Saturday, May 20, 2017

"Who Wears These Shoes?" by Elton John

Song#:  2045
Date:  09/08/1984
Debut:  54
Peak:  16
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  John got his third Top 10 of the decade when "Sad Songs (Say So Much)," the lead single to his Breaking Hearts album, made it to #5. He kept the ball rolling with this next single that was able to get inside the Top 20. It hit the same mark at AC (#11) and Rock (#18). The album would get to #20 and eventually become another platinum seller for him.

ReduxReview:  I'm surprised this song did as well as it did on the chart. It kind of had a similar feel/appeal as "I'm Still Standing," so perhaps that connection helped it along. It's a good tune, but it is just not in the same league as his other hits. That weakness has made this a forgotten hit in his catalog and it has rarely been included on any of his best of compilations.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Although John's 80s days were hit 'n miss, it was almost as if he couldn't miss in the 70s. He had sixteen Top 10 hits with six of them going to #1. His popularity was so massive that he ended up setting a chart record. By 1975, John had scored four consecutive #1 albums. His next LP, Captain Fantastic and the Dirt Brown Cowboy was certain to be a fifth one. It was, but this time around the album actually debuted in the #1 spot. It was the first time in chart history that an album accomplished that feat. These days with sales and other numbers counted nearly in real time, albums debut at #1 on a regular basis. Back then, it just didn't happen. It was something that not even the Beatles were able to do. John furthered his charting record when his next LP, Rock of the Westies, also debuted at #1.


Friday, May 19, 2017

"Desert Moon" by Dennis DeYoung

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2044
Date:  09/08/1984
Debut:  61
Peak:  10
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  With Styx now officially broken up, the former band members were free to work on their own projects. The first to embark on a solo career was the band's main singer/songwriter Dennis DeYoung. He remained on the band's label, A&M, and recorded songs for his solo debut LP titled Desert Moon. This title-track single was issued and it introduced DeYoung's more adult-oriented sound. The ballad received a warm welcome at AC where it got to #4 and soon it was able to just get inside the Pop Top 10. The tune wasn't really Rock-radio material and it stalled at #31 on that chart. It was a good hit and it helped the album get to #24. It would not become a Styx-sized platinum seller, but it did well and was a good first effort for DeYoung's solo career.

ReduxReview:  As a big Styx fan, I was really looking forward to DeYoung's solo album. I was looking forward to something theatrical, big, and wild, especially following his epic Kilroy Was Here endeavor with Styx. Unfortunately, DeYoung took the opposite route and came up with an MOR album that capitalized more on his hit ballad work than Styx-level rock. Initially, I wasn't all that thrilled with this song. I thought it was rather wimpy and a disappointment. Still, I bought the album hoping for better, but the tunes weren't really there. "Desert Moon" kind of grew on me and I ended up appreciating the song, but I never warmed up to the album or this new AC-leaning DeYoung.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Although different members of Styx would write or co-write the songs and sing lead vocals, DeYoung's contributions brought the biggest amount of chart hits to the band. Throughout their career, Styx would gather eight Top 10 hits. Of those, DeYoung wrote seven of them. The other Top 10, "Too Much Time on My Hands," was written by Tommy Shaw. Add in "Desert Moon" and DeYoung would end up with a career total of eight Pop Top 10 hits as a writer/lead singer.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

"I Feel for You" by Chaka Khan

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2043
Date:  09/08/1984
Debut:  73
Peak:  3
Weeks:  26
Genre:  R&B, Dance

Pop Bits:  With her old band Rufus now solidly in her rear view mirror, Khan was free to restart her solo career. For her sixth album, Khan retained producer Arif Mardin, who had produced her self-titled 1982 album. With a big list of A-list musicians backing her, Khan recorded the song for I Feel for You. The title track was then selected as the LP's first single. It would easily become the biggest single of her career going to #3 Pop, #1 R&B, and #1 Dance. It was also a hit overseas hitting the Top 10 in many countries and #1 in the UK. The hit raised her profile significantly and it seemed that Khan was headed for superstar status. Oddly, this would end up being her last major hit at Pop. She would never be able to get a song in the top half of the chart again. She continued to chart over the years at R&B, but only managed to eke out three Top 10's in the late 80s/early 90s. Regardless, this smash hit got her a worldwide audience and became one of the most memorable songs of the decade.

ReduxReview:  While this certainly wasn't the first pop-dance-R&B song to incorporate rap, I do think it was an influential one. It merged the styles of music perfectly and demonstrated what could be done. It also showed that a song with rap influences could be a major hit. The song was just brilliant and it is one of the rare instances where Prince was outdone on one of his own songs. The rap, production, Stevie's harmonica, and Khan's voice all worked together to create an iconic 80s moment. It still sounds great and people still imitate the opening (much to the dismay of Khan, who still gets bombarded by imitators...).


Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This song earned Khan a second Grammy in the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance category. It would also win for Best R&B Song with that award going to the song's writer...  2) ...Prince. This was actually a remake of a song Prince wrote and recorded for his self-titled 1979 album. He originally wrote the song specifically for Patrice Rushen to use, but she ended up rejecting the tune. Khan was not the first artist to cover the song. The Pointer Sisters did a version of it for their 1982 album So Excited! R&B singer Mary Wells recorded the song in 1983 for an album titled I'm a Lady: The Old, New & Best of Mary Wells, but the song didn't make the final cut. It was later included as a bonus track on a 1987 CD reissue of the LP.  3) A couple of guest stars are apparent on the track. Right off the top is Melle Mel doing a rap that became very famous. Apparently, Khan didn't know a rap was going to be included. She performed her vocals, left, and then later producer Mardin played her the track with the rap. She didn't like it. Especially the part where her name was repeated over and over. Luckily, Mardin convinced her that it would work and the memorable rap helped to make the song a hit. Also heard is Stevie Wonder. He supplied the harmonica solo.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"Strung Out" by Steve Perry

Song#:  2042
Date:  09/08/1984
Debut:  79
Peak:  40
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  "She's Mine," Perry's second single from his debut solo album Street Talk, didn't necessarily burn up the chart. The song peaked just outside the Top 20, which was a bit of a disappointment following his big #3 hit "Oh Sherrie!" This third single returned Perry to a more rock-oriented sound and it did fine at Rock getting to #17. Unfortunately, Pop didn't respond as well and it just barely made the Top 40. Typically, with diminishing returns from each successive single, most labels would call it a day with three. But Perry had one more trick up his sleeve that got him another good hit.

ReduxReview:  I still think they screwed up on the follow-up singles to "Oh Sherrie!" They waited too late for "Foolish Heart" and totally missed out on "I Believe." I like this song and it made for a pretty good track at Rock, but it needed to be left until the fourth single, if even at all. I think the album would have been an even bigger hit had they planned the singles better. Regardless, this album-closing tune was a solid track that sounded like something Journey could have done if they wanted to be a pop band.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In Perry's pre-Journey days he was a member of a few bands including his last one before joining up with Journey called Alien Project. The band seemed to be doing well and had recorded a few demo songs to entice label interest. Unfortunately, before that could happen one member of the band was killed in an auto accident. The band decided to split afterward and Perry nearly gave up music. He was coaxed back by Journey's manager, who had heard one of the Alien Project demos. Offered the job as the band's new lead vocalist, Perry went back to work. For Perry's solo album, he enlisted the help of one of his former Alien Project band members, Craig Krampf. Krampf had become an in-demand session drummer and sometimes songwriter since those early days. As a nod to the Alien Project, Perry named his solo album Street Talk, which was originally supposed to be the band's name.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Song#:  2041
Date:  09/08/1984
Debut:  80
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley were already stars in their UK homeland. Their debut LP Fantastic went to #1 and four of its song were Top 10 hits. In the States, they didn't have the same luck. Only one single was able to chart, "Bad Boys" (#60), and the album wasn't selling well. That would all change with their second album, Make It Big. This time out, the duo changed up their sound and image to be more pop friendly with a little blue-eyed soul sophistication thrown in. Gone were their carefree, playboy images along with their social commentary lyrics and quirky songs. The change made them worldwide stars and this first single got things kicked off. The retro pop sound of the song combined with a fun video was irresistible candy for pop listeners and they ate it up in droves. The song found its way to #1 and went platinum in the process. It would also get to #4 at AC and #27 Dance. It would also be their first #1 in the UK. The album would be a mainstay in the Top 10 and eventually spend three weeks at #1 later in March of '85.

ReduxReview:  Yes, I was a total sucker for this song. It was well-written, catchy, and undeniably fun. It's one of those tunes that just makes you smile. After one "jitterbug" and a couple of finger snaps, you are hooked. This was far and away better than anything on their debut album and it showed that these guys were the real deal. It's also one of those songs that when played folks go "oh, god, no," but before long they are boppin' and singing along.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was inspired by a note left by Andrew Ridgeley. When the duo first hit in the UK, Ridgeley was still living with his parents. Since he seemed to always be gone for tours or other career-related things, keeping a room at home seemed more logical that trying to take care of his own place. During one stay at his parents, Ridgeley needed to be woken up after catching some sleep and he decided to leave a note on his door as a reminder to his parents. He wrote "wake me up up" with a second "up" by mistake, so he just left it and finished by writing "before you go go." George Michael happened to see the note and thought it was funny. He then decided to turn it into a song.  2) The beginning of this song had a voice that says "jitterbug." The Jitterbug was a popular swing-style dance that developed in the late 30s. It became very popular in the WWII era and lasted through to the early 50s. The dance has morphed into various forms over the years and it is now more or less referred to as a type of swing dance. Calling out this dance seemed to fit well with the retro sound of  this song as was the lyrical reference to movie star Doris Day.


Monday, May 15, 2017

"Layin' It on the Line" by Jefferson Starship

Song#:  2040
Date:  09/08/1984
Debut:  82
Peak:  66
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Rock

Pop BitsNuclear Furniture would be Jefferson Starship's eighth and last under that iteration of the band's name. It would be another gold seller for them thanks to the #1 Rock track "No Way Out" (#23 Pop) and this second single that got to #6 at Rock. The song was able to make it onto the Pop chart, but it lost its struggle to climb out of the basement within a few weeks. It would be the band's last single to reach the Pop chart. A third single titled "Sorry Me, Sorry You" would be their final entry on the Rock chart getting to #50. After this album, Jefferson Starship was no more. Paul Kantner left the band and along with him the legal rights to the name. Five of the remaining members would then move on as a new entity simply titled Starship. They would make a splash with their debut LP later in '85.

ReduxReview:  I've always liked this slice of commercial-leaning arena rock. It has a solid verse and the chorus has a terrific hook. It sounded great on the radio. I was really shocked when it took a quick exit from the Pop chart. I thought for sure this song was easily going to make the Top 20. Rock radio embraced it then and even today the song still find its way into the classic rock rotation. I always include it in my workout playlist.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Later on in 1992, Kantner would begin to revive the band and the Jefferson Starship name. Initially known as Jefferson Starship: The Next Generation, the tag name would be dropped a couple years later. Although the band included various former members of Jefferson Airplane/Starship, the only person from the Starship transition phase to appear with the band was Grace Slick. By 1998, the band was ready to record a comeback LP. Titled Windows of Heaven, the album received some good notices, but it couldn't make any headway on the chart. Ten years later, they would issue another disc called Jefferson's Tree of Liberty.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

"New Girl Now" by Honeymoon Suite

Song#:  2039
Date:  09/08/1984
Debut:  85
Peak:  57
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Formed in 1981, this Canadian band got a significant boost when they entered a recording of their song "New Girl Now" into a Toronto radio station's unsigned band contest. Voters put the song at #1 and that contest win helped the band secure a contract with WEA Canada. They went in the studio and recorded their self-titled debut album, which featured this first single - a newly recorded version of their contest-winning song. The song did fine in Canada getting to #23 and it did very well in the US on the Rock chart where it got to #7. It was able to cross over to Pop for a few weeks and nearly broke through the top half of the chart. A second single got to #47 Rock while only getting to #75 in Canada. The band would score two more lower-charting singles from the album in their homeland. The album sold well and the band was off and running.

ReduxReview:  The opening of this nearly reminds me of an AC/DC jam, however once it gets going it veers into Loverboy territory. It's a solid song that I thought had made it into the Top 40. It really should have. I'm not sure why it didn't connect with Pop radio in the same way as some other rock tunes did at the time. It was popular in my area, so I just assumed it did much better than #57. This band is still quite popular in Canada, but they have kind of been forgotten in the States. It's too bad because they had a few tasty tunes like this one.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The band's name was inspired by the town in which they formed, Niagara Falls. For decades, newlyweds made Niagara Falls one of the top post-wedding destinations in the world. Because of this, the city was unofficially dubbed the honeymoon capital of the world. The band took their town's reputation and spun it off into a name.