Saturday, April 29, 2017

"Anywhere with You" by Rubber Rodeo

Song#:  2026
Date:  08/25/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  86
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Rhode Island band stirred up a lot of folks when they dressed up their new wave/rock tunes in country and western styles. In 1982, they issued a couple of indie EPs that blended their own originals with standards like Dolly Parton's "Jolene." They secured a good following in the northeast and by 1984 they had signed with Mercury Records. Their debut LP, Scenic Views, was completed and its first single, "The Hardest Part," was issued. It didn't get anywhere but this second single was able to gain a bit of an audience and made it to the Pop chart for a few weeks. The results were good enough for Mercury to ask for a second album and in 1986 they released Heartbreak Highway. Unfortunately, none of the album's singles caught on and the album quickly disappeared, as did the band's contract. They continued to perform throughout the remainder of the 80s, but broke up soon after.

ReduxReview:  I loved this song the first time I heard it and picked up the single immediately. I got the album a bit later, which came from some rep for Mercury. He came to one of my college classes to discuss the business of music. I remember him distinctly because he really wasn't into music, yet he was trying to promote and sell it. Basically, he was a blowhard sales guy with about zero clue of what he was selling. At the time he was trying to promote both Bananarama and Rubber Rodeo. I distinctly remember him saying that Rubber Rodeo's lead vocalist, Trish Milliken, was the next Sissy Hynde. (Obviously, he meant Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders.) You can't made comments like that in a room full of music students who were well-versed on current and past music and artists. He was horrible. However, the one good thing was that he brought promo copies of the albums, so I grabbed up Scenic Views. It's really an interesting album and I like the band's sound. This single was the best they had to offer and it really should have caught on. I still love it. Their second album had a couple good tunes including the single "Souvenir."

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Along with Scenic Views, the band made several videos for their songs that were collected and released under the same title. The video ended up grabbing a Grammy nomination for Best Short-Form Music Video in 1985. It was beaten out by David Bowie's Jazzin' for Blue Jean video.  2) One person who performed in Rubber Rodeo may be familiar with fans of David Bowie. Steel guitarist Reeves Gabrels joined the band following their second album. Later on, he would join Bowie's new band Tin Machine. He would also play guitar on several of Bowie's later albums.


Friday, April 28, 2017

"Torture" by The Jacksons

Song#:  2025
Date:  08/18/1984
Debut:  48
Peak:  17
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Riding on the wave of Michael's success, the Jackson brothers reassembled for the Victory album and associated tour. The LP's first single, the Michael Jackson/Mick Jagger duet "State of Shock," did enough business to reach #3 at Pop and #4 R&B. This follow-up tune, written by Jackie Jackson and Kathy Wakefield, couldn't get nearly that high on the charts. It stalled outside of the Top 10 at both Pop and R&B (#12). However, it did a little better at Dance where it got to #9. The song was originally supposed to be a duet between Jackie and Michael, but the last minute involvement of Jermaine into the reunion allowed him to take over Jackie's part. It would be Jermaine's only lead vocal on the album. The track would be The Jacksons' final one to reach the Pop Top 40.

ReduxReview:  The Victory album was not one where all the Jackson brothers worked close together on everything. It wasn't harmonious either and that showed in the results. It's not a very good album. However, there were two bright points - "State of Shock" and this song. While I wouldn't say this track is outstanding in anyway, I do think it is a pretty good synthpop-ish jam with a lot of 80s keyboard sound effects. It doesn't come up to the standards set by Michael and Quincy Jones, but it's not too bad. I think it helped to have Michael on board with this one for vocals. Without him, I'm not sure the song would have gotten much attention. For the Jacksons, it was pretty much downhill from here.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The video for this song was quite memorable. It featured the Jackson brothers being tortured in various ways and the later turned into claymation-style skeletons. Apparently the title of the song was an apt description of the video shoot. Although Michael had participated in the initial idea sessions for the video, he eventually could not appear in it due to other commitments. Jermaine simply declined to participate. There were cost overruns, a change in choreographers (Jackie's girlfriend , a Laker girl named Paula Abdul took over duties), delays, a wax figure of Michael being used, etc. The whole shoot was a mess and in the end it even drove the production company into bankruptcy. The finished video played fine on MTV, but it didn't do well enough to make the song a big hit.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

"I Just Called to Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Oscar Alert!
Song#:  2024
Date:  08/18/1984
Debut:  58
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  26
Genre:  Pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  It had been two years since Wonder had a significant hit (1982's "Do I Do", #2 R&B/#13 Pop) and four years since his last proper studio album (1980's Hotter Than July). Before he could return to the studio for a follow-up album, he was sidetracked into working on a movie project. The film, direct by and starring Gene Wilder, was titled The Woman in Red and Wonder ended up in charge of the songs for the soundtrack. It featured seven Wonder compositions plus an instrumental written by Wonder's guitarist at the time, Ben Bridges. Two of the songs would be duets between Wonder and Dionne Warwick while one song was a Warwick solo. To get things started this solo effort by Wonder was released. It quickly took off and before long it was sitting atop the Pop, R&B, and AC charts. It was also a smash hit worldwide hitting #1 in many countries including the UK, where it would be the second best-selling single of the year (behind Band Aid's charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas"). It would also win the Oscar for Best Original Song while grabbing three Grammy nominations including Song of the Year. The hit would push the soundtrack album to #4 Pop/#1 R&B and it would eventually be certified platinum. Although the movie was somewhat successful, it wasn't a major box office hit and most critics panned the film. However, this song certainly lived on and it still ranks as one of Wonder's biggest hits.

ReduxReview:  Let the hate mail begin! I cannot stand this song. Never could. From the very first listen, I developed a deep dislike for the song. I didn't like the lyrics, the simplistic melody and structure, and especially the production, which sounds like Wonder recorded it all on a little Casio in his living room. (BTW - Wonder does play/do everything on this track.) I was also filled with disappointment because I didn't expect something so dorky from an amazing writer like Wonder. Yes, most artists have their duds, but this one was an explosion of treacly crap. It really irritated me to no end. I couldn't fathom why Wonder would let this ditty out into the public and then why folks absolutely loved it. I kind of realize that second part now. It's one of those cross-generational, simple to sing, sentimental songs that pleases a wide audience. And as much as I absolutely hate the song, I have to give props to Wonder for coming up with it. Even though I think this song is so slight that Wonder could probably fart it in his sleep, it takes a kind of genius to come up with that perfect, simplistic tune that nearly enraptures everyone who hears it. Despite that, I still dislike the song and what makes it even worse is the album version of the song that is a dreadful 6+ minutes! Are there worse charting songs? Absolutely. Are there worse charting songs by huge artists like Wonder? Maybe. But I thought Wonder jumped the shark with this tune and I had a hard time listening to anything he did after this. Sorry folks - it's only my personal opinion. If you love the song, please continue to enjoy it. I'll just cover my ears until it is over.

ReduxRating:  2/10

Trivia:  Double Trouble!  1) Just like another movie hit from the same year, "Ghostbusters," this song got embroiled in a lawsuit. Lee Garrett, who had previously written songs with Wonder, and Lloyd Chiate filed suit against Wonder claiming they were the writers of the song, not Wonder. Apparently, they had written a song called "I Just Called to Say" back in 1976 and played it for Wonder in 1977.  Wonder said he got the idea for the song in 1976 and recorded an initial demo for it soon after, but didn't finish the song until 1984. At a jury trial in 1990, the verdict came out in Wonder's favor. The jury heard both versions of the song and besides the title line, they found no other similarities. Prior to the trial, Garrett drop his claim to the lawsuit and ended up testifying on behalf of Wonder.  2) Wonder's Oscar win was slightly controversial as well. The Academy rules at the time stated that in order to receive a nomination, the song had to have been written specifically for the film. As Wonder later stated, which was also a part of the above trial, the song had been written long before the film and was not inspired by or written expressly for the film. If that had been known early on, the song would most likely have been disqualified from Oscar contention. However, it skipped through and won. Despite the minor kerfuffle, the win was considered valid and Wonder retained his statue.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"Are We Ourselves?" by The Fixx

Song#:  2023
Date:  08/18/1984
Debut:  60
Peak:  15
Weeks: 15
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  This UK band broke through in the US with their first (and only) Top 10 hit "One Thing Leads to Another" (#4). It was from their platinum-selling second LP Reach the Beach, which was produced by Rupert Hine (as was their debut album). For their follow-up disc, the band retained Hine and came out of the studio with Phantoms. This first single was issued and it became their first #1 on the Rock chart. The song also did well at Pop, but it peaked just shy of the Top 10. Although not a huge hit, the single did well enough to help the album reach gold level sales.

ReduxReview:  Although not as catchy as "One Thing," this is still a good, groovin' track and I ended up buying this single back in the day. I think it was helped along by its accompanying video, which seemed to play a lot on MTV. At less than two-and-a-half minutes long, it was a quick, satisfying blast of new wave.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The origins of The Fixx date back to 1979 when college friends Cy Curnin and Adam Woods decided to form a band. They brought three others on board and called themselves Portraits. They did well enough to get signed to Ariola Records. They hit the studio and two of the tunes they recorded, "Little Women" and "Hazards in the Home" were issued as singles. Unfortunately, nothing came from them. After that, they changed the band name to The Fix and signed up with 101 Records. They released another single titled "Lost Planes," but it too failed. However, it did get the attention of RCA Records who signed the band. After a slight name change to The Fixx, the band was off and running.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"Bop 'Til You Drop" by Rick Springfield

Song#:  2022
Date:  08/18/1984
Debut:  67
Peak:  20
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Springfield's first starring role in a major film came about via Hard to Hold. The movie tanked at the box office, but the soundtrack was a platinum seller thanks to the #5 single "Love Somebody." A follow-up, "Don't Walk Away," faltered a bit and could only manage a #26 showing. However, this third single did slightly better and was able to just clip the Pop Top 20. It was also one of Springfield's minor few songs to reach the Dance chart. It topped out at #47.

ReduxReview:  I've always disliked the title of this song. I think it works fine for the chorus and is kind of catchy, but it's a little on the goofy side. Besides that, it's another solid entry from Springfield. There is a lot going on production-wise, but somehow it all works well together. The song lyrics also feature the movie's title. It would end up being Springfield's last Top 20 hit, although he'd get close to that mark with a couple future singles.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In addition to seven tracks by Springfield, the Hard to Hold soundtrack featured three tracks by other artists. Peter Gabriel contributed "I Go Swimming," Nona Hendryx performed "Heart of a Woman," and Graham Parker supplied "When the Lights Go Down." None were released as singles in the US, but a live version of "I Go Swimming" was included on Gabriel's Plays Live LP. That track got some airplay at Rock and reached #38 on that chart. The Hendryx song appeared as a bonus track on the 2012 reissue of her album The Art of Defense. The Graham Parker track later appeared on Parker's 2005 compilation set The Official Art Vandelay Tapes, Vol. 2. The collection's name came from one of Parker's favorite TV shows, Seinfield. In one episode, the characters George and Jerry do a bit of a stake out in a building lobby and their cover story is they are meeting with a businessman named Art Coverlay. But George makes a mistake and says Art Vandelay. The name resurfaces in other episodes and in the finale of the series, there is a judge whose name is Arthur Vandelay.


Monday, April 24, 2017

"The Last Time I Made Love" by Joyce Kennedy & Jeffery Osborne

Song#:  2021
Date:  08/18/1984
Debut:  76
Peak:  40
Weeks:  12
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Joyce Kennedy tried to get a career going in the early 60s recording several R&B singles, but besides getting local attention the songs couldn't break her nationally. As the 70s came around, Kennedy met fellow musician Glenn Murdock and the pair began to work together. They formed the soul/funk/rock band Mother's Finest and began to tour. The band got picked up by RCA, but after a lackluster debut album, they were dropped. It would take four years before they would get their next shot with Epic Records. By that point, they were known as a killer live act and their sound had evolved to be closer to hard rock than R&B. A second self-titled album got released to solid reviews and more albums would follow. Along the way they became known as a dangerous opening act because they slayed the crowds before the headliner could issue a single note. They toured with the likes of Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, and The Who. After a 1983 album, the band decided to take a break and that led to Kennedy recording a solo album. However, for this album she set aside the hard rock sounds of Mother's Finest in favor of a more contemporary R&B sound with a little AC/pop thrown in. This first crossover single, a duet with R&B/AC star Jeffery Osborne, introduced her new direction and the results were quite positive. The ballad made it to #2 at R&B while hitting the Top 40 at both Pop and AC (#37). It would end up being Kennedy's only solo effort to reach the Pop chart. Her follow-up single, a remake of Carole Bayer Sager's "Stronger Than Before" would reach #30 at R&B. A second album didn't yield the same results and it ended Kennedy's solo career. She returned to Mother's Finest and has been with them since.

ReduxReview:  If you've ever heard anything from Mother's Finest, then you will quickly realize that this was a dramatic change in sound for Kennedy. It's as if Ozzy Osborne suddenly did a Neil Diamond cover album. Kennedy's roots were in early 60s R&B, so this is not unfamiliar territory for her, but for folks used to her belting out some hefty rock, this was quite a change. The song itself, a Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil composition, is your standard R&B/AC crossover tune. It's fine and lovely, and the Kennedy/Osborne pairing is terrific, but the song is not all that strong. Kennedy is an amazing vocalist and performer, but this is a little bit of a letdown. Regardless of the style or genre, she deserved better material. Her version of "Stronger Than Before" was much better.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia: The 1975 self-titled LP from Mother's Finest helped to break the band to a national audience. Along with all their touring, they ended up with a little radio airplay thanks to the single "Fire." It was a minor blip on the Pop chart at #93, but the exposure certainly helped. Their next album, Another Mother Further, featured their best charting hit at Pop, the #53 "Baby Love" (#79 R&B). However, their best effort at R&B came in 1989 when "I'm 'n' Danger" got to #11.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

"Satisfy Me" by Billy Satellite

Song#:  2020
Date:  08/18/1984
Debut:  82
Peak:  64
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Billy Satellite is not the stage name of a solo artist, but is the name of a band from California. Formed earlier in the 80s, the rock band's shows and demos secured them a deal with Capitol Records. Later in 1984, their self-titled debut album was ready to go. It was introduced by this first single that was able to reach #30 on the Rock chart. It crossed over to Pop for a few weeks, but couldn't make much headway. The album was able to sell a few copies and got to #139 on the chart.

ReduxReview:  The crunchy guitars that start the song sound really good and lead singer Monty Byrom's voice is kind of similar to Lou Gramm's (Foreigner). The track was radio-ready for Rock and I'm a little surprised it didn't do better on that chart. The song's harder edge and near-Southern rock-blues sound was not necessarily Pop radio friendly though. It's a solid tune, but nothing that was going to attract an 80s pop audience.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This song would later be covered by Eddie Money on his 1999 album Ready Eddie. It would not be released as a single. The album would not chart and would be Money's last studio album for eight years.