Saturday, March 4, 2017

"High on Emotion" by Chris de Burgh

Song#:  1959
Date:  06/30/1984
Debut:  87
Peak:  44
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Chris de Burgh broke through on the US Pop chart with his #34 song "Don't Pay the Ferryman," taken from his Rupert Hine-produced album The Getaway. Hine stayed on for the follow-up and the pair came up with Man on the Line. This first single kept the rock feel of "Ferryman" and nearly made it into the Top 40. It did far better at Rock getting to #3. It would be the only single from the LP to chart.

ReduxReview: "Ferryman" was one of my favorite songs from the 80s and this song was a worthy follow-up. It rocked out quite well, which for de Burgh wasn't really the norm. At this point in time, folks in the US knew him mainly through these two rock tunes. However, his reputation in Europe and elsewhere was that of a balladeer and storyteller. So these jams were a bit out of character. Truth be told, I much prefer the rockin' side of de Burgh and Man on the Line has a couple of good ones. His story songs can be fine as well, but when he is in romantic balladeer mode, I find him bordering on corny. Man on the Line was the last of his rock-oriented albums and that's too bad. It would be the last LP of his that I would enjoy. Luckily, I can still revisit terrific songs like this one. I don't know why this stalled outside the Top 40. It was a hit at Rock and the sing-a-long chorus was spot-on. Hines' production was also top-notch. It lacked a good video, so maybe not having good support at MTV hampered the track. I still think it's a great tune.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The mid-80s were a busy time for producer Rupert Hine. In addition to working with de Burgh, he was also helping out artists like The Fixx, Howard Jones, and Tina Turner. A couple of these connections led to guest appearances on Man on the Line. Howard Jones would play the piano on the ballad "The Head and the Heart," while Tina Turner would supply a spoken word vocal in the chorus of the track "The Sound of a Gun." Along the way, Hine also found time to do his own solo albums including 1983's The Wildest Wish to Fly. He also established a "virtual" band called Thinkman. Basically, it would be solo work by Hine that was enhanced by actors portraying band members. The band's debut LP, The Formula, was released in 1986 and the track "Best Adventures" got some good exposure on MTV. However, neither the single or album charted. Hine would later release two more albums under the Thinkman moniker. One of the actors portraying a Thinkman was British comedian Julian Clary. Going by the name of Leo Hurll, it was one of Clary's first jobs. Although he's not well-known in the US, Clary has been a comedic star in the UK since the mid-80s. In addition to his stand-up shows, Clary has been featured in movies, on stage, and specifically on TV programs, many of which he served as the host. In 2012, he was a contestant on the UK's version of Celebrity Big Brother and ended up winning.  (P.S.: I really liked The Formula. I still play it on occasion. I saw the video for "Best Adventures" on MTV and loved the song, so I bought the album. Check it out sometime!)


Friday, March 3, 2017

"Thin Line Between Love and Hate" by The Pretenders

Song#:  1958
Date:  06/30/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  83
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This band's Learning to Crawl LP spawned three Top 30 Pop hits including the #5 "Back on the Chain Gang." They decided to try for one more and released this fourth single. It didn't pick up a lot of support and ended up bobbing around the bottom of the Pop chart for a few weeks. The results weren't too surprising since several of the album's tracks had been floating around Rock radio for over a year. Regardless, the album remains the band's best charting release getting to #5.

ReduxReview:  This is a terrific cover tune with a great performance by Chrissie Hynde. It's a bit of a dour song that ends with a philandering guy put in the hospital after his girlfriend has had enough and her tempered inner rage finally snaps. Not necessarily the happiest fodder for Pop radio, however it's a classic tune and Hynde gives an excellent reading. Releasing it as a single was totally unnecessary, but it is certainly a treat to hear.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a 1971 hit song by the R&B vocal group The Persuaders. The song was their debut single and it would be a gold record hit reaching #1 at R&B and #15 Pop. The song would be remade again later in 1996 by the R&B group H-Town. Featuring vocals by Shirley Murdock, the single would get to #6 R&B and #37 Pop. It served as the theme song to the Martin Lawrence rom-com-ish movie of the same name.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

"Feels So Real (Won't Let Go)" by Patrice Rushen

Song#:  1957
Date:  06/30/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  78
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Rushen's most successful recording would be her 1982 album Straight from the Heart, which featured the #4 R&B hit "Forget Me Nots" (#23 Pop, #2 Dance). Two years later she issued her follow-up LP, Now. It started off a bit slow when the lead single "Get Off (You Fascinate Me)" only got to #26 R&B/#40 Dance. This second single would help turn things around. It would become her biggest hit at R&B reaching #2 while getting to #10 at Dance. The tune then crossed over to Pop, but it was only for a few short weeks. The album would reach #7 on both the R&B and Jazz charts in addition to peaking at #40 at Pop. Unfortunately, it would be Rushen's final song to reach the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  This song slinks along with a jazzy, 80s groove, but there is not much here that brings to mind her fabulous "Forget Me Nots." In fact, it is nearly lackadaisical. The delivery is too laid back. It needed a little spice and sultry sexiness and I just wasn't getting it from Rushen. It's almost like someone put on a groovy loop on a lazy Saturday afternoon and Rushen and the band just kind of fiddled with it for something to do. I don't mean to have that sound like they didn't really care what was going on, but there was just no spark to it. Rushen is a brilliant musician and I think she is capable of writing better material than this. However, I'm sure she had to deal with the pressures of being a mainstream artist and trying to come up with potential hits for the label.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  After her Now album, Rushen would have a series of label issues that pretty much sidelined her major label mainstream career. It would take three years for her follow-up Watch Out! to come out on the Arista label and although it would feature the #9 R&B title-track, results were not as strong as her previous efforts. Finished with Arista, it took until 1993 before Rushen would sign with Hollywood Records. She recorded an album for them, but the label rejected and shelved it. The following year the indie label Sindrome picked it up and released it as Anything But Ordinary, but it came and went to little fanfare. Her next album, 1997's Signature, would take her back to her jazz roots and her efforts paid off. The LP reached #9 on the Contemporary Jazz chart and earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Performance.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

"Such a Shame" by Talk Talk

Song#:  1956
Date:  06/30/1984
Debut:  91
Peak:  89
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  This British band grabbed their first (and only) US Top 40 entry with the title-track to their second album It's My Life. It would also be a #1 Dance hit for them. This second single was weaker by comparison and could only reach #12 Dance while spending a brief few weeks near the bottom of the Pop chart. Although the single was also a dud in their UK homeland (#46), it was a significant Top 10 hit in several European countries including Switzerland, where it reached #1.

ReduxReview:  Yeah, this song was just a bit too out-there to make an impact at Pop. The bizarre (and lengthy) opening combined with its Europop sound was not going to hook listeners. It also had a strange ending as well. However, elements of this song can be heard on future hits by folks like The Pet Shop Boys and a-ha. While the song may have been an influence, at the time it was just a bit too unfocused for Pop listeners.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Lead singer Mark Hollis wrote this song. It was based on one of his favorite books, 1971 novel "The Dice Man" by Luke Rhinehart. The controversial book was about a psychiatrist who began making decisions in his life by rolling dice. In addition to this song and a few others, the book has also been the inspiration for plays, movies, and TV shows. A 2011 episode of The Big Bang Theory seemed to utilize aspects of the book when Sheldon decides to make basic everyday decisions by rolling dice. He does this in order for his brain to focus on more important things.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

"Panama" by Van Halen

Song#:  1955
Date:  06/23/1984
Debut:  52
Peak:  13
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Over time, Van Halen's 1978 self-titled debut album would be a diamond seller (10 million). It was bookended by their second diamond LP 1984, which was their last album before David Lee Roth left the band. The difference between the two albums is that Van Halen featured no major Pop chart hits (the best was "You Really Got Me," which reached #36), while 1984 would have a string of them that included the #1 "Jump" and this third single. Skipping the synths for this song, the guitar-driven tune was more in-line with their past efforts and it rocked right up to #2 on the Rock chart. It was also received well at Pop and became their fifth Top 20 hit.

ReduxReview:  Although this song was more similar to their classic Van Halen sound, it still had a great lean towards commercial rock. The guitars are crunchy as hell, Alex's drumming is spot-on, and Roth's vocals are appropriately cocky and smarmy without being over the top. I love the quiet bridge that leads up to the last explosion of chorus. It's a big shot of rock adrenaline and one of their best singles.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) By most accounts, this song is either about a car or a stripper - or both. The Panama in the song is not the country, but apparently refers to a car. There are possibly two cars involved. The first one was David Lee Roth's 1969 Opel Kadett Caravan, of which the front end is on display in his house. The second was a race car that Roth saw in Vegas named the Panama Express. Apparently, Roth wrote the lyrics about one or both of the cars. Later on, he realized the lyrics were also about a stripper he once met in Arizona. Either way, it seemed to work out fine. However, the car that is actually featured in the "Panama" video is neither. It was Roth's own red '51 Mercury that was named "California Girl."  2) During the bridge of the song, you can hear a revving engine while Roth recites a few lines of lyrics. The car that provided the sound was not one of Roth's vehicles, but the one owned by Eddie Van Halen. Wanting an engine sound for the track, Van Halen backed up his 1972 Lamborghini Miura S to the studio and microphones were place on the exhaust pipe. Van Halen revved up the car and the sound was recorded. Van Halen still owns the car and will drive it around on occasion.


Monday, February 27, 2017

"Stuck on You" by Lionel Richie

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1954
Date:  06/23/1984
Debut:  72
Peak:  3
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Country Crossover

Pop Bits:  As Richie's third single, "Hello," from his album Can't Slow Down was beginning to descend from its #1 peak, this fourth single was released. The ballad extended his Top 10 solo hit streak to seven in a row when it got to #3. It would be his fifth solo single to hit #1 at AC. The song was also popular at R&B where it reached #8. The album was still riding high on the chart and would actually spend all of 1984 in the Top 10 thanks to this stretch of hit singles.

ReduxReview:  Richie purposely made an album that would appeal to the masses. It covered several styles and genres including this country-pop tune. The LP could have been a major mess, but somehow it all worked together well. I've always waffled on this song though. There are times I think it is well-written and nice to hear, and then other times I think it's kind of annoying and saccharine. When compared to some of the other hits from the album, it's actually kind of bland. I'm surprised it did so well, but Richie was at his peak around this time, so there was not much wrong he could do. It's a fine tune, but I have a tendency to use the skip button when it circles around in a playlist.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song had a distinct country-pop feel to it, so the label decided to market it to Country radio. It actually did well and ended up peaking at #24 on that chart. That result may seem a bit unusual, but it wasn't Richie's first experience in the Country market. Kenny Rogers' 1980 #1 Pop/#1 Country/#1AC hit "Lady" was written and produced by Richie. The results were so good that Rogers retained Richie for his next album, Share Your Love. Richie produced and contributed four songs to that album. Although none of Richie's tunes were released as singles, it did include four Pop/Country hit songs including the #1 Country/#1 AC/#3 Pop "I Don't Need You."


Sunday, February 26, 2017

"It Can Happen" by Yes

Song#:  1953
Date:  06/23/1984
Debut:  85
Peak:  51
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Prog Rock

Pop Bits:  Yes had been making albums since 1969 with many of them hitting the gold or platinum mark, but their biggest success wouldn't come until 1983 with their multi-platinum album 90125. The more commercial-friendly collection was enhanced by the #1 Pop and Rock hit "Owner of a Lonely Heart" and the #3 Rock/#24 Pop follow-up "Leave It." A third single was called for and this track, which got to #5 at Rock, was chosen. It made it nearly halfway up the Pop chart, but stalled and quickly fell away. There would be no further singles, but one other track from the album, "Changes," would be a hit at Rock getting to #6.

ReduxReview:  This song has a terrific bridge and chorus, but I think what may have held it back at Pop was the verse. It nearly brings the song to a halt with the way it is produced. The original version by Cinema (see below) plays it a bit different and it makes the song more cohesive. However, that version is missing the soaring unique vocals of Jon Anderson, so I guess there is a trade off. Either way, it's a good song and one that could have ducked inside the Top 40.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) As mentioned in a previous post, this album started out as a project by a new group called Cinema. However, after a lineup change there ended up being three former members of Yes in the band. Therefore, marketing tactics dictated that the Yes brand had to be revived. In the early Cinema sessions, a few songs were completed including this one. At that time, Chris Squire sang the lead vocals. After the personnel changes, this song was then reworked and the lead vocal was handled by Jon Anderson. The original Cinema version featuring Squire would later be included on a reissue of 90125 along with two other completed songs from the Cinema sessions.  2) In the instrumental section of this song you can hear a spoken word recitation under the music. The passages are bits of dialog taken from the 1895 play The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. In the play, the lines are said by one of the main characters, Algernon Moncrieff.