Saturday, July 1, 2017

"No More Lonely Nights" by Paul McCartney

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2087
Date:  10/13/1984
Debut:  48
Peak:  6
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  After recording his album Pipes of Peace, McCartney decided he wanted to return to the world of acting and set out on a film project. His ideas for the film were handed over to a couple of writers, but neither one seemed to capture what McCartney wanted. So, he decided to write the script himself. The movie, titled Give My Regards to Broad Street, had McCartney and others basically playing fictionalized versions of themselves. It was set up as a kind of day-in-the-life type film with a side story about some master tapes being stolen. For the soundtrack, McCartney decided to revisit and record new versions of songs from his Beatles and Wings days. A few new original tunes rounded out the set including this first single from the soundtrack. The song would reach the Pop Top 10 while getting to #2 at AC and #16 Rock. Although the song was a solid hit, sales of the album were lackluster. This may have had to do with the failure of the movie to capture an audience. Critics panned it and the box office returns were minimal. The soundtrack album would peak at a low #21, which was McCartney's worst showing to-date from his post-Beatles career. The album would be certified gold, but that was a far cry from his previous platinum successes. In the UK the story was a bit different with this song reaching #2 and the album hitting #1. This song would be the only single released from the soundtrack. Although it would grab a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song, it would fail to secure an Oscar nod.

ReduxReview:  I remember seeing this film when it came out. It was awful. I don't know if I'd call it the worst movie I'd ever seen, but it would be listed in the dregs of film slop. It was painfully slight, dull, didn't make sense sometimes, and horribly "acted." I had a college friend who was a massive McCartney fan and even she had a hard time defending the film. I really think McCartney was going for something a little wild and crazy like the Beatles' films, but this did not work at all. Personally, I didn't like the soundtrack either. Why remake your own classic songs? None of them were going to supplant the originals and none of them were really interesting. The new tunes McCartney wrote for the film, like this tune, were a shade better, but they still wouldn't come close to McCartney's greatest hits. I wasn't a big fan of this song when it came out, but I don't mind it so much now. It seems to fit in with some of his 70s hits with Wings. If it comes up in a McCartney playlist, I'll give it a listen. But I won't be seeing the movie again...

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) Although this is a ballad, an upbeat version of the song, known as the "Playout Version," was also recorded. It was used over the end credits of the film. This version spawned two other variations - a dance mix and an extended mix. The extended mix was issued as a 12" single, but it didn't catch on in the clubs, therefore it failed to hit the US Dance chart. Both mixes would later be included on a reissue CD of the soundtrack.  2) Singer/comedy actress Tracey Ullman was featured in the film. Unlike McCartney and a few others who played versions of themselves, she actually played a character. She was working on the film around the same time she was shooting a video for her soon-to-be hit song "They Don't Know" (#8). It then worked out that McCartney would make a guest appearance in the song's video.  3)  With too much music to fill a single LP and not enough to fill a double-LP, the label had to whittle the songs down in order to get them on a single disc. Two songs were completely cut while others were edited to shorter running times. However, the length restrictions were not a problem for cassettes or the newer CD format. Both of those formats would contain all the songs in their full-length versions. Due to the unusual move to cut/edit songs, there was a notice on the cover of the vinyl LP that mentioned the edits and said that the full-length versions could be found on the cassette or CD versions.


Friday, June 30, 2017

"Sea of Love" by The Honeydrippers

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2086
Date:  10/13/1984
Debut:  62
Peak:  3
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  After the disbanding of Led Zeppelin, singer Robert Plant wanted to take a step back and just play some good music. In 1981, he formed a band with some old friends and the proceeded to play some 50s rock and R&B songs that Plant loved as a kid. With a set list determined, the band, now called the Honeydrippers, set out on a tour of small venues, clubs, and colleges. Plant seemed to love getting back to basics, but by the time 1982 rolled around, he was ready to get back in the studio and start his solo career. That could have been it for Plant's Honeydrippers project, but later in 1984, Atlantic Records' president Ahmet Ertegun had an idea. He wanted to put together an album that consisted of remakes of some of his favorite songs from the 50s, but who would he get to record them? The answer came to him when he remembered seeing the Honeydrippers a few years earlier (Atlantic was home to Led Zeppelin and Plant). Ertegun got Plant to revive the Honeydrippers project to record a few songs. However, this time around, Plant filled the band with a-list players like former bandmate Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Paul Shaffer, and Nile Rodgers. Five of the songs recorded were assembled into an EP titled The Honeydrippers, Volume One. To promote the release, the single "Rockin' at Midnight" was issued to radio stations, but it wasn't gaining a lot of attention. However, its b-side song "Sea of Love" was getting spun and that prompted the label to issue it as the first single. The tune did very well reaching #1 at AC, #3 at Pop, and #11 at Rock.

ReduxReview:  This was never one of my favorite pop standards. I've appreciated it in later years, but it's still nothing I'd choose to bring up for a listen. That said, Plant and the Honeydrippers do a great job updating the tune while still retaining that old school 50s style sound. The arrangement helps as does the production, which makes it sound full and nearly epic. Plant's vocals fit the song well and it sounds like he enjoyed singing it.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally co-written and performed by Phil Phillips. In 1959, Phillips took the song to #1 at R&B and #2 Pop. It would end up being Phillips' only chart entry making him a one-hit wonder. That same year, UK singer Marty Wilde (father of 80s pop star Kim Wilde) recorded a version of the song and got to #3 on the UK chart. The song wouldn't hit the US charts again until 1982 when Del Shannon reached #33 with his version. Two years later, The Honeydrippers made it a big hit again.  2) Apparently, Plant was not happy when this song became a hit. His reasoning was that he thought people would begin to think of him as some kind of pop crooner rather than a rock singer. So when radio stations ignored "Rockin' at Midnight" in favor of "Sea of Love," Plant was less than thrilled. It probably didn't help matters that this became (and remains) the biggest charting hit of his career. It beat out Led Zeppelin's 1969 hit "Whole Lotta Love" by one position. However, with his solo career already in action and doing well, he needn't have worried that folks would mistake him for Perry Como. Fans understood this was a side project, not a new musical direction.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

"I Need You Tonight" by Peter Wolf

Song#:  2085
Date:  10/13/1984
Debut:  68
Peak:  36
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  After leaving the J. Geils Band, singer/songwriter Wolf set out on a solo career. His debut LP, Lights Out, scored a hit when its first single, the album's title-track, got to #12 Pop, #6 Rock, and #11 Dance. For a follow-up, Wolf pushed out this more pop-oriented tune. It didn't quite attract the same attention and it stalled just inside the Pop Top 40 while only getting to #22 at Rock. Although the album wouldn't be a major hit the size of J. Geils' multi-platinum Freeze Frame, it would still be a good seller reaching #24.

ReduxReview:  I've always thought this was a really good pop tune and I liked its chugging synthpop arrangement. It was well-crafted and should have been a bigger hit. I'm not sure what stopped it from doing better. The whole album is really a lost gem of its time. I'm also a bit surprised this wasn't shuffled over to AC for airplay as it seems like it would have been a good fit for that format. Someday this album will finally be issued either on CD or digitally and folks can then rediscover it.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Wolf co-wrote this tune with songwriter Peter Bliss. Bliss got his start in the business right out of high school when he signed a publishing deal with Buddah Records. After getting established, he tried for his own solo career. He signed with United Artists and was able to issue a self-titled debut album in 1977. Nothing came from it, so Bliss went back to working behind the scenes. Also in 1984, Bliss' song "Emotion" would be recorded by Barbra Streisand. It would become the title track to her album and would be released as the LPs third single (#14 AC/#79 Pop). Another Bliss song, "I Guess It's Christmas Time," would be recorded by *NSYNC for their 1998 holiday-themed album Home for Christmas.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"Heaven's on Fire" by Kiss

Song#:  2084
Date:  10/13/1984
Debut:  81
Peak:  49
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  With their album sales dwindling in the early 80s, Kiss decided to bring attention to themselves and their latest album (Lick It Up) by shedding their makeup and associated personalities. The ploy, which was highly covered on MTV, worked well with the album getting the band back to platinum status along with the title-track single hitting the charts (#19 Rock/#66 Pop). Now they had to follow it up, but this time without having some kind of gimmick to generate interest. With MTV still firmly on their side, the band chose to move in an even more commercial direction and came out with Animalize. This first single, co-written by Paul Stanley and up-n-coming songwriter/producer Desmond Child, set the tone and it became their biggest hit in years going to #11 at Rock and nearly cracking the Pop Top 40. The song would propel the album to #19 and it would eventually reach platinum status.

ReduxReview:  I remember this song quite well. It was a big hit at the skating rink where I was a DJ for a couple years. It was pretty much required that I play this at each session. The kids just loved it. The rink owners were a bit on the Christian conservative side and at one point they told us to quit playing the song because it could be construed as devil-related and they were not a fan of the song's title. However, the regular crowd complained so much to them about not playing the song that they relented and allowed it back in the rotation. After playing the song so much, I got hooked on it too. The tune rocks and has a hooky chorus that is hard to deny. Kiss' track record through the 80s was spotty, but when it clicked, like this song, it worked out very well for them.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Around this time, Kiss member Gene Simmons was also busy with other ventures including breaking into acting. His first major screen role came in 1984 when he was cast as the bad guy in the futuristic action film Runaway, starring Tom Selleck and Cynthia Rhodes. The film was written and directed by best-selling author Michael Crichton. The film was not a hit, but it did help Simmons get a few other roles including in the 1986 horror flick Trick or Treat and on an episode of Miami Vice. He would do other acting work, but for the majority of his appearances, he usually just appeared as himself.


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

"The Medicine Song" by Stephanie Mills

Song#:  2083
Date:  10/13/1984
Debut:  84
Peak:  65
Weeks:  6
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Mills was last on the Pop chart in 1981 when she and duet partner Teddy Pendergrass took "Two Hearts" to #40. Since that time, she released two albums that sold okay, but failed to produce any significant crossover hits. Each album featured two Top 20 R&B entries, but nothing clicked at Pop. Her eighth album, I've Got the Cure, had better results when this lead-off single became her fourth R&B Top 10 (#8) and her first (and only) #1 on the Dance chart. The song was popular enough to cross over to Pop for a few weeks. The hit helped the album reach #10 on the R&B chart.

ReduxReview:  This rolling jam has some beefy 80s production and an outstanding vocal performance by Mills. She really elevates this song, especially on the outro where her improv call-outs are often quite thrilling. While she had a good career at R&B, it's too bad she didn't do better at Pop. I think some of the material she did just wasn't on the same level as her talent. She needed songs that could support that voice and I don't think she got them a good chunk of the time. This one was not a bad match, but it still wasn't quite up to par for Mills. Had most any other artist done the song, it would have been far less interesting. Mills took it to another level and made it her own. That's talent.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Mills' previous charting R&B single was "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?," a track from her album Merciless. That song was written and originally performed by Prince. He issued the tune as the b-side to his hit "1999." Mills would take the tune to #12 on the R&B chart. Her performance on the album would earn her a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Later in 2002, Alicia Keys would cover the song (as "How Come You Don't Call Me") and issue it as a single. It would reach #30 R&B and #59 Pop.


Monday, June 26, 2017

"Had a Dream (Sleeping with the Enemy) by Roger Hodgson

Rated 10 Alert!
Spotlight Alert!
Song#:  2082
Date:  10/13/1984
Debut:  85
Peak:  48
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Even if you are not familiar with his name, you will most likely recognize Hodgson's voice and songs. As a member of the band Supertramp, Hodgson wrote and sang the lead on some of their most memorable hits including "The Logical Song" (#6), "Give a Little Bit" (#15), "Take the Long Way Home" (#10), "Goodbye Stranger" (#15), and 1982's "It's Raining Again" (#11). However, during the making of Supertramp's album ...Famous Last Words..., Hodgson felt like he needed to branch out on his own. After Famous was finished, Hodgson decided to record a solo album. He intended to release it after the Supertramp LP, but in the end he wasn't happy with the results and scrapped it. Hodgson then officially left Supertramp after the band was done touring for the album and set out to re-record his solo album. Once completed to his satisfaction, his debut album In the Eye of the Storm, was released and this first single was issued. The song did very well at Rock getting to #5. At Pop it didn't do as well and the single stalled before it could reach the Top 40. It would end up being Hodgson's only solo Pop entry. The album also featured the song "In Jeopardy," which was able to get to #30 at Rock.

ReduxReview:  I can't remember what drew me to this album. I wasn't a big fan of Supertramp and I don't remember seeing a video for the song. I can only imagine that I must have heard it on the radio at some point. Or, I might have been intrigued by the song title or album cover. Whatever it was, I'm so glad I found it. This opening track quickly became a huge favorite of mine. I played it constantly for a long time and I loved to crank it up in the car on a summer day with the windows down. My love for the song hasn't diminished over time. I still play the song and other tracks on the album several times a year. Weirdly enough, I just listened to the album a couple of days ago without knowing the song was coming up on the chart! The dramatic opening, the quiet midsection, the vocal harmonies, the arrangement, and the guitar solos are all just bangin'. It is still one of my favorite songs of all time. I can understand why it wasn't such a big pop hit, but at least Rock embraced it at the time and gave it life. To me, the song is just brilliant. Because of that and the fact that I think it is an overlooked gem from the time period, I'm gonna put a Spotlight on the song and hope others discover it.


Trivia:  For those younger folks who are unfamiliar with Supertramp, chances are they know a recent song that was based on one of the band's most famous album tracks. The title track to their multi-platinum 1979 album Breakfast in America was transformed into the song "Cupid's Chokehold" by the hip-hop/alt rock band Gym Class Heroes, which featured vocals by Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump. That song reached #4 on the Pop chart in 2006. Roger Hodgson wrote the original song for Supertramp's album and performed the lead vocals. It was issued as a single, but in the US it failed to chart at Pop. However, a live version of the song hit the chart in 1980 and got to #62.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

"After All" by Al Jarreau

Song#:  2081
Date:  10/13/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  69
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After one album where he used the single name moniker of Jarreau, Al Jarreau restored his full name for his seventh album High Crime. He also kept on producer Jay Graydon, who had worked on Jarreau's three previous albums including the Grammy-winning Breakin' Away. Jarreau and Graydon also co-wrote (with other writers) eight of the LP's ten track including this first single, which was co-written with hit producer David Foster. The ballad was a solid fit for AC and it got to #6 on that chart. It also got to #26 at R&B. However, the song couldn't make much headway through the din of 80s Pop and it stalled early on that chart. Despite not have a major Pop or R&B hit, the album would do well getting to #2 Jazz, #12 R&B, and #49 Pop. Eventually, it would be another gold seller for him.

ReduxReview:  Zzzzzz. Okay, this is not a bad song, but I just find it sleepy and boring. It's like Jarreau and Graydon were trying to imitate lesser Carole Bayer Sager compositions. Although I do kinda know what happened during this phase of Jarreau's career (he had hits, Grammy wins, platinum album, etc., and the label pushes...), I still don't understand why he was doing sub-par material like this. Yes, Breakin' Away had a certain Pop sheen, but below it was Jarreau's jazzy roots and the more he tried to become even more commercial, the more he lost what made him special. Even his performance here sounds like he is barely awake. It's just disappointing coming from an artist the caliber of Jarreau.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Even though a good chunk of his 80s output included more Pop/R&B-oriented songs, he would continue to have support from jazz fans. Over the years, nineteen of Jarreau's albums would reach the Top 10 on the Jazz Albums chart with six of them hitting #1. It was most likely this support that would help his next two albums, 1986's L is for Lover and 1988's Heart's Horizon, go gold even though neither album had a single reach the Pop chart. However, Heart's Horizon did featured one R&B hit with the song "So Good" reaching #2.