Saturday, December 3, 2016

"Dance Hall Days" by Wang Chung

Song#:  1869
Date:  04/21/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  16
Weeks:  22
Genre:  New Wave, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Wang Chung grabbed their first US Top 40 entry near the beginning of '84 with the #38 "Don't Let Go." This follow-up single would do even better getting into the Top 20. It would be a #1 hit at Dance when paired with "Don't Let Go." The tune also got to #24 at Rock. In their UK homeland, this would be their biggest single reaching #21

ReduxReview:  While I kind of initially missed out on "Don't Let Go," this song did not escape me. I really liked that staccato bridge/chorus led by Jack Hues' oddly interesting voice. The sleek production chugged along with some nice sax work to boot. It wasn't your typical pop single, which made it stand out on radio. I was hoping for a Top 10 showing, but I think getting to #16 was a solid showing for the tune.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Around this time, Wang Chung's Jack Hues and Nick Feldman submitted a song they wrote to the management of UK singer David Van Day. Van Day had some success in the UK with two different groups, Guys 'n' Dolls and Dollar, a duo with his girlfriend Thereza Bazar (they were both members of Guys 'n' Dolls). Following Dollar's breakup, Van Day decided to go solo. His first single was a very modest hit, but it got some attention and Wang Chung were hoping their song, "Ringing the Bell," would be his follow-up single. Van Day did record the tune with Hues and Feldman producing, but it ended up getting set aside. The song did finally see the light of day in 1985, but was weirdly credited to the fake band name of Music Academy instead of Van Day. The song did not chart. Van Day was never successful in the US. His only encounter with the US charts was when Dollar's 1978 debut single "Shooting Star" reached #74 on the Pop chart (#14 UK). Since around 2003, Van Day has become a bit of a b-list celebrity in the UK appearing on various reality/competition shows as both a contestant and host.


Friday, December 2, 2016

"I'll Wait" by Van Halen

Song#:  1868
Date:  04/14/1984
Debut:  44
Peak:  13
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  For a few songs on Van Halen's 1984 album, the synth took on a significant role. It paid off quite well when the the LP's first single, "Jump," became their biggest hit spending five weeks at #1. This next single expanded the role of the keyboard even further and it pretty much drove the song. While it went to #2 at Rock, the tune ended up stopping short of the Pop Top 10.

ReduxReview:  Although this song is not as brilliant or exciting as "Jump," it's still a great tune and once again I think the added keyboard worked. The band still retained their signature sound while adding in the synth element. The keyboard riff is excellent as is the chorus. Solos are typically a highlight of their songs, but the one included here was slightly lackluster for me and it drags the song down a bit, but they rally back to finish out the tune.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Up until the 1984 album, all of Van Halen's songs (with the exception of cover tunes) were listed as being written by the band. That was to continue for this album, but as this song was being developed, the band was having a difficult time with it - specifically with the lyrics. David Lee Roth typically handled a lot of the lyric writing for the band and for some reason it just wasn't clicking with this tune. Producer Ted Templeman thought a little outside inspiration might help and he called on another artist he had been working with for a while - The Doobie Brothers' Michael McDonald. Templeman sent McDonald a tape of the music and McDonald began forming some ideas. He eventually met up with Roth and the pair hammered out the lyrics. It marked the first (and last) time that Van Halen had collaborated with a non band member for one of their songs.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

"Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1867
Date:  04/14/1984
Debut:  53
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Lauper burst onto the Pop chart with her debut single, the power anthem "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." It would end up being a platinum #2 hit. However, with her quirky personality, thrift shop look, and near-novelty video for the song, it left folks thinking that she could easily be a one-hit wonder. Those thoughts were put to rest when this second single was issued. The tender ballad, co-written by Lauper and Rob Hyman (of The Hooters - he sings backup on this song), was the perfect follow-up and it climbed the chart to the #1 spot. It did the same at AC while getting to #10 at Rock. Once again, the song's MTV video became a popular favorite and helped the single reach gold level sales. It would eventually grab a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year.

ReduxReview:  There were some really good single choices from Lauper's She's So Unusual LP, however this was the perfect one to follow up "Girls." It showed a completely different side of Lauper and introduced her as a songwriter. I saw an interview with her one time where she was saying that a songwriter is extremely lucky if just one of their songs is not only a hit, but one that has legs and lasts over time. She felt that "Time After Time" was that song for her. I'd have to agree. No other song that she's written has even come close to having the long life span of this one. It's Lauper's second classic in a row.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Lauper's record company loved this song and wanted it to be her debut single. However, Lauper was against that idea. She thought that if the song was a hit, it would set the tone for her career and she would be tagged as a ballad singer. The label relented and sent out "Girls" for the first single. It ended up being a good decision.  2) This was the final song written for the album. Initially, both Lauper and Hyman (who served as a musician and arranger on the album) thought they had all the songs done and the LP was ready. However, producer Rick Chertoff thought there needed to be one more track and sent the two off to come up with something. It was Lauper and Hyman's first time writing together and they quickly formed ideas for the song. A title for the song was needed and it came about via a movie. While thinking about a song title, Lauper happened to be looking at a TV Guide magazine and saw a listing for the 1979 film Time After Time, a sci-fi time travel flick that starred Malcolm McDowell. The movie's title seemed to fit what they were working on and Lauper began to use the phrase. Eventually it stuck and became the song's final title.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Self Control" by Laura Branigan

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1866
Date:  04/14/1984
Debut:  63
Peak:  4
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Europop, Dance

Pop Bits:  For her third album, Branigan dipped into the Europop well once again and brought up this song. It would serve as both the title track and the first single from the LP. It would become her third (and final) Pop Top 10 while going to #2 Dance and #5 AC. The song would also be Branigan's biggest international hit going to #1 in at least nine countries. The success of the song made the album her best US effort reaching #23 and going platinum.

ReduxReview:  I was immediately hooked on this song when that little synth opening broke open into that huge guitar lick. It just kicked ass and was so different from Branigan's other more bubbly Eurodance hits. It fit her perfectly and it helped that she had that creepy, erotic video to go with it. "Gloria" will always be her signature tune, but this is the one that came along at the peak of her career and made her an even bigger star.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is actually a cover version of a song originally done by the Italian artist Raf. Co-written by Raf with Giancarlo Bigazzi (who also co-wrote "Gloria") and Steve Piccolo, the song would be a #1 hit for Raf in Italy. Both Branigan and Raf would record the song around the same time and their singles would actually compete against each other in several countries, particularly in Switzerland where both versions topped the chart, but Branigan's held the spot longer and ended up being the #1 song there for 1984. Of course in Italy, Branigan's version paled in comparison's to Raf's and stalled at #29. The song was Raf's debut single. He would become a major star in Italy grabbing thirteen Top 10 singles there.  2) The video for this song got some additional attention thanks to its director William Friedkin. Friedkin was best known for two huge film hits - The French Connection, which won him an Oscar, and The Exorcist. This song was Friedkin's first music video. The erotic video was initially deemed to sexy for MTV and it was only played in the evenings. MTV wanted cuts so they could play it whenever, but Branigan didn't want it edited. Eventually, she relented, but by the time it was ready to air the song was past its prime.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

"Devil in a Fast Car" by Sheena Easton

Song#:  1865
Date:  04/14/1984
Debut:  83
Peak:  79
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  Easton's LP Best Kept Secret supplied her with a Top 10 hit when "Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair)" got to #9. After the follow-up ballad "Almost Over You" hit #4 at AC (#29 Pop), Easton returned to more synthpop fare with this third single. It was pretty much ignored and the song disappeared after a quick three weeks on the Pop chart. Although the album would just miss the gold mark, it sold well enough to get to #33 on the chart, which was an improvement over her previous LP.

ReduxReview:  This one really reaches towards the Europop territory that was being covered by Laura Branigan at the time. For the most part it works, but it gets a bit screamy in the chorus. Actually, I think Branigan's more sultry voice would have sold this song a lot better. The tune is fine, but I don't think it was hit material. It was just slightly too slow for dance and Easton's sometimes shrill voice didn't match the darker material. It probably didn't help that there was no MTV video to promote it (at least none that I could find). It just wasn't the right song or single for Easton.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Songs from this album helped supply other artists with hits in different countries. French-Canadian singer Véronique Béliveau covered the album track "She's in Love (With Her Radio)." Retitled "Je suis fidèle," the song would be a #1 hit in Quebec. In 1997, country singer Lila McCann covered "Almost Over You" for her self-titled debut album. The track was released as a single the next year and it got to #42 on the Country chart. Although it wasn't released as a single, in 1985 country star Louise Mandrell (of the famous Mandrell sisters) did a country-ish version of "Devil in a Fast Car" for her last charting country LP Maybe My Baby.


Monday, November 28, 2016

"Downtown" by Dolly Parton

Song#:  1864
Date:  07/14/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  80
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Country Crossover, Pop

Pop Bits:  Parton's synthpop covers LP The Great Pretender was able to score a #3 Country hit with her version of The Drifters' "Save the Last Dance for Me," but Pop audiences were not biting and it faltered before getting inside the Top 40. This second single had even more pop flare and yet it did even worse only spending a month on the Pop chart. Country wasn't all that thrilled either (#36) and even AC balked (#20). The LP made a good showing at Country (#7), but the lack of a real hit kept it at a low #73 on the Pop chart. Overall, it was a disappointing showing for the superstar.

ReduxReview:  This is one of my favorite pop songs from the 60s (see below), so I was thrilled when Parton decided to do a cover - especially with my favorite producer at the time, Val Garay. It ended up on Parton's bizarre Great Pretender album and for me, it was the highlight of the record. Dressed up in synths and Simmons drums, it was a bit bombastic with an outro that was nothing like the original. I dug it and played it quite a bit. These days, it definitely sounds like a product of its time. I still like it, but I waffle on whether it is actually kind of good and fun, or a bit overdone and cringe-worthy. Sometimes I'm like "Yes! This is awesome! Crank it!" while other times I'm like "Oooo....yikes. What were they thinking?" I'll split the diff.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This is a cover of a song originally done by Petula Clark. Clark's version was a big worldwide hit in 1964 hitting #1 in several countries including the US. Many artists have covered the classic pop tune over the years, but only Clark and Parton have been able to chart with the song in a straight version. Two other comedy-leaning artists put their own spin on the tune and wound up on the chart. Comedian Alan Sherman's parody "Crazy Downtown" reached #40 in 1965 while the virtually tone-deaf "singer" Mrs. Miller made it to #82 with her rendition. In 2011, the Irish rock band The Saw Doctors decided to cover the song and invited Petula Clark to sing with them. She did and the single reached #2 on the Irish chart.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

"Terms of Endearment" by Michael Gore

Song#:  1863
Date:  04/14/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  84
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack, Instrumental

Pop Bits:  Composer Gore got a major break when he was asked to provide music for the 1980 film Fame. In addition to working on the score, Gore also teamed up with songwriter Dean Pitchford to come up with tunes for the movie's musical numbers. The movie was a hit as was its title track song sung by Irene Cara. Gore would end up winning two Oscars for his work - one for Best Original Song for "Fame" (with Pitchford) and one for Best Original Score. Next came a job to write the score for an upcoming film titled Terms of Endearment that was to star Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, and Jack Nicholson. Released late in '83, the movie would be a big hit and would go on to win five Oscars including Best Picture. Gore's score was nominated, but he lost out to Bill Conti's music to The Right Stuff. With Terms being a major hit, there was focus placed on Gore's score and it was decided that a single of the movie's main theme would be released. It ended up being a surprise hit at AC reaching #5 on that chart. It did well enough there that it leaked over to Pop for a few weeks. It would be Gore's only single to reach any chart.

ReduxReview:  Here is an obscure single that I actually own. I absolutely loved the film and I think I just happened to see this single at the record store and bought it as I remember the music in the film being good. It's a bit of an oddity in that it's not from a music-oriented film and it's not one of those gratuitous pop songs that plays over the end credits that's looking to be a hit or grab an Oscar nod. It's just a lovely instrumental theme that worked well as a stand-alone single. I remember I used this song in a college music class called Ear Training. Everyone had to bring in a song that had a non-vocal melody somewhere in it. We were given the first note of the specific passage and then we had to notate the rest of the passage just by listening to the melody. It was a fun challenge. I used the main melody of this song for the class. It has been mega years since I heard this song and I forgot how nice it is.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Gore is the younger brother of pop star Lesley Gore. She had two big hits at the beginning of her singing career - 1963's #1 "It's My Party" and 1964's #4 "You Don't Own Me." The siblings would often write together and several of their songs ended up on Lesley's albums. The pair also wrote one for Fame, the #19 Oscar-nominated song "Out Here on My Own," which was sung by Irene Cara.  2) Gore would go on to do music for the TV show Fame along with other scores, but his venture into the Broadway arena ended up being an infamous one. Gore, along with Dean Pitchford, wrote the music and lyrics to the notorious 1988 Broadway flop Carrie: The Musical. The show closed after five performances and was one of the most expensive failures in Broadway history. The show would later see a few non-Broadway revivals that were received quite well.  3) Gore's biggest hit as a songwriter came in 1990 when Whitney Houston took "All the Man That I Need" to #1 at Pop, AC, and R&B. She would later receive a Grammy nod for her performance. The song was originally written for singer Linda Clifford (who sang a song on the Fame soundtrack) who recorded it in 1981. It was issued as a single but did not chart. In 1982, Sister Sledge covered the tune and released it as a single. It could only reach #45 at R&B. The song got to Houston and it finally became a hit.