Saturday, March 11, 2017

"State of Shock" by The Jacksons

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  1966
Date:  06/30/1984
Debut:  30
Peak:  3
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock, R&B

Pop Bits:  The Jackson brothers had success in 1980 with their album Triumph. It was their first #1 album at R&B since 1971 and it got to #10 at Pop. It came on the heels of Michael Jackson's hit LP Off the Wall, which most likely helped. Flash forward a few years and Michael is on top of the world with Thriller. As that album was making a splash, the brothers appeared on the Motown 25 TV special. That reunion sparked the idea of the brothers doing another album and tour, which would work out well for all involved since Michael did not tour in support of Thriller and would most likely draw huge crowds. Wheels were set in motion, but when it came to recording the album, the brothers didn't necessarily work together. Each brother worked on their own song contributions to the album with little involvement from the others. The results were more like a collection of solo tracks as opposed to a full family band. Michael would co-write three songs and take the lead vocal on two of them, including this first single. The tune got some further star power when The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger would come on board for a duet. The pair of superstars certainly drew attention and the single had a very high debut in the Top 30. It would make it to #3 at Pop and stay there for three weeks. It also got to #3 at Dance and #4 at R&B. The gold seller would drive the album to #4 Pop/#1 R&B. Over time it would go double-platinum.

ReduxReview:  I remember critics back then were not really all that hot on this song. The faux rock/blues jam with Jagger primping alongside Jackson wasn't wowing them. However, I liked the song. I thought it was a good fit for Jagger and Jackson's high-pitched wail worked fine, if a bit stiff compared to Jagger's looser style. Was it great? No. But it was fun and I still get a kick out of it. I might have preferred if the original duet partner, Freddie Mercury (see below), was on it and they perhaps took it in a more synthpop/dance groove. That might have been interesting. Still, this is still a pretty good oddball hit. It should be noted that this was Mick Jagger's highest peaking single outside of The Rolling Stones. None of his other solo or duet work would get to this mark.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This was one of three songs that Michael Jackson originally recorded with Queen's Freddie Mercury. There are a couple of stories on the reason behind the sessions. One is that the pair got together in an attempt to record a full duet album. The other is that these were songs that Jackson was considering for inclusion on Thriller. Perhaps it was a combo of both, but whatever the motivation, the three tracks ended up shelved. When Jackson wanted to revive "State of Shock" for Victory, Mercury was unavailable to finish the track so Jagger was brought on board instead. Another track, the Mercury-penned "There Must Be More to Life Than This" was recorded by Queen for their Hot Space LP, but was eventually excluded. It ended up being released on Mercury's 1985 debut solo album Mr. Bad Guy. The last track Jackson and Mercury recorded was called "Victory," which inspired The Jacksons' album title, but the song itself remains unreleased.


Friday, March 10, 2017

"She's Mine" by Steve Perry

Song#:  1965
Date:  06/30/1984
Debut:  53
Peak:  21
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  The Journey front man's debut solo disc Street Talk was a more pop-oriented effort that yielded the #3 Pop/#1 Rock hit "Oh Sherrie!" Perry tried to keep the ball rolling with this second single, but it didn't do as well and it peaked just outside of the Pop Top 20. It only did slightly better at Rock getting to #15. However, the album kept selling and over time it would hit the double platinum mark.

ReduxReview:  I'm not sure why this song was chosen for the second single. It really should not have been. It's a fine album track, but in no way is this a good single candidate. I actually don't even remember hearing this on the radio back then. There were other tracks far more worthy that should have been released instead. I think this one kind of killed the momentum of the album. It's fourth single, "Foolish Heart," rekindled interest in the album, but not as much as it could have had it been released second. Also, the Motown-ish track "I Believe" was a missed opportunity for single release. This was an unfortunate and forgettable second single.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Perry's writing partner for the majority of the tracks on the album was Randy Goodrum. Goodrum had been writing hits for other artists since his "You Needed Me" became a #1 hit for Anne Murray in 1978. That led to writing or co-writing songs for both country and rock artists like Dottie West, Kenny Rogers, Al Jarreau, Chicago, Toto, and many others. When he was in high school in Arkansas, Goodrum joined up with two other students to form the jazz trio Three Kings, also later known as the Three Blind Mice. The sax player of the trio was none other than future President Bill Clinton. Goodrum would later help out his school pal by writing songs for Clinton's campaigns and inaugural events.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

"Sexy Girl" by Glenn Frey

Song#:  1964
Date:  06/30/1984
Debut:  63
Peak:  20
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The ex-Eagle's 1982 debut solo album, No Fun Allowed, was a decent hit that went gold based on the strength of the #15 Pop/#2 AC single "The One You Love." Two years later, his follow-up LP, The Allnighter, was set for release. It was introduced by this first single that just made it into the Pop Top 20 while getting to #23 at AC. Although it did okay, it wasn't a significant hit, which didn't bode well for album sales. However, in about six-months time, a song connected with a hit TV show would help turn the album around.

ReduxReview:  Here is a rare song that went Top 20 and I don't remember a lick of it. After hearing it, I can understand why. It's a perfectly fine, easy listen, but it's retro-ish sound is a bit bland and the whole thing ends up being forgettable soon after. I'm surprised that this song actually got as high on the Pop chart as it did. I assume the Eagle connection and airplay at AC helped it along. Compared to Frey's other major hits, this one is a snoozer.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Frey co-wrote most of the album, including this song, with songwriter Jack Tempchin. The pair had written together previous for Frey's debut LP (including "The One You Love") and for the Eagles, where the pair contributed the song "Peaceful Easy Feeling" (1972, #22 Pop). Tempchin was originally a member of the mid-70s band The Funky Kings. While with them, Tempchin wrote a song called "Slow Dancing" that was issued as a single. It got a bit of attention going to #13 at AC and #61 Pop. The song then got picked up and recorded by a couple of other artists including Olivia Newton-John. But the song would gain fame when it got recorded in 1977 by 60s rock star Johnny Rivers. Retitled "Swayin' to the Music (Slow Dancin')," the song got to #10 on the Pop chart and #8 AC. It would be Rivers' ninth and final Pop Top 10 hit.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"The Warrior" by Scandal featuring Patty Smyth

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1963
Date:  06/30/1984
Debut:  77
Peak:  7
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  After Scandal's self-titled EP became a surprise gold seller, the band set out to record their full-length debut album. Armed with a set of songs, they went into the studio with star producer/songwriter Mike Chapman. By this time, lead vocalist and songwriter Smyth was becoming the standout star of the band and a decision was made to give her top billing along with the band's name. Smyth and bandmate Zack Smith co-wrote the majority of the songs for the LP, but a few tunes were recruited from other writers. This lead single was one of them. Written by Holly Knight and Nick Gilder (of "Hot Child in the City" fame), the song became a major hit at Rock reaching #1. The tune then slowly made its way up the Pop chart until it finally got into the Top 10. It would end up being the band's only single to reach the Top 10.

ReduxReview:  Here is a song that is both loved and made fun of, almost at the same time. Yes, the whole warrior motif along with the "bang-bang" was as corny as Kansas in August, but damn if that chorus ain't da bomb! And Smyth sold the whole thing very well. You have to really commit to make a song like this work and she certainly did. My guess is that this song came about because the record company didn't hear a hit in the batch of songs the band wrote, so one was located. It has corporate hands all over it, but I can't say the decision wasn't valid. It became their biggest hit and a signature tune for Smyth, who would launch a solo career soon. The tune is both quirky and compelling and it made for a very memorable 80s hit.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This single was helped along by a popular video on MTV that Smyth wasn't necessarily a fan of. With a decent budget from the label, the whole "warrior" theme came into play with several oddly costumed "creatures" fighting in a back alley with a lead guy who nearly resembles some kind of cat. Smyth mimes the song while all painted up and near the end begins to rumble with the lead guy. It was all very strange (and very bad), but a young MTV generation loved it. However, Smyth was dismayed when she first saw the finished product. She though it looked like a second-rate version of Cats.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

"Black Stations/White Stations" by M + M

Song#:  1962
Date:  06/30/1984
Debut:  82
Peak:  63
Weeks:  7
Genre:  New Wave, Dance

Pop Bits:  This Canadian band may be more recognized by their original name, Martha and the Muffins. Their debut album featured the well-known 1980 international hit "Echo Beach." That song hit the Top 10 in several countries including Canada where it got to #5 and won the Juno for Single of the Year. However, folks in the US didn't take to the song and the best that it could do was get to #37 on the Dance chart. Despite its failure to reach the Pop chart in the US, it has become cult-ishly popular thanks to its inclusion on many 80s compilations. The band didn't have a lot of success following up the hit and after some personnel change, they sought to reinvent themselves and changed their name to M + M. Their 1984 album Mystery Walk became the first to be credited fully to the new moniker (a previous album was a transition one that credited both names). This first single did okay in Canada getting to #26, but it took off on the US Dance chart and reached #2. That action caused it to crossover to Pop for a few weeks becoming their first and only song to reach that chart. The band released a couple of more albums, but could not capitalize on the momentum of this single. The band would eventually call it a day, but would go through a couple of different revivals over the years.

ReduxReview:  While this song has a nice, percolating rhythm akin to something from the Talking Heads, it's not really hooky enough to click at Pop radio. However, that beat is tasty enough for the dancefloor, so its #2 showing at Dance was not surprising. They kind of date the song in referencing 1984, but I think the sentiment is still (sadly) valid. Arguably, it was their best single since "Echo Beach" and getting Lanois on board (see below) was certainly a great decision.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was inspired by a story about a radio station that would not play a song because the subject matter dealt with an interracial relationship. It also tackles racism and other practices that were taking place within the radio world. It has been mentioned that this song was even banned from airplay by certain stations because of the lyrical content.  2) Regardless of which moniker was used, this band was the launching pad for a now-famous Grammy-winning producer. Back in 1981, the band needed a new bass player and they hired on Jocelyne Lanois. Jocelyne's brother, Daniel, was also a musician who began producing music for a few local artists in a studio he set up in his mom's basement. Jocelyne suggested to the band that Daniel produce their next album. The band was on board with the idea, but their label was not. They were not keen on an unknown/untested producer working on a major label album. However, the label agreed on the condition that the budget would be far smaller. Lanois then came aboard and co-produced 1981's This is the Ice Age. Although critics loved the album, it wasn't a big hit and the band lost their label deal. They moved over to RCA and did two more acclaimed albums with Lanois, including Mystery Walk. Lanois would go on to fame producing albums by U2, Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno, Bob Dylan, and many others. Over the years, eleven Grammys would be won.


Monday, March 6, 2017

"I Lost on Jeopardy" by "Weird Al" Yankovic

Song#:  1961
Date:  06/30/1984
Debut:  83
Peak:  81
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Comedy

Pop Bits:  This parody would be the third single lifted from Yankovic's hit album "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D. This time around, Yankovic used Greg Kihn's #2 hit "Jeopardy" as the basis for a song about the eternal TV game show of the same name. Although the single wouldn't get very far on the Pop chart, the accompanying video got significant airplay on MTV. The video featured Yankovic competing on Jeopardy! (and losing, big time) and included cameo appearances by Greg Kihn, Dr. Demento, Art Fleming and Don Pardo. Fleming was the original host of the game show and Pardo was the announcer.

ReduxReview:  This is a song that is perfect parody territory for Yankovic; and he didn't have to look beyond the title for inspiration! I wasn't that fond of his previous single "King of Suede" as I thought the song was way too serious for a parody, but this Greg Kihn hit was the right material. Yankovic does another solid parody and gets the bonus of having the great Don Pardo do a guest spot. Yet, once again, the song plays better via video, so I can't say I'd hit the repeat button on this tune. However, he absolutely knows what he is doing here.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The timing of this single was certainly good for the game show. During the time Yankovic was writing the parody, Jeopardy! had been off the air for four years. The show, created by Merv Griffin, originally debuted in 1964 and stayed on the air until 1975. A new version of the show began in 1978, but was cancelled the following year, mainly due to competition from other daytime shows. During both runs, Art Fleming served as host. However, when a syndicated version of Wheel of Fortune became an evening hit in 1983, Griffin redeveloped Jeopardy! with Alex Trebek as host and the two shows got paired up. Both shows have been on the air since. The Trebek version of Jeopardy! would debut just three short months after the release Yankovic's single. The video for the song nearly served as a promotional tool for the upcoming show.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

"Now It's My Turn" by Berlin

Song#:  1960
Date:  06/30/1984
Debut:  84
Peak:  74
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  Berlin got their first Top 40 hit with the #23 "No More Words." The song helped sell the associated album, Love Life, which got to #28. They had hopes this next single would do as well, but it could only muster a month in the bottom quarter of the Pop chart. Overall the album did well and eventually went gold, but it was a slight disappointment coming on the heels of their platinum LP Pleasure Victim.

ReduxReview:  If the indelible chorus of "No More Words" couldn't get that song into the Top 10, then there was little chance for this tune. It has a solid chorus and it's a great track from the album, but it is less catchy than "Words," which really was the album's best shot at a hit. They issued two more singles from the LP, "Dancing in Berlin" and "Touch," but neither could chart. Luckily, enough fans of the first album stuck around to make Love Life gold. I certainly did; and I'm still a fan of this album.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Founding member and main songwriter John Crawford and drummer Rob Brill later formed their own band called The Big F. In order to try and secure a record deal based on their music and not on their ties to Berlin, the pair changed their names to John Shreve and Rob Donin, respectively. Their hard-edged rock sound got the attention of Elektra Records and a self-titled debut album was issued in 1989. It failed to do any business, but the band got a second chance when Chrysalis released their second album, If, in 1993. Again, results were disappointing and that would bring an end to The Big F.