Saturday, July 29, 2017

"Solid" by Ashford & Simpson

Song#:  2115
Date:  11/10/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  12
Weeks:  24
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  The last time Ashford & Simpson were on the Pop chart was in 1982 with the song "Street Corner" (#56) which was from their concept LP Street Opera. The LP was their first for their new label, Capitol. Their next album, High-Rise, failed to secure a Pop entry and only managed one slight R&B hit with the #17 title-track. They needed something better to keep Capitol interested and they returned with the album Solid. This title track was issued as the first single and it clicked at R&B reaching #1. It would be the duo's first R&B #1, excluding a 1978 collaboration single with Quincy Jones and Chaka Khan titled "Stuff Like That," which made it to the top spot. The song slowly crept up the Pop chart and finally made it a couple notches short of the Top 10 (#34 AC/#15 Dance). It would be their best showing on the Pop chart and their biggest hit overall. Thanks to the hit, the album made it to #1 R&B/#29 Pop and would turn gold.

ReduxReview:  It always seemed to me that A&S gave away their best material. I believe the reason for that may be that they were hired to write and produce for artists, so they supplied material accordingly. When it came time to do their own records, they went with what fit them. Unfortunately, a lot of it wasn't necessarily hit crossover material. They managed to get eight R&B Top 10's and this #1 over a span of time, but this was the only song to really breakthrough at Pop. It still remains the duo's most recognizable hit under their name. I adored the song when it came out. The chorus is just irresistible with the "Solid! Solid as a rock!" and the stuttering "hot!" I kind of gets parodied now or used in goofy scenes in films and TV shows, but in a way that is great. The song has stood the test of time and people remember it. It's a fun karaoke song too!

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  In 2009, the duo supported presidential candidate Barack Obama by remaking this song. They redid the tune as "Solid As Barack." They didn't set out to create the new version, it just kind of happened. Apparently, the duo performed the song at two different shows in 2008 during the presidential campaign season and when they asked the crowd to sing along, they noticed that many were singing "solid as Barack." Somehow, that phrase made it to the halls of Saturday Night Live and during a skit with two of the cast portraying the Obamas, they sang that line. After the SNL airing, Ashford & Simpson decided to go along with it and write new lyrics to their song. They recorded the tune and issued it as a single on streaming services. They also performed it in concert and at events.


Friday, July 28, 2017

"The Wild Life" by Bananarama

Song#:  2114
Date:  11/10/1984
Debut:  94
Peak:  70
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Bananarama grabbed their first US Top 10 hit with the #9 "Cruel Summer," taken from their self-titled second album. Prior to that song becoming a hit, the trio got a request to supply a theme song to an upcoming comedy film titled The Wild Life. Together with their production team of Jolly & Swain, they wrote this song within a couple of days and got it recorded. With the singles from their album exhausted and the film already running in theaters, it was decided that this tune would be issued to help promote the film and the soundtrack. It spent a couple of months on the chart, but just couldn't get out of the basement.

ReduxReview:  While this song is not too terribly memorable, hence the low chart peak, there is something about it I kinda like. When I first heard it, I thought it was rather pedestrian with a draggy tempo. Then on further listens there were elements that started to stick out like the interesting harmonies/notes on the background vocals in the chorus. The more I listened, the more I liked it. However, it's not a good song for a single. There is just nothing here that would hook radio listeners.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Cameron Crowe's first film as a writer, 1982's Fast Times at Ridgemont High was a success as was the associated soundtrack. The movie allowed Crowe to move into the producer's chair for his next screenplay, The Wild Life. The comedy would star Christopher Penn (Sean's brother), Eric Stoltz, and Lea Thompson. As with Fast Times, Crowe, who had been a writer for Rolling Stone, helped to assemble a soundtrack for the film. One major boost came when Eddie Van Halen jumped on board to provide a few instrumentals for the score. Only one of them, "Donut City," would appear on the soundtrack while the balance was filled out with songs by some new, up-n-coming artists like Charlie Sexton, Peter Case, and Van Stephenson. Unfortunately, this time around the film wasn't a significant success and without a major hit the soundtrack disappeared quickly. Luckily, Crowe's next film, 1989's Say Anything..., which would be his first directorial effort, would do very well and boast a more popular soundtrack.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

"The Wild Boys" by Duran Duran

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2113
Date:  11/03/1984
Debut:  38
Peak:  2
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  With three hit albums under their belt, Duran Duran embarked on an extensive tour of the US and Canada. A film crew tagged along and from their work came the documentary Sing Blue Silver, which included some concert performances. Additional footage from their shows was then going to be used for a full-length concert video, but the band didn't want a performance-only collection. They wanted to do something a bit different. With director Russell Mulcahy, the band developed a storyline that would weave together their concert performances. When completed, Arena (An Absurd Notion) was issued on video. To accompany the film, an album of live performances titled Arena was also issued. For the album, overdubs were added to the songs and much of the crowd noise eliminated. To help promote and sell the album and video, a new studio track, "The Wild Boys," was recorded. The song would be included on the album and issued as a single. It would be an instant hit debuting inside the Top 40 and spending four weeks at #2. It would also reaching #27 Dance and #42 Rock and become their second gold single in a row. The hit would help send the album to #4, which would end up being their best showing on the chart.

ReduxReview:  This really was the height of Duran-mania. The US tour, the documentary, the movie, and the extravagant, expensive video for this song all collided together with this single to create their peak moment. I think the band reached their own peak of excesses during this time too. Although the band would still gather four more Top 10's and a #1 over the next decade, at this point they were huge stars and the pin-up dreams of many teenagers. I wasn't the biggest fan of this song at the time. I didn't connect with it and I thought it was in the wrong key for Le Bon. He just strains through the chorus and it sounds uncomfortable. I also thought the video was ridiculous and way over the top. I don't mind it so much these days, but I wouldn't rank it among their best.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) For the Arena video, the band decided to include the movie character that inspired their name. The evil Dr. Durand Durand from the 1968 sci-fi film Barbarella would be written into the script. The band also secured Milo O'Shea for the role. O'Shea played the character in the original film.  2) This song was inspired by the 1971 William S. Burroughs novel The Wild Boys: A Book of the Dead. Initially, director Mulcahy had plans to do a feature film based on the book and enlisted Duran Duran to help supply the music. This song was written for the potential film and a music video was made. The clip had a dual purpose. It would be shown on MTV and it would serve as Mulcahy's calling card to movies studios to show them what he had in mind for the film. Because of this, the video had a huge budget and at the time was the most expensive one filmed. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for studios to bite and the movie was never made.  3) Although Simon Le Bon these days denies he was in real danger, there apparently was a serious issue that happened during the filming of the video. In it, Le Bon is strapped to a windmill and each time the windmill turned, at the bottom of the circle Le Bon's head would be dipped into a pool of water. At one point during filming, the windmill suddenly stopped and it happened to be at the point where Le Bon's head was underwater. By most accounts, divers had to jump in and save him. It all seemed very near-death. However, Le Bon said it wasn't a huge deal and he was fine. One report said that Le Bon was given a straw to breathe through while crews got him safely removed from the windmill. However it happened, it still wasn't a good thing and it could have turned out far worse.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"Run to You" by Bryan Adams

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2112
Date:  11/03/1984
Debut:  59
Peak:  6
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  This Canadian rocker scored his first US Top 10 hit with "Straight from the Heart" (#10), a song from his third album Cuts Like a Knife. The LP boasted two other Top 30 singles, which would help the album go platinum. It set him up well for his next platter, Reckless. This first single was pushed out ahead of the album and it would be a major hit at Rock reaching #1 and staying there for four weeks. That action drifted over to Pop and soon the song became Adams' second Top 10 hit.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't all that keen on Adams prior to this song, but when this one hit the airwaves I was all over it. I thought it was a dark, dense, and catchy song with excellent production. I got the single and was totally hooked on it. I also remember the video for this which had Adams miming the song in bands of rain and snow. That image fit the song. I bought the album and enjoyed it quite a bit. It was chock full of some nice pop/rock tunes that were well-crafted. It is still his best album and this is easily my favorite song of his. For a short time it made me an Adams fan, but I lost interest as soon as his next LP hit the shelves.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  During this time period, Adams and his writing partner, Jim Vallance, were composing songs for Adams and for other artists. Several that they gave away became chart entries for artists like 38 Special ("Teacher, Teacher"). This song was originally written for another artist. Producer Bruce Fairbairn asked Adams to write a song for an upcoming Blue Oyster Cult album. Adams and Vallance came up with this tune. Unfortunately, the band didn't care for the song and rejected it. It was then offered to 38 Special, but they too said no thanks. Adams didn't think the song was right for him either so it sort of got shuffled to the side. When Reckless co-producer Bob Clearmountain asked Adams if he had another song for the album, Adams dug up his demo of this song. Clearmountain seemed keen on the tune so they worked it up. The last minute added song ended up being the LP's first Top 10 hit.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

"Concealed Weapons" by J. Geils Band

Song#:  2111
Date:  11/03/1984
Debut:  85
Peak:  63
Weeks:  7
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Due to creative differences, lead singer and song contributor Peter Wolf left the J. Geils Band in 1983. He began a solo career that resulted in the #12 hit "Lights Out." With Wolf gone, the band's other main songwriter, Seth Justman, stepped up to the mic. He and the remaining members returned to the studio to record a follow-up to the band's multi-platinum #1 album Freeze-Frame. Seth Justman would co-write all the tracks with his brother Paul, although Paul was not a member of the band and had not contributed any previous co-writes. Once completed, the album was titled You're Gettin' Even While I'm Gettin' Odd and this first single announced its arrival. Unfortunately, it just did not click with listeners and the track stalled at #26 on the Rock chart while not even breaking out of the basement of the Pop chart. It would end up being the only single released from the album, which tanked at a lowly #80. It seemed that without the Wolf/Justman collaboration, the band was not the same and folks took notice. The LP would end up being the band's final one as they would split later in '85.

ReduxReview:  Yeesh. The band always had a bit of a humorous side, but it was never as goofy as this synth-packed ditty. I'm not sure what they were going for here. They are a blues/R&B-based band, yet this is more like something Oingo Boingo might have done (but better). This just wasn't going to cut it, especially after Freeze-Frame. Apparently, this was the direction Justman wanted to go with the band and Wolf didn't. Wolf went of to score hits that could have been done by the band, while Justman careened off the charts with this thing. It was definitely a crash-n-burn. So much so that the album has never been reissued in CD form and is weirdly ignored on the band's website. It's like it never happened. And it probably shouldn't have.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  Paul Justman would later go on to direct an award-winning documentary titled Standing in the Shadows of Motown. The film was about the Funk Brothers, a set of musicians chosen by Berry Gordy to be the house band at Motown. The group of musicians would play on hundreds of Motown recordings from 1959 through to 1972. The film also featured some surviving members of the group backing current artists on some of the old hits. The soundtrack would win two Grammy awards. One for Best Traditional R&B Performance for the song "What's Going On" by Chaka Khan and The Funk Brothers, and one for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album. Although the documentary did not secure an Oscar nod, it did win other awards and performed very well at the box office.


Monday, July 24, 2017

"Catch My Fall" by Billy Idol

Song#:  2110
Date:  11/03/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  50
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Idol's second full LP Rebel Yell would end up being his best selling studio disc. That was thanks to three Top 10 Rock tracks that included the #4 Pop hit "Eyes Without a Face." These were all followed up by this fourth single from the album. This time around the response was not as good and the song stopped at #24 at Rock and at the halfway point at Pop. This would be Idol's last US single for over two years. He would return with a new album late in '86.

ReduxReview:  This is a good pop/rock entry from Idol that nearly sounds like something the Psychedelic Furs might have done. I like the song, but it's not a strong candidate for a single. It just doesn't have the same memorability factor like his other hits. While it sounds nice when you listen to it, the song kind of fades away soon after. I always forget what the tune sounds like until I hear it again. It's a good album track that got turned into a mediocre single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  While Idol would stay absent from the US market in 1985, he would end up having two Top 10 hits in his UK homeland. As a stop-gap between albums, a compilation titled Vital Idol was released in the UK and other countries. It was not issued in the US. The LP consisted of remixes of songs from Idol's previous albums. This included a remix of "White Wedding," a song that did not originally chart in the UK. To promote the remix album, the original version of "White Wedding" was reissued as a single. It took off and reached #6. As a follow-up, a reissue of "Rebel Yell" was released. Originally, the single got to #62 on the UK chart. The second time around it would get to #6. Both songs helped the Vital Idol collection go platinum in the UK. The US would see a release of Vital Idol later in 1987 with an additional track.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

"Ti Amo" by Laura Branigan

Song#:  2109
Date:  11/03/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  55
Weeks:  12
Genre:  Pop

Pop Bits:  Branigan's album Self Control would end up being the best selling of her career reaching #23 and going platinum. This was largely on the strength of the #4 title-track single. Hoping for more hits, this song was chosen to be released as the LP's third single. It didn't quite connect with listeners and stopped before getting into the top half of the Pop chart while only reaching #22 at AC. However, the song was a hit in other countries like Canada (#5) and Australia (#2).

ReduxReview:  Here's another Europop tune from Branigan, but instead of the more dance-oriented material she previously covered, this one is a 6/8 ballad. It's a solid song and the tune builds quite well, but these near-waltz style songs were not all that popular in a 4/4 pop world. I was never a big fan of the song, but Branigan sells it well and makes the listen worthwhile.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Like two of her previous hits, "Self Control" and the #2 "Gloria," this song was co-written by Italian songwriter Giancarlo Bigazzi. He wrote "Gloria" and "Ti Amo" with singer/songwriter Umberto Tozzi, who originally recorded the two songs. Tozzi had a hit with "Ti Amo" in 1977. His original take would reach #1 in several European countries including Italy. Like "Gloria" and "Self Control," English lyrics for "Ti Amo" would be written for Branigan. In this case, the task went to up-n-coming songwriter Diane Warren.