Saturday, February 25, 2017

"Simple" by Johnny Mathis

Song#:  1952
Date:  06/23/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  81
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Mathis had been a highly successful singer and entertainer since signing with Columbia Records in 1956. With several Top 10's to his credit, he remained active on the charts until the mid-60s when rock music started to take hold. The hits dried up and save for a few Top 10's on the AC chart, it seemed that his heydays were done. That changed when he paired up with Deniece Williams for the 1978 duet "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late." That song reignited his career when it hit #1 at Pop, R&B, and AC. Unfortunately, the comeback was short-lived and Mathis was unable to capitalize on the success. He continued making albums that featured duets with a few songs getting a little attention at AC. He was able to grab one more Pop Top 40 appearance with "Friends in Love," a #38 duet with Dionne Warwick (#5 AC, #22 R&B). After that minor hit, Mathis moved on to make a solo album that would mainly consist of all new original material. The lone cover tune was "Love Won't Let Me Wait," a duet with Deniece Williams. It was the album's first single and it got to #16 AC and #32 R&B. It failed to chart at Pop, but this second solo single would roam around the bottom of the chart for a couple of months. It would go to #6 at AC and #43 R&B. The song would be Mathis' final one to reach the Pop chart. He would continue to record albums over the years and along the way four of them would grab Grammy nods in the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album category.

ReduxReview:  Mathis breaks out of crooner ballad mode with this song. Unfortunately, it kind of treads on territory already occupied by Al Jarreau. That's not too surprising since the song's co-writer Keith Stegall also co-wrote Jarreau's hit "We're in This Love Together" (#15 Pop/#6 R&B/#6 AC). The tune fits Mathis pretty well, but when you consider that this could have been read by Jarreau, it kind of lacks by comparison. It's a nice, breezy tune that is probably just a year or two too late for the Pop chart.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) In 1958, Mathis released the LP Johnny's Greatest Hits. The album would reach #1, but what made it unique was its run on the Album chart. It would spend an unprecedented 490 consecutive weeks on the chart, which is about nine and a half years. It was a record at the time and was even recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. The record would stand until 1983 when Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon broke it. Dark Side would continue on to spend 927 weeks on the chart, a record that will most likely stand the test of time. Mathis' original 490 weeks still ranks at #2 on the longevity list.  2) This song was included on Mathis' album A Special Part of Me. Also included on that LP was the song "Love Never Felt So Good." The song was written by Paul Anka and Michael Jackson during a 1983 collaboration session. Jackson ended up not using the tune, so Anka passed it on to Mathis. The Mathis version was not issued as a single. Years later when the posthumous 2014 Michael Jackson album Xscape was being assembled, Jackson's original demo of the song was spruced up and added to the LP. For the deluxe edition, a duet version with Justin Timberlake was added. That version was issued as the LP's first single and it would reach #9 Pop, #5 R&B, #7 AC, and #8 Dance.


Friday, February 24, 2017

"Missing You" by John Waite

#1 Alert!
Song#:  1951
Date:  06/23/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  1 (1 week)
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  As lead singer of the band The Babys, Waite had already experienced having hits on the Pop chart. Two of the band's songs, 1977's "Isn't It Time" and 1978's "Every Time I Think of You," were popular rock tracks that managed to each reach the #13 spot on the Pop chart. After The Babys broke up in 1980, Waite decided to try for a solo career. He stayed with Chrysalis, The Babys' label, and by the summer of '82 his debut solo LP, Ignition was ready. The lead single, "Change," did well on the Rock chart getting to #16, but it failed to make a dent in the Pop chart. As a result, the album stopped at #68 and retreated soon after. The tepid results led to Waite switching labels and he moved over to EMI for his next effort No Brakes. This first single, co-written by Waite, started off slowly but gained momentum thanks in part to a popular MTV video. It would eventually grab the top spot at both Pop and Rock while getting to #7 at AC. It was a significant smash that allowed the album to reach #10 and go gold. Waite would earn a Grammy nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

ReduxReview:  Waite had a spotty career over the years, but when he was able to latch onto the right material, it was pretty spectacular. His two hits with The Babys were excellent and this specific single was brilliant. It was a well written ballad that was wrapped up in a lovely percolating rhythm. It became a staple of the 80s and beyond. It deserved its #1 placing and the long life that it has had since then. He was never able to properly follow it up solo-wise, but who cares when you have a hit like this.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song knocked Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With It" out of the #1 position after a three-week reign. Later on in 1996, Turner would record a version of the tune for her album Wildest Dreams. The song would be issued as the LP's third single and would reach #16 at AC and #84 Pop.  2) Waite himself would revisit the song in 2006. He re-recorded the tune as a duet with country/bluegrass star Alison Krauss. It was included on his concept album Downtown: Journey of a Heart. The song was pushed out as a single and it got to #34 on the Country chart.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

"So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)" by R.E.M.

Song#:  1950
Date:  06/23/1984
Debut:  95
Peak:  85
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Alternative Rock

Pop Bits:  With their debut album Murmur being selected as album of the year by Rolling Stone and the college kids all over these guys, anticipation was high for their next effort. After an extensive tour, the band quickly got in the studio and recorded the songs that would make up their second album, Reckoning. This first single introduced the LP and it got to #45 at Rock while just barely making the Pop chart for a few weeks. Despite the lack of mainstream support, college radio ate it up and the LP did better than their debut getting to #27 on the Pop Album chart. It also spent nearly a year on the chart and it would eventually be a certified gold seller. 

ReduxReview:  I bought Reckoning back in the day after reading about it in Rolling Stone. I was not impressed, to say the least. However, I did gravitate towards this track and it was the first R.E.M. song that I hooked into. I had zero idea what Michael Stipe was singing about, but I liked his mournful voice singing "I'm sorry." The opening guitar lick is great and the whole song almost sounds like a lost tune from a 60s band like The Zombies or Love. Although I liked the song a lot, it took me several more years before I really became a fan of the band. In retrospect, Reckoning is a good album, but I think Murmur and their early 90s albums were superior.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  On October 6, 1983, R.E.M. made their national television debut on Late Night with David Letterman. This was a couple months before the recording sessions began for Reckoning. The first number they performed was "Radio Free Europe," which was probably their most recognizable song at the time. After a brief interview with Letterman, the band was ready to perform another tune. Letterman asked them what the title was and Mike Mills said "it doesn't have one, it's too new." The song they performed was "So. Central Rain."


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"I'm Free (Heaven Helps the Man)" by Kenny Loggins

Song#:  1949
Date:  06/16/1984
Debut:  50
Peak:  22
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The soundtrack to the hit movie Footloose had an amazing ten-week run at the top of the album chart. Helping it along were five chart singles that including two #1's - Kenny Loggins' title track and Deniece Williams' "Let's Hear It for the Boy." With the album's fifth single going Top 10 (the #7 "Almost Paradise"), there was renewed interest in the soundtrack and film, both of which were still in their respective Top 10's. To try and keep up the last-minute momentum, it was decided that a sixth single would be issued. This Loggins tune was chosen and it started off well debuting at the halfway point on the chart. Unfortunately, it seemed like the heydays of Footloose were over and the single stopped short of the Pop Top 20 (#42 Rock).

ReduxReview:  This is another solid effort from Loggins, but it's never been one of my favorites. Compared to the remaining tracks on the album that had not yet been issued as singles, this one was probably the best choice. It got a little bit more business for the LP, but there really was no reason to push this out as a single. Although it is a quality track, I would not include it on my list of essential Loggins songs.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In addition to being a big year for blockbuster albums, 1984 was also a significant year for blockbuster movies. The top four films of the year all grossed over $150 million, which was quite a feat. However, that did not include Footloose. Despite being a long-lasting box office hit that summer, it's total take ended up being $80 million, which placed it seventh for the year. Topping the list were two other huge films that also featured hit songs. Beverly Hills Cop finished first, followed by Ghostbusters. Rounding out the top five was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Gremlins, and The Karate Kid. The Best Picture Oscar winner that year was Amadeus, which placed twelfth at the box office with $51 million.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker, Jr.

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1948
Date:  06/16/1984
Debut:  68
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Parker's solo star was on the rise thanks to a couple of hits that included 1982's "The Other Woman" (#4 Pop/#2 R&B). Having written these hits along with ones from his Raydio days, he was also becoming a sought after songwriter. With the producers of an upcoming film titled Ghostbusters looking for a theme song, they approached Parker for the job. He accepted the task and a few days later came up with this title-track tune. The Ghostbusters team loved it and got it into the film and the accompanying soundtrack. The theme song single was released right as the film was coming out and both became enormously successful. It would be Parker's first and only #1 at both Pop and R&B. It was also a worldwide smash reaching #1 in several countries. The song was a major success and an integral part of the film. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song and got two Grammy nods winning one for Best Pop Instrumental Performance (the b-side of the single). Despite an ugly controversy (see below), the song had remained an 80s classic and an annual Halloween fave.

ReduxReview:  First off, I do have to say that I hate this song. I did then, and I'm still not a fan of it. However, it was absolutely perfect for the film. Completely spot on. And I'd go so far as saying the hit even helped the film at the box office. Parker's approach was brilliant and it worked great. But that doesn't mean I have to like it! And I have to hear this dang thing once a year like a horrible Halloween carol. Ugh! It's also one of those movies that I liked, but I'm not so ga-ga over it like some folks. I also don't like the song because I do think it was a rip on Lewis' song (see below). However, I don't fully blame Parker for it. My opinion is that Parker was told to write a song similar to Lewis' hit and to fulfill his obligation, he did. And perhaps he though that replicating that rhythm wasn't stealing from the song. After all, there are lots of songs that use the same beat or rhythm as others and there are no issues. However, it is pretty exact. And since that rhythm also has a bass line melody, that is more like copying than just using a "feel." I think the Parker camp finally figured that out and settled. Otherwise, they would have gone to court (or at least I would think Parker would have in order to keep his songwriting cred in good stead). Regardless, it seemed to work out for everyone. Except for me. The song is like nails on a chalkboard! I'd like to rate it a zero, but I can't. As I said previously, it was perfect for the film and worked tremendously as an advert (plus tons of people loved it), so I have to give the song its due. Or at least partially...  Who you gonna call?  "My lawyers!"

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  After "Ghostbusters" was released, Huey Lewis immediately noticed distinct similarities between that song and his own recent hit "I Want a New Drug" (#6 Pop). Lewis sued Parker for plagiarism. After the lawyers were done battling it out, a settlement was reached. While details were not to be disclosed, it was assumed that it came out in Lewis' favor. However, all writing credits remained with Parker. So, how did this happen? Folks involved in the debacle have varying stories, but it seems the most common scenario goes something like this. Apparently, Lewis was approached to do the theme song, but he declined because he was working on music for Back to the Future. While director Ivan Reitman was filming Ghostbusters, he used Lewis' "I Want a New Drug" as temporary music behind a scene as the tempo and feel of the track worked well. Meanwhile, Lindsey Buckingham was asked to do the song, but he also declined. Then Parker's name came up and they called him in. They gave him a list of specific things they were looking for in the song and that it should have the same tempo and feel of the Lewis tune. Plus, he had to use the title of the film in the song. Parker took their notes and began work. He struggled at first due to having to include "Ghostbusters" in it, but then he said a late night TV ad combined with a scene from the movie made him realize it should play like a commercial jingle. After that, the "who you gonna call?" and the "Ghostbusters!" came quickly and a song was born. But the sticky point ended up being the driving beat and the bass line of the tune, which seemed to resemble the Lewis hit. Since the lawsuit was settled, it seemed that the Parker camp recognized there was an issue and didn't want a full court case. Part of the settlement was that neither party could talk about any of it. Unfortunately, in a VH1 interview in 2001, Lewis alluded to the fact that he got paid for the song. With that disclosure, Parker sued Lewis for breach of contract. Once again, a settlement was reached and the parties have not mentioned anything since. The whole thing was not good for either artist and there are folks who still take sides in the controversy.


Monday, February 20, 2017

"Turn to You" by The Go-Go's

Song#:  1947
Date:  06/16/1984
Debut:  77
Peak:  32
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The band's song "Head Over Heels," the first single from their third album Talk Show, did well, but fell just short of expectations when it stopped at the dreaded #11 spot. They needed another solid hit and this track was chosen as the follow-up. Unfortunately, the best it could do was get inside the Top 40. It would also be the band's last single to reach the Top 40. The lack of another successful single kept the album at a lackluster #18 and it would end up missing the gold certification mark.

ReduxReview:  Don't get me wrong - I dearly loved Talk Show and like this song, but I just don't think it was the best choice for a single. I remember being highly disappointed when this song got slated for release. I was actually surprised that it made the Top 40. I think there was missed opportunity with a couple of other tracks from the album. That said, it wasn't the worst choice either. The crunchy guitars coupled with Belinda Carlisle's unhinged vocals sounded pretty great. I just would have preferred to give the second single slot to a more deserving track.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was co-written by band members Charlotte Caffey and Jane Weidlin. The lyrics were written about Caffey's then-boyfriend Bob Welch. Welch was a successful major league baseball pitcher and Cy Young award winner.  2) The video for this song was directed by Mary Lambert. After directing Madonna's "Borderline" video, she would go on to do other shoots for stars like Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Annie Lennox, Sting, and several more for Madonna. She would move into directing feature films and became famous for her second effort, 1989's Pet Sematary. The Go-Go's video would also feature a rising young star, Rob Lowe. He was beginning to grab Hollywood's attention with his first big film, The Outsiders. Soon he would be a member of "the brat pack" and heading up the cast in 1986's St. Elmo's Fire.


Sunday, February 19, 2017

"The Moment of Truth" by Survivor

Song#:  1946
Date:  06/16/1984
Debut:  79
Peak:  63
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Following their big 1982 #1 hit "Eye of the Tiger," which served as the theme from the Sylvester Stallone film Rocky III, Survivor seemed to struggle. Their follow-up album failed to produce any hits and therefore couldn't even get close to gold-level sales. In addition, their lead singer, Dave Bickler, developed vocal nodes and needed surgery. Unwilling to wait out Bickler's recovery, the band decided to move on and replaced him with singer Jim Jamison. The band's first recording with the new lineup was this song that was written for the film The Karate Kid. The tune would serve as the first single from the soundtrack. Although the film was a big box office hit, the song did not catch on and it fell short of expectations peaking in the lower half of the Pop chart. It was another disappointment for the band. Luckily, things would turn around for them later in the year with their next LP.

ReduxReview:  For a couple of seconds at the beginning of this song I thought it was some kind of Casio wedding theme. But then the synths kicked in and it moved into a typical 80s pop movie theme. Frankly, it's pretty awful. It tries so hard to be exciting and inspirational that it falls flat. About every lyrical cliché about taking chances and seizing the day is used and it all sounds forced and manufactured. Even the music is so sports-themey that you can practically hear a leg sweep or slam dunk with every "peeshew" synth punch. Ugh. It probably served its purpose in the film, but on its own it just doesn't stand up. I can't fully blame Survivor on this one as they didn't write it. They actually wrote a fantastic movie theme with "Eye of the Tiger." Listen to that classic and then listen to this one. Huge difference. One is inspiring, the other is insipid. 

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Another song chosen for the film and soundtrack was "You're the Best" by Joe "Bean" Esposito. Written by Bill Conti and Allee Willis, the song was originally written for Rocky III. However, Stallone nixed the tune in favor of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." It was then a candidate for the soundtrack to Flashdance, but once again it was cut and replaced by Michael Sembello's "Maniac." (Incidentally, Esposito did get a song on the Flashdance soundtrack. "Lady Lady Lady" was released as a single and got to #36 AC/#86 Pop.) Finally, the director of The Karate Kid, John Avildsen (who also directed the original Rocky), remember the song and wanted it for the film.