Saturday, September 23, 2017

"The Old Man Down the Road" by John Fogerty

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2171
Date:  12/22/1984
Debut:  61
Peak:  10
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  When his former band Creedence Clearwater Revival broke up in 1972, lead singer/songwriter Fogerty set out on a solo career. His first effort was a solo album that he credited to a fake band called The Blue Ridge Rangers. It was mainly a covers album and it spawned the #16 hit "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)." He dropped the fake moniker for his self-titled follow-up, which included the #27 entry "Rockin' All Over the World." After an aborted third album along with legal issue with his label, it would take nearly a decade before Fogerty would return with a proper new album. Centerfield would arrive in January of '85, but it was preceded by this first single. Rock radio jumped on the new tune and it would end up reaching #1 on that chart. It took a bit longer for Pop to catch on, but it got enough traction to just barely make the Top 10. It would be Fogerty's first and only single to reach the Pop Top 10. The tune also made it to #33 at AC. The return of Fogerty and the hit single helped the album reach #1. It would eventually sell over 2 million copies.

ReduxReview:  I have to admit that this one had to grow on me. CCR was never a favorite of mine and this jangly blues-rock with a nearly monotone verse didn't really thrill me. But there was something about it that started to sneak in my brain and it kind of stuck. When it would come on the radio I would soon find my head bobbin' in rhythm and I'd have to sing "hidey-hide" and "jump and run." I do think it is a bit of a slight song with not much to it, but Fogerty sells it well enough to make it work.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Fogerty was no stranger to legal music business tangles so it wasn't all that shocking when he got sued for this song and another one on the album. The song "Zanz Kant Danz" was a bit of a skewering of Fogerty's former label (Fantasy) head Saul Zaentz. Zaentz didn't appreciate it and sued for defamation. To alleviate the situation, Fogerty change the name in the song to Vanz and the title to "Vanz Kant Danz." All issues of the LP after about the first three months of the initial release adapted to the change and it still remains that way today. The second lawsuit also came from Zaentz regarding this song. In order to get out of his contract with Fantasy, Fogerty relinquished his rights to the CCR catalog. With control of those songs now with Zaentz, he heard this new tune and thought it sounded like the 1970 CCR song (written by Fogerty) "Run Through the Jungle." Zaentz sued Fogerty for plagiarism and copyright infringement. Fogerty successfully defended himself and won the case. Fogerty then turned and sued Zaentz for the legal fees Fogerty racked up for his defense. Initially, Fogerty lost his case, but it went the the US Supreme Court and they found in favor of Fogerty.


Friday, September 22, 2017

"Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Band Aid

Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2170
Date:  12/22/1984
Debut:  65
Peak:  13
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Christmas, Charity

Pop Bits:  Bob Geldof, leader of the UK band The Boomtown Rats, was watching a news special in late October concerning the famine in Ethiopia along with his wife Paula Yates. Moved by the report, Geldof wanted to do something, if even minor, to help the crisis. Geldof ended up discussing the situation with Ultravox's Midge Ure and the pair met to discuss options. They decided that a charity single would be a good way to raise awareness and money and set out to attract big name artists to help record the tune. Geldof and Ure wrote the song and Geldof began making calls to artists. A session was set up for November 24th and the recording process began. The session would also be filmed in order to create a video for the song. As major stars of the day like Bono, Sting, Simon Le Bon, Phil Collins, and Paul Young began to arrive, the song took shape. Once completed, promotions for the event began immediately and when the single was released on December 3rd in the UK, it became the fastest selling in UK history. The song debuted at #1 on the chart and remained there for five weeks. It quickly became the all-time best-selling single in the UK. The song was also issued around the world including the US. Although the song outsold any other single on the US chart by a wide margin, it didn't get a ton of airplay, which hampered its chart performance since the US combines sales and airplay for chart stats. Therefore, it stalled short of the Top 10. However, the single went gold and the associated video received a lot of play on MTV. In all, the single, video, and everything else that went with it netted about $24 million for relief efforts and helped to spawn other charity ventures like "We Are the World" and the LiveAid concert.

ReduxReview:  I have to admit that I didn't dig this song when it came out. There was a lot of hype around it and when I finally heard it, I was disappointed. It's really not a very good song and it caught a bit of flack at the time for not being a quality tune. Even later, both Geldof and Ure even said it was a bit lackluster. However, the song was just the vehicle and in the end it didn't matter as long as it got the job done. The song has kind of grown on me over the years and there are certain parts of the song that I do like. It wasn't a brilliant song, but the sentiment and efforts around it are certainly valid and hearing it around the holidays is a good reminder about what is happening to others around the world.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Triple Shot!  1) In addition to the other stars, Geldof got Boy George to come on board, which was a pretty major deal. However, it almost didn't happen. George was on tour in the US and was catching some zzz's when he was supposed to be flying over for the session. Calls from Geldof to George didn't do much good and George slept through much of the day. He finally caught the last Concorde flight out of JFK and arrived at the studio around 6  in the evening and did his part.  2) As time went by, this song was revived by new generations of artists. Band Aid II was issued in 1989 and featured Bananarama, Cliff Richard, and Lisa Stansfield. Band Aid 20 came out in 2004 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the song. That version featured Chris Martin (Coldplay), Bono, Joss Stone, and Estelle. A decade later, Band Aid 30 arrived with Bono (again..), Seal, Elle Goulding, Harry Styles, and Ed Sheeran. Each single reached #1 on the UK charts.  3) The opening of the song is actually a sample of another song. It is a slightly slowed down sample of "The Hurting" by Tears for Fears.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

"Mr. Telephone Man" by New Edition

Song#:  2169
Date:  12/22/1984
Debut:  79
Peak:  12
Weeks:  16
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  This teenage vocal group scored their first major Pop hit (#4) with "Cool It Now," the lead single from their self-titled second album. It would also be their second #1 at R&B. To follow it up, this track from the album was issued as a single. It replicated the results of they previous song by hitting #1 at R&B. It also did well at Pop, but just missed out on the Top 10. The hits would sent the album to #1 at R&B and #6 Pop. Eventually it would be a double-platinum seller

ReduxReview:  This was a big improvement for me over their previous singles. The material is more mature, yet it retains a bit of teenage innocence, which is what they needed. Parker wrote a really nice tune (see below) and it suited the young group quite well. I think it remains one of their best singles. They should have done a lot more with Parker.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was written and produced by Ray Parker, Jr. However, New Edition was not the first artist to record the song. It was originally recorded by Jamaican artist Junior Tucker (aka Jr Tucker). Tucker first had some success in Jamaica at the age of seven when he scored a #1 hit. He had some further success there, but soon the pull of a wider audience drew him to the US where he signed with Geffen Records. His first album for them, Jr Tucker, was produced by Ray Parker, Jr. Parker also wrote three songs for Tucker including "Mr. Telephone Man" and the single "Bad Girls," which got to #61 at R&B. The album faded quickly as did Tucker's career with Geffen. Parker then took "Telephone" over to New Edition and they made it a hit. Tucker continued to occasionally record over the years and later turned to Christian reggae music.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

"The Greatest Gift of All" by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton

Song#:  2168
Date:  12/22/1984
Debut:  83
Peak: 81
Weeks:  4
Genre:  Christmas, Country Crossover, Adult Contemporary

Pop Bits:  After their highly successful smash #1 duet "Island in the Stream," Rogers and Parton wanted to work together again. Instead of a country-pop collaboration, they set their sites on doing something for the holiday season. The worked together and created the album Once Upon a Christmas. The album would featured six duet tracks, and two solo outings each. Parton would also write or co-write five original songs for the album. To spark some radio support, this song was chosen to be issued as a single. Written by John Jarvis, the song did get some radio action and was able to get to #40 at AC and #53 at Country. It was also able to get on the Pop chart for a few short weeks during the holiday season. The album would be highly successful going to #12 at Country, #31 Pop and #4 on the Holiday albums chart. It would be one of the most successful holiday albums of the 80s and eventually sell over two million copies.

ReduxReview:  I remember just loving this album when it came out. It quickly became my favorite Christmas album. What I liked about it was that it only featured four standard holiday songs. The rest were originals with five of them by Parton. She just hit the nail on the head with her tunes. I think they outshine any of the other tracks, including this one. The ballad is lovely, but I'm not sure why this one was chosen over one of Dolly's originals. It could be that the tune itself really leans towards standard 80s country and doesn't necessarily sound like a Xmas song. Therefore, it might have fit in with regular programming on stations. Still, it's just a shame that "Christmas Without You" or "A Christmas to Remember" didn't get a chance. ("Christmas Without You" was issued in Europe for some reason though). This tune is part of an excellent album, but it wasn't the best choice for a single.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  Along with the album, the duo filmed an associated TV special titled Kenny & Dolly: A Christmas to Remember. It aired on CBS on December 4, 1984, and was a solid ratings grabber. Due to its popularity, the program was rerun for a few years during the holidays. It's now considered a bit of a holiday classic.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat

Song#:  2167
Date:  12/22/1984
Debut:  86
Peak:  48
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Synthpop, Dance

Pop Bits:  This UK trio of Jimmy Somerville, Steve Bronski, and Larry Steinbachek had only played a handful of shows before getting signed to London Records. All three members were openly gay and they sought to write music that was more topical and sometimes political in nature regarding the gay culture and community. Their career kicked off in a big way when they released this debut single. It was a significant hit reaching #3 in the UK. A follow-up single titled "Why?" was issued next and it got to #6. With a couple of hits under their belt, the band tried to make the transition to the US market via MCA Records. This song was an immediate hit at Dance getting to #1. It led to the tune getting on the Pop chart, but it wasn't as warmly received and it stopped short of the Pop Top 40. It would be the trio's only US Pop chart entry. Despite the results, their debut album, The Age of Consent, sold well in the US and got to #36. It did far better in the UK getting to #4. Lead singer Somerville would leave the band after the first album. With a new singer in place, Bronski Beat would issue a remix album and one more studio album, which resulted in two more UK Top 10 hits.

ReduxReview:  Oddly, I just reconnected with this album thanks to a new deluxe reissue of it. Of course, this song is the highlight. That keyboard riff sticks with you and Jimmy Somerville's haunting falsetto voice grabs your attention. I remember they were a big deal with the gay community because there weren't too many openly gay, commercial, major label artists at the time. Especially ones who were singing about gay issues. Frankly, I'm still amazed this did as well on the Pop chart as it did. The US had a brief love affair with the near-drag Boy George, but  Bronski Beat was different and I'm sure their music and lyrics did not set as well with a lot of folks (and the video probably didn't help - in fact I don't even remember seeing it on MTV). This was an excellent song and one that is a touchstone for a lot of younger gays at the time.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) The themes in this song mainly concerned family rejection for being homosexual and homophobia. The video for the song dealt with the same issues. It was rather forward in its depiction of gay attraction and was considered a bit radical for the mainstream at the time. The song has since become a gay anthem.  2) The title of the album had to do with the age of consent for homosexual acts. It varied in many countries and in the UK although they dropped the age of consent for heterosexuals to sixteen, it was kept at twenty-one for homosexuals. And there were other rules/laws stemming from that as well. The inner sleeve of Bronski Beat's album included a list of age of consent and/or other laws regarding homosexuality in various European countries. It also included the UK phone number for a gay legal advice service. In the US, initial pressing of the album contained this information as well, but for some unknown reason, later pressings MCA Records removed the information.


Monday, September 18, 2017

"Do It Again" by The Kinks

Song#:  2166
Date:  12/22/1984
Debut:  87
Peak:  41
Weeks:  10
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  The Kinks got the fifth (and final) Pop Top 10 of their career with "Come Dancing" (#6), the first single from their album State of Confusion. Another Top 30 single would follow, which helped send the album to #12. Nearly a year and a half later, the band returned with their next LP, Word of Mouth. This track was selected as the first single and it did well at Rock getting to #4. It tried to catch on a Pop, but couldn't quite break through and it ended up peaking at the dreaded #41 spot. It would end up being the band's final single to reach the Pop chart. They would grab a few more entries on the Rock chart over the next few years, but by 1996, the band had reached the end of the line and parted ways.

ReduxReview:  The Kinks return to a more rock-oriented sound following the pop-nostalgia of "Come Dancing." When I saw the title of the song, I didn't think I knew it. Once it started and it got to the chorus, I thought "oh, the 'back where we started' song!" I guess I never realized it was titled "Do It Again." This was a good song and it probably should have gotten into the Top 40. I woudn't peg it for a hit at Pop, but it was a solid Rock track for the band. Not a bad song to go out on.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Many artists would cover songs from The Kinks, but only a handful would reach the charts with their versions. In the US, the most successful remake of a Ray Davies tune would happen in 1966 via an unlikely artist. The Kinks recorded the song "Dandy" for their 1966 album Face to Face. The song would not be issued in the US or the UK as a single, but it was in a few European countries getting into a few Top 10's. The song was quickly covered by the quirky UK band Herman's Hermits. It was issued as a single in North America and became a hit both in the US (#5) and in Canada (#1). It was the band's tenth US Top 10 hit.  2) The Kinks main singer/songwriter, Ray Davies, would do a few solo albums over the years. His biggest chart success came in 2017 when his album Americana got to #79. The album was a musical extension of a book he wrote in 2013 titled Americana: The Kinks, the Riff, the Road: The Story. The book and album concerned Davies' experiences touring and living in America.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Turn Up the Radio" by Autograph

Song#:  2165
Date:  12/22/1984
Debut:  89
Peak:  29
Weeks:  19
Genre:  Hard Rock, Arena Rock

Pop Bits:  This Pasadena band got assembled via guitarist Steve Plunkett in 1983. Made up of veteran musicians from various other bands, the group quickly rehearsed and recorded a demo while gigging around and gaining a solid reputation. Some connections via their previous bands helped them secure a spot opening for Van Halen and that led to a contract with RCA Records. They readied their debut album, Sign in Please, which got released in October of '84. It got off to a slow start, but things picked up when this song was issued as a single and its associated video moved into heavy rotation on MTV. That helped the song reach #17 at Rock and get inside the Pop Top 30. It would be their only appearance on the Pop chart. The hit helped the album get to #29 and eventually it would be a gold seller. The band's next two albums wouldn't do as well and by the end of the decade they called it quits. Reunions and other albums would happen later, but their peak moment would always remain this signature track.

ReduxReview:  This was another biggie at the skating rink where I did a stint as a DJ. The kids love it. And this was around '86-'87, so long past it's heyday. It was far more popular than what its chart peak would indicate. The tune is still a standard on classic rock stations. I catch it every once in a while on the local one. The song is arena ready with a huge chorus and also an excellent finger-tapping guitar solo by band member Steve Lynch. Apparently, when the band was on tour with Van Halen, Lynch was told not to do any finger-tap enhanced solos because that was Eddie Van Halen's signature move. However, Lynch maintained that he was doing it long before he knew who Van Halen was. Regardless, he did great work on this jam.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  MTV was becoming bigger each year and many companies were beginning to jump on the bandwagon to market their products to the channel's key, young demographic. Cross promotions and product placement within the music videos were beginning to take place and the video for "Turn Up the Radio" was an early example. The band entered into a deal with Paper Mate where the company paid for the video in exchange for product placement. When the video starts, the band enters a room and a robot tells them to "sign in please." They are given a Paper Mate Sharpwriter Pencil and each band member signs in. As they do, close ups of the pencil are shown. It's not known how successful the gimmick was, but other companies would jump on board soon after and it still exists today.