Saturday, July 22, 2017

"We Belong" by Pat Benatar

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2108
Date:  10/27/1984
Debut:  45
Peak:  5
Weeks:  20
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Benatar's album Live from Earth featured concert tracks and two new studio songs including "Love Is a Battlefield," which became her biggest chart single reaching #5 and going gold. Anticipation was then high for her next move and this first single from her follow-up LP Tropico didn't disappoint. It debuted in the top half of the Pop chart and easily got into the Top 10. It nearly became her biggest hit, but "Battlefield" stayed on the chart two weeks longer. The song got to #3 at Rock and became her first to make an appearance on the AC chart at #34. Although the album would be her lowest peaking to-date at #14, it would be her sixth platinum seller in a row thanks in large part to this hit. Benatar would grab a Grammy nomination for this song in the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance category.

ReduxReview:  With "Battlefield" a hit, Benatar was then free to move slightly to the softer left of her hard rock beginnings and this tune was a perfect vehicle for the shift. That distinctive synth line was a highly recognizable introduction that led to a great verse and an epic chorus. The balance of the album was definitely hit-or-miss, but that happens on transitional albums like Tropico. Regardless, Benatar tossed out this ditty (much to the dismay of her hardcore rock fans) and it paid off very well.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was written by Eric Lowen and Dave Navarro. The pair started writing songs together before venturing out as a duo simply named Lowen & Navarro. They were able to issue a few albums on major labels, but despite good notices nothing much came from them. They had better luck as songwriters with artists like The Bangles, David Lee Roth, and Dave Edmunds taking on their songs. They would get one more major hit on the Pop chart later in 1991 when the Latin vocal trio The Triplets took "You Don't Have to Go Home Tonight" to #14. Lowen & Navarro continued to record and perform over the years. That all ended when Lowen died from ALS in 2012.


Friday, July 21, 2017

"Hello Again" by The Cars

Song#:  2107
Date:  10/27/1984
Debut:  60
Peak:  20
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  The band's third single from their LP Heartbeat City, "Drive," became the biggest hit of their career reaching #3 Pop, #9 Rock, and #1 AC. With that success, a fourth single was needed and this track was shuffled out. Oddly, it became their biggest hit on the Dance chart getting to #4, but at Pop it stalled on the Top 20 mark while only getting to #22 at Rock. However, the results were good enough to keep album sales going and eventually it would hit the 4 million mark.

ReduxReview:  This opening track was a tasty introduction to what the album had to offer. "Mutt" Lange's production beefed up the band's new wave sound with synths that were practically bashing you over the head. Although dated, this track still sounds great. It amazes me how some 80s synth tracks sounded thin and tinny while others like this one had a richer, fuller sound. I'm sure it had to do with both the producer and engineer along with the studio, equipment, and money. The Cars could afford a hot producer like Lange and it paid off handsomely with a major hit album.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  With the success of MTV, music videos became more important for artists and soon the new medium began to attract bigger name celebrities and producer/directors. Not to miss out on a trend, pop-art pioneer Andy Warhol decided to delve into the world of music videos after The Cars' Ric Ocasek contacted him about working with the band. Given the choice of what song from the album he wanted to work on, Warhol chose "Hello Again." He would co-direct with Don Munroe and also appear in the video. The satirical look at sex and violence within music videos also featured a young starlet that would soon make a name for herself, Gina Gershon.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

"I Do' Wanna Know" by REO Speedwagon

Song#:  2106
Date:  10/27/1984
Debut:  62
Peak:  29
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  REO's album Good Trouble sold well going double platinum, but it seemed a bit disappointing coming off their big multi-platinum smash Hi Infidelity. Yet an album like that is hard to live up to so staying in the platinum arena was still a solid showing. Hoping to keep in platinum territory, the band returned to the studio and recorded their next LP, Wheels Are Turnin'. This track was selected to be the first single and it did fine at Rock getting to #5. However, the more rock-oriented track didn't quite fit in at Pop and the song stalled just inside the Top 30. Due to the results, sales of the album were quite slow out of the gate. It seemed like their platinum streak may have come to an end, but luckily their next single would turn things around.

ReduxReview:  This one I just didn't understand. They tried a retro-rock single before with "In Your Letter" and it didn't do that well, so why would they send this one out? For Pop, it was doomed from the start. It's fine if they wanted to send out a more rock-oriented single and not push out a ballad right away, but they needed something better than this. Perhaps they thought the elaborate associated video would help carry the single. Whatever the motivation, the song pretty much tanked and is nearly forgotten these days. They got very lucky that the next single actually worked. It could have easily been shuffled aside after this one didn't hit. I imagine their label was freaking out at the time. As for this song, it's just okay. I'm not a fan of the band when they do this sort of retro-rock, but back in the day it was part of their bread-n-buttah.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The band did a humorous video for this song that featured members portraying several characters including ones in drag. The lead role was performed by the video's director Kevin Dole. Dole was becoming proficient in making commercials and was actually married to an old girlfriend of REO's singer Kevin Cronin. Looking for something different, Cronin was introduced to Dole and everything seemed to come together. The video featured a lot of stop-action photography with the actual cast, which was difficult and time consuming to do back then. It seemed like a sure hit for the MTV crowd, but with the song not catching on, the video had a hard time breaking through. Dole would also direct the video for the LP's third single "One Lonely Night."


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Do What You Do" by Jermaine Jackson

Song#:  2105
Date:  10/27/1984
Debut:  64
Peak:  13
Weeks:  20
Genre:  R&B, Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After a slow start, Jackson's self-titled album began to take off thanks to the #15 single "Dynamite" (#8 R&B). To follow up that hit, this ballad was chosen for release. It did extremely well at AC reaching #1 and staying there for three weeks. Response was also good at Pop and R&B, but the single just missed out on reaching the respective Top 10's (#13 Pop/#14 R&B). The two hits pushed the album into the Top 20 and eventually it would be certified gold. The song's associated MTV video that featured a Godfather-like plot was also popular. Supermodel and future David Bowie wife Imam played the female lead in the video.

ReduxReview:  I liked "Dynamite" a lot, but this was the song that sold me on buying the album. It was just a beautiful song wonderfully produced and performed. It should have gone Top 10, especially since it was a huge AC hit. The album went gold, but it also should have done better. It was a solid LP and showed that Michael and Janet were not the only hitmakers of the family. The problem Jermaine had was that he was never as consistent with his solo discs as his siblings, so it was always hit-n-miss with him. However, when he hit the mark, like with this tune, he was excellent.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia: The week this song debuted, the chart was littered with Jacksons. Jermaine's "Dynamite" was still holding on as was The Jacksons' "Torture" and sister Rebbie's "Centipede." The Jacksons' song "Body" also debuted just two notches lower than this song. However, Prince outdid the Jacksons by having two solo songs in the Top 10, four other songs he wrote/produced for others (two for Sheila E., one each for The Time and Apollonia 6), and a cover version of one of his songs ("I Feel for You" by Chaka Khan).


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Body" by The Jacksons

Song#:  2104
Date:  10/27/1984
Debut:  66
Peak:  47
Weeks:  7
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The Jacksons' album Victory was a good success reaching #4 Pop and #1 R&B. It would eventually sell double platinum, but in the wake of Michael Jackson's Thriller juggernaut the results were a bit lackluster, especially when it was promoted via a tour that featured Michael. The lack of major hits certainly didn't help. Only the first single, "State of Shock" (#3 Pop, #4 R&B), which featured Michael on vocals in a duet with Mick Jagger, did any real business. After that it was all downhill. This third single failed to generate interest with the tune only reaching #39 at R&B while getting locked out of the Pop Top 40. Once the tour was over, both Michael and Marlon would officially leave the group leaving the remaining four brothers to carry on.

ReduxReview:  Hmm...what's the name of the song? Geez. It gets repeated about 100 times it seems. It is rather annoying. I actually find this song a bit juvenile. It sounds like something written and produced for a teen vocal group like New Edition. Marlon is a capable vocalist (see below), but his little riffs sound forced. He's better supporting his brothers rather than being out front. This was the final track on the album and it was a very weak song to close out the Michael era of the group.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  This song was written and sung by Marlon Jackson. He was born one year prior to Michael. Marlon was also a twin, but unfortunately his brother Brandon died at birth. After leaving the Jacksons, Marlon set out for a solo career. He was able to release a solo album in 1987 titled Baby Tonight. A single from the album, "Don't Go," was able to reach #2 at R&B. The album was strictly Marlon's venture and none of his siblings made any guest appearances. It would end up being his only solo release. Later on, Marlon would leave the music business and became a real estate agent. He would also invest in a cable network called The Black Family Channel, which operated from 1999 through to 2007.


Monday, July 17, 2017

"Stranger in Town" by Toto

Song#:  2103
Date:  10/27/1984
Debut:  70
Peak:  30
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Toto's 1982 album Toto IV was a multi-platinum hit that boasted three Top 10 hits and won six Grammys, including Album of the Year. After a side project where the band did the soundtrack to the sci-fi film Dune, they regrouped to begin the follow-up to Toto IV. Unfortunately during this time one of the band's lead singers, Bruce Kimball, had a bit of a run-in with the law (drug related charges) and in the end he was let go. Fergie Frederiksen from the band LeRoux was brought on board to take over his spot. With a new line-up in place, the band recorded the album Isolation. This first single, which featured lead vocals by David Paich, was issued ahead of the LP and it got some traction at Rock getting to #7. However, the news was different at Pop where the song barely scratched the Top 30. It was a significant disappointment following their success with Toto IV.

ReduxReview:  The Toto IV album is considered a prime example of glossy, 80s, L.A. pop and it contained two classic songs with "Rosanna" and "Africa." While I loved the hits from the album, I wasn't a big fan of the rest. However, it was expertly done and it seemed like the band had hooked into a good formula that could spawn further success. And then Isolation came out. It's like everything they did and learned from the previous album went out the door. Instead of capitalizing and improving on Toto IV's slick, memorable soft rock, they tried to amp things up with a harder rocking sound and it didn't work. I get that they probably didn't want to do "Africa, Pt. 2," but I don't know why they would go in such a different direction and with songs that were utterly forgettable. The lone exception was this song that was loaded with a bunch of 80s synths and effects. I kind of dug it and was hoping it would hit, but it just didn't catch on. I bought the album based on this track and was sorely disappointed. I think I listened to it twice and then filed it away. Highly disappointing especially from a band that was loaded with talent. It was a bad move on their part that pretty much derailed their career.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The lyrics to the song were inspired by the 1961 film Whistle Down the Wind, which was based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Mary Hayley Bell. In the film, three farm children find a fugitive hiding in their barn. The kids mistake the stranger for Jesus Christ and continue to hide and take care of him. The stranger goes along with the kids and their belief he is Jesus in order to avoid apprehension by the police. The British film, which starred the author's daughter, Hayley Mills, was a well-reviewed box office hit. In 1996, Andrew Lloyd Webber adapted the story to a stage musical. Webber did the music while songwriter Jim Steinman provided the lyrics. Toto's video for the song has a similar storyline to the movie. It featured actor Brad Dourif as the stranger. Dourif may have secured the role thanks to his appearance in the movie Dune, which Toto scored.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

"All Night Long" by Billy Squier

Song#:  2102
Date:  10/27/1984
Debut:  78
Peak:  75
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Although Squier's first single from his Signs of Life LP, "Rock Me Tonight," would be his biggest hit at Pop (#15), the hubbub surrounding the song's associated video may have taken a toll on Squier and the album. Although it would end up being a platinum seller, it stopped short of the Top 10 at #11 and further singles like this one failed to do any real business at Pop. Rock gave this song a little love and sent it to #10, but it wasn't enough to keep the album's momentum going.

ReduxReview:  The dramatic opening of this song came courtesy of producer Jim Steinman who also used that same "knock-knock-knock" sound at the beginning on some of his other productions like Barbra Streisand's "Left in the Dark." And then there is a center keyboard break that he seemed to have lifted from a 1977 Styx song called "Castle Walls." Despite the reuse of material, Steinman provided a dense sound that elevated the song. I think the problem is that it just wasn't as hooky and commercially viable as some of Squier's best songs. It really doesn't sound like a hit and it wasn't. However, I kind a dug the track and it was one of the very few from the album that had any worth.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  In addition to Squier's hits still getting airplay over the years, one of his early solo tracks has lived on via other songs. Squier's 1980 debut album The Tale of the Tape featured the opening track "The Big Beat." That song opens with a hefty drum beat sound play by Bobby Chouindard. That sound became popular with several rap/hip-hop producers and ended up being sampled and used on many tracks over the years. Two of the biggest songs to sample the track were Jay-Z's 2004 #10 Rap hit "99 Problems" and Alicia Keys' 2012 #11 Pop hit "Girl on Fire." Other artists to sample the song were Kanye West, Run-D.M.C., Puff Daddy, A Tribe Called Quest, Ice Cube, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.