Saturday, July 15, 2017

"Hot for Teacher" by Van Halen

Song#:  2101
Date:  10/27/1984
Debut:  83
Peak:  56
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Hard Rock

Pop Bits:  Van Halen's album 1984 already featured a #1 hit ("Jump") plus two other #13 entries. To keep things going, this fourth single was issued. The song had a bit of a harder rock edge than the others, which didn't play quite as well on Pop radio and it ended up getting shut out of the top half of the chart. Rock radio didn't spin the track as much either and it peaked at #24 on that chart. Regardless of the results, the album was well on its way to becoming the band's best seller. By 1999, the LP would be certified diamond for sales of over 10 million. On the downside, this would be the last single released by the original lineup of the band. Soon, David Lee Roth would be gone and a new era for the band would begin.

ReduxReview:  While this is a solid song for the band, it was really the video (see below) that sold it and made the song more popular than it would have been on its own. What's awesome though is Alex Van Halen's double bass drum work throughout and the opening drum sound where he apparently strung together four bass drums. That agitated sound really gets your attention and he drives this song like a madman. And Roth saying "I don't feel tardy" was pretty classic. However, the tune itself is not all that impressive and it certainly didn't make for a good single. Luckily, the video kept the album selling for the band.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Although this song was not a big hit on the charts, the video ended up being extremely popular on MTV. Co-directed by Van Halen's lead singer David Lee Roth, the video focused on kids in a school room, in particular the nervous nerd character Waldo. When the teacher arrives, the room nearly turns into a strip club with desks pushed together for a runway and the teacher stripping down to a bikini and wearing a "Miss Phys Ed" sash. The end of the video shows how the kids turned out in life with the members of Van Halen portraying them. Waldo, played by Roth, ended up a game show host while Eddie Van Halen's character ended up in an asylum. Although the song did not make the PMRC's "Filthy Fifteen" list, it was blasted by the parents org along with the video (which of course made it all the more popular).


Friday, July 14, 2017

"Pride (In the Name of Love)" by U2

Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2100
Date:  10/27/1984
Debut:  85
Peak:  33
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  U2's third album, War, was a political-leaning collection that built upon their brand of arena-ready rock. It was their biggest seller to-date and fans were eager for the next installment. Yet the band was ready for a change. They wanted to back away from the heavy lyrics and stomping rock of War and move towards something more experimental. To help with that, they brought in electronic/ambient music pioneer Brian Eno and his collaborator Daniel Lanois. The resulting album, The Unforgettable Fire, was loose, atmospheric, and nearly a direct opposite from War. To announce their new sound and direction, this first single was issued. Rock radio jumped right on board and the track made it to #2. The action there helped the song become the band's first Top 40 Pop entry. The album would be their second to reach #12 and go platinum. Although there would be no further singles from the album to reach the Pop chart, this song and the album set the band up for major success.

ReduxReview:  I thought War was a great album and like many others I looked forward to the band's next move. I was excited when I heard this song as I thought it was brilliant. I bought the album and then found myself disappointed. I didn't really get it. Many tracks had this weird, muddy sound and some of them seemed half finished. I just wasn't sure what they were doing and I ended up filing away the LP. Years later I rediscovered it and developed a fondness for disc. It really was a transitional album, which makes it an important entry in their catalog even though it doesn't rank among their best works. However, tracks like "A Sort of Homecoming," "Bad," and this song are standouts. This song in particular was stunning. It was an epic, arena-ready tune that sounded bigger than life and contained lyrics that had depth. It served as a signal of what was to come for the band.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. Originally, Bono wrote the song as a more negative look at then-US President Ronald Reagan. However, the song just wasn't working. Bono then decided to go the opposite direction and took a more positive approach with King as the inspiration. The song did end up having one slight factual error though. The lyrics say "early morning, April 4" as being when King was killed, but it was actually around 6 p.m. Bono realized the mistake later and will on occasion now sing "early evening" when doing the song in concert. 2) "Pride" was not the only song on the album to be about Martin Luther King, Jr. The short lullabye-like tune "MLK" was also dedicated to the civil rights leader and would serve as the album's closing track.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Jungle Love" by The Time

Song#:  2099
Date:  10/27/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  20
Weeks:  25
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Although The Time were a hot live band, it was basically Prince who headed up their recordings. He wrote, produced, and played the instruments on the band's first two albums with Morris Day providing the lead vocals. The Time released two successful albums that scored three R&B Top 10's, but crossing over to Pop proved elusive. That was until Prince included the band in his film Purple Rain. Prior to the film, Prince and the band were prepping a third album. Although Prince was still writing or co-writing all the songs and producing, this time around the band was a bit more involved in the recording process. After the LP, titled Ice Cream Castle, was completed, the title-track was issued as the first single. It stalled at #11 at R&B and failed to make the Pop chart. However, after the band's appearance in Purple Rain, attention was drawn to them along with this song that was included in the film. It was issued as a single and finally became their first to become a hit at Pop. It became their fourth Top 10 at R&B getting to #6.

ReduxReview:  Out of all Prince's side projects, The Time was probably the best and most successful. Although they had a few throw away tracks, Prince filled their first three LPs with some pretty good tunes. While he didn't hand over any classics, he did write some solid Minneapolis-style material that helped give the band an identity and made them more than just a Princely project. This is one of those tunes. It's a fun one that was made even more famous by Morris Day's performance of it in Purple Rain, which helped get the tune into the upper reaches of the Pop chart.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The song title "Ice Cream Castles" was inspired by one of Prince's favorite artists, Joni Mitchell. The second line of her classic song "Both Sides, Now" is "and ice cream castles in the air." Mitchell wrote the song in 1967 and it ended up being recorded first by singer Judy Collins. Released as a single in 1968, Collins' version would be a Grammy-winning hit that got to #8 Pop and #3 AC. Mitchell would record her own version for her 1969 album Clouds.  2) On the b-side of the "Ice Cream Castles" single was a little jam session song called "Tricky." It featured Morris Day on drums and Prince on everything else. Prince also performed the lead vocal on the track, but he did it as a voice that was imitating Morris Day. The impromptu lyrics are said to be poking fun at either Bootsy Collins or George Clinton, who was a Prince favorite.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"The Belle of St. Mark" by Sheila E.

Song#:  2098
Date:  10/27/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  34
Weeks:  15
Genre:  R&B, Pop

Pop Bits:  Prince assisted his latest protégé Sheila E. with her debut solo album and it resulted in a Top 10 hit. The title track to her debut album The Glamorous Life got to #7 Pop, #9 R&B and #1 Dance. Next up was this track that served as the album's opener. Although it got inside the Pop Top 40, it wasn't as successful as her first hit. It did worse at R&B where the tune could only manage a #68 showing. Dance skipped this one altogether this time around. However, the title hit was enough to sent the album into gold territory.

ReduxReview:  This has Prince all over it. The production and even the androgynous lyrics (she sings he/him/man throughout, but he's referred to as the "Belle," which is feminine) are indicative of the Purple One's touch. It's a fun, jaunty tune that bubbles along in a similar fashion to Prince's own "Delirious." It also has a innocent quality to it with parts of the tune nearly sounding like a children's song. It's fine, but not nearly as good or catchy as "Glamorous Life."

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Prince was never a standard artist in any way, shape, or form. He always had to be different and that extended to his songwriting credits. For the most part, on his own recordings he used Prince for the songwriting credit. However, when he gave songs to other artists, he wouldn't always use his own name. Sometimes it would be a pseudonym, such as Alexander Nevermind, Joey Coco, or simply Christopher. Other times, he wouldn't even take a credit as in the case with this song. If you look at The Glamorous Life album, it will show that the songwriter of this tune is Sheila E, but that is not the case. For whatever reason, Prince let Sheila E. get the credit even though he actually wrote it. The same can be said for tunes on the Apollonia 6 album as well songs done by The Time. However, when it came to getting paid, that was a different story. According to the royalty distribution organization ASCAP, these songs (including "The Belle of St. Mark") were written by Prince and any funds generated from the songs go to him. Why he would give the printed credit to other artists is not fully known. Perhaps he didn't want to draw attention to himself so that the artist could get themselves established without his name attached. Or maybe he wasn't that thrilled with the songs and didn't want people to know he wrote them. Whatever the case, it didn't really matter as folks found out he was behind these anyway. Just another mysterious Princely move.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"Walking on a Thin Line" by Huey Lewis & the News

Song#:  2097
Date:  10/20/1984
Debut:  53
Peak:  18
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Lewis' third album, Sports, just had a run of four Top 10 singles with the last three all peaking at #6. With the album still selling well, the decision was made to issue a fifth single. This track was chosen and unfortunately it couldn't quite reach the Top 10. It fell short at both Pop and Rock, where it peaked at #16. Still, the single kept album sales humming and over time it would certified for sales of over seven million.

ReduxReview:  Oooo...Huey gets serious! With subject matter concerning those serving in the Vietnam War, the lyrics were a bit outside the band's typical bubble of stuff like love, girls, working, and rock 'n' roll. While the music worked fine for the band, the social commentary lyrics didn't fit. These guys were really a top-notch bar band that made the big time and it certainly wasn't because they were doling out songs with deep, serious lyrics. These guys were fun and so was their music. Sometimes it is best to stick with what works.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Andre Pessis and Kevin Wells. According to Pessis, who was speaking at a studio seminar, this song was initially written back in the late 60s specifically for a documentary film on the Vietnam War titled Walking on a Thin Line. For demo purposes, Pessis paid a young Huey Lewis to sing the tune. It seems the song and documentary never really went anywhere at the time. However, Lewis later remembered the tune and revived it with his band for the Sports album. Lewis confirmed in the liner notes for an anniversary edition of Sports that he did indeed sing the demo for Pessis, but no mention on when that was done or why.


Monday, July 10, 2017

"Tears" by John Waite

Song#:  2096
Date:  10/20/1984
Debut:  61
Peak:  37
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Former Babys lead singer John Waite scored a multi-format smash hit with "Missing You," the first single from his second solo album No Brakes. The song would hit #1 Pop, #1 Rock, and #7 AC. For a follow-up this track from the LP was chosen. Although it was another solid hit at Rock getting to #7, it didn't do as well at Pop and it fizzled out just inside the Pop Top 40. The more rock-oriented track was ignored by AC.

ReduxReview:  While I loved "Missing You," I wasn't a big fan of the album. Beside that hit, this song was the only other one with real commercial potential and the rest of the tunes were solid, yet unremarkable AOR fodder. This tune is not nearly as memorable as "Missing You," but it has a pretty good hook and it sounds great. It just takes a few listens for it to sink in. The single probably should have done a bit better, but with folks expecting a "Missing You, Pt. 2," this one was bound to disappoint.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  This is a remake of a song originally recorded by Peter Criss (of Kiss) for his 1982 solo album Let Me Rock You. That album was not issued in the US at the time, but was later released in CD form in 1998. The song was written by Vinnie Cusano and Adam Mitchell. Cusano, who went by the stage name of Vinnie Vincent, was a member of Kiss from 1982-84. Mitchell started co-writing songs with various Kiss members during the same period. Although Vincent and Mitchell may have written this song as a possible Kiss track, the band never recorded it. However, it seemed to be a good fit for Criss and it made it on his solo album.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

"Valotte" by Julian Lennon

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2095
Date:  10/20/1984
Debut:  64
Peak:  9
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Julian Lennon was the son of John Lennon and his first wife Cynthia. John and Cynthia later divorced after John took up with Yoko Ono. Julian didn't have much to do with his father until the late 70s when they began to see each other more often. Julian took up music when encouraged to do so by his father. Songwriting came later, but he didn't necessarily think of a career in music until after his father's death in 1980. A few years later, Lennon assembled some demos and began shopping them around. He ended up getting picked up by the Charisma label in the UK followed by Atlantic in the US. Lennon needed a producer and wanted to work with Phil Ramone. Ramone agreed after hearing some of Lennon's demos. Work began on the album and by the fall of '84 it was completed. The LP was named Valotte and the title-track became the first single released in the US. It did very well reaching the Pop Top 10, #2 Rock, and #4 AC.

ReduxReview:  It had only been less that four years since John Lennon's death, so the memories of him still lingered heavily, especially since the posthumous single "Nobody Told Me" had reached the Top 10 earlier in the spring. So when news hit that his son was doing a solo album, there was considerable excitement. There was a whole "carry on the legacy" type thing going on and what fed into that was how much Julian sounded like (and resembled) his dad. It's hard for any kid of an artist to break out of their parent's shadow, but it had to have been truly difficult for Lennon. Inevitable comparisons were gonna happen and trying to live up to them would be nearly impossible. However, I think Lennon handled it well and did fine. Yes, some of his songs, like this single, had a Beatles flare to them, but that is to be expected. Plenty of other non-relative artists copped the Beatles, so why should Lennon ignore his actual heritage? While the album was not particularly outstanding, it was a capable debut and this lovely first single did well in bridging the musical gap between father and son.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Both the single and the album were named for the place where Lennon wrote most of the songs for the album. After securing a record deal, Lennon and a couple of friends holed up at a château in France called Manoir de Valotte. The tranquil place provided inspiration for the song. Despite being the name of the song, the word "Valotte" does not appear in any of the lyrics. Although this is not uncommon in general, it was a bit rare at the time for a song to reach the Top 10 where the title was not part of the song's lyrics.