Saturday, May 27, 2017

"What About Me" by Kenny Rogers with Kim Carnes & James Ingram

Song#:  2052
Date:  09/15/1984
Debut: 60
Peak:  15
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Rogers' 1983 album Eyes That See in the Dark was a double platinum hit thanks to songwriter/producer Barry Gibb and a little #1 smash called "Islands in the Stream." For his follow-up LP, Rogers enlisted the help of producer David Foster, who was having great success with several artists at the time, especially Chicago. Rogers would co-produce the album What About Me? with Foster and this title-track song would be the first single issued. The tune was a bit unusual because it featured a trio of hit solo artists. On board with Rogers was Kim Carnes ("Bette Davis Eyes") and James Ingram ("Just Once"). The star trio certainly attracted the AC crowd and it became a #1 hit on that chart. It also did well at Pop getting near the Top 10. The pop-oriented song wasn't as crossover friendly as some of Rogers' other songs, so it stalled early at Country at #70. Without a mega hit the size of "Islands," the album didn't do quite as well, but it would still be another platinum seller for Rogers.

ReduxReview:  I think the draw here was the trio of stars. It turned the song into more of an event piece rather than just a typical single. It's a very good AC song with solid production from Foster and the trio sounds great together. Sometimes these collaborations can be car wrecks, but this one worked out quite well. I think its hit status at AC certainly helped it on the Pop chart. This more adult-oriented song was not really what the kids were into at the time, so the #15 peak was both surprising and welcome.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Rogers and Foster co-wrote this song with an up-and-coming singer/songwriter named Richard Marx. Marx would also co-write two other songs for the album. He would launch a highly successful solo career of his own later in 1987.  2) Carnes and Ingram were not the first pair of singers considered for the trio with Rogers. If fact, they were the third pair of singers offered the gig. Initially, the song was intended to be recorded by Rogers, Lionel Richie, and Barbra Streisand. Unfortunately, Richie decided not to do the song and in-turn Streisand dropped out. Next up were Jeffery Osborne and Olivia Newton-John, but scheduling conflicts and other projects got in the way and both singers had to decline. This then allowed Carnes and Ingram to jump in on the song. Rogers had a history with Carnes via their time together in the folk group The New Christy Minstrels and the hit duet "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer" (#4, 1980).


Friday, May 26, 2017

"Better Be Good to Me" by Tina Turner

Top 10 Alert!
Grammy Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2051
Date:  09/15/1984
Debut:  63
Peak:  5
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  As Turner's unexpected hit "What's Love Got to Do With It" was spending its third and last week atop the Pop chart, this follow-up single debuted. It would be another solid success for her getting into the Pop Top 5. It also reached #6 at R&B, #16 Dance, and #32 Rock. It was aided by a popular MTV video that featured guest appearances by Cy Curnin and Jamie West-Oram from The Fixx. Both Fixx members performed on the track with Curnin providing background vocals and West-Oram playing guitar. The song would earn Turner a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

ReduxReview:  This song was just brilliant. From it's quiet, intense verse to the explosion of chorus, it was a winner from beginning to end and everything about it fit Turner like a glove. Hines' production was spot on and the song sounded bigger than life when cranked to 11. My favorite part is the build-up to the final chorus. This was also a case where the remake was so much better than the original (see below). The two are not all that different, but Turner's version was just a standout due to its production/arrangement and Turner's performance. It all worked to take the song to a brand new level and it became an 80s classic.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Curnin and West-Oram's appearance on the song and video came courtesy of producer Rupert Hine. Hine was in the middle of producing The Fixx's next album when the opportunity came along to work with Turner. He produced this song for her and then co-wrote (with West-Oram and Jeanette Obstoj) and produced the album-opening track "I Might Have Been Queen," which was the only track on Turner's Private Dancer LP that was written specifically for her. Since he was working with The Fixx, he brought along two of its members to help out. On this song, Hine played all the instruments except for guitar, which was done by West-Oram. Then Curnin provided vocals.  2) This is a remake of a song originally done by the band Spider. A member of that band, Holly Knight, co-wrote the tune with Mike Chapman. It appeared on their 1981 album Between the Lines. It was issued as a single, but if failed to chart.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

"Sugar Don't Bite" by Sam Harris

Song#:  2050
Date:  09/15/1984
Debut:  62
Peak:  36
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  In 1983, a new talent competition show made its debut. Star Search, hosted by Ed McMahon, had people competing each week in various categories of singing, comedy, and dancing. In each category, two people would compete and a panel of judges would pick a winner by awarding stars. The winner would come back the next week to take on a new challenger. The show was a hit and one of the reasons for its success was a competitor in the male vocal category, Sam Harris. Harris mowed down the competition for fourteen weeks straight with his big voice and fun personality. He quickly became the breakout performer of the show and would go on to win the grand final at the end of the show's first season. His signature tune was a big, blistering, and emotional performance of "Over the Rainbow," which slayed the audience. Winners of each category received a cash award, but that was about it. For the singers, there was no record deal, so their actual futures were uncertain. With the star potential that Harris had, it was a no-brainer for a label to pick him up. He signed with Motown and began work on his self-titled debut album. This first single was issued and it was expected that it would do well thanks to his Star Search fan base. Unfortunately, the best it could do was a short stay just inside the Top 40. It did a little better at Dance getting to #24. Although fans and others didn't really show up for the song, they did for the album, which included his star-making version of "Over the Rainbow," and it would be a gold seller. A second single, "Hearts on Fire," would reach #23 at Dance, but fail to make the Pop chart.

ReduxReview:  I was a fan of Star Search and watched the whole first season. Like a lot of folks, I mainly tuned in to watch Harris. He was fantastic. He virtually killed anything he sang. I was excited for his first album and bought it. However, it wasn't all that impressive. This song was not all that great and didn't really seem to fit him. In fact, many of the songs on the album did not suit his personality or voice. Caught up in the business of music, I think Harris was stuck with what Motown wanted and it didn't serve him very well (they even forced him to remake one of their catalog hits for the album - "You Keep Me Hanging On"). He has stated in a couple of interviews that he really didn't like this song to begin with and chucked it to the side of the curb as soon as he could escape it. The song is not all that bad and it has good writing pedigree with Roberts and Weiss, but it just doesn't fit Harris at all. He had potential for a much bigger career, but with this song setting the tone, it basically reset him back to square one.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This song was written by Bruce Roberts and Donna Weiss. It was originally recorded by Rita Coolidge and included on the soundtrack to the 1983 film A Night in Heaven.  2) Does the chorus of this song sound familiar at all?  If not, instead of "Sugar Don't Bite" sing "Papa Don't Preach." A bit too similar? "Sugar's" writers Roberts and Weiss thought so as well and they sued the writers of Madonna's 1986 #1 hit, Brian Elliot and Madonna. The claim by Roberts and Weiss must have had merit as a settlement soon followed.  3) Harris was the standout star of the first Star Search, but he would not be the most successful recording artist to be a winner on the show. That would most likely be season one vocal group winners Sawyer Brown. That country band would end up scoring nineteen Country Top 10's including three #1's. But what many folks talked about years after the original show ended in 1995 were the non-winners who made it big. The list is pretty significant and includes stars like Britney Spears, Tiffany, Alanis Morissette, the Backstreet Boys, Drew Carey, Justin Timberlake, Usher, Dave Chappelle, Destiny's Child, Rosie O'Donnell, Pitbull, Christina Aguilera, and Usher.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"I Can't Hold Back" by Survivor

Song#:  2049
Date:  09/15/1984
Debut:  85
Peak:  13
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Survivor was in a state of flux. Their fourth album, Caught in the Game, was a dud and their lead singer, Dave Bickler, needed vocal chord surgery, which required recovery time. Not willing to wait on Bickler, the band sent him packing and brought on board Jimi Jamison to take over. With Jamison, they quickly recorded a tune for the soundtrack to The Karate Kid, "The Moment of Truth" (#63). After that, the band settled down and plotted their next move. In a way, it was a make-or-break moment for them. Another poor performing LP could potentially kill their career. With that most likely weighing on their minds, band members Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan set out to write the songs that would become their next LP Vital Signs. True to the band's name and the title of the album, this first single showed that there was indeed life still left in the group. The song headed straight to #1 at Rock while at Pop it slowly climbed the chart and finally stopped just outside the Top 10. It was a welcome return for the band and it became their highest peaking single since their 1982 #1 smash "Eye of the Tiger." The news would continue to get better for them over the coming year.

ReduxReview:  There was just no way this song was gonna miss. It really had everything going for it. That wistful opening really set the tone and from there it moved into what was essentially a second chorus before exploding into a full-on, blissful pop/rock. This thing has so many hooks in it that nearly every part of it is memorable. Even the bridge stands out on its own. Peterik and Sullivan wrote a great song and Ron Nevison produced it perfectly. This really should have been a big Top 10 hit, but for some reason it stalled a bit early. Still, it's one of their best and most memorable songs. I loved it then and I still do.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Survivor wasn't Jimi Jamison's first attempt at making it big with a band. He had two significant chances prior to joining Survivor, but neither one paid off. In the mid-70s, Jamison joined a Memphis-based band called Target. They attracted the attention of A&M Records and the band proceeded to record two albums for the label. Both failed to capture an audience. Later on, he helped form the band Cobra, which got signed to Epic. In 1983, they issued a debut album titled First Strike. Once again, nothing came from it and the band broke up. That's when he got picked up by the Survivor crew and it was his vocals that led the band through a career resurgence.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"You, Me and He" by Mtume

Song#:  2048
Date:  09/15/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  83
Weeks:  5
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This band's fourth album, Juicy Fruit, became their biggest hit thanks in part to the LP's #1 R&B title track (#45 Pop). Both the album and the single were certified gold sellers. Now the band had to follow up that success and they did so with their next effort titled You, Me and Him. The title track was issued as the first single and it was another hit for them at R&B getting to #2. However, Pop crossover results weren't as good as their previous hit and the song stalled near the bottom of the chart. While the album would stop short of gold level sales, it was still a solid hit reaching #5 at R&B. This song would be Mtume's last one to reach the Pop chart. They would grab one more R&B Top 10 in 1986 with "Breathless" (#9), but the group would disband after that.

ReduxReview:  This ballad is just a bit too laid back for me. There is not much in the way of a melody either. To me it is just little snippets sewn together with empty pauses. It just all..<pause, pause>..seems so...<pause pause>...disjointed...<pause pause>...and halting. It doesn't flow well at all. There is not much of a hook here either. These are talented folks, so I'm glad it did well for them at R&B, but I was rather disappointed by it.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Mtume's lead singer, Tawatha Agee, went on to a solo career in 1987. Going by just the moniker Tawatha, she recorded her debut album Welcome to My Dream with James Mtume as producer. The album included her first and only Top 10 R&B hit, "Thigh Ride" (#7). Despite the hit, it seems that her solo career hit obstacles and she returned to working behind the scenes as a backup singer. She has been very successful over the years singing background vocals for many artists including David Bowie, Luther Vandross, Celine Dion, Sting, and Aretha Franklin.


Monday, May 22, 2017

"Bullish" by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

Song#:  2047
Date:  09/15/1984
Debut:  94
Peak:  90
Weeks:  2
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Alpert broke up his original Tijuana Brass in 1969, but some minor iterations of it existed until 1974. After that, Alpert was officially on his own and his solo career hit its peak with the 1979 #1 hit "Rise." As the 80s came along, Alpert still tried to keep his music modern and relevant, but very few of his singles were making any headway. An appearance during the 1984 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles spurred interest in Alpert and the Brass, so to capitalize on that Alpert drug out the old band name for a new album titled Bullish. The title-track song was issued as a single and it got a little airplay at AC (#22) and R&B (#52). However, it just wasn't what was happening at Pop and the song quickly disappeared after two short weeks.

ReduxReview:  This was kind of a sad cash-in project. Even though it is billed as being by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, there is no band. It's just a lot of synths with Alpert noodling over them. Anyone expecting to hear the good ol' sounds of "The Lonely Bull" or "Tijuana Taxi" were going to be sorely disappointed (as I was because I'm a big fan of the pre-70s Tijuana Brass albums). The ol' bait n' switch. It's too bad because an actual revival of the old Brass sound might have been a draw. Instead, we get typical 80s Alpert fare like this song - a middling synth-based groove that lacks any kind of flare. What made a few of Alpert's 80s songs work, such as "Rise" or "Route 101," is that there was a solid, memorable melody involved. Here, there is none. I listened to it several times and immediately afterward, I couldn't hum a bar of it. It's not a bad track. It would be fine to hear while dining on the patio. However, that's not exactly a ringing endorsement. (Note - the album also contains Alpert's perfectly awful rendition of "Maniac" featuring vocals by his wife Lani Hall. It is truly cringe-worthy...)

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Alpert and his Tijuana Brass became famous thanks to their smart, catchy instrumentals like their 1965 #7 hit "A Taste of Honey." However, it would be a vocal track that would become Alpert's first #1 at Pop. For the Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition "This Guy's in Love with You," Alpert chose to sing the song in addition to playing trumpet for the solo section. When he performed the tune on a TV show, the response was so positive that Alpert decided to release it as a single. In 1968, the song made it to #1 becoming Alpert's first single to top the Pop chart. It was also the first single on Alpert's A&M record label to hit #1. A little over a decade later, Alpert would get to #1 for a second time with the instrumental hit "Rise." In doing so, he set a record as the only artist to reach #1 with an instrumental and a vocal track.


Sunday, May 21, 2017

"Midnite Madness" by Krokus

Song#:  2046
Date:  09/15/1984
Debut:  94
Peak:  71
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  This Swiss band was formed in 1975 and they issued a self-titled debut album the following year. Initially, the sound of the band was more prog-rock than hard rock. Their first three albums didn't do all that well and the band needed something to boost their career. The inspiration they needed for a new direction came from them seeing AC/DC. That band's brand of rock prompted Krokus to move into metal territory and in 1981 they debuted their new sound with the album Metal Rendez-vous. It would be highly successful in Switzerland and soon the band was picking up airplay in other countries including the US. Each successive follow-up album did better than the last until they hit their US peak with the gold-selling 1983 album Headhunter. With more attention drawn to them and potential to break even wider, there was pressure on the band to deliver an even bigger follow-up. They recorded a new disc titled The Blitz and this first single was issued. It would be their biggest hit at Rock getting to #10 and it would be their first to cross over to the Pop chart. It didn't stay long there, but the extra attention helped to secure a second gold album.

ReduxReview:  This was a band that definitely wore their influences (AC/DC) on their sleeves. For the most part, I think they were able to spin it into their own thing, but it's hard to hear them and not think of AC/DC. This rollicking tune has high energy and enough commercial rock installed to make it sound good on radio. With action on MTV and solid rock radio support, this probably should have done better at Pop than it did.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  For The Blitz, the band recorded the song "Boys Nite Out." This song was written by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance and originally recorded by Adams. Apparently, this song was being considered for inclusion on Adams' upcoming album Reckless, but it ended up getting cut. The song then found its way to Krokus, who ended up rewriting a chunk of it. Two band members got writing credits for the song along with Adams and Vallance. Adams' version of the song would later see the light of day on the 2014 expanded anniversary edition of Reckless.