Saturday, April 22, 2017

"On the Dark Side" by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2019
Date:  08/18/1984
Debut:  86
Peak:  7
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  There are rare occasions when a film or a song gets a second chance after flopping on its initial release. In the case of Eddie and the Cruisers, both the film and its soundtrack experienced a rebirth. Eddie was a dud when first hit screens in the fall of '83 and was actually pulled from theaters after a three-week run. The soundtrack, performed by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band, tanked as well when it's singles, "On the Dark Side" (credited to the fictional Eddie and the Cruisers) and "Tender Years," both failed to climb out of the basement of the Pop chart. That could have been it. The movie could have easily faded away into obscurity and Cafferty and his band could have returned to gigging in New England. However, later the following year the movie started airing on HBO and it slowly began to gain an audience. The film's new cult-like status generated interest in the soundtrack, which had become unavailable. Sensing that something could come from this Eddie revival, Scotti Bros. reissued the soundtrack along with this single. This time around the single was credited to John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band and it started to climb the chart. It wasn't long before the song got to #1 on the Rock chart while getting into the Pop Top 10. The album also made it into the Top 10 and quickly went Platinum. Eventually it would sell over 3 million copies.

ReduxReview:  There is not much I can add to my original assessment except I did read one review by a famous critic that made a good point. In the movie when Eddie and the band are at their peak, the year was 1963. How on earth does this song or some of the other originals sound like anything from that time period? Short answer is, they don't. But, that shouldn't stop anyone from enjoying this tasty track or rockin' out to the movie. It's certainly not the first film to have sounds, visuals, etc., wrong for its set time period. Who knows? Maybe this is what Bruce Springsteen would have sounded like in the 60's...

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Although John Cafferty wrote songs for the film and performed all the music with his band, it was actor Michael Paré that lip synced as Eddie. However, before Paré was cast, another singer/actor was gunning for the part. Apparently Rick Springfield tried very hard to acquire the part of Eddie. Springfield was already a music and TV soap star and had a built-in audience that might show up to see the film. Plus, Springfield could have recorded and performed the soundtrack. It seemed like a great match, but unfortunately the film's director, Martin Davidson, saw it differently. He thought that Springfield would basically just be playing Springfield and wanted someone that could fully play all aspects of the part. The director took a chance on Michael Paré, whose biggest gig up to that point was a co-starring role on the TV series The Greatest American Hero. Once filming began, it seems things were not all that rosy between director and actor, but in the end they created a cult hit that generated a best-selling soundtrack.


Friday, April 21, 2017

"Video!" by Jeff Lynne

Song#:  2018
Date:  07/18/1984
Debut:  87
Peak:  85
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  The quirky rom-com film Electric Dreams, which starred Virginia Madsen and Lenny Von Dohlen, didn't do a whole lot of business at the box office in 1984. But it's girl-boy-computer love triangle did get some notice along with the movie's soundtrack. Featuring contributions from Europop artists like Culture Club and Heaven 17, the album found a few fans and arguably became more popular than the film. Two of the LP's songs were written and performed by Electric Light Orchestra's leader Jeff Lynne. It was this song by Lynne that was chosen to be the soundtrack's first single. Unfortunately, it was barely a blip on the Pop chart. It would be Lynne's first and last solo single to reach the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  When it came down to it, the Electric Dreams soundtrack mainly consisted of some second-tier material from the artists invovled, but several of the songs were fairly solid. This one in particular straddles the line a bit. It's a fun song that I like and a pretty good effort from Lynne. It's not quite second-rate ELO, but it also doesn't rank among Lynne's finest moments. It's more of a curiosity in his catalog.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Lynne's original intent for ELO's 1983 album Secret Messages was for it to be a double-LP, but the label balked at the cost of doing one, so the album was a single-disc release. Lynne had already recorded a lot of the songs for the album, so that meant he had several leftovers that didn't make the final single-LP edition. Most of these tracks have shown up on other releases, but one still remains vaulted. A track titled "Beatles Forever" was recorded, but did not make the cut for Secret Messages and ended up shelved. However, it seems that Lynne did reuse a portion of the song. Apparently the chorus part of "Beatles Forever" was refurbished and used on the chorus of "Video!" A long-time fan of The Beatles, Lynne later got to work with three of the Beatles on various projects including on their 1995 Anthology 1 compilation, which featured the updated "new" song "Free As a Bird" (#6).


Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Rain" by Dragon

Song#:  2017
Date:  08/18/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  88
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Dragon is one of New Zealand's most famous, and most infamous, rock bands. Formed in 1972, the band's prog-rock leaning sound and their outrageous live shows got them a record deal, but despite having a big following, the LP's didn't sell. After a move to Australia, they signed with CBS, but were plagued with problems including the drug related death of their drummer. But they soldiered on, developed a new sound, and in 1977 scored a #2 hit with "April Sun in Cuba." The following year they hit the top spot with "Are You Old Enough?" They were big time stars in Australia now and adding fuel to the fire was all their hedonistic behavior, which continued to include a lot of drug use. By the end of the decade, the band saw a decline in popularity and that along with other internal issues lead to a breakup. However, debts had piled up and in 1982 the band decided to get back together in order to help settle their financial obligations. Their initial tour was received quite well, so they went back into the studio to record. With a streamlined new wave/rock sound, the band issued this single and it shot to #2 in Australia. The accompanying album Body and the Beat became their biggest seller. With that success, the band tried to break through in the States with "Rain," but it wasn't happening. The song spent a month on the Pop chart while (oddly) getting to #43 at Dance. The band remained popular in Australia until they split again in 1998 following the death of lead singer Marc Hunter.

ReduxReview:  This has a definite Euro-rock, new wave sound to it. I almost hear a little Kinks in there too. It's a good rock tune, but not highly memorable. I'm sure this song may have played well at college radio, but it wasn't the type that was going to break into the US Pop mainstream. This is an interesting band and their #1 hit "Are You Old Enough? is a very tasty slice of 70s rock. I may check into some of their pre-80s material as I find it more to my liking that this track.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The band tried to break through in the US earlier in their career. They came over for a tour with Johnny Winter in 1978, but things quickly went bad. In Australia, they were known for their bad behavior and stage antics. But at a gig in Texas, their inappropriate ways didn't go over so well. Apparently, lead singer Mark Hunter said at one point that all Texans were "faggots." That was not the smartest thing to say anywhere, but in Texas it was a bonus no-no. Soon the band was getting pelted with beer bottles and other debris. It was so bad that even Johnny Winter was beginning to take bets on how long it would be before someone shot Hunter. Luckily, no one did. However, the incident killed their US tour and it was back to Australia for the band.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

"Turn Around" by Neil Diamond

Song#:  2016
Date:  08/18/1984
Debut:  92
Peak:  62
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Diamond got his final Pop Top 10 hit with the title track to his 1982 album Heartlight. Although he would remain a fixture at AC for years to come, his easy listening style of music was not going to fit well into the synthpop/new wave 80s. This lead single from his next album, Primitive, certainly demonstrated that when it couldn't even crack the top half of the Pop chart. As usual, he got a lot of support at AC and the song made it to #4. But his main fan base and AC radio were not going to be enough to continue his platinum album streak and Primitive became his first regular studio LP to miss that mark since 1971. After this, Diamond would mainly have to settle for being a gold-selling artist. Certainly not a bad thing, but it showed that his days as a Pop chart icon were over.

ReduxReview:  Diamond chose to work with Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager again on a few songs for Primitive and the results were not that good. Previously, the trio wrote one terrific song ("Heartlight") for the previous album along with a handful of mediocre ones. They probably should have stopped while they were ahead. While the song is not bad at all, it just doesn't even come close to Diamond's other hits or even better album tracks. It's a nice AC ballad capably done by Diamond, but that's not enough to make it a hit. The 80s and beyond were not a good period for Diamond. The material just wasn't there. However, he'd finally get his mojo back when 12 Songs came out in 2005.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Oddly, Diamond's album contained a Christmas-themed song. He wrote the tune "You Make It Feel Like Christmas" as his response to how the holiday had become mostly about gifts and parties. With Primitive being released in the summer, the timing worked out so that this song could be released as the LP's third single in December. The seasonal song wouldn't reach the Pop chart, but it did make an appearance at AC reaching #28. The song would also appear on Diamond's 1992 holiday record, The Christmas Album.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

"Cover Me" by Bruce Springsteen

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2015
Date:  08/11/1984
Debut:  52
Peak:  7
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Springsteen got the biggest hit of his career when "Dancing in the Dark," the first single from his LP Born in the U.S.A., made it to #2. Accompanied by a very popular MTV video, the song pushed Springsteen directly into the mainstream. For that song's follow-up, this rock track was selected. Even though there was no video to help promote it, fans helped get the song into the Pop Top 10 and #2 at Rock. It would also do surprisingly well at Dance peaking at #11. The single would sell well enough to get awarded a gold record.

ReduxReview:  I was surprised this song did so well. It's a solid rock tune, but it just didn't seem like something that would race up into the Top 10. It was actually one of my least favorite tracks on the album. But on an LP like Born in the U.S.A., least favorite is still far better than a lot of songs out there! It was a quick blast of rock from The Boss that seemed to please listeners.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  In the 70s and early 80s, Springsteen was not only writing songs for himself, but he was also writing songs that would potentially be recorded by other artists. This particular song was one that Springsteen wrote with someone else in mind. The intended artist was Donna Summer. This came about when a request was made from Summer's camp for Springsteen to write a song for her next album. Springsteen came up with "Cover Me," but when his manager/producer Jon Landau heard the song, he thought it was too good to give away and convinced Springsteen to keep it. Springsteen did and then wrote "Protection" for Summer. She recorded the tune for her self-titled 1982 album. Following Landau's advice resulted in a third Top 10 hit for Springsteen.


Monday, April 17, 2017

"There Goes My Baby" by Donna Summer

Song#:  2014
Date:  08/11/1984
Debut:  59
Peak:  21
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop, R&B

Pop Bits:  Summer experienced her best post-disco success with the 1983 album She Works Hard for the Money. The album would be a #9 gold seller that was boosted by the #3 title track. For her next LP, Summer retained producer Michael Omartian and the pair co-wrote most of the tracks for Cats Without Claws. One exception was this remake (see below) that was chosen to be the LP's first single. Although it got a healthy start on the Pop chart, it didn't fully grow to its potential and it missed out on the Top 20.  The results were about the same at R&B (#20) and AC (#17). The single's lack of success didn't bode well for the album.

ReduxReview:  This is not too bad of a remake from Summer. She and Omartian dressed it up in lots of 80s flare. While it is hard to compare this to the original classic, the newly polished version is an easy summertime listen with a terrific vocal by Summer. However, Summer seems to take some liberties here by adding a strange minor key bridge that certainly wasn't in the original. I'm not sure why they would do that. Maybe for a dramatic pause to break up the originals continuous groove. It's not a bad little addition, but it really does nothing for the song. Even though it's a nice remake, it's just not a very strong single when compared to her other hits, especially the recent "She Works Hard for the Money."

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) When it came time to record the album, Summer wanted complete control over it. She didn't want the label (Geffen) stepping in and trying to control everything. Geffen complied with the request and left Summer and Omarian alone. However, when it came time to select a first single, that is when Geffen took over. Summer wanted the track "Oh Billy Please" to be the lead single, but Geffen said no and ordered up this remake instead. It was a disappointment for Summer that would continue to linger over the course of two more singles as Geffen didn't issue the tune as either an a-side or b-side.  2) This is a remake of a 1959 hit by The Drifters. The song would reach #1 at R&B and #2 Pop. It would be the group's first Pop Top 10 hit. Prior to this song, The Drifters experienced solid success at R&B with ten Top 10's, including three #1's. But Pop success eluded them. However, it wasn't the original Drifters that made "There Goes My Baby" a hit. Due to conflicts, declining popularity, and loss of key members, the manager of the original Drifters, George Treadwell, ended up firing the entire group. Since Treadwell owned the Drifters name, he then asked another group called the Five Crowns to become the new Drifters. Led by singer Ben E. King, they accepted and their first single was "There Goes My Baby." King would stay with the group for only a short time before heading out on a solo career, but before leaving he would front their first #1 Pop hit, 1960's "Save the Last Dance for Me."


Sunday, April 16, 2017

"(What) In the Name of Love" by Naked Eyes

Song#:  2013
Date:  08/11/1984
Debut:  73
Peak:  39
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul

Pop Bits:  This UK duo of Rob Fisher and Pete Byrne had success right out of the gate when their self-titled debut album spawned the #8 hit remake "Always Something There to Remind Me." It was followed up by two other Top 40 entries, which allowed the album to get to #32. For their follow-up LP Fuel for the Fire, the duo retained their producer Tony Mansfield for the majority of the tracks, but they brought in star producer/remixer Arthur Baker to helm a couple of tracks including this first single. The results were not good with the song peaking at a low #35 at Dance and barely making the Pop Top 40. Their label was less than impressed and as a result they declined to issue a follow-up single. The album faded away quickly as did Naked Eyes.

ReduxReview:  Yes, this song is not as strong as "Always" or "Promises Promises," but it was another choice track from the duo and I thought it would do much better than it's lowly #39 peak. These guys could write a solid pop tune and shade it so very well in Fairlight colors. They were a product of their time and most likely would have had a short career span anyway, but I thought it would last longer than this last chart song.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Naked Eyes never toured. The equipment they used to create their music was state-of-the-art (such as the Fairlight sampler), but none of it could be transported and used for live shows. The technology at the time just didn't allow for equipment like this to be boxed up and moved from location to location. Their successful sound relied on this equipment and it was impossible to replicate it for audiences in a live setting. So they opted not to tour.  2) After the duo split, each member continued on in music. Rob Fisher had success as a songwriter and also got on the Pop chart in 1987 in a new duo called Climie Fisher. Their hit "Love Changes (Everything)" made it to #23 in the US and #2 in the UK. Sadly, Fisher died in 1999 after undergoing cancer surgery. Pete Byrne turned to session work and performed with many artists. He later resurrected the Naked Eyes name for tours and an album. This was after the death of Fisher.