Saturday, December 31, 2016

"If Ever You're in My Arms Again" by Peabo Bryson

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1896
Date:  05/12/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  10
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Adult Contemporary, R&B

Pop Bits:  Bryson had been doing quite well since his debut LP in 1976. He collected four gold albums (two in duet form with Natalie Cole and Roberta Flack), five R&B Top 10 singles, and two AC Top 10's. What was missing in all this was a significant solo hit at Pop. Nearly a decade after his very first charting single, Bryson finally broke through on the Pop chart with this lead single from his eighth solo album Straight from the Heart. Although it took a little time for the ballad to catch on, it eventually did well enough to just make the Top 10. The song also did well at R&B reaching #6, however it was at AC where the song found its stride. It would end up spending four weeks at #1 on that chart. Surprisingly, the crossover hit didn't translate to big sales for the album. It missed the R&B Top 10 at #12 and only managed a #44 showing at Pop. It also failed to reach gold-level sales.

ReduxReview:  There is very little you can fault with this is a terrific Pop/AC tune. Co-written by one of the kings of big AC 80s ballads, Michael Masser, each section of this song stands on its own with Bryson delivering another solid performance. He may not have had quite the pipes as someone like James Ingram, but Bryson could easily sell a good song and he certainly did here. The decade would be full of schmaltzy, AC power ballads, but this one stands out from the pack as being one of the best.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  This song got a boost during its chart run thanks to its appearance on a TV show. In June of '84, NBC debuted its brand new daytime drama Santa Barbara. On that first episode, the power couple of of Eden Capwell and Cruz Castillo (Marcy Walker and A Martinez) were introduced. This song was used on that show and it became the couple's love theme. The soap initially opened to negative reviews and low ratings, but it picked up speed and by the end of the decade it reached its peak popularity winning three Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series. Walker and Martinez also won Emmys for their roles. Unfortunately, the drama quickly lost its footing in the early 90s and slid in the ratings. It ended up getting cancelled in 1993.


Friday, December 30, 2016

"Stay the Night" by Chicago

Song#:  1895
Date:  05/05/1984
Debut:  49
Peak:  16
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  With the band fading and on the verge of becoming outdated, Peter Cetera brought in producer David Foster to help make the band relevant again. The ploy worked with their Chicago 16 album spawning the #1 hit "Hard to Say I'm Sorry." To follow-up that double-platinum LP, the band retained the services of Foster for Chicago 17. That album would be the band's biggest selling of their career going 6x platinum. It didn't seem like that would be the case when this first single was issued. While the song did well at Rock getting to #7, it stalled inside the Top 20 at Pop. Usually the first single will set the tone on how well the album performs and the middling results of this tune signaled that the LP may be in trouble. However, this song would get way overshadowed by two big ballads that in turn would make the LP a huge seller.

ReduxReview:  I kind of understand why this rock-leaning tune was released as the first single. After two hit ballads from Chicago 16, they needed a change of pace. Unfortunately, it just wasn't that good of a song. The staccato keyboards of the verse made it very robotic and clunky while the chorus almost sounded like something Styx left on the cutting room floor after the Kilroy Was Here sessions. Foster was a bit overzealous here with the production, but it is probably the best thing about the song. I didn't like it at all and promptly ignored it. I don't mind is too much now, but I still don't think it was a very good single.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  With Chicago back on the map and Foster at the helm, it opened the door for some guest appearances on the album. On this song, drums were done by Toto's Jeff Porcaro. On another track, background vocals were done by Donny Osmond and a pre-stardom Richard Marx. Ambrosia leader David Pack supplied the duet vocals for one song. Perhaps the most high-profile credit was one for Lionel Richie who was riding high at the time with his Can't Slow Down album. Richie co-wrote the song "Please Hold On" with Foster and Chicago member Bill Champlin.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

"Who's That Girl?" by Eurythmics

Song#:  1894
Date:  05/05/1984
Debut:  61
Peak:  21
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Eurythmics scored their second US Pop Top 10 with "Here Comes the Rain Again," the first single from their third album Touch. This follow-up song was actually the first single issued from the LP in the UK and it reached #3 there. However, the US didn't respond as well and it stopped just short of the Top 20. Unlike "Here Comes the Rain Again," which got into the Top 10 of four US charts, this song failed to gain any crossover support. The accompanying MTV video was a popular hit, but it didn't translate to additional airplay or sales for the single.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't all that surprised that this song didn't do better at Pop. Although the UK sent it to #3, it may have been just a bit too quirky for the US. The chorus is quite good, but I think the half-time verse may have confused listeners. Is it a ballad? Is it uptempo? How do I (or should I) dance to this? Basically, it wasn't a standard pop song. Of course, I loved it and was hoping it would catch on, but it never really got a good foothold.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The video for this song features Annie Lennox in a dual role. She plays a nightclub singer and a male audience member who resembles Elvis Presley. In a bit of camera trickery, the two characters end up kissing at the end. Lennox's male character is a ladies man and is seen with many other women. These roles were portrayed by several UK female music artists including all four members of Bananarama, Kiki Dee, and others that were popular in the UK, but virtually unknown in the US such as Hazel O'Connor and the two female members of the vocal quartet Bucks Fizz. Also among the arm candy was another gender-bending artist. Marilyn (real name Peter Robinson) had a cross-dressing persona that was similar to Boy George, which was not surprising since they were friends and even lived together for a bit. They were both trying to get their careers going with Boy George later hitting it big with Culture Club. Boy George's look and success later caused a riff between him and Marilyn, but they would end up friends again in later years. Marilyn was looking for a break and found one with the video for this song. The exposure ended up being the tipping point in getting a record deal. Marilyn signed up with Phonogram and his debut single "Calling Your Name" went to #4 on the UK chart. Follow-ups failed to do as well and Marilyn's recording career came to an end. Marilyn was at the center of attention again when Boy George wrote in is 1995 memoir that Marilyn and Gavin Rossdale (of the UK band Bush) had a relationship. Both of them initially denied it, but later on they each acknowledged the relationship, which apparently lasted for five years. It was in 1995 that Rossdale began dating No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani, whom he would later marry in 2002. They divorced in 2015.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"Eyes Without a Face" by Billy Idol

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1893
Date:  05/05/1984
Debut:  63
Peak:  4
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The title track to Idol's second full-length album, Rebel Yell, did fine at Rock where it got to #9, but it stalled at #62 on the Pop chart. Although it was an MTV favorite, Pop radio just didn't warm up to Idol's brand of rock. At least until this second single was released. The uncharacteristic ballad got him some crossover action and it finally gave Idol his first Pop Top 10. Rock responded well and placed the song at #5. The hit would help propel the album to #6 and over time it would be Idol's best-selling LP going double-platinum.

ReduxReview: Although I wasn't really into Idol, this song was something totally different from his punk-ass, sneering brand of rock and personality. I thought it was terrific and it was the first Billy Idol record I purchased. It was just so surprising coming from him. I remember checking the songwriting credits because I was sure that he couldn't have written it. Alas, he did and it gave me a newfound respect for his music. I still wasn't a big fan, but I did come to like his hits and it was all basically due to this excellent ballad.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Idol wrote this song with his guitarist Steve Stevens. Idol mentioned in a VH1 Storytellers episode that this song was inspired by the 1960 French horror film Les yeux sans visage, which had the English title of Eyes Without a Face. The basic plot is about a scientist who is trying to replace his daughter's disfigured face with grafts (well, full faces) from other women that are kidnapped and brought to his house. The problem is that the new faces don't take, so he has to keep trying. (Weirdly, I just watched this film a few months ago without knowing the Idol song connection. It's a pretty good early horror flick.) If you notice the woman's voice in the background of the chorus (the vocals are by Perri Lister), she is repeating the French title of the film.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"Music Time" by Styx

Song#:  1892
Date:  05/05/1984
Debut:  68
Peak:  40
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Once Styx was done with the tour to support their theatrical-leaning hit album Kilroy Was Here, the band was kaput. Tommy Shaw left for solo career as did Dennis DeYoung. However, their label wasn't quite done with the band yet. The stops on the tour were recorded and songs from those shows were culled together for the live double-album Caught in the Act. In addition to the concert recordings, there was this one last studio track from the band that was included on the album. It would end up getting released as a single to help promote the LP. It wasn't a major hit, but it did just barely scrape the Pop Top 40. There would be little promotion for the album because by the time it came out, the band members had already parted ways. The band would reunited over the years in various forms (and even score one last Top 10 single), but this song and the album would be the final ones to featured the full classic hit-making lineup.

ReduxReview:  Ugh. This was not the way to go out. Don't get me wrong - I absolutely love Styx. They were one of my favorite bands. However, this was just an awful song with a video that was equally ridiculous (if not worse). It falls in the category of "what were they thinking?!" This was Dennis DeYoung just being completely over the top. I think he had finally lost his marbles by this point after the Kilroy tour debacle. The live album was not very good either. I think I listened to the whole thing once and then shelved it. This was definitely the sound of a band that had reached its limit. As much as I hated to see the band break up, it was time. Do yourself a favor though - skip this song and album and pretend it didn't happen.

ReduxRating:  1/10

Trivia:  The riff between band members Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw was particularly apparent with the video for this song. By the time of the video shoot, Shaw had already left the band and took off for NYC to work on his first solo album. The remaining four band members soldiered on and worked on the video. In order to include Shaw, a film crew was sent to New York to do some separate scenes with Shaw that would be incorporated into the video. Shaw, who hated the song to begin with, refused to do much of what they wanted, but did shoot a few things. In the end, the video mainly features the remaining four members of Styx with a small one-second insert of Shaw at one point who appears to be waving to the band. (If you ask me, Shaw was lucky to escape this awful mess.)


Monday, December 26, 2016

"King of Suede" by "Weird Al" Yankovic

Song#:  1891
Date:  05/05/1984
Debut:  77
Peak:  62
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Comedy

Pop Bits:  Yankovic's second album, "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D, became a platinum seller mainly due to the #12 hit parody "Eat It" and its accompanying video. This follow-up single was Yankovic's take on The Police's #3 hit "King of Pain." Revamping the lyrics to a song about a guy who runs a clothing/tailor shop, the tune didn't quite have the zing of the previous single and it stalled about a third of the way up the chart. It probably didn't help that there was no video made, which was one of the reasons "Eat It" was so popular. Regardless, for a parody song it did pretty well and helped to sell a few more albums.

ReduxReview:  I'm not liking this one as much as his previous efforts. I think where I'm having an issue is with the source material. "King of Pain" is a dark, serious song. It's not one that you are gonna dance to at the bar or toss on for some background music for a dinner party. It has a little weight to it. So turning it into a comedic parody doesn't quite make sense to my ears. In the back of my mind I'm thinking "a skeleton choking on a crust of bread" while hearing "but don't step on my blue suede shoes." As usual, Yankovic's lyrics are spot-on, but using the music from such a dire song drags them down. It just wasn't the right hit to parody.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Yankovic's album contains the song "Mr. Popeil." It's an original tune written by Yankovic about the inventor/salesman Samual Popeil. Popeil was the inventor of gadgets such as the Chop-O-Matic and the Pocket Fisherman. His son Ron brought the products to TV and later ran his own company Ronco, which sold his father's inventions along with his own. Ronco was famous for its infomercials and products like the Dial-O-Matic and Mr. Microphone. While Yankovic was coming up with his homage to the inventor, he found out that Ron's sister, Lisa, was a singer. She had recently supplied the vocals for the Frank Zappa tune "Teen-Age Prostitute," which appeared on Zappa's 1982 album Ship Arriving too Late to Save a Drowning Witch (the album that produced Zappa's only Pop Top 40 entry, "Valley Girl"). Yankovic asked Lisa to do the background vocals on "Mr. Popeil," which she did. After an unsuccessful attempt to launch a solo career, Lisa move on to becoming an award-winning vocal coach. Yankovic had Lisa back in the studio later in 2014 to do the background vocals for his song "Tacky," a parody of the Pharrell Williams hit "Happy."