Saturday, December 24, 2016

"Obscene Phone Caller" by Rockwell

Song#:  1890
Date:  05/05/1984
Debut:  79
Peak:  35
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Rockwell's paranoia themed debut single "Somebody's Watching Me" was a surprise hit that got to #2 at Pop and #1 at R&B. As that record was turning gold, this second single from his debut album was issued. It wasn't nearly as successful getting just inside the Pop Top 40. It did better at R&B where it made the Top 10 at #9. The album would be a gold-seller and set him up for further success, but his second album, Captured, only managed a very minor charting single at R&B ("He's a Cobra" featuring vocals by Stevie Wonder) and it disappeared shortly after. A third LP was a complete miss and that was when Rockwell called it a day. He walked away from the music business stating that it just wasn't fun anymore and never looked back.

ReduxReview:  I did not like "Somebody's Watching Me" at all and this same-styled follow-up is not any better. It is just basically rehashing "Somebody." It might as well have been titled "Part 2." Even the video for the tune picks up after the one for "Somebody." What's even worse with this one is that faux British-like accent Rockwell is doing. I mean, what is that? It is utterly ridiculous as is the song. Without his friend Michael Jackson there to help, there was not much reason for folks to tune in. Therefore, it tanked. What's sad is that Rockwell got caught in this rap/talk/sung/paranoia shtick and wasn't able to escape it. I reluctantly listened to songs from his second album and was surprised that some were pretty good. I was extremely hesitant in calling up the tune "Peeping Tom," as it sounded like another continuation of "Somebody." However, it's actually not a bad synthpop tune that Rockwell actually sings! If folks had given him a chance and heard something like this, he might have had a better career. Unfortunately, he was defined by "Somebody" and it ended up overshadowing anything else he did. 

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  As mentioned in a previous post, Rockwell's real name is Kennedy William Gordy. He is the son of Motown head Berry Gordy. He has a half-brother named Stefan Kendal Gordy who became Redfoo from the group LMFAO. Rockwell also has a half-sister, Rhonda Ross Kendrick, from Berry Gordy's relationship with superstar Diana Ross. Kendrick became an actress and spent two years on the daytime soap Another World. She picked up a Daytime Emmy nomination for her work. Kendrick's half-sister is Tracey Ellis Ross. Ellis Ross has had a successful acting career on TV in shows like Girlfriends and Black-ish, for which she received an Emmy nomination.


Friday, December 23, 2016

"Heart Don't Lie" by La Toya Jackson

Song#:  1889
Date:  05/05/1984
Debut:  80
Peak:  56
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Reggae, R&B

Pop Bits:  The fifth-born child of the Jackson clan did not have entertainment aspirations like her siblings. Initially, she wanted to become an attorney and began to pursue that career in college, but then her father stepped in and basically forced her to stop college and join her siblings on the CBS variety show The Jacksons. After that, there was no looking back and Jackson moved on to a solo career and recorded a debut album in 1980. It spawned the #17 Dance hit "If You Feel the Funk" and another minor R&B entry. Her second album faded quickly, but her third one, Heart Don't Lie, got Jackson her first (and only) single on the Pop chart with this title track. It stalled short of the top half of the chart, but did better at R&B getting to #30. After this, Jackson's music career began to slide away. Her father brought in a new manager for her, which ended up being a life changing event for Jackson. Soon the manager had complete control over her and she ended up spending years being abused, being estranged from her family, and the butt of many jokes thanks to the public perception that she was just plain crazy. She finally escaped her manager later in the 90s and began to regain control of her life. She returned to music in 2004 and scored a #13 Dance hit with "Just Wanna Dance." She has also appeared on a few reality shows including Celebrity Apprentice and her own show Life with La Toya.

ReduxReview:  Pretty much all of the Jackson family were ridin' the crazy train, but sadly La Toya ended up getting transferred to a hell train soon after this album. It's too bad because there was potential for her to have a good career in music. But she got caught in a twisted situation with her manager that lasted far too long and made her look like a loon to the general public. It was all kind of sad. Before all of that happened, Jackson was beginning to enjoy some success with her early 80s recordings. The Heart Don't Lie album had some good electro-funk tracks like the #25 R&B "Bet'cha Gonna Need My Lovin'," but this reggae-tinged track wasn't a highlight for me. It reminds me of Donna Summer's toe-dip into reggae, "Unconditional Love," which I didn't care for either. It's too bad "Bet'cha" didn't catch on. It's a far better song and single.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In addition to singing, Jackson is also a songwriter. She has written or co-written several tracks for her albums. One of the songs she co-wrote for Heart Don't Lie, "Reggae Nights," ended up not making the final cut and was left off the LP. However, reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff picked up the tune and recorded it for his album The Power and the Glory. The song was released as a single and it became a Top 10 hit in many countries. In the US where reggae wasn't as popular, the song could only manage a #89 showing at R&B. The song would end up grabbing a Grammy nomination for Best Reggae Recording. Cliff asked Jackson for more songs and she co-wrote two for his next LP Cliff Hanger. That album would win the Grammy for Best Reggae Album.  2) The male vocal on this song was supplied by Shalamar's Howard Hewitt. In addition to his appearance, both Musical Youth and Janet Jackson help out on background vocals.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

"I Can Dream About You" by Dan Hartman

Top 10 Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1888
Date:  05/05/1984
Debut:  84
Peak:  6
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Pop, Dance, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Hartman always seemed like he was on the brink of stardom. He wrote and produced for other artists and even joined up with the Edgar Winter Band at one point where played bass on their 1972 #1 hit "Frankenstein," and wrote and sang the #14 follow-up "Free Ride." Later, he had two solo #1 Dance hits with 1978's gold-selling "Instant Replay" (#29 Pop) and 1980's "Relight My Fire," but he couldn't parlay that into further hits. He finally broke through with this song that was featured on the soundtrack to the film Streets of Fire. While the film was a bomb at the box office, the single slowly caught on. It finally reached the Pop Top 10 thanks in part to an MTV video that hit heavy rotation. It would also get to #7 AC, #8 Dance, and #60 R&B.

ReduxReview: This is near-perfect pop with excellent production that has, for me, gotten better with age. Nearly every part of this song is memorable, which is certainly not easy to do. I think this would have been a perfect song for Hall & Oates (see below), but Hartman and co-producer Iovine created something special here. It outlived both the movie and the decade. Hartman was never able to recapture this magic, but it didn't really matter as this song secured him a place in pop history.


Trivia:  Hartman originally wrote this song for Daryl Hall & John Oates. While the duo liked the song, they had just finished recording their album and had to turn it down. Later on, producer Jimmy Iovine needed a song for an upcoming film and tapped Hartman's shoulder. Iovine needed a tune that would be good for an R&B vocal group and Hartman reached back and grabbed his demo of this song. Sensing this could be a potential breakthrough if the film was a hit, Hartman did a little legal wrangling for his benefit. The song was recorded for the film with singer Winston Ford. That version would be used in the film with four actors miming the tune in the finale. However, Hartman contracted that he would sing the soundtrack album version, get the credit, have his version used for any music video, and if there was a single to be released, this would be the one. Hartman's feeling about this song was spot-on and it got him his first and only Pop Top 10. Hall & Oates would later record this song for their 2004 covers LP Our Kind of Soul.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"Hurt" by Re-Flex

Song#:  1887
Date:  05/05/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  82
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  This band's debut album, The Politics of Dancing, spawned their first US chart entry with the #24 title track. That song would be a hit at Dance getting to #8. This next single was still able to light up the dance floors and it got to #15. But it didn't do as well at Pop and was only able to stick around for a short month. It would be the band's final charting single in the US. After recording a couple of songs for the 1987 soundtrack to the film Superman IV, the band just kind of fizzled and never really got back together again.

ReduxReview:  "The Politics of Dancing" was a terrific new wave/synthpop tune that should have done better. It was going to be difficult to follow that hooky single up, but the band did a nice job with this second single. It sounds a bit like a mash-up of Duran Duran, a-ha, and ABC (in all the good ways). I don't think the song was necessarily hit-bound, but the more I hear it, the catchier it is. If you like these two singles, chances are you'll like the album. It runs along the same lines.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Following their debut album, the band went on to record their second album, Humanication. To start it off, the environmental protest song "How Much Longer" was released as the first single. Even though it featured an appearance by Sting of The Police, the only chart the song could get on was in Germany where it got to #59. Other than that, the song came and went to very little notice. That result along with the label disliking some of political-leaning songs they had recorded got the album shelved. Therefore, Re-Flex never had an official second album. Humanication would eventually see the light of day - 25 years later. In 2010, all the collected recordings of the band were compiled into a 5-CD box set title Re-Fuse. The set included their debut album and the full, previously unreleased Humanication LP.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

"Darlin'" by Frank Stallone

Song#:  1886
Date:  05/05/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  81
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Stallone got his second and best Pop chart entry with "Far from Over," a song from his brother Sylvester's film Staying Alive. The single reached #10 and it got Stallone a deal with Polygram for a solo LP. His self-titled debut album was issued and it included "Far from Over" plus this song, which served as the LP's introductory single. Unfortunately, the attention he got via his first hit did not bleed over into this one and the single faltered and fell off the chart after a short month. A follow-up single was issued, but it missed the Pop chart completely. This would be the end of Stallone's charting days. He would return to recording music in 1991 and over the years would issue several indie albums.

ReduxReview:  After the exciting movie rock of "Far from Over," Stallone decided to push out this retro-ish street corner tune that seemed to be mimicking what Billy Joel was doing with his An Innocent Man album. I think it was a misstep. Not only was it a lesser Joel knock-off, it just wasn't the right style. Stallone established a sound with "Far from Over" and he really needed something more in line with that song to keep up the momentum. It could have been a rock tune or even a big ballad, however going retro was not going to do it. 

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  For the balance of the 80s, Stallone turned to acting. He appeared in several films and TV shows like Miami Vice. Although he mainly acted in independent b-style movies, he did get roles in more mainstream films like Barfly, Tombstone, Hudson Hawk, and Fred Claus. He has also continued to write songs for films including one for his brother's 2012 sequel The Expendables 2. Stallone wrote the song "You Don't Want to Fight with Me" for the movie.


Monday, December 19, 2016

"Love Will Show Us How" by Christine McVie

Song#:  1885
Date:  04/28/1984
Debut:  54
Peak:  30
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  After a fourteen year gap, McVie was finally able to issue her second solo album while on hiatus from Fleetwood Mac. The self-titled album featured her first and only Pop Top 10 hit, "Got a Hold on Me" (#10 Pop, #1 Rock, #1 AC). This album opening track was chosen to be the follow-up single, but didn't do nearly as well. It stalled right at the Top 30 mark at Pop while only getting to #24 Rock and #32 AC. The song would also be her last solo effort to reach the Pop chart. In 1987, she would be back with Fleetwood Mac and two of her songs from their album Tango in the Night would become hits.

ReduxReview:  Again, McVie is not straying very far at all from the fare that she normally penned for Fleetwood Mac. I can easily hear this being done by the Mac. I actually think it would have been better if they did. A little Lindsey Buckingham production/guitar along with some Mac backing vocals and this song might have done better on the chart. As-is, it's another good effort from McVie, if not quite up to the standards she set with "Got a Hold on Me." I guess it shows one thing - whereas Buckingham and Stevie Nicks branched out and experimented with their songs and sound, McVie stayed comfortable within her Mac bubble. That's not a bad thing, but in the end these songs sound more like Mac rejected tunes rather than something new and unique from McVie.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  It took McVie fourteen years to follow-up her 1970 debut solo disc Christine Perfect. After her self-titled second album, it would then take twenty years for her to follow that one up. In 2004, McVie issued her third solo album titled In the Meantime. She co-produced the album with her nephew Dan Perfect and the pair also co-wrote several songs for the LP. The only single from the album was the lead-off track "Friends." It couldn't get on the Pop chart, but did make a minor showing at AC getting to #29. Without a significant hit, the LP failed to reach the Pop Album chart. It did, however, reach #32 on the US Independent Albums chart.


Sunday, December 18, 2016

"Jump (For My Love)" by The Pointer Sisters

Top 10 Alert! 
Grammy Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1884
Date:  04/28/1984
Debut:  62
Peak:  3
Weeks:  24
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop, Synthpop

Pop Bits:  This opening track from the Sisters' album Break Out was supposed to be the lead single, but producer Richard Perry wanted to go with the more R&B-leaning "I Need You" (#13 R&B, #48 Pop). Then, it was going to be the second single until DJ's started spinning "Automatic" (#5 Pop, #2 R&B, #2 Dance) and that song got issued. Finally, on the third attempt this song made it out of the gate. It had to wait a while, but it ended up being worth it. The song was a major hit at Pop spending two weeks at #3 while also getting to #3 R&B and #2 Dance. It would be the most successful single from the album. It would also net the Sisters a Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group. An instrumental mix of the song would also win a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

ReduxReview:  If you don't like this song, then I don't want to know you as you obviously have no idea how to have fun. This is just pure, perfect pop coated in delicious 80s production. How can you not be happy hearing this? Whenever I hear it, I really want to jump whenever they say it. There is so much good going on in four minutes that it makes other songs seem lazy and jealous. That sleek bridge that builds to another "Jump!" chorus is so brilliant and then it goes crazy with a big key change! The Sisters had a lot of hits, but this one is easily at the top of the pile. An 80s classic that never gets old.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Original pressings of the Break Out album had this song simply titled "Jump." However, in the time since the album was released, Van Halen hit #1 with their song that was also titled "Jump." To avoid any confusion that may have resulted due to the songs having the same title, the Sisters' song got re-titled as "Jump (For My Love)."  2) The British all-female vocal group Girls Aloud covered this song in 2003. It was issued as a single and reached #2 on the UK chart. Between 2002 and 2009, the girl group would score twenty consecutive Top 10 hits in the UK with four of them hitting #1. Unfortunately, for whatever reason the group never released any singles or albums in the US, so they never were able to get on the US charts. Although many folks in the US are not familiar with Girls Aloud, some may know one of its members. Cheryl Cole, who had also established a hit solo career in the UK, served as a judge on the competition show there called The X-Factor. When producer Simon Cowell brought the show to the States, he brought Cole with him as one of the judges. However, after three weeks of the show, she left. It was a bit of a brouhaha that led to her being shunned from rejoining the British version. A lawsuit ensued and settlements followed. She ended up returning to the UK's X-Factor in 2014 and has remained a judge on the show since. Following her departure from the US show, another successful girl group singer, The Pussycat Dolls' Nicole Scherzinger, took over as a judge.