Thursday, February 9, 2017

"Strangers in a Strange World" by Jenny Burton and Patrick Jude

Song#:  1936
Date:  06/09/1984
Debut:  78
Peak:  54
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  It was around this period in the 80s where a series of hip-hop/dance films were made. The hit movie Breakin' was one of the first out of the gate followed quickly by Beat Street. Produced by entertainer Harry Belafonte, the drama focused quite a bit on hip-hop culture and included lots of music and dance sequences. The soundtrack was produced by Belafonte along with Arthur Baker and it featured several hip-hop/rap pioneers like Grandmaster Melle Mel and Afrika Bambaataa. It also featured artists from the Atlantic Records roster including The System and Jenny Burton, who had recently done well for Atlantic with her Dance hit "Remember What You Like." For the soundtrack, Burton was paired up with singer/Broadway performer Patrick Jude for this duet, which served as the "love theme" from the film. Issued as a single, the song could only manage to reach the Pop chart for a few weeks topping out near the halfway point. Despite no support at Pop and the film not being a major box office success, the album sold well and went gold, mainly on the strength of the #8 R&B hit "Beat Street Breakdown" by Grandmaster Melle Mel & the Furious 5. A second volume of songs from the film was also compiled and released, but it didn't do nearly as well. That second volume made Beat Street the first US film to feature more than one soundtrack album. A third was initially planned, but it ended up getting scrapped.

ReduxReview:  I have to be honest. This tune bored the crap out of me. I was almost sawin' logs before the chorus even started. But I stayed awake and at the bridge the song started to rev up and I was thinking, "okay, now we are getting somewhere and it's gonna have a really big, nice ending." But then the build-up slacked off and the song nearly screeched to a halt. And then...oh, god no...not another verse! It was a trial to get through the rest. Is this a bad song? No, it's not. However, it is pretty run-o'-tha-mill as far as 80s ballads go and I think they missed a big opportunity after the bridge to do a killer ending. The thing about ballads like this is that there has to be something interesting to make them stand out and this one lacks that special something. Like I said, less than a minute into it, I was already done.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  This song was written and produced by Jake Holmes. Holmes had been a friend of Belafonte's and that connection brought the tune to the soundtrack. Holmes was originally a folk/pop singer in the late 60s/early 70s and issued five albums during that time. His biggest success as a solo artist was when the song "So Close" reached #49 on the Pop chart in 1970. He also co-wrote Frank Sinatra's 1969 concept LP Watertown with producer Bob Gaudio. Although that album was not well-received upon release and sold poorly, it has since become a cult favorite. It was also known for being the only Sinatra album where he sang over pre-recorded orchestra tracks instead of singing with them live in the studio. After Holmes' career waned, he turned to jingle writing and was highly successful. He wrote memorable jingles for Dr. Pepper (the "be a Pepper" ad), the US Army ("be all that you can be"), and Sure deodorant ("raise your hand if you're Sure"). Later in 1988, Holmes would co-write all the tracks for Harry Belafonte's Apartheid-themed album Paradise in Gazankulu. It would end up being Belafonte's final studio album. However, Led Zeppelin fans may be quite familiar with Holmes. Back in 1976, Holmes wrote a song for his debut album called "Dazed and Confused." Apparently, Jimmy Page and The Yardbirds had heard Holmes perform the song when he opened for one of their shows. Page then arranged his own version of the song for The Yardbirds, who did perform it. However, before they could get it recorded, the band split. When Page's new band Led Zeppelin was formed he brought along the song and it appeared on their debut LP. Unfortunately, the songwriting credit only listed Page. This was not lost on Holmes and over the years he attempted to contact the band about not getting credit or royalties. His notices were ignored and by 2010 Holmes finally brought a suit against Page. The issue was settled out of court. Holmes may have gotten some financial compensation, but credit for the song is still usually listed as by Page, or on occasion it will have Page's name followed by "inspired by Jake Holmes."


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