Saturday, February 4, 2017

"When Doves Cry" by Prince

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  1931
Date:  06/02/1984
Debut:  57
Peak:  1 (5 weeks)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  R&B, Rock, Soundtrack

(Does Tidal even still exist? Bleh...)

Pop Bits:  While touring in support of his 1999 album, Prince came up with an idea for a movie. He got his management to seek a production deal and before long filming commenced on Prince's first movie Purple Rain. Inspired by his own life, the semi-autobiographical film featured a soundtrack that was fully credited to Prince and the Revolution. Prior to the film and soundtrack getting released, this first single got issued. It was an immediate sensation that soared up to the top spot on the Pop chart and stayed there for five weeks. It would end up being the #1 Pop chart single for 1984. The song would also get to #1 at Dance and R&B. With this major hit along with the box office success of the film, the soundtrack easily grabbed the #1 spot and would remain there for twenty-four consecutive weeks. It would also net Prince an Oscar and two Grammy awards.

ReduxReview:  Debuting one week after Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark," this created a double blast of brilliance that would last the rest of the summer of '84. I remember first hearing this song and thinking - this is freakin' brilliant. I got the single as soon as I could followed by the album and then seeing the film. Now, the movie was fine and a fun watch, but the soundtrack was just bat shit crazy good. When I saw the movie I was in Boston and the theater was sold out. It was the only time I had ever been to the movies where folks got out of their seats and danced during the musical parts. It was something. Although most reader and magazine rankings put "Purple Rain" at the top of the list of best Prince songs, for me this was the best. He was at the pinnacle of his powers and even though he would continue to do brilliant work, this was the song that put him at the top of the mountain. What has always mystified me is that none of the singles from the soundtrack ever got Grammy nods. As the #1 song of '84, it was really strange that this one missed out on Song and Record of the Year. Also, none of the songs were individually nominated for an Oscar. The soundtrack won for the now-abandoned Best Original Song Score category (the year he won was the last go-around for that category). Regardless, this song and the album are both classics for the ages. (Note: Even after his passing, his material is still not on most streaming sites or YouTube. Hence, no listen link here. But I'm sure you know the tune...)


Trivia:  Quad Shot!  1) This was the last song written for the film. While production was underway, the director (Albert Magnoli) asked Prince for a new song that would play over a specific part of the film. The following day, Prince had two songs written. One of them was "When Doves Cry."  2) The flip side of this song is titled "17 Days (the rain will come down, then U will have 2 choose, if U believe, look 2 the dawn and U shall never lose)." It holds the record for the longest b-side titled on a single at 85 characters.  3) What helped create this song's unusual sound and atmosphere? Easy - no bass. Prince originally recorded a bass line for the song, but later thought it made the recording sound a bit basic and similar to other songs issued at the time. He took away the bass, which then made the song quite unique. 4) At the time, Prince was the first artist to have the #1 single, #1 album, and #1 film in the country in the same week.


Friday, February 3, 2017

"Breakin'...There's No Stopping Us" by Ollie & Jerry

Top 10 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  1930
Date:  06/02/1984
Debut:  62
Peak:  9
Weeks:  18
Genre:  R&B, Dance, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Ollie E. Brown and Jerry Knight were session musicians who met up when Brown played drums on the 1978 debut album of the group Raydio, in which Knight was a member. Knight left Raydio after that album for a solo career. Brown played on Knight's third and final solo album in 1982 and that connection led to them developing a duo. They signed with Polydor and their first effort was this single that was recorded for the film Breakin'. The movie was a hit and this song followed suit getting into the Pop Top 10, #1 Dance, and #3 R&B. It appeared like the duo were on their way, but oddly there was no album on the horizon from the pair. They did record a follow-up song titled "Electric Boogaloo," which was used the the 1985 sequel film Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, but it failed to chart at Pop and could only muster a minor #45 at R&B and #43 Dance. Following the dismal results, the duo split having never recorded a proper debut album. With just the one lone Pop hit to their name, the pair ended up getting tagged as one-hit wonders. 

ReduxReview:  Although definitely stuck in the 80s, this is still a slick sounding production on a song that still holds up well today. I think they threw about every synth effect and sound at this recording and somehow it all worked. It's a shame these guys didn't record a full album. They could obviously write catchy songs, Knight had a solid voice, and Brown's production work is over-the-top, experimental, and fun. Somehow, the opportunity slipped away and we were basically left with this terrific single and the good, but less effective "Electric Boogaloo."

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Brown continued to perform as a session musician for many years. He later gave it up and moved over to work in the real estate industry. Knight turned to songwriting and penned songs for several R&B artists like The Whispers and DeBarge. He would end up co-writing most of the songs on the 1985 debut album of the R&B/pop group The Jets, including their #3 Pop/#4 R&B hit "Crush on You." Prior to forming this duo, Knight grabbed two solo Top 20 R&B chart entries with 1980's "Overnight Sensation" (#17) and 1981's "Perfect Fit" (#16). Neither song could dent the Pop chart.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

"Boys Do Fall in Love" by Robin Gibb

Song#:  1929
Date:  06/02/1984
Debut:  73
Peak:  37
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  While the Bee Gees were waiting out the post-disco backlash, the brothers found other projects to keep them occupied. Most of the time this consisted of writing and producing hits for other artists like Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick, and Kenny Rogers, however, they also branched out to solo albums as well. The first brother to go solo during this period was Robin. Although Gibb had recorded an early solo album in 1969, he didn't do a second one until 1983. That LP, How Old Are You?, got little promotion in the States and fell flat. His follow-up, Secret Agent, did better thanks to this first single that became Gibb's second and final US Top 40 entry. The song did better at Dance where it topped out at #7. Gibb would release one more solo album the following year, but it dropped out of sight quickly. Afterward, he would rejoin his brothers and wouldn't issue any solo material until 2003.

ReduxReview:  Gibb dumped his trademark falsetto for this song, probably in an effort to distance himself from the Bee Gees sound, and initially it is a little jarring. What's with that deep voice coming from a Bee Gee? It's a bit odd, but coupled with the chorus it works just fine. It's a cute little song that manages to push Gibb into a more synthpop sound. Some folks hooked into the tune, but in the end he was still a Bee Gee and that backlash stigma remained attached to his name.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Although this trilogy of 80s albums by Gibb were solo ventures, he wasn't all by himself. The first two albums were mostly penned by Gibb and his twin brother Maurice (and mostly co-produced by the pair). For the third album, brother Barry joined in on the songwriting, which nearly made it a Bee Gees album.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"10-9-8" by Face to Face

Song#:  1928
Date:  06/02/1984
Debut:  80
Peak:  38
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Formed in New Hampshire, this band made a move to Boston in 1980 and secured a recording contract with Epic two years later. It would take another two years before their self-titled debut finally hit the shelves. The LPs first single, "Under the Gun," failed to connect at Pop and Rock, but a 12" remix did get to #14 at Dance. They had more success with this second single, which found its way into the Pop Top 40. Again, a remix of the song did well and got to #7 at Dance. Another track from the album, "Out of My Hands," made a minor showing at Rock at #55, but that would be it for the band. They would release two more album to little notice and then call it a day. (Note: This band should not be confused with the successful punk band of the same name. That Face to Face was formed in 1991.)

ReduxReview:  I was living in Boston around this time and I remember both Face to Face and 'Til Tuesday getting a lot of buzz. Face to Face got to the charts first and this particular song was a big hit around town. I never got to see either band perform, but I definitely hooked into this song. It's a terrific tune with a catchy chorus that was perfect for audience participation. This single should have been a bigger hit. I'm not sure why it stalled just inside the Top 40. It deserved a better fate. Unfortunately, none of their other songs were as pop radio friendly as this one and it became their lone hit. At least it was a solid, memorable one.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Lead singer Laurie Sargent was part of the studio group that made up the band Fire Inc. Producer/songwriter Jim Steinman assembled the group to perform songs for the movie Streets of Fire. Sargent did the lead vocals on the opening track "Nowhere Fast" and did supporting vocals for the single credited to Fire Inc. "Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young." In addition, producer Jimmy Iovine tapped Sargent to do the lead vocals for two other songs that were used in the film, "Never Be You" and "Sorcerer." However, for the actual soundtrack album, other artists performed the songs. "Never Be You" was done by Maria McKee and "Sorcerer" was done by Marilyn Martin. In addition to Sargent, members of Face to Face also made up the backing band The Attackers that appeared in the film supporting actress Diane Lane.  2) Face to Face member Angelo Petraglia later focused on songwriting and production work. He grabbed a Grammy nomination in 1997 for being the co-writer of Trisha Yearwood's #1 Country hit "Believe Me Baby (I Lied)," which was nominated for Best Country Song. He later won a Grammy for producing the Kings of Leon's 2010 Record of the Year winner "Use Somebody." He has also co-written songs for artist like Emmylou Harris, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, and Martina McBride. With singer/songwriter Kim Richey he co-wrote "Why Can't I Say Goodnight," which was used in the second season opener of the hit TV show Nashville.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"A Little Love" by Juice Newton

Song#:  1927
Date:  06/02/1984
Debut:  82
Peak:  44
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After finding success in the country-pop arena, Newton leaned in a more pop/rock direction for her 1983 LP Dirty Looks. The shift in sound didn't really attract listeners and as a result her remake of The Zombie's "Tell Her No" stopped at a minor #27 on the Pop chart. Following the lackluster showing, her label, Capitol, went through some structural changes and soon Newton found herself back on her original label, RCA. Her first album for them, Can't Wait All Night, basically replicated the sound of her previous LP and the results were even worse. Although this first single would get to #7 at AC, it stalled short of the Top 40 at Pop and could barely get out of the basement at Country (#64). Due to the lack of support, the album sold poorly and couldn't even get into the Top 100. It was highly disappointing and Newton was going to have to change her approach if she was to keep relevant.

ReduxReview:  Although it sounds quite dated now, this is actually a cute little song. I'm not surprised that it missed at country as it is a straight-up pop tune, but I think it could have done a bit better at Pop. However, at the time I think the era of the pop/country crossover hit was on the wane and it was getting to the point where artists had to basically choose a camp and stick there if they wanted hits. Newton was caught between the two and not having success in either. She'd make a choice for her next LP that would end up paying off quite well. In the meantime, her pop/rock experiments had a couple of good moments such as this one.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Newton's album included the song "Restless Heart," co-written by producer/songwriter Tim DuBois. For that song and a few others that he wrote, DuBois put together a band to record them as demos. The band he assembled worked so well together that they decided to make a go of it themselves and with the help of DuBois signed to RCA and recorded a debut album. The song "Restless Heart" appeared on that LP and in-turn became the band's name. The self-titled album would end up going Top 10 at Country. Over they next few years they scored several hit singles at country with four of their albums going gold.


Monday, January 30, 2017

"Gotta Give a Little Love (Ten Years After)" by Timmy Thomas

Song#:  1926
Date:  06/02/1984
Debut:  85
Peak:  80
Weeks:  3
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Thomas worked as a session player and performer in the Memphis area for several years before being able to cut a few sides for a couple of local labels. Nothing seemed to click until a demo of a song he wrote called "Why Can't We Live Together" got some attention. The sparse production simply featured Thomas singing and playing an organ while an early version of a drum machine provided the beat. Instead of having it recorded with a full band, the Florida-based Glades label thought the song worked as-is and released Thomas' demo. To everyone's surprise, the message song took off and ended up hitting #1 at R&B and #3 Pop. Thomas continued to record for Glades and other labels for the balance of the decade, but nothing clicked like his first hit. A few years into the 80s, Thomas signed on with the A&M offshoot label Gold Mountain and recorded the LP Gotta Give a Little Love (Ten Years After). The title track was issued as a single and it got some action at R&B getting to #29. It also crossed over to Dance (#28) and spent a few short weeks on the Pop chart. A follow-up single would only get to #90 at R&B and that would be the last charting song for Thomas. Apparently, he worked a bit in the 90s as a producer at LaFace Records and issued an album in 1994, but later returned to his original profession of being a teacher.

ReduxReview:  I have to say that I had never heard "Why Can't We Live Together." If I had, I would have definitely remembered the tune. It has to be one of the strangest sounding hits I've ever heard. I do know that I did heard the song prior to this because it appeared on Sade's 1985 debut LP Diamond Life. I just didn't realize it was a remake at the time. I have to say that at first I didn't think I liked it. But then that weird drum sound and Thomas' near-improvised organ playing started to get under my skin. The rest of his associated album is just like the hit - simple demos all done by Thomas. Whether you think it is cool or kinda bad, you have to admit that it's certainly interesting. This specific single, written by Thomas, doesn't stray too far from material he has written before, but at least it gets a proper 80s production. It's got a nice groove and I do like it. However, it doesn't have a hook solid enough to reel in a wide range of listeners.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Thomas' unusual hit "Why Can't We Live Together" ended up getting covered by many artists including Sade, Steve Winwood, and Joan Osborne. Thomas' song got a bit of a revival in 2015 when rap artist Drake significantly sampled the original recording for his hit "Hotline Bling." That song would be a major hit reaching #1 R&B/#2 Pop.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

"Wonderland" by Big Country

Song#:  1925
Date:  06/02/1984
Debut:  87
Peak:  86
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Scottish band's unique sound got them a #3 Rock/#17 Pop hit with their single "In a Big Country." Their associated debut album, The Crossing, would become a gold seller along the way. Their success spawned a lengthy world tour that would delay them from getting their second LP recorded. The band had already completed this song, so in order to keep their momentum going it was decided the tune would be issued as a stand-alone single in the UK. It ended up being their biggest hit to-date there reaching #7 on the chart. The single was then released in the US, but it wasn't able to catch on. It stopped at #48 at Rock while only spending two weeks on the Pop chart. In the US, an accompanying EP with three other tracks titled Wonderland would actually sell fairly well and get to #65. Unfortunately, this song would be their last to reach the Pop chart in the US. In the UK, they would remain popular and continue to place songs and albums on the charts through 1999.

ReduxReview:  I think this is a terrific song from the band, but it was never gonna go far on the Pop chart. It has a bit of a U2 feel to it, so I'm a little surprised it didn't do better at Rock. It's a shame the band didn't fully catch on in the States. I think people were intrigued by their guitar-bagpipe sound from "In a Big Country," but then tuned out afterward. Their next album, Steeltown, was a bit difficult, but their next two albums contained some solid arena-ready tunes like "Look Away" (#7 UK). I bought the Wonderland EP and loved it. Unfortunately, the title-track song just didn't click.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The band's 1999 LP Driving to Damascus would be their final one with founder/lead singer/songwriter Stuart Adamson. In 1996, Adamson had moved to Nashville seeking new inspiration and in the process met his second wife. He suffered from alcoholism, but had been sober for many years. However, he apparently began drinking again following the lackluster results of Driving to Damascus. Later in 2001 his marriage fell apart and he was facing a court date for drunk driving charges. On the day his wife filed for divorce, Adamson disappeared. Three weeks later he was found in a hotel room closet in Honolulu, Hawaii. He had hung himself. The band basically ceased to exist at that time, but in 2007 the remaining members came together for a 25th anniversary tour. They continued to do tours over the years in various line-ups and in 2013 they issued a new album titled The Journey.