Saturday, January 7, 2017

"Whiter Shade of Pale" by Hagar Schon Aaronson Shrieve

Song#:  1903
Date:  05/19/1984
Debut:  95
Peak:  94
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This side-project band was developed by Sammy Hagar and guitarist Neal Schon. Both artists were in a down-time period with Hagar coming off of his successful Three Lock Box album and Schon done touring with his band Journey following their Frontiers LP. After meeting and getting to know one another, the pair decided to write some song, form a band, and see what might happen. They brought on board bassist Kenny Aaronson and drummer Michael Shrieve (former of Santana) and proceeded to prepare for a series of shows that would take place over a three-week period. During that time, two of the shows were recorded and songs from those performances were culled for an album titled Through the Fire. Although the tracks were live, they were edited to eliminate crowd noise and guitar overdubs were added. It gave the LP a studio recording sound, yet was live (although some accounts say there was a lot more studio trickery involved). The album first got started with the #15 Rock track "Top of the Rock," followed by the #37 "Missing You." Then, this song was chosen for actual single release. Although it reached #30 at Rock, the song tanked at Pop and dropped out of sight after two weeks. After the album's run, the individual band members went back to their day jobs and never reconvened for any kind of follow-up.

ReduxReview:  I have to admit that I've never really liked this song. Frankly, I have no idea what the thing is about and its borrowed-from-classical guitar melody creates a kind of dirge that just bores me. Yes, I know it is one of the great classic rock songs from the 60s, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. And I don't. This rocked up version by Hagar & Co. doesn't do a thing to change my mind. It's all a bit messy. There is enough reverb on this thing to shatter windows a mile away. Not sure if it is there to cover up some performance sins or that's just the way it sounded at the venue. The guitar solo is a bit over the top and at the end of the tune, the engineer/producer seemed to freeze the last note and then faded it quickly so the crowd noise would be masked. It doesn't sound right. Why on earth they tried to turn a live performance into a studio recording is beyond me. It didn't work. All four performers on this song had, and would, do far, far better work than this.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  This is a cover of a song first done by the British rock band Procol Harem. Their original 1967 version was the band's debut single and it hit #1 in the UK and #5 in the US. It would eventually sell 10 million copies worldwide. Many artists would cover the song, but only two others besides HSAS were able to spin it into a single that would reach the Pop chart. R&B vocal group The Hesitations would get their version to #100 in 1968 and singer R.B. Greaves' take would go to #82 in 1970. Annie Lennox would famously cover the tune for her 1995 solo album Medusa and it would get to #16 in the UK, but in the US the single just barely missed the Pop chart reaching #101 (aka #1 on the Bubbling Under chart).


Friday, January 6, 2017

"Robert De Niro's Waiting" by Bananarama

Song#:  1902
Date:  05/19/1984
Debut:  96
Peak:  95
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  This female vocal trio's debut LP Deep Sea Skyving was a hit in their UK homeland thanks to two Top 10 hits. It was less successful in the US with only the single "Shy Boy" scraping the Pop chart at #83 (#14 Dance). Their next LP would be another hit in the UK, but started out doing even worse than their debut album in the States. The self-titled disc was introduced by this first single. While it became one of the trio's biggest hits in the UK (#3), it totally flopped in the US disappearing after two short weeks on the Pop chart. Luckily, that wasn't the end of the story for them and their next single would turn things around.

ReduxReview:   I remember seeing the title of this song and being intrigued, especially with it being by Bananarama. Why were they singing about De Niro and what was he waiting for? When I first heard the song, I was highly disappointed. It was a strange little ditty. I couldn't figure out why De Niro was waiting talking Italian and the vocals were a bit odd, particularly when they went "oooo!" out of nowhere in the verse. What the hell was that? The song made zero sense to me. However, in later years I've come to like the tune. It has a weird, catchy chorus and the lyrics are a lot darker than what its upbeat pop sound might suggest (see below). In other words, it's not a standard run o' tha mill pop song and its quirkiness is what makes it interesting. But back in the day, that quirkiness is probably what killed its chances in the US.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  For their second LP, the trio worked with the writing/production team of Tony Swain and Steve Jolley. The pair had previously worked with the girls on "Shy Boy" for their first album. All together, the five folks co-wrote all but one song for the LP. It all came together just fine, but it wasn't without its bumps in the road. This song in particular caused a bit of an issue. At first, the lyrics were about a girl who gets raped and in order to escape her reality, she fantasizes about actor Robert De Niro (apparently Al Pacino's name was used first, but it was changed to De Niro). Sensing that the song was single-bound and not wanting any airplay issues, the lyrics were tempered so that it would be more about a girl coping with a break-up. However, what really caused a fight was when Swain and Jolley added the lyric "talking Italian." They thought it made De Niro more romantic and in-line with his Godfather roles. The girls hated it and fought to get it changed. In the end, they finally acquiesced and the line remained. After the song became a hit in the UK and was heard by Robert De Niro, he wanted to meet them. The meet-n-greet was set up, however the girls were so nervous about meeting De Niro that they decided to calm down with a few drinks and were nearly drunk by the time they saw him.


Thursday, January 5, 2017

"It's a Miracle" by Culture Club

Song#:  1901
Date:  05/12/1984
Debut:  42
Peak:  13
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  The band's second album Colour By Numbers was a major success that spawned three Top 10 hits including the #1 "Karma Chameleon." They tried to keep the momentum going with this fourth single. While it did well getting to #13, it stopped their streak of six consecutive US Pop Top 10's. Although that was a bit of a bummer, the song did well elsewhere getting to #8 at AC and #10 Dance. It also made a brief appearance on the R&B chart at #75. In the UK, the tune would reach #4.

ReduxReview:  This song had that fun feel of "I'll Tumble 4 Ya," but it was a slightly more mature and better song. I was a little surprised it missed out on the Top 10. It should have gotten in there to properly cap off the album. I'm just guessing that by the time this came out, the album was on the wane and folks were pretty much done with it and ready for something new. Regardless, it was the fourth solid single from a classic 80s LP.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The original title for this song was "It's America." It was supposed to be about the band's first trip to the States, but the lyrics were revised and it became "It's a Miracle."  2)  The 12" single of this song contained two other tracks. One was a live version of "Love Twist," as song from their first LP, and the other was a live version of "Melting Pot," which was a cover of a UK 1969 #3 hit by the group Blue Mink. That band had four Top 10 hits in the UK, but couldn't get anywhere in the States. Their best effort was the 1970 #64 entry "Our World." "Melting Pot was co-written by Blue Mink member Roger Cook and his writing partner Roger Greenaway. Cook and Greenaway would go on to write hit songs for other artists including "Here Comes That Rainy Day Feelin' Again" (1971 US #15 by The Fortunes), "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress" (1972 US #2 by The Hollies), and perhaps most famously they co-wrote the Coca-Cola jingle that became the hit song "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)." That tune would reach the US Pop chart twice in 1971 - #13 for The Hillside Singers (the ad version) and #7 for The New Seekers. The New Seekers version would reach #1 in the UK that same year.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

"Almost Paradise...Love Theme from Footloose" by Mike Reno and Ann Wilson

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1900
Date:  05/12/1984
Debut:  65
Peak:  7
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  For the movie Footloose, screenwriter Dean Pitchford co-wrote all the songs for the soundtrack and enlisted various artists to perform them. For this ballad, Pitchford reached out to the lead singers of two highly successful rock bands and got them together for a duet. Neither Mike Reno (of Loverboy) or Ann Wilson (of Heart) had ever gone solo or done other projects outside of their respective bands, but the combination of their voices seemed to be ideal for the tune. It would end up being the fifth single released from the Footloose soundtrack. The film was a long-lasting hit and that helped this single get into the Pop Top 10. It did even better at AC where it topped the chart for a week. Over time, the soundtrack would eventually sell nine million copies in the US.

ReduxReview:  I have to say that back in the day, I really liked this song. It was a very pretty, well-written tune that was destined to be a hit - and a potential wedding staple. I still appreciate it, especially the vocal work by Reno and Wilson, but it doesn't grab my ears anymore. Perhaps I just got worn out on it after a bazillion plays on the radio. Regardless, it's still a lovely tune. I'd just rather hear the singers fronting their bands instead of doing a googly-eyed 80s love theme.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  There are many cases where the lead singers of popular bands parlay the success into solo careers. That certainly could have been the case with Reno and Wilson following this hit. Neither artist had really strayed from their respective bands, especially for solo stardom, so this hit could have served as the launching pad for either of them to do so. But they did not. After the hit faded, both Reno and Wilson returned to their bands and continued on. It would be years before either artist would step out on their own for a solo recording. Reno initially did a solo album in 1992, but it got shelved by the label. It would officially see the light of day in 2002. Wilson released a solo covers disc in 2007 titled Hope & Glory. It featured guest appearances by several artists including Elton John, k.d. lang, Wynonna Judd, and Alison Krauss.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"No Way Out" by Jefferson Starship

Song#:  1899
Date:  05/12/1984
Debut:  72
Peak:  23
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Starting with 1975 #1 LP Red Octopus, Jefferson Starship began to move away from their original rock sound to something more commercial. While the move had its rewards with steady selling albums and hits like "Count on Me" (#8, 1978) and "Jane" (#14, 1979), older fans were jumping ship and critics were not kind. It also caused friction in the band and personnel changes ensued. By 1984, there was only one true original member left in the band, Paul Kantner (Grace Slick was back on board, but she joined Jefferson Airplane almost two years after its original lineup). They soldiered on for an eighth album under the Jefferson Starship moniker titled Nuclear Furniture. With a successful rock producer on board, Ron Nevison (soon to have huge success with a revamped Heart), the band enlisted some songwriting help on a few tracks in order to keep their commercial sound progressing. One of those tracks was this lead single. Written by Peter and Ina Wolf (not the Peter Wolf from J. Geils Band), the song took off at Rock and became their first to hit #1 on that chart. Its success there allowed it to cross over to Pop where it nearly got into the Top 20.

ReduxReview:  This song is a bit strange. It has an smooth AC-leaning verse that all of a sudden shifts key into this big rock chorus. It almost feels like two different songs stitched together. However, I think it works. Yes, it is not the Jefferson of yore and they had pretty much jumped the shark by this time, but I think if a new band had issued this song, it would still be a hit with folks going "who is that great new band?!" I never let it bother me that this was JeffStar (probably because I wasn't a big fan to begin with). During this critically low point, I actually liked several of the songs they issued including this one.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  As someone who saw the band in their best days, Kantner was not happy with the commercial sound of Jefferson Starship. He was able to force four of this songs on the new album, but he was not pleased with the rest of the songs and the overall sound. Apparently, he was so upset by the outcome that at one point during the mixing sessions, he broke into the studio, stole the master tapes, and held them hostage until the band agreed to let him get the songs mixed the way he wanted them. Everything finally worked out, but it took a toll on Kantner and he decided to leave the band. Unfortunately for the rest of the members, they could not continue on as Jefferson Starship due to  Kantner successfully seeking legal action to prevent them from using the name. After the dust settled, the next incarnation of the band simply went by Starship.


Monday, January 2, 2017

"The Ghost in You" by The Psychedelic Furs

Song#:  1898
Date:  05/12/1984
Debut:  85
Peak:  59
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Alternative Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  The Furs were getting more popular with each successive album and they finally landed a single on the Pop chart with "Love My Way" (#44), which was from their third LP Forever Now. For their fourth LP, they hired on producer Keith Forsey, who was having success at the time producing Billy Idol. In addition to production, Forsey stepped in as drummer when the Furs lost theirs prior to recording the album. The studio work resulted in the LP Mirror Moves. This first single got the ball rolling and it did fine at Rock getting to #25 (their highest peaking song there yet). The song stalled before getting into the top half of the pop chart, but the accompanying MTV video became popular enough to help sell some albums. It would be their best charting LP to-date getting to #43. It would eventually become their second gold album.

ReduxReview:  I am certain that I first heard this song on MTV as I doubt our local radio station would have even known it existed. It was love at first hear for me and I made sure to go grab the album. The LP was fine, but this track was a standout. The melancholy feel of the chords combined with a chorus that had an alternate vocal melody in the background really hooked me. I think there are a minor handful of new wave songs that could be called beautiful. This is one of them.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The colorful, geometric cover image for Mirror Moves was done by the design company Da Gama along with the Furs' leader Richard Butler. It was done as a tribute to the artist Barney Bubbles, who had done the cover art for the Furs' previous album Forever Now. Bubbles (real name Colin Fulcher) worked as a graphic designer for several well-known design firms before ending up on his own. He got work doing some album covers, specifically a series for the UK band Hawkwind, and that led to a design/art director job at Stiff Records. While there, he did covers for many artists including The Damned, Ian Drury, Carlene Carter, Nick Lowe, and perhaps most famously Elvis Costello. Beginning with 1977's My Aim Is True, Bubbles did the artwork for all of Costello's output through to 1982's Imperial Bedroom. Bubbles had a lot of personal and financial issues that sadly took their toll on the artist and he committed suicide in 1983.


Sunday, January 1, 2017

"Little Lady" by Duke Jupiter

Song#:  1897
Date:  05/12/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  68
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After three albums for Mercury that sold very little, this New York band moved over to Coast to Coast Records. Their first album for the label resulted in a minor Pop chart entry with "I'll Drink to You." Encouraged by the results, the label flipped the bill for a follow-up. Unfortunately that album didn't capitalize on the momentum and it disappeared quickly. To make matters worse, Coast to Coast went belly up and the band was left without a label. However, they were able to sign a guaranteed two-album deal with a Motown off-shoot rock label called Morocco. Their first album for them, White Knuckle Ride, featured this single, which did well at Rock radio getting to #12. It got a little crossover action and ended up spending a few weeks on the Pop chart. The single helped sell some albums and White Knuckle Ride became their first to reach the album chart (#122).

ReduxReview:  It's too bad this band never got a real break. I think they had potential, but it just seems that they never quite hooked up with the right label or producer. They had the ability to write catchy pop/rock tunes and perform them well, but they just needed a little more guidance and refinement to compete with the other big bands at the time. Although I like their previous charting single better, this ZZ Top-lite song is not too bad. Rock picked up on it, but it just didn't have enough zest to make a splash at Pop. Another tale of a good band that got shuffled and lost in the music business system.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Bad luck with labels seemed to plague the band and it continued after the release of White Knuckle Ride. Motown figured out that rock music wasn't their forte and decided to close the Morocco label. However, the band's contract was not with Morocco, but directly with Motown and despite the label's attempts to dump the band, Motown was forced to keep them on for the contracted second album. Of course, the label was going to do as little as possible for this venture and basically gave the band zero support. Therefore, the album tanked and disappeared upon release and with it went Duke Jupiter. After a big farewell concert in their hometown in 1986, the band parted ways.