Saturday, October 14, 2017

"Restless Heart" by John Waite

Song#:  2192
Date:  01/26/1985
Debut:  88
Peak:  59
Weeks:  8
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  Waite's second single from his No Brakes LP, "Tears," couldn't come close to the #1 first single "Missing You." It stalled just inside the Top 40 at #37. However, the label thought there might be more life left to the album and decided to issue this third single. The song stalled short at Rock getting to #28 and its prospects at Pop were dimmer. With those results, that wrapped up the singles for the album and Waite now had the task of following up the album and its iconic #1 single.

ReduxReview:  This heartland-ish rocker is certainly different from "Missing You" and "Tears." And that could be part of the problem. No Brakes was kind of a mish-mash of styles and none of them, except "Missing You," were very Pop friendly. Consequently, "Missing You" was the only song to hit big and the one people remember. This track is certainly not bad, but it's jangly, country-twinged sound wasn't necessarily something that was going to attract a big audience.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  As the 80s began, Waite was still with his former band The Babys. But a small event seemed to be the catalyst that would break up the band. While performing an encore during a tour stop supporting their 1980 album On the Edge, Waite was pulled off the stage by an over excited fan. The accident resulted in an injury to Waite's knee and that ended the tour. With Waite out of commission for a bit, the band assessed the situation and their career prospects. Feeling that perhaps they could never be as successful on record as they were on stage, it was decided the band would call it quits. Each member moved on to their own projects with Waite having success as a solo artist and Jonathan Cain joining up with Journey - a band that The Babys had toured with quite a bit. There was a good chance The Babys still might have broken up before recording another album, but with Waite sidlined and time to think, the split probably came sooner than expected.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

"Obsession" by Animotion

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2191
Date:  01/29/1985
Debut: 90
Peak:  6
Weeks:  24
Genre:  Synthpop



Pop Bits:  Formed from the ruins of another band called Red Zone, Animotion came alive via co-lead singers Astrid Plane and Bill Wadhams (who served as the band's songwriter). Their previous experience along with their demos helped to get the band signed to Mercury Records. An album was in the works with Wadhams providing the compositions. However, it seemed the LP needed a hooky single to sell the set. This song, written by Holly Knight and Michael Des Barres, seemed like it might do the trick. When issued as a single, it debuted low on the chart, but as the weeks ticked by the popularity of the song slowly increased. It took a while, but the song finally got into the Pop Top 10 (#35 Dance).

ReduxReview:  I swear this has to be one of the most licensed songs out there. It seems to pop up on compilation albums constantly. A quick search on a music database shows the song appearing on over 200 different compilations and soundtracks. The band probably didn't benefit as much as the writers and publishers, but it did make sure that the band would not be forgotten. VH-1 put them at #11 on their list of Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s, but that's a bit inaccurate. The band (although in a new lineup that excluded Plane and Wadhams) did score another Top 10 hit later in 1989 with "Room to Move" (#9). However, most folks only remember this song. I'll refrain from labeling them as one-hit wonders here, but I can understand why they got the tag. This song is pure synthpop candy. The memorable keyboard lines, production, hooky chorus, and dual vocals really made this song snap. It's still a fun listen.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  This song was originally written and performed by Michael Des Barres and Holly Knight and was included in the 1983 film A Night in Heaven. It was also included on the movie's soundtrack. It was issued as a single, but it didn't do any business. Although Des Barres had a musical background and had released music with bands and as a solo act, he ended up having more success as an actor. He has appeared in numerous films and TV shows over the years. Right around this time, his acting career got a boost thanks to his appearance in the horror/comedy film Ghoulies. However, audiences may know him via his six season stint on the his TV series MacGyver, on which he played the character Murdoc. Fans of Roseanne may recognize him from playing Leon's boyfriend for a couple of episodes. Des Barres still continued with music projects along the way. At one point, he became the new lead singer of Power Station following Robert Palmer's departure. Although the band would break up before any new recordings were done, Des Barres did lead the band in their appearance at 1985's Live Aid concert.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Careless Whisper" by Wham! featuring George Michael

#1 Alert!
Platinum Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2190
Date:  12/22/1984
Debut:  37
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Pop, Blue-Eyed Soul



**A shout-out to a watchful reader who pointed out correctly that I missed covering this song! On the actual chart it was mislabeled as a re-entry and since I look for ones listed in bold as "NEW," I overlooked this song, especially since it debuted very high on the chart far apart from the rest of the week's debuts. So here is a catch-up entry! I think it's only the second song I missed in five years, so I guess that's not too bad!

Pop Bits:  After enjoying four Top 10's in their UK homeland, Wham! finally broke through in the US with the #1 "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go," the first single from their second album Make It Big. For the follow-up, this ballad would be issued. However, since George Michael had recorded this song off on his own without his bandmate Andrew Ridgeley, it was decided that this single would be credited as a solo effort from Michael. In most countries, the single was listed as by George Michael. However, in a few places (such as the US) it was thought better to keep the Wham! name on the single to help associate it with the album. Therefore, the US credit turned into "Wham! featuring George Michael." Regardless of the credit, the song grabbed a spot in the Top 40 in its debut week and proceeded to head to the top spot. It would also reach #1 at AC and #8 at R&B. With the song debuting at the very end of '84, nearly its full chart run would then take place in '85. Because of that, it became the #1 charting single for 1985.

ReduxReview:  The one thing that I always remember about this song is the line "guilty feet have got no rhythm." I was in a songwriters class at college when this came out and the professor initially though the line was "guilty feelings, got no rhythm," which he thought was a great line. When he found out it was "guilty feet," he was so bummed. He railed on about it and thought that line ruined a great song. Frankly, I liked the "guilty feet" and didn't know why the line so perturbed him. Regardless, the song is classic 80s and it took George Michael's star to a whole new level. It showed what he was capable of and it led to bigger hits and Grammy recognition.

ReduxRating10/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) For the most part, George Michael wrote the majority of the songs for Wham! However, this is one song that both he and Ridgeley worked on together. Most of the song had been created by Michael, who got a musical idea for the song when he was 17 and riding a bus to a DJ gig. The famous sax line came first and then the rest followed. Ridgeley assisted in completing the song later. However, Ridgeley didn't participate in the recording of the song and even though it appeared on the Make It Big album, it turned into a George Michael solo single.  2) Michael recorded this song twice. First, he flew to the famed Muscle Shoals recording studio in Alabama and recorded it with the legendary producer Jerry Wexler. Once completed, Michael decided it wasn't what he had in mind for the song. He went back to the UK and produced a new version himself. That version is the one that ended up being used. The Wexler version got a release later in the UK as the b-side to a special 12" extended version of the song. (I've heard this version and I must say that Michael was right in redoing the song. Wexler did a solid job and gave the song an older blue-eyed soul feel, but Michael's was spot on for the time and for Wham's sound. And his vocal was better.)

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"California Girls" by David Lee Roth

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2189
Date:  01/19/1985
Debut:  43
Peak:  3
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Pop



Pop Bits:  As Van Halen's smash hit LP 1984 and its associated tour was winding down, lead singer Roth was itching to do something on his own. He decided to record a few cover tunes and issue them in EP form. These would represent his first solo works apart from Van Halen. Along with the EP, Roth would create a couple of videos for play on MTV. The EP, titled Crazy from the Heat, was assembled in short-order and this first single would be released. Thanks to its popular video, the song made a splash on the Pop chart and ran up to the #3 spot becoming Roth's first solo Top 10. It would also reach #3 at Rock while helping the EP get to #15 and selling a million copies. Unfortunately, while this single was riding high on the chart, tensions between Roth and Eddie Van Halen reached a breaking point and Roth officially left the band. So this dabble into a side solo career quickly turned into the full-fledged real deal for Roth as he was now on his own.

ReduxReview:  Anyone looking for the Van Halen sound in Roth's first solo outing was gonna be very disappointed. While Roth's vivid video for the song was silly and fun, the song on record was fairly tame. Besides being dressing up in day-glo sounds of the 80s, the tune is a fairly straight-forward cover with Roth adding a little of his VH yelps and personality. There's nothing bad about it, but also nothing really interesting or progressive. It's just Roth having a little fun.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This is a remake of a song originally done by The Beach Boys. Their classic 1965 version would reach #3 on the Pop chart. In a nod to the original band, Roth had Beach Boy Carl Wilson join in on background vocals. Christopher Cross also provides some vocals as well. Oddly, Roth's version also reached #3.  2) In the associated video for this song, Roth amps up his hammy personality to play a tour guide. One of the tourists in the video was played by Jane Leeves. Leeves would later become known for her role as Daphne on the classic TV show Frasier. She then became a part of the ensemble cast for the hit series Hot in Cleveland.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"Can't Fight This Feeling" by REO Speedwagon

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2188
Date:  01/19/1985
Debut:  46
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Soft Rock



Pop Bits:  REO's eleventh album Wheels Are Turnin' seemed to be on the brink of being a dud when its first single, "I Do' Wanna Know", stalled at a minor #29 on the Pop chart. Although it was able to get to #5 at Rock, the results at Pop caused album sales to be quite slow. After five straight gold or platinum albums, question arose as to whether this one could even reach gold level. That all changed when this second single was issued. The power ballad had already been getting attention following the release of the album, so when the single came along it splashed onto the chart just outside the Top 40. It made a beeline to #1 and stayed there for three weeks. The song helped turn around the album and it would eventually turn into a double-platinum seller that peaked at #7.

ReduxReview:  This is a near-perfect piece of pop that has nearly everything you'd want in a power ballad. If there existed a checklist of elements needed to create a classic soft rock hit, this tune would check off all the boxes. I am usually a sucker for these types of songs, yet even though it meets all the hitmaking criteria, I found myself disliking the track. Part of it could be that I didn't care that much for REO and their previous album, Good Trouble, and it distanced me further from the band. It could also be that Kevin Cronin's voice can be a bit grating or that the song got played to death. Maybe it just seemed like a big stab at commercial pop from a band who gave us some pretty sweet rock tunes. Maybe it was just everything. All I know is that I avoided the song back then and I still haven't warmed up to it. However, I do recognize that it's a well-crafted pop song that still gets airtime today. It also helped revive a band whose fortunes were beginning to fade.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  The controversy over licensing songs for commercial use had been around for decades. Some artists and fans consider it "selling out" while others consider it a shrewd business tactic that keeps interest in the artist alive. It can also help sell records (i.e., interest in Nick Drake's catalog soared after his "Pink Moon" was used in a 1999 Volkswagon commercial). While there are certain song/product combinations that work well, such as Chevy's campaign using Bob Seger's "Like a Rock," there are others that don't work or are simply strange. This song may fall into the latter category. In 2016, REO (or more likely songwriter Kevin Cronin and his publishing company) made a deal with Mars, Inc., to use this song in...a cat food commercial. Promoting their new line of Sheba Perfect Portions, a comical ad was made that uses this song. The funny premise of the ad most likely helped Mars secure a deal and it seems the commercial was received well. Still, serving cat food with this as the soundtrack was certainly an unlikely and odd pairing.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

"Private Dancer" by Tina Turner

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2187
Date:  01/19/1985
Debut:  58
Peak:  7
Weeks:  18
Genre:  Pop, R&B



Pop Bits:  Turner's Private Dancer album brought her career back in a huge way. It featured two major hits including the Grammy-winning #1 smash "What's Love Got to Do with It." With folks still wanting more, this title-track was issued as the LP's fourth single. The sultry accompanying video was a hit on MTV and it helped to drive this song into the Pop Top 10. It did even better at R&B getting to #3 while reaching #30 at AC.

ReduxReview:  Sometimes lengthy albums tracks are edited down into a concise single and it works out to the benefit of the song. However, this track is the opposite. While the single is still solid and edited well, I think the full album version is better. The additional passages work to enhance the mood and meaning of the tune. It's an excellent song and Turner reads it beautifully. She embraces the character and sounds like she lived the lyrics. It's a stunning performance.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  The composer of this song, Mark Knopfler, originally wrote it for his band Dire Straits. It was considered for a spot on their 1982 album Love Over Gold. However, after getting the backing track to the song all completed, Knopfler had second thoughts about the tune. He felt that the song should be sung by a woman, not a man. Therefore, the track was shelved. Through a manager connection, it was suggested that Turner should give the song a try for her upcoming album. Turner heard the tune and loved it. At first, since the track was completed and had not been released, Turner was just going to perform her own vocal over the Dire Straits track. Unfortunately, pesky legal issues arose (most likely label tangles) and she was unable to use the completed recording. To achieve a similar sound, it was decided to have Knopfler produce the tune for Turner and bring in some of his Dire Straits bandmates to play on the song. The newly finished version would anchor the album and serve as the LP's title.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

"Ooh Ooh Song" by Pat Benatar

Song#:  2186
Date:  01/19/1985
Debut:  59
Peak:  36
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock



Pop Bits:  Benatar changed her sound and ended up with a major hit. "We Belong," the first single from her album Tropico, was a #5 smash that showed she had more to offer than just her hard rockin' tunes. She continued the trend with this next single, which was co-written by Benatar and her husband Neil Giraldo. The retro-rock sounding tune wasn't quite as enticing as the previous big ballad and the singled stalled once it reached the Pop Top 40. It also managed a #22 showing at Rock. Despite not doing all that well, the strength of "We Belong" pushed the album to platinum sales - her sixth album in a row to do so.

ReduxReview:  This organ shuffle with its "At the Hop" feel, wordless chorus and a cappella breakdown was certainly an oddity in Benatar's catalog. It's a fun little tune, but it definitely wasn't hit material. It was a little surprising that it made it into the Top 40. However, besides the can't-miss "We Belong," there really wasn't another single on Tropico, which I consider the weakest LP of her 80s output. Giraldo kind of took over the writing (co-writing 8 of the 10 tracks - "We Belong" was not among them, obviously) and the songs were just not hitting the mark. Several were meandering affairs that weren't very memorable. This one was the only one that had any single prospects, so it got released. Results were meh and the song has gotten buried by her other hits and far better album tracks.

ReduxRating:  5/10

Trivia:  It's kind of a mystery as to why the album is called Tropico. None of the lyrics mention the word and nothing thematic seems to relate to the word. However, the word was picked up and used in other entertainment projects. Later in the 80s, it was the title of a telenovela that was filmed in the Dominican Republic and lasted for 100 episodes. In 2001, Tropico was a video game developed for Xbox along with other Windows and Mac platforms. The strategic game centered on the player (who is the El Presidente) trying to retain control of a small Caribbean island during the Cold War. There were new versions released over the years with the last one (as of this posting), Tropico 6, issued in 2017. Bentar may have possibly named Tropico after a former small town in California. Tropico, California, was situated just outside of Glendale and Los Angeles. Developed around 1887, the town was a stop on the railroad and was known for its strawberry farms. In the new decade, both Glendale and L.A. were expanding and annexing bordering towns. Tropico was a prime target and in the end it became a part of Glendale in 1918. The Tropico name was then abandoned for good (although the neighborhood kind of retains that name). Benetar's album may have been recorded in or around the old Tropico town or she might have had a connection to that neighborhood during this time. Whether or not this was the case is unknown, but it seems to make some sense (and is an interesting story to boot).

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

"Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Top 10 Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Song#:  2185
Date:  01/19/1985
Debut:  70
Peak:  10
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Dance-Pop, Synthpop



Pop Bits:  Wasn't this song already covered here? Yup. It's first time around, the song didn't quite catch the ears of US folks and it quickly disappeared after peaking at a low #67. However, the band got some good exposure thanks to their second single, "Two Tribes" (#43), and the increasing publicity surrounding the banning of this song in the UK. The label decided to take advantage of the situation and reissue "Relax" in the US. It was a good idea as the second time around the song caught on and proceeded to head towards the Top 10. Nearly a year and a half after it was first issued in the UK, the song was finally a hit in the US. The combined sales of the first release and reissue allowed the single to go gold.

ReduxReview:  There's not much to add here that wasn't in my original posting. It's perverse fun that sounds fantastic when cranked to eleven.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Several videos for this song were issued along the way. Its first video was an S&M themed affair that took place in a gay nightclub. It went over about as well with TV stations as the song did at radio and it apparently got banned. Then the team of Godley & Creme filmed a more palatable video that showed the band performing the song amid various laser effects and lighting. Next, famed music video director David Mallett filmed a live performance version of the song with the band. Finally, a video that cross promoted the song with the 1984 Brian De Palma thriller film Body Double was put together. In that movie, the band makes an appearance performing this song. It was kind of a film-within-a-film scene that had the band performing the song during the filming of a porn movie.

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