Saturday, January 28, 2017

"So You Ran" by Orion the Hunter

Song#:  1924
Date:  06/02/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  58
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The band Boston became highly successful thanks to their 17-million selling 1976 self-titled debut album and its 7-million selling 1978 follow-up Don't Look Back. When it came time to record their third LP, group leader Tom Schultz was in no rush. In addition to be notoriously picky, Schultz decided to modify his home studio and also chose to start his own tech company. These time consuming ventures didn't sit well with the band's label and when an album delivery date came and went, that was the last straw for the label and a lawsuit ensued. Since all of this added up to an extended hiatus, Schultz told the other band members to pursue other projects until things got settled. Guitarist Barry Goudreau decided to branch out and in 1981 released a self-titled solo album. It featured assistance from two other members of Boston and so the label decided to market it using their Boston affiliation. This didn't sit well with Schultz and when the dust settled, Goudreau was out of Boston. Now on his own, Goudreau decided to form a new band. The group got signed to Portrait records and by mid-'84 their self-titled debut was ready for release. This first single got things started and Rock was receptive sending it to #7. Some crossover action happened and the tune got near the halfway mark at Pop. Despite the hit and the album getting to #57, it seemed the band wasn't working out and they parted ways the following year.

ReduxReview:  I became aware of this song thanks to its appearance on an 80s compilation. At the time, I didn't know who made up the band and I remember thinking, "hmm...this sounds like a Boston rip-off." Guess I was right! That chorus and guitar/production work is straight out of the Boston playbook. The verse is a bit more pop-oriented, but there is no mistaking the origins of that chorus. I don't mind the tune as it's pretty good, but why would anyone want to sound even remotely similar to the band they just left? Unless, of course, you want that connection as a selling point. I'm not sure if that is the case here or if this was just what they were comfortable doing (perhaps it was all they knew how to do). Whatever the case, what we are left with is a first-rate imitation of second-rate Boston material.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The original name of the band was simply Orion. However, the film company Orion Pictures wasn't pleased with the name choice and some legal issues were raised, so the band then became Orion the Hunter.  2) In a strange twist, the lead singer of the band, Fran Cosmo, would later become the lead singer for Boston. Cosmo did all the main vocals for the band's 1994 album Walk On and a few for their 2002 follow-up Corporate America. Cosmo remained with the band until 2009.


Friday, January 27, 2017

"Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young" by Fire Inc.

Song#:  1923
Date:  06/02/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  80
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The soundtrack to the box office dud Streets of Fire ended up doing better than the film thanks to the #6 hit "I Can Dream About You" by Dan Hartman. As a follow-up, the label issued this Jim Steinman-penned tune that was performed by Fire, Inc. In reality, there wasn't actually a band called Fire, Inc. It was just a name given to the studio musicians Steinman assembled who recorded the song along with another contribution, "Nowhere Fast." Lead vocals on this song were done by Holly Sherwood, who had worked with Steinman on other projects. In the film, actress Diane Lane lip syncs to this song. Unfortunately, the single didn't catch on as well as "I Can Dream" and it dropped off the chart after a few weeks.

ReduxReview:  I think Steinman's bombastic songs were a perfect fit for this film. In fact, adding a few more of his tunes would have been even better. That said, his two contributions were not necessarily his most single-ready efforts. This epic workout featured all of Steinman's signature composition and production points, but it's just lacking a significant hook that would capture the attention of pop listeners. Like a lot of Steinman's material, it's fun and interesting. It ended up working well in the movie, but it just wasn't a great single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Sherwood worked with Steinman when he produced Bonnie Tyler's hit album Faster Than the Speed of Night. Sherwood sings background on several songs. Most notably, she provided the big vocal wail that comes near the end of the epic title track. Rory Dodd, who provided the male vocal part on Tyler's #1 hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart," was also a part of Fire Inc. doing background vocals.  2) The movie was named after the Bruce Springsteen track "Streets of Fire" from his 1978 LP Darkness on the Edge of Town. Producers of the movie wanted the song for the finale and were sure they could secure use of the tune, so they filmed the ending with the song. Unfortunately, when Springsteen found out that it was going to be a remake of his song and not his own version, he cancelled the deal. Stuck with no final song, the producers called up Steinman and asked him to supply a new finale number. Steinman wrote this song in two days and the producers loved it. What they didn't love though is that they had to reshoot the finale again, which cost the studio an extra $1 million.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

"Jam on It" by Newcleus

Song#:  1922
Date:  06/02/1984
Debut:  95
Peak:  56
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rap, Hip-Hop

Pop Bits:  This group first got started when they would play block parties in their home base of Brooklyn. A demo of their song "Jam on Revenge" caught the attention of a producer who eventually got the song released on the Sunnyview label. The song did well enough to reach #26 at R&B. This next single then got issued as a follow-up. The song's groovy bass line, sped-up vocals, and outer space lyrics caught a lot of ears and it jammed its way to #6 at R&B.  Dance took to the song as well and it got to #16 there. Even some stations at Pop caught on and the single nearly got into the top half of that chart. Unfortunately, this would pretty much be it for the group. Their follow-up singles fared poorly and after two LPs, the main era of the group ended. Despite not having any further success, Newcleus left behind this hit, which is now considered an influential rap/hip-hop classic.

ReduxReview:  For me, I remember this being a major roller skating floor filler. I was a DJ at a skating rink later in the 80s and even then the song was still popular. I'd get requests for it quite a bit. The kids loved jamming to this in the rink and the better the jam, the faster a lot of them would skate. I'd usually save this to play near the end of the session. I'd set the tone with the lights and effects, slam this on, and the kids would go nuts. The skate guards hated when I played it because the floor would be packed and the kids who skated fast were whipping around the rink dodging people. A couple of times the manager would make me turn the song off because the kids were in a "frenzy." Hey - that was my job! Entertain the little fuckers! It was an awesome jam then, and it still is now. I'm ready to lace up and get out on the floor!

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  This song famously contained the "wikki-wikki-wikki" line that sort of became a signature for the group. It was initially used in their first single, which later got an updated title of "Jam on Revenge (The Wikki-Wikki Song)." Since "Jam on It" was almost an extension of that song, the wikki-wikki came along for the ride. Group member Cosmo D mentioned that he first heard it following a crew battle. A DJ from another group told Cosmo D that he though they were good, but they couldn't do what he was doing and he proceeded to do some scratching and along with it he blurted out "wikki-wikki-wikki." Cosmo D brushed him off, but he never forgot that "wikki" tidbit and ended up tossing it into "Jam on Revenge." That little part is what hook the producer who got the group their label deal.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

"Dancing in the Dark" by Bruce Springsteen

Top 10 Alert!
Platinum Alert! 
Grammy Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1921
Date:  05/26/1984
Debut:  36
Peak:  2
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After Springsteen's 1980 #1 double-LP The River had wound down, he retreated to his home and began writing songs for the follow-up. As he wrote the songs, he recorded demos of them on a little 4-track recorder. Armed with a good chunk of songs, Springsteen gathered his band in the studio to fully record them. However, as the songs got recorded it was noticed that something just wasn't right. It seemed that the feeling and atmosphere Springsteen created in the demos got lost when done with the whole band. It was then that the gutsy move was made to release the demos as his next album. Titled Nebraska, the stark and haunting album managed to reached #3 on the chart and go platinum. It is now considered one of his best works. With that experiment done, Springsteen had to get back to business with the E Street Band. Instead of going the epic route of some of his previous albums and songs, Springsteen put together a set of concise tunes that kept one foot solidly in rock while dipping the other into the pop pool. This was easily demonstrated via this song, which was the first issued from the LP Born in the U.S.A. The synth-driven tune with a rock backbone was an immediate sensation. Boosted by a hugely popular MTV video, the single would take off and soar to the #2 position at Pop. It would stay there for four weeks blocked from the top slot by Duran Duran's "The Reflex" and Prince "When Dove's Cry." Of course the track would reach #1 at Rock for six weeks. More surprisingly was that a 12" remix of it proved popular and it got to #7 at Dance. The song would be a platinum seller that would net Springsteen a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance. It was a major shot over the bow that took Springsteen from a popular heartland rocker to a worldwide superstar.

ReduxReview:  This was the absolute perfect song at the perfect time for Springsteen. It was just brilliant. I was hooked from the get-go and just couldn't get enough of the song. It came at a time when I was just really starting to explore Springsteen's music. Of course I had heard songs like "Born to Run" and "Hungry Heart," but the first album of his that I bought just happened to be Nebraska. I hadn't heard a note of it, but something about it drew my attention and I loved it. So after hearing that desolate LP many times, this song was like a blast of fresh air. Not only was it a great song, but the updated 80s production hit my sweet spot. The album ended up being even better.


Trivia:  As most folks may remember, the song had a concert/performance style video. Directed by Brian De Palma (Carrie, Dressed to Kill), it was filmed over two nights at the Saint Paul Civic Center in Minnesota. On the first night, De Palma filmed just the band performing the song. The next night it was filmed again, but this time it was during an actual concert performance (it was the opening night of Springsteen's tour). What may be most memorable from the video is the point near the end when Springsteen reaches his hand out to a girl in the audience and has her come up on stage to dance with him. That girl was aspiring model and actress Courteney Cox. The brief exposure boosted her "it" girl factor and she began to get some work on TV in shows like The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote. A bigger break came when she was cast as Alex Keaton's girlfriend in the hit NBC show Family Ties. But she became a legit star when she joined the cast of Friends in 1994.


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

"Infatuation" by Rod Stewart

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1920
Date:  05/26/1984
Debut:  47
Peak:  6
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Stewart's 1983 LP Body Wishes was definitely a disappointing bump in his career. The album failed to generate a Top 10 hit and it peaked at #30, which was his worst chart showing since his debut album in 1969. It was also his first LP to miss reaching gold or platinum status since 1970. He needed to change things up and for his next effort he enlisted the help of Grammy-winning producer Michael Omartian (Christopher Cross, Donna Summer). With a mix of new and cover songs, Omartian put a hi-tech glossy sheen on the tunes for Camouflage and this first single was a prime example. Listeners loved it and sent the song to #5 at Rock and #6 Pop. The song featured a guitar solo by Stewart's old bandmate Jeff Beck. From 1967-69, Stewart was the lead singer for the Jeff Beck Group. With Stewart, the band released two highly acclaimed albums.

ReduxReview:  I think this song copped a little from another tune, but then inspired another band in the process. To me, the very opening of this song sounds very similar to "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Nothing else does, but those first few seconds sound eerily similar. Then, this song almost seems like the inspiration for the super group Power Station. It's just a hunch as some of what Power Station did the following year sounds similar to the production of this song. Regardless of any similarities or inspirations, I've always liked this song. I thought Omartian took a solid Stewart tune, rocked it up, and then polished it in a glossy 80s sheen. It had a bit more meat on it than some of his previous 80s singles. The song sounds a bit dated now, but if you listen to the alternate mix, which takes out a lot of the synths and effects, it sounds pretty great.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Along with being a successful music producer, Omartian was also a devout Christian. That aspect of his life fit in well with someone like Donna Summer, who was also a Christian (Summer and Omartian co-wrote the Christian-leaning tune "He's a Rebel," which won Summer a Grammy for Best Inspirational Performance). However, working with Rod Stewart was a bit different. For Camouflage, Stewart brought in a song he had co-written titled "Bad for You." Although PG by today's standards, Omartian was not thrilled with the lyrics to the song as they went against his Christian beliefs. By most accounts what happened was that Omartian refused to produce the tune, so Stewart did the job himself and got the credit. However, a band member at the sessions seems to remember that Omartian did do the work, but wanted his credit erased from the song. Instead, Stewart was listed as producer. Either way, the issue worked itself out and the song became part of a hit album.


Monday, January 23, 2017

"Doctor! Doctor!" by Thompson Twins

Song#:  1919
Date:  05/26/1984
Debut:  60
Peak:  11
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  This British trio broke through in a major way with their #3 single "Hold Me Now." It was the first single from their album Into the Gap. This next single nearly became their second Top 10 hit, but it ended up stopping short at the dreaded #11 position. It also got to #12 Rock, #18 Dance, and #35 AC. The song would be their third Top 10 hit in the UK where it reached #4. The performance of the singles helped the album get to #10 and it would eventually go platinum. It remains their best selling album.

ReduxReview:  This song immediately stood out with it's mysterious sounding opening and first verse that featured a timpani cadence. It continued on with a hooky chorus and a cool outro with Tom Bailey taking us to eternity. It all sounded great and combined with the MTV video, this was sure to be a hit. Sadly, it somehow stopped at #11. This should have easily gone right into the Top 10. At the time, this was the song that drew me to the Thompson Twins. I liked "Hold Me Now," but this eerie tune made me a fan. In the long run, "Hold Me Now" is the better song, but this one still holds up well.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia: Twins member Joe Leeway first became associated with the band when he was hired on by leader Tom Bailey as a roadie. Leeway then started to play bongos and congas with the band and performed on the debut LP. Soon he was a full-time member. He left the band in 1986 and worked on some solo material, but nothing was ever released. He then turned to acting, but that also didn't quite pan out. He made a major career shift in the late 90s and became a hypnotherapist. At the time of this writing, he was working as a hypnotherapist via the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in Tarzana, California.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Don't Walk Away" by Rick Springfield

Song#:  1918
Date:  05/26/1984
Debut:  68
Peak:  26
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Springfield's movie Hard to Hold may have been a bust at the box office, but the soundtrack did quite well thanks to the #5 showing of its first single "Love Somebody." He followed it up with this track, which ended up stalling inside the Top 30 (#41 Rock). The album would be his fourth platinum seller in a row. Unfortunately, it would also be his last LP to reach that sales level.

ReduxReview:  This was another solid song from the soundtrack and one that, for me, is slightly more memorable than "Love Somebody." I'm not sure why it stalled so early on the chart. Perhaps the darker tone or the switch from the ballad-like feel of the verse to the rockin' chorus kept folks from hooking into it. My gut tells me it might be the latter because the last song he did with a similar feel also stalled early ("What Kind of Fool"). Or maybe people were getting tired of Springfield's music. Whatever the case, I thought it was another quality track from artist.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Despite the film not doing well, Springfield didn't let that deter him from continuing to act. After appearing in a few TV shows and films, Springfield landed the lead role in the 1992 action/drama ABC TV show Human Target. Based on the DC Comics character, Springfield played a private investigator who had the technology to assume the identity of his clients. Unfortunately, critics panned the show and viewers were not tuning in. The show was cancelled after seven episodes. Springfield had better luck in another detective role with the 1994 syndicated series High Tide. That series was more successful and lasted until 1997. More recently, he played an exaggerated version of himself in the HBO series Californication. He had a recurring role in series' third season in 2009. He also had a recurring role in the CW show Supernatural.