their fifth #1. The album would be their sixth to top the chart there. Unfortunately, the lack of a hit single doomed the LP in the States and it disappeared quickly. This song would be the band's last one to reach the US Pop chart. They would continue to chart in their home country over the years with their 2012 album Tits 'n Ass becoming their seventh #1.

ReduxReview:  Regardless of the controversy about the video (see below), this was not going to be a Pop hit. Rock radio, yes, it would do well. But the song is just not strong enough to compete with the hook-laden top Pop hits of the day. There is a lot of good things happening with the song, yet I don't find it all that memorable. The production is top-notch and it sounds like it should be something really good. However, I'm just not catching on to it. They can blame the video all they want, but in the end, if you have a great song it will find an audience and sell. This just wasn't one of those songs.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Even though this song would end up getting to #3 in Canada, it was a no-go in the States. The blame for the single's performance was placed squarely on its video. It seems that MTV was not pleased with the video's content, which had band member Barry Hay playing a guy who was molesting women because he though they all looked like a beautiful redhead that was in his mind. Unfortunately, one of the women he attacks is a nun. Hay rips open her habit and starts kissing her, etc. This certainly didn't sit well with MTV and they refused to play the video unless cuts were made. In addition, there was also a part near the end where Hay's brain is operated on and a small portion is removed. This bit of brain is then tossed to a dog as a treat. The video was edited, but still MTV thought it was all a bit too much for a prime time audience and it would only get played after midnight. With practically zero support from MTV and little other promotion, the single sank.  2)  When Hillary Clinton was first running for the White House in 2008, her campaign folks began using this song at some of her rallies. Unfortunately, what Clinton's folks didn't do was check the history of the song and watch the video. Even the band when they found out their song was being used was a bit mystified by the choice. After discovering the contents of the video, the song was dropped from the campaign playlist.


Friday, November 4, 2016

"Love Has Finally Come at Last" by Bobby Womack and Patti LaBelle

Song#:  1839
Date:  03/24/1984
Debut:  95
Peak:  88
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Womack's career started when he and his four brothers formed a group. Initially known as the Womack Brothers, they had a name change to The Valentinos and in 1962 had a #8 R&B hit with "Lookin' for a Love." A few years later, Womack was out on his own and by 1968 he was charting singles at R&B. His biggest hit came in 1974 when he covered his old band's hit "Lookin' for Love." It would top the R&B chart while getting to #10 at Pop. With the exception of a couple R&B Top 10's the balance of the 70s would be a lean charting period for him. He returned to prominence with his 1981 album The Poet. It would be his biggest album going to #1 at R&B and #29 Pop. Three years later, he returned with The Poet II and this first duet single with Patti LaBelle was issued. It would get to #3 at R&B, but could only scrape the bottom of the Pop chart for a short while. It would be Womack's last single from one of his albums to reach the Pop chart. He grabbed one more R&B Top 10 in 1985, but the hits stopped soon after. He continued writing and recording over the years with his last album coming in 2012. Womack died in 2014.

ReduxReview:  This is one where the singers sell the song. The tune itself isn't all that great. Womack has written far better songs. What helps get it to another level are Womack's and LaBelle's vocal work. When LaBelle finally digs into her vocal acrobatics, it is nearly chill enducing. It also gives Womack's worldly worn voice a boost. However, in the end it is only slightly memorable.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Early on, Womack nearly lost his music career. He and the Valentinos had been working closely with R&B star Sam Cooke for quite a while. When Cooke was shot and killed in late 1964, it left the band in the lurch and wondering what their next move would be. In the meantime, Womack began to console Cooke's widow, who had also lost a child the previous year in a drowning accident. Womack stayed close to Barbara Cooke saying he feared that she might do something crazy. Within three months, the couple were married. This outraged many folks, especially Cooke's loyal fans. It was scandalous for the time and due to the response, Womack decided to leave the Valentinos for a solo career. But as he began to put out records, radio stations would refuse to play them. He retreated to session work and wondered if he'd ever have a real career again. Finally by 1968, it seems folks had put the scandal behind and Womack began hitting the charts. He and Barbara divorced in 1970 after Barbara discovered that Womack had an affair with his stepdaughter, Linda (Barbara and Sam Cooke's daughter). However, that misstep didn't seem to affect his career. BTW - Linda went on to marry Bobby's brother Cecil...


Thursday, November 3, 2016

"Head Over Heels" by The Go-Go's

Song#:  1838
Date:  03/17/1984
Debut:  58
Peak:  11
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's second album, Vacation, did fine and went Top 10 and gold thanks to the #8 title-track, but it was a bit of a sophomore slump after their multi-platinum #1 debut Beauty and the Beat. It didn't help that health issues sidelined the band after the album was released, which resulted in a lot less promotion than anticipated. After a short hiatus, they regrouped to record their third album titled Talk Show. This first single was issued and it ended up peaking at the dreaded #11 on the Pop chart. It was a minor entry at Rock getting to #33. Although the song barely missed the Top 10, it still performed a bit below expectation and that affected initial album sales. The LP could only manage to get to #18 and it failed to go gold.

ReduxReviewBeauty and the Beat  will always remain their classic album, but I really loved Talk Show. In the course of just a few years, they had all grown as songwriters and I think it was their most mature effort. The problem might have been that audiences just loved the bubbly fun girl band and when they issued songs that had more emotional depth, it just didn't work. The first two albums had party written all over them, but Talk Show tried to move the band forward. This first blast definitely signaled that something was changing with the addition of a piano. It's a solid rock song and the production was beefier than their other albums thanks to producer Martin Rushent. It just sounded damn good, as did the album. I've always though this song and the album were vastly underrated.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The Go-Go's chose Martin Rushent as their producer for Talk Show, but it wasn't without reservations. Although Rushent's résumé was full of engineering and production credits for rock artists, including punk bands like the Buzzcocks and Generation X (Billy Idol's first band), he had been getting more involved with synths and electronic music. His most famous work was when he produced Human League's Dare album, which won him a BRIT award for Best Producer. He even went so far to say at one point that he though guitars would end up being obsolete. This came at a time when The Go-Go's wanted a tougher, guitar driven album, which mean no synths. Rushent agreed and recording commenced. Not long after the album was released, Rushent decided to step away from the music industry and even sold his studio. He would later return to doing production work in the 2000's, but it was cut short when he passed away in 2011.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"Authority Song" by John Cougar Mellencamp

Song#:  1837
Date:  03/17/1984
Debut:  69
Peak:  15
Weeks: 15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After securing two Top 10's with "Crumblin' Down" (#9) and "Pink Houses" (#8), Mellencamp issued this third single from his album Uh-Huh. It captured the exact same #15 spot at both Pop and Rock. The album would get to #9 and over time get certified as a triple-platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  This song came out when I still thought Mellecamp was just a snotty punk. Obviously, the "I fight authority" line another other lyrics seemed to confirm what I thought and I promptly ignored this tune. Now that he's one of my all-time favorites, I see the song differently. It's a fun rocker that comes from a bit of a rebel place and it seemed to sum up some things that Mellecamp was going through at the time with his label, music, etc. I wouldn't rank the song among my favorites of his, but I do like it now.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Mellecamp has said in interviews at the time that his "Authority Song" was the day's "I Fought the Law." That song and it's similar theme ("I fought the law and the law won") became a hit for the Bobby Fuller Four. Their single reached #9 in 1966. The tune has been covered by many artists, including The Clash, but only Fuller and country/folk artist Sam Neely were able to get the song on the Pop chart.  Neely's 1975 version got to #54.  2) This song is on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock. It is the only Mellecamp song to appear on that list. Fuller's "I Fought the Law" also made the list.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

"Show Me" by The Pretenders

Song#:  1836
Date:  03/17/1984
Debut:  74
Peak:  28
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's album Learning to Crawl became their highest charting (#5) thanks to the hits "Back on the Chain Gang" (#5 Pop/#4 Rock) and "Middle of the Road" (#19 Pop/#2 Rock). To keep the ball rolling, this third single from the LP was issued. It was their fourth song from the album to hit the Rock Top 10 (#8) following the two previously mentioned tunes and the album track "Time the Avenger" (#6). At Pop, this single was able to make an appearance inside the Top 30.

ReduxReview:  This is another quality song from a great album. It was a good choice for a single, but I had always wanted "Time the Avenger" to get issued. I think that may have had a better shot at going Top 20, but this song does have more of a softer rock sound that probably suited pop radio a bit better.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Late in '83, another song from the album was issued as a single in the UK. The track "2000 Miles" did well enough to reach #15 on the chart. In the US, the song served as the b-side to "Middle of the Road." Three things inspired Chrissie Hynde when she wrote the song. The first was an old Otis Redding tune called "Thousand Miles Away." Then, while in the studio she looked out at all the twinkling Christmas lights that decorated Oxford Square. Finally, it was an ode to her former bandmate James Honeyman-Scott who had died in 1982. Since the song sets a wintry scene and repeats the line "it must be Christmas time," it has since become a bit of a holiday standard, even though that was not the original intent of the song.


Monday, October 31, 2016

"Dancing in the Sheets" by Shalamar

Song#:  1835
Date:  03/17/1984
Debut:  81
Peak:  17
Weeks:  18
Genre:  R&B, Dance, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  This trio became fractured after the release of their seventh album The Look. The LP did well thanks to the #10 R&B/#22 Pop hit "Dead Givaway," but some members were not happy with the group or the label and two of them (Jody Watley and Jeffery Daniel) decided to depart, which left Howard Hewitt on his own. Instead of calling it a day, Hewitt found two new members and carried on. The trio's first venture was this song that made it to the soundtrack of the hit film Footloose. It would be the third single released from that album. It was a moderate hit at Pop and R&B (#18) while getting to #9 at Dance. The song would also be included on the trio's album Heartbreak, which would be released later in the year.

ReduxReview:  I thought for sure this would be a Top 10 hit. I'm not sure why it missed that mark. It's a well-written tune with a good hook, solid 80s production, and a nice vocal performance from Hewitt. It did lean a bit more towards pop than R&B, so I'm not surprised it stalled a bit early on that chart. Perhaps the lack of R&B support played out on the Pop chart as well. Not sure. Whatever happened, this song's destiny was cut a bit short.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  After leaving Shalamar, Jeffrey Daniel moved on to stage work and originated the role of Electra in the original West End production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express. Later in 1987, Daniel began an association with Michael Jackson that led to him being a co-choreographer on such videos as "Bad" and "Smooth Criminal." He continued to work with Jackson on videos and tours. In 2002, Daniel joined up with Howard Hewitt for a reformed Shalamar. He also was a judge for three seasons on the show Nigerian Idol (a country-specific version of American Idol).


Sunday, October 30, 2016

"Hunters of the Night" by Mr. Mister

Song#:  1834
Date:  03/17/1984
Debut:  85
Peak:  57
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  For friends Richard Page and Steve George, their early 80s days were filled with songwriting and session work. The pair worked with artists like Al Jarreau, Kenny Loggins, REO Speedwagon, and others. By 1982, they were ready to start another band and with two other members formed Mr. Mister. Their connections and track record got them a deal at RCA and as '84 began, their debut album, I Wear the Face, was set to go. This first single announced their arrival. It wasn't a major success only getting to #36 at Rock and missing the top half of the Pop chart, but it did well enough for RCA to keep them on for another album, which ended up being a very good decision.

ReduxReview:  I remember this song and the album coming out. I was fascinated by the song's title and the album's cover. I almost bought the album based on those two things. I didn't and it was years before I got to hear this song. After I did, I was kind of glad I didn't get the album. I didn't dislike the song, but it just wasn't something that caught my ear. I kind of like the anxious keyboard part and the smooth chorus is good, however the tune is just not memorable. It didn't have enough power to be a radio hit. They were on the right track, but it would take another album before they could write a couple of songs that were destined to be hits.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Mr. Mister was actually Page and George's second signed band. Back in 1977, the pair got work supporting Andy Gibb both in the studio and on tour. That backing band, lead by Page and George, decided to work on their own project and a demo tape got the attention of Epic Records. With the band name set as Pages, they recorded a self-titled debut that came out in 1978. It got nowhere, but somehow Epic kept them on for another album and Future Street did just slightly better with its first single "I Do Believe in You" making a brief appearance on the Pop chart at #84. It still wasn't the results they were looking for, so Page and George moved over to Capitol and issued a second self-titled LP in 1981. It was a failure and afterwards, the band split up. Page and George would have better success once they formed Mr. Mister.