Saturday, January 14, 2017

"Prime Time" by Alan Parsons Project

Song#:  1910
Date:  05/19/1984
Debut:  83
Peak:  34
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Soft Rock

Pop Bits:  The Project's Ammonia Avenue would be their seventh consecutive gold certified album. It accomplished that feat mainly on the strength of its first single "Don't Answer Me," which got to #15 at Pop, #4 AC, and #15 Rock. Although this next single wouldn't be quite as strong at Pop, it did very well at Rock hitting #3. It also got to #10 at AC. Unfortunately, it would end up being their final song to land in the Pop Top 40.

ReduxReview:  Although this song is cut from the same vein as "Eye in the Sky," it still works quite well on its own. Rock radio loved it, but I'm not sure why it didn't catch on more at Pop. Maybe it was a little to akin to "Eye" and so folks ignored it after the brilliant retro-rock sound of "Don't Answer Me." It's too bad because this ranks among their strongest singles. Everything works on this tune from the chugging beat to the memorable chorus. The production was top-notch as well. Frankly, this should have been the second Pop Top 10 from the album.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song's video about mannequins that turn into human and try to escape their plastic world looked to the John Collier short story "Evening Primrose" for inspiration. Written in 1940, it's Twilight Zone-ish plot centers on a poet who decides to take refuge in a big department store to escape the world. Overnight, he discovers a secret society of other folks who have done the same. He joins up with them, but the catch is that once you are part of the society you can never reveal yourself to anyone outside of the group and you can never leave the store. If you do, you will be handed over to the Dark Men who will then turn you into a mannequin. The story became the basis of a 1947 radio show and was later turned into an hour-long television musical in 1966 featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The role of the poet in the musical was played by Anthony Perkins (of Psycho fame).


Friday, January 13, 2017

"Little Bit of Love" by Dwight Twilley

Song#:  1909
Date:  05/19/1984
Debut:  84
Peak:  77
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Twilley's third solo LP, Jungle, would be his best charting effort (#39) thanks to the album's #2 Rock track "Girls." The single would also do well at Pop reaching #16. This follow-up tune wouldn't catch on as well. It only managed a #44 showing at Rock while not making it out of the bottom quarter of the Pop chart. The success of "Girls" and the LP should have led to another platter for EMI, but it didn't happen. Twilley left the label and signed on to the indie Private I imprint. He recorded an album for them, but bad luck hit when the label folded prior to the LP's release. Epic picked up Wild Dogs and got it out, but coming two years after Jungle, the momentum was gone and the album quickly disappeared. Label and distribution issues continued to plague the artist, but in later years he continued to record and was able to get his works released.

ReduxReview:  This song has a very dramatic opening that really draws attention. If it had been orchestrated a bit more, I'd almost say it was in the Alan Parsons Project realm. It then moves into a dark, rock groove that I like quite a bit. The brighter chorus is a nice change and works quite well. I don't think it's as Pop radio hooky or friendly as "Girls," but I actually like the song slightly better. It should have gone higher on both the Pop and Rock charts.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In addition to being a musician, Twilley was also a divorced parent. His pre-teen daughter lived with her mom and stepdad and due to Twilley's touring schedule, he didn't get to spend a lot of time with her. In order to keep things interesting and active between father and daughter, Twilley came up with an idea. He would write his daughter letters that included a series of questions. Some would be basic while others would be humorous, creative, or introspective. His first letter had thirty-seven questions and his daughter responded. Over the years, he would send her more questions and she would respond. The communications kept their relationship close and going. It worked out so well that in 1994 Twilley wrote a parenting book based on the experience titled Questions from Dad that was well-received.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

"I Pretend" by Kim Carnes

Song#:  1908
Date:  05/19/1984
Debut:  85
Peak:  74
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Carnes was not having the best of luck with her LP CafĂ© Racers. Its first single, "Invisible Hands," just barely made the Top 40 (#40) while a second single, "You Make My Heart Beat Faster (And That's All That Matters)," stalled at #54. The bad news continued when this third single couldn't get out of the basement of the Pop chart. However, there was one bright spot. This song caught on at AC and it became a hit there reaching #9. It was Carnes' second and final Top 10 on that chart.

ReduxReview:  This is a really good song that got lost in the shuffle. Although it did well at AC, it was just a bit too adult and subtle to make an impact on Pop radio. I think if it had a different production, it might have had a better chance. The song has a Smokey Robinson vibe and a more R&B-leaning arrangement along the lines of "Being with You" might have made it more sexy and sultry. Carnes was certainly capable to carry off a vocal for that style, but instead she ended up trapped in a basic, slightly stiff pop arrangement. It's still a good song, but I think it could have been a lot better.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Martin Page and Brian Fairweather. The pair were in their own band at the time called Q-Feel, which was having some success in the UK with the song "Dancing in Heaven (Orbital Be-Bop)." While in the US playing some of their demos to labels, one A&R person said that their songs were so varied that different styles of artists could record them. He thought they could be hit songwriters. This particular song impressed the guy so much that he immediately called Kim Carnes and had her listen to it. She loved it and the writers went to meet with her. Carnes picked up the song plus two others that Page and Fairweather had originally written for Q-Feel, "Invisible Hands" and "You Make My Heart Beat Faster." In regards to "I Pretend," Page mentioned in an interview that he wrote it intentionally in the style of the Pointer Sisters. He even submitted the song to the vocal group's label, but nothing came from it.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"Love of the Common People" by Paul Young

Song#:  1907
Date:  05/19/1984
Debut:  87
Peak:  45
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Young's debut LP No Parlez didn't initially set the house a-fire when it was issued in the UK. Its first two singles failed to chart and that typically meant that the album was quickly headed to the dust bin. But then it got a reprieve. A third single, a cover of Marvin Gaye's "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)," became a surprise #1 hit. A fourth single, "Come Back and Stay," got to #4. The album reached #1 and became a huge seller in the UK. In the US, "Wherever" was a non-starter at #70, but "Come Back" was a minor hit getting to #22. With the album finally catching on, there was now potential for a third hit. Instead of selecting another track from the album, the label decided to reissued one of the singles that initially failed, "Love of the Common People." With Young now hot property, the song caught on and got to #2 in the UK. The US still wasn't fully on board with Young, so the single petered out before it could get inside the Top 40.

ReduxReview:  This 60s folk tune was a good song to begin with and there were already some solid versions existing from folks like The Four Preps and Waylon Jennings, but Young takes the tune directly to the 80s and comes up with a unique take. It's really the arrangement/production that makes Young's version a winner. The rolling beat, synths, and those background vocals work together to make the song interesting. I'm not sure why it failed to do better in the States. Maybe the old-style message song with its sing-a-long chorus didn't connect with modern pop listeners. I'm not sure the reason, but I have always thought it was a nice spin on an older song.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded in 1967 by The Four Preps. The American vocal quartet had some success in the late 50s scoring two big Top 10's in 1958:  the #2 "26 Miles (Santa Catalina)" and the #3 "Big Man." They would grab two more Top 20's before their charting luck ran out in 1964. They continued to record and issue some singles, including "Love of the Common People," but nothing reached the charts. By 1969, the group had disbanded. Although "Love" was not a hit, the song ended up getting covered by many artists including The Everly Brothers, Lynn Anderson, Waylon Jennings, John Denver, and (weirdly) Leonard Nimoy. Even a pre-stardom Elton John recorded the song in 1968, the year before his debut album appeared. The American funk/soul group The Winstons recorded the song in 1969. Their version was the first to chart in the US. It got to #54. In the UK, Jamaican reggae singer Nicky Thomas covered the tune and his single reached #9 in 1970.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"When We Make Love" by Alabama

Song#:  1906
Date:  05/19/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  72
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  The 80s were very good to Alabama. As 1984 started, they had already amassed three #1 albums and a streak of 11 consecutive #1 Country hits. They were the hottest band in country music and the success allowed their music to spill over into Pop and AC. Their eighth album, Roll On, would be another big hit for them going to #1 thanks to the success of four more Country #1 hits including the title track and this crossover ballad. While the song wouldn't get very high on the Pop chart, it did do well at AC reaching #8. Although they would finish out the decade strong with four more #1 Country albums and another dozen #1 Country songs, their days as hit makers at Pop and AC came to an end. This song would be their last AC Top 10 and their final one to reach the Pop chart for the decade (excluding a guest appearance on a Lionel Richie single).

ReduxReview:  Pretty much everything about this song is good. It's nicely written, it has a warm 80s production, and it is performed well. The problem is that there were lots of similar ballads at the time and this one just didn't stand out from the pack. I practically forgot it soon after hearing it. Country sent it to #1 (but the band so popular they could have had a nursery rhyme hit #1) and AC showed it some love, but for me it was a little bland and forgettable for single release.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  In 1998, a double-CD compilation of all their major hits was issued. Titled For the Record, the album also contained three new songs. Two of them were issued as singles. "How Do You Fall in Love" reached #2 at Country and "Keepin' Up" got to #14. Thanks to the singles and marketing for the album, there was renewed interest in the band. Both songs crossed over to the Pop chart (#82 and #69, respectively) and the album would get to #13 at Pop (#2 Country). It would eventually sell 5 million copies. The album's success spilled over into their next formal studio effort Twentieth Century and the LP's first single "(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time on You," a cover version of the 1998 Top 10 hit by popular boy band *NSYNC, became their first Pop Top 40 (#29) hit since 1983. It helped that *NSYNC provided the background vocals for the song.


Monday, January 9, 2017

"What's Love Got to Do with It" by Tina Turner

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1905
Date:  05/19/1984
Debut:  92
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  28
Genre:  Pop, R&B

Pop Bits:  Turner kicked off the reboot of her solo career with a cover of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together." It was a successful single that reached #1 at Dance and #3 at R&B. It also became her first solo song to reach the Pop chart where it got into the Top 30. The results got her a full album deal with Capitol and Private Dancer was quickly assembled. Although expectations were high for this next single, no one had any clue that it would eventually make Turner a worldwide superstar. The single started out slow, but as the weeks went by it continued to gain in popularity. Assisted by a popular MTV video, the song eventually made its way to #1 on the Pop chart and #2 R&B. It also got to #8 at AC, #21 Dance, and #51 Rock. The single would be a gold seller and the following year it would win Grammys for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. The song also got Turner a win for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Private Dancer would then be a big hit going to #3 Pop and #1 R&B. It would end up selling five million copies and be nominated for Album of the Year. Turner's comeback was not only complete, but it was a triumph.

ReduxReview:  This is a terrific song, but two things made it a classic - Turner's vocals and the tune's production/arrangement. Turner never did anything half-assed and even though she wasn't fond of this tune (see below), she sold it like her life depended on it (and indeed, her career probably did). Her vocals were a perfect match for the sleek, sultry arrangement. I knew it was a hit when I first heard it, but I didn't expect it to be such a major smash. I got the album as soon as I could and it quickly became a favorite. I had always liked Tina Turner, but all I really knew of her was "Proud Mary" and her amazing performances on variety shows like Sonny & Cher. However, this song changed everything. Instead of being a casual fan of her performances, I became a fan of her music as well. A true superstar indeed.


Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) At first, Turner was not a fan of this song. Her new manager, Roger Davies, brought in the tune and was convinced it was a hit. Turner disliked it and didn't want to record it. However, she had faith in what Davies was doing with her career and if it included doing this song, she was gonna dive in and get the job done. In the end, it worked out quite well.  2) This song was written by Terry Brittan and Graham Lyle. They initially sent it over to Cliff Richard, but he turned it down. It also got to R&B singer Phyllis Hyman and Donna Summer, but neither got to record it. The UK vocal group Bucks Fizz became the first artist to record the song. Done with a male lead vocal, they had intended it for their next LP, but in the interim, Turner recorded the song and got it released. Bucks Fizz then set the song aside. Their version would see the light of day as a bonus track on an album reissue (check out their spacey, new wave rendition sometime).  3) In hitting #1 on the Pop chart, Turner set two new records. First, at 44 she became the oldest female solo artist to hit #1 at that time. Second, the 24-year span of time between her first Pop chart entry (1960's #27 "Fool in Love" with Ike Turner) and her first #1 was a new record. Currently, Cher holds the recorded for the oldest female to hit #1 (she was 52 when "Believe" topped the chart in 1999) and Santana holds the record for time between first chart entry and first #1 (30 years between "Jingo" in 1969 and the #1 "Smooth" in 1999).


Sunday, January 8, 2017

"Romancing the Stone" by Eddy Grant

Song#:  1904
Date:  05/19/1984
Debut:  93
Peak:  26
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Pop, Dance, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Grant broke through to a worldwide audience with his hit "Electric Avenue" (#2 Pop). It was taken from his seventh studio LP Killer on the Rampage. The hit afforded him new opportunities and one was to write a song specifically for an upcoming adventure film titled Romancing the Stone that was to star Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. Grant came up with this tune, which seemed like a great fit. Unfortunately, prior to the film's release there was some kind of dispute between Grant and the film's producers that led to the song being completely cut from the movie and left off of the soundtrack. Still, Grant included the song on his next album, Going for Broke, and it served as the lead single. Despite being cut from the film, the initial video for the tune still featured scenes from the movie, which became a box office hit. The song did well enough to get into the Pop Top 30 (#12 Dance, #39 Rock, #68 R&B), but it would end up being his last charting entry.

ReduxReview:  Grant pretty much drops his reggae roots and aims for a more sleek mainstream synthpop sound. The end result is fine, but it doesn't come close to matching the unique feel and production of "Electric Avenue." In fact, it is quite bland in comparison. It charted fine thanks in part to the movie doing well (despite being kicked out of it), but really, when was the last time you heard this? Probably not since '84 like me. It's okay for what it was (a commercial tie-in to a movie), but it certainly wasn't "Footloose."

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Grant would have one more major hit in his career. In 1988, he wrote and recorded the anti-apartheid anthem "Gimme Hope Jo'anna" (the Jo'anna of the song mainly refers to the South African city of Johannesburg). Of course, the politically charged tune would be banned in South Africa, but it became a worldwide hit reaching the Top 10 in many countries including the UK (#7). However, it didn't catch on in the US and it failed to chart. After that hit, Grant's charting days pretty much came to an end. He would continue to record albums over the years, but other business ventures (such as his Blue Wave recording studio) started to become his main focus.