Saturday, August 19, 2017

"Foolish Heart" by Steve Perry

Song#:  2136
Date:  11/24/1984
Debut:  83
Peak:  18
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Perry's debut solo album Street Talk was on its way to double-platinum status thanks to three Top 40 hits. The label thought there was still gas left in the tank and decided to issue this fourth single. Surprisingly, the ballad found an audience and did better that his previous two singles by making it into the Pop Top 20. It got a little help getting there thanks to solid action at AC, where it reached #2. The results gave Perry his second biggest solo hit.

ReduxReview:  Okay, NOW they release this song. It was two singles too late. Had this followed up "Oh Sherrie!," I think it would have done even better. It was just a no-brainer that this song would do well. That said, I just kinda like the song. It's well written and performed, but I find it a bit slight. It could have used a bit more oomph in the production as it's just a little too laid-back. However, it was a solid candidate for a single and the Top 20 showing for it was very good considering his previous two singles couldn't get that far.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  The video for this song certainly wasn't a budget buster. Only one camera was used and the whole video consisted of one shot. Taped in a theater, the camera shows an empty stage and then Perry walks out, takes a seat, and the song begins. As the song continues, the camera pans closer and closer to Perry during the song. Then near the end it backs off to its original starting point and Perry walks off stage. That's it. No cuts or edits. Just one long extended shot. Apparently, a different "holiday" version of the video existed that did have an extended scene where the camera cuts to Perry walking out the theater door and being greeted by his Journey band mates. They all have a glass of champagne and wish their fans happy holidays and happy new year. Then, as a wink to the fans that Perry was returning to Journey, Perry states, "now let's go cut a record." It would take another year or so, but they would return with a new album in '86.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

"Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four)" by Eurythmics

Song#:  2135
Date:  11/24/1984
Debut:  86
Peak:  81
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Rock, Synthpop, Dance-Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Following the success of their 1983 album Touch, the duo of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were commissioned by Virgin Films to write music for a new movie version of the George Orwell classic 1984, which would appropriately be issued in that title year. Eurythmics did their work and handed it over to Virgin. Their music was used in the film along with portions of an orchestral score done by composer Dominic Muldowney. The tracks written and performed by Eurythmics were assembled and released as 1984 (For the Love of Big Brother) under their name. To promote the soundtrack, this first single was issued. It would be another significant hit in Europe for the duo hitting the Top 10 in several countries including their UK home where it got to #4. In the US, the song was a big hit at the clubs and it got to #2 on the Dance chart. However, it didn't translate to Pop audiences and the single quickly disappeared after a month on the chart.

ReduxReview:  I've always liked this song and was sad it didn't catch on in the US. It played well in the clubs, but it may not have played well on Pop radio. I'm guessing that a song titled "Sexcrime" was probably not going to be popular with radio stations and I also think the whole 1984 theme and references were totally lost. Perhaps if the movie had been a hit the song would have done better. The song mixes up different styles and sounds, yet still sounds cohesive and solid. I heard David Bowie, Kraftwerk, R&B and synthpop rolled up and covered in a distinct Eurythmics coating. Although it doesn't rank among their best and is not all that Pop friendly, it's still a terrific track that gets overlooked in their catalog.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The use of the Eurythmics' tracks in the film ended up causing a bit of a controversy, mainly with the film's director. While Eurythmics were busy writing music for the film based on a commission from Virgin, director Michael Radford already had a score set for the film that was done by Dominic Muldowney. Apparently, Radford did not want the Eurythmics' music and was not sought out by Virgin for approval on their involvement in the film. Radford intended to just use the orchestral score he had commissioned. However, with money spent and the potential to boost ticket and album sales, Virgin was set on using the Eurythmics' music. With the final cut in the hands of Virgin and not the director, the duo's tracks were used in combination with Muldowney's score. Radford was less than pleased and at an awards show publicly stated that the Eurythmics' tracks were forced on him. Producer Simon Perry even went so far as saying the music was rubbish. Dave Stewart responded back saying that they acted on good faith via the commission and had no knowledge that the director already had a score in place. They assumed all was well. In the end, reviews for the film were mixed and it was not highly successful at the box office. However, Eurythmics had a bit of a last-laugh when this song became a hit in many countries.


"Thief of Hearts" by Melissa Manchester

Song#:  2134
Date:  11/24/1984
Debut:  88
Peak:  86
Weeks:  6
Genre:  Synthpop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  After Manchester's Emergency album failed to produce a significant hit, it was decided that she part ways with her label Arista. She would go on to sign with MCA, but before that, Manchester would lend her vocals to a soundtrack song. Working with Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey, Manchester would co-write the theme song to the film Thief of Hearts. The tune would be pushed out as a single and it did a little business at AC getting to #18. However, it was pretty much ignored at Pop and the song would disappear after a few weeks.

ReduxReview:  This is just bland, paint-by-the-numbers Europop that never really gets off the ground. There is nothing here that makes it stand out above other chart fare. Even though Manchester has a vested interest in the song being a co-writer, she doesn't necessarily sound thrilled to be doing this. There is little of her personality showing through all the tinkling synths. It's another disappointment from Manchester after she was pushed down the synthpop road.

ReduxRating:  3/10

Trivia:  The romantic thriller Thief of Hearts was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, the same team that issued the unexpected hit Flashdance. Starring Steven Bauer and Barbara Williams the producers were most likely hoping for some solid box office action along with a successful soundtrack. That didn't happen. Reviews were tepid and the folks that flocked to Flashdance didn't come on board. The film flopped and the soundtrack was a dud. Although Giorgio Moroder handled this song, the balance of the soundtrack was mainly overseen by Harold Faltermeyer. Despite Moroder's limited contribution, he still got a Razzie nod for Worst Musical Score. However, it was in combination with his soundtrack to the reissue of Metropolis.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"Big in Japan" by Alphaville

Song#:  2133
Date:  11/24/1984
Debut:  90
Peak:  66
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Synthpop, New Wave, Dance

Pop Bits:  This German trio originally formed as Forever Young, but later changed their name to Alphaville. They signed on with Warner Bros. and recorded a debut album titled Forever Young. This first single was issued and it was a significant hit in Europe making many Top 10 lists and hitting #1 in their home country. When the song was issued in the US, it clicked in clubs and it got to #1 on the Dance chart. That action let the song bleed over to Pop, but the best it could do was a third of the way up the chart.

ReduxReview:  I remember this coming out, but don't think I had ever heard it. I'm sure I have this song on an 80s compilation, but I can't remember it. It has a nice, rolling synth beat, which certainly helped it at Dance. It's Europop sound was a bit on the dark side and it just didn't catch on nearly as well at Pop. It's a good 80s track, but it just doesn't stick in my brain like it should.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Alphaville member Marian Gold found inspiration for this song via another band. Gold purchased an album by a UK punk band called Big in Japan. That band's name was also a phrase used to describe Western music artists that would be popular in Japan, yet not do well in their home country. Hard rock acts were of particular interest to audiences in Japan around this time. That phrase seemed to fit along with some lyrics Gold was writing and a song was born. The band Big in Japan was never really big anywhere. They gigged around the UK and recorded only seven songs. However, they later became more known for its members who went on to have successful careers. Former members included Bill Drummond (The KLF), Ian Broudie (Lightning Seeds), Budgie (Siouxie & the Banshees), and Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes to Hollywood).


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Like a Virgin" by Madonna

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2132
Date:  11/17/1984
Debut:  48
Peak:  1 (6 weeks)
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Madonna's self-titled debut was a major success that spawned two Top 10 singles. Not wanting to miss out the momentum built by the album and its associated videos, Madonna got in the studio in the spring of '84 to record a follow-up. She really didn't have the best of luck with producers on her first album, so she intended to do this one herself. However, the label was not keen on that and pushed her into getting an established producer for the album. She chose Chic's Nile Rodgers, who had recently done David Bowie's successful Let's Dance LP. Madonna would supply five songs (one written by her, the other four written by her and Stephen Bray) while the balance of the album would consist three tunes by other writers and one cover. One of the songs that came her way was this title-track written by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg. Madonna liked the song right off the bat, but Rodgers did not and tried to talk her out of doing it. However, he later relented and the pair worked up the tune. It would serve as the first single from the album and after a debut in the top half of the Pop chart, the song took off and headed to #1. It would be the first of Madonna's twelve chart toppers and would firmly establish her as a star. It also reached #1 at Dance and would become her first and only R&B Top 10 hitting #9. The iconic song would later be placed on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. The song spent six weeks at #1, which would be her best showing until 1994 when "Take a Bow" held on for seven weeks.

ReduxReview:  This song was so great at the time and I still enjoy it. Madonna broke through with her first album and for her second one, she was determined to stamp her foot down and say "here I am bitches - and I'm here to stay!" She certainly did with this song. It was pure bubblegum pop wrapped in a wink-wink sexy coating and it was perfect for her. What always stood out to me was the production. It was absolutely crisp and clean with a massive snare sound that just made the song snap. I've always loved the little snare fills too. Rodgers produced this within an inch of its life and it just worked. I've hated all the remix versions of the song. The original album version remains the best. I loved the album too and thought it was a definite step forward for Madonna. She would go on to have better albums, but this is the one that gave her the confidence (and clout) to keep moving forward in her own way.


Trivia:  When some folks think of this song, the image that comes to mind is from an iconic performance that Madonna did at the very first MTV Music Video Awards show in September of '84. Although this song was not yet released, Madonna performed it on the show. She started the song atop a wedding cake dressed in a wedding gown that was adorned with a "boy toy" belt buckle. By the end of the song she was at the front of the stage writhing around the floor, sometimes in a suggestive manner. Her performance was a sensation and courted its share of controversy (as did the song itself). It set a standard for the awards show in its inaugural year and many artists since then have tried to raise the bar with their own performances on the show.


Monday, August 14, 2017

"You're the Inspiration" by Chicago

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2131
Date:  11/17/1984
Debut:  61
Peak:  3
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  The band's Chicago 17 LP started out slow, but gained momentum when its second single, "Hard Habit to Break" took off and reached #3 at both Pop and AC. Keeping along those same big-ballad lines, this track was selected as the follow-up single. It did even better at AC reaching the top of the chart. It also did well at Pop hitting the same #3 position as "Habit" did, both for two weeks at that spot. Chart-wise at Pop, "Habit" ended up finishing slightly better hanging around on the chart for three more weeks.

ReduxReview:  This was one of those songs that I got sick of because it was so overplayed. After awhile, it just became annoying. However, it really is a well-done tune and a solid follow-up to the superior "Hard Habit." Unfortunately (or fortunately?) the two hits got the band tagged as a supplier of big pop ballads and that dogged them for years after. In fact, all of the band's future Top 10's (there would be five of them ahead) were all in this exact same vein. It worked for them, so I guess they just went with it for as long as they could. Their days of being a horn-led rock/jazz-rock band were certainly over. I remember seeing them the summer of '83 and folks in the audience held up signs asking them to play stuff like "Colour My World." I'm not sure if it was Peter Cetera or one of the other guys who saw the signs and said "yeah, we don't play that stuff anymore." I thought that was a crappy thing to say. It just seemed the whole band didn't want to be there and had an attitude about it. They played fine, but in the end it was not a good show. I still rank it as the worst concert I have ever seen.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Lead singer Peter Cetera wrote this song with producer David Foster. Originally, the tune was intended for Kenny Rogers. Apparently, Foster was working with Rogers and Rogers had asked if Cetera could write something for him. It had to be done quickly as Rogers was already in the studio recording an album. Foster met with Cetera and the two plotted out the basics of a song. Cetera later finished it off with lyrics and got it over to Rogers, who ended up passing on the song. When Cetera and Foster later got together to do the new Chicago album, Cetera dusted off the song, made a few changes, and got it recorded. It ended up being one of Chicago's biggest hits.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

"Jamie" by Ray Parker, Jr.

Song#:  2130
Date:  11/17/1984
Debut:  65
Peak:  14
Weeks:  17
Genre:  R&B, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  Parker, Jr. just scored the biggest hit of his career with the #1 soundtrack song "Ghostbusters." He needed to follow that song up quickly in order to take advantage of the momentum provided by the hit. A full album was not nearly ready yet, so it was decided a compilation LP would be released to fill the gap. Titled Chartbusters, the album would included "Ghostbusters," two other solo hits, a hit from his Raydio days, two album tracks, and three new tunes including this first single. The song wasn't a major hit, but it did well at AC getting to #6 while making it into the Top 20 at both R&B (#12) and Pop. The album couldn't make it into the upper reaches of the charts, but over time the compilation sold well enough to go gold.

ReduxReview:  It is an advantage for an artist to try and capitalize on a hit and keep things going, but it has to be done the right way. This one nearly felt like a quick cash-in product. I mean, really....Chartbusters? In addition to the name, the cover was basically a rip-off of the Ghostbusters logo. The title is also misleading because in reality, only three of the songs included reached the Top 10 at Pop and R&B. Parker, Jr. had only released two solo LP's by this point, so a hits compilation was a tidge too early. They also padded it with album tracks instead of legit singles. It was just weird, hastily assembled, and not very good. However, the one decent thing from the project was this tune. It grooves along quite well even though it doesn't have a big catchy chorus.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  One of the new tracks on the LP was a bit of an oddity for a hits compilation. Just in time for the holidays, Parker, Jr. wrote the song "Christmas Time is Here" (not to be confused with the Vince Guaraldi classic from A Charlie Brown Christmas). The tune would also serve as the b-side to "Jamie." Unless they are major hits, holiday songs are rarely included on any hits compilation from an artist. It seems Parker, Jr. just wanted to cover all bases and was probably hoping for a little airplay action during the season to help boost album sales.