Saturday, April 8, 2017

"Let's Go Crazy" by Prince & the Revolution

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2005
Date:  08/04/1984
Debut:  45
Peak:  1 (2 weeks)
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock, R&B, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  As Prince's "When Doves Cry" was enjoying its fifth and final week in the #1 spot, this second single from the Purple Rain soundtrack blasted onto the chart. Just like "Doves," this song would find itself topping the Pop, R&B, and Dance charts. It would be the first single released from Prince that was fully credited to Prince & the Revolution. Also happening this same week this song debuted, Purple Rain ascended to the #1 spot on the album chart. It would be the first week of a 24-week consecutive reign atop the chart.

ReduxReview:  Prince wrote a standout song here but ended up making it even better and more memorable with that spoken word eulogy beginning. All it takes is one little organ chord and a "dearly beloved" and you know you are in for a good time. Add to that the unusual concert-like ending and a classic was born.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The flip side of this single provided a bit of controversy. The song "Erotic City" was notable for featuring the vocals of Sheila E and for its potentially offensive language. During portions of the song, Sheila E sings the line "we can fuck until the dawn." This line along with some other sexual references made the song a bit notorious. However, at the time Sheila E and a few others claimed that the line was "we can funk until the dawn." This clarifying statement helped the song get some radio airplay, despite being the b-side. Regardless which word was actually used, the FCC later deemed the song indecent due to the language and would even fine stations for playing the unedited version.


Friday, April 7, 2017

"Drive" by The Cars

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2004
Date:  08/04/1984
Debut:  51
Peak:  3
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  This band's fifth album, Heartbeat City, was already doing quite well thanks to its two hit singles "You Might Think" (#7) and "Magic" (#12). But the album would kick into high gear with this third single. The band wasn't known for their ballads, but this tune caught on big time and ended up spending three weeks at #3 at Pop. In doing so, it became the biggest Pop chart hit of their career. The song became their first to reach the AC chart and it ended up topping out at #1. It also was their fourth Top 10 at Rock getting to #7. The hit pushed the album to #3 and over time it would sell over four million copies to become their best-selling studio LP.

ReduxReview:  I remember sitting in my basement bedroom of a shared house during my college years and playing this on my little Casio keyboard. It's not a complicated song, but Ocasek wrote a great melody over a nice chord structure. The results ended up being their biggest hit. The Cars were a hit-n-miss band for me, so after a couple of songs that I didn't really care for, this one won me over. It was a pretty ballad and something that was a bit out of the ordinary for them.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Although Ric Ocasek wrote this song, the lead vocals were handed by Benjamin Orr.  Ocasek's voice had come to represent the group since he sang on the majority of their hits. However, Orr took the lead on a few singles including "Just What I Needed" (#27), "Let's Go" (#14), and this big hit.  2) The video for this song was directed by Oscar-winning actor Timothy Hutton. Apparently, Hutton lived next to the band's manager Elliot Roberts and one day Hutton mentioned how much he liked "Drive" and his ideas on what a video might look like. Roberts passed Hutton's ideas on to the band and they liked Hutton's vision so much that they asked him to go ahead a direct it. The video featured model Paulina Porizkova. Five years later, she and Ocasek would tie the knot.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

"Hard Habit to Break" by Chicago

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2003
Date:  08/04/1984
Debut:  61
Peak:  3
Weeks:  25
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  For the first single from their Chicago 17 album, the band went in a more rock direction with "Stay the Night." It didn't really pay off with the song only able to reach #16 at Pop. With the success of the LP in jeopardy, they decided to push out this tune, which was more in-line with their previous big ballad #1 hit "Hard to Say I'm Sorry." The move seemed to please listeners and the single made it's way to #3 at both Pop and AC. The hit helped sales of the album and it cracked the Top 10. This would be the peak moment of their 80s revival.

ReduxReview:  Although "Hard to Say I'm Sorry" was a bigger hit, I think this was the song that really solidified their comeback and mapped out their sound for the balance of the decade. This song was all over the place. From Pop and AC radio to MTV, it was inescapable. It was also making front man Peter Cetera's star rise. He and David Foster were mainly in control here and it was paying off in spades for the band. I loved this song and still think it is one of the top big ballads of the decade.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The hit song grabbed the attention of the Grammy folks. It nabbed two nominations. One for Record of the Year and one for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals. It lost Record of the Year to Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do with It," but it did win in the other category. That award was given to producer David Foster and Jeremy Lubbock for their work on the song.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

"The Lucky One" by Laura Branigan

Song#:  2002
Date:  08/04/1984
Debut: 62
Peak:  20
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Branigan secured her third (and what would be her last) Pop Top 10 with "Self Control," the first single from her album of the same name. The hit helped make the album her most successful hitting #23 and going platinum. This next single wouldn't do as well, but it did become her fifth consecutive Top 20 hit at Pop. It also reached #10 at Dance and #13 AC.

ReduxReview:  After its "Flashdance"-ish beginning, the song turns into a solid Europop jam. It's not quite as memorable as "Self Control," but the chorus is good and Branigan sings it well. It's not Top 10 material, so the #20 placement seems about right. After this single, her luck would kind of run out. She would only grab one more Top 40 entry later in the decade.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The Tokyo Music Festival was an international song contest that ran from 1972 through to 1991. The contest would take song submissions from several countries and finalists would compete for the top prize at the main festival event. Several artists from the US won over the years including Al Green, Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Lionel Richie, and Laura Branigan. Branigan won in 1984 with this song.  2) This song was used in the 1983 TV movie An Uncommon Love. Starring Barry Bostwick and Kathryn Harrold, the story is about a divorced man who falls for an older college student who happens to also be making a living as a prostitute at a massage parlor.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"What the Big Girls Do" by Van Stephenson

Song#:  2001
Date:  08/04/1984
Debut:  83
Peak:  45
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Stephenson got his second, and best, Pop chart entry with the #22 "Modern Day Delilah," the lead single from his second album Righteous Anger. This follow-up nearly got into the Top 40, but it stalled just short of that mark. It would end up being Stephenson's last solo song to get on the Pop chart. He would issue a third album in 1986 titled Suspicious Heart, but the singles from the LP failed to do anything and the album sunk quickly - along with his record deal. However, all was not lost. Stephenson continued to write songs for other artists and later co-founded the country band BlackHawk (see below). Sadly, Stephenson died from melanoma cancer in 2001.

ReduxReview:  I loved "Modern Day Delilah" and this song does a good job getting close to the quality of that tune. It's well-written and has a crunchy rock sound that fits right alongside other rock hits of the day. I think if it had a bit more promotion, the song could have made it into the Top 40. It really should have. I wouldn't peg it as a major hit, but it was a solid rock tune that should have sold a few more copies.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In 1992, Stephenson, Henry Paul and Dave Robbins formed the country-rock group BlackHawk. The following year they were signed to Arista Nashville and their debut single "Goodbye Says It All" made it to #11 on the Country chart. That started a string of hits that included seven Country Top 10's. One of their songs, 1998's "There You Have It," nearly made the Pop Top 40 (#41). The trio made four albums before Stephenson had to leave the group due to his illness. After his death, the remaining two members carried on with new band members, but they would never reach the chart heights of the original trio.


Monday, April 3, 2017

"Cleanin' Up the Town" by The Bus Boys

Song#:  2000
Date:  08/04/1984
Debut:  86
Peak:  68
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock, Soul, Soundtrack

**Milestone!  This is the 2,000th song to reach the Pop chart in the 80s. Therefore, it is my 2,000th post! I'm not quite halfway through the 80s, but am slowly getting there. This project has been loads of fun and I still get geeked when revisiting old favorites or uncovering long lost gems. I hope others have enjoyed this day-glo ride through the 80s as well!

Pop Bits:  This L.A. rock 'n' soul band gained a sizable following and solid reputation when they hit the club circuit in the late 70s. It led to them getting signed to Arista Records and a debut album titled Minimum Wage Rock & Roll was issued in 1980. Despite good critical reception and acclaim for their live shows, the album didn't get anywhere. A follow-up in 1982, American Worker, suffered the same fate. However, when a band was needed for scenes in an upcoming movie, management connections got the Boys hooked up with the film. Producers already loved the track "New Shoes" from American Worker and wanted three more new tunes. Soon, The Bus Boys and their songs were featured in the hit Eddie Murphy/Nick Nolte comedy 48 Hrs. One song in particular, "The Boys Are Back in Town," became quite popular and turned into a signature tune for the band. Unfortunately, for whatever reason (probably legal/rights), the song was not released as a single and there was no soundtrack album issued. The band got another chance at a hit when they contributed this song to the smash summer movie Ghostbusters. This time around, the song got put on the movie's soundtrack album and it got issued as the LP's second single. The Bus Boys finally made the Pop chart, but the song didn't get very far. Despite not being a major hit, the song's inclusion on the soundtrack earned the band a Grammy nomination. The Bus Boys would continue to work and perform on their own and also did appearances alongside Eddie Murphy during some of his concert performances. The band would later issue a 1988 album that included the #68 R&B song "Hard Work."

ReduxReview:  This old-style rock tune has a definite lean towards rockabilly. It nearly sounds like an outtake from a Stray Cats album. The unfortunately thing is that the whole mini rockabilly revival that was brought about by the Cats was on the wane and that didn't do this tune any favors. Despite being featured in a big box office hit, it just wasn't the type of song that was going to burn up the Pop chart. I had the soundtrack and this was one track that I would usually skip over. This band has some solid tunes on their own albums, but this specific track just wasn't on par with those tunes.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) It's a bit unknown as to why "The Boys Are Back in Town" never got released back in the day. Usually when that happens it is some sort of legal entanglement or rights issue that prevents songs from getting out. Whatever it was, the song remained unreleased until The Bus Boys were finally to include it on their 2000 LP Boys Are Back in Town. The whole soundtrack for 48 Hrs. eventually saw the light of day in 2011. The album contained all four songs The Bus Boys did for the film.  2) The band's 1982 album American Worker contained a song that became a hit for another act. "Heart and Soul" became a #8 hit for Huey Lewis & the News in 1983. The Bus Boys' version was issued as a single, but it didn't chart. They were also not the first band to record the song. The country-rock band Exile first recorded it in 1981 and included it on their album of the same name. The tune served as the LP's lead single, but it didn't get anywhere. The song finally became a hit when Lewis' version took off.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

"I'm So Excited" by The Pointer Sisters

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  1999
Date:  08/04/1984
Debut:  87
Peak:  9
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  Second time was the charm for this song. Originally, this tune was recorded by the Sisters for their 1982 album So Excited! It got issued as the LP's second single and it was a minor hit getting to #30 Pop and #46 R&B. Their next album, Break Out, was a slow-building hit that by this point spawned three charting singles, which included two Pop Top 10's. A fourth single was needed to follow-up the hits, but instead of issuing something from the album, a remixed version of "I'm So Excited" started to make the rounds. It slowly began to make its way up the Pop chart and it eventually got into the Top 10. The remixed version was ignored at R&B and Dance, however it did get to #25 at AC. With the song a certified hit, the trio's label decided to reissue the Break Out album with an altered track listing that added this song while subtracting one of the original tracks, "Nightline." This extended the life and sales of the album as did an upcoming fifth single.

ReduxReview:  I'm not exactly sure why this song got a remix and was revived. Everything I read just mentions the song got remixed and reissued. There had to have been a reason. I can only speculate, but I wonder if it had to do with the hit TV show Miami Vice. The song was going to be used in an upcoming episode and I'm guessing that the song was remixed for use in the show and for potential inclusion on the show's soundtrack. Someone then decided to get it out as a single and it ended up being a hit. The tune was then added to Break Out, but it was later excluded from the Miami Vice soundtrack (however, it was included on a Miami Vice "best of" compilation later). Regardless of how it happened, it certainly extended their career and the tune became a sort of signature song for the Sisters. Although I was never a big fan of the song to begin with, I do admit that the remix did give the song some oomph. Therefore, I'll boost it a point from my original review.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  This hit was an extra boon for the sisters because they wrote the song along with Trevor Lawrence. Since reducing to a trio with their 1978 album Energy, the Sisters had very few writing credits. In fact, this is the only song in their catalog that the trio (Anita, June, and Ruth) were credited together as writers. Having it be a hit (twice) certainly added to their bank accounts.