Saturday, August 12, 2017

"Tender Years" by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band

Song#:  2129
Date:  11/17/1984
Debut:  72
Peak:  31
Weeks:  14
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  As the film Eddie & the Cruisers was enjoying its second life via HBO reruns, the soundtrack tagged along and became a delayed Top 10 hit thanks to the #7 "On the Dark Side." For a follow-up single, this track was selected. Like "Dark Side," it too had been issued early on as a single when the movie first hit theaters. It didn't do so well only peaking at a low #78. But thanks to the revitalized movie and soundtrack, the song got a second chance and this time it stopped just outside of the Pop Top 30. The track also got to #10 at Rock and #30 at AC. It helped to make the album a triple-platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  I really don't have much to say here that I didn't already cover in my initial review of the song. It's still pretty amazing that two of Cafferty's songs got revived from the obscurity bin and became hits. It's not unheard of for an overlooked track to get a second life, but to get two of them is quite a feat. Actually, if you count Cafferty's very first single in 1980, the independently released "Wild Summer Nights," then this would be the third time around for "Tender Years" as it appeared as the b-side to that single. Both songs ended up on the Eddie soundtrack.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Nearly a decade before Eddie came along, director Martin Davidson did another film about a group of guys. He co-directed and co-wrote a 1974 film about four leather-clad teenagers known as The Lords of Flatbush. That film co-starred a young Sylvester Stallone two years before his breakout role in Rocky. The movie also featured Henry Winkler in a role that was not unlike his Happy Days character, The Fonz. Although the movie came first, being filmed in 1973, it wasn't released until May the following year. By that time, Happy Days was experiencing its first hit season and The Fonz's popularity was taking off.


Friday, August 11, 2017

"Bruce" by Rick Springfield

Song#:  2128
Date:  11/17/1984
Debut:  81
Peak:  27
Weeks:  13
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  Long before Springfield was singing about "Jessie's Girl," he had recorded a handful of albums for a few labels and even scored a #16 hit in 1971 called "Speak to the Sky." After his fourth album, 1976's Wait for Night, could only muster the #41 single "Take a Hand," Springfield was again searching for another label and another chance to hit the charts. He signed on with Mercury in 1977 and began to work on a new album. Although the album was mostly completed, it didn't seem to work for the label and the project got shelved. Perhaps due to the success of Bruce Springsteen, in 1980 the label decided to send out this song as a single. It failed to do anything. Flash forward a few years and now Springfield has become a platinum-selling artist. Someone at Mercury then remember that they owned an album's worth of tracks from Springfield. They dug them out of the vaults to see what could be done with them. Although Springfield's vocals were intact and fine, the music seemed to lack a bit for the 80s market. So the label completely re-recorded the backing tracks and then added Springfield's voice to them. All this was done without consent or involvement from Springfield. When completed, the LP got released as Beautiful Feelings. To promote the album, "Bruce" was once again released. By this time, both Springsteen and Springfield were on the charts together and arguably at the heights of their careers and this helped the single get into the Pop Top 30. The album sold a few copies and Mercury probably made a few bucks off of it.

ReduxReview:  I was aware of this quick cash-in scheme from the label before it was released. I mean, really. If the songs were truly any good, or even slightly good, the label would have issued them back in the day. But they didn't. They obviously thought it was not worth releasing. However, that tune can change when all of a sudden the artist becomes a big star. Then they see dollar signs. So Mercury trotted this album out much in the same way Motown did their own cash-in project with some old Michael Jackson recordings (Farewell My Summer Love) earlier the same year. Now, I'm all for issuing old, unreleased tracks from an artist. They can be interesting and sometimes even very good. But those are usually done with the artist's approval and/or involvement. Projects like this one where they just did what they wanted and shoved it out in hopes of making a quick buck are reprehensible. As for this song, I never really liked it. The one-note humor of a situation wears out after one listen and the music/performance can't compare to his 80s hits. I would have been fine if this had been left locked in the label's vault.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Springfield wrote this song based around experiences he had with people who mistook him for Bruce Springsteen. Initially, being called Bruce bothered Springfield. But after a while, he treated it as a joke and to play off of that he wrote this humorous song.  2) Years later in 2007, the songs from the Mercury sessions were revisited. Those original studio versions were collected and released as The Early Sound City Sessions. The CD included the songs that would go on to make up Beautiful Feelings plus one extra unreleased track.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

"Taxi Dancing" by Rick Springfield and Randy Crawford

Song#:  2127
Date:  11/17/1984
Debut:  83
Peak:  59
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Springfield's third single from the soundtrack album to his film Hard to Hold was "Bop 'Til You Drop." It just made the Pop Top 20 at #20. The flip side to that single was this track from the album. The duet with jazz/R&B singer Randy Crawford (see below) was serviced to AC radio and it caught on. The tune would end up getting to #16 on that chart. Due to that action, the song gained some airplay at Pop as well and soon the b-side appeared on the chart. It could only manage a #59 showing, but the spins over at AC helped sell a few more singles and albums.

ReduxReview:  Springfield was never known for his ballads, but he writes a lovely one here. It's one of the more subtle tunes he's ever done and the addition of Crawford is quite nice. It doesn't really stand out as a single, but it's a different side of Springfield and it suited him just fine. The arrangement is nice as well and different for him. Springfield had been using a lot of new technology on his rock tunes, but this one is more basic and low-key. It showed that he didn't have to rely on sounds and gadgets to make a song work.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Vocalist Randy Crawford spent time on the club circuit and backing other artists until she secured her own solo contract with Columbia in 1972. After a couple of singles failed to generate interest, she was back on her own until Warner Bros. picked her up a few years later. Although she failed to score any major chart hits, her albums sold well with many of them hitting the Top 10 of the Jazz chart. Over the years, Crawford was able to get some songs on the R&B chart, but her solo works were ignored at Pop. Her only two appearances on the Pop chart were alongside other artists. In 1976, she reached #36 with The Crusaders on "Street Life." Her second and last entry came with this Springfield duet. However, the story was a bit different in the UK where she got four Top 20 hits including two Top 10's. For her 1976 debut LP, Crawford recorded the song "I've Never Been to Me." Her version was the first one released. It was not issued as a single. Not long after, singer Charlene released her version as a single and it got to #97. Of course, years later, the song would be revived and Charlene found herself with an unexpected #3 hit in 1982.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"Sunshine in the Shade" by The Fixx

Song#:  2126
Date:  11/17/1984
Debut:  87
Peak:  69
Weeks:  5
Genre:  Rock, New Wave

Pop Bits:  The band's LP Phantoms got off to a good start with the #1 Rock hit "Are We Ourselves?" (#15 Pop). This next single just couldn't do much out of the gate and it faltered at #38 Rock while only spending a few weeks on the Pop chart. Despite not having a significant second hit, the album performed well and would be a gold seller. It would be their last album to achieve that feat.

ReduxReview:  This song is not out of line with other singles from the band. It's just not quite as catchy as the others. As usual, Rupert Hine's production is terrific and I like the urgency of the tune, especially in the keyboard breaks. However, it just doesn't have that special kick needed to rise above all the other new wave/rock tunes on the chart.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The distinctive cover for Phantoms was done by artist George Underwood. Underwood actually started out as a musician. He and one of his classmates, Davy Jones (soon to be David Bowie) started a band called George and the Dragons. However, the band ended up splitting due to Underwood and Bowie having a fight over a girl. During the fight, Underwood punched Bowie in the eye. Underwood was wearing a ring at the time and it ended up damaging Bowie's eye, which later made it look as though he had two different colored eyes. Underwood and Bowie patched things up and remained friends. Underwood left music and went into graphic design. Later on, he would design album covers for his old friend Bowie. These included ones for Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory. Underwood would do three covers for The Fixx, which included Reach the Beach, Phantoms, and Calm Animals.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

"Amnesia" by Shalamar

Song#:  2125
Date:  11/17/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  73
Weeks:  9
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  After two of this trio's members departed, sole survivor Howard Hewitt sought out two new members and soldiered on. Right out of the box the new line up had a hit with "Dancing in the Sheets" (#17 Pop/#18 R&B), which appeared on the soundtrack to Footloose. The trio then followed that song up with this first single from their album Heartbreak. Unfortunately, it just couldn't catch on and stalled early at R&B (#49) and Pop.

ReduxReview:  After the rockin' guitar introduces the song, it settles into a groove that sounds similar to something The Pointer Sisters might have done. The falsetto chorus is okay and the production chugs along just fine, but it's a little too fast for the Dance chart and neither Pop nor R&B wanted to host it. Probably the best part is the instrumental break, which most likely got cut a lot for the single version. While it's a pretty good album opener, it just wasn't something that was gonna catch on.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  One of the new members of the trio was guitarist Micki Free. The Native American ended up with the Shalamar job thanks to Kiss member Gene Simmons, who had seen Free perform with his early band Smokehouse. When offered the Shalamar position, Simmons encouraged Free to take it. After Shalamar broke up, Free then formed the hard rock band Crown of Thorns with Jean Beauvoir (formerly of The Plasmatics). That band would release eight albums between 1993 and 2008. Free's distinctive look got the attention of comedian Dave Chappelle, who mimicked Free during a skit about Prince on The Chappelle Show.


Monday, August 7, 2017

"Tenderness" by General Public

Song#:  2124
Date:  11/17/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  27
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, New Wave

Pop Bits:  After the popular ska/new wave UK band The Beat broke up in '83, two of its members, Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger, decided to continue their association and form a new band. They filled out the various positions and General Public was born. They got signed to Virgin Records (I.R.S. Records for the US) and recorded their debut album All the Rage. An initial single, "General Public," was issued in the UK, but didn't do all that well at #60. This second single pretty much tanked at a lowly #95. However, when issued in the US, the single began to gain momentum and it got to #15 at Dance and #39 Rock while bumping into the Pop Top 30. The song got a little help thanks to its appearance in the hit film Sixteen Candles (although it wasn't included on the film's EP soundtrack). The hit helped sell albums and it got to #26 on the chart. The news was even better in Canada where the song got to #11 and the album to #19.

ReduxReview:  This slice of Britpop caught my ear back in the day and I got the single. I played it for a while and then kind of forgot about the song. Years later, I hooked into again thanks to a couple of 80s compilations. Now, most any 80s playlist I create will include this tune. It should have done better on the chart. I love how this song was produced and arranged. It still sounds great today. I've always like Dave Wakeling's voice as well. It is distinctive and interesting.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The Beat were quite popular in the UK. Over the course of three studio albums and one compilation, the band accumulated five Top 10 singles. In the US, where they were known as The English Beat due to legal reasons, their fortunes were not quite as bright. Although a few of their songs were able to get on the Dance chart, none were able to make it to the Pop or Rock charts. However, they toured the US supporting big names like David Bowie, The Police, and Talking Heads and that helped them gain a sizable fan base. Their third album, Special Beat Service, would do well reaching #39 without the help of any singles.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

"Born in the U.S.A." by Bruce Springsteen

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2123
Date:  11/10/1984
Debut:  52
Peak:  9
Weeks:  17
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  On the heels of two Top 10 singles (one gold, one platinum) from his album Born in the U.S.A., Springsteen released this title-track as the third single. The anthem moved up both the Rock and Pop charts and peaked within a spot of each other (#8 Rock/#9 Pop). The single would also go gold giving Springsteen a third certified record in a row. The album had already spent four weeks at #1 and might have returned to the top at this point, but it was blocked by another mega-hit LP, Prince's Purple Rain. However, early in '85 the album would regain some momentum and return to the top of the chart for three weeks. In doing so, it would go on to become 1985's top charting album.

ReduxReview:  All it takes it about two seconds to recognize this song. The keys and that huge snare sound are unmistakable. From there it just gets better. What's really amazing is that Springsteen and the band created a heap of magic from two chords. It builds until Springsteen finally howls and then just as it seems like the band is just gonna go off the rails and crash, he brings them around again for a final faded outro. Tie all this into the damning lyrics and shouted chorus and you get a masterpiece for the ages. It's four minutes of brilliance that goes way beyond just being a song.


Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) This song had a long history. Springsteen first wrote the song back in 1981. Film director Paul Schrader wanted a song to go with a screenplay he wrote and Springsteen offered up this song. Unfortunately, the film didn't get made until much later (see below). The song sat around until Springsteen tried to give it an acoustic treatment for his Nebraska album. That didn't work and the song was set aside again. In early '82, Springsteen and the E Street Band did a spontaneous arrangement of the song in the studio and recorded the song. The second take of the song would end up being the first song recorded for the album. Apparently, it had an extended jam-session coda of which eight minutes were trimmed to make it shorter and more commercial.  2) Schrader eventually made the film he wanted to do and still got a Springsteen song out of it. In 1986 he wrote and directed Light of Day, which starred Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett. Still needing a song, Springsteen wrote the title-track for the film. Joan Jett would record it and perform it in the film. It would be issued as a single and reach #13 Rock/#33 Pop.  3) This song has been misinterpreted by so many folks over the years. The song is about the poor treatment of Vietnam veterans after they returned home from the war. However, the biting commentary in the verses often got overshadowed by the fist-pumping, arena-rockin' chorus, which made people think it was a big pro-American pride song.